This is the first of our ‘Life of a Lecturer’ blog posts to appear on our department Facebook page, and it got me thinking about ripples. Before you get carried away with a delicious fantasy, I don’t mean this sort of ripple:
Lovely as that would be to a woman trying to avoid the chocolate bars lurking in her desk drawer, I mean this sort of ripple:
Actually, now that I come to think of it I suppose I don’t really mean either of these, but rather the ripples we leave in people’s lives by our love of literature.
This blog was started with the idea that it would give school and college students some idea of what life is like at university; we also hoped that our own students might like to take a look behind the scenes. It has ended up being a bit of a meandering journey through a part of my life, and the life of my department, with plenty of stops along with way to admire both literature and our reaction to it.
At the outset, I had not realised that friends and family members might stumble across it. I had not even considered that alumni of the university would see it and get back in touch – a delightful bonus. So the blog has rippled out further than I might have expected, but I still feel some control over it. I decide what to write in it, and I was posting to it for many months before deciding to link it to Facebook.
I at least have the illusion of control, but our students can have no idea of the ripples they create. I was talking to a group of students last week about the way in which we respond to literature; I was hoping to get them thinking about how literature is sometimes valued as an artifact more than for the experience of reading. I was reminded of a lovely student who I taught some years ago. Over the course of her time with us she became so excited about literature, and the idea of owning books, that she wrote an essay on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as an artifact, including her memories of the book as an object of beauty on her parents’ bookcase.
Some months after she graduated the student told me that she had spent a significant part of her first month’s salary on old edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and that she was determined to buy a first edition of one of her favourite books as soon as she could. She could have had no idea that, so many years later, her passion for literature would still be rippling through the department. Telling my students all about her opened up a lengthy discussion on literature and literary artifacts. I found my students confessing to the books they yearn to buy, as well as the ones they have read and reread to a state of tattered decay but which they cannot throw away.
I can’t identify the exact learning point we achieved in the session, but I do know that the ripples of my ex-student’s love affair with books were felt all around that room and, for that short time together, we all reminded ourselves of just how passionate is our love of literature.