Dr. Stephen Gatlin, professor of history, spent one week of the summer vacationing on the coast of Delaware and the remaining months in a state of deep concentration, tuning out any distractions from the hefty texts in front of him. German nature philosophy and the Beatles kept him occupied, reading 5 lengthy books on the subjects in preparation for this semester’s classes. “What I’ve been doing during the summer is more difficult than what I do during the year!” Gatlin said. These two courses fall under the category of “unusual and sometimes arcane courses” that he enjoys teaching even if it means sacrificing his summer hiatus.
Gatlin is grateful that the university “allows me to teach to my strengths and my interests and my passions.” He said there has never been a course at Eastern in nature philosophy.
“I’ve always been vaguely fascinated by it,” he said of the subject that he describes as “romantic” and “irrational.” Gatlin admits that nature philosophy is “the most difficult subject I have ever encountered.”
In order to properly teach the students, he said, “I had to get down into the trenches and understand it.”
Schelling, the German philosopher mainly responsible for this area of philosophy, “often wrote incoherently and inconsistently,” Gatlin said. His philosophies have become recognized in the category of “loser” history of science because it did not lead to modern science. Gatlin, however, finds this fascinating: “I find loser history of science as interesting as winner history of science.”
While philosophy of nature draws a more limited student interest, the Beatles class will be filled to capacity.
“I think they were very bright guys, especially at their age,” Gatlin said of the four band members.
“They changed our society in some new ways,” he said. “Whether for better or worse, it is hard to say.”
None of the Beatles attended university and none of them could read a note of music, Gatlin said, yet “They were witty, witty in terms of smart and savvy.”
The Beatles class will focus mainly on John Lennon, whose extensive biography Gatlin read this summer. While he continues to appreciate Lennon’s talent, Gatlin said, “The more I read of this biography, the less I sympathize with John Lennon.”
“They were everything as a unit,” he said of the Beatles. “The sum was far greater than the parts.”
Describing the preparation it takes to teach such a class, he said, “The amount of literature on the Beatles is now rivaling that of Shakespeare.”