Friday, January 15, 2016

Who’s Who: Charles Dudmer

The powder room for men at the nameless Catholic Montana Women's College is at the residence of this individual [Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies; 75].

Whomever Charles Dudmer was is mostly irrelevant – maybe an in-joke reference to someone Bellairs knew in Chicago, maybe not.  If anyone wants to investigate that angle...go for it.

As for us, we're going to kick-off our look at the chapters of Saint Fidgeta and turn our attention to what John was doing in the immediate proceeding years. Prior to the book’s publication he taught briefly at the now-closed College of Saint Teresa in Winona, Minnesota. This was an all-girls school where Bellairs taught English composition, participated in productions put on by the college drama department, and received “divine” inspiration for chapter 7, the “The Easter Address to the Faculty by the President of a Catholic Women's College”.

Norbert Geier, the Chairman of the English Department during the 1964-65 school year, does not recall Bellairs' attitude toward teaching during this time, suggesting that because it was his first full-time position he probably engaged in it with some enthusiasm. John Murphy, a member of the college faculty from 1960-65, echoes these sentiments saying on the whole Bellairs was interested in and dedicated to his teaching – even though he did try assigning Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles to one of his classes without success.

Charles Bowen, John's long-time friend from his days at Notre Dame and one who helped us understand scenes from the book, explained to us that the employment of male faculty by Catholic women's colleges was not an utterly new idea in the early 60s: but "[t]he idea that the fictitious college in John's piece is just getting around to providing toilet facilities for its male faculty, and that they are located in a residence at some indeterminate distance from the campus, is not to be taken literally. However, it provides a satiric look at the attitudes of the local matriarchy, and in that sense it probably does represent a genuine reaction on John's part to a genuine lack of empathy on the college's."

The chapter is mostly a satire on the provincialism found in the overprotective Catholic women's colleges of the era and how they were seemingly always run by one powerful nun with a dominant personality and dictatorial powers.

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