Welcome, Class of 2017!
Overall, the historical novel Caleb’s Crossing resonated with me on several levels. Especially, I enjoyed the perspectives into early American college life at Harvard, which primarily surfaces in the second half of the novel. I teach at URI, so this area of interest isn’t too much of a surprise, is it? This portion of the novel seems to speak to all of you who are incoming freshmen as well. I’m interested to hear how you react to Brooks’ depiction of college life at Harvard during the seventeenth century. Surely, you anticipate the upcoming college life experiences, anxieties, and desires, and that is enough to interest you in Brooks’ historical perspective of collegiate life.
Personally, I’m not sure how I would have reacted to Caleb’s Crossing when I was an incoming freshman thirteen years ago (And, no, I didn’t go to Harvard.). Back then my impressions about college came from my older friends’ and relatives’ experiences—and, of course, films such as PCU starring Jeremy Piven. If I had read Caleb’s Crossing back then, a part of me would probably be scared that I’d be required to learn fluent Greek and Latin in college, and/or that the faculty would be intimidating, and/or that college would be too much for me. I wonder if I’d give up the endeavor like Bethia Mayfield’s brother Makepeace did in the novel.
In short, Brooks’ novel can give you a different perspective into American college life: one that is outside of popular contemporary impressions of college that are found in films such as Old School, Pitch Perfect, Van Wilder, and TV shows such as Blue Mountain State. I would think that Brooks’ serious historical account may highlight a fresh perspective because of the productive contrast with typical contemporary depictions of college life. So I posit this question for the Freshman Class of 2017: since you will be entering university life in the fall, how did the second half of the novel that focused on Harvard resonate with you? Or is the historical depiction of Harvard academic life too far removed from what you expect at URI? How did it generatively contrast the more popular contemporary impressions of college life? And even, more specifically, contrast contemporary impressions of Harvard life, such as found in the book, The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal, or the popular film adaptation The Social Network?
Please post your responses to Gavin’s questions below.
Gavin F. Hurley is currently a writing instructor in the Department of Writing & Rhetoric at University of Rhode Island. In Fall 2013, he will be teaching WRT 106: Introduction to Research Writing.