In celebration of English professors Monica Berlin’s and Natania Rosenfeld’s recently published essay chapbooks entitled “Your Small Towns of Adult Sorrow & Melancholy” and “She and I” and in honor of Rosenfeld finishing 20 years at Knox, the professors read selections of their new works to a diverse audience in Berlin’s studio, The Space. The essays spanned a broad range of content and theme, exploring intimate relationships and cultural trauma.
In a relaxed environment devoid of formal or academic introductions, the Knox community of faculty and students were given not only a glimpse of what Berlin and Rosenfeld have been working on outside of Knox, but also an insight to their personal experiences. Berlin’s piece emulated nostalgia for a childhood filled with train rides while Rosenfeld recalled memories from past travels with close friends and meditative viewings of famous artworks.
While listening to these personal narratives, the audience was able to relive historical events or vicariously experience events for the first time. Berlin’s essay focused heavily on Challenger, a space shuttle which exploded during lift-off in January of 1986. Though many of the faculty members present were old enough to personally recall that tragedy, the current students, born in the 1990s, were not yet alive and could only learn about the explosion from others’ accounts. Berlin’s reading honored the lives lost in the explosion and brought attention to the residual trauma of those who watched the replaying footage on the news: “We will be reminded over and over of that over and over.”
Rosenfeld’s essay contained a celebration of feminism through her life’s imitation of art. After walking us through art galleries in Europe, she described her time in a Turkish Bathhouse. Whereas the women depicted in the artworks were idealized and seemingly unreachable, Rosenfeld gratefully celebrated her own scene of women of various body types comfortably mingling nude in a sauna, an image which I believe is an artwork it and of itself.