Letter to majors and minors
August 06, 2020
We hope this letter finds you and your loved ones in good health and spirits.
We write today with updates about the fall semester. To borrow from Chaucer, “This world is now ful tikel, sikerly.” We’ve been working through the summer to prepare for the upcoming term, which, as you know, will be an unusually ticklish one due to the pandemic. The situation remains fluid, but we want to give you a sense of how we are currently envisioning our classes. No matter what form our instruction takes, we are committed to preserving your experience of the major.
At this point, the College is still planning to open for in-person instruction, and has adopted a number of measures to minimize the risks of being together on campus. As a result, our English classrooms will look and feel different this fall:
- Social distancing protocols dictate that we sit at least 6 feet apart from each other and wear masks, and this will affect how we arrange classroom seating and how we may see and hear each other when in person.
- They also require us to limit the number of people who can be in a classroom at one time, which means that, in many cases, the class will not be able to meet in its entirety together in-person.
- Students have a choice this fall of attending LC on-campus or remotely; this means that individual classes are likely to have a mix of in-person and remote students.
- Some faculty, too, will need to teach remotely or limit their in-person interactions to smaller groups or lower-risk locations (such as outdoors).
- Students and faculty who become symptomatic or have had contact with someone who tests positive for the virus may need to work remotely for two or more weeks while under quarantine.
- All classes will be fully on-line after Thanksgiving. (Silver lining: we have a week-long Thanksgiving break, adding flexibility for your travel plans).
- As always, you may request that the bookstore mail your textbooks to you. Course readers will be available electronically for remote students as well.
We will all need to be creative and flexible as we figure out how to continue learning and interacting as a community under these unprecedented circumstances. We want you to know that we are working together as a department to adapt our classes as best fits their individual size, content, and goals. Some of our plans include:
- Classes that combine all-inclusive Zoom meetings and regular one-on-one conferences between individual students and the professor.
- Classes that meet all together in outdoor spaces until shifting on-line when the weather turns.
- Classes that alternate between all-inclusive Zoom meetings and “split” sessions in which a cohort of 8-12 students attends class in-person while a second cohort remotely participates in a separate discussion, watches a pre-recorded lecture, or completes an assignment together over Zoom.
- Classes that meet all together in a “hybrid” format, with one cohort in-person and the other Zooming in using a classroom camera and projector.
We expect that even our best-laid plans may need to change as we get to know each group of students and experiment with the available technology.
Many things will be different this semester, and we are grateful in advance for your energy, engagement, patience, and resilience. The situation is obviously challenging, but we are hopeful. The conversations we have had as a department over this summer–both in department meetings and in our summer reading group–have reminded us that literature is always doing its work through and across distances of all kinds, “social” or otherwise. And whatever form our classes take, we will continue to do what we love, which is to study, learn from, grapple with, enjoy, and create literary texts with you.
Much needs to be re-imagined in our world; we look forward to engaging together with audacious and original writers who might help us do that.
If you have any questions, please reach out to us, especially Karen Gross, Chair of the department. We have missed you this summer and can’t wait to be with you again.
The English Department
P.S. When thinking of how poets might help us make sense of this moment, we are of course reminded of perhaps the most famous pandemic poem, Thomas Nashe’s “A Litany in Time of Plague,” with the haunting line, “Dust hath closed Helen’s eye.” But our mood is more hopeful of our emerging together into a future of unexpected goodness on the other side of this pain, like that described by Tracy K. Smith’s “An Old Story.”