“The Easiest Thing in the World”, Deborah Harter, Classical and European Studies

It has been the easiest thing in the world to remain motivated, although at different times in my life it’s been for different reasons. The amount of great fiction out there to be read is huge, and so of course at first it’s a desire to be exposed to the great things that have been written. And I loved to teach. In the classroom I found it really great fun to share texts and ideas from students. What is nice in the university and in the humanities generally is that your interests can evolve. Whereas I began studying mostly narrative things like novels and short stories, I would eventually become very interested in poetry. And whereas early on I was interested in psychoanalysis and theoretical approaches to literature through psychoanalysis, eventually I would add feminist literary theory and Marxist theory.  Another way to remain engaged is to be constantly evolving in what you’re studying and what you’re teaching. Every semester I’m inventing new courses. But the most exciting thing has been writing. I’ve always enjoyed it, but it has become a passion, a really central passion for me now. The questions that I ask are different. Before, I might be interested in why Edgar Allan Poe writes in a certain way and how novels or approaches differ from some other writer. Now I’m much more interested in why we read fiction in the first place. What difference it makes. And how art works.  The long and the short of it is that the humanist project is enormous. Great texts never lose their force. While the history of science is very interesting, the work that precedes later scientific work is often outdated and cast aside, whereas we will never tire of reading Homer’s Odyssey and The Iliad and Shakespeare. These are great texts that will always be great. The humanist task is therefore huge, and it is so rich that it would be impossible to lose interest.