Academic stories from all over

Well, just from my father. He taught English, comparative literature, translation, and fiction writing. Most of his later career was spent helping MFA students write first novels, so he had a low idiot ratio. He taught undergrads too, though, and there were moments. I now present two: one goofy final exam quote, and one what the FUCK story.

Dante was a traditional figure. He had one foot firmly planted in the medieval world, while with the other he waved a triumphant greeting to the dawn of the Renaissance.

At one point he taught an upper division short story writing class. This was mostly English majors but not mostly people serious about fiction, so generally nice kids who wanted to learn the basics of writing stories. Along with the outlining and exercises and other Writing 101 stuff, there was required reading from an anthology of classic short stories.

On reading the final story for one student Dad found a bad problem. He called her in.

“I have something very serious to tell you,” he said. “This story is plagiarized, almost completely. You could be dismissed from the University.” The girl burst into tears immediately. After she regained her composure, he went on.

“Actually, it’s a bit worse than that. You’ve plagiarized a story from the required reading. This means that not only did you steal a story as your own, but you stole one from a well-known author, and one that you should have read in the second week of class if you were participating.” Again she collapsed in tears.

“It’s even worse!” she wailed.


“I didn’t read the book anywhere, not even in the reading for the class. I stole it all from a Twilight Zone episode I saw in the Thanksgiving marathon!”

He gave her an incomplete in the class so she could take it over with a different teacher, on the condition that she never take another fiction class at that university again. Clearly she had no idea what she was doing on any level.

Then he came home and had a really big drink.

18 thoughts on “Academic stories from all over

      1. Re: Hehehe
        Considering your circle of friends, I know you party with drunken robots, and I bet you’ve dated a few.

  1. Dante’s Foot

    Ah, yes:
         I've used that story about Dante's foot before--
    always with proper attribution, of course--when I'm
    confronted by people who teach or taught English.  I also
    remember you saying how much your father worried that he
    might get one of your friends in one of his writing classes
    once we got old enough to attend university, but I always
    managed to get classes taught by Oakley Hall or one of the
    other folks out there...

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