Proponents of grief studies take note: Dr. Lynne Simpson is in the building, and she has a lot to say. Dr. Simpson is a professor of English at Presbyterian College who has led students through courses on Shakespeare, women’s and British literature for nearly twenty years. While remaining a well-respected figure of the PC community for a number of reasons, she’s most recently notable for the publication of one of her essays as a chapter in a book called The Power of Death. Her chapter grew out of a paper she presented at “The Carnival of Death: Perceptions of Death in Europe and the Americas” interdisciplinary conference at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study in February of 2011.The piece examines Sigmund Freud’s views on death and grieving and draws from his seminal article Mourning and Melancholia.
Aside from being a brave examination of the cultural consequences of grief and mourning, Dr. Simpson’s research interest began as method of coping with the loss of her mother to breast cancer. This life event subsequently influenced the entire shape of her research. The theme of mourning was also the driving force behind her dissertation which was on the topic of grief and mourning in Shakespeare. In view of her recent work Simpson shares that “This is really a look at Freud’s impact on the entire 20th century and how scientists, cultural critics and therapists have come to terms with dealing with loss.”
One thing that impressed and motivated Dr. Simpson was how Freud recognized the issues of grieving and explored its pathology. He sought to answer the question of how such an inescapable part of the human experience as mourning could make a perfectly healthy person so terribly ill. “[An] interesting thing that I’ve learned is that sometimes grief slides into clinical depression, and it’s hard even to diagnose the difference between [that and] what we would call normal grief.” Interestingly, after submitting her essay, she forgot about it and stumbled upon the news of its publication quite by accident. She recalls how one day she was perusing a book catalogue and was delightfully surprised to find the very book that contained her chapter listed there on the page.
Another recent happening her being elected 2nd vice president of the College English Association. This honor leaves her the responsibility of planning the entire national conference of the association in the near future. “It’s an organization I really love” she says, and she appreciates the both daunting and exciting nature of the opportunity. Since 1938, the College English Association has been a vibrant, growing professional organization of scholar-teachers who regard teaching college students, undergraduate and graduate, as the proper focus of the profession (CEA website).
Never one to rest on her laurels, later this year Dr. Simpson will continue her quest to inspire the masses by leading a Maymester to Germany where she and her students will “read” castles as texts.