our buses destined for Shakespeares birthplace still
travel past Susanne Patersons childhood home in the village of Warwickshire,
England. Growing up, the whole myth of Shakespeare was on my doorstep,
recalls Paterson. But I wasnt interested. I wanted to study
So Paterson earned a degree in comparative literature
and German with minors in art history and American literature at the University
of East Anglia, in Norwich, England.
At 22, she came to the United States to earn her masters
degree and to see if she liked teaching. In England, graduate students
dont teach until theyve almost completed their doctoral work,
From this new vantage point, she discovered her passionShakespeare.
I needed the distance from England to find Shakespeare, says
Paterson. She also found that she liked teaching. Her dissertation, completed
this year through the University of Texas at Austin, is on Renaissance
drama and courtesy literature.
The Renaissance is similar to the 21st century because
people in certain social groups were very concerned with shaping their
appearance for others, says Paterson. Courtesy literature
was used by people to help them learn appropriate behavior for specific
circumstances. The point was primarily to impress others, and the literature
often emphasizes the importance of having this behavior appear effortless.
The irony is that it takes a great deal of effort
to pose, she says with a laugh. And, as soon as the rules
are widely known, they change. I think of these books as a type of early
In 1999, Paterson accepted the position at the University
of New Hampshire at Manchester because she liked the campus and the mix
of traditional and nontraditional students.
Most are first-generation college students as am
I, notes Paterson, who teaches early British literature, grammara
requisite course for all teacher-education studentsand writing.
These students work really, really hard.
Last fall, Sarah Huot, a junior majoring in English, studied
early drama with Paterson. Huot turned in her writing assignment the week
before having her baby. She gave birth to Olivia on Monday and was back
in class on Wednesday. Susi is a great teacher, says Huot.
Shes welcoming and I am able to call her and discuss assignments.
Patersons assignments challenge her students with
real-life propositions: Analyze a painting at the Currier Museum
of Art and write to the museums board of directors and persuade
them to buy it. Or, Discuss a Spike Lee film and include this
as part of a job application letter to him.
Her innovative approach even applies to grammar. Ill
teach the history of English grammar and discuss Elizabethan punctuation.
We see that, in many ways, grammar and punctuation are quite arbitrary,
says Paterson. But really we learn grammar through writing.
This past semester her grammar students constructed educational
Web sites on different topics, ranging from definitions of English idioms
for ESL students to the use of writing portfolios in elementary schools.
Paterson plans to make their sites part of an ongoing, educational Web
resource to be included on the English programs home page.
In part, Patersons teaching philosophy derives from
her love of Shakespeare. Drama is a bridge between literature and
society, says Paterson. Its roots are in the communal experience.
I always like to ask students, What would an audience think about
But her philosophy is also informed by her parents
lives. My father was orphaned and had to go down in a coal mine
when he was 13, says Paterson. My mother is German, and she
was pulled out of high school during the Second World War to be a nurse
at age 16. They were not able to complete their educations. I feel very
fortunate to have been able to complete mine and, above all, to have a
job I love.
Carrie Sherman, University Publications