From the Director, October 2017

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Prof. Alfred Kentigern Siewers

One of the joys of teaching at Bucknell in any season is mentoring students.

Our literary studies faculty members are busy inside and outside the classroom and the offices of Vaughan Literature Building, working with first-year students all the way up to graduate M.A. students, and keeping in touch with alumni about their work.

Just to give an example (any of us could offer similar ones): Last weekend I was up at a conference on the authors James and Susan Fenimore Cooper with two lit studies graduate students who each presented papers on their work, and also participated on a panel with me and scholars from elsewhere about a collaborative digital humanities project they’re helping to develop. They then presented to conference and community members a video documentary project about the authors on which they’re working.

Returning to campus, this week I’ve been meeting with an undergraduate student working on an honors project that compares the fiction of Zora Neale Hurston and Laura Ingalls Wilder, and with first-year students about their papers on J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy as eco-fiction, and also with students in an upper-level seminar about their research linking medieval philosophers to modern literature we’re reading. In addition, I was encouraging a couple undergraduates in plans to present at an upcoming medieval studies conference, and speaking with one about her presentation on campus at an upcoming student Literary Studies Club lunch, at which she’ll talk about writings by Elizabeth Anscombe and T.S. Eliot and their relation to twentieth-century literature.

And that’s all outside of what is regularly going on in the classroom, and involving just one faculty member’s students. Multiply this by the fifteen or so faculty in our program, and the scores of students in lit studies classes this semester, and you’ll get an idea of all that we have going on in Vaughan Literature Building and environs.

These efforts this fall also include campus projects such as the Dancing Mind Challenge organized by Professor Carmen Gillespie as Director of the Griot Institute (a challenge to students to unplug from electronic devices and read), and plans being worked on this semester by Professor Ghislaine McDayter for her spring course involving collaborative development of a literary-based masquerade-ball role-playing game as a digital humanities project.

In Susan Fenimore Cooper’s writing about this time of year, we can see how literature enhances the cycles of life, as she writes in her creative non-fiction classic Rural Hours: “We behold the green woods becoming one mass of rich and varied coloring. It would seem as though Autumn, in honor of this high holiday, had collected together all the past glories of the year, adding them to her own; she borrows the gay colors that have been lying during the summer months among the flowers, in the fruits, upon the plumage of the bird, on the wings of the butterfly, and working them together in broad and glowing masses, she throws them over the forest to grace her triumph; like some great festival of an Italian city, where the people bring rich tapestries and hang them in their streets; where they unlock chests of heirlooms, and bring to light brilliant draperies, which they suspend from their windows and balconies, to gleam in the sunshine.”

The seasons and cycles of students and academic life roll on. This coming spring we have an exciting array of new courses. Please check them out and follow our literary studies activities on the Department of English Facebook page. At a time when the humanities are more important than ever (and arguably more challenged than ever in our changing society), we remain at the core of the liberal arts experience for Bucknell students. Thanks as always for your support and involvement in the intellectual and creative moveable feast of literary studies here, as we work together with our students to help them develop for themselves the skills they need for a more meaningful life.

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