Professor of English Patricia O’Hara has taught at F&M since 1989. A specialist in British Victorian literature, she has published a wide range of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. O’Hara is serving in 2014-15 as faculty don of Ware College House, where she organized a Baseball Film Series during the fall semester. She also brings her passion for the national pastime into the classroom, teaching “Baseball in American Literature and Culture” each academic year.
Why did you decide to launch a course about baseball in literature?
I’m a British Victorian literature specialist who enjoys baseball writing and history. My first experiment in teaching baseball lit was a directed readings course with five F&M baseball players I recruited, one of whom—Pete Maki ’04—now serves as Columbia University’s pitching coach. Since then, each offering of the course changes, what with so many developments on the field. Consider how the new diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba promise a migration of Cuban players to the major leagues. New histories, essays, and novels like “The Art of Fielding” appear annually. Then we have all those great baseball films. It was tough to narrow the film series down to merely six. A constant in the course, however, has been the students. They are baseball fans. They come from across all majors, and they all like—in some cases, they love beyond reason—baseball. It makes for a happy classroom.
What excites you about your role as a College House don?
I was drawn to the opportunity for new professional challenges and responsibilities as well as new ways of interacting with students and colleagues from across the institution. I’m finding my way by asking new sets of questions, trying to observe and listen with intention. This past fall, the epigraph to E.M. Forster’s “Howard End” often echoed in my head: “Only connect.” How to connect matters intellectual with residential communities? How to forge connections among groups of students, between students and faculty, between the House and the Lancaster community? And how to do so in ways that abide? It’s exciting and often unfamiliar—in the good ways—to find myself in this role at this point in my career.
What’s been most rewarding about teaching at F&M?
Being granted the chance to teach all manner of students, be they lovers of Charles Dickens or Derek Jeter or both. I have appreciated the institution’s support of the directions of my teaching interests—Victorian lit, creative writing, baseball lit—which have in turn led me down new writing paths. During my recent sabbatical, I completed a historical fiction play featuring Pete Rose and Bart Giamatti that will be read at an actors roundtable at The Lark in New York City in March. That play bears the impress of many smart and enthusiastic baseball lit students. Those writing paths always have alleys that lead back to my teaching.
What book(s) are you reading now?
I just finished Matthew Thomas’s debut novel, “We Are Not Ourselves,” with Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal” next in the queue. I also keep P.G. Wodehouse’s “Jeeves” stories close at hand because they’re never less than wonderful.