English Prof. Stefanie Sobelle reflects on pandemic in Los Angeles Review of Books op-ed

Reminiscing in a childhood bedroom may be a familiar act to many during the pandemic. At a time when families across the nation are told to stay inside and socially-distance, many must return home and face old memories while confronting the implications of isolation and detachment.

Headshot of Stefanie Sobelle
English Prof. Stefanie Sobelle

For English Prof. Stefanie Sobelle, reliving experiences from her childhood while staying at her parent’s house allowed her to examine the condition of confinement while engaging in an exercise of literary exploration.

In late May, Sobelle penned an op-ed titled “Around my Room” for the Los Angeles Review of Books, for which she serves as the editor of art and architecture.

In the piece, she begins by observing objects in a room at her parent’s house—a ceramic soap dish in the shape of a boy from summer camp and a muscle car calendar gifted as a valentine—and uses these distant memories to effectively travel while in solitude. Of this internal trip, she writes, “Spring was cancelled this year, and summer isn’t promising, but I can still embark on a significant journey.”

Rodrigo sculpture
Soap dishes made during summer camp

Throughout the article, Sobelle draws parallels between her journey in isolation and that of writer Xavier de Maistre in his book, Voyage Around My Room, which he wrote while in confinement. Sobelle uses de Maistre’s text as a point of comparison to her current state—whether reminiscing about life before quarantine and fantasizing about life after, or observing the differences between the onset of the pandemic and now.

“As our temporary confinements become increasingly long-term, we too may be looking at the rooms in which we find ourselves a bit differently than we did a couple of months ago,” she noted.

Similar to de Maistre, Sobelle employs her imagination—conjuring memories and dreaming about the future—to recall the experiences, people, and places she misses while in quarantine, but still wonders if she will, in fact, miss the solitude once social distancing measures are lifted.

“We all may be finding that this is the trip we are taking this spring—this being at home all the time—and that the time before was the place we really call home,” she said.

Read the article to learn more about Sobelle and her work. Also, her follow-up pandemic project, Decameron Row, was featured in the Arts Roundup for The New York Times.

By Phoebe Doscher ’22
Campus photo by Shawna Sherrell. Headshot and art photo courtesy of English Prof. Stefanie Sobelle.
Posted: 08/12/20