Valuing Community – At the conclusion of the “As You/We Like It” event held last Saturday, Andrew Hartley talked about how the performance of Shakespeare’s plays builds a sense of community that encompasses both the performers and the audiences of the plays. As Andrew so eloquently stated, these plays, when performed, provide us with common experiences. Not only do these plays draw us together to enjoy shared theatrical events, but they give us language that we can use to express our shared interests and concerns.
Andrew’s comments caused me to think about the word community. This word can be traced back to the Latin word communitas, which refers to the values, beliefs, and traditions that we have in common. The sense of belonging to a community involves more than just being in the same physical space with others. It also involves a true sense of being engaged with others and sharing experiences with others. In many ways, healthy communities undermine the whole concept of otherness. I think it is significant that organizers of event on Saturday added the word we to the title of Shakespeare’s play “As You Like It.” Otherness is all about you, whereas community is all about we.
For me, the sense of belonging to a community is tied to being a member of our English Department. In just the past two weeks, I have participated in several department events that have reflected our community values and spirit. I am thinking of Juan Meneses’s excellent faculty talk and the lively conversation that ensued. Juan’s presentation was well attended, and those who came readily engaged in a stimulating dialog with Juan and with each other. I came away from this presentation with sense of being part of a community of scholars. I am thinking of the memorial service we had on campus for Sara Endres, our student who passed away last semester. Several of our faculty members and students joined Sara’s family and friends to celebrate Sara’s life and to plant a tree in her memory. I came away from this event with a sense of being part of a caring community. I am thinking of the Shakespeare event in which our colleagues Andrew Hartley, Kirk Melnikoff and Jen Munroe shared their insights into Shakespeare’s plays. I came away from this event with a sense of belonging to an engaged and generous community that reaches out to the public. I am thinking of the English Department’s spring party in which so many members of the department gathered to enjoy companionship and to recognize the careers and accomplishments of Lil Brannon and Connie Rothwell, both of whom are retiring at the end of this academic year. I came away from this event with a sense of belonging to a celebratory community.
Michelle Cahill, our visiting creative writer, came to the spring party. She told me afterwards how much she enjoyed the party and how pleased she has been with her participation in our department. “You have such a friendly department,” she said. “I already feel like I am part of a community.”
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:
Maya Socolovsky recently published a review of Market Aesthetics: The Purchase of the Past in Caribbean Diasporic Fiction by Elena Machado Saéz.College Literature 43.2 (2016): 470-472.
Upcoming Events and Deadlines— Here are some dates to keep in mind:
April 27 — Janaka Lewis will be presenting from the new project titled “Freedom and Play: Studies in Black Girlhood” on Wednesday at 12:30 pm in Garinger 123 for the Africana Studies Brown Bag Series.
May 4 — The English Department’s Student Awards Ceremony will take place on Wednesday, May 4, from 12:30-2:00 in the Halton Reading Room at Atkins Library.
Quirky Quiz Question — At the English Department spring party, both Lil Brannon and Connie Rothwell were honored as they complete their last semester before retiring. After I presented them with their retirement gifts, they both talked about their experiences in the department. Both of them mentioned a retired colleague who now lives in McClellanville, SC, and writes poetry. What is the name of this retired English professor?
Last week’s answer: William Randolph Hearst
When I read Sam Shapiro’s review of the new Orson Wells biography, I was reminded of Wells’s classic film Citizen Cane. The central character in this film is based on a famous American newspaper publisher. Do you know the name of this newspaper publisher? Here is a hint–one of Charlotte’s skyscrapers bears the name of this publisher.