Looking Back On Freshman English With Corwin

Freshman year is a weird time. No one knows where anything is, what classes you want to take, what they’re even supposed to be like and a whole slew of other things. Which means that everything that happens is simultaneously shocking but also the norm, because what basis does your unseasoned butt have? This leads to what is, looking back, some pretty weird shit we all sat through like pros. For me, this was a prof from a neighboring state/party school. His name was Corwin.

Corwin, like any memorable character, had a long ponytail, apparently 2 shirts in his closet and a damn weird way of talking. He strolled in with a very much ‘not my college’ vibe before introducing himself as a visiting prof. He laid down the course, which was a writing class on nature-y things and featured writings from people like Emerson and Thoreau. So despite it being a class set for improving your writing (something I didn’t need) I took it for the content. Still the biggest regret of my college career thus far, and I’m already a 5-semesters-done junior. Yeah, I think Corwin’s class tops the list of ‘worst academic decisions made’ for Liz. Why, no one asks? Let me educate you.

Corwin’s first quirk, besides calling him Corwin like we were all buddy-buddy (let me tell you, this is not something that comes easy for me with profs, especially my only male prof as a first year), was his weird sense of non-humor. Memory escapes me as I attempt to recall an example, but it was always one of those awkward situations where he’d crack a ‘joke’, smile and laugh awkwardly and we’d all just eye each other in silent hopes that it would end soon. Hint: it never did. That’s not too impressive though. There are 4 things that actually made him particularly . . . notable. Those are:

  1. booze
  2. knives
  3. moose skull
  4. molars

Do these sound weird? I hope so cause I swear this man was a squirrel’s dream, he was so nuts. First off, the booze. This was the least offensive. We all walked into class one day to him swigging a Corona through the lesson, and while he wasn’t drunk it was definitely questionable. As a professor I just assumed that it’s something that isn’t done, and I assume there’s some sort of breach of conduct? This just struck me as weird and out of place.

Secondly, the knives. Or one in particular. We had some weird units in that class, one of them being on apples. Just apples. God it was awful. But the main point is that one day he decided to bring in the object of study, or a handful. So he just dumps these apples on the table, not enough for all of us to have our own but plenty for everyone to try. His solution, after a minute of saying go for it while we sat there wondering what he expected us to do? Whip out his handy dandy pocket knife and go to town on the damn things. I don’t remember if the apples were on a book, or newspaper or what, but he just started stab-slicing the shit out of one before any of us could process it. Jesus, it wasn’t like he attacked anyone but the shock factor of that incident lasted the whole rest of the class and beyond.

Third is his moose head. It started with an assigned reading, authored by . . . you guessed it, him. Now if this was some big ol’ history textbook or something I’d say fine, reasonable enough to read something by your professor. This? This was pure ‘check out my accomplishment’ status for what was one of the strangest 3 pages I’ve ever read on dead things. It was about him and his friend finding a dead moose, then lugging it’s dead head into some underground rock pit thing they made to let it naturally decompose for a few months. Which lead to him reclaiming its skull for interior decorating. In addition to the reading the whole 100 minute class period was devoted to him discussing this in detail, enjoying it as we squirmed. Thanks Corwin.

Last, and probably the thing that will always always always stick with me from that class is the molars incident. We all had to have office hours with him once, so I signed up and had my time at his office. Now, as a visiting prof he had a short time to live it up in the office, meaning the expectation and met reality of sparse decorations. Just to establish that. So we talk about my paper or whatever it is, get to the point where it’s done but you make small talk, and then something happens. He pulls out a jar, pours some of the many contents on the desk and asks what I think they are. They looked like either white rocks or bones, but it was weird lighting and I had no idea what the hell he would keep in his sparse office. So while I guess, he selected one of the things and told me to take it in my hand to inspect. You wanna know what he gave me, telling me just as I got within real good staring distance? A molar. His molar. What kind of sick snack pack gives anyone, never mind their young student, their frickin’ tooth the hold? And that wasn’t the only tooth of his in the jar, mixed with others from god knows what animals. I promptly dropped it after that and talked my way into leaving his office soon after. The whole day was tarnished and I still think about that day and shudder sometimes.

He wasn’t the worst teacher, or particularly offensive or ***ist or anything, but he was his own type of special. The first things on the list I could write off as weird, but the teeth really got me. I still see his name on a plaque listing offices in one of the buildings on campus and hope that one of the maintenance staff has simply forgotten to take the plate down. He was only a visiting professor, right? Right? It’s on my mind a lot.