A guest post for Bronwyn Lea and a quote from Frederick Douglass

I’m thrilled that my post “Confronting my inner racist” is posted today at Bronwyn Lea’s blog as part of her Words that Changed My World series.

I wrote this post a while ago, so some of you have already read it. But I’d like to add one quote from my long-ago literature classes. It’s one that has haunted me for its beauty and its force and its content.

Several chapters into his autobiography, Frederick Douglass writes of his abusive master Mr. Covey, and how Covey managed to break the previously irrepressible Douglass. “I was broken in body, soul and spirit. (. . .) the dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute!”

Then, a page later, comes the sentence that strikes me with such force:

You have seen how a man was made a slave;

You shall see how a slave was made a man.

My professor wrote the lines on the board. Then he drew a line connecting man to man, and slave to slave. The lines intersected. In literary terms, this is a “chiastic structure”, one that’s used to emphasize or contrast ideas.



What does it look like? An X. A crossing. A chiasm.

A cross, standing between slavery and freedom. 

Just something to ponder as you click over to Bronwyn’s site and read. While you’re there, be sure to read a few other posts and leave a comment. You won’t regret it.

Now for my post . . .


Where: Chaucer class.

When: Spring 2002

Who: Me, my buddy Richard, and the middle-aged classmate whose name escapes my memory.

What: Richard, always a wild card, had decided to share with us about the time he was thrown in the slammer for DUI. Not the typical intro into a graduate-level discussion of The Canterbury Tales. But somehow, between bipolar disorder and PTSD from Vietnam, his social filter had disappeared, and so we got the unfiltered version of him, somewhat like the unfiltered cigarettes he rolled during Elizabethan Poetry and Prose class.

The tale was in full swing, (read the rest at Bronwyn’s Corner)


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