palimpsest |ˈpaləm(p)ˌsest| noun 

A manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain.

“I guess there has to be room for history with a small ‘h.”
Glenn Ligon

“Storming a breach, conducting an embassy, ruling a nation are glittering deeds. Rebuking, laughing, buying, selling, loving, hating and living together gently and justly with your household—and with yourself—not getting slack and belying yourself is something more remarkable, more rare and more difficult.”
Michel de Montaigne

Students in this year’s Humanities: Literature classes took the initiative to explore important places and non-places in Ann Arbor to learn more about the histories that comprise us, and their pieces are incredible, important, urgent attempts at understanding, empathy, and preservation.

Students used elements of the “theory toolbox”—ideology, subjectivity, queer theory, postmodernism, historiography, and participant-observer research to name a few—to construct the exceptional documents that you will read here and in our published book (if you were lucky enough to get one of the 75 copies). The goal was to provide students with an analytical framework that could be used to make meaning from any text (used in its broadest sense, as places are texts), to get them writing over a long period of time to invest them in the fluidity of the writing process—adding new ideas when they came and revising old ones using feedback, and to provide large-scale space for inquiry-based learning. Students chose their place, they largely chose their format and style, and, of course, they made choices about what to add, what to change, and what to present to our community.

Recording our history is important, careful, and sometimes tedious work, and, as usual, I’m humbled by the wisdom, imagination, creativity, and passion of my students, as they took this project above and beyond even my highest expectations.  They are truly our community’s best representatives, and I’m grateful that our future is in such capable, thoughtful minds.

This website contains all of the essays that wouldn’t fit in our paperback edition. Essays published in the paperback edition of Ann Arbor as Palimpsest include Megan Taylor on the Ann Arbor Quaker Meeting House, Russell Noble on the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Brian Carpenter on Michigan Stadium, Sarah Morris on Frita Batidos, Leo Lofy on West Park, Ella Eliason and Nick Catanzaro on The Rock, Madeline Small on Target, Steph Guyor on Lululemon, Rose Paretti on the Farmers Market, Amanda Wilhoit on Pinball Pete’s, Tasha Potter on the University of Michigan’s Hospital, and Calvin Floyd on the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library. The paperback edition will also feature scannable QR codes with the authors talking about their places and their writing process in greater detail.

Only 75 hand-numbered copies of our paperback will be produced. These copies will be distributed at Literati Bookstore during the Skyline Writing Center’s Teen Spirit Release Party on May 16, 2018.

You can request a paperback copy of Ann Arbor as Palimpsest in case any remain after on the release event on May 16, 2018.

Until our paperback release, read and enjoy the 2017-2018 digital essays.

Jeffrey Austin
Humanities: Literature Instructor