Small Demon
Aug 262009
 

Clarkson held its Convocation — our opening ceremony — last night and I marched in with the rest of the faculty (to bagpipes blaring!)  wearing full academic regalia, something I never did until I came to Clarkson, where they bought my gown and hood for me when I received tenure. The speaker was James Ransom, a Clarkson grad and the elected Chief  of the Akwesasne Mohawk tribe. He structured his talk around our summer reading book for this year, Sherman Alexie’s Flight, a book I didn’t like all that much, though I’m an admirer of Alexie’s work in general. I thought the novel too didactic, which actually turned out to be appropriate for that most didactic of forms, the address to the entering class. Ransom gave a wonderfully articulate reading of the story that, incidentally, taught the literature professors in the audience a thing or two, in which he invoked the hero’s journey and the ghost dance in order to offer advice to the incoming class. Occasionally I thought he tended a little too much toward a Chamber of Commerce / Kiwanis vibe, toward what William James called “healthy-mindedness.” But then I would think that, given my own “sophisticated” and post-modern perspective.