You might not know the following figure—but you should. In Campus Characters, the Blue & White introduces you to a handful of Columbians who are up to interesting and extraordinary things and whose stories beg to be shared. If you’d like to suggest a Campus Character, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. From the current issue, Senior Editor Carolyn Ruvkun profiles Erica Weaver, CC ’12.
Erica Weaver, CC ’12, passionately plunges into the past. The medieval enthusiast speaks Old and Middle English, composes poetry on a typewriter, and studies ancient manuscript writing. She keeps a list of unusual and intriguing words handy: baroque, equinox, wanderer, dastardly, rutabaga, toothsome. Weaver almost always wears flouncy retro dresses. Her stockings sometimes have foxes on them.
And it isn’t an act. You could practically pluck Weaver from a sepia photograph. Though she does seem to live in another world, her friend Danica Damplo, CC ’12, clarifies her nostalgic sensibilities. “Erica prefers to focus on the world of medieval literature as if it is existing at the same time as this one,” Damplo explains. “She’s not completely in another world, but when she does delve, she lives it as if it’s existing.”
“Sometimes I romanticize the past and think I should just live in a monastery,” Weaver wistfully trails off. “But there are lots of modern conveniences,” she concedes. A self-proclaimed Southern girl, Weaver grew up in Norfolk, Virginia immersed in a culture clinging to a problematic past. She enthusiastically relays the equal sense of discovery she feels reading Faulkner and studying medieval manuscripts. “The book in the Middle Ages was such a physical artifact,” she explains, as she illustrates the painstaking process of creating and preserving a manuscript with gestures. Weaver doesn’t just recount stories—she acts them out, adopting the mannerisms of each character.
With the same infectious energy, Weaver creates goofy videos for each of her friends’ birthdays and explains the medieval punctus, a trademark of her writing. The earliest form of punctuation in manuscripts, the medieval punctus serves as an alternative to the hyphen or period by marking an “unspecified turn in the thought process” and adding “more ambiguity to the poetic line.” “But everyone in writer’s house refers to it as the Erica dot,” she jokes.
In spring of 2009, Weaver co-founded a new SIC, the Writers House, to cultivate Columbia’s literary community. Co-founder David Berke, CC ’12, who first met Weaver in Lit Hum, remembers post-class pow-wows that would become the Writers House weekly workshops Weaver now leads. “Not to say that I’m good with poetry, because I’m not,” Weaver insists, “but I started devoting time to questions of craft, line breaks, and punctuation in college.”
Well-versed in Weaver’s prose, Berke vouches for her quiet brilliance. She was “one of those,” Berke recounts, “the ones who picked their spots, and when they do talk everyone listens, and they completely change how everyone thinks about the subject.” Fusing medieval themes with seemingly unrelated subjects, Weaver’s writing incorporates this same understated complexity. “I guess I’m interested in periods of intimacy in public places—when you come into close contact with people you know nothing about.” Weaver explains, “I write a lot about sea-life and archaic medieval things.” Berke, sincerely in awe of her, described their work-life relationship: “It’s strange knowing how brilliant she is.”
Despite her intense devotion to the arcane, Weaver doesn’t fall into the brooding writer stereotype. She is refreshingly silly and admittedly illogical. “I have to devote my life to literature, and that’s probably impractical but it doesn’t matter to me.” A blend of a Southern girl’s social warmth and a writer’s patient craft, there is, as Berke describes it, “a distinctly Erica way of being.”