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Posts Tagged ‘University of Chicago’

In the Beginning

May 6, 2013 | by


In the Year of Our Lord, 2000, I was a freshman at the University of Chicago. Come the (locally) famous scavenger hunt, I was charged by older residents of Breckinridge House with the task of transcribing, by hand, the entire Oxford English Dictionary. I regret to inform you that my efforts didn’t garner our team many points. But it did give me a unique appreciation for the achievements of Phillip Patterson.

Phillip Patterson, you see, has hand-written a copy of the King James Bible. And more than that, it’s a work of art. Says the Los Angeles Times,

A 63-year-old resident of Philmont, N.Y., a town near the Massachusetts border, may be an unlikely scribe for the Bible. He is not especially religious, for one thing, though he does go to church. A retired interior designer whose battles with anemia and AIDS have often slowed his work, he began the monumental task mostly out of curiosity.

In 2007, Patterson’s longtime partner, Mohammed, told him about the Islamic tradition of writing out the Koran by hand. When Patterson said that the Bible was too long for Christianity to have a similar tradition, Mohammed said, well, he should start it.

The project took him four years. See more images of Patterson’s transcription, documented by Laura Glazer, here.



Back on the Shelf: At the Seminary Co-op

January 29, 2013 | by

Brian Koprowski, Chicago Theological Seminary, University of Chicago.

Nostalgia is a dangerous feeling to indulge. It transforms other people, including old versions of one’s self, into figures whose lone purpose is to lend texture and credence to a diorama of the past. And just as an elementary-school diorama of, say, a Roman frontier fortress, no matter how meticulously researched and constructed, can never convey the totality of what it would have been like to stand sentry in Germania circa 70 A.D., so the version of the past constructed by nostalgia is a distortion, albeit one that relies upon memory (itself a kind of distortion, as neuroscience tells us) and experience to weave what is in essence a fairy tale.

Nostalgia’s refractions aren’t limited to people, of course. Its influence extends to places, too, refusing to acknowledge that places have presents and futures—presents and futures that often don’t involve one’s self, hence the willingness to ignore them—but only pasts: your pasts. Whenever I visit the University of Chicago, for instance, Hutch Courtyard is never Hutch Courtyard, a pleasant flagstone enclave that’s served as a favored warm-weather gathering spot for generations of undergraduates, but instead the place where I sat reading Moby-Dick when I learned that my grandmother had died. That’s it. All of the hopes and dreams, joys and fears toted through that spot by millions of human beings for more than a century, brushed aside by my solipsistic longing for a past that wasn’t nearly as honey colored in the living as it is in the remembering. I recall seeing a picture of Prince Charles passing through Hutch Courtyard during a 1977 visit and thinking, There’s Prince Charles walking right by the spot where I was when I heard that Grandma died. Nostalgia, which presents the past as a meadow of boundless possibility, is actually quite constricting. Read More »


Richard G. Stern, 1928–2013

January 28, 2013 | by

We mourn the loss of Richard Stern, a lion of the literary world whose name was little known outside the den. He established himself as a nurturing teacher and a powerful force in literature at the University of Chicago, where, while writing, he taught English and creative writing from 1955 until his retirement in 2001. In Stern’s New York Times obituary, Philip Roth recalls meeting Saul Bellow, Robert Lowell, John Berryman, and Norman Mailer in Stern’s U of C classroom. During his tenure at the school, Stern was awarded the Medal of Merit for the Novel by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, in 1986.

He published fiction, short stories, and essays prolifically, appearing in The Paris Review four times, across a span of almost thirty years. The second of these occurrences, from Issue 66 (Summer 1976), was the story “Aurelia Frequenzia Reveals the Heart and Mind of the Man of Destiny,” a brief and disorienting vignette about the interview of a mysterious Vietnamese ex-politician by a French journalist. Marked by a strong current of anxiety and paranoia, tension builds and builds until an abrupt and surprising resolution. It is representative of the work he shared with us.


Teen Tour

January 8, 2013 | by

People who make it their business to classify such things call them “malt shop books”—the numerous young-adult series written in the 1950s and 1960s. I inherited a few of my mother’s Betty Cavannas in elementary school, and by age twelve I was hooked, scanning library sales and thrift stores for the tiny patch of tartan that denoted a vintage Scholastic paperback or the telltale words that suggested a title targeted at the teenage reader.

I learned how varied the genre was: the serious and introspective Betty Cavanna books; Janet Lambert’s series, which take place in military families; the more frivolous Rosamond du Jardins; the slightly odd Lenora Mattingly Webers, which center around the independent-minded Malone family.

Many of these books deal with “issues”—teen drinking, peer pressure, fast crowds. But the overall picture of teen life is wholesome and comforting. Parents tend to be supportive and families functional; the occasional sibling rivalry generally gives way to mutual understanding.

I was an awkward teenager. And my New York City school—full of sophisticated teenagers whom I found terrifying—was a far cry from the suburban utopia of the malt shop books. A late bloomer, painfully shy and painfully aware of not looking right in the clothes my mom bought me, I dreamed of a world in which virtue was rewarded; boys fell for the smart, quiet girls and were happy with wholesome dates; and everyone knew exactly how to dress for every occasion. I recognized that the books were idealized, but my interest was more than ironic or curious: I found the fictional universe of my collection a true refuge. (More contemporary YA titles took on drugs and sex; frankly, these weren’t my concerns.)

I enjoyed all the series, from Candy Kane (a precocious singer on an Army base) to Marty Smith (a gutsy journalism undergrad), but one became my favorite: Anne Emery’s Dinny Gordon books. Emery (not to be confused with the mystery writer of the same name) is perhaps better known for other series—the Sally and Jean Burnaby books, the 4-H centric Jane Ellisons, the Pat Marlowe stories, the Sue Morgan series. But Dinny Gordon was, and remains, my favorite.

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GoT Beer, and Other News

December 18, 2012 | by

  • British children’s magazine Puffin Post is folding after forty years.
  • “#bromance goes sour when 2 friends, Prince Harry and Falstaff, are all #yolo #rkoi #dom until Harry inherits the crown and a conscience.” Yup, Twitter Shakespeare.
  • The (inevitable?) Game of Thrones beer.
  • An inventory of Emily Dickinson’s family artifacts.
  • Indiana Jones journal mystery solved!




    How to Get into College, Indiana Jones Edition

    December 17, 2012 | by

    When the University of Chicago admissions committee received a package addressed to “Henry Walton Jones, Jr.,” they were confused; there is no one by that name on the faculty. Then the penny dropped: the package was for fictional alum Indiana Jones, often said to be based on one of two U of C professors, Robert Braidwood and James Henry Breasted. The package was revealed to contain a detailed replica of Professor Abner Ravenwood’s journal, as seen in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. The admissions committee has put out a call for the identity of the sender. “If you’re an applicant and sent this to us: Why? How? Did you make it?” And, most importantly, “Why so awesome?”