Dear friends of English Literary Studies,
I’m pleased to offer here this semester’s edition of the Literary Studies newsletter including our exciting course offerings for the fall.
One of the earliest surviving poems in English, the Old English epic Beowulf, dating possibly to the eighth century, declares: Wyrd oft nere unfægne eorl, Ýonne his ellen deah [Destiny often saves an undoomed man when his courage is good.]
The use here of the Old English term wyrd implies a sense of riding through life as on a surfboard, metaphorically steering one’s choices in the larger contexts of waves and the sea.
The study of literature helps to equip us with courage and the ability to assess context and horizons in our lives. It gives us access to different cultures and to the art and ideas of people and traditions across centuries, and the benefit of learning from their experiences, interpretations, flaws, and wisdom.
Those qualities of leadership, connectivity, and groundedness on a larger horizon are invaluable to people of any age, but especially to young people emerging into adulthood.
It’s our privilege as Literary Studies faculty to engage such young people every day of the academic year and beyond.
Our classes serve hundreds of students across the university from many different majors and all three colleges, not just Literary Studies majors. But this year we’re especially happy to see an upswing in Literary Studies major declarations, with 25 this semester so far among the class of 2020, compared with 15 in the class of 2019 last spring. This increase reflects the ongoing relevance of the humanities to our majors’ successful career trajectories. They express the “heroism” of moral courage on a great variety of life paths.
We’re also always pleased with the successes of all our Literary Studies graduate students, who help enrich the seminar experiences of our undergraduates, help support undergraduate classes, and often participate with our undergraduates in out-of-class conversations and programming such as that of the Literary Studies Club. In particular this semester we celebrate as a mark of the excellence of Literary Studies at Bucknell how our M.A. student Adam Walker was accepted into Ph.D. programs at both Oxford and Cambridge universities in the U.K., often ranked as the two best research universities in the world. His work focuses on the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in relation to early philosophies of nature including the writings of the early Irish philosopher John Scottus Eriugena.
This year marks the last of my term as Literary Studies Program Director. Next academic year I am scheduled for a research sabbatical as visiting research scholar at Princeton University, in the James Madison Program. My esteemed colleague Anthony Stewart, John D. Crozier Professor of English at Bucknell, will take over as Literary Studies Program Director in the fall semester. I’m grateful for his willingness to serve and wish him all the best as he brings his outstanding talents and experience to bear on the director’s job.
Until then, please be in touch if I can be of help in any way as Program Director, and after that as continuing faculty member of our academic community.
With continued thanks for your ongoing support of our Program, and for the contributions of our dedicated students, faculty, alumni, and parents to our discipline, I remain your obedient servant in literature,
Alfred Kentigern Siewers