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Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
“He talked about everything I hoped he would, like character development and how writers make inroads into a story,” says Gretchen Gerzina, the Kathe Tappe Vernon Professor in Biography and the chair of Dartmouth’s Department of English.
Gerzina invited Gregory Maguire, celebrated author of Wicked, to speak to her Writing 5 class, which is comprised of first-year students. The theme of the class, The Victorians through Five Children’s Novels, dovetailed nicely with Maguire’s interest in rethinking classic children’s tales with an adult audience in mind. Maguire spoke to the students on Nov. 19.
“He challenged the students to think about childhood, and how we romanticize it,” says Gerzina. “It’s often an ideal that is not real.”
Jesse Gomez ’12, from Temecula, Calif., follows up on that thought. “The most profound thing, to me, he said was that ‘consolation from the imaginary is not imaginary consolation.’ He was saying that finding joy in a fairy tale, even if it is just a childish thing, is still your own joy,” says Gomez. “After being inspired by Wicked, that comment had a lot of meaning.”
Gomez loved having time to talk with Maguire to help clarify some lingering questions, like why Wicked has a sad ending. “Hearing first hand about the choices he made in his writing helped me understand the theme and his message more clearly,” says Gomez.
Maguire enjoyed his time at Dartmouth, too. “My introduction to the English Department at Dartmouth, especially in the teeth of the season’s first icy winds from the north, was as warm as I could have hoped--a cordial welcome from my host, Dr. Gerzina and from her affectionately courteous students,” he says. “Even the setting seemed to turn itself out in carved wooden repletion, with those faux Grinling Gibbons bas-reliefs bursting out of the wainscoting of Sanborn House, offering images of dangled game, suitable to the season, all done in polished wood.”
In Gerzina’s section of Writing 5, the students read and analyzed and wrote about five Victorian children’s novels, The Water-Babies, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Treasure Island, The Wind in the Willows, and The Secret Garden, within the context of Victorian and Edwardian social, literary, and intellectual history. Writing 5 is part of Dartmouth’s Institute for Writing and Rhetoric, established to enrich the teaching of effective communication skills.
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