The intertwining of psychology and spirituality has long been a passionate interest of mine. Through events in my own life and experiences that close friends have shared with me, I’ve started to question some of the conventional ways that we deal with the emptiness, anxiety, and anger that seem to typify modern life. SoulSpace grew out of books I’ve read and workshops and discussion groups I’ve participated in over the years. I hope it will encourage you to respect your own experience of life and to search for wisdom within your own soul.
One of Sigmund Freud’s unfortunate legacies has been the fear of our inner selves—the belief that we harbor a primitive and dangerous inner force called the id that needs to be suppressed and controlled. My belief is that we can discover great truths and wonderful gifts within ourselves if we can find the courage to explore our hidden mysteries.
I am a writer and a teacher. Since 1982 I have taught college writing at Polk State College in Florida. Before that I taught basic literacy to inmates at Polk Correctional Institution in Florida, and business and academic writing at a business school in New York City. For several years I was an adjunct at the Criminal Justice Academy at Polk State College.
I’ve had articles published in the Anglo-Welsh Review, Corrections Compass, the Lakeland Ledger, Teaching English in the Two-Year College, and the Journal of Correctional Education. In 2000 I co-authored a police communications manual, Police Talk (Pearson) with Major Mary Mariani.
I wrote a number of reflective pieces for the Central Florida Episcopalian, Pilgrimage, and The Episcopalian. My textbooks include Sentence Power (Holt, Rinehart), Introduction to College Writing (Pearson), and Succeeding in College (Pearson).
During my doctoral work at the University of South Florida, I became interested in George Bernard Shaw. I graduated with a Ph.D. in English in 1988 and published two articles and several book reviews about Shaw in Shaw: The Annual for Shaw Studies, and I recently was appointed to the Editorial Board. My book about Shaw (Pygmalion’s Wordplay: The Postmodern Shaw), was published by the University Press of Florida in 1998.
I’m an avid ballroom and Latin dancer. I’ve been married to Charlie Reynolds, garden writer for the Lakeland Ledger, since 1973. We enjoy traveling and reading. We are avid animal-rights advocates and longtime Democrats.
Questions for Jean Reynolds
Are you a psychologist?
No. I’m an English professor, and I have a Ph.D. in English.
Then why don’t you write books about English?
Actually I’ve written two English textbooks: Sentence Power and Introduction to College Writing. I have a website about writing skills at www.WritewithJean.com.
Why would an English professor wrote a book like Gretel’s Story?
Gretel’s Story is about life. I don’t think a degree in English is a good reason not write a book about life.
But why did you pick “Hansel and Gretel” as your subject instead of something more modern?
It’s hard to think of a story that’s more “modern” in its themes than “Hansel and Gretel.” Think about eating disorders, dysfunctional families, and all the people today who feel betrayed, empty, and lost.
Then look at the role reversals in the story, which mirror many modern relationships: It’s the women who manage most of the events in the plot, while the men are bystanders.
And the whole cast of characters is very modern—an ordinary family, with no kings, queens, princes, or princesses. “Hansel and Gretel” is a very accessible story for contemporary readers.
Finally, think about the relationship between Hansel and Gretel: A female who transforms herself from a frightened and helpless little sister into the resourceful rescuer of her brother. In many ways “Hansel and Gretel” resembles families and relationships today.
Have you ever written about a more modern story?
I’ve published a book about Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion called Pygmalion’s Wordplay: The Postmodern Shaw (University Press of Florida). You’re probably familiar with the musical comedy My Fair Lady, which was based on Shaw’s play. It’s a scholarly book, very different from Gretel’s Story.
Have you written anything else?
I co-authored a book about communication skills for law-enforcement officers called Police Talk, and I wrote a book about study skills called Succeeding in College.
The book about study skills makes sense, since you’re a college teacher. But why a book for police officers?
I used to teach in a prison school, and after that I was an adjunct in a police academy. I was fortunate to become good friends with a police major, Mary Mariani (sadly, now deceased), and we wrote Police Talk together.
Let’s get back to Gretel’s Story. Would you call it a spiritual book?
I’d call it a “reflective book.” Its subject is the soul—the part of us that has been charged with three important tasks: Challenging the ego, creating intimate relationships, and discovering the meaning of the events in our lives.
What does “challenging the ego” involve?
The ego is our public face. It wants respectability, conventionality, and acceptance.
Sounds good to me. Why not just go along with what the ego wants?
The really wonderful things in life involve risk. The ego is terribly afraid of risk.
Earlier you used the terms “soul” and “spirit.” How are they different?
Spirit is the drive within us to transcend everyday existence and go higher; soul wants to stay grounded in daily life and go deeper. We need spirit to inspire and energize us, but we can’t stay there all the time. Soul brings us back to earth.
Let’s talk about daily life, then—yours, to be specific. What do you do in your spare time?
I’m fascinated by dollhouses, and I have a large collection of miniatures. My husband and I enjoy traveling. I love music, especially ragtime, and dancing.
What kinds of dancing do you do?
I do ballroom and Latin dancing, including competing and performing. I also take ballet classes. I’ll never be good at ballet—I started too late—but it’s helped my dancing immensely, and it’s great fun too. I have a Pilates trainer who’s also a professional dancer, and he’s helped me as well.
What writers have influenced you the most?
In recent years, James Hillman, Bernard Shaw, and Marion Woodman. When I was younger, my favorite writers were C.S. Lewis and Paul Tillich.