Talking With: Gina Barreca ’79

Gina Barreca ’79, humorist, best-selling author, and professor of English at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, presents “Enduring Winter Carnival: Babes In Snowland” on Friday, February 11, at 4 p.m. in the 1902 Room of Baker Library. The talk, as well as the reception and book signing that follow in Baker Library Main Hall, are sponsored by the Friends of the Dartmouth College Library.

Gina Barreca ’79 offers her own perspective on Winter Carnival at a talk, reception, and book signing on February 11. (Courtesy of Gina Barreca)

Barreca spoke with Dartmouth Now prior to her visit.

Once Upon a Time: Barreca, who wrote an introduction to Winter Carnival: A Century of Dartmouth Posters (Dartmouth College Press/University Press of New England, 2010), describes Dartmouth’s Carnival posters as “true ephemera: made by and for students, just this once, part of a perpetual present.” Students, she suggests, have a habit of believing that things are “only theirs; it’s only later you recognize that you’re part of a larger tradition. That’s what makes it interesting.”

Drawn In: The notion of Carnival broadly speaking—as a time of misrule—is a very old one, Barreca points out, and “well timed to put long dark nights to good use.”

Barreca remembers her student Winter Carnivals as full of “great bands, parties with free food, and lots of new people—people who wanted to come to Hanover in the winter.”

Since those days, Barreca says she’s “realizing more and more that the College exerts a pull.” And not just on Dartmouth students. Barreca recalls meeting a mother and daughter at a speaking engagement; both were graduates of Mt. Holyoke, she recalls, “and both had come up to Hanover for Carnival as ‘dates.’ The thing is,” she continues, “they have a real claim on the place thanks to the event; it’s their Dartmouth, too.”

Walking in winter: “One of my happiest Dartmouth memories is walking to dinner from the Choates, in late February,” Barreca says. “It was finally still light at 6 p.m., and that was so cheering after a winter spent just starving for the light.” Not that walking was easy, though, given Barreca’s devotion to high heels. “All winter long, I’d fall down constantly; my friends would walk encircling me, ready to prop me right back up no matter which way I’d wobble.” It took studying in the UK to discover Wellington boots —wellies—she says, and a surer footing. These days at the University of Connecticut, Barreca says, “I still rely on wellies—fluorescent pink ones at the moment,” but once indoors, there’s a quick swap for a pair of high-heeled ankle boots. “I am still an imposter in winter boots.”