“who held him in no particular esteem when he was alive, speak of him rarely now”

June 9, 2013 § 1 Comment

What an opening! (At long last reading this . . .)

William Stoner entered the University of Missouri as a freshman in the year 1910, at the age of nineteen. Eight years later, during the height of World War I, he received his Doctor of Philosophy degree and accepted an instructorship at the same University, where he taught until his death in 1956. He did not rise above the rank of assistant professor, and few students remembered him with any sharpness after they had taken his courses. When he died his colleagues made a memorial contribution of a medieval manuscript to the University library. This manuscript may stll be found in the Rare Books Collection, bearing the inscription: “Presented to the Library of Missouri, in memory of William Stoner, Department of English. By his colleagues.”

An occasional student who comes upon the name may wonder idly who William Stoner was, but he seldom pursues his curiosity beyond a casual question. Stoner’s colleagues, who held him in no particular esteem when he was alive, speak of him rarely now; to the older ones, his name is a reminder of the end that awaits them all, and to the younger ones it is merely a sound which evokes no sense of the past and no identity with which they can associate themselves or their careers.

— John Williams, Stoner

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§ One Response to “who held him in no particular esteem when he was alive, speak of him rarely now”

  • what most strikes me is that he kept his job even though he “did not rise above the rank of assistant professor” – these days that would be equivalent to not getting tenure, and being replaced by a newly minted ph.d.

    “the end that awaits them all” – but actually, one’s disappearance is not really something one experiences, except in anticipation – instead, one should enjoy oneself, inasmuch as it is almost always later than one thinks

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