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English

Why did I plant myself in English?

Amy Sonheim

My senior year of high school, my tennis coach Angie Siceluff used to tease me by asking me, at least once a week, “What are you going to be when you grow up?”  At 18, I never knew.  I felt that if I could only know my future job, then, instead of a muddle, I would have a purpose, a purpose clarifying which college to choose and which major to pursue. Yet, at some level, I also intuited that knowing one’s career did not automatically include a purpose in the package.  Moreover, I did not want to miss life as I achieved work. As other persons, to feel truly alive, I needed vision.  I found vision in great literature.  I would skip lunch to hear Miss Siceluff read aloud poetry by Howard Nemerov.  In his poetry, Nemerov saw ordinary objects—snow, crows, and “the hard moon’s bony light”—imaginatively.  When I arrived at college, I was drawn to professors and fellow students who, too, thrived by bathing in this imaginative light.  My Victorian professor Joe McClatchey would talk about the mythopoeic vision of Browning.  I fell in love with fellow English major Doug Sonheim who viewed decisions parabolically.  For example, he viewed the decision to love similarly to the decision to sell all one had to buy a field wherein was buried an invaluable pearl.  Wondrously, a well-presented imaginative vision sharpened my view of reality. When I did grow up, this imaginative vision undergirded real work.  My fellow English majors grew gainfully employed—Anne as an artist; Nancy as a nurse; Paul as a corporate treasurer; Doug and I both as English professors.