That picture above is of the Winthrop House dining room, which is located in Gore Hall. I chose to feature it because the dining room will play an important role in tonight’s chapter.
Gore Hall is one of the two buildings that compose Winthrop House, the other being Standish Hall. To be technically correct, some Winthrop House students have been housed on DeWolfe Street nearby in recent years, but that wasn’t the case in 1973 as best I can tell so we’ll ignore DeWolfe for this story.
As for Gore and Standish, both were built in the same year, 1912, as freshman dorms. They were coupled together as John Winthrop House in 1931, one of the seven original Harvard houses in which students reside from sophomore through senior years.
It’s important to keep in mind that there were no female residents of Winthrop House back in 1973 as Harvard and Radcliffe had yet to formally merge. Only young men lived at Winthrop and I assume they were as testosterone-crazed back then as now.
As pictured above, Gore contains the Winthrop House dining hall in a below-street-level space at its center. In the corresponding spot, Standish Hall contains the Winthrop House Library, which holds the largest private collection of John Singleton Copley portraits. You can see some of those in the image of the library I linked to.
As you’ll recall, we met our main character, Lane Bailey, last week. He’s a young Teaching Fellow in History at Harvard who is about to get his doctorate and graduate . He works for Professor Samuel Jeffords, who we’ve met earlier in Connected (when he was teaching at Williams College) and The Opened Door (where we learned more about him at the end of his memorable teaching career).
In this story we won’t run into Professor Jeffords very much although he does play a key role at one point. Suffice it to say that he’s new to teaching at Harvard, having apparently just arrived from Williams. But he’s already an inspirational figure for both graduate students like Lane and undergraduates like Paul Miller, a junior who lives at Winthrop House and happens to be one of Lane’s students.
From last week’s chapter we learned that Lane is homosexual and has a crush on Paul, his brightest student. It’s something he struggles with and that can be confusing for him at times.
For example, Lane deliberately gave a low grade to Paul on his research paper in order to spark a discussion of the topic with his youthful charge. Once that discussion had taken place, Lane promptly changed the grade to reflect its true worth.
Whether that’s a good way to engage a student in a discussion of his work is hard to say, but it seemed to have the desired effect; that is, to make Paul think more deeply about his research.
But it also made Lane think about what he had done and why. He understands he likes Paul a lot, but doesn’t seem to know how to balance teaching and his personal life. It’s 1973 after all and he’s young so it’s not like he can just come out and tell Paul the truth.
Later, after spending some time at Widener Library preparing to defend his dissertation, Lane headed back to his room in Conant Hall. He ran into a fellow graduate student and we learned that Lane is searching for (but hasn’t yet found) a job. He ended up naked in bed fantasizing about Paul.
Kind of sad, don’t you think? But probably not all that unusual for the time.
We didn’t have as large a turnout for Chapter 1 as I was hoping for this past week, which was disappointing; but it is what it is and there’s nothing much I can do about that. I’m really dependent on you to spread the word to your friends and acquaintances about my stories. I hope you’ll do that.
In any event, we’ll learn a bit more about both Lane and Paul this week in Chapter 2, which I’ve now posted. I hope you’ll enjoy it. It tries to capture what I hope it was like at Harvard back in the 1970s. But this is fiction after all so it’s hard to be certain about anything.