Alumni Interview: Ian Davis

Tell us about yourself.: IMG_0785

I graduated from UMF in December 2011, having spent a year at Bennington College and then two and a half at Farmington. I’m now working on being a student in the English PhD program at Princeton University, where I study twentieth-century literature and theory. I live in Princeton with a sweet polar bear of a dog named Olivia.

What are some of your most memorable moments at UMF?:

I remember meeting Dan Gunn for the first time. I was one of three new advisees; he asked us why we wanted to study literature, listened carefully, responded thoughtfully, and then took us out to ice cream. I remember midnight pie at the Irving out toward Wilton. I remember going down to the river with friends on spring nights. Also, there were books: Joyce and Eliot with Dan Gunn, Thoreau and Dickinson with Kristen Case, Cervantes with Eric Brown; and all the others, all the others. And once, during a test, I got real excited realizing there is no difference between form and matter.

What makes studying English at UMF unique?:

I haven’t studied English at many other places, and am not sure if I have any authority on that. What made it wonderful for me, though, I could say that ––– the professors are some of the most brilliant, caring, and dedicated people I’ve known. The rest of my life will be in their wake, in their debt.

How did your time at UMF help you beyond the classroom?:

Oh, that’s tough; the classroom leaks too much to say things like that. It gets you better at everything, probably: reading, decisions, courage, sass, writing, dying, breadbaking. About once a month I learn responsibility again and pay bills and hand in paperwork, which I never did before, so. I’m pretty sure Djuna Barnes taught me how to love better. I’m also a little better at punning; not much, but enough to get by, which is good.

What advice do you have for current or prospective students?:

Try to give less advice and more listening. Listen to Sylvan Esso’s self-titled new album. Read Walden with an open heart. Sharing is caring. Be hip, but in a nice way. Try to remember what George Eliot wrote to Charles Bray: “If art does not enlarge men’s sympathies, it does nothing morally.” Also, try not to take too much advice.

I don’t have any concrete plans. The dog seems pretty convinced we have a lot more walks to take, so probably that. I’d like to teach, too, and write things, a few more things. I wouldn’t mind being useful either, but who knows about that.

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