The Best Nest: Professor Knuth Klenck

Eliza Graham

Professor of English Deborah Knuth Klenck’s office on the third floor of Lathrop Hall is bright and airy yet heavy with meaning. The high walls contain towering rows of full bookshelves that hold not only Professor Klenck’s myriad volumes but also photos of her family and other significant personal mementos. On either end of the wall that forms the corner of the office are two high windows that let in streams of light; they balance the visual heaviness of the book-lined wall. On these corner walls are also prints of London, which Professor Klenck tells me reflect her years leading the London study group. Last year, Professor Klenck moved from her office on the third floor of Lawrence Hall, which had been much larger, to this new space. During the moving process, she sold and gave away a number of books but also ended up inheriting a few works from the late Professor Goerge Hudson. Though the office is still relatively new, Professor Klenck has already steeped the space in material reminders of memories from her years of teaching.

1. How does your office reflect your personal style?

I think of my office more as reflecting my career. These posters reflect my London study group phase; I led six study groups. My office has my degrees on the wall, of course. My portrait of Lord Reith reflects my love of the BBC radio. I used to use radio dramas in one of my classes on the London study group. The presence and proximity of my reference works are crucial to my work as well. I use them often, and make use of my rolling chair to just slide over and grab them.

2. Tell me about one particularly important item in your office.

One is the step stool my husband gave me when I switched offices. My new office has high shelves, so it’s useful. The stool is oak, which matches the faux-oak paneling in the office. Another is a postcard that is probably about 25 years old, that Professor Hudson sent me from England. It portrays two floating sheep and refers to the line about “Pastures new” from the end of Milton’s pastoral elegy Lycidas.

3. Where do you get your inspiration?

My father. He just died in January. He was a chemical engineer, although he didn’t want to be. After retirement, he became a volunteer book-discussion leader at his local library, and he put together a syllabus every year and consulted me on it. He did this for 18 years. That’s what he wanted to do – in my professional life, I got to do what he was only able to do as a hobby. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.

Contact Eliza Graham at [email protected]