Office of Public Affairs
(315) 312-2265
Nov. 6, 2002
CONTACTS: Dr. Thomas Loe, 312-2630
Randy Fromm, 343-7181
OSWEGO -- You might call it an uncanny coincidence. SUNY Oswego Professor Tom Loe, coordinator of the English department's graduate program, calls it "the epitome of what learner-oriented experiences have to offer."
In 1909, Joseph Conrad wrote "The Secret Sharer," based in part on an incident aboard the Cutty Sark. In 1957, Queen Elizabeth opened a permanent exhibition of the historic tea clipper in a dry dock at Greenwich. In 2000, Loe encouraged a graduate student, Randy Fromm of Oswego, to apply his term paper ideas about the role of the uncanny in Gothic literature to Conrad's story. In 2001, the thesis adviser of a friend of Fromm's at England's University of Greenwich began organizing a conference on "The Persistence of the Gothic."
It all came together last month at the Greenwich conference when Fromm and Loe made a joint presentation on the concept of the uncanny in "The Secret Sharer," complete with photos of the Cutty Sark -- not far from where the ship that inspired Conrad is docked.
"For me, it was the first ever academic presentation," Fromm said. "This really is the ground of learning. The place where the rubber meets the road, particularly in the liberal arts and sciences, is in research. The only way you learn research is to work with someone who has done it."
In their explorations so far, Fromm and Loe have begun defining a subgenre of Gothic literature called seafaring Gothic, Fromm said. They are now planning joint presentations on works by Herman Melville and Edgar Allan Poe at future international conferences, he said.
Meanwhile, their first presentation was among the papers submitted to Manchester University Press from the conference and is currently being considered for publication, Loe said.
The campus community got a taste of the study at SUNY Oswego's Quest symposium last spring, when Fromm made a presentation on his share of the work.
Fromm is the second student Loe has collaborated with on research. Loe said he offered to work with any of the graduate students in his fall 2000 Gothic fiction seminar on a longer project because of that positive earlier experience.
"Teamwork on a project seems to me to generate much more energy and far-ranging insight than a person can hope to do on his or her own," Loe said. "The process of working closely on a developed scholarly project with a like-minded individual is an especially significant and rewarding learning experience -- and all too rare."
An instructor and trainer for the nuclear industry, Fromm grew up in Los Alamos, where his father was a theoretical physicist and his mother an artist. He first pursued his bachelor's degree in mathematics at Oswego. He has returned years later for graduate work in English. "Literature has always been my overwhelming love," he explained.
Through evening courses, his master's work proceeds slowly, but he said that's the way he likes it: "If I had my choice, I'd never end it."
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