Being a student of someone else

John Mcreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Sat, 9 Jul 1994 08:50:31 JST

Rich Warms asks, "What does it mean to say that someone is a student of
someone else?"

To me it generally means (1) that the student studied with the teacher at
some point in his/her academic career and (2) that the student's own work
resembles or responds to the teacher's in some identifiable way. Being
mindful of George Lakoff's strictures on casual use of classical notions
of categories (in _Fire, Women and Other Dangerous Things_), I note that
(2) is perhaps more "prototypical."
Because it is usually in attempting
to explain a resemblance or response that this kind of academically
genealogical reference tends to occur. I observe, too, that I could say
"X is a student of Y" if there were sufficient resemblance between their
work, even if X had never worked directly with Y.

What's still missing, however, is the personal, emotional dimension. In
my own case, I studied with Victor Turner at Cornell in the late '60s.
As a graduate student hell-bent on doing my own thing, I would have
rejected (in a thoroughly Oedipal sort of way) the idea that I was
"his" student. And, in fact, when he moved to Chicago, I stayed at Cornell.
Now I am rediscovering a man who besides being a great teacher and a
great anthropologist was also a great human being. If anyone were to read
my stuff and say, "There is a student of Turner" I'd be flattered.

Yours truly,
John McCreery