Tushar Irani, associate professor of philosophy, associate professor of letters, recently published an essay titled “What is good rhetoric?” for Aeon, a digital magazine for culture and ideas. Related to his current book, Plato on the Value of Philosophy, the essay calls on the public to consider the civic good that rhetoric serves in democratic politics, and the effect it may have on our ability to engage in independent thought.
The essay discusses the difference between good and bad political rhetoric. By drawing on Plato’s understanding of persuasive speech, Irani draws a distinction between flattering rhetoric and “self-moving” rhetoric. The problem with conventional rhetoric, according to this view, is not with persuasive speech itself or the fact that people use it. It is with the ability of a persuasive speaker “to subvert or short-circuit an audience’s power of independent thought.” Good rhetoric, while it is still persuasive, invites the listener to think independently about what the speaker is saying, creating an opportunity to “have our desire to understand enlisted.” Irani refers to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address as an example of this type of rhetoric.
Aeon is a unique digital magazine, publishing some of the most profound and provocative thinking on the web. Irani’s essay can be read online.
Norman Shapiro, Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation, continues his work as a translator of traditional French literature with his newly published books, The Fortune-Teller (La Tireuse de cartes) and The Jew of Seville (Diégarias). Both originally written by Victor Séjour, the plays highlight the complexities surrounding those who were ‘black and free in the Antebellum South, exposing “in subtle and veiled ways how the conflict of race and class existed in nineteenth century Louisiana.”
The Jew of Seville follows the story of a Jewish man masquerading as a Christian and the lengths he goes to get revenge after his identity as a Jew is revealed leading to the unraveling of his, as well as his daughter’s well-established lives. The Fortune Teller is based on the real events of the Mortara incident. In Séjour’s rendition, an infant girl is taken from her Jewish home. Fast forward 17 years and readers follow the story of her wealthy mother disguised as a poor fortune teller in search of her lost daughter.
Both of Shapiro’s new works, as well as past translations can be found and purchased here.
Cameron Rowland, Public Money, 2017.
Every two years, the Whitney Museum of American Art showcases some of the most talented young artists from around the country in an exhibition filled with purpose and passion. This year, the 2017 Whitney Biennial, the 78th installment of the longest-running survey of American art, features work by Wesleyan alumnus Cameron Rowland ’11. View the project online here.
“Arriving at a time rife with racial tensions, economic inequities, and polarizing politics, the exhibition allows the artists to challenge us to consider how these realities affect our senses of self and community,” according to the Whitney. “The Biennial features 63 individuals and collectives whose work takes a wide variety of forms, from painting and installation to activism and video-game design.”
In line with this year’s theme, Rowland’s work involved having the Whitney Museum agree to invest $25,000 in a Social Impact Bond, or a “Pay for Success” contract that arranges for the government to support social-service organizations. On display is the document of their compliance. A framed printout of a wire transfer functions as the physical manifestation of his work.
Rowland also was mentioned in an article published online by W Magazine, which highlighted the other 20-something artists making great strides in the art community.
The exhibit is open now and runs through June 11.
Becca Winkler ’16 and her team at Mahouts Education Foundation (MEF), previously nominated and named a finalist in the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) grant for their project “Walking Elephants Home,” have been named the winners of the 2017 EOCA grant.
Though there is much work to do in order to fulfill the requirements of the grant, this grant will play a major role in allowing the team to support not only the elephants and mahouts, but also the surrounding forest and the communities in which they are working.
The previous story on Winkler and her project can be found here.
Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, is collaborating with a team of Indonesian artists on the creation of a new play: “Islands: The Treaty that changed the World.” It will include original gamelan music by Wesleyan Artist-in-Residence I.M. Harjito and original choral music by John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Neely Bruce.
The cast will Wesleyan students from India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and China who will be joined by Indonesian guest artists Novirela Minangsari, Dinny Aletheiani and Nyoman Catra. The play commemorates the 350th anniversary of the 1667 Treaty of Breda in which the Dutch ceded control of Manhattan to the English in exchange for the Spice Island of Rhu, now part of Indonesia’s Banda Archipelago.
The play will premiere in the Center for the Arts Theater on April 21 at 8 p.m. and continue there on Saturday April 22 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. On Sunday April 23 Jenkins and the team will perform at 4 p.m. at the Indonesian Consulate in New York on 5 E. 68th Street. They’ll also perform the play with some Wesleyan students and a cast of 40 Indonesian children at the Mandara Mahalango festival in Bali. “We use music, dance, puppetry,oral history, and documentary texts to bring the treaty and its legacy to life,” Jenkins said.
The Jakarta Post quotes Jenkins as saying “that the treaty was so valuable for history as it changed the life of the people on both Run Island and New York. It is the reason the people of Manhattan speak English, not Dutch. The show’s goal is to make the people of Manhattan learn that their history is really connected with Indonesia.”
More information on the play and its creation can be found here and from an interview Jenkins did for Indonesian Television.
Abdul Latif ’77
Wesleyan alumnus Abdul Latif ’97 served as the choreographer for The Black History Museum According to the United States of America, which opened the weekend of March 24.
Done in collaboration with HERE Arts Center’s Culturemart Festival 2017, the show examined “a number of struggles pertinent to the people of color community and the “modern millennial identity in response to incarceration and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.”
Latif, along with the rest of the production team, attempts to explore and explain the relationship between black Americans and the criminal justice system drawing from sentiments expressed after the fatal shootings of Black Americans. The experience and the occurrence of a second full house success humbled Latif, especially following the recent accomplishment of his other recent work, Bronx Museum, which opened this past January.
Since graduating from Wesleyan with a College of Social Studies and dance major, Latif has gone on to open his own performing arts center, Abdul Latif–D2D/T, where he now serves as the producing artistic director.
Wesleyan has been nominated and named as a finalist for the Technology Excellence Award presented by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Awards are presented to universities and employers for “excellence in the use of technology and/or various social media outlets.” Wesleyan earned this distinction for the Gordon Career Center’s premier podcast series, Careers By Design, which highlights the careers of some of Wesleyan’s most successful alumni.
Sharon Belden Castonguay, director of the Gordon Career Center and Rachel Munafo, assistant director of the Gordon Career Center, will present on the podcast series and represent Wesleyan at the NACE Professional Achievement Showcase in Las Vegas in June.
Speaking from a variety of different disciplines, the alumni featured in Careers By Design interviews offer advice on how they made the most of their Wesleyan education. Listeners have the opportunity to learn from a long list of various industry experts including Thomas Kail ’99, known for his work on the award winning musicals In The Heights and Hamilton; Pete Ganbarg ’88, the executive vice president and head of A&R for Atlantic Records; and Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz ’88, a public figure involved with women’s empowerment and public education, and an expert in women’s and integrative health.
More on the Careers By Design program, as well as the remaining alumni interviews, can be found online.
Evan Weber ’13
Each year, as part of the series “Grist50,” the acclaimed environmental publication Grist honors 50 of the world’s most impactful innovators who are working to solve humanity’s biggest challenges with fresh, forward-thinking solutions. This year, Wesleyan alumnus Evan Weber ’13, co-founder and executive director of U.S. Climate Plan, has been recognized as an “emerging green leader.”
Connecting this year’s 50 green leaders is the theme “The Fixer.” Described by Grist magazine as, “bold problem solvers working toward a planet that doesn’t burn and a future that doesn’t suck,” the list includes entrepreneurs, politicians, scientists and activists.
Not only do Weber and his team push for climate legislation on the national level and organize campaigns to support climate justice, but he also supports young activists by building partnerships between grassroots organizations, teaching statewide strategy plans, and advising college students. “It is how you build a generational front against climate change in Weber’s eyes,” according to Grist.
More on Weber, as well as the full list of environmental innovators and their work can be found on Grist’s website.
Becca Winkler ’16 launched “Walking Elephants Home,” a project that provides a new model of tourism, and has been nominated for a European Outdoor Conversation Association grant.
“Walking Elephants Home,” a Mahouts Educations Foundation (MEF) project launched and run by Becca Winkler ’16, has been nominated for the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) grant—and voting is open until March 23.
“From many conversations with elephant owners struggling to make ends meet and who were unhappy with the conditions their elephants live in at elephant camps, I could see that we needed a new model,” Winkler said. “The forests of Thailand have been home to the Asian elephant for thousands of years; it is their birthright. ‘Walking Elephants Home’ is on a mission to to prove that tourists should do the work to see elephants in their habitat, rather than removing the elephants and forcing them to live in a tourist camp for our benefit.”
Winkler, a Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies major who first began working with elephants in Thailand as an undergrad, wrote her thesis on “Walking with Giants: Eco-feminist Insights on Elephant Tourism in Thailand.” She received a Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship grant in 2016 that helped her launch and run “Walking Elephants Home” through the MEF, a nonprofit that supports elephants and their mahouts (owners) in Thailand. Collaborating with indigenous people, the MEF offers a successful business model with ethical tourism alternatives to those who free their elephants. Their goal is to not only improve the elephants’ well-being by returning them to their natural habitat but also enhances biodiversity and prevents further deforestation.
MindScope Health, an organization led by Siri McGuire ’17 and Taiga Araki ’17 has won the $10,000 Connecticut College Aetna Foundation seed stage grant—a branch of InnovateHealth Yale and the Aetna Foundation.
MindScope works to improve the quality of life for patients with brain diseases and mental illnesses. Founded by patients of brain diseases and mental illnesses, MindScope Health aims to transform the way that invisible diseases and symptoms are communicated and treated. By allowing patients to alternatively communicate their symptoms to their doctors through the use of an app, symptoms can be recorded overtime, as patients rate the severity of their symptoms throughout the day. That information is then compiled and displayed for doctors, creating a patient-led and patient-centered design process.
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Amy Bloom ’75, director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing and the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, leveraged her more than 30 years of experience as a licensed clinical social worker to be a featured guest speaker at “Lady Parts: Car Talk for Women’s Bodies Fundraiser,” which took place March 5 at the Ivoryton Playhouse.
The afternoon was a blend of comedy and candid conversation. Bloom and co-host, Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a Yale-trained OB-GYN, gave audience members an avenue to discuss everything from hormones and menopause, to lactation, STDs, contraceptives and pregnancy. “It was an opportunity to learn and ask all you ever wanted to know about you body, but were too afraid to ask.”
The event served as a fundraiser for the Women and Family Life Center (W&FL)—a place, which empowers women and their families to face challenges and transitions in their lives with grace and dignity. The Center offers individual guided referrals, as well as, support and wellness programs for women and their families to find help as they face divorce, violence, bankruptcy, bereavement or other major life challenges. Bloom and Dr. Minkin have done this show numerous times as fundraisers for organizations focusing on women’s lives and health, throughout the state.
Bloom is a distinguished author, having been nominated for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her repertoire currently includes, three novels, three collections of short stories, a children’s book, and a collection of essays. More on Bloom and her work can be found by visiting her website.