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Taylor Loomis: Exploring Language, Ideas, and Culture

A high school epiphany led Taylor Loomis, a junior from Litchfield, to become an English major. It all began with a teacher at Litchfield High who demonstrated that literature was organically linked to historical, philosophical, and scientific ideas. Loomis realized then that studying English was not simply about reading a lot of novels: “It was about exploring ideas and tying them all together. And it was really about exploring everything around us: there wasn’t a topic English couldn’t touch.”

Loomis, an Honors Program student, a tutor at the Writing Center, and the vice president of Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society, has been immersing himself in the world’s great books ever since. He says, “I just fell in love with the language and the art and tying the language and the ideas and culture together.” Loomis is intrigued by contemporary post-colonial literature, particularly the work of Salman Rushdie, whom he describes as “the most important literary figure of our time.”

But it is Victorian literature and its great storytellers—including George Eliot and Charles Dickens—that Loomis finds to be most compelling. He says, “The ideas that were coming out of that period were amazing and are so relevant today.” As an example, he offers Dickens’s “obsession” with modernity in general, and with the train in particular. The train, notes Loomis, enabled Victorians to go more places quickly, to experience new things, and to exchange ideas and information faster. In a similar way, our society is grappling with high-speed Internet, cell phones, and other technology that is making life even more fast-paced. In reading Dickens’s novels, says Loomis, one can see that “the way his characters deal with trains and modernity is the same way that people today are dealing with our forms of modernity.”

Assistant Professor of English Jason B. Jones first became acquainted with Loomis through a British literature survey course. Loomis’s answers on exams, he recalls, were “more thorough by an order of magnitude” than those of any other student. “Taylor is one of the most systematic students I’ve ever known,” states Jones, who later taught him in other courses. “He has a good mind for mapping out a text for what the text is saying other than the story.”

Loomis’s passion for ideas has been fueled by more than his courses in English. He considers it “a privilege” to be part of the Honors Program, with its interdisciplinary courses and emphasis on understanding cultures throughout history. His favorites include a course that mingled Greek philosophy with Greek poetry and another on Japanese history that placed the very modern genre of the graphic novel into a cultural context extending back hundreds of years. Says Loomis of the Honors curriculum, “It’s a wonderful program that really does a lot to open up other venues of learning and insight that can’t be found in General Curriculum courses.”

A voracious reader, Loomis spent last summer working construction and reading Dostoevsky (one of his favorite authors) during lunch breaks. He admits that he has so many books in his dormitory room that his friends fear the piles of volumes may some day collapse and crush him. But those who know him well say that Taylor Loomis also has a lighter side. Professor Kristine Larsen, director of the Honors Program, who taught him in the Science and Society Honors class and Observational Astronomy, says, “Taylor is brilliant, dedicated, curious, patient, and—although he is a fairly quiet person—has a good sense of humor.” Dr. Jones agrees, noting that when Loomis was given the task of acting out a scene from a Dickens novel with his classmates, the normally quiet student amazed and entertained his peers and teacher alike by staying in character throughout and “maintaining an appropriate and deliberately hilarious cockney accent.”

Wrapping up his junior year and the formal end of the Honors Program, Loomis has just completed his Honors Thesis. Taking a deconstructionist approach, it applies theories of psychoanalysis to works by Dickens, Wilke Collins, and Charlotte Brontë. Loomis says he wanted to examine “the way Victorian authors use ghosts to symbolize turmoil within the psyche of the individual.” Jones, his thesis advisor, calls the work “incredibly impressive.” He says of Loomis, “It’s a joy to work with him.”

Loomis presented the first chapter of the thesis at a conference at SCSU in mid-April. The gathering, he notes, gave him an opportunity to engage in the kinds of professional activities that graduates and postgraduates do. Loomis hopes his own academic career will include entering a Ph.D. program and working toward a specialization in Victorian literature and psychoanalysis.

— Leslie Virostek

 

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