Betts as a high school student.
Avery, current chairman of the English
department, noted that although Betts was
hired for a fixed term, department professors
worked hard to get her a tenured position.
Her goal in literature classes is time-tested
but not simple. "My ambition is that each
student will fall in love with one writer at
least and with the idea of literature," she
said. "Most are not English majors, but the
gift of reading and taking pleasure in litera-
ture is a lifelong treasure. It is one of the
beautiful enhancements to life that nothing
takes away unless you go blind.
"It's fashionable now in my discipline to
dissociate literature fi'om life so that it's a
kind ofpuzzle or chess game. But that really
is not what students either want or need.
They need the association with life. The
base of this study ought to be a delight in
the language and the belief that those themes
have something to do with the ordinary
procedures in life.
"Now, this philosophy is out offashion
among many of the younger scholars. They
look at literature as an artifact. It's like hav-
ing your child ask you in the supennarket,
'Where do babies come from?' and you
whip out an anatomical drawing instead of
answering their real question. I'm not fond
of the direction that advanced literary studies
are taking, and I don't think most writers
Heading West (1981) was a Book-of-the-Month Club
awards, too-the Tanner Award for under-
graduate teaching and the Katherine K.
Carmichael Teaching Award. In 1986 the
English department established a Doris Betts
Teaching Award, given each year to a
graduate student for excellent teaching in
the freshman writing program.
One colleague called her efforts in the
freshman writing program "heroic." Laurence
)n of character as its end."
are. It's sterile, and I think ultimately the
philosophy 'behind it is very nihilistic."
Betts' approach in a recent honors class
on the short story was anything but sterile
and even in its mechanics wove together the
texts with the students' lives. She encouraged
her students to go hear Reynolds Price talk
about his new book ("Yes, it's free, even the
Coke and bad cookies") and attend a book
signing of a new work on H.L. Mencken. A
19-year-old's "Who was Mencken?" ques-
tion spurred a short discourse on American
cultural history, followed by the naming of
various North Carolina writers who would
visit this class and why they are splendid.
Then Betts told the students about each
other-their majors, where they were from,
what they read this summer. "I can see that
the first thing you did when you left school
last spring was to go read trash, and that's
fine. Beach books are important, because
they help us appreciate the good books
more," she said, as she circulated a list of
students' names, phone numbers and addresses
to encourage them to keep talking about
literature and life outside ofclass.
C AR0 LINA A L U M N IREVlEW