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My “First Love” at Vandy

Posted by on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 in Academics, Books, Professors.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014.

I glanced at my watch. 12:20 p.m. Ten minutes late.

I always prided myself on my punctuality. I still do. But here I was, late to class the very first day. Surely not the best possible start to life at Vandy.

I was so frustrated I jammed at the door handle ferociously. And then I realized, this was the seminar room at Murray. You need to swipe in. Aagh!

By the time I had thrust my hand into my trouser pocket for my Commodore card someone from the inside was kind enough to open the door and let me in. I was panting and sweating all over. “I am sorry, professor,” I said as I took a quick look at my watch again.

“No you are good! So you are – “

I had not even looked at the professor till then. My eyes busily hunted for a seat. I eventually found one, right on the opposite end of the rectangular room (if y’all can visualize with me!).

“I am Saquib.”

“Alright. Gotcha. Could you introduce yourself to us all? We just completed our round of introductions, so you ain’t late actually.”

This was exactly the kind of reassurance I had been looking forward to from a Vandy professor. This, by the way, is Professor William Reid Douglass. And the class I rushed to – English 102W (Literature and Analytical Thinking). My favorite class of my first semester – my “first love” at Vandy.

English was never my favorite subject. The thought of having to write essays and do pages of reading gave me nightmares all the time.

Right from the word go, however, this class was different. This class was about detective fiction – something I loved perusing. All the while I used to think that Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is all the detective fiction that there is in English literature. I was so wrong.

Throughout the course of this class, we read Edgar Allan Poe, Jorges Luis Borges as well as Arthur Conan Doyle. We finished Michael Chabon’s The Final Solution, Alan Moore’s From Hell, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and Louise Erdrich’s The Round House. If that was not enough, we watched the thriller “Zodiac” directed by David Fincher (featuring Robert Downey Jr.), and listened to Serial – the ever-so-addictive podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig.

And then there was Professor Douglass – the calm, reassuring presence in the classroom. The friendly and easy-to-access professor you desperately need during your first semester in college.

A class on a subject I never really developed a penchant for. On a topic I was always curious about. With the kind of professor you can go share your life’s problems with. Talk about explore. This is why you do it. This is why they tell you to try out different classes in college, particularly at Vanderbilt. Because at such an awesome place, more often than not, you are likely to come across a great class.

Like I stumbled onto my “first love” at Vandy – English 102W with Professor William Reid Douglass.

A short novel full of twists and turns - "The Final Solution" by Michael Chabon
As frightening and fearsome as it looks - "From Hell" by Alan Moore. The first graphic novel I have read.

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