The secret lives of our profs: Assistant Professor of English Garth Bond

Naveed Islam

Assistant Professor of English Garth Bond came to Lawrence University four years ago when our current graduating class of seniors was just starting its second term of Freshman Studies. He had been teaching composition at Temple University in Philadelphia, when he saw an ad for a temporary position here at Lawrence.
“They were in the process of changing the position [at Temple],” he recalled, “in a way that made it less attractive. Lawrence seemed like a better option for me and while I was at Temple, I had an opportunity to teach a number of courses they were looking for someone to teach.”
The professor whom he had been asked to fill in for left shortly thereafter and Professor Bond chose to stay at Lawrence where he had settled in. “I feel that I was very lucky to be the person who ended up getting the job,” Bond said.
Bond grew up as “a faculty brat.” His father was a law professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina and later at the University of Puget Sound in Seattle. His mother, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English, was a schoolteacher who worked with dyslexic children. “I probably inherited an interest in teaching from both of them without realizing it,” said Bond, “but it was probably my mom who is to blame for my interest in English.”
After finishing high school in Tacoma, Wash. he took a year off and spent his time delivering pizzas. “That was a great preparation for the life of the mind,” said Bond, “because after having delivered pizzas for a year, which I loved, and suddenly going into a classroom where we were reading Plato’s ‘Apology’ and Tocqueville’s ‘On Democracy in America,’ I just thought, ‘I didn’t have these kinds of conversations with the people with whom I was working and delivering Pizzas.'”
He attended Trinity College in San Antonio, where he fell in love with the liberal arts in general, recalling wanting to be an “English-philosophy-religion-drama” major before settling on just English and religion.
Bond was first drawn to modern American literature, listing William Faulkner, Ernest Hemmingway and Philip Roth as amongst his favorites. His interests eventually moved into earlier periods in English literature, where much of his current research is focused.
“[My] professors would show me different ways of reading poetry that I had thought was just sort of love poetry – not that there’s anything wrong with that – but having them give me a different way of reading it and helping me see how this love poetry could also be a response to the political environment at court really just opened my eyes.”
Bond earned his master’s degree from the University of Chicago, “which was good because it [was preparation] for the Wisconsin winters.”
He recalled the lengthy process of transitioning into life as a graduate student as both an exciting and turbulent time in his life: “I thought that it would be just like being an undergrad except a little bit harder or more serious and it really wasn’t. As an undergraduate I was being trained to be a citizen, and the main goal was for me to learn as much as I could and to explore the things that I was interested in. The purpose of grad school was really not to make me a better person in a general way but to specifically train me for a profession, and that’s a difficult transition to make.”
Professor Bond has almost finished his first term teaching the History of the Book and is continuing his research on manuscript circulation and poets who continued circulating their writing through these means even after the emergence of print.
“I’m very interested in how the medium in which you work shapes the products that you’re producing and shapes how you think about what it means to be an artist,” said Bond. “It is very interesting to me, to think about how the changes in technology change the ways in which we think about works.”
He does not have a Shakespeare play that he calls his favorite, but he finds “The Tempest” to be the most enjoyable of the Bard’s work to teach.
“Some of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, especially his tragedies, part of their greatness is their capaciousness, their breadth and scope and range, but as a result they are sort of too large to be neat and orderly,” said Bond.
He continued, “‘The Tempest’ is certainly dealing with a lot of serious issues, but it is a very precisely and carefully made play, and so it’s beautiful as an object in a way that makes it fun to teach because you can help people to see how the pieces fit together in interesting ways. It’s a beautiful and intricate clock and you can see all of the inner-workings.”
In his free time Professor Bond watches “a fair amount of bad TV and some good TV.” He also plays soccer with a group of other faculty and follows both Major League Soccer here in the U.S. and the English Premier League across the pond, as a fan of the Chicago Fire and West Ham United, respectively.
He continues to read Philip Roth’s work and recommends Machiavelli’s “The Prince” to anyone interested in the Renaissance period.
He also has a collection of comic books at his parents’ house. “Last time I checked,” he said, “they were still holding onto my collection of 3,000 comics.”
His favorite things about teaching at Lawrence are its students, whose genuine desire to learn first influenced his decision to remain at Lawrence and continues to impress him: “When you’re working with students who are pretty self-motivated, it makes your job easier but it also makes it more fun.”
When asked what advice he would give to the graduating class of 2009, Bond said, “Don’t make decisions about your future based primarily on concerns about how the economy is right now, because that will change, and you’re better off figuring out what you want to do and starting to take the steps to get to wherever that is than starting down a different path because you think that will be an easier path right now or because you think the path you want to take right now isn’t feasible. It’s better off to plan for what you want to do, and things will turn around, and then you’ll be in the position that you want to be in, rather than taking a path you’ll regret taking down the road.