A few years ago, one student even created a website filled with Taliaferroisms, random musings and hilarious stories the student jotted down in one of his philosophy classes. Yet, Taliaferro also manages to maintain an environment of academic seriousness, often positing assertions and challenging the class to refute his statements.
He is one of the most distinguished faculty members on campus. In the course of his lengthy teaching career, he has spent time as a scholar at many of the worlds most prestigious academic institutions like Oxford University, New York University, Columbia and Princeton.
Naturally, Taliaferro has plenty of stories to tell, and next March he will publish a collection of essays, many of which center around his experiences as a professor.
The theme of the collection is love, and the book, appropriately, is called Love, Love, Love and Other Essays: Light Reflections on Love, Life and Death.
The title, Taliaferro explained, has a special significance to him: They were the last words my father shared with me, as we held hands as he was dying.
Though the collection, which was written between 2000 and 2005, contains a few previously published pieces, the majority of the essays have never before been formally published.
Many are short essays I wrote for friends and most of them have been circulated among friends and students, he said.
Some of Taliaferros students have actually been helping him compile the book. Jason Zencka 06, Kelly Robins 07, Kristen Rau 07 and Jennifer Cross 08 have lent Taliaferro editorial advice and helped him with research.
Taliaferro explained that many of the essays were therapeutic to write, while others were simply inspired by bizarre, often accidental, adventures. Like his classes, the essays range from complete seriousness to amusing misadventures.
In the introductory essay, A Professors Tale, Taliaferro writes about unknowingly cutting his hand and proceeding to inadvertently wipe blood all over his forehead and chin. Within the same essay, though, he also writes about trying to comfort a student whose mother recently passed away.
Taliaferro uses such incidents as a springboard for self-reflection: I try to use these cases to think about what really matters; and in the end I think what really matters is the question of who and what you love and why.
The collection, which is being published by Cowley Press, is divided into three parts, the first exploring love in ordinary situations, the second exploring love within contemporary politics and culture and the third reflecting on the illness and death of his father.
The book is not a memoir or autobiography, but it uses events from life, often involving life at St. Olaf College, to develop the broad theme of love. And love is all around! Taliaferro said enthusiastically.
With Taliaferro, love certainly is all around him, and his book will undoubtedly entertain as well as provoke reflection in anyone who picks it up.