Contemporary English fiction has become wonderfully diversified, with a thrilling number of voices, all chiming in to capture the flux and interconnectedness of our time.
For creative writing professor Robert Rosenberg, it all begins with a great story. "When I was just learning to read, a brilliant, eccentric uncle of mine left me a shoebox full of Classics Illustrated, a comic book series published in the '60s and '70s. Huckleberry Finn. Moby Dick. I fell in love with those stories. Loving to read them made me wonder how to write one."
This, combined with a childhood passion for maps that drew his imagination all over the globe, developed in Rosenberg a spirit of adventure that helped him carve the path that brought him to Bucknell in 2005. He joined the Peace Corps and went to Kyrgyzstan after college, and realized during his time there that he had a sense of mission: writing about one of the smallest, most isolated of nations, and sending letters about it back to the richest, most powerful nation in the world.
"It was essential, and therapeutic, to sit down at night over a cup of tea and attempt to make sense of that place, so new and different for me," he says. "I think I found my voice that way."
Rosenberg's fascination with narrative continued when he returned to the United States. He loves the way fiction can cross borders and illustrate universal human themes. "Contemporary English fiction," he says, "has become wonderfully diversified, with a thrilling number of voices, all chiming in to capture the flux and interconnectedness of our time."
Rosenberg doesn't allow the allure of innovative writing and a chorus of authors to detract from a thorough examination of the art of the story. With his students, he explores how authors bring characters to life while managing the technical issues of pacing, structure, plot development and momentum. Believing students have to engage critically with their language in a way they rarely do, especially because so much communication occurs on Facebook and Twitter, he has them write stories so they can become more adept at reading them.
Says Rosenberg, "My hope is that it enhances their creativity, and leads to a lifetime engagement with fiction — with the deeper thinking and deeper empathy and self-awareness that reading fiction fosters. Nothing pleases me more than to receive an e-mail from a student a few years after graduation, recommending a novel, saying, 'Professor, you have to read this!'"
Posted October 2012