Welcome to Wesleyan!

It’s been so much fun this week to watch the campus beginning to fill up. Last night I greeted the new international students, many of whom had endured very long trips made even more arduous by Hurricane Irene. Still, they were in fine spirits, eager to begin their Wes careers, whether they were coming from Mumbai, Beijing, Paris or Toronto. I recalled how for me in 1975 Wesleyan seemed like a foreign country¬† — or another planet! I told them of my confusion when I didn’t get all the classes I wanted and that I was more than a little at sea as I tried to figure out what I was doing here. But after a few weeks, I began to realize that lots of other people were having similar feelings, and that the key was to be open to learning from the extraordinary students, faculty and staff with whom I had opportunities to interact. Lucky me, I still have these opportunities!

Like many faculty, I’m still putting finishing touches on my syllabus for the fall. I am teaching The Modern and the Postmodern, a course that examines how the idea of the modern has been put together (and pulled apart) in the West. We read philosophy, poetry, fiction and critical theory (and sometimes we look at art and listen to music) in an attempt to understand how some core ideas of progress, truth, memory and identity have emerged in Europe and America. Many courses for first year students at Wes are small seminars. My class is a large survey, with a mixture of students from frosh to seniors. Even though I’ve taught for many years, I still get butterflies as the first day of class approaches.

Tomorrow as the frosh move in, older students and staff will lend a hand with the trunks, musical instruments and refrigerators. It’s just one of many ways for us to say ¬†“Welcome to Wesleyan!”