The topic today in American lit: The Declaration of Independence. Wait–is that literature?Won’t that be dull?! Good thing it’s Professor Battistini’s class! You thought you knew this one (When in the course of…), but after 45 minutes of unpacking every single word of that opening—then reading aloud the list of grievances–you’re shocked to hold these truths to be self-evident: that exquisite prose was the colonists’ truly lethal weapon; that a nation can be written into existence; and that Thomas Jefferson is your new favorite writer. (Or at least until next class.)
Professor Battistini is the American Literature specialist at Centenary University, and like most professors here, he’s not content to treat his subject as a mere abstraction. “I try to earn my students’ respect and interest anew every class period. I never assume that just because I find something interesting my students will too.” And this isn’t just true for us lit geeks: “Of course I love my majors, but my deeper ethical responsibility is to everyone else. If I can persuade an accounting major to be shocked by an irresponsible analogy, then I’m having a good day at Centenary.”
When I asked him about his scholarship, Professor Battistini spared me most of the details. But he explained that his scholarly work was inseparable from his classroom practice. “How can I challenge my students to think critically and creatively if I’m not constantly doing the same? My classes are invitations to shared intellectual inquiry—my good students are my peers.”
Professor Battistini is one of the many people who make Centenary such a great place to learn. Whether it’s his class, an office hour, or just something he says at my table in the cafeteria, my world gets a bit bigger—and more interesting—when I’ve seen Professor Battistini.
Emily Sugrue is a English Literature Major at Centenary University and will be graduating in May.