March 24, 2020
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Lyceum, Kenyon’s newest student literary journal, was a runaway hit. The editors of the new science writing publication printed 150 copies, which quickly vanished into the hands of curious, excited members of the Kenyon community.
“I felt bad because I kept on telling people I would give them a copy and then we ran out,” Miriam Hyman ’21 said.
Hyman, along with Sarah McPeek ’19, Anu Muppirala ’19 and Graham Ball ’21, founded the publication. The debut issue featured creative nonfiction, poetry and artwork by Kenyon students, all focused on science and the natural world. Standouts include “Morbid Christmas,” an essay by McPeek about dissecting an American kestrel; an interview with Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Gabriel Lubell, who also holds a master’s degree in astronomy; and humorous comics by Rand Burnette ’21. The work in Lyceum emphasizes both the scientific and the creative, two concepts the publication’s editors believe to be incredibly fluid.
“We interact with science in a very human, personal way, and then oftentimes it’s presented as very objective and separate from ourselves and our experiences,” Hyman said.
A literary science journal at Kenyon has been a long time coming, according to Lyceum’s founders. In fact, McPeek attempted to start one during the 2017-2018 school year, inspired in part by a science writing course she took through the Department of English. She assembled a group of writers, but the project failed to take off. The interest remained, however, and in the fall of 2018 a new team came on board. This time, they turned their focus toward the creative work that students were already producing for classes and as a hobby.
“That was just really cool, to see what everyone kind of already had,” Muppirala said. “The little secret artist in someone, or the secret poet in someone.”
Once content for the magazine was assembled, the rest of the publication process happened quickly. Originally, the team underestimated the price of printing copies and McPeek covered Lyceum’s printing costs out of pocket. The Department of Biology then reimbursed her, with professors praising the project.
In addition to providing a platform for students already interested in science, the founders of Lyceum hope to connect with people who may feel isolated or intimidated by the discipline. McPeek, Hyman and Muppirala all agreed that there is a divide between the sciences and the humanities at Kenyon.
“There’s a chasm, almost, between the two. And this magazine is trying to prove or show that that doesn’t really exist. That it’s something that we have constructed socially, that it doesn’t really have any reality in how we interact with science,” Hyman said.
Muppirala emphasized the importance of making science accessible to a wider audience.
“It’s so important to always step back and realize that there’s a world outside of you and know how to communicate your science to other people,” Muppirala added.
Going forward, the founders of Lyceum hope to publish more content that is submitted to them directly via their email address (lyceum [at] kenyon [dot] edu). They plan to release a new issue once a semester, with content also being posted online. For those who were too late to pick up a hard copy, pieces from the first issue are available now at their site.
Although McPeek and Muppirala will graduate this spring, the two have high hopes for the future of Lyceum, adding that many first years have joined to help with the publication.
“We have so many students who love science but don’t get to share that with others,” McPeek said, “so this can hopefully be their space to do that, whatever that looks like.”