Story by: Mike Zitz

The classroom, Cory MacLauchlin believes, is a sacred place.

He takes his responsibility as an English faculty member at Germanna Community College very seriously. 

Not so seriously, however, that he doesn’t make learning about Edgar Allan Poe fun.

His amusing use of clips from the 1963 film “The Raven,” starring Vincent Price, and the 2012 remake featuring John Cusack, in his instructional video on Poe could provide a lesson for teachers everywhere in best practices for engaging students. As a matter of fact, some English professors at other colleges are using MacLauchlin’s video in their classes.

In that cleverly edited Poe video, Price and Cusack and even Stan Lee, the late Marvel Comics creator of Spider-Man, recite lines from Poe’s poem. MacLauchlin himself plays a silently dancing Poe.

At Germanna, MacLauchlin teaches courses on American Literature, Southern Literature, and Writing and Research. He has also taught writing and literature courses that Germanna has offered inmates at the state Coffeewood Correctional Facility near Culpeper, including a course on the literature of confinement.

MacLauchlin is the author of “Butterfly in the Typewriter: The Tragic Life of John Kennedy Toole and the Remarkable Story of A Confederacy of Dunces.” His book is in pre-production for film adaptation.

He sometimes dresses as the comic protagonist of “Confederacy of Dunces,” Ignacious J. Reilly.

MacLauchlin has written for TIME, The Daily Beast, Vice Magazine, and The Millions. His work has also appeared in HuffPost, and he’s been featured on BBC Radio, NPR Radio, and Investigation Discovery.

He’s published on topics in American and British literature ranging from Mark Twain to the intricate history of The Hummums, a centuries-old literary institution of London. As producer and biographer, he is featured in the documentary film “John Kennedy Toole: The Omega Point.”

MacLauchlin was born and raised in Newport News, Virginia. He earned his Master of Arts in English from the University of Virginia. He lives in Bristow with his wife: Danievie, and their sons Elliott 14, Liam 12, and Maddox 7, whom he coaches in baseball.

As a teacher, he lives: “for the moment, when I see a spark in their eyes as they become as excited about learning as I am. That moment is magical. It’s sacred.”

So, it saddens him that the classroom has become a topic of political infighting.

“The classroom has become the latest front in the unending culture wars,” MacLauchlin wrote in a column in the Culpeper Times. “Why would a teacher choose this book or that lesson? Why are teachers exposing students to this idea or that idea? Most seasoned educators I know have grown accustomed to this scrutiny."

“I wish everyone could experience the feeling of seeing the flash of inspiration in a student’s eyes. I have seen this spark empower a student who felt unworthy of college, and after weeks of research and writing, eloquently and respectfully make her case to the school board for a change in transportation policy. I saw the power of this moment in the community college sonography student who guided the ultrasound transducer over my wife’s belly to show us the first glimpse of our son. I saw it in the oil-stained hands of the automotive technician graduate who successfully diagnosed an engine problem that three other mechanics couldn’t determine.”
Cory MacLauchlin
English Faculty

MacLauchlin wishes Germanna had a huge lecture hall so he could invite everyone to sit in on his class. He suspects what many have “heard about the classroom—especially in an English or history course—is likely quite different from what actually happens.”

He doesn’t think he’s changed the mind or belief system of any student. “But I have had plenty of students ask tough questions and display the courage to consider other points of view, usually voiced by one of their peers. I find that students value being challenged. In the end, they value learning. And I believe that it is worth protecting because it’s sacred.”

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