Last Lectures: Prof. Ellen Keck Stauder [English, 1983]

We salute retiring (and not-so-retiring) professors.

By Romel Hernandez | September 1, 2013

For many years, Ellen Stauder used an ingenious—and irreverent—method to teach her poetry students the difference between meter and rhythm. She played a recording of her long-haired dachshund Willie lapping up water from his bowl in perfect iambs.

Meter goes on and on, like the dog drinking. Rhythm, however, shapes time, stressing different parts of a poem in different ways. “My students thought I was insane to play the recording of the dog,” she says wryly, “but they never forget the distinction.”

Stauder needn’t have worried—the David Eddings Professor of English and Humanities has made an indelible impact on generations of students.

“Ellen Stauder may have had more influence on where I am in my career than anyone else,” says Greg Barnhisel ’92, who chairs the English department at Duquesne University. “Her English literary history class did a brilliant job of teaching the most canonical, conservative overview of English literary history from a feminist and historicist perspective. Even after 25 years, my understanding of the development of English literature is based on that class.”

Stauder earned a BM at the Eastman School of Music, an MA in English at the College of St. Rose, and a PhD in the history of culture at the University of Chicago.

“I learned to go where the poems want to go on that day in my students’ hands and my hands,” she says, summing up her teaching philosophy. “If I could help the discussion come along and help students more fully say what they wanted to say, that was good.” 

Fittingly, the college planted a yellow magnolia tree in her honor near the entrance to the Hauser Library. As Prof. Gail Sherman [English 1981–] says: “Every day as people walk into the library, if the beauty of that tree has an impact on them, it will be Ellen’s sustaining legacy to the college.

Tags: Professors