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Realism and Its Vicissitudes

Essays in Honor of Sandy Petrey

Edited By Robert Harvey and Patrice Nganang

This collection honors the career of Donald «Sandy» Petrey, Professor of Comparative Literature at the State University of New York at Stony Brook for over forty years. The diversity of essays – written by colleagues, friends, and former students, and ranging in subject from the traditional Festschrift theme of the honoree’s compelling contributions to the study of realism and the novel’s role in history, to chapters on Susan Sontag’s experimental films, the thought of the late Marxist philosopher André Gorz, silence in the graphic novel, and linguistic disparities between American and Standard Italian – attests to the plasticity of Sandy Petrey’s mind and the ample indications of his work. Best-known (and well-loved) for his often gruff, no-nonsense style in teaching and prose, Petrey is celebrated by those whose careers and ideas he has helped to nurture, inform, and embolden. This collection is a fine text for courses in nineteenth-century as well as contemporary French studies and literature.
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9. Desperate Artist

← 115 | 116 →The Desperate Artist: Narrative Devices and Silence



In my first year of teaching, I encountered a problematic student, and I sought advice from Dr. Petrey. His advice was simple and sound: “Students want to be heard.” I have been a student in Dr. Petrey’s classes, a T.A. in his undergraduate classes, and a mentee. His enthusiasm is unparalleled, his knowledge of the texts inscrutable, and his wit captivating. Sandy is consistently a stern critic, a voracious reader, and a kind voice. The sincere note reading, “congratulations on finishing another draft,” bolsters one with confidence to endure the ensuing chastising. After sitting across his desk from countless students, Sandy still gets it. A student cannot survive on disdain alone.

If I had to choose one thing Sandy taught me, it would be that we all bleed history. Art Spiegelman, Salman Rushdie, and Flaubert have bled through Professor Petrey’s courses, directed readings, comprehensive exams, and dissertations. We have been fortunate enough to experience history through literature, in a way that is incomparable, led by Sandy.

After Atticus was born, Sandy kissed me on both cheeks, the faire la bise only appropriate for a Francophile. His scruffy whiskers scratched my cheeks, and it was this gesture of kindness and empathy that embodies Sandy’s character for me. And it is Sandy heartily punching his desk after a semester of directed novel readings and announcing, “That was fun!” that embodies his passion for literature.

Thank you, Dr. Petrey, for being...

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