Middlebury, Vermont

James Engst was aware that the land where he lived and worked was stolen from the Algonquians, or from the Province of New York, or from the men who were deceived by Benning Wentworth, governor of the Province of New Hampshire, into buying and clearing it. For his students, James required that they show in their writing an awareness of the history of a specific place in the state. Plenty of history was available. This freed them at least a little from their self-centered concerns, and it gave him some relief from the privileged points of view that he had so little sympathy for. Sympathy. If literature teaches us anything, it’s sympathy for others. James wasn’t at all clear whether he lacked sympathy or simply got too much of it.