Dr. Laurel Eason scurried to drape a table with books and roses before the 1:30 p.m. start time of her Southern Literature class at Catawba College on April 24th. She knew she was a day late for her celebration, but it did not matter.
"Even though it's April 24th, we're pretending it's April 23rd and World Book Day since we didn't meet on the 23rd," she said. "I have given a book and a rose offering to students in my literature classes in recent years. It's so hard for me to give away a book, so I started giving duplicates from my library to my students."
Her students converged around the draped table at the front of the classroom and carefully selected their book from offerings as diverse as Joseph Conrad's "Lord Jim" to Kurt Vonnegut's "Player Piano." Most of the female students also took away a rose.
Noting that April 23 was both the birth and death date of William Shakespeare and the death date of Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, Eason explained that the World Book Day celebration originated in Catalonia, Spain in 1923.
Since then, she said, Catalans traditionally buy and give each other books accompanied by a rose on April 23, also known in there as Saint Jordi's Day. That custom of giving "a rose for love, and a book forever" has spread throughout the world and is now celebrated in many countries.
Eason, the current Leona Fleming Herman Professor of English, joined the faculty at Catawba College in 1991. She will retire at the end of this academic year after 21 years of service. Her career as a teacher has spanned a total of 47 years and she has taught at other institutions including Montgomery Bell Academy, the Universities of Tennessee and Arkansas, Battle Ground Academy, Vanderbilt University and The University of Tubingen in Germany.
Eason attended Wesleyan College for two years before earning her undergraduate degree in English from Emory and Henry College. She earned her master's degree in English from the University of Arkansas. Later, she earned a master's degree and a doctorate in German Language and Literature from Vanderbilt University.