Books may furnish a room, but it’s the shelves that provide the key to happiness. Where books give you all the intensive pleasures of reading and analysis, bookshelves offer the calmer joys of meditation and reflection. Let your eyes drift over the titles, the play of colors, the passing moments of nostalgia or recollection that are tied to every volume. Listen to your mind ordering and reordering ideas, excerpts, quotes, and memories, turning all the old ideas new again in that moment of contemplation. My particular shelves take me from the beginning of English literature to the end (or at least, the present day). I have a cluster of Anglo-Saxon texts—Beowulf, The Battle of Maldon, The Riddles of the Exeter Book—murmuring under their breath in those gruff and slightly threatening tones that come to light in my Old English class. A few shelves of medieval poetry centered around Chaucer and Gawain and the Green Knight, provide the materials for my courses on Arthurian Romance and Courtly Love. And then a range of Renaissance poetry from love sonnets to religious epics, Spenser’s Faerie Queene to Milton’s Paradise Lost, with lots of Shakespeare, John Donne, George Herbert and Andrew Marvell scattered in between. And finally, in pride of place, I have books by my colleagues — Elizabeth Dodd, Katy Karlin, Dan Hoyt, and Traci Brimhall — so that I can maintain some slight grasp on the literature of the present day.
– Kimball Smith, Associate Professor, 19 October 2017