Professor Jeff Nunokawa Inspires Students

As the first guest speaker for the Nalen Writing Program, Professor Jeff Nunokawa of Princeton University, brightened campus on Thursday and Friday, February 7 and 8, with his energetic presence, passion for writing, and extensive knowledge of literature. The Nalen Writing Program was founded in 2018 by Skip Nalen ’48, P’79, GP’13, ’15, to enhance the English department’s writing curriculum.

Professor Nunokawa received a B.A. from Yale University, a Ph.D. from Cornell University, and is currently a professor of English at Princeton and the Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English. He is a published writer of many works, including The Afterlife of Property: Domestic Security and the Victorian Novel and Tame Passions of Wilde: The Styles of Manageable Desire. He is also widely known and praised for his personal and critical essays, posted daily on Facebook since 2007, many of which are compiled in his book, Note Book.

During his two days on campus, Professor Nunokawa visited and spoke with eight Lower Middle English classes and one Honors Senior English class, had lunch with students, and explored campus, conversing with many members of the community. Mr. Tyler Gardner, head of the English department, wanted to bring Professor Nunokawa to school because of his ability to connect with students, accessibility to students of all ages, mastery of the “Daily Themes” essay form, and love for the study of English. Professor Nunokawa taught Mr. Gardner and served as his graduate school thesis advisor at the Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English. Mr. Gardner said, “Every single time I’ve taken a class with him or worked with him, I could just sit there and listen to him for hours. The energy was always so positive and so good and so real to me that I really didn’t care what he was saying. It was just that the guy wanted to listen to you and he wanted to be there.”

On Thursday evening, Professor Nunokawa addressed the Lower Middle class and discussed his practice of daily writing, his current work, poetry, fear, love, the art of close reading and descriptive writing, and connecting with others through writing. He shared several of his Facebook essays, along with many words of wisdom and moments of laughter. Professor Nunokawa encouraged students to experience the impactful act of writing daily. He said, “The beauty of writing is how every moment, before every comma, at the end every end of every sentence, you don’t have to know. That’s the great part…. It’s the fact that you quite don’t know what’s going to come. That’s what makes life and writing worth living.”

Professor Nunokawa spread his passion for the written word across campus and inspired students to practice the arts of reading and writing. Sophie Flinn ’21 said, “[Professor Nunokawa] was super energetic and inspired me to want to write everyday in order to improve my writing and overall discipline.”

Mr. Gardner said, “[I hope that students take away] his energy, his love of writing, and his love of everything that he does – his passion.”