Reflections on Creativity and Full Bookshelves by Dr. Owen Gilman







Our Thesis Collection – 160 and counting!







“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,”. . . and with that line, Frost got his “Mending Wall” poem started.  He was thinking about a stone wall, and just about everywhere you head off-road in New England, you’re going to find one of those unloved walls.  But the wall I have in mind is interior, the kind that serves to define the rooms in the dwellings we occupy.  I’m tempted here to take that detail and push it one small step further:  “Something there is that doesn’t love a bare wall.”  Our classroom buildings mostly feature bare walls; we don’t want ornamentation to draw student interest away from the subject undergoing development through lecture or discussion.  Still, it must be admitted that the bare walls are boring.

In our administrative areas, however, we can decorate our walls, do all kinds of things to alter the “bare wall” pattern.   In the territory of an English Department, bookshelves are often introduced to add zest to a bare wall area.  Just over a decade ago, the Saint Joseph’s University Department of English bought a new bookcase.  Naturally, at the outset, its shelves were empty, but over time, they have filled.  This bookcase was obtained explicitly to house the completed thesis projects for the M. A. in Writing Studies program that began offering classes in the spring semester of 2003.  By the middle of the next year, one of the shelves displayed a small collection of newly bound thesis projects.  At present, the number has swelled to 160, with roughly 15 new ones having been added each year.  The collection continues to grow steadily.  The growth has been so substantial that we had to purchase a new, larger bookcase last year to accommodate all the output of creativity.

A bookcase with books–now, that’s something to love, the perfect solution to a bare wall.  And we are very proud of the thesis collection.  It contains a wondrous variety of projects.  There are memoirs.  There are novels.  There are short story collections.  There are poetry collections.  There are essay collections.  There are quite a few innovative mixed-genre gatherings.  The Writing Studies program at every turn encourages originality, always looking for new ways to do all the old things, and some mighty fine fruit comes from this approach.  When you see the past represented so splendidly, thesis-by-thesis, you have a very comforting sense of where the future will be taking us.  More shelves will fill.  Another bookcase will be required.  The bare wall problem solving continues apace.  And yes, there is love, abundantly present, word by word, line by line, thesis by thesis.  Something there is that loves a wall, with a bookcase, filled with exciting thesis projects.  Gods from diverse cultures all chime in to add:  “It is good, this creativity.”