About the Author: Kim Townsend

Kim Townsend by Rob Mattson.jpg Name
I have been Kim (not Robert) Townsend for these eighty years.

Current Home
I live in Amherst -- have for the fifty-two years I have taught at the College, except for the several when I was on sabbatical leave.

Place of Birth
I was born in New Rochelle, NY.

I went to Princeton, then Cambridge University for two years on a Fulbright Scholarship and received my PhD from Harvard in 1962.  (I had a Woodrow Wilson Scholarship there.)

Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
I came to Amherst because I was fortunate enough to be a section man in Humanities 6 at Harvard, a course headed by Reuben Brower (formerly a professor at Amherst) and when he was on leave Dick Poirier, a distinguished literary critic and an alumnus of the College.  Among the other section leaders were graduate students who had gone to Amherst.  Teaching in that course saved me.  The weekly meetings of all involved taught me far more than any course I took.  (I had to take only five, given my Cambridge experience;  I got my Ph.D. in the three years I was at Harvard.)  As a result of them, I wanted to teach at Amherst; the fact of English I confirmed my resolve.  It was so obviously unlike the first-year English courses at any of the other colleges I considered. 

Favorite Book/Authors/Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an author
I would like to respond to the three remaining questions with one answer. My favorite authors are Emerson and Thoreau, Wordsworth and Keats.  My favorite book is probably Montaigne's Collected Essays.  All of them teach me how to live.  My interests and writings are the result of questions about how to live.  I became interested in gender early on --- before Women and Gender Studies -- and wrote on it often, most explicitly in a book titled Manhood at Harvard: William James and Others.  I was similarly motivated to write about education and communities,  about my Armenian heritage, and about horseback riding (which I began at age 65).  Write about what really interests you would be my advice to anyone who aspires to be an author.  I remember Armour Craig, a senior member of the English department in my early years at Amherst and later the acting president of the College, saying to a student who said he wanted to learn how to write:  "About what?"

I wrote the book on Bill Ward because I wanted to do justice to him and to the years he was at Amherst -- the most interesting period in Amherst's history, I think, the period of which he was emblematic.