Jason Fitger is not a likeable character.
A creative writing professor at the fictitious Payne University, an aptly named small liberal arts college in the Midwest, Fitger is cantankerous and acid-tongued, beleaguered and inappropriate. He doesn’t really like students — and he doesn’t like England, which is where he has been pressured into leading a study abroad program.
The students on the tour are equally hapless. For the most part, this is their first trip away from home. One believes they are actually going to the Caribbean. And another remarks that she has never left her cat. Someone writes in his application that he is “a business major … for obvious reasons. There are no jobs out there for people who just want to read.”
It’s enough to push Professor Fitger to the brink — and that is the story told in “The English Experience,” Minnesota novelist Julie Schumacher’s final book in the trilogy that follows Fitger’s academic misadventures.
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This week, on Big Books and Bold Ideas, Schumacher joined host Kerri Miller in the studio for a rollicking and candid conversation about how Schumacher channels Fitger, why she hopes he’s likeable in spite of all his faults, and the frustrations she shares with him about the future of academia.
Julie Schumacher lives in St. Paul and is a faculty member in the Creative Writing Program and the Department of English at the University of Minnesota. “The English Experience” is the completion of her trilogy about Professor Fitger.
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