The Metaphysical Writing on the Wall (and Desks)

Harvard Graffiti

What's the lure of graffiti? Simple.

First of all, there's the private thrill of defacing someone else's property in a small way. Especially at Harvard, where the enormity of the institution can feel overwhelming and alienating, writing graffiti can be a way of striking a small blow against the system.

Second, desk-scribblers can be honest and anonvmous at the same time. While the candid outbursts that frequently appear in graffiti must be repressed in polite company, inhibitions can burst free onto a clean tabletop. A cruel jibe, a private fear, or a happy confession of love finds an appreciative audience in the readers of the desk or bathroom wall--but the author can choose to remain safely unknown.

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The scrawls provide any paper-writer or exam-crammer with an entertaining study-break. Often, readers' minds turn to love, as in this Lamont Library exchange:


"I love Vicky."

"I still love Vicky."

"I hate Vicky. I love Lucy."

"I want someone to love me."

"I love Ben (and Billy)."

"Incest is relative."

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Sometimes, students are inspired by more immediate concerns and use the campus library desks as a forum for their feelings of despair about the rising tide of workload:

"You cannot leave until you finish this paper."

"Help! I'm being held prisoner at this desk!"