English Studies professor brings literature to life

Cassandra Adams

With his arms crossed over a polo shirt while casually leaning back in his desk and smirking, Kevin Floyd looks more like one of his students than a professor.

Swiftly scanning the circular chair setup he requested earlier, Floyd clears his throat and cuts his students’ chatter, indicating he’s ready to begin discussion.

“So, I’m obviously curious of your initial thoughts of the play,” Floyd says in a slight southern drawl.

This ignites a 75-minute discussion on controversial subjects of sex, race, gender, insanity and society.

A ping-pong match of questions and answers fuel student involvement, as hands shoot up simultaneously.

Floyd manages to sustain the conversation and student attention with eye contact, humor and sarcasm.

“He’s putting up with her racial slurs because he wants to get laid?” Floyd asks, leaning in and wringing hands around an imaginary ball. “Is that what’s going on?”

Floyd said he chooses literary works to discuss, like the play “Dutchman” by Amiri Baraka, because they are challenging and “don’t settle down.”

Students who have taken Floyd’s classes know he isn’t afraid to step on toes.

“I want to challenge students to think outside of the box and have thoughts they never occurred to have,” Floyd said.

•Favorite quote: “Literature raises questions, doesn’t answer them”

•Favorite show: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

•Favorite Authors: William Faulkner, Philip K. Dick

•Favorite Band: Guided by Voices, “Any of your readers who know them are cool,” Floyd said.

•Hobby: Work

•Interesting fact people don’t know: “My apartment’s a mess.”

•Do you talk about religion or politics? Politics — “It’s unavoidable.”

“There’s pressure on the university to apply knowledge and often can turn into just means to an end, humanities seem to be the last to resist and that knowledge is the end itself,” he said.

Floyd grew up in Denton, Texas and pursued his undergraduate degree from North Texas University, but had no clue what he wanted to do.

“I majored in business, it was the Reagan 80s and everyone wanted to make money,” Floyd said.

But after taking some finance courses, Floyd realized it wasn’t for him.

“I quickly decided if I have to do this the rest of my life, I’ll shoot myself,” Floyd said.

Floyd said he took courses with “an amazing literary professor” for three consecutive semesters and knew he wanted to get his Ph.D. in English and teach at the college level.

After receiving a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in English in 1998, Kent State offered him a job.

Using an unconventional approach and trademark phrases such as “Look at the text,” “We can talk about this” and “Flesh that out for me,” Floyd has definitely left an impression on his students.

“I loved his class,” said Sebastian Milardo, junior Soviet studies major. “He values everyone’s opinions. There’s no right answer — including his. He understands his might not be the same as ours.”

“I thought he was knowledgeable, and I liked his class,” sophomore English major Kara Bindus said. “My literature classes this semester definitely show he’s more knowledgeable than other professors. And he covers different forms,”

“His classes were always interesting and he did a great job of making the material interesting to the class (at least to me),” junior English major Cody Hays said. “I think he’s probably my favorite professor I’ve taken at KSU. His classes are not a walk in the park, and that’s great because at least we know we’re getting our money’s worth. He’s a fantastic educator.”

Students said they enjoyed Floyd’s class for the simple fact that he listened to their opinions.

“You got heard,” Milardo said.

Contact features correspondent Cassandra Adams at [email protected].