Commencement 2017: A Conversation with Honorary Degree Recipient Author Anthony Doerr ’95

Bowdoin awarded Tony Doerr, author of two short-story collections, a memoir, and two novels, an honorary degree at its 212th Commencement this year. He spoke on campus last week with Professor of English Brock Clark.

Doerr ’95 was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, for his book, All the Light We Cannot See. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Doerr graduated from Bowdoin cum laude with a history major in 1995, and earned his master of fine arts degree in creative writing at Bowling Green University in 1999. He lives in Idaho with his wife, Shauna E. Doerr ’94, and their two sons.

Author R.J. Palacio Speaks About “Wonder” at Bowdoin

R.J. Palacio is the author of Wonder, the number-one New York Times bestseller about a boy born with a facial difference who enters a mainstream school for the first time. She is the parent of a Bowdoin student and lives in New York City with her husband, two sons, and two dogs.

Palacio visited campus to deliver a lecture about how she came to write the book, and how it has sparked the “Choose Kind” movement.

The event was sponsored by the education department.

Common Hour with Aviva Briefel: “Parenting through Horror: Reassurance in Jennifer Kent’s ‘The Babadook’”

Aviva Briefel is professor of English and cinema studies at Bowdoin College. She is the author of The Deceivers: Art Forgery and Identity in the Nineteenth Century (Cornell University Press, 2006) and coeditor of Horror after 9/11: World of Fear, Cinema of Terror (University of Texas Press, 2011). Her most recent book, The Racial Hand in the Victorian Imagination, is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press. At Bowdoin, she teaches courses on Victorian literature and culture, the horror film, and film adaptation.

Briefel delivered the Sept. 18 Common Hour at Bowdoin.

Award Winning Author Jonas Lüscher: “The Beauty of Crisis,” A Reading from the Novella ‘Barbarian Spring’

A leading Swiss industrialist on a business trip to Tunisia is invited to spend the week with the daughter of a local gangster. He accompanies her to the wedding of two London city traders at a desert luxury resort and, with the wedding party in full swing and the bride riding up the aisle on a camel, the global financial system stands on the brink of collapse. The British pound has depreciated tenfold, and their world begins to crumble around them.

Swiss-German author Jonas Lüscher, a major emerging voice in European fiction, recently visited Bowdoin to read and discuss the English translation of his award-winning novella Barbarian Spring, a beautifully written account of the financial crisis in its global dimensions, and a powerful alternative to the dominating discourses of economics and politics.

Born in Switzerland, Lüscher lives in Munich. After training as a primary school teacher in Bern and a few years in the German film industry, he studied at the School of Philosophy in Munich. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the Department of Philosophy at the ETH Zurich.

Lüscher’s was sponsored by the departments of German, English and Economics, and by the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

Hester Blum: “Polar Imprints: The News from the Ends of the Earth”

Narratives of polar voyages enjoyed wide circulation in Anglo-American cultural and political spheres during the 19th century. Yet the familiar travel accounts of adventurous voyage and their fictional counterparts were not the only forms of literary production generated by Arctic and Antarctic exploration. Many expeditions brought a surprising piece of equipment aboard ship: a printing press. With such presses, polar-voyaging sailors wrote and printed newspapers, broadsides, plays, and other reading matter beyond the Arctic and Antarctic Circles; these publications were produced almost exclusively for a reading audience comprised of the expedition’s crew members.

In this presentation, Hester Blum, associate professor of English at Pennsylvania State University, examines the first printed polar newspapers. What does this drive toward what she calls “extreme printing” tell us about the state of print culture and coterie publication in the nineteenth century Anglo-American world? Her recent talk at Bowdoin calls attention to the rhetorical distance between mass-published voyage accounts, and the coterie publications produced and circulated aboard ship. ‘Polar Imprints’ is attuned to the tension between the global ambitions of polar voyages, and the remarkably circumscribed conditions of their practice.

Blum’s talk was sponsored by Africana Studies, Arctic Studies, and the English Department.

Civil War Alumni College: Selected Lectures

In August 2013, Bowdoin College hosted “The Afterlife of the American Civil War,” a four-day series of lectures, demonstrations, exhibitions, and music presented in commemoration of the Civil War’s sesquicentennial celebration. Bowdoin has many important connections to the Civil War through eminent alumni, faculty, and other historical figures associated with the College—including Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (class of 1852), Oliver Otis Howard (class of 1850), William Pitt Fessenden (class of 1823), and Harriet Beecher Stowe, who began writing “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” while her husband was a Bowdoin professor. The Alumni College event, which focused on Bowdoin’s involvement in the post-war years, included lectures by Bowdoin faculty and alumni.

“‘Otis,’ Charles, and Rowland: Sourcing the Wartime Legacy of the Howards” (David K. Thomson and Richard Lindemann) from Bowdoin College on Vimeo.

In this presentation, David K. Thomson ’08, a doctoral student at the University of Georgia and Richard Lindemann, director of the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, discuss the Civil War experiences of brothers O.O, Charles, and Rowland Howard. Drawing on documents from the Howard collections, Thomson and Lindemann share the stories and larger legacy of this accomplished Bowdoin family.


“Abraham Lincoln’s Historic Photographs” (Frank Goodyear) & “Winslow Homer’s View of the Civil War” (Linda Docherty) from Bowdoin College on Vimeo.

Artists reacted to the Civil War in myriad ways. In the North some like Winslow Homer ventured to the front lines, creating paintings and sketches that recorded life in the Union army. Photographers followed as well, and their cameras brought to national attention scenes previously unimagined. In these visual presentations, Frank Goodyear, co-director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, focuses on the photographs of Abraham Lincoln taken before and throughout the war, while Associate Professor of Art History Emerita Linda Docherty uses Bowdoin’s extensive collection of Homer prints to show the impact of one of America’s most beloved artists.


“The Afterlife of the American Civil War” Keynote Address (Boston Univ. Prof. of History Nina Silber) from Bowdoin College on Vimeo.

The keynote address was delivered by Nina Silber, professor of history at Boston University. Her books include “The Romance of Reunion: Northerners and the South, 1865-1900” (1993); “Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War” (1992); “Daughters of the Union: Northern Women Fight the Civil War” (2005); and “Gender and the Sectional Conflict” (2009). She has also worked as a consultant for the Gettysburg National Battlefield, the United States Constitution Museum, and the “American Experience” television series.


“Up Closer With Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain” (Associate Professor of History Patrick Rael) from Bowdoin College on Vimeo.

In this lecture, Bowdoin Associate Professor of History Patrick Rael, a specialist in African-American History who regularly teaches courses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, including the popular course “The Civil War in Film,” discusses Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and other Bowdoin alumni who fought in the Civil War.


“Northern Writers Speak to War: Whitman, Melville, Longfellow, Hawthorne” (Professor of English Peter Coviello) from Bowdoin College on Vimeo.

In this lecture and classroom discussion, Bowdoin Professor of English Peter Coviello covers the response of acclaimed northern writers to the Civil War.

Aviva Briefel and Kristen Ghodsee: The Hunger Games, Revisited

Aviva Briefel (left, Associate Professor of English and Film Studies) and Kristen Ghodsee (John S. Osterweis Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies) sit down to talk about the movie The Hunger Games. Ghodsee and Briefel recently held a panel discussion on this topic with librarian Jeanne Madden of Falmouth Memorial Library, following a screening of the film in Smith Auditorium.

Colm Tóibín Speaks about Storytelling for Annual Santagata Lecture

Colm Tóibín Speaks about Storytelling for Annual Santagata Lecture from Bowdoin College on Vimeo.

Irish author Colm Tóibín in late February visited Bowdoin to give a talk on the art of the short story for the annual Kenneth V. Santagata Memorial Lecture in Kresge Auditorium.
Tóibín, who teaches at Columbia University, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for his novel “The Master” (2004), which he followed with “Brooklyn” (2009), “Mothers and Sons” (2006), and “New Ways to Kill Your Mother” (2012), a collection of nonfiction essays. His most recent novel, “The Testament of Mary,” was released this November.

Marilyn Reizbaum: Ridiculous Modernism

The prevailing arts movement of the twentieth century — modernism — has piqued and delighted and is still being assessed. For many, its innovations and experiments were frivolous, even dangerous — like fiddling with conventions while Rome burns. Seems we’re still afraid of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce?

Marilyn Reizbaum is an internationally renowned scholar of the work of James Joyce, as well as the fields of Irish and Scottish literature and film generally. She also teaches and publishes in the areas of Modernism, the modern novel, Jewish cultural theory, and history of ideas. She is the author of “The Stranger Spark” in The Edinburgh Companion to Muriel Spark and James Joyce’s Judaic Other, is co-editor of the volume Ulysses–En-Gendered Perspectives, and is the author of numerous essays on Irish, Jewish, and other literatures.

Professor Reizbaum joined the Bowdoin faculty in 1984. She earned an A.B. at Queens College, an M.Litt. at the University of Edinburgh, and a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

The Harrison King McCann Professorship was established in 1960 within the Department of English in memory of Harrison K. McCann of the Bowdoin Class of 1902. The professorship honors McCann’s 30 years of service as an overseer of the College from 1923 to 1953. He was founder and chairman of the board of McCann-Erickson, Inc., a globally influential advertising agency with headquarters in New York City. Bowdoin awarded McCann an honorary degree in 1942.

A Losers Love Song: Brock Clarke

Brock Clarke is the author of five books of fiction, most recently the novels Exley and An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England, both of which have appeared in a number of foreign editions. His short fiction and nonfiction have been published in dozens of magazines, newspapers, and literary journals, including The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The Boston Globe, New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, One Story, and The Believer, as well as in the annual Pushcart Prize and New Stories from the South anthologies. He has twice been a finalist for the National Magazine Award in Fiction, and has been awarded an National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the Mary McCarthy Prize, the Prairie Schooner Book Series Prize, and an Ohio Arts Council Fellowship. Professor Clarke’s talk was titled “A Loser’s Love Song.”