‘Cat in the Stacks: A Tale as Old as Time
I’m William Repetto, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your ‘cat. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey Memorial Library’s role.
We, here at the Falvey marketing and communication team, celebrated an important birthday last week. It wasn’t our team’s birthday and neither was it the birthday of one of our own. The birthday we celebrated was the 25th anniversary of Disney’s 1991 instant classic Beauty and the Beast.
Following the original release of Beauty and the Beast, impressed critics praised Disney for the marriage of modern entertainment quality with classic themes and tropes. You can read some early responses to the film on the Falvey Memorial Library’s databases – including these two from the Historical New York Times and the Historical Washington Post.
As we prepare now for a live-action reboot of the classic tale, and simultaneously prepare for the end of the fall term, I would like to unpack some of the lessons that Beauty and the Beast contains for our place in the semester.
The beginning versus the ending of a story is always of critical importance. The story of Belle begins in a small provincial town and ends up in a large castle; put simply, the scale of Belle’s lifestyle radically increases.
Our classes in a typical semester function in much the same way. We start small – with a crucial definition, with an introductory text. Then, our scope expands; we read complex texts, full novels. At this point in the semester we are asked to construct the largest project of them all: the term paper.
Like Belle, our fall semester story builds from small, provincial-sized information to large, sometimes baroque books. These last weeks of the semester can sometimes look ugly, which brings us to our next theme: appearance versus reality.
This theme perhaps needs no explanation in Beauty and the Beast. But for those who need a refresher, the beast is, in fact, a handsome prince who an enchantress has cursed for his own wickedness. Belle sacrifices her own freedom for the freedom of her father, and while imprisoned she discovers the loving gentlemen below the hideous exterior of the beast, thus breaking the curse.
These final weeks of the semester can seem like a curse. The workload piles up and finals follow more term papers that themselves follow other finals. Beauty and the Beast, however, reminds us to look for the reality underneath the ugly exterior that can be visualized on our daily planners and Outlook calendars.
Below the overloaded syllabi and hours spent behind the keyboard typing away at our latest masterpieces resides the true spirit of the college education. The feeling of accomplishment that greets us at the finish line is inspiring for sure, but I think more than just that feeling underwrites the last weeks of the semester.
Like Belle’s relationship with the beast, I think that love underwrites the final weeks of the semester. Usually not romantic love, but love for a topic, love for a profession, the love of learning and writing, these loves motivate us for the final weeks of the semester. Perhaps for some, even a love for the library keeps them going.
Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes.
Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.
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