Stephanie A. Smith, a full Professor in the English Department, used her 2015-2016 Rothman Faculty Summer Fellowship to research and begin drafting a novel entitled STILL ICE. The novel tells the story of Cody Hoving, CEO of a soft robotics company, who inherits property on Martha’s Vineyard after the death of his estranged grandfather. The title of the novel refers to how waves freeze still off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard during very cold winters, and visually captures many themes of the novel including immobility, anxiety, fragility, mortality, and the significance of place.
The inspiration for STILL ICE began as a short story called “Winter Studio, 1901,” which was commissioned by the Harn Museum of Art for their Monet and American Impressionism catalog. The story is narrated by Irene Hendricks Hoving, who is the great-great grandmother of Cody and was an accomplished Impressionist painter. Irene tragically drowns at the age of the thirty-six off of Gay Head, Massachusetts. Cody contemplates selling his inherited property but becomes fascinated and preoccupied by the legacy of his family on the island, especially the story of Irene and her art. Cody decides to keep the property and dig into his family’s history on the island, which raises issues about Cody’s own past and the future he imagines for himself.
With the assistance of the Rothman Faculty Summer Fellowship, Dr. Smith was able to travel to the Noëpe Center for the Literary Arts located on Martha’s Vineyard. Her residence at the Center allowed for periods of uninterrupted writing, collaborative discussions with other writers-in-residence, as well as additional research into biotechnology and cultural geography. Most importantly, Dr. Smith’s time on Martha’s Vineyard embedded her in the space of her novel’s story. Writing in a particular space, one imbued with layers of history and culture, helped to shape abstract space into inhabited place. The intersection of family legacy, Martha’s Vineyard, and Cody’s own ethical dilemmas are the core of the novel; a core unimaginable without a full sense of place.
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