The Professor: A Sentimental Education

Overview

From Terry Castle, the brilliant cultural commentator whom Susan Sontag called "the most expressive, most enlightening literary critic at large today," comes a long-awaited collection of captivating personal essays. The title piece at the heart of the anthology—Castle's candid, wry, and rueful retelling of her romantic involvement with a female professor during graduate school—is a pitch-perfect recollection of the fiascoes of youth. Here, also, are classic Castle short works, including "Desperately Seeking ...

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Overview

From Terry Castle, the brilliant cultural commentator whom Susan Sontag called "the most expressive, most enlightening literary critic at large today," comes a long-awaited collection of captivating personal essays. The title piece at the heart of the anthology—Castle's candid, wry, and rueful retelling of her romantic involvement with a female professor during graduate school—is a pitch-perfect recollection of the fiascoes of youth. Here, also, are classic Castle short works, including "Desperately Seeking Susan," a droll and bittersweet account of her friendship with Sontag; "My Heroin Christmas," a darkly humorous examination of addiction, her family and stepsiblings, and the late, great saxophonist Art Pepper; and the picaresque "Travels with My Mother," a rollicking tour through lesbianism, art, and the difficult yet transcendent paintings of Agnes Martin.

The Professor is Terry Castle at her best: utterly distinctive, wise, frank, and fearless.

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Editorial Reviews

Edmund White
“Terry Castle is an irreverent, witty feminist – words one does not often associate. Her tale of her love affair as a student with an older professor is touching and wicked; she is a brilliant stylist, and everything she writes is gripping.”
James Wolcott
“This is the book we Terry Castle fans have been waiting for, and those new to her work are in for a revelation – a brain-goosing, entertaining blast.”
Curve Magazine
"A collection of six recent essays from this Stanford professor and Lambda Literary Award winner, The Professor is a hybrid of memoir and criticism containing equal measures of good humor, snark and self deprecation."
San Francisco Chronicle
“In this questing, deeply funny and joltingly wonderful book...the life of the author’s abundant mind and heart are explored in an altogether scintillating way. Readers...are in for a major find. . . . Castle is at once penetratingly keen and unfailingly good company.”
Time Out Chicago
“Castle is a master stylist—hilarious, insightful and digressive in the best way. The end of 2009 saw quite a stir over the lack of women writers on year-end best-of lists. So a note to fellow editors: File this one away for December.”
Salon.com
“…every page hums with a kind of cathartic glee — a testimony to Castle’s ability to transform even the grimmest scenarios into savage comic prose…The Professor and Other Writings documents a brilliant mind discovering a deeper, more intimate mode of expression.”
New York Times Book Review
“[A] hilarious and smart collection of personal essays. . . . The subjects are fascinating, the prose packed full of gems. Castle approaches everything with a blend of curiosity, humor and careful scrutiny. . . . This is a delightful book, to be read and reread.”
Buffalo News
“Terrific...a blast of hilarity, candor, trenchance and literary grace… There is a voice here that is wildly entertaining, totally compelling and not really quite like any other you’re likely to have read.” (Editor’s Choice)
Curve magazine
“A collection of six recent essays from this Stanford professor and Lambda Literary Award winner, The Professor is a hybrid of memoir and criticism containing equal measures of good humor, snark and self deprecation.”
New Republic
“[An] irresistible new collection of personal essays. . . . The Professor goes places no book ever written about professors has ever gone. . . . Superb.”
Largehearted Boy Blog
“Her new essay collection, The Professor and Other Writings is filled with her trademark wit and honest, smart writing. Taken together, these six essays read like an engrossing and entertaining memoir.”
Bay Area Reporter
“Her story of woe is leavened by great humor. For all of her success in academia, Castle’s writing here is the very opposite of academic: lively, confessional, personal.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“In this questing, deeply funny and joltingly wonderful book...the life of the author’s abundant mind and heart are explored in an altogether scintillating way. Readers...are in for a major find. . . . Castle is at once penetratingly keen and unfailingly good company.”
New Republic
“[An] irresistible new collection of personal essays. . . . The Professor goes places no book ever written about professors has ever gone. . . . Superb.”
New York Times Book Review
“[A] hilarious and smart collection of personal essays. . . . The subjects are fascinating, the prose packed full of gems. Castle approaches everything with a blend of curiosity, humor and careful scrutiny. . . . This is a delightful book, to be read and reread.”
Buffalo News
“Terrific...a blast of hilarity, candor, trenchance and literary grace… There is a voice here that is wildly entertaining, totally compelling and not really quite like any other you’re likely to have read.” (Editor’s Choice)
Bay Area Reporter
“Her story of woe is leavened by great humor. For all of her success in academia, Castle’s writing here is the very opposite of academic: lively, confessional, personal.”
Salon.com
“…every page hums with a kind of cathartic glee -- a testimony to Castle’s ability to transform even the grimmest scenarios into savage comic prose…The Professor and Other Writings documents a brilliant mind discovering a deeper, more intimate mode of expression.”
Time Out Chicago
“Castle is a master stylist—hilarious, insightful and digressive in the best way. The end of 2009 saw quite a stir over the lack of women writers on year-end best-of lists. So a note to fellow editors: File this one away for December.”
Largehearted Boy Blog
“Her new essay collection, The Professor and Other Writings is filled with her trademark wit and honest, smart writing. Taken together, these six essays read like an engrossing and entertaining memoir.”
Curve magazine
“A collection of six recent essays from this Stanford professor and Lambda Literary Award winner, The Professor is a hybrid of memoir and criticism containing equal measures of good humor, snark and self deprecation.”
J. Courtney Sullivan
In this hilarious and smart collection of personal essays, Castle…takes on topics like her obsession with World War I and a great-uncle who fought and died in it; her love of shelter magazines…and her strange sometime-friendship with Susan Sontag. The subjects are fascinating, the prose packed full of gems…a delightful book, to be read and reread.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Cultural scholar and essayist Castle (The Literature of Lesbianism) puts her keen analytical powers and droll wit to fine use in her latest collection of autobiographical essays. Written between 2002 and 2009, Castle's seven pieces are wildly diverse in subject matter, including a rumination on controversial jazz virtuoso Art Pepper and an obituary of late leftist icon Susan Sontag. Castle's voice shines as she repeatedly peels back layers of assumptions to reveal thought-provoking, often funny and sometimes moving observations: an essay about Castle's obsessive interest in WWI becomes a thoughtful meditation on feminine courage, both horrifying and amusing (often in a single paragraph); a seemingly-banal piece about home interior magazines becomes an astute examination of the personal struggle for security in the post-9/11 world. Obscure references and a predictably academic approach never let readers forget they're dealing with a professional scholar, but Castle's fierce wit and self-deprecating style keep her text from becoming stilted, proving that "entertaining" and "high-minded" needn't be mutually exclusive.

Library Journal
Castle's new collection of autobiographical essays succeeds in entertaining, enlightening, and provoking its readers. One needs no familiarity with Sicily or with Art Pepper to enjoy Castle's pieces on these subjects; on the contrary, those with little to no knowledge of Art Pepper will be inspired to seek out recordings and books to get to know the man and his work. Shorter essays on subjects such as Susan Sontag, interior design magazines, and travels with one's mother form the lead-in to the book-length essay "The Professor," a piece about Castle's relationship, while a graduate student, with a professor. Although the relationship lasted only a few months, its effects were far-reaching. Castle is well known for her award-winning anthology The Literature of Lesbianism, as well as her essays in the London Review of Books and the New Republic. This new collection's savage wit and honesty should only bolster her popularity and garner her a whole slew of new readers. VERDICT A worthy read for anyone who enjoys a good think. With essay titles like "My Heroin Christmas" and "Desperately Seeking Susan," it will attract even those who usually steer away from "literary" essays.—Audrey Snowden, Cleveland P.L.
Kirkus Reviews
Critic and cultural commentator Castle (English/Stanford Univ.; Boss Ladies, Watch Out!: Essays on Women, Sex and Writing, 2002, etc.) delivers a vibrant series of essays on art, travel and the personal relationships in her life. Each of the pieces contains elements of autobiography, but it would be inaccurate to call the author a mere memoirist, as she deftly uses her personal experience to illuminate an array of other subjects. In "Courage, Mon Amie," she analyzes her longtime fascination with the "filthy minutiae" of World War I while relating the time she moved to England with her mother for three years. In "My Heroin Christmas," she delves into what she calls the greatest book she ever read, the autobiography of jazz legend Art Pepper, while also reflecting on her stepbrother's suicide. A too-brief essay on her acquaintance with Susan Sontag deftly portrays the famed writer as laughably narcissistic and difficult, but Castle's insight into her own awkwardness and hero-worship are just as intriguing. The long, ambitious title essay, which takes up more than half the book, is the funny, heartbreaking story of Castle's secret three-month affair with a much-older female professor when she was a naive college student in the '70s. The author captures the obsession and self-consciousness of young love and paints a remarkably detailed portrait of the professor, who seems to have been, on many levels, a deeply unpleasant person. The best parts of the essay, however, deal with lesbian culture in the '70s.Castle subtly shows how even in that relatively liberated era, most lesbians concealed who they were to their friends and acquaintances; even the professor was deeply closeted. Some of thedetails are simply hilarious, e.g., the overwrought lyrics of a lesbian folk singer, which have to be read to be believed. A sharply written, deeply personal collection.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061670923
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/4/2011
  • Pages: 340
  • Sales rank: 1,418,476
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Terry Castle was once described by Susan Sontag as "the most expressive, most enlightening literary critic at large today." She is the author of seven books of criticism, including The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture (1993) and Boss Ladies, Watch Out! Essays on Women and Sex (2002). Her anthology, The Literature of Lesbianism, won the Lambda Literary Editor's Choice Award in 2003. She lives in San Francisco and is Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University.

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Table of Contents

Courage, Mon Amie 1

My Heroin Christmas 41

Sicily Diary 81

Desperately Seeking Susan 91

Home Alone 107

Travels With My Mother 129

The Professor 153

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