QUICK HITS Jason Peters – Hillsdale Collegian

A young Jason Peters smiles for the camera donned in cowboy boots.
Courtesy | Jason Peters

Jason Peters is an associate professor of English. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What are a few terms you would use to describe yourself?

Ironic, amused, and unreasonably attached to college basketball.

What subject would you teach if not English?

Cultural geography, and that’s a safe answer because there’s no cultural geography courses at Hillsdale.

What is one of your favorite childhood memories?

I beat an NBA player in a game of horse during high school. It was Rudy Tomjanovich who played for the Houston Rockets.

What do you do during your commute to Hillsdale?

My car is so old that its audio technology is a cassette tape and CD player. So either I listen to audio books on CD, drive in silence, or swear at other drivers. Every now and again, I’ll put some music on but not usually.

Would you rather go deep sea diving or travel to space?

Deep sea diving. I have no interest in departing the Earth.

What is one of your favorite books to teach in your English classes?

I haven’t taught this one at Hillsdale yet but “Desert Solitaire” by Edward Abbey. He is a contrarian, and so he kind of goes around the world saying, “I’m against it. What is it? He’s almost committed to the sabotage of ugly things like billboards, bridges, railroads and bad buildings.

Who was an influential person in your life?

There are two: Owen Barfield, whom I met in the 1990s, and Wendell Berry, who is still alive.

What is a bad habit you generally have to address with freshmen in Great Books classes?

Some of these kids are in the habit of not laughing when they read something funny. Sometimes they expect everything to be serious, and not everything is serious. And the other thing would be the expectation of being given good grades for mediocre or less than mediocre work, which isn’t their fault. It’s the fault of high schools mostly.

What are your opinions on cars?

Next to the cellphone, the automobile is the worst invention in all of history. You should never buy a car with less than 100,000 miles on it, and you should never drive a car unless the check engine light is on. My car that I drive right now is a ’03 Volvo Station Wagon with a manual transmission that has 302,000 miles, and the check engine light has been on for 10 years.

What is some of the best advice you have ever received?

My Uncle Mike, who was an English teacher and a really good athlete, told me, “if you’re using a nonrestrictive clause be sure you put a comma in,” and then he would add after that, “never play zone defense, always go man to man.”

What is your favorite word?

In German it would be “ausgezeichnet,” which means excellent. I just love the sound of that. In English, my favorite word would be vicissitude, though I confess an inscrutable fondness for liquefaction, transmogrify, and apotropaic.

If you could have any actor play you in a movie of your life, who would it be?

I would say either Robert Redford in his younger days because he’s almost good looking enough, or Robert Shaw, especially if he can play me a little bit like Quint in “Jaws.”

If you could live in any of the male dorms on campus, which one would you want to live in?

I don’t think I have been around long enough to know enough about any of the male dorms. So for a substitute answer, I would say that when I was in college, I pretty much spent at least one whole year living out of my 1974 Volkswagen Beetle. That was a pretty good bedroom as far as I was concerned. There’s only room for one of me in there.

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