Saturday, November 09, 2019

Kevin Floyd

I first met Kevin when I took his gender theory class as a graduate student (what we call "queer theory" when we want to sound like radicals). I had previously been extremely phobic about critical theory as a general concept, but I'd taken a class in semiotics the semester before and I was kinda warming to it. It was a transformative class: one of those things that really, really influences how you perceive the world. I was honestly a little intimidated by the intensity of his intellect and, let's face it, by his being way more handsome than any English professor has any business being; nonetheless, later when I need a director for my dissertation, he was the obvious choice. We had some very heavy theoretical discussions, and O how he put me through the wringer with regard to my writing, which he perceived--obviously correctly--was not as clear or focused or scholarly as it needed to be. There were times when I really seriously thought I wasn't going to have what it took to do it. But somehow I did, and even if I didn't follow the sort of academic trajectory that he had, I was still lastingly grateful. Mine was the first doctoral dissertation he ever directed, as it happened, but he did not miss a beat.

I wish I'd had more of a relationship with him, honestly, but there was something about him and about my general social awkwardness such that that never happened (okay, we might as well be brutally honest, it was obviously in large part because I felt self-conscious that I had failed as an academic, and I didn't want to feel like I was secretly being judged which again I do because I'm kind of ludicrous). The only subsequent contact I had with him was requesting letters of recommendation (with which he was always extremely conscientious). Well, so it goes.

Anyway, I suppose it's probably pretty obvious where this is going, at least in outline: a year ago or a little less I learned from another of his students that he'd been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor (I did send him a note of general appreciation when I learned the news; no idea if he read it), and today I learned that he'd died on Thursday. He must've been in his fifties; I don't know exactly.  I know the above photo isn't great, but he was extremely not-online, and it's the only one I could find.  Talking about "fairness" when it comes to things like this isn't very helpful or meaningful, but I can only record my subjective reaction, which is that BOY is this ever unfair. Sure it's universal, but the idea that this stupid, random brain malfunction could silence such a strong voice...goddammit. Don't really have much to say here; just felt that I shouldn't let this go by unremarked. Rest in power.


Blogger Unknown pontificated to the effect that...

Hi, my name is Alex and I am a previous student of Kevin's. I just wanted to send my thanks to you for writing this.

I had two classes with Kevin during my undergraduate years at Kent State, and he was undoubtedly one of my favorite professors - not just to listen to in class, but to discuss the various issues of life with.

Kevin was kind enough to write one of my letters of recommendation for law school, and today-in my final semester-I found myself thinking about him and how unfortunate it was that we had fallen out of contact. I tried finding him on LinkedIn to no avail, so I decided to Google his name. It was then that I learned about his passing. While scouring the internet to find the cause (funny how we do that, isn't it?) I found this article. Thank you for bringing me some sense of closure; I am not surprised that Kevin had such a lasting impact on another student.

Best regards,

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

I was walking home from work today and thought about Kevin Floyd for the first time in years. Googled to see if he was still at Kent State and learned that he passed away. I had Kevin for a queer literature course at The University of Iowa in 1996, when he was a grad student TA. It was a small class and he was one of the most memorable instructors I have ever had. Thank you for sharing this post. Jennifer

8:33 AM  

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