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Peter Murphy, Professor of English, Emeritus, to give talk

Wed, March 10th, 2021
7:00 pm
- 8:30 pm

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The Class of 1960 Scholars and the English Department invite you to “In Conversation with Peter Murphy: The Long Public Life of a Short Private Poem: Reading and Remembering Thomas Wyatt,” at 7:00 pm Wednesday, March 10.

Wyatt’s lyric “They Flee From Me” is one of the best-loved poems in English.  Appearing first in a handwritten notebook in 1535, the poem was largely neglected for centuries.  Today it is in every poetry anthology. How did it survive?  Murphy vividly explores the accidents that kept the poem alive across 500 turbulent years.  Wyatt’s poem also allows Murphy to consider why anyone would write such a thing in the first place, and why anyone would care to remember the person who wrote it. From the deadly, fascinating circles of Henry VIII’s court to the contemporary classroom, The Long Public Life of a Short Private Poem explores the cultural politics involved in establishing Wyatt’s lyric as a model of the “best” English literature has to offer.


“Beautifully written and utterly original, Peter Murphy’s study of Wyatt’s ‘They Flee From Me’ as it passes through the hands and minds of readers from the sixteenth century to the present is a profound meditation on how we remember and forget the past, on everything that makes us truly human.” — John Guillory ― New York University


For 35 years, Peter Murphy has been a force at Williams College, both as a much-loved teacher and as Dean of the College and Dean of the Faculty.  He has written widely on some of the big questions in Romanticism and 18th century British literature, and has, more recently, taught a celebrated course on comic books and graphic storytelling.  He retired from Williams College last July. 


Our event is free and open to the public. 



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