Dear Brooks College House Students,
Welcome to Franklin & Marshall College, to your college home, Brooks House, and to the beginning of your college career! This is an exciting moment for you, for your family, and for those of us who will teach and work with you in the course of the next four years. It's hard to believe at this point, but those four years will pass very quickly. Together with our energetic House government leaders and Dean Roger Godin, I hope to make Brooks House a welcoming and helpful presence throughout that entire time.
In the course of these rich years, you will encounter different intellectual perspectives, social environments, and avenues to your future. To help you make the most of these opportunities right from the start, we've created an Orientation Program that introduces you to many aspects of college life, including college classes, which may differ from classes you've had so far. Our goal is to allow you to engage in a demanding and rewarding intellectual experience at the very start of your college life.
With this message, I am sending you instructions regarding the readings assigned for Orientation 2014. The stories selected for you to read introduce you to a theme that will be alive throughout the 2014-15 academic year: the one-hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I. The College, along with communities and institutions around the world, will commemmorate and investigate the ways that this event changed the world forever—politically, economically, socially, technologically, artistically, personally, and in other ways that will become apparent as we move through the coming year. I have selected three stories for you to read from the Penguin Book of First World War Stories, and one poem. In order for you to access these stories, the College has created a secure website for each College House. You must be logged into your F&M email account to access the secure website, and from there go to http://go.fandm.edu/brooks-readings. (This is a good reminder that you should be using your “fandm.edu” email regularly throughout your college career, since informational messages from professors and the administration will come to you by that means.) Should you wish to purchase the entire book (it’s not expensive) and get started on the readings, it is available online to be ordered in print or as an e-book; either is fine for our purposes. As I mentioned, we will also have the stories for you on a secure F&M website soon.
Your assignment is to read the selected works, listed below, before the start of Orientation (Thursday, August 28, 2014). As you read these stories, with their endnotes, attend to the themes I raise in each brief listing below:
1. “Chanson Triste,” by A.H. Wells (pp. 111-19). Why must this narrator tell his story? What factors united him and Dimitri? What choices did he make, and not make?
2. “The Loathly Opposite,” by John Buchan (pp. 162-75). What “stirred up Pugh” [pronounced Pew], at the start of the narrative, to tell this story? As the story progressed, what drove his search? – Channell’s search? How did Pugh’s discovery change his understanding of his wartime experience?
3. “The Christmas Truce,” by Robert Graves (pp. 309-26). Identify the generations “present,” in some sense, in the unfolding of this story-within-a-story. How does each generational layer affect our view of the story Dodger Green tells? What made the truce possible? – impossible?
4. “Everyone Sang,” by Siegfried Sassoon, available here. How would you identify the mood that the poet evokes? Identify specific imagery he uses to convey that experience. Note contrasts that highlight the theme. Would you understand the poet’s motivation had you not read the two paragraphs accompanying the poem’s text?
You must read these items before you come to campus; they will be an important part of the Orientation program for incoming students. You will hear a lecture by faculty members who are scholars in areas connected to our World War I theme. We will also hold small-group discussions, led by a faculty member, on these readings. These readings will inform you about our year-long commemoration of this cataclysmic event, setting you up for participation in campus-wide (and beyond) conversations, exhibitions, lectures, performances, and more.
In the course of our meetings at Orientation, you will have occasion to experience how professors and students in college courses approach readings, and what you'll be asked to do in your courses. Your interest in thinking deeply about other people’s ideas—such as those presented in these stories and poem and in your Orientation meetings about them—will largely determine the extent to which your college experience prompts you to new self-discoveries, nurtures skills and ways of thought that will serve you beyond college, and opens the way toward a reflective and productive life.
I am also including here a one-page guide about how to approach a college reading. When you first glance at this sheet, it may look similar to what you already know. But read further and think carefully about the suggestions. The critical feature of college-level reading is that it involves intellectual effort beyond simply reading (although “simply reading” can also be a delight!). This page leads you toward the kind of engagement that is asked of you in your college courses and will be a step in preparing you not only for Orientation, but for your college career and beyond.
If you have any questions on this or other matters regarding your academic or House involvement, please do not hesitate to contact me. I very much look forward to meeting you in August!
Dr. Lynn Matluck Brooks
Don of Brooks College House
Franklin & Marshall College