This article is part of a series on the impact of humanities studies in and out of the classroom.There has rarely been a decisive moment in Luke Kelly’s life that hasn’t involved a book.Kelly ’19 was homeschooled for most of his childhood in Pascagula, Miss., which included constant reading, from “Aesop’s Fables” to the short stories of Eudora Welty. He also studied piano, helped by a teacher whose worldliness and charisma still speak to Kelly from the (stolen) page.“That piece of sheet music I ‘permanently borrowed’ was the first book I consciously collected,” he said. “I collected it not to practice with, but to remember all that I learned from someone I so greatly wanted to imitate. If you open it up, you can still smell that house.”His study of “Schofield’s Definition of Discipline” during his brief time at West Point helped Kelly realize that military training wasn’t the type of education he wanted. When he landed at Harvard already in possession of what would later be honored as an exceptional book collection, he knew he had found the right place.“Harry Widener is my patron saint,” said Kelly, a history concentrator. “He lived this young life, died too early, and all people know him for is the library. But looking at his books and what he valued, I feel like I know him better than most people do because I see his passions. You miss the whole point if you just see he had a Gutenberg Bible. I know what kind of pipe tobacco he owned.”Such attention to detail reflects Kelly’s drive for connecting with the life behind a book, a passion his job at Houghton Library has rewarded and deepened.“I’d work there for free,” he said. “I’m interested in people’s biographies, memoirs, and sometimes people didn’t leave those behind … sometimes you get that sense of what they valued and excited them through the objects they left behind.“I’ve pored over Widener’s copy of ‘The Pickwick Papers,’ and it reeks of Latakia pipe tobacco. No one would know that unless you were holding it and sniffing it. Every day I’m there I find out something new.”Library assistant Joseph Zajac, Kelly’s supervisor at Houghton, recognizes a “genuine book lover and expert” in the Dunster House resident.“He’s a perfect learner, has a huge knowledge about books, and has excellent memory,” Zajac said. “I had a very similar enthusiasm when I was his age.”While in high school, Kelly began collecting books by the Alabama author and poet Eugene Walter, starting with “The Untidy Pilgrim” (1954).“It was the first first-edition book of his I bought, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of him,” Kelly said. “I then went on a mission to find everything he’d ever written.”The Walter collection earned Kelly the Harvard Library 2016 Visiting Committee Prize for Undergraduate Book Collecting. Next came a win in the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, which helped Kelly gain entry into the exclusive Grolier Club, a New York-based collecting society, as its youngest member.“I didn’t expect to get into it until I’m 65 years old,” said Kelly. “I’ve accomplished half my life goals.”Kelly also proudly belongs to the John Adams Society, a conservative-leaning club for debate of politics and moral philosophy.“There are monarchists, Hamiltonians — it’s not an echo chamber,” he said. “We have intellectual discussion that is informal and formal at the same time. We argue about the rules as much as the debate resolutions.”In both the John Adams Society and at Houghton, Kelly has found ways to connect the past with the present. That’s no less the case in one of his favorite fall courses, “History of the Book and of Reading,” where he’s found a like-minded professor in Ann Blair.“It’s usually a very moving experience for students to handle a book that is hundreds of years old, as we can in our wonderful Houghton Library,” said Blair. “Luke has the love of books written all over him, and he’s a very committed member of that community. I’m delighted that he will surely carry forward the love and knowledge of books.”
On Friday, Laura Briggs, a professor of women, gender and sexuality studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, delivered a lecture titled “Imperialism as a Way of Life: Thinking Sex and Gender in American Empire,” in which she argued for the necessity of feminism in scholarship and activism.The lecture was the keynote address of the two-day American Empire conference, which was sponsored by several Notre Dame departments within the College of Arts and Letters.Briggs framed her argument within the field of U.S. empire studies, which was the focus of the conference and said the scholarship within the field is influential, though it is hard often difficult to see the results.“We live and work in the belly of a great war-and-money-making machine and if we’re serious about challenging it, we’re going to feel the sting,” Briggs said. “No one is going to thank us for our services as intellectuals, calling to people’s conscious what they know or suspect about academic freedom or educational opportunities. … And even worse, I want to tell you this is what success looks like.“In all my years as an activist I have never found myself on the front page of the New York Times, nor cited by the Secretary of State. … What I have learned from all this is simply that academics have a great deal of power to affect change, particularly when we act collectively, but nobody is going to tell us that, and we are going to have to look hard for the evidence that we are being effective.”Briggs outlined the feminist, gender and sexual implications of torture, microcredit lending and environmental issues, and ultimately said academics must remember feminism’s importance in empire studies.“As much fun as it is to complain about all of this, I’m more interested in actually making a case to those who, like me, are generally inclined to view feminism and issues of sexuality and reproduction generously, to think with more consistency about these issues,” she said. “A few years ago I found myself struggling to think of ways feminism still seemed important to me.“I want to suggest that feminism is not old nor passé nor liberal. On the contrary, I want to address the possibility that our work on empire will never be as good as it could be if we don’t attend to feminism and to gender and sexuality. Feminism … provides us with powerful intellectual tools and an important activist tradition in which to engage the study of empire.”Briggs concluded with her “manifesto for the continued urgency of our need for a feminist and queer politics that makes race and empire central,” and said scholars and the general public alike must keep feminism front and center when considering the issues of the American empire.“We cannot effectively contest torture without speaking of its sexualization,” she said. “We cannot push back against neoliberalism without recognizing how crucial its understanding of women and gender is to the work it is doing. We can’t resist extractive industries, climate change and the enclosure of the global commons … without feminist fiction or indigenous movements grounded in feminism.“We can’t make sense of how enemies are being produced without an analysis of the narratives of rescuing women and gays. We cannot, finally, do the scholarly or activist work that we want to contest U.S. empire without feminism.”Tags: American Empire
Authorities in Jacksonville are reporting that they have captured a suspect wanted in connection with the murder of a man in Pennsylvania.According to the report, officials found Mario Matthew Gatti on a beach in Jacksonville after city officials reopened them to the public for the purpose of exercising this weekend.Investigators say they were making sure everyone was following social distancing practices and other protocols when they found Gatti loitering on the beach. Officials began questioning Gatti and realized that Gatti was wanted for a the fatal shooting of 33-year-old Michael Coover, Jr. in January.He has since been arrested and is currently being held in an area jail.