Amidst the shrieks and devilish laughter in the front row of this vampire film class, sits Professor George Grella with his notepad drawing eerie parallels. His students work hard to create their own parallels, hoping to match Grella in this interactive experience. Grella’s unique teaching style allows students to obtain first-hand information from an expert while also the room to disagree.

Bill Jewett, a member of the outside community who is auditing the course, has taken six film courses so far with Grella. “I enjoy learning about movie genres as more than a casual observer,” he said.

It can be said that Grella has a span of interests as well as talents. His courses range from literary journalism to a film study in musicals. Grella’s film classes have spawned his own following through his reviews and literary criticisms. He is considered an expert in film reviewing and his reviews touch on everything from baseball to detective mysteries. Grella’s students vouch for the validity of his expertise.

“I’m impressed with his teaching style. He has a unique perspective on stuff he introduces,” junior Dan Castillo said.

Many students take Grella’s class as part of the English requirement, but as senior Zaun Burgess confessed, despite it being part of her requirement, she also likes vampire movies. This is not to give the impression that Grella’s class is in any way a Saturday night drive-in.

Rather, Grella expects his students to meet the requirements, which include several papers, mandatory attendance and an active mind. Forget sleeping in this lecture style class of roughly thirty students. Many of Grella’s students resist sleep in this class because “it is a well-designed course,” senior David Moo said.

Grella’s eclectic work creates a clear parallel with his life ? Grella, who characterizes himself as from “an Italian working class family” believes he is not your average professor. Neither of his parents were educated beyond eighth grade, yet Grella managed to obtain a doctorate from the University of Kansas and become a premier figure in film criticisms. His work has taken him to Kansas ? where he wrote for the “Kansas Star,” to Bates College ? where he worked with a speed reading course, to here at UR.

When asked how he arrived in Rochester, Grella gets to the point. “I liked the English department. [UR] has a strong English department, they were interested in me, there was a good program and it’s a good place to start.”

At UR, Grella has been able to create many courses never yet taught and stay on the wave of pop culture with his reviews. Currently, Grella is working on a book on “American Detective,” reviews for “The City,” and seeking out new courses. Grella believes that “you spend your whole life learning about reading and writing.”

The future for Grella? With his dry humor, he smirks and adds that he “hopes to wake up every morning.” He promises “there are more courses I would like to create here at the university.” Of course, he will keep reading and writing.

What advice does he offer the young writer? “Pay attention to good writers, and read as many books as you can.” Grella hopes that his students will “enjoy learning, and learn critical thinking, clear writing and their potential” from his class. Grella sees many students as “frustrating their own potential.” He has spent little time himself frustrating his potential. He taught himself to read before he ever stepped in a classroom. “We all have different gifts. And let’s face it some of us work harder than others,” he said.

This realistic approach to life has allowed him to fight against the circumstances he grew up in. “I got my first job at fourteen and I’ve kept on working ever since,” he adds with a smile, “and reading.” Grella tells the young writer that “writing is not easy.” He discourages giving up. Grella quotes Thomas Mann to describe his view of writing ? “A writer is one for whom it is difficult to write.”

Tanner can be reached at rtanner@campustimes.org.



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