Friday, September 24, 2010

"You that shall cross from shore to shore years hence . . . "

I'm still a member of the union that represents adjunct teachers at the university where I taught and received my doctorate, and I still get the union paper.  It came in the mail yesterday, and featured an article on urban studies, an interdisciplinary field that uses the the suchess of the city itself to teach various subjects.  I loved reading about an English professor who teaches a course called "Literature of the City" (wouldn't you love to take that course?) and leads her students on a foot journey across the Brooklyn Bridge when the class reads "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry."  She said about one such outing:  "The students felt connected to [Whitman] through crossing this water. . . They felt like they were walking in his footsteps.  They were ecstatic and smiling from ear to ear."

The park at Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn has a series of railings inscribed with the text of "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry."  The professor described her students' reaction to seeing Whitman's words made public and worked into the architecture of the place where the ferries used to arrive and set out:  "Students were incredibly moved by seeing his words -- words they had read -- there on a wall . . . they ran their hands along the words as if they were somehow Whitman's own imprint, evidence of his having been there."

I thought this was incredibly moving, too.  I will be in Brooklyn this weekend for a family gathering, and may try to make it over to the Fulton Ferry Landing park.

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