Finlandia professors read from new publications
A musician’s memoir and a literature teacher’s year through the seasons
HANCOCK – Finlandia University held a book reading by associate professor of history William Knoblauch and associate professor of English Carolyn Dekker as part of their Spring Symposium for the College of Arts and Sciences. The event, which also consisted of a conversation between the two writers and a question-and-answer session from the audience, was led by associate professor of English Mark Lounibos.
“They’ve both produced excellent work in very different genres,” said Lounibos. “It means so much to us as part of the Finlandia community.”
As students, faculty and community members entered the room, Jazz music played in introduction of Knoblauch, who cowrote “I’m That Guy: The Life and Music of ‘The Groove Master'” with bass player Jerry Jemmott. Knoblauch, himself a musician, met Jemmott at a bass symposium in the late ’90s. Reconnecting with Jemmott, Knoblauch helped to add structure and context to the musician’s memoir.
“When I ask him questions about things that I want to bring to life in my classes like the civil rights movement, he just says ‘yeah, I remember, I was there,’ but he didn’t feel the need to put that context into the story,” said Knoblauch. “He didn’t think to write those things down because for him it was a personal experience, and it took some questions for him to think about the context that I added onto the page.”
Dekker’s book, “North Country: A Pedagogical Almanac” is a collection of nineteen essays written between August 2015 and August 2020. The essays are arranged by month, taking the reader through a calendar school year and through five years of Dekker’s life from her moving to Hancock in 2015 to a time when it seemed sure that the university would close during the Coronavirus pandemic.
“When I got here, I was thinking I was a fiction writer, I had published some short fiction, I had a couple novels in a drawer that will probably never come out, but I had experimented while living in Maine with storytelling from life,” said Dekker. “I was thinking about doing the whole seasonal round – I was very inspired by environmental writing like (Henry David) Thoreau.”
Knoblauch’s book, which should be available by the end of the month, was also impacted by the pandemic. Initial attempts to find a publisher came at a time when many publishers were overburdened with manuscript submissions. Dekker’s book is already available, and copies were sold and signed at the end of the event.
While the event was not directly related to the recent announcement that Finlandia University will be closing, all three speakers naturally referenced the closure and how it impacted their writing and work going forward. Knoblauch specifically mentioned how his relationship with music and with Jemmott have helped him.
“We had this nice reconnection and that’s the beautiful things about music is your age and your race go away and you’re just peers,” said Knoblauch. “What’s the incentive for me to go to my classroom every day and give 100%? Well, it’s what we do. The show must go on.”