Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Illinois Department of English Blog


Welcome to the Department of English blog.

My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at

Monday, October 18, 2010

New Richard Powers story in the The New Yorker

The October 18th edition of The New Yorker features a lovely, thought-provoking short story by our own Richard Powers. The story is called "To the Measures Fall," and (as the mini-abstract at The New Yorker's website has it), it centers around "an American woman’s lifelong re-readings of an obscure English novel she discovered in the Costwolds while on a junior year abroad."

That really does not do the piece justice. It is also about the mysterious and idiosyncratic way some literature happens to grab us, about the way our investments in books can be isolating as well as sustaining, about the way our reading of a book can change over time, and about the interplay between our investments in narrative and the unfurling of our own experiences as narrative.

Also, as a Shakespearean, I am contractually obligated to point out that the title of the story--which is also the title of the obscure English novel that the American woman reads--comes from near the end of As You Like It, where the old Duke tells everyone to dance and partake of the "rustic revelry" associated with the play's happy ending:

Meantime, forget this new-fall'n dignity
And fall into our rustic revelry.
Play, music! And you, brides and bridegrooms all,
With measure heap'd in joy, to the measures fall.

I'll let you, dear reader, arrive at your own conclusions as to what this allusion signifies. But in any event you should definitely go read the story. If you have a subscription you can get it online here. Otherwise, look it up!

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