Longtime Faculty Member to Present His Work at Major Convention
By Rachel Feltman ‘08
Though he is known by his students for his warm, personal approach to teaching, Jamie Hutchinson hasn't lost his taste for the larger world of academia. This May, Hutchinson, faculty in Literature at Bard College at Simon's Rock, will present his work at the 2012 American Literature Association convention in San Francisco, California.
While Hutchinson actually had two papers accepted to the prestigious conference, which brings together some of the country's most talented literary scholars, he chose to accept a spot on one of the panels organized by the Association for Study of Literature and Environment. This should come as no surprise to Hutchinson's students, who know him as a nature-lover who tracks and photographs foxes in his spare time. The title of Hutchinson's paper is “The Boundary of Elysium: Borders and Revelation in Walking.”
The paper, which refers to the Ancient Greek notion of the afterlife and the famous musings of nature writer Henry David Thoreau, reflects Hutchinson's passion for studying writers from the Romantic era and their exploration of epistemological issues. Classes that broach these subjects, like this semester's “Faithful Thinkers”, are his favorite to teach.
When asked what he enjoys about attending conferences, Hutchinson cited their specificity: “The best part is getting to meet and talk with some other people who might share your quirky interests. Given the size of Simon's Rock, it's not always possible to have those sorts of conversations with one's colleagues. It also helps you stay informed about what's going on in your field—topics and trends.”
He did admit that taking advantage of the opportunity is not always as easy as it sounds. “The downside is that such conferences are sometimes so huge that there can be a feeling of anonymity. I typically feel like a tiny frog in a huge pond.”
Hutchinson doesn't think that teaching at a school as small as Simon's Rock puts him at a disadvantage for these kinds of honors. “In order to be invited,” he explained, “you submit a proposal, which is then read by the chairs of the particular panel. Good proposals get chosen, regardless of the size or name recognition of the college you teach at. Academic democracy in action.”
Hutchinson, who earned a PhD in American Studies from the University of New Mexico in 1975, began teaching at Simon's Rock in 1976. In 1986 he became the Director of the Simon's Rock Young Writers Workshop, a program that brings talented high school students to campus each summer to hone their craft.
From the perspective of thirty-five years at Simon's Rock, Hutchinson finds it hard to imagine working anywhere else. “The sense of community that one has with both faculty and students is something rare in higher education. As we all know however, nothing quite prepares you for the experience of Simon’s Rock. Despite having taught for a number of years before arriving in 1976, it took a while to get my feet on the ground. Lucky for me, the college was patient with my shortcomings. Besides slowly becoming a better teacher, I tend to think I’m smarter now, at least a little, mostly because of getting to work with people smarter than myself– students and faculty both. It’s been humbling and enlightening.”