FM's Premiere Office Dialogue

Two professors judge each other by their offices

Sarah P. Law

Office of Joseph C. Harris

William R. Allan, Assistant Professor of the Classics

and

Joseph C. Harris, Francis Lee Higginson Professor of

English Literature and Professor of Folklore

Harris on Allan

Office decoration philosophy: I conclude that this person, female, has exquisite taste and a rigorous and logical sense of order. Her first rule is clarity; second, no clutter; third, despite rules one and two, the order established must not be bloodless or inhumane; fourth, you must make do with Harvard-issue standard materials (lamp, i-book, other desk furnishings) so that the challenge is to make rules 1-3 operate even under the circumstances of rule 4.

Hometown: Perugia or Milano.

Department: Classics, no cross-appointment.

Tenure? Not yet, but it is to be hoped.

Alma Mater: If American, perhaps Swarthmore or maybe Oberlin (but my intuition is still Italian).

Lecturing style: Impassioned.

Grading Style: No clutter in grading either. Simple integers: A,B,C.

Grade Inflation—reality or myth? Economical.

Favorite building to teach in: Boylston.

Published books: One, in press.

Works mainly in office or at home? Mainly at Harvard with occasional trips to Bellagio.

Most influential philosopher or thinker: Benedetto Croce.

Version of the good life: I don’t think the person would admit to having a “version of the good life” (sounds too much like an Italian movie from the 1960s), but despite the elegant picture I have constructed so far, I think this person also likes hiking and such. Don’t ask me why.

Most noticeable neurosis or idiosyncracy: Perhaps a very mild obsessive-compulsive concern with dirt.

Favorite ice-cream flavor: A gelato, for sure, probably one from nuts.

Typical Friday night: Dress in black, meet a few friends, go to see “Highway Ulysses” again—or now to “Chess.”

Last movie seen: The Hours, I guess.

Favorite restaurant in the Square: Casablanca.

Favorite store in the Square: Harvard Bookstore.

Currently reading: I think one (semi-)professional book, say, something about the sacrifice of women in Greek drama and also a novel, perhaps Süsskind’s Das Parfüm (in German).

In the CD player: Still trying to understand Eminem.

Allan on Allan

Office decoration philosophy: Minimalist. Keep it simple, don’t give anything away, or students will exploit your weaknesses. Typical example—Student: “Oooh, is that a Cézanne landscape? I love Cézanne. Can you change my C+ to an A-?” Me: “Fuck off.” Also, avoid mixing pastels with autumnal hues. Moose heads are to be avoided.

Hometown: Bowhill (Fife), Scotland.

Department: Classics (a.k.a. The Classics)

Tenure? No, thanks, I’m busy.Alma Mater: Edinburgh/Oxford.

Lecturing Style: Effervescent.

Grading Style: Evil bastard.

Grade Inflation—reality or myth? Insightful question! An A+!!

Favorite building to teach in: The MAC.

Published books: Three (buy! buy! buy!).

Work mainly in office or at home? Home.

Most influential philosopher or thinker: David Hume or Henrik Larsson.

Version of the good life: Score winning goal for Scotland in World Cup final. Save the whale. Win Nobel Prize for watching “NYPD Blue. “ Get to sing duet (“Thunder Road”) with the Boss, despite inability to sing.

Most noticeable neurosis or idiosyncracy: Stalker/serial killer (probably).

Favorite ice-cream flavor: Raspberry with chocolate sauce.

Typical Friday night: Plotting dire vengeance upon my foes.

Last movie seen: The Bourne Identity (crap, Prague is NOT Paris).

Favorite restaurant in the Square: Casablanca.

Favorite store in the Square: Schoenhof’s

In the CD player: Arab Strap: The Red Thread.

Allan on Harris

Office Decoration Philosophy: Beautiful AND organized. Yes, now I feel ashamed at my own laziness. Mea culpa.

Hometown: Ogallala, Nebraska.

Department: Germanic/Slavonic.

Tenure? Harvard tenures people?

Alma mater: Including some time in (Eastern) Europe.

Lecturing Style: Serious, but fun.

Grade Inflation—reality or myth? This is Harvard.

Grading Style: Firm, but fair.

Favorite building to teach in: Augsburg Café.

Published books: No idea, but I bet they’re good.

Work mainly in office or at home? Harvard. This is a working office.

Most influential philosopher or thinker: Many.

Version of the good life: The sign on the door says it all: ‘Free Palestine! Stop War on Iraq!’

Most noticeable neurosis or idiosyncracy: Likes to group books by colour of cover.

Favorite ice-cream flavor: Mango with pecan sprinkles (ok, that’s a long shot).

Typical Friday night: Having fun.

Last movie seen: Something with subtitles.

Favorite restaurant in the Square: Casablanca.

Favorite store in the Square: Schoenhof’s.

Currently reading: “Beowulf” (in Czech translation).

In the CD player: Mahler’s second symphony.

Harris on Harris

Office Decoration Philosophy: “Decorating?” And “office?” Offices are for work.

Hometown: Columbus, Georgia.

Department: English and Folklore and Mythology.

Tenure? How else would a medievalist/folklorist be here?

Alma mater: UGA—that is, Univ. of Georgia, you know, the one with the bulldog.

Lecturing Style: Nervously sedate.

Grade Inflation—reality or myth? A myth, that is a greater truth.

Grading Style: Careful, detailed up to the end, then blindly liberal.

Favorite building to teach in: Barker Center.

Published books: Nothing for the coffee table, only articles from the coalface.

Work mainly in office or at home? Harvard is home.

Most influential philosopher or thinker: Jimmy Carter.

Version of the good life: A world governed by multilateral cooperation or in any case not by George W. Bush.

Most noticeable neurosis or idiosyncracy: Pathologically shy.

Favorite ice-cream flavor: Never touch the stuff.

Typical Friday night: Work.

Last movie seen: Ich denke oft an Piroschka.

Favorite restaurant in the Square: Casablanca.

Favorite store in the Square: I guess Harvard Bookstore is still there, no?

Currently reading: About ten books which will never be finished and one, Mary Beard’s The Invention of Jane Harrison, which will.

In the CD player: Bartók’s “Bluebeard’s Castle.”

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