In this post, by U of R senior Noah Friedman, our Meliora Miniseries and Reading Series Commentary cross paths. Professors Grotz, Schottenfeld, Longenbach, and Scott, whose teaching merits former students have celebrated in the foregoing posts, read from their newest work on Saturday, October 22nd as part of Meliora Weekend and 50/100 festivities.
At times, my parents can be wonderfully stubborn people. The most recent example of this shows in their determinacy to make the seven-hour drive from Washington, D.C. to their fourth Meliora Weekend. This is when the University of Rochester welcomes alumni and parents to campus for a program of events celebrating an ever-improving community. I am convinced that they fulfilled the journey merely to maintain their perfect record, appearing at Mel Weekend four out of four years, more than it was their aim to spend a few days with their son. Unlike previous years, though, which have been crammed with lecturers, comedians, and trips to Wegman’s supermarket, there was only one event that I thought was good enough reason to make the trip. This was the Plutzik Reading Series.
As it has already been mentioned in articles on this blog and other related essays, if you have been invited to read in the Plutzik Reading Series at the University of Rochester, you have made it to “the Big Show,” so to speak. The selection of Plutzik readers in the past has always been comprised of great artists. It gave me enormous pleasure to find out that three of the four artists presenting their works at the second installment of the Plutzik Reading Series this year happen to also have been professors with whom I have studied: Joanna Scott, Jennifer Grotz, and James Longenbach. Professor, novelist, and short story writer Stephen Schottenfeld, whose advice and conversation has always been available to me, was also among the selection of artists chosen for the reading.
My elation arose not only because of my close relation to these artists but most crucially because my closest relations, Mom and Dad, would get to meet them and enjoy a display of their craft that I could confidently trust to validate my choice of major: English with a concentration in creative writing. A few weeks ago during office hours, I confessed to Professor Longenbach that I was “concerned for my future.” Before he offered any helpfully sagacious advice, which he is never short of, he responded, “You should be; you’re an American undergraduate,” followed by a list of the catastrophic conditions that awaited me after commencement. Certainly, though, my parents contend with similar preoccupations. I am fortunate enough to have had the Plutzik Series to allay some of their concerns. Seeing my professors read, engage with their students and one another, they could see that I was in good care; that I have people that I should, and do, look up to as mentors and examples of success.
In each of their readings, my professors showed not only an enviable expertise that they each possess over their craft, but an indelible appreciation for the powers of both written and spoken language. Watching my parents listen, laugh, and speak with my professors was easily the most satisfying part of my weekend because they could more concretely understand the motivation behind my passion for literature and creative writing. They can better understand why we are in this business: to teach, to entertain, provoke, and to inspire.