Dr. Christian Lehmann teaches literature and Greek and Roman mythology.
BardVERSE: What’s easiest for you when creating an essay? What is more challenging?
Dr. Christian Lehmann: I find the easiest thing to be coming up with ideas and writing them down. I love engaging closely with the text and arguing for the way in which words generate meaning. I definitely find editing and proofreading the most challenging thing.
BardVERSE: What’s been your favorite essay you’ve written at Bard? Why?
Dr. Christian Lehmann: Well, I haven’t written an essay for class, although I have read a lot of them. But I have written an essay for a conference about the way in which the British Victorian novelist, Charles Dickens, uses references to classical mythology in his writings.
BardVERSE What’s your favorite book you’ve read at Bard and why?
Dr. Christian Lehmann: In my Greek and Roman Mythology course, we read Emily Wilson’s new translation of Homer’s Odyssey, and it was a revelation. I have been teaching this poem for almost a decade and I have never had such a rewarding experience as I did with this text and the students at Bard.
BardVERSE: How do you go about gathering evidence?
Dr. Christian Lehmann: As I read, I pay attention to unusual word choices and repetition. If you see my annotations, you will observe a constant refrain of “cf. page #” because I don’t see books as a primarily diachronic (linear) medium. Rather they are recursive, that is, they require you to move back and forth within them. Everyone else’s re-read of a work is my first read of it. While you can never reclaim the glory of a first read and the constant emotional and intellectual surprises that come from that moment, I do not think you can gather evidence without having already read the book.
BardVERSE: What advice do you have for writers at Bard?
Dr. Christian Lehmann: People might say read a lot, but I think it is important to experiment with different words and expressions and styles. Say you learn a new word, try to use it in a variety of ways. Say you found a passage in a book that spoke to you, try to incorporate it into your writing. Say you are reading a work where the prose style strikes you as different. Try to write a paragraph in that style.
BardVERSE: Whose writing do you love to read in or outside of Bard?
Dr. Christian Lehmann: I love the prose of Charles Dickens. I think Jesmyn Ward is one of the greatest contemporary novelists of our time and anyone can benefit from reading her work.
BardVERSE: What kind of writing topics interest you most?
Dr. Christian Lehmann: I enjoy reading re-workings of myth and other literature. One great book that I read recently is called Pride. It is a re-telling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set in a predominantly black neighborhood in New York. The original novel explores issues of wealth and status, but the re-telling looks at race. It is very successful. I will also read almost any fantasy literature.
BardVERSE: Is there a place or time you usually write?
Dr. Christian Lehmann: I love to write in the mornings. I like to set aside long periods of time and just write for hours.
BardVERSE: How do you get into the mind space for writing?
Dr. Christian Lehmann: Usually I let my ideas percolate for a few days. Then I start jotting down a few ideas, usually on a napkin or a receipt that I stick inside my book. Then when I sit down to write, I connect the elements from my outline.
BardVERSE: What topic would you like to write about but haven’t yet?
Dr. Christian Lehmann: I have not written a lot about pedagogy, and I am not sure that I would be good at it, but I would love to write about what I think my goals are in my teaching.
BardVERSE: What do you find most gratifying about writing?
Dr. Christian Lehmann: I take the greatest pleasure in figuring out why something works in a work or why it is beautiful and then trying to explain it in a clear way so that others can enjoy it and see it through my eyes.
BardVERSE: What do you find most challenging about writing?
Dr. Christian Lehmann: Finding the time to do a thorough edit. Also, it is really important not to belly-button gaze, by which I mean go so far down the trail of making observations that the reader could not possibly know why I am talking about my topic anymore.
BardVERSE: How do you come up with an imaginative, provocative title?
Dr. Christian Lehmann: I love titling things. I have had great success with starting with a title and then writing from there and with coming up with a title when I was done. I think it is really important that a title is memorable while also referencing the general topic of the work. I hate colons after titles. Live your life with the confidence of not needing to explain yourself. The title should provoke the reader into jumping into your intro where they will learn about it.
BardVERSE: Give one tip for writing a good essay.
Dr. Christian Lehmann; Stick to the words on the page. My students know, if you talk about the words (especially pronouns, oh goddess do I love a pronoun analysis) you will have my most sympathetic reading. I love when students have big ideas, but I need to see those ideas come from a minute discussion of the text.
BardVERSE: Which character you’ve read at Bard fascinates you most and why?
Dr. Christian Lehmann: Dido in the Y1 Seminar text, The Aeneid.
BardVERSE: What current writing projects are you working on?
Dr. Christian Lehmann: I am currently working on a book proposal to turn my dissertation into a monograph. I also have a couple of conference presentations to whip into shape.
BardVERSE: What’s been the most magical setting or place you’ve written?
Dr. Christian Lehmann: I edited the first three chapters of my dissertation while backpacking the south western coast of India. I would write and edit every day on the beach and when I felt my ideas slowing or needed a break, I would jump in the ocean.
BardVERSE: What questions do you wish we asked but didn’t? Then respond to that question!
Dr. Christian Lehmann: What is a good way to make a transition between paragraphs?
I love linking words like “furthermore” and “despite.” I also think using the grammatical models built into English paragraph structure are really helpful. I love an “although . . . nevertheless” paragraph. I feel similarly about “on the one hand . . . on the other hand.” Just make sure you know what all your words mean. Show me a “heretofore” or a “whithersoever” and I’ll question your sanity. Unless it is used beautifully.