Faculty Spotlight Series – Professor Mike Drout

Name: Mike Drout
Position: Professor of English
Years at Wheaton: 23
Hometown: Ocean, NJ
Education: B.A. Carnegie Mellon 1990 (Professional Writing and Creative Writing), M.A. Stanford 1991 (Journalism), M.A. University of Missouri-Columbia 1993 (English), Ph.D. Loyola University Chicago 1997 (English)

Where is your favorite spot to work from home?
I have been displaced from my favorite spot because a major defense contractor is now operating out of our office (my wife is an engineer with Raytheon, and they are also working from home due to the plague). But I do like teaching classes in front of the fireplace in the living room, and before the end of the semester I will teach a class sitting at the piano and we can have a Beowulf or Science Fiction sing-along.

What one thing do you miss most from campus?
All the casual conversations with students, colleagues and friends. You only realize how many great people you talk to every day when you’re not able to talk to them.

What are you currently watching on TV or reading?
Stephen King’s The Stand (which I do NOT recommend re-reading in our current situation); Thomas Mann, Joseph and His Brothers; Carlo Cippola, The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity.

Have you discovered new ways of working remotely?
Does “being incredibly inefficient” count as a “new” way of working? I would rather chew glass than be away from my students and colleagues, but, well, 2020. What are you going to do? At least we don’t have locusts and frogs. Yet.

What is the best way to stay connected with others?
Keeping the class link open after class ends so that students and I can casually chat.

What is the worst thing about being in quarantine?
Not being on campus with students and colleagues. Not getting to watch my son play baseball. HAVING NO BRUINS GAMES TO WATCH IN THE EVENINGS!

What is the best thing about being in quarantine?
Get to spend a lot of time with my dogs, Lancelot and Percival. They think quarantine is the best thing ever.

What is your favorite thing about working at Wheaton?
Getting to be a small part of the lives of really remarkable students. When they start here, Wheaton students don’t yet know how great they are, and I get the privilege of watching them discover their greatness. There is nothing so joyful as hearing from former students and seeing how happy they are and how much good they are doing in the world.

What is your favorite Wheaton memory?
There are too many! Possibly the day in the Lexomics Lab that Leah Smith and I finally, after years of trying, figured out the explanation for the geometry of the dendrograms of Beowulf’s vocabulary. Or maybe when my students, after talking me into dressing up as Gru for Halloween, showed up to class dressed as the Minions. Or perhaps when Audrey Dubois pulled an April Fool’s prank by pretending she had misunderstood an assignment on paleography (the study of old writing) in Beowulf so gave a presentation on “paleontology and Beowulf” in which she claimed that Grendel was T-Rex and the dragon was a pterodactyl. She almost kept a straight face all the way through.

What is your favorite event to attend at Wheaton College?
Commencement. It is the most beautiful graduation ceremony in the world. I never fail to have tears in my eyes when we reverse positions the faculty clap for the graduates. Have never missed a Commencement in 23 years and never will.

Favorite place on the Wheaton College Campus?
The gazebo next to Peacock Pond early in the morning in early October or late April.

What historical figures do you most identify with?
Thomas Beckett, Martin Luther, Richard Feynman: people who absolutely refused to submit or to compromise about what they knew was right even when seemingly every right-thinking person was against them.

What is your favorite movie?
The original Road Warrior with Mel Gibson (whose son was once my student here at Wheaton).

What is your most cherished possession?
A post-it note on which Prof. Mechthild Gretsch (University of Göttingen) wrote “My dear Mike, I think you are right” about one of my articles. Mechthild was THE toughest scholar in all of Anglo-Saxon studies, and my article was pretty radical, so it was a HUGE compliment. Or perhaps a very kind letter from J.R.R. Tolkien’s son Christopher.

Who are your favorite writers?
J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin, Ken Kesey, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and the anonymous author of Beowulf.

Who is your favorite fictional hero?
The wizard Ged from Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books. The scene where Ged heals the world through the sacrifice of all his own power is the most perfectly written in all of fantasy literature.

Which talent would you most like to have?
To be able to sing any note perfectly, regardless of how high it is (as I used to be able to do before my voice changed).

What is your motto?
There are two: Ek trúi á sjálfan mik [Old Norse: I trust fully in myself]


I have given my love to what is worthy of love. That is the kingdom and the never-perishing spring.

What is something surprising about you that most people don’t know?
Back when I was the lead singer and rhythm guitar player for a band called Tattered Remnants, my hair was so long that I was forced to wear a hairnet when I was waiting tables. So not only did I have hair; it was way past my shoulders. No one ever believes this.