Office Artifacts: Jean-Christophe Cloutier

Discover the stories behind six prized items in the office of Cloutier, Associate Professor of English, including a poster signed by Adam West, a Charlie Chaplin figure, and a Star Trek bottle opener.

J.C. Cloutier sitting at his deak with a cup of coffee and a computer in front of him, with other stuff all around.

1. Autographed Adam West Batman Photo 

One of my prized possessions, this photograph of Adam West as Batman from the 1960s TV show was signed to me by West at the 2012 New York Comic Con, five years before his passing. I waited in line over an hour for the autograph and when I finally arrived, West seemed to be bickering about something with Burt Ward, the actor who played Robin, and who was seated to his left. All I heard was, “Stop it, Burt.” West looked magnificent, in sunglasses and with a resplendent smile, and the frame never fails to bring a smile to my face when I walk into my office.

2. Charlie Chaplin Figure

As an undergraduate, my first major was Film Studies and I had arrived with a degree in Cinema from Montréal. I loved silent film, especially Chaplin. I’ve always gravitated toward comedies and became fascinated with Charlot and how Chaplin used to not only act, direct, and write his films but also compose the musical scores. I read his memoir, My Life, as an undergrad and his definition of humor left an indelible impact on my own life.
In it, Chaplin describes humor as that which allows us to “see in what seems rational, the irrational, and in what seems important, the unimportant. It also heightens our sense of survival and preserves our sanity. Because of humor, we are less overwhelmed by the vicissitudes of life. It activates our sense of proportion and reveals to us, that in an overstatement of seriousness, lurks the absurd.” These lines, and humor, continue to be a daily life raft.

3. Québec License Plate

This motorcycle license plate is from my home province of Québec and bears our nation’s motto Je me souviens, which means “I remember.” It is a reminder of my roots as a Québécois and native French speaker who is now, somehow, in an English department. It acts as a talisman to ward off total assimilation and keeps the dream of my next road trip alive.

4. Wolverine #1 (September 1982)

Most of my comics collection lives in my office, hidden within my specially modified filing cabinets. I love teaching comics at Penn and having my collection close at hand is a pleasure and helps me introduce students to new titles. This particular issue is near and dear to my heart as it features my long-time favorite, Wolverine, a.k.a. Logan, the laconic super-healing mutant Canuck, and was created by an all-star duo of comics legends, Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, two humans who have forever widened my sense of wonder. Like Wolverine, they are the best at what they do.

5. Overlook Hotel Mug

Stephen King’s The Shining is one of my favorite novels. I first read it as a teenager, but its true impact came when I read it again as I was trying to complete my dissertation. The protagonist, Jack Torrance, is an English teacher-writer who finds the inspiration he’s been hoping for when he encounters the basement archive of the Overlook Hotel, in Sidewinder, Colorado, where he has been hired as winter caretaker. “He walked slowly between the mountains of paper, his mind alive and ticking over possibilities in a speedy way that was exhilarating,” King writes, a sensation that I always have when poring over the right archive.
Alas, Torrance not only fails to write his book, but he ends up being consumed by work and an evil that turns him into a threat to his family—“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” as the tagline goes. In addition to this mug, I also have Overlook Hotel stationary, an Overlook Hotel welcome mat right at my office door, and a Torrance Funko figure hanging from my desk lamp. He looks at me, holding a bloody axe, as I work. These items act as a reminder to enjoy my work but to not let it control me at the expense of family and those I love.

6. Star Trek Enterprise Paper Weight/Bottle Opener

This isn’t any old Enterprise—this is the Galaxy-class starship USS Enterprise “D” (NCC-1701D), Starfleet’s finest. Under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, it served as the Federation’s flagship for many glorious years—notably the seven wonderful seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, one of my all-time favorites and most formative TV shows. It’s both a paper weight and a bottle opener. “Make it so!”