I am Linda L Labin, PhD and my credentials include the following:
BA in Psychology from Kent State University in 1972
MA in English from Kent State University Graduate School in 1976
PhD in English from Kent State University Graduate School in 1980
As a student of both writing and history, I have amassed quite a collection of information and discoveries relating to both areas. I enjoy sharing ideas and information with others, as I was born to teach. I am a retired English Professor with over 25 years of teaching at the college and university levels, with both undergraduate and graduate students. I have taught virtually every literature and writing course available. As Coordinator of the English Department at my last college, I designed and implemented the freshman English testing and placement program, trained and supervised faculty, and ran the department. I completely redesigned the English curriculum and created and taught every literature, writing, and research course offered. I offered workshops to students, faculty, staff, and the public in the areas of resume-writing and interview techniques, business communications, using the internet for research, proper MLA and APA documentation guidelines, rules of copyright, writing-across-the-curriculum, and many others. I also owned a small writing and editing business (defunct).
I have published numerous scholarly articles in my chosen fields of American and British literature, original book reviews, and other creative projects. I have researched my family history since I was in my twenties and have over 16,000 individuals in my current family tree.
My Sort of Autobiography
In high school, Linda L. Labin was a National Merit Scholar –top 2% of nation in 1966. Dissertation: The Whale and the Ash-Heap: Transfigurations of Jonah and Job in Twentieth Century Literature–Frost, MacLeish, and Vonnegut. I survived the May 4, 1970 killings of 4 students by the National Guard, running for my life and taking the last bus out that fateful day. I knew several of the victims and was interviewed by the FBI in their investigation of the shootings. That’s when I decided that Kurt Vonnegut was right about optimism not being one’s best choice (and Slaughterhouse-Five made perfect sense). I taught literature and writing courses at the university, college, and graduate level before leaving my life in Maine and my career to care for my dying father (heart disease). I stayed on to help my mother until her untimely death in 2006 (small-cell carcinoma).
In the late 90s I was alone among the full-time faculty at a small college in Bangor, Maine in denouncing a so-called colleague in the English Department who had received a Fulbright Scholarship and had then plagiarized a scholarly article. The miscreant thought she could get away with it because she submitted the article to a foreign journal. As luck would have it, the journal was edited by the Chair of the English Department in Poland, where the plagiarizer gave a lecture or two. As someone who has always believed in living with honor and ethics, I just could not understand an administration that chose to ignore the egregious, criminal behavior of the plagiarist. Amazingly, other faculty members agreed with me–behind closed doors–but publicly “felt sorry” for the plagiarizing bimbo or pretended neutrality so they would not have to face facts. JM the plagiarist finally was forced to resign in disgrace, but is continuing her academic theft at a more prestigious school in Kentucky. I was treated by faculty and administration as if I were the guilty party, ‘ruining’ the school. Vonnegut was right–no good deed goes unpunished.
While excelling academically, I worked my way through college and grad school by working as a donut-finisher, cashier, waitress, cookware demonstrator, and a printer and color corrector in photofinishing labs, as well as teaching classes and doing research when I was a Graduate Assistant and a Teaching Fellow. I first injured my back in my 20s and now struggle with the pain of 4 herniated discs, arthritis and degeneration of the spine, as well as severe pain in my knees from a broken leg and torn menisci suffered in a car/pedestrian accident. More than a decade ago, before most physicians even recognized it as a true disease, I was diagnosed as having fibromyalgia and continue to deal with the accompanying muscle spasms, pain, gut-wrenching fatigue, and sleep disorder associated with that syndrome. Imagine a charley horse in practically every muscle in your body, all at once! Although technically disabled, I battle the physical and emotional demons while maintaining an ironic view of life (What is reality, really, but a collective hunch?–and I have a summer home there). High Points: Teaching, writing, reading, murder mysteries, classic movies, CHOCOLATE, and my dog. Low Points: the loss of my parents, loss of friends and other family members, all the dogs and other animals who were like family to me but have passed on, my lost youth, my so-called mind…ad infinitum.
To explain my need to write, I’m reminded of one of Franz Kafka’s stories (no, not THAT one), ‘A Hunger Artist.’ It concerns a carnival show–a sideshow of the type where customers can see a lion or tiger or a ‘real’ mermaid, a dog-faced boy, a hermaphrodite, and so on. The character has no name; he’s simply referred to as ‘A Hunger Artist’; not even THE Hunger Artist. So, we see from the start that he is not even distinguished in his chosen(?) field. Picture Europe after the 1st World War, when most people have suffered and continue to suffer horribly, losing homes, loved ones, jobs, food. They go to a sideshow to watch the ‘freaks,’ to gain some breathing room, a chance to look with wonder and laugh (as they imagine that they are the ‘normal’ ones, even if they have done horrible things to survive, and will definitely do even more horrible things in the years to come).
All the acts have titles and all the animals and ‘characters’ (‘freaks’) have names; all, that is, except a man whose whole ‘act’ consists of him NOT eating. In a land, in a time, of tremendous suffering and loss, our ‘hero’ willingly sacrifices the normal animal appetite, something that would drive ‘normal’ people crazy. At first, they’re fascinated by him, as if he were some rarefied beast from some far-off land. They cannot understand him, for why would anyone choose to starve, to suffer? It makes no sense. As years pass, they begin to call him names, to goad him, to throw things–even rotten food!–at him, calling him a liar, a fraud. He has only his integrity to protect him, but even the guard paid to watch him day and night, to catch him cheating, to make sure he’s giving the customers their money’s worth, even he believes that the artist is somehow cheating (all the other freaks are cheating; the customers would, if they could, cheat–so why wouldn’t he?).
He accepts his suffering, and as the years pass and the carnival sideshows attract fewer and fewer audiences, those who do come, tend to seek out the wild animal pens, for they are exciting, frightening, and full of life. People don’t want to see our artist because he has none of those characteristics, and they’ve lost whatever belief their parents or grandparents might have had about his unique brand of suffering. Hunger is no longer appetizing. No one wants to watch a man who willingly starves himself. Toward the end of the story, long after he has been forgotten, long after they have even ceased to pay him for his efforts, our little, wizened and shriveled artist is found dying. The boy sweeping out his cage notices the thing that was once a man and stoops to help him. Our artist tries one last time to explain to this young boy what the greatest (and lowest) minds could never fathom–WHY?
Our hunger artist says, simply, that he refused the food the crowds offered, because, he says, they didn’t have the food he liked. And then he dies. Make of him and me what you will. A true artist does what s/he does because s/he has to. Nothing else, no other food, will do, for the artist craves whatever it is that motivates him/her to write or paint or starve. How many of us have accepted the complaints and slurs of others, who cannot or will not see us as artists? How many of us continue, alone, in the dark, in our own little cages, doing the best we can to hold onto the dream, our integrity, our art? So, here am I in my humble cage, doing what comes naturally to me, and here you are, drawn by curiosity, perhaps, and continuing to visit, one hopes, because you like the freak show, for it enlightens you, mayhap, or it relieves the overweening drudgery of modern life, if only for tiny pockets of time. Welcome to Pockets of Chaos, and enjoy your ride through this wormhole of experience.
My motto: ars longa, vita brevis (art is long-lasting, while life is brief). My song: Still Crazy After All These Years. My singer: Elvis Presley. My group: The Beatles. My food: chocolate. My movie: Casablanca. My authors: William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, Kurt Vonnegut, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Shakespeare, and a million more.
© Copyright 2015 Linda L Labin, PhD (except cow)