[Excerpts from a long reflection letter to the deans of Lowell House reflecting on the 2017 year].
What a year!
A lot has happened.
Spring/Summer 2017 High/Lows (in no particular order):
- Let’s see—biggest thing last semester was presenting at the Harvard Horizons Symposium, which was a fantastic experience, especially for the people I wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to meet.
- I wrote a chapter of my dissertation on “The Clock of the Long Now” and presented it alongside my advisor Jennifer Roberts at the Panaesthetics Colloquium.
- I advised Michael Sanky’s speech.
- I was invited to see The Farthest at the Tribeca Film Festival, a movie about the Voyager missions (chapter 2 of my dissertation) and even got to meet John Casani (famous rocket scientist).
- I attended a conference at the University of Toronto and presented some of my research on The Golden Record.
- I hosted a wild Lowell House Mariokart championship which took place over the course of several weeks and included 32 participants.
- I presented at the “Beyond Humanism” conference in Rome, which was a very strange experience. Posthumanists are weird.
- I won the Helen Choate Bell prize for best essay on a topic in American Literature for my essay on The Great Gatsby and the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
- I watched 18 of the 24 hours of Christian Marclay’s “The Clock” at the MFA. I wrote a bit about the experience.
- Taught in Venice for the second summer, saw the Contemporary Art Biennale, and made some friends with actual, real, living Venetians (an endangered species!) I visited the capital of prosciutto production (San Daniele), and drove to the easternmost edge of Italy (Trieste).
- I learned a ton of Italian. And all of the bad words.
- I made it through a rather tough breakup. (thankgawd)
- I had real Indian food for the first time, an experience that nearly brought me to tears. I had to go to London to do it, because as far as I can tell, it doesn’t exist in America.
- I got to know my oldest brother a lot better. He’s 14 years older than me.
- I hosted a house-wide somewhat absurd soft serve ice cream competition.
- I TF’d for Jill Lepore and Leah Price’s How to Read a Book.
- I read at the New Bedford Whaling Museum annual Moby-Dick marathon, and they gave me a prime slot because they liked a short article I wrote in Harvard Magazine about the marathon.
- I built up my personal website a fair bit.
- I got to see the Golden Record at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
- I applied for a Radcliffe Exploratory Seminar, and got waitlisted, which is pretty cool because I’m not tenured faculty. I applied again this year.
- I saw a number of major art museums I’ve only dreamed about in my introductory art history classes: the British Museum, the Tate, the John Soane House, the Rijksmuseum, the Mauritshuis museum… bringing my lifetime total of Vermeers seen up to 18. That’s more than half.
- I ate snails.
I think that more or less covers it.
Fall 2017 ~ Lowell House
I became the JCR tutor of Lowell house, which means presiding over what is an extremely active and motivated Housing Committee (read as: undergraduate party planners). For me, the JCR is a lot like having a second entryway. My general philosophy is to be pretty hands off with the JCR—I view it as my role is more or less to make it easier for them to do things they are going to do anyway. A lot happened. Looking back at my calendar:
- Sophomore Olympics was well-attended.
- We went laser tagging.
- And kayaking.
- The Yule Ball was a blast.
- We really upped our Intramural participation.
- I tried to re-brand the Lowell stag and made an elaborate, time-consuming, paper mask. I will circulate the .pdf of this mask to the house. My hope is we can get a more or less terrifying critical mass of these masks made for Housing Day.
- I failed to make glow in the dark bubbles for Glowell. Well I didn’t fail, but they would have made *such* a mess.
- Glowell was also a blast.
- I wouldn’t claim credit for this, especially because I wouldn’t want to be blamed for it if the opposite were true, but no one needed to be hospitalized as a result of any HoCo event this semester. The students are really good.
- I learned how to use mail merge in order to generate and send out personalized emails to 200+ Lowellians guilting them into filling out their House survey. I was really pleased with myself on this one.
- I oversaw the peaceful transition of HoCo power from Jess & Juliana to Nick & Sal.
- I organized the Lowell tutor Fantasy Football League, the “Lowell League.” It was a lively season. Caroline won. We’ve yet to have closing ceremonies, but I got her a pretty cool trophy.
I love Fairfax.
The main challenge in Fairfax is creating a sense of Fairfax pride. This is primarily important toward fostering a sense of feeling at home. It’s also important for safety: I want every student to know every other student, so we can recognize easily if someone unaffiliated is attempting to enter the house. So far we have had no burglaries that I know of. In order to foster this sense of community, I do a lot of things.
- First and foremost, I treat the entire building as my entry. When I have a study break, it’s always for all of Fairfax. Meghan, Connor and I coordinate really well on this.
- I call the denizens of Fairfax “facts.” We do Fairfaxtivities. No doubt we will soon have some sort of Fair Faxtival. We are Fair as Fax! I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who actually uses these phrases, but #branding.
- I also have a Fairfax email list that we use internally to the house, and I use to send out meme-filled, entertaining (I hope) emails about why they need to lock their doors and not use the fire escapes to smoke cigarettes. In my weaker moments, I like to flatter myself and think my email skills rival Beth’s. I also incentivize my emails such that if you don’t read them, you’re generally missing out on free food. And no one wants to miss out on food.
- Meghan had an amazing study break where she solicited students to submit their favorite photos, then she had them printed at Costco and we hung them on the walls. It makes a big difference. Fairfax is decorated.
- We had a crepe study break where we consumed somewhere around 80 crepes. Everyone was very pleased.
- I give every student in Fairfax who tells me they got their flu shot a voucher for a JP Licks ice cream. #herdimmunity
- I held my annual Guy Fawkes Day V for Vendetta screening / study break, a tradition I’m trying to encourage because it is possibly the most Lowell movie there is.
- Went to The Game. Only had to call the police once, and it was on the Yale students. Typical.
- I’ve recruited a couple students to be my research assistants on the Fairfax History Project. This mainly involves going to the Harvard University Archives and trying to get more information on the history of Fairfax. Who lived here when? Has anyone ever been murdered here? Who lived in your room? Who carved these initials into the windowsill? Are there any more historic photographs, like this one, that we can have duplicated and hung in the house?
- We had a nice Faxgiving.
- I left out multiple packs of water bottles and tons of candy on Halloween, which my students demolished. I also dressed up as Plague Doctor for Halloween, a truly uncanny and terrifying costume, and very effective for scaring our students while checking up on their Haunted Hampden Halloween party.
Other Evan Stuff from Fall 2017 (in no particular order)
- One of the high points of my semester was presenting a paper at the SLSA (Society for Literature, Science and the Arts) Conference at ASU Tempe. I was mindblown by how nice the ASU campus was, how great the people were in attendance, and how many cool programs they have. Who would have thought I’d like Arizona so much? From what I can see, ASU has “solved” the crisis of the humanities by reincorporating the humanities into strange, somewhat nebulous, interdisciplinary programs. They have a Center for Science and the Imagination” <http://csi.asu.edu/imaginary-college/>, a “Threatcasting Lab” <http://threatcasting.com>, and all sorts of other strange, wonky programs. Does this not sound like the wishywashy stuff of American Studies? Count. Me. In. And they have lots of funding. I suppose part of what was getting me down about the job market was my difficulty situating myself squarely in English, or Art History, etc. This conference made me feel like there might very well be a place for me in academia yet.
- I met Ann Druyan.
- I applied for a job as an Expos 20 preceptor. Potentially I would be teaching a writing course structured around time theory.
- I’ve noticed my hair is thinning in the front and I am not a fan of this development.
- I applied for a Rome Prize in order to write an annotated book—The Digital Faun.
- I’ve been running a lot, which has been great. There’s a Cambridge 5k series that has a race about once a month, so I’m always training to improve my time. I’m down to a 24 minute 5k, which is good for me (though it’s no Charlie Tyson—Charlie runs a 21 minute 5k).
- I’m working on The Extinctuary, your hub for all things extinct and macabre! HUCE has agreed to fund this project, and I’m very excited about it.
- I received my highest Q scores (4.7) in the Science Fiction course I TF’d for this semester. More importantly, I did my best teaching.
- I won my other (non-Lowell) Fantasy Football League, and silenced all my haters.
- Professor Burt let me lecture, for the second time, on time theory in science fiction.
- I applied for a Safra graduate fellowship, the Bowdoin Prize, the Philip Hofer Prize, the English Postgraduate Essay Prize, and have another bunch of apps due in February.
- I saw a ton of bands: the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer, Gogol Bordello, LCD Soundsystem.
- I got to see Takashi Murakami at the MFA.
- I saw the solar eclipse and the end of the Cassini Mission.
- I’ve been the Departmental Teaching Fellow in American Studies.
- My niece got a lot bigger.
- I made a lot of friends and reconnected with many old ones.
- Long story, but my grandmother’s house in San Diego almost burned down, and I stopped it.
- I was invited to publish in a forthcoming book of essays about monumentality, which is something that I really need to do at this point in my academic career.
- I was invited to write an essay/review about the Golden Record in Configurations.
- My dad got a new dog.
Tutoring for me has been crucial in ending my more or less monastic graduate school life and turning it into something altogether more rewarding. I love being part of this community and I hope it shows. I’m looking forward to the coming semester, to it being warm enough to run outside without frostbite, to advising Jess Levy’s and Andrew Flannery’s speeches, to fleshing out my dissertation, to returning to Italy for the summer, to getting some work published, to hosting another rabid Mariokart Championship, to a new HoCo, to turning thirty, to River Run, to landing some solid fellowships, and to building an army of stag-mask-wearing Lowellians.