2020 Holiday Update from School of Letters Director Justin Taylor

Dear School of Letters students, alumni, and faculty, 

I hope you all had a good, restful, and safe Thanksgiving holiday. As this tumultuous and strange year draws—finally—to its close, I wanted to check in with you about a few things that I hope will be of interest.

This spring the School of Letters will offer its first non-summer class, an online fiction workshop led by Sidik Fofana. You’ve all heard me sing Sidik’s praises before, so let me just briefly remind you that he is an astonishingly talented writer who has published several times in our own Sewanee Review and whose novel, Stories from Our Tenants Downstairs, is going to be one of next year’s major books. We are extremely lucky to add him to our faculty, and there are still a few spots left in his class. I strongly encourage you to consider making the most of this opportunity to work with him. 

Looking ahead to next summer: I know everyone wants to be back on the Mountain and I want you to know that we do, too. Sewanee successfully completed an in-person undergraduate semester this fall, with extremely few COVID-19 cases and no known incidents of transmission in the classroom itself. The school has developed a rigorous bubble model and testing regime. Sewanee will uphold these standards and build on its successes during the spring term, and with the prospect of a vaccine seeming more realistic by the day, we are increasingly optimistic that we will be able to hold an in-person Summer 2021 session. There are still challenges ahead of us, both known and unknown, and if we learned anything in 2020 it’s that you don’t count your chickens before they hatch, but like I said—we’re optimistic. As always, we will keep you posted and share any new information as soon as we have it. 

Speaking of new information: I’m pleased to report that John Jeremiah Sullivan, Chris Bachelder, and Tiana Clark will all be returning to the School of Letters this summer. They will each be offering a lit class instead of a workshop, so even if you’ve worked with them before you’ll be excited to see what they have on offer. We also welcome back veteran faculty members Mark Rasmussen and Jamie Quatro. Mark, the Charles J. Luellen Professor of English at Centre College, is a Shakespeare scholar whose interests also include literary criticism and theory; he will be offering a lit class. Jamie, the author of the story collection I Want To Show You More and the novel The Fire Sermon, will be leading this summer’s fiction workshop. As you might have noticed, I’m being a little bit cagey about the details of the lit classes, and I haven’t yet mentioned the poetry or nonfiction workshops. All I can tell you right now is stay tuned for more good news. 

I will close by reiterating what I said at the outset: I hope you are all having a good, restful, and safe holiday season, and that there are better things in store for us in the year to come. I hope you are reading a lot and getting some good writing done. As always, if you have any questions about anything I’ve said here, or any feedback you’d like to offer us, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or April. We are here and we’d love to hear from you. 

All Best,


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