43 Questions with Dr. Keith Cushman

43 Questions with Dr. Keith Cushman

Posted on October 4, 2022

Dr. Keith Cushman is an emeritus faculty member who focuses on 20th Century British Literature.Dr. Cushman is an avid supporter of Greensboro Opera.  He was awarded the 1990-91 Research Excellence Award.


1. What is your favorite time of day?


2. What was the best experience you had as a member of the English Department?

Students who took my D. H. Lawrence/Virginia Woolf seminar did so because of Woolf, but they learned that Lawrence was also a great novelist.  Alternately: the round of applause I received at the end of my final Introduction to Drama class when I told the students I would be retiring.

3. What are you most excited about these days?

Socializing with friends.  Looking forward to traveling again.

4. What makes you smile the most?

Our intelligent tabby Rita.

5. What is one thing people do not know about you?

I have read all 20 of Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series.  (I have read Germinal, L’assommoir, and Pot-Bouile twice each.)  Many people are surprised that I am a sports fan.

6. What are the three things you cannot live without?

My wife Deb Bell (technically not a thing), opera (I miss Russ McDonald), big league baseball (Go Braves!).

7. Window or aisle seat?


8. What play could you watch over and over?

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

9. What is the most adventurous thing you have done in your life?

Sleeping on a mat on the deck of a boat (four days, three nights) traveling from Bangkok, Thailand, to Penang, Malaysia (while reading a Penguin paperback of The Golden Ass by Apuleius and trying to learn a little Thai).  Alternately, sleeping on luggage racks as I traveled third class on Indian trains in 1964-65.

10. How would you define yourself in three words?

Easygoing, warm, clever.

11. What is the sound or noise that you love?

Classical music.

12. What is the best piece of advice you have received?

Actually, the best piece of advice I didn’t receive.  When I told the director of graduate studies at Princeton that my “major author” for a special exam would be George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, or D. H. Lawrence, he said (in 1967), “I’m not sure that we consider Lawrence a major author at Princeton.”  That decided me to work on D. H. Lawrence.

13. What is your pet peeve?

I have plenty.  But my pet peeve is all the grating incorrect grammar spoken by professional television people.  And can anyone pronounce “get” or “just,” much less “mischievous,” correctly?

14. Do you prefer 20th Century novels or plays?

It is not a matter of “preference.”  I have always loved attending the theater and reading plays.  I am an avid reader of novels, and most of my research is about novels and short fiction.

15. What 20th Century work should everyone read?

Lady Chatterley’s Lover – although it is obviously not Lawrence’s greatest novel.

16. Who is your favorite musician?

I have no favorite.  I am happy to have been present at performances by Placido Domingo, Joan Sutherland, Renata Tebaldi, Yo-Yo Ma, and Itzach Perlman.

17. What is your favorite holiday?

I have no favorite.

18. If you could switch lives with one person for a day, who would it be?

Jonas Kaufmann.

19. What is one book you will admit you have never read but probably should?

The Aeneid.

20. What is the one thing you wish you knew at age 19?

That life would include many bumps and bruises.

21. If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Paris (although I am happy to live in Greensboro, North Carolina).

22. What is the best book you have ever read?

An impossible question.  But everyone reading this list should read The Library Book by Susan Orlean and Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.

23. What is a fictional city you would love to travel to?

Second Empire France, as represented in Zola’s novels.  But only if I could return to 2022.

24. What is your favorite type of food?

I have no favorite.  When I returned from college, my mother always made me stuffed cabbage.

25. Favorite snack?

I try not to snack.

26. What is the one talent you wish you had?

I sang for years in the bass section of the Choral Society of Greensboro, and I also sang in classes and in the hallways of McIver and Moore Humanities.  But I wish that I had an excellent singing voice.

27. What is your favorite movie?

The Godfather I and II.  Alternately, The Best Years of Our Lives, partly because the world of the movie reminds me of my boyhood.

28. Would you rather be in a play by Noel Coward or Tom Stoppard?

Tom Stoppard (no contest).

29. What is your favorite word?


30. What is your least favorite word?

“You know” as a filler. Alternately, “journey.”

31. Are you a proponent of the Oxford Comma?

Yes (no contest)

32. What course was your favorite to teach?

Modern English and American drama (in the last third of my time at UNCG).

33. What is your favorite color?

Green.  (I surprise myself.)

34. What are three words to describe the English department?

Back in the Sullivan/Uprichard glory days:  Collegial, hard-working, productive.

35. What is one thing you had to learn the hard way?

That life includes many bumps and bruises.

36. What is a trend you would like to see disappear forever?

Social media.

37. What did you want to do with your life at age 12?

Be the general manager of a major league baseball team.  I couldn’t even fantasize about becoming a major league baseball player.

38. What do you consider your greatest career achievement?

Being one of three people who organized the first international D. H. Lawrence conference in 1985 and asking Wayne Booth, my colleague at Chicago, to be the keynote speaker. Alternately, being admitted to Yale Law School.

39. What do you love the most about the English Department?

In my time:  the collegiality and the professional seriousness as teachers and scholars.

40. What project are you working on right now?

Mostly dispersing some of my rare book collections.  So far my unique collection of translations of D. H. Lawrence and my unique collection of signed and inscribed books by my first cousin Calvin Trillin (along with assorted ephemera) have gone to the Lilly Library at Indiana University.

41. Cats or dogs?

Cats (no contest).  Margot and Connie of blessed memory, Rita.

42. What are your future plans?

I look forward to traveling:  to Boston to see my daughters and their families – to New York City – to Paris for the annual D. H. Lawrence conference – to Vienna and points elsewhere with Deb.

43. What advice do you have for students?

Read, enjoy, learn!