On Friday October 4th, Professor Jeffery Hammond presented a lecture as part of the annual Reeves Endowed Chair in the Liberal Arts Lecture based upon the varying ideas people have about darkness. Joanne Goldwater, the Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life, was at the Lecture to give a welcoming introduction to Hammond. Her kind and generous words of appreciation and admiration towards Hammond captured the audience’s attention as everyone silently awaited the professor to analyze the darkness that surrounds us.
The Reeves Chair was established in 1997 by Wilma Reeves in honor of her husband, George B. Reeves. The chair position distinguishes a celebrated scholar with knowledge in areas such as classical civilization. This honor is given to a teacher at St. Mary’s College of Maryland who demonstrates excellent leadership and academic skills. Since 1990, Hammond has taught at St. Mary’s College of Maryland as a well-known literature professor, specializing in areas such as British, American, biblical, and classical literature. He has published three books in early American Literature, as well as having his creative writing works printed in well-regarded review magazines. Hammond was given the prestigious honor of holding the Reeves Chair beginning in 2001, and has since continued to embody the idea that having strong educational values and limitless generosity will lead to the betterment of the community here at the College.
Hammond presented the idea that nighttime can be perceived as the end of light, the beginning of daytime, or neither. The darkness and daylight are in a continuous cycle of ever-changing levels of brightness. The nighttime gives a sense of “impenetrable darkness”, even though the “window had not been painted black.” Hammond suggested that the Dark Ages always end up as a form of Enlightenment. Similarly to fire, nighttime brings an aura of danger. The idea of fire reinforces intense darkness. To a young child staying outside late into the night, shadows seem to come to life in the mysterious zone of darkness. “Children of darkness long for the night.” The darkness is exhilarating, Hammond explained, but that doesn’t mean we would want to live and stay there permanently. “When night comes, everything will eventually shut down”, and this means that the sun will soon make its appearance.
But in ancient times, when light ascended into darkness, the ignorance becomes too apparent. Darkness is the “absence of light, and it follows its own whims.” Hammond proposed the idea that the people of a few centuries ago believed that demons and evil spirits transformed into Satan, “the ultimate prince of darkness.” With this idea, the night proved to be dangerous and satanic. But, night could “push people in the opposite direction.” As Hammond interpreted darkness as both an end and a beginning to light, he used Thomas Edison as an example to support his theory. Thomas Edison himself had a strong connection with light: he banished darkness by perfecting the light bulb. The sale of such light bulbs was proof of success for Edison, and his “electric lightning spread like wildfire.”
Hammond concluded his lecture by addressing the concept that the nighttime is an ongoing reminder that each day comes to an end. “When has a disturbing lesson such as night be displayed with such beauty?”