UNC Charlotte’s Professors of Herbology — As anyone who has read the Harry Potter series knows, herbology is what the study of plants is called at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy. Botany is the term used in the mundane (or muggle) world, but for me the language of the mundane world just does not capture the magic of UNC Charlotte’s McMillan Greenhouse and its associated gardens. For many years, the person who has presided over this magical corner of UNC Charlotte is Dr. Larry Mellichamp. His official title is Professor of Botany and Director of the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens, but I think Larry’s title should be Professor of Herbology. After 38 years at UNC Charlotte, Larry is about to retire. His retirement reception will take place on Wednesday, November 19, from 3:00-4:15 in the lobby of Robinson Hall. I will be there.
Let me tell you a story about Larry. Some years ago I ran a week-long Harry Potter summer camp at UNC Charlotte, and I devoted a day to herbology. I contacted Larry and the assistant director of the greenhouse, Paula Gross, and I asked them if they would talk to my campers about unusual plants. Larry is a world-famous expert on the Venus flytrap and other carnivorous plants, and I knew that the campers would be interested in these odd plants. Larry and Paula not only agreed to talk with the campers, but they threw themselves into the spirit of the Harry Potter camp. We met at the McMillan Greenhouse, and Larry and Paula introduced the campers to many bizarre plants. Then Larry gave the kids a tour of the greenhouse, paying particular attention to the carnivorous plants that grow there. Larry’s zeal for these plants and his willingness to engage with the kids in a playful way won over the campers. That afternoon, they all enthusiastically drew pictures and wrote stories based on the plants they observed in the greenhouse. Many gardeners have green thumbs, but Larry has more than special thumbs. He has the magical power to spark a curiosity about plants in the minds of all who come into contact with him.
The English Department has its own professor of herbology, and that person is Dr. Jen Munroe. Like Larry, Jen has a passion for gardens. She writes about gardens in her first two books, a monograph titled Gender and the Garden in Early Modern English Literature and an edited volume titled Making Gardens of Their Own: Gardening Manuals for Women, 1500-1750. As Jen makes clear in these books, gardens are much more than a collection of plants. They combine science, aesthetics, and self-expression. Planting and tending gardens can become part of one’s identity. For both Jen and Larry, gardens transcend the mundane world.
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:
Brook Blaylock, a graduate student in the English Department, delivered a paper titled “These Ruined Walls: The Gender of Nature and the Nature of of Gender in William Wordsworth’s The Ruined Cottage” at the SAMLA Conference in Atlanta.
Janaka Lewis moderated a panel on Black Women in Literature at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Jessica Morton, a graduate student in the English Department, delivered a paper titled “Writer Seeks Readers Willing to Work: Chuck Palahniuk’s Avant-Garde” at the SAMLA Conference in Atlanta.
Upcoming Events and Deadlines— Here are some dates to keep in mind:
November 21 — The English Department meeting will take place on November 21 from 11:00-12:30 in the English Department Conference Room.
November 21 — The ELC is sponsoring a Faculty Meet and Greet event starting at 12:30 in Faculty/Staff Lounge.
November 21 — The Development Committee is sponsoring a faculty talk by Dr. Tony Jackson on November 21 from 1:00-2:00 in the Conference Room. The title of Tony’s talk is “Social Neuroscience, Imitative Identity, and Aronofsky’s Black Swan.
Quirky Quiz Question — What is the name of the Professor of Herbology at Hogwarts School throughout most of the Harry Potter series? For extra credit, who becomes the new Professor of Herbology at the end of the series?
Last week’s answer – Jeffrey Leak and Cy Knoblauch