Living the literary life: Reneé Weissenburger

By Reneé Weissenburger

My love affair with literature art began at an early age. As with most children, it began with fairy tales, and not those nice, sugary ones, either: I loved the tragic tales, mermaid foam and all. By the end of grade school, I had formed intimate alliances with Lewis Carroll, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Louisa May Alcott and Judy Blume.

As a teenager, I used these guides quite literally — such as the summer I lugged around a giant pot of basil trying to understand Keats’ Isabella and her tragic love of Lorenzo. I have always been interested in trying to crawl beneath the skin of such characters, to find out what makes them tick, what makes them endure.

While I still love dressing up as ill-fated heroines, I tend to use these texts and images a little more pragmatically these days. Tennessee Williams, for example, is the constant voice of compassion in my ear. Virginia Woolf reminds me how fragile and isolated we all are — even in a crowd. Toni Morrison makes me weep for the world, while Gabriel Garcia Marquez reminds me to marvel at it. To date, I have yet to encounter a situation — no matter how lovely or horrifying — that these great instructors have not helped me through.

Reneé Weissenburger, M.A., in Literature and Writing has worked as an artist for CoTA (Collaborations, Teachers, Artists), a non-profit program that seeks to integrate art into existing public school curricula, and as a literature & creative writing instructor at National University over the last six years. She is immensely interested in the relationship between literature and art. She is teaching two courses in Winter: Magical Realism: Where the Mythic Meets the Mundane and Beyond Image: Using Photography with Other Media.

UC San Diego Extension is also offering a course in Winter entitled Literature, Imagination, and the Sacred with Catherine Guthrie, who will also share view on the literary life in January.

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