Dr. Ronald Dorris

Professor of English
Ph.D., Emory University, 1979
M.A., St. John's College, NM, 1979
M.A., Boston University, 1973
B.A., Xavier Univeristy of Louisiana, 1972

Specialties: Cultural and Intellectual History of the 1920s, African American Studies, Harlem Renaissance and Lost Generation Writers, Autobiography and Biography

My life's goal continually is to set up the necessary environment and conditions so that those who are interested can embrace their own bios (life) to affirm autos (self) and their own autos (self) to enhance bios (life). I continue to reflect on having grown up in Garyville, a small sugar cane town that borders the east bank of the Mississippi River, thirty-five miles west of New Orleans. I firmly embrace the concept of living out time and place, not simply occupying space. Thus I never have wanted my life to be divorced from my work. My Ph.D. dissertation is on Cane, a book written by Jean Toomer, grandson of P.B.S. Pinchback. In this text, Toomer writes about life in the cane fields. I see my life and the life of the people in my town mirrored in this text. Wholeheartedly, I remain inspired by Toomer's philosophy: One should, I think, view an environment in terms of what it actually is, and not in terms of its possibilities, keeping in mind the essential fact that not the place itself but your ability to function in it is the important thing. Having done this, there are three main factors to be considered: first, the physical factor, the obvious physical geography of the place; second, the human factor, the people themselves, the obvious living conditions, the subtle human atmosphere; and third, the supernatural factor, the extraphysical, the extra-human, the soul of the place.

Ronald Dorris is the author of Cane: Jean Toomer's Swan Song (1997). rodorris@xula.edu.