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The Boulder

Connie Campbell Berry '67

First Person

First Person

is a regular feature of DePauw Magazine, which is published three times a year.

I fell in love twice at DePauw.

The second time – my senior year – love crept in gradually. I recently had returned from my junior semester abroad, and my plans included more travel, then graduate school. The last thing I expected to find that year was a husband and life partner. Life is like that. The events that shape us are recognized best in hindsight.

But not always.

The first time I fell in love, the sensation struck with the force of an epiphany. Autumn of my sophomore year. Fred Bergmann’s survey course in 18th-century English literature. Second floor of Asbury Hall, the classroom at the end of the corridor.

We’d been reading portions of Fanny Burney’s diary, a gossipy, often scandalous portrait of the literary and intellectual life of late 18th-century London. Bergmann was at his best, clearly relishing his lecture; as he spoke, I got the impression that time was folding back on itself. My fellow students – even Bergmann – seemed to dissolve, and I was there, listening with my own ears to Alexander Pope’s wicked commentary on London society; watching the near-sighted Dr. Johnson bend over a book, his eyelashes almost touching the page, leaning close as the elegant, vivacious Hester Thrale whispered her passion for her daughter’s Italian music teacher. On that day I began a lifelong love affair with the language, literature and history of the British Isles.

Recently I read an article about researchers from Trinity College Dublin who demonstrated the existence of a new form of light. The initial paragraph, with its talk of angular momentum, quantum effects and Planck’s constant, lost me completely. But one paragraph caught my eye. It had to do with the bending of light as it passes from one material into another. My years at DePauw bent the trajectory of my life, both personally and professionally. The light within me was fanned and focused by professors who challenged my thinking, encouraged my writing skills and nurtured my passion for all things British.

I made it to graduate school after all, typing my thesis on Shakespeare’s comedies seated at a child-sized table while my toddlers entertained themselves in our basement playroom. And I’ve traveled, too – all over the globe. The British Isles will always be my favorite destination. The past lives there, visibly in the cultural landscape, but even more so in my imagination. Wherever I go, time folds back on itself, and I hear again those voices brought to life long ago by professor Bergmann.

Today I write mysteries set in the British Isles. In each, the past plays a central role. I’m grateful for my years at DePauw, first for my husband, but also for Bergmann and the faculty of the English department who helped set the direction of my life.

Berry is the author of the Kate Hamilton Mystery series. Crooked Lane Books published “A Dream of Death” in April 2019 and “A Legacy of Murder” in October. Berry, who is married to Bob Berry ’68, has two other books in the works.
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