Online forum from college for Professor Peter Briggs English/British Literature 101 for English Majors and Aspiring English Teachers)
First, I give many thanks to Professor Peter Briggs at Bryn Mawr College for this nostalgic treasure. Then, I take a few moments, and paragraphs herein, to recall some of those important people who help shape and expand one’s experience in this wide and well-traveled world that I agree can be “too much with us” (“This World is Too Much With Us,” William Wordsworth, the oldest Poet Laureate of England and the British Monarchy to be appointed, composed in 1802, published in 1807), and keeping in-touch with kindred spirits is too little with us and this world. I do hope this changes.
I searched my name and found this on the Internet. Wow! This was unexpected. I can’t believe that my comment regarding Virgil’s “The Aeneid,” is not that unintelligent sounding considering that at the time I wouldn’t have guessed it would be searchable on anything like “Google,” which I don’t believe had yet been introduced formally to the American culture. I could be mistaken on this point, however.
Nevertheless, this is part of my past and a valuable moment in time worth noting and treasuring as a moment, or, “spot in time,” an “Ode: [an] Intimation of Immortality,” which I believe we studied in this class of Dr./Professor Peter Briggs, English Professor at Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania (quoting William Wordsworth in The Prelude);(William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality, Recollections from Early Childhood, published in 1807 as part of a collection of Wordsworth’s poems). The campus, modeled after Cambridge at Oxford College in England, was one of the most beautiful and grand, enchanting, classic works of architecture that I thought could possibly exist at the time, and would probably still agree. Those chilly fall and then snowy winter days and nights walking underneath an awning of endless trees with endless colors of blooms on little cobblestone streets and sidewalks was positively charming and greatly appealed to my Romantic and Victorian-Era sensibilities,…that is before the real world and of course, life, the sometimes Pre-Lapserian, at other times dark and rather Gothic, and the Dickensian times, but always an adventure which Hans Christian Anderson once captured in the phrase, “Life, the Most Beautiful Fairy Tale of All”–a surrealistic Dali portrait of my reality, which quickly metamorphosed, way more than for the average. I have definitely come to appreciate a deeper understanding of experience based on the law of Immutability–that is, the only thing that is immutable is “mutability,” or, change, itself–to some a pernicious beast to be slayed with divine forces…if life were a work of literature, of course (alluding to another work I believe we studied in Prof. Brigg’s class, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s classic poem, “Mutability, “ published in 1816).
Elizabeth Chanpong would get a large mug full her favorite Early Grey tea, Alice Irvine would bring out her ever-present raisins and a mug of tea or hot chocolate, and I would start my laundry on those long Sunday nights in Haffner Hall–the foreign languages dorm in which we were all guaranteed our own dorm room so long as we practiced and spoke our foreign language of choice, before our freshman English papers were due promptly at, to the best of my recollection, 8:00AM/EST sharp the next morning. Sometimes we might procrastinate or watch a foreign film, or, on other occasions help Alice catch-up on years of sequestration in Pebble Beach where she was not allowed to watch movies or television, as I believe they did not believe in them in her household.
Alice was probably the best cross-country runner on our freshman team that year. For my friend Alice, who also loved to ballroom dance and competed in her native California, watching the 1980’s movie, “Dirty Dancing,”starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, for the first time was new and revolutionary, never mind that it was twenty years later, give or take a couple years. Alice was taking her first courses in Italian, although German and French were known languages to her and Mandarin fascinated her as well, or was that Elizabeth? It is interesting to recall that when the famous dramatic actress Katherine Hepburn attended Bryn Mawr–a Welsh word meaning “High Hill“–earlier in the century, it was a prerequisite to admission that one be proficient in at least four, if not five languages, including Latin, I think. I will have to double-check the history on that bit of trivia.
Elizabeth was taking organic chemistry that year. She had attended St. Cecilia’s in Houston, Texas, I believe, if not St. John’s? She was going to be a doctor, and this was one tough class, or maybe it was organic chem she was dreading taking the following year after freshman biology, perhaps? Eliazbeth was taking advanced French classes, I believe. Elizabeth had lived in some of what I would characterize as the most terrifying, yet exotic and charming, international locales such as Jakarta, Indonesia (island), and Gabon, in West Africa as I believe her father had been in the oil business.
Then there was Asia, from San Antonio, Texas, who was probably the most down-to-earth and practical of our freshman “crew” in Haffner Hall (but was known to giggle quite a lot, all the more to her credit). Asia, like myself, spoke Spanish and practiced with one another.
I believe Arathi, the Hawaiian- Polynesian sixteen or seventeen year-old wide-eyed innocent and cheerful, au naturel and spritely daughter of a diplomat who always seemed to have a tropical flower in her long, wavy dark hair, I believe. I do not remember which language was her specialties. I think she spoke several, perhaps.
Now we arrive at Vidthya, whom everyone besides me just called, “Vid,” because they couldn’t quite get the pronunciation right. Vidthya, who had also lived in Malaysia like our fellow Haffnerite, Elizabeth, talked quite a bit less and softer and more quietly than the rest of us, as if observing wild, yet interesting new species in a rainforest full of quite colorful and whimsical personalities, also inhabited the serene halls of Haffner–the only dorm save for possibly Erdman Hall ( a steely post-modern wonder designed, to the best of my recollection, by Louise Erdman, in which one could have her own dorm room.
Brie was also a freshman addition to Haffner Hall, as was Meredith, from Montclair, New Jersey, I believe. She was also studying to be a doctor (pre-med), yet was unique for her artistic and trendy, rather French mystique as I remember. She was also from New Jersey, to the best of my knowledge. She spoke French, at least.
Then there was my friend and mentor, Sandra/Sandy Membrino of Worchester, again, to the best of my recollection. Sandy, those were good times when you visited Nashville and went out with us, you have to admit, if only for that which falls well within the purview of the spirit of adventure, or, as the great short story writer O’Henry might say, “taking the ‘green door.’” I would absolutely love how you are doing, as well as the boys. They must be so grown-up by now!
It would be fabulous to pick-up where we left-off. Feel free to call at (713) 240-1727 to re-connect if you are anyone of my former Haffner Hall dorm mates at Bryn Mawr whether mentioned above or not. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may access my blog at http://www.jonisaloom.wordpress.com, but I caution one that the material may be slightly in the tradition of what may be perceived as slightly controversial and unconventional when placed upon the “bell curve” of mediocrity and common pettiness or ignorance, yet that which is to a Real “Bryn Mawrter” nothing less than the required call of duty when the torch, or flame and lamp of knowledge divinely sets us on fire in the Spirit of the metaphorical yet real and living “woman warrior” (Maxine Hong Kinston, The Woman Warrior).
May serendipity find us through this rather serendipitous message that directly resulted from the published forum which is accessible at the top of this post.
“Veritatem Dilexi”–Through Truth, Knowledge