Laura Morris, Ph.D., wasn’t filling just any opening when she was hired over the summer as Furman’s newest English professor.
“Everybody here has been calling me the new Gil Allen,” she said. “Some pretty big shoes to fill.”
And shoes is exactly the correct tense. Not only was Allen one of the most esteemed teachers on campus when he retired in May after 38 years but he was also a nationally renowned writer of poetry and short fiction. The University was looking for someone who could lace both hightops, and English department chair David Bost, Ph.D., is comfortable Morris is just that person.
“She’s a very good writer, and we liked her teaching,” he said. “She brought some teaching experience some of the other candidates did not have. We felt like we were very much getting a finished product with Laura when she started.”
A native of West Virginia, Morris earned an undergraduate degree from Carnegie Mellon and a master’s from West Virginia University before moving to South Carolina the first time to teach in the English department at Francis Marion University in Florence, where she stayed from 2006–2010.
Morris completed her Ph.D. in English literature with a creative dissertation from Texas A&M in May and is currently teaching Studies in Short Fiction and American Passages: A Literary Survey. She’ll head a fiction workshop in the spring.
“I’m really enjoying myself. The students are on top of things for the most part. I’ve learned a lot from them already,” she said. “I’d taught at small schools before, but coming from Texas A&M where there were 53,000 students having 26-, 27-hundred students has been a big change.”
Morris is trying to publish her first book, Jaws of Life and Other Stories, and because of the subject matter the opportunity to move to the Upstate was a welcome one for more than the quality of living.
“One thing that’s nice about Furman is it’s in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and being from West Virginia my fiction is very much Appalachian fiction,” she said. “The collection of short stories takes place in West Virginia, and I’m working on some other stories that take pace in West Virginia that look at the issue of fracking. Near where I grow up, fracking has kind of taken over as the major business, and there have been some huge negatives and some huge positives that have come with that.”
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