Letters to the Editor - Correspondence with Sarah Lawrence Magazine
Louis and the Vets
As a junior transfer student from another college for women, I was surprised to be in a Sarah Lawrence class with “the first vets” (1947-1949) (“Coeducation,” Spring 2006). I remember there was some apprehension on campus about both transfer students (females) and the vets (males). I, for one, was glad they came to the College.
I remember one particular instance of how three vets changed the direction and tone of a Renaissance literature course for about seven students, bringing their more global experience to the table. High spirited, boisterous laughter rocked the Louis Barrillet Shakespeare seminar as the use of double entendre and the flow of sexual meanings embedded in the Bard’s language were not only recognized but openly acknowledged and enjoyed by the vets. A bond grew between the male vets and the male professor. The guys didn’t know how to or didn’t dare explain the hidden humor, although the words “euphemism” and, occasionally, “metaphor” were mentioned. Most of the rest of us, although lovers of language and word play, and comparatively liberated women, were nonetheless sexually naive, unplucked flowers (this, after all, was before The Pill). It didn't matter how hard we tried—we just didn't get it.
I had not recalled this “Shakespearience” for a long time. Now as a septuagenarian approaching octogenarianhood (born in 1928, the year SLC was founded), the memory surfaced, as well it might since I am making revisions on an unusual manuscript which must have had its seeds planted more than fifty years ago. Illustrated with somewhat peculiar 16th and 17th century engravings, this work is a kind of saucy compilation and arrangement of words and images, bursting with Bardelicious wordplay, body and bawdy language, including ancient proverbs and phrases translated from foreign tongues with anatomically related meanings used by Shakespeare and other linguists who were masters of the art of body talk. Olde blank verse mixes with a bit of my own New Blank Verse (punning on my surname)—the classic contrasting with the contemporary to, hopefully, create a mischievous kind of reading and viewing experience (Shakespearience 101), presented with love and humor for the mutual pleasure of open-minded men and women.
It took me a half century before I found myself, like Louis and the Vets, In Bed with Shakespeare.
Joan Epstein Gill Blank ’49 Key Biscayne, FL