Dear Professor: A Chronicle of Absences

Collected Emails from College Students Too Busy to Attend Class

by Filip Noterdaeme



Dear Professor,

I just got out of the doctor’s office:

they wanted to scar my face and kill what’s inside me.

I ran out and did not pay.

Jacob A.


Dear Professor,

Things on the streets have been really crazy. I have been very distracted watching and listening to what is going on, it is somewhat out of my control. But, I miss you and class. I will be in class on Monday.

Thank you,




Dear Professor,

I have registered for your [Course Name] starting June 4th and very much look forward to these sessions. Unfortunately two weeks ago while in the Sahara desert I fell off a camel and fractured 4 ribs. I am in Paris recuperating but as you probably know only time and pain killers are the treatment. I will not be able to travel in time to make the first session on 4th June but hope to be in New York in time for the second and subsequent sessions.

I would appreciate your input on the following:

--venue as to where to meet at 3:15pm stating on June 11th

--should I obtain any reading or other materials needed or desirable for the course

--would you have an outline or any notes you could let me have on the material you will cover (and I will miss) for the first session.

I look forward to meeting with you.

kind regards

Paul C. 


Dear Professor, 

I am very sorry about the lateness of my assignments. And my absences during the semester. I am graduating after this semester and I found myself swamped with a ton of work I was not expecting. All of this piled up with vet visits, caring for my new puppy, and other things getting in the way I lost a lot of my energy this semester. I've attached all the assignments in this email. And if there is anything else I can give you please let me know. 

Thank you for a great semester and for understanding,

All the best,



Dear Professor,

Excuses section: I'm sorry that I had to leave early on Tuesday last week and was additionally unable to attend on Thursday. On Thursday something came up and I was sadly unable to attend any of my classes. For Tuesday I do not have such a good reason, if I am honest I left 20 minutes early because of a beautiful girl (the only and last time I would use this reason and I apologize, I let instinctual hedonism take over for better or worse!)

Interesting section: I have been working on this piece "To Fear with Love" and thought you might appreciate it as per our earlier discussion about writing. It is attached below for your enjoyment and I would love any feedback/criticism! 




Dear Professor: A Chronicle of Absences is a collection of over two hundred often involuntarily comical emails in which students excuse themselves for missing class. The result is a satirical yet unexpectedly sympathetic collective portrait of modern-day academia where both students and teachers feel pressured to comply with the impositions of hyper connectivity.

Filip Noterdaeme is a New-York-based artist and writer. He is is the founding director of the Homeless Museum of Art and the author of The Autobiography of Daniel J. Isengart (Outpost19) and Growl and Other Poems (Antoine Lefebvre Editions). He teaches art history at a number of universities across New York City and is a frequent lecturer at the Guggenheim Museum, MoMA, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Gunnhild Øyehaug

Gunnhild Øyehaug

The dynamic between light and dark is also important in how I edit the texts, in terms of what’s going to follow. I put a lot of weight on getting the balance right. I’ve always been fascinated by a passage from To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, when the artist Lily Briscoe talks about composing her pictures. She says that shadow here needs light there, and she realizes in a sudden insight that she has to put the tree in the painting further to the middle. And that’s been my guideline, really, for how to compose: I have to put the masses in the correct balance, and there has to be a center.

Miranda Mellis

Miranda Mellis

What kind of writing excites you?

I am excited by writing that functions at once as art and philosophy, and that works carefully and in an unexpected way at the level of the sentence. I am excited by writing that jokes compassionately and writing that I am on the very edge of understanding, that oscillates in and out of clarity, and that can’t be exhausted in a single reading or even multiple readings, and that takes formal chances.

The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Marzano-Lesnevich uses the great gift of empathy to explore her subject, instead of only relying on rhetorical flourishes. The facts in this work provide a vehicle for a deeper exploration of human emotion in the aftermath of an evil act—indignation, forgiveness, fear, resentment, understanding, etc.

Joy Williams’s Ninety-nine Stories of God

Joy Williams’s Ninety-nine Stories of God

Reading Ninety-nine Stories can be a disjointed, disorienting experience. It’s accessible, subdivided into bite-sized, fast stories that serve to chill or humor or unsettle. But these segments, extreme in their brevity and hyper-precise in their language, are often deliberately contradictory, confusing the book’s own ideas and the reader’s understanding.

Lee Matthew Goldberg

Lee Matthew Goldberg

What are you working on now?

I’m always working on a few projects at once so I never get bored. Lately I’ve been switching between novels and screenwriting. I have a series of Sci-Fi-ish books I’ve been writing for years about a cult in the Ozarks, along with a YA time travel book and a YA novel set in the grunge 90s. I’m also collaborating on a Sci-Fi script based on the Malaysian flight that disappeared and a TV pilot that reimagines Norman Mailer as a P.I. I also just finished a draft of a script set a hundred years in the future about a Trump-like villain as our President. Wait, did I say the future? I meant now.

Wait Till You See Me Dance by Deb Olin Unferth

Wait Till You See Me Dance by Deb Olin Unferth

 Unferth is unable to write a boring sentence. She denies her creations cliché resolution, is resilient to heroic evolutions, permits no godly miracles. We anticipate these ill-fated characters will succumb to their predicted dead-ends, but Unferth time after time demonstrates a remarkable gift for conjuring the unforeseeable, and the restricted scopes of her worlds miraculously give birth to expansive possibilities and ambient revelations through a voice ignited by its own humanity.