Office Hours: Matt Leone

Matthew Knowles

Most interviews for a newspa­per are fairly formulaic: the in­terviewer prepares questions, the interviewee answers them and occasionally there will be a few interesting side-tracks or tangents. In our time, however, Director of Summer Programs and Lecturer in University Studies Professor Matt Leone took this conven­tion, briefly acknowledged it and then turned the conversation into something far more interesting than the usual talk.

Professor Leone is an Associ­ate Director for the Institute for Philosophy, Politics and Econom­ics at Colgate (PPE), and directed the University’s First-Year Seminar Program for 10 years. But Profes­sor Leone made it quite clear that he has little love for pencil-push­ing and administrative positions. However, he did enjoy the people with whom the position allowed him to be in contact.

“I don’t think there’s anything to enjoy about administration… being the ‘director’ was not fun and games…but what I did enjoy was helping wonderful professors teach wonderful courses!” Professor Leone said cheerfully.

Professor Leone’s true passion lies in his area of study and exper­tise. Just last year, he published a book titled Shapes of Openness: Bakhtin, Lawrence, Laughter. In this work, Professor Leone uses terminology from the philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin to explore how D.H. Lawrence “thinks by [the] means of fiction.”

“The real paradox that we have to confront is that fiction is made up, right? Fiction is another word for lies. So how do lies get at truth? Or do they?” Professor Leone asked.

Personally, Professor Leone said that he believes fiction can tell truths by opening up questions, not answering them. He called into question the age old adage, first coined by Sir Philip Sidney, that literature is meant to “teach and delight.” Instead, Professor Leone said that we should not feel the need to pursue a moral in every story that we read. He com­pares these morals to the fortunes within fortune cookies.

“A lot of teachers and students, they’re looking for the fortune cookie. And frankly, I’m not,” Professor Leone remarked.

Professor Leone was the editor of the 2008 publication Crafting Fiction, Poetry, & Memoir from the Colgate Writers’ Conference, which was the first book to be printed through the reestablished Colgate Press. The book is com­posed of a series of essays from writers who attended this confer­ence, which Professor Leone di­rects, that discuss why they write and how they write. He is proud to say that the book is used in sev­eral college writing classes around the country.

A lesser known part of Pro­fessor Leone is his long history with sports and athletics. His office shelves are adorned with pictures of athletes: an odd scene compared with most professors. In addition to coaching the div­ing team at Colgate, Professor Leone was also a top-notch base­ball player in his youth. He was very proud to recount how he went from playing stickball in the streets as a child to being recruit­ed by the Philadelphia Phillies, and how he decided not to accept their offer.

“I was persuaded by people like Yogi Berra to go to college instead. So, they blew it, what can I say?” Professor Leone said.

If one wanted to see someone with a genuine love for life and what they do, one would only need to sit down with Professor Leone for a few minutes. One would be hard pressed to find a person as immediately endearing as Professor Leone.

Contact Matthew Knowles at [email protected]