Once I was in the classroom, I was hooked. I felt there is nothing bigger or more important than teaching.

Robert Rosenberg

Since 2005, novelist Robert Rosenberg, professor of English, has come to work each day feeling like he's won the proverbial lottery.

Rosenberg, who majored in English and comparative literature as an undergraduate, didn't set out to become a teacher. His father, a lifelong educator, encouraged him to try any other field.

Because service is important to Rosenberg and he wanted to travel after college, he joined the Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia, and was given a teaching assignment.

"Once I was in the classroom, I was hooked," he recalls. "I felt there is nothing bigger or more important than teaching."

When he got back from the Peace Corps, Rosenberg became a high school English teacher. But in the back of his mind was always the idea of becoming a writer. After completing the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he published his first novel, This Is Not Civilization.

With his dedication to both teaching and writing, becoming a professor "seemed to be the perfect opportunity to connect those two passions." Bucknell was the perfect fit.

"The seeds of a strong creative writing program had already been planted by others" at the University, he says, pointing to the Stadler Center for Poetry & Literary Arts, alumni like the late Philip Roth '54 and West Branch, the award-winning campus literary journal. "There's a tremendous campus literary culture. More opportunities are offered here each week than I can keep up with."

Across his classes, Rosenberg's students closely read, then discuss short stories and novels from a writer's perspective. This allows them to learn to analyze the craft of writing as well as to appreciate how hard it is to get right. "You can't be a great writer unless you read deeply," he says.

In his creative writing workshops, student work is read by class members, who copyedit it and produce a reaction letter. The class then discusses the story, but the author cannot participate in the discussion and must listen silently to the feedback. Rosenberg says that learning to accepting criticism like this is a tough exercise, but a necessary one in developing a "thick skin."

Students from his classes have developed that skin and gone on to publish after graduation, including a non-fiction memoir and a literary novel.

For Rosenberg, there is a "psychological pressure to produce something beautiful out of the difficulties of the world" — an essential literary alchemy he hopes his students continue to explore beyond their time at Bucknell.

Posted August 2018