May 27, 2003

First time's a charm for Oxford's Carpenter

By Eric Rangus

Lucas Carpenter’s 18 years at Oxford have been marked by a lot of firsts. He was the first Oxford faculty member to hold a Candler professorship. He was the first to earn a Fulbright scholarship. And, as of this month, he is the first Oxford professor to be honored with the University Scholar/Teacher Award.

“It’s very satisfying to receive this kind of recognition, no doubt about it,” said Carpenter, Charles Howard Candler Professor of English. He came to Oxford in 1985 after faculty positions at SUNY-Stony Brook and Suffolk College. “I think [the award] further establishes Oxford’s credentials within the University community.”

Established in 1981, the Scholar/Teacher Award rewards a faculty member who has shown exceptional teaching ability, concern for students and colleagues, significant contribution to the scholarly life of the University and a commitment to high standards both personally and professionally.

The Scholar/Teacher Award is the latest honor for Carpenter in what has been a prolific Emory career. In 1999, Carpenter earned a Fulbright scholarship, which he used to teach classes at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Leuven, Belgium, on modern American literature and U.S. literature of the Vietnam War. At Oxford’s Commencement in 2000, Carpenter was named a Candler professor. He has won every teaching award available at Oxford and has been named Oxford’s professor of the year three times.

The firsts do not stop with Carpenter’s resume. For the first time, Oxford’s Commencement was the site of the Scholar/Teacher award announcement. And for the first time, a sonnet (written by University Secretary Gary Hauk) and recited by interim Provost Woody Hunter and President Bill Chace—at the Oxford and main Commence-ment ceremonies, respectively—served as the recipient’s introduction.

The most published faculty member at Oxford, Carpenter has edited a seven-volume scholarly series devoted to the life and work of John Gould Fletcher, has written two books of poetry and has published more than 200 articles, book reviews and stories. Most recently he has written essays on addiction as a postmodern metaphor for Southern Humanities Review and another piece looking at Vietnam War fiction from a postmodernist perspective for College Literature (a Vietnam veteran, Carpenter was awarded the Bronze Star for his service).

Normally, Carpenter teaches three classes per semester, but this past spring he taught or co-taught five classes—one section each of creative writing, Southern literature and American literature. He also co-taught two other classes—American Literature and Race with political science Associate Professor William Cody, as well as another course that took him and his students a bit beyond Oxford’s quaint campus.

For the last six springs Carpenter and Oxford sociology Professor Mike McQuaide have chaperoned students to Ecuador to study shamanism for the professors’ team-taught class, Social Change in Developing Societies.

During Spring Break this year they spent 10 days in the Amazon jungle and the Andes Mountains, where they interviewed several shamans and observed their rituals and ceremonies.

“Many of the students consider it a life-changing course,” said Carpenter. “We really do go to the limits of civilization—where the roads run out and the only access is by boat and trail.”

This summer, Carpenter will be taking another trip, only this destination will be a bit easiser to reach. For three weeks he will be in western Canada researching shamanism in the Native American tribes of the northwestern United States and Canada.