Joe and Ann Lauinger: A Love of Literature, SLC, and Each Other

Professors joe and ann lauinger at slc. photo credit: victoria mycue

Professors joe and ann lauinger at slc. photo credit: victoria mycue

Sarah Lawrence College’s faculty has several married couples. One couple, English professors Joe and Ann Lauinger, sat down to discuss what it is like being married and working not only at the same institution, but also in the same field:

How long have you two been working here?
Ann: I usually duck the answer to that. I’ve been here for more than 40 years.
Joe: I’ve been here for almost 30, so it’s about 70 human years between us. Together we make a very old man.
How did you meet?
Joe: We met in London. Ann and I both went to the University of Pennsylvania, and we won a scholarship—I won a scholarship a year before her—to study in England. This fellowship has a banquet every year, and I had been there for a while, I had been there for a year, and she had just won it, and I met her at the banquet, and we’ve never been parted.
So you both went to the same college?

Joe: Both went to the same college, but didn’t know each other there.
Ann: We figured out that we were actually in one class together. It was a lecture, a Chaucer lecture, that had about 90 students in it, and we did take it the same semester. Then we also discovered that we did have some mutual connections, but we didn’t know it at the time we were there. I had a friend who was friends with someone that Joe was friends with. That was the extent of it.
How much later did you start working at Sarah Lawrence?
Joe: Well, we studied at Oxford, then we came back to graduate school, and we got our degrees, and Ann started teaching here, and I was teaching at another college, and I guess it was about 15 years after you were teaching here that I started teaching here.
At first, was it really nice to be together or were you scared that it would be a little weird?
Ann: Well, we wondered if it would be difficult, but we figured that it wouldn’t, because it wasn’t like we were starting out, either in our marriage or our careers. It might have been different if it had happened at the very beginning of our lives.
Joe: It was just nice to carpool, take care of the kid more easily. 
Ann: It was just wonderful for Joe to get to be here, because it’s a much better opportunity for him.
Joe: Oh, I love it here. This is the kind of teaching that I love, and Ann was used to it.
Ann: Right, I was already complaining about it. He was grateful.
What is the carpool like? Do you still drive together everyday to and from?
Ann: I guess three days out of the four our schedule permits it.
Joe: We try to do it. If there’s a committee meeting or something like that where one of us is going to be very late and one of us is going to be very early, that’s when we don’t. But we try to do it, because I don’t mind driving and Ann would rather not.
Ann: I don’t like it.
Joe: She’s a Manhattan girl.

You both work in literature. Is there ever any friendly competition or do you work in very different areas of literature?
Ann: We have some overlap, because we both teach Shakespeare.
But the overlap is good?
Joe: It’s great. We actually teach Shakespeare from two different points of view. We try to make sure Shakespeare is taught pretty much every year, and I take a much more performance-based approach to it, you know, and Ann’s more historical and poetical. Although, I do historical stuff. We both went to Princeton for graduate school, which really does try to root you in the historical approach to literature. We both have essentially the same way to think about literature critically. But as I’ve become more and more interested in theater and theater history and playwriting, the idea of performance as meaning itself is something that I really focus on. So Shakespeare and then all the other playwrights that I do from Aeschylus on to Beckett, whereas Ann takes a more literary approach.
 Interesting. So there’s never any disagreements about an analysis?
Ann: Yeah, we disagree, sure, but we don’t come to blows.
Do you ever feel like you’re getting too much Sarah Lawrence?
Ann: Yes. It’s easy to feel that, even when you’re only one person. Don’t you feel like you’re getting too much Sarah Lawrence sometimes?
Joe: We try not to bring it home. We try not to talk about students too much.

That’s what you do to escape too much Sarah Lawrence—just talk about other topics when you’re home?
Ann: We just do, because we have a life
Joe: We talk about why we don’t like “Catastrophe.” It’s a sitcom.
Ann: Is it on Netflix? Amazon, it’s an Amazon series.
Joe: Or what the dancing is like in La La Land as opposed to any swingtime, any Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and all that.
And what do you think? La La Land doesn’t live up to that?
Joe: No. It’s a very charming movie, but it does that it on purpose: it’s very amateurish about the dancing on purpose to make them normal people as opposed to Astaire and Rogers.”
Do you think this has worked so well for you because you’re a certain type of couple, like an academic couple, or would any couple in this environment be able to be fine working in the same place with their spouse?
Joe: This is a very nice environment. You don’t have to worry about competition and rank and all those other things that might... But our son is an academic, and our daughter is an academic, and they teach at the same institution. They’re in different programs, but they get along fine, too. And they’re in a large university, so it’s different.
Ann: It is the dream for academic couples to be employed at the same place. They very much want that.
Joe: Or extremely nearby.
Ann: Or closeby, because you want to have a life. If somebody gets a job in San Diego and somebody gets a job in Boston, that’s not happy. So there are a fair amount of these doubling-up things. If somebody gets a good situation at a big place, they’ll try to see if there’s a possible hire for somebody else. So I think if you ask most academics like us, they would say, ‘Yeah, it’s a good thing.’

Victoria Mycue '20

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