Over the River — The poem most frequently associated with Thanksgiving is “Over the River and Through the Wood” by Lydia Maria Child. The poem originally appeared in her book Flowers for Children, which came out in 1844. Although Flowers for Children had a large readership among children in the years before the Civil War, today it is largely forgotten. The same, however, cannot be said for Child’s Thanksgiving poem. Not only is it still in print, but it has been set to music, and it’s still sang or recited in the schools. A few years ago, I mentioned this poem to the students in my Children’s Literature class. I read the beginning of the poem to the students, “Over the river, and through the wood,” and then I asked them to complete the line. Almost all of them responded by saying in unison, “To Grandmother’s house we go.”
My guess is that Lydia Maria Child would have been astonished to know that she is remembered today primarily for her Thanksgiving poem, for during her lifetime she achieved fame as an outspoken abolitionist and a strong advocate for women’s rights. She wrote extensively on these topics both for children and adults, but these publications have long since gone out of print. However, her abolitionist writings for children have recently begun to attract attention largely due to the scholarship of our own Dr. Paula Connolly. In Slavery in American Children’s Literature, 1790-2010, Paula writes in some detail about Child’s efforts to win over children to the abolitionist cause. Through her scholarship of recovery, Paula is demonstrating that there is much more to Child than her Thanksgiving poem. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, I am mindful of how fortunate I am to teach in a department alongside so many impressive scholars, such as Paula. I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving.
Basketball Season — When I came to UNC Charlotte for my campus interview back in the spring of 1984, I realized that I had arrived in basketball country when the then English Department Chair, Dr. Julian Mason, started asking me questions about my favorite ACC basketball team. At the time, I didn’t even know what ACC stood for, and I was worried that my ignorance might cost me the job. Luckily for me, Julian decided to hire me despite my woeful lack of basketball knowledge. I soon learned, however, that there are many connections between the English Department and basketball. Now that the college basketball season is upon us, I thought I would mention a few of these connections. For example, Dr. Jeffrey Leak played on the men’s basketball team at Campbell University. Dr. Lil Brannon was the high school girls’ basketball coach for Celeste High School in Celeste, Texas, which had a total population of 719 people. One year she had the state championship basketball team. Dr. Ron Lunsford also coached basketball. Both Drs. Aaron Toscano and Kirk Melnikoff played on their school basketball teams during their pre-college days. I am sure there are more members of the department who also have basketball connections, but the buzzer has sounded so I have to stop.
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:
Lil Brannon and her associates with the Charlotte Writers Project received a 2014 Educator Innovator Award in support of a project titled “Making Our Worlds.”
Aaron Gwyn recently appeared as a guest on WFAE’s “Charlotte Talks” as part of a program called Charlotte Authors Roundtable.
Upcoming Events and Deadlines— Here is a date to keep in mind:
December 4 — The English Department Holiday Party will take place on December 4 from 12:00-2:00 in the Faculty/Staff Lounge. The pot luck sign-up sheet is in the front lobby.
Quirky Quiz Question — The first line of Lydia Maria Child’s Thanksgiving poem reads: “Over the river, and through the wood,/To Grandmother’s house we go.” What’s the next line?
Last week’s answer: Professor Sprout (extra credit – Neville Longbottom)