Quintessential Kenyon: Student Life, Uncut

5 Benefits of Living in a Literary Environment

Melissa Layton
December 4, 2015

After spending over a year at Kenyon College, it is clear to me that the campus lives up to its reputation as a literary school. The admissions office and English department eagerly promote Kenyon’s history as a literature and writing-focused college and share stories about some of its more accomplished alumni. Their actions are justified, as everyday life in Gambier frequently reflects this literary tradition. Living in an environment that fosters and encourages a passion for literature has allowed me to greatly improve my critical reading and writing skills. However, I have realized that many other benefits come with acceptance to this community, particularly the five listed below.

1. A plethora of writing opportunities

Kenyon students enjoy writing, and the college actively promotes this interest. Searching through the list of student organizations on campus, you will find a wide variety of publications and clubs open to student writers, including Creative Writing Table (a club for students to share their creative pieces), the Collegian (a student-run newspaper), the Kenyon Observer (a political journal), Her Campus Kenyon (an online publication focusing on the interests of college women), the Thrill (a blog for campus news and entertaining commentary), HIKA (a literary and fine-arts journal featuring student work), Persimmons (another literary and art journal of student work), and Project for Open Voices (a publication that strives to give students a place to speak about their personal experiences). This list is not exhaustive, and new groups and publications centered on writing seem to appear each semester. Currently, I write for Her Campus Kenyon, and while I have only been involved in this publication for a semester, I am already glad I joined. Some of my closest friends also write for Her Campus, and it is both inspiring and entertaining to read the articles by my fellow female classmates who write for the website.

The Her Campus Kenyon crew.

2. Frequent conversations about books

Once you move in freshman year, you are bound to befriend someone over a shared love of a particular writer or book. You’ll introduce yourself many times, and often these introductory conversations also will feature explanations of your literary interests. After all, Kenyon students tend to enjoy reading. Two of my friends and I randomly began discussing books during some down time our first year, and as a result, we ended up bonding over our appreciation of the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, which we all happened to read during high school. If you don’t find yourself talking about books in everyday conversations but wish you could, then taking an English class will quickly remedy your situation. Nearly every English course involves group discussions of the texts on a daily basis. Each time you meet for class, you’ll have the chance to analyze, critique and even praise what you’ve read.

3. A literary legacy

You can participate in the college’s literary legacy through various events on campus, especially those hosted by the Kenyon Review. For instance, at the beginning of October, the Kenyon Review presents its annual Literary Festival. The weekend event consists of readings by authors featured in the literary magazine, writing workshops, panel discussions, book sales and a variety of speaking engagements you can attend to learn from famous writers. Being a student at Kenyon also means you have the right to feel some school pride and brag a bit about how impressive the college is. Drawing on our literary legacy, you can tell your family and friends about all the famous writers who graduated from Kenyon, such as E.L. Doctorow ’52, Laura Hillenbrand ’89, Ransom Riggs ’01 and John Green ’00. Personally, I find it exciting to think that these individuals once walked down Middle Path to go to class or drop by Peirce just as I do today.


4. Informative and engaging English classes

Naturally, a reputation as a literary college means Kenyon’s English classes do not disappoint. So far, I have taken three English courses at Kenyon, and I have loved each of them. My introduction to the department as a first-year began with “The Assault of Laughter” and “Texting: Reading Like an English Major” during my first and second semester, respectively. “Assault of Laughter” was a fun, challenging class in which we analyzed humor in texts such as Pride and Prejudice and As You Like It. “Texting” built upon the critical reading and writing skills I developed in my first class and helped prepare me for majoring in English through explanations of literary theory and instructions on how to critique poetry. The class I’m taking currently, “Autobiographical Theory and Practice,” has quickly become my favorite course. Though I never read autobiographies prior this class, I have now acquired an admiration for life writing and realized that I have much to learn about other cultures and people around me. The final project will be especially interesting, as I have chosen to tackle the creative option: writing a bit of my own autobiography. Each semester I improve my skills and obtain a better understanding of the value of majoring in English, which is exactly what I hoped for in Kenyon’s English department. 

5. Harry Potter Day

Every April, the college demonstrates its love of literature (and J.K. Rowling) by dedicating an entire day to everything Harry Potter. Peirce Dining Hall, already known for its Hogwarts-esque Great Hall, hangs banners for each of the Hogwarts Houses. Harry Potter-themed events take place across campus throughout the day, from scavenger hunts and trivia to Quidditch matches and a themed dinner. Students and faculty alike dress up to show their appreciation for the Harry Potter series and this annual Kenyon literary tradition. It’s a great excuse to have fun and take a break from working as the end of the spring semester and finals approach.

Kenyon’s reputation as a literary school caught my attention when I was a high school student searching through piles of college brochures. The promise of a skilled English department spurred me to apply. However, the community of students and faculty who value reading and writing provide many other benefits to living in Gambier and have kept me engaged and grateful to attend Kenyon today.