Getting to know Prof. Goldgar

Kayla Wilson

Lawrence students who may have heard terrifying stories about Professor Bertrand Goldgar or have personally lived to tell them may be pleased to know that he does more than make fun of, well, everyone, and is, indeed, capable of being very nice.
Goldgar attended Vanderbilt University and then moved on to Princeton where he earned his doctorate in English — something he “doesn’t recommend anyone else to do.”
As he began his teaching career, he moved further and further north, wanting to teach at small schools “for reasons I don’t care to remember,” adding, “I was very young.”
In 1957, Goldgar settled at Lawrence, an attractive choice because it meant “having a job.” Or, more accurately, when faced with a choice between Lawrence and the much larger Rutgers, he felt the choice was obvious.
“I like living here,” he said. “It’s a small town and we wanted to bring up our kids in a small town. We thought the schools were good, although my children might have, and may still, disagree.”
While these are unexpectedly sweet sentiments from a self-described curmudgeon, his daughter Anne, who made a brief appearance, hinted that the familial reasons for teaching at Lawrence might not be entirely true.
On a less surprising note, Goldgar is currently at work proofreading the second volume of Jonathan Swift’s political tracts for the 15-volume Cambridge edition of Jonathan Swift from Cambridge University Press. The first volume is already in print.
In a bit of shameless plugging and pandering to the library, he added, “This project has been greatly enhanced by the purchase of a database called ECO, or Eighteenth Century Collections Online, which enables me to do primary research in my office, and my students can use it as primary source material in my 18th-century courses.”
What does Goldgar do, other than judge people and proofread Swift? The day of this interview went as follows for the professor: “I taught a class in Milton… then I had lunch with an alumna who is in grad school at Cambridge, who I usually visit when I go to London. Then I taught Literary Analysis [insert grimace]. It’s a small class. Then I worried about finding a smaller classroom. And then I was late for this interview.”
Notorious for keeping long hours — he described his office as his home — Goldgar does exist outside of Main Hall and the grill.
Other than making fun of people, of which he says he “finds it hard not to,” he is also a fan of Baroque music. Perhaps surprisingly, he listens to some modern music as well, such “White and Nerdy,” a Weird Al song he was introduced to over the summer.
In his off time, he also like to watch “extremely trashy and violent things on television,” including ” ‘CSI’ and ‘Pulp Fiction,’ it seems, over and over.”
Other than Swift, Goldgar also enjoys Philip Roth, Howard Jacobson and Nathan Englander, though he is currently reading none of these. He also reads thrillers and mysteries to relax.
While it is refreshing to know that Goldgar is not as curmudgeonly as some people may make him out to be, be aware he may redouble his efforts in order to dispel this rumor. Or, perhaps, as he claims, no one will believe it anyway.