Mentor mythologies

Recently had dinner with a few American expat colleagues and the conversation turned to former professors and the mythology (or just gossip) that attends them. I didn’t comment on my own teachers because it was too much fun listening to their stories, but it reminded me of a few of my own– Dr Donougho, my dear old dissertation adviser, and never playing Go with him; Dr Cowart, my difficult Pynchon and contemporary American fiction professor who hated grad students; the poet James Dickey who drank heavily and tried to seduce my Taiwanese girlfriend…and many others.

As expat professors who’ve been in Taiwan 15 plus years you can imagine there was a heavy admixture of nostalgia in our talk, which got me to wondering if mythology could just be the result of fictionalized memories like these: “the great Prof L. made a potion that turned people into mushrooms and had a wife who hid in the cupboards,” the Gen X professor said, and this eventually became “Prof. L was a wizard whose wife was a smallish elf”? Or is this what is meant by the dharma, or religion…”His magic mushroom should be studied so that all will be able to cultivate it”? So it’s just a matter of the degree of generational misunderstanding…

To conclude, I just wrote an email to my old advisor in lieu of expanding on this any further.

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