Parallel Universes — Until this week, for the entire time that I have served as the Chair of the English Department our son, Gavin West, has been a college student at Tulane University. Over the years, I have sometimes felt as if I’ve been traveling back and forth between parallel universes. When I am in one universe, I see the work of universities from the perspectives of faculty members and university administrators. When I am in the other universe, I see this work from the perspectives of students and parents.
This sense of shifting from one universe to another came into play this past weekend as my wife and I attended Gavin’s commencement and other related activities. Tulane’s commencement and UNC Charlotte’s commencement both occurred this past Saturday. As a department chair and professor, I tend to view my participation in commencement-related activities as an obligation that goes with the job, but as the proud parent of a newly minted graduate of Tulane’s School of Architecture, I viewed Tulane’s commencement as a meaningful moment in our son’s life.
Over the course of this past weekend, I periodically remembered that on the same day that our son was walking across a stage while his name was being called out, many of our department’s students were also walking across a stage to the sound of their names being announced. At the same time that he was taking satisfaction in completing his degree in architecture, many of our students were experiencing a similar sense of satisfaction in completing their English degrees. While my wife and I were practically bursting with pride at Gavin’s accomplishments, I am sure that the parents of our graduating students were beaming with pride at their students’ accomplishments.
In Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, the central characters use something called a “tesseract” to jump through space and time, and each time they make these jumps it changes their perspectives. This past weekend, I had my own private tesseract that ping-ponged me back and forth between New Orleans and Charlotte, and it helped change my perspective on the hoopla surrounding commencement ceremonies. As most of my friends and family members know, I feel uneasy wearing regalia, and I don’t usually respond positively to pomp and circumstance,. However, my very recent experience at Tulane changed my perspective a bit. Although participating in commencement ceremonies is still not my favorite activity, I now better appreciate the pleasure that many students and parents associate with such ceremonies.
Kudos— As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of our department. Here is the latest news:
Jen Munroe gave an invited paper titled “Teaching Recipes in the Digital Age” on bringing together manuscript transcription and digital humanities work in the classroom, at the Manuscripts Cookbook Conference at NYU, May 11-13, 2016.
Upcoming Events and Deadlines— Here is an important date to keep in mind:
May 23 — The first summer session begins on Monday, May 23.
Quirky Quiz Question — Madeleine L’Engle did not invent the term “tesseract.” She borrowed the term from a field of study that can be traced back to a Greek scholar from Alexandria. What is this field of study?
Last week’s answer: Cheshire Cat
Andrew Hartley’s new collaborator, Tom DeLonge, became famous when his band, Blink-182, released their debut album in 1995. The title of this album comes from the name of a fading feline from British children’s literature. Can you guess the title of Blink-182’s debut album?