Friday, September 14, 2012

Shakespeare is not dry! - Dr. Noel Kinnamon

Mom says when it rains, it pours. A lot of other people say that too. Like, my mom didn't come up with that saying or anything. She does know a lot of sayings, though. I made a post the other day about my grandmother that was pretty damn depressing. Now today, I have to make another of those posts. So if you're looking for something happy and's not today.

This post is going to be dedicated to my professor from college, Dr. Noel Kinnamon. He passed away yesterday. He was my (very) patient adviser, teacher, mentor, and friend.

THE Dr. Noel Kinnamon

Dr. Kinnamon taught at my college for 44 years before retiring the year after I graduated. I remember when I first came to Mars Hill College, I didn't know what the heck I was doing. I knew I wanted to pursue English but I wasn't exactly sure how to get into the program. Luckily another professor led me to his office and introduced me to Dr. Kinnamon - he would be my adviser for the next four years. I came to him when I was having trouble with classes, when I didn't know which professor to take, when my papers weren't coming out exactly right, when I had a Shakespeare-related debate to settle and when my final Senior project was due and I was slowly disintegrating into a puddle of tears over public speaking and my topic.

Dr. Kinnamon never got frazzled. Even when five of us were lined up outside his door vying for his attention. Not when I made him explain a theory to me five times (which happened more than once) and not even when my classmate told him she thought Shakespeare was dry during our class. He just laughed and told her directly that he wasn't dry! We just misunderstood him. During that class we spend the majority of our time editing old psalms, learning more about Shakespeare and forgetting all our preconceived notions of how to read a psalm and anything about Shakespeare.

I am not a big fan of Shakespeare. During college, I was way more interested in Byron and Blake. My eyes kinda glazed over anytime Shakespeare came up. Then, I had to take a Shakespeare class with Dr. Kinnamon. A lot of us were short on one of our requirements, which was only given every two or so years, and thankfully his class would be able to cover that requirement. He saved us from being up crap-creek.

His class was hard. Dr. Kinnamon was one of the most intelligent men I have ever met in my life, and probably one of the most I will ever have the privilege of knowing. So, being in his class, was like trying to bat like Babe front of Babe Ruth. But Dr. Kinnamon never made us feel stupid. Instead...he inspired us. If we said we didn't like Shakespeare, he made us explain why. And then he took apart our argument and put it back together in a way that let us understand that maybe, just maybe, we didn't hate Shakespeare. We just didn't understand him.

For the next semester I learned that I didn't hate Shakespeare. I didn't even really dislike Shakespeare. In fact, I really did enjoy some of his stuff. To this day I can recall the things I like and what I don't. That's all thanks to Dr. Kinnamon.

He helped me get through college. He made sure I was in the right classes and on the right path. He looked over my papers and gave me honest feedback. He encouraged me when he knew I needed it and challenged me if he sensed I was in a rut, or falling into one.

If you Google Dr. Noel Kinnamon you'll find a list of books he has written and also helped write. He was a research giant. Going to England and scouring old libraries and places for works that have been lost in time. That's the kind of thing he loved. In his retirement, I think he planned on doing just that for the rest of his life. Devoting himself to the one thing which made him the happiest. And I really wish he could still be here doing that.

It was an honor and a privilege to know him. That I get to be a student of his is something worth bragging about. I've heard from a few of my classmates and they share the exact same sentiment as I do. I know the other professors in the English department have lost a close friend and co-worker, not to mention a mentor. They knew him far longer than I did and I feel sorry for them as well.

Dr. Noel Kinnamon was a giant. Both in his field, in the lives of his students and in the community of Mars Hill College. Our community. I am going to miss him dearly. His impact on me during my tenure there is reflected in what I do each day. How I write and how I work. For that reason...he isn't really gone. He's alive in well in each student he taught, book he wrote and helped on, mind he changed about Shakespeare...he's alive and well. I will continue to treasure what I took from my time as a student of his, along with the other professors in the English department, and inject them in my daily life.

You were one hell of a man, Dr. Kinnamon. I'll miss you and I'll never forget all you did for me. I'm sure you're up there chatting with Shakespeare and having tea with Mary Sidney Herbert. So don't worry about your pupils down here. We'll be just fine thanks in part to you.

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