by Cynthia Rockwell •
Award-winning writer/director Jan Eliasberg ’74, P’19 made her debut as a novelist with Hannah’s War, a story inspired by the real-life physicist Dr. Lise Meitner, whom an article in the Aug. 6, 1945, issue of the New York Times referred to as “a female, non-Aryan physicist,” noted for helping the Americans develop the atomic bomb.
Hannah’s War was published by Little Brown on March 3.
“Jan Eliasberg knows how to open big with strong suspense and wry humor and take us for a hurtling ride through one of America’s most complex moments,” said Amy Bloom ’75, Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing. “The wonderful characters of Hannah’s War bring together a moving love story, a high-stakes mystery, and a fascinating look into the moral compass of an exceptional woman.”
Eliasberg’s talk at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore, originally scheduled for March 26, has been postponed.
Wesleyan University Magazine had profiled Eliasberg, focusing on her work in television and film; here she discusses her transition to being a novelist.
Q: As a screenwriter and director, what were the challenges you faced in writing a novel?
Jan Eliasberg: There were far more advantages than challenges. I would say that the biggest challenge was the idea of sitting down for almost nine months with no collaborative contact. As a director, you do not have a minute to yourself, from the moment you start the job to the moment you finish: You’re on location with eight, 10 people; you are on a set with all 60 others asking you questions. But this was nine months of going for days without really talking to anyone. I mean, how lovely in retrospect, but slightly terrifying to contemplate.
by Editorial Staff •
For the safety of the campus community, amid the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting thousands of known cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) nationwide, Wesleyan is transitioning all classes to distance-learning models for the remainder of the spring semester.
“As hard as we work to make the on-campus Wesleyan experience the best it can be, we must apply that same diligence and care to protecting our community’s well-being in light of this growing threat,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 in a campuswide email.
While there are no confirmed cases at Wesleyan, there are five confirmed cases in the State of Connecticut, and Governor Ned Lamont declared a public health emergency.
After consulting with a variety of public health experts and other higher education institutions around the country, Wesleyan announced the following preventive measures:
- In-person classes are suspended for the remainder of the spring semester; all courses will transition to distance learning models.
- Effective immediately, all University-sponsored, connected, or funded domestic and international travel for students, faculty, and staff is prohibited. The University also strongly discourages all personal domestic and international travel by students, faculty, and staff, except for the purposes of students returning home.
This April, PBS will premiere Broken Places, a documentary that explores why some children are severely damaged by early adversity while others are able to thrive. Broken Places is written, produced, and directed by veteran documentary filmmaker Roger Weisberg ’75, P’05, whose previous PBS documentaries have won over 150 awards, including Emmy, DuPont-Columbia, and Peabody awards, as well as two Academy Award nominations.
Broken Places revisits abused and neglected children that Weisberg and his team profiled decades ago. The film interweaves longitudinal narratives with commentary from a few internationally renowned experts to help viewers better understand the devastating impact of childhood adversity as well as the inspiring characteristics of resilience.
In addition to shedding light on exciting new developments in neuroscience that help explain the dramatic outcomes that the film reveals, these experts share their insights into the people and systems that either failed the film’s main subjects or helped them overcome the formidable obstacles they encountered.
Broken Places is Weisberg’s 33rd national public television documentary. It will premier at 10 p.m. on Monday, April 6 on PBS (check local listings) and pbs.org.
by Olivia Drake •
Seven faculty were conferred tenure by the Board of Trustees at its most recent meeting. Their appointments will be effective on July 1. They are:
- Ren Ellis Neyra, associate professor of English
- James Greenwood, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences
- Cameron Donnay Hill, associate professor of mathematics
- Daniel Licata, associate professor of computer science
- Rashida Shaw McMahon, associate professor of English
- Laura Ann Twagira, associate professor of history
In addition, one faculty member was promoted:
- Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian studies
Brief descriptions of their areas of research and teaching appear below.
Ren Ellis Neyra is a theorist and practitioner of poetics of the Americas, whose work complicates boundaries between critical and creative practices, as well as in modes of public engagement. Their book, The Cry of the Senses: Listening to Latinx and Caribbean Poetics (Duke University Press, forthcoming November 2020), is “a paradigmatic disturbance built around the cry in the Caribbean Americas. The cry’s waywardness with the binary of being/non-being moves in the book’s method of multi-sensorial, poetic listening, which attunes readers of Latinx and Caribbean poetics and aesthetics to how abnormal insurgencies go off.” They offer a wide range of courses, including The Senses and the Subject in Poetry and Cinema; Brown, Black, and Queer Forms and Feelings; and Law, ‘Savage,’ and Citizen in Contemporary Literary and Cinematic Imaginations.
James Greenwood is a planetary geochemist and cosmochemist whose primary research focuses on the origin of the Earth’s water.
by Olivia Drake •
Wesleyan English major Katie Livingston ’21 is one of 12 young writers around the world who will be honored at the 36th Annual L. Rob Hubbard Achievement Awards on April 3 in Hollywood, Calif.
She’s a finalist for the Writers of the Future Contest, which was initiated by Hubbard in 1983 to provide “a means for new and budding writers to have a chance for their creative efforts to be seen and acknowledged.” Based on its success, its sister contest, Illustrators of the Future, was created five years later to provide that same opportunity for aspiring artists.
The grand prize winners will each receive $5,000. Quarterly winners also receive cash prizes from $500 to $1,000. Their winning stories and illustrations will appear in the annual anthology L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers and Illustrators of the Future Volume 36 (Galaxy Press, April 2020).
Oklahoma native Livingston spent her high school years tending chickens and writing speculative fiction novels. She’s a fan of Stephen King novels, ’80s horror flicks, rural living, and cats—all of which inspire her work. Her submission for the Writers of the Future Contest addresses the themes of rural living and religion.
At Wesleyan, she’s the assistant opinion editor for The Wesleyan Argus; a thesis mentor in the Shapiro Writing Center; a teaching assistant for the course, American Literature 1865-1945; the design editor for Sthoscope Press; an assistant in the Writing Certificate Program; and assists with grant-funded work in the writing center. On weekends, she works in the Usdan Café.
Livingston hopes to attend graduate school for American literature so that she can continue learning, reading, and writing.
Watch a video about Livingston online here.
by Editorial Staff •
On March 8, the men’s hockey team celebrated its first-ever NESCAC Championship with a 7-2 victory over Trinity College. Although the win secured the league’s automatic bid into the 2020 NCAA Tournament, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors decided to cancel all remaining winter championships as well as the spring sports season across all divisions (I, II, and III). Wesleyan had several winter sports scheduled to compete in their respective NCAA Championships, including men’s hockey, which are affected by this news.
The Cardinals scored seven goals in just over 30 minutes of action, erasing an early deficit to thunder past No. 8 Trinity at Lansing Chapman Rink on the campus of Williams College.
The victory was a resounding one as the fifth-seeded Cardinals scored four unanswered goals in a span of just 10:25 between the second and third periods to take a commanding 4–1 lead that proved enough in the end. Six different goal scorers lit the lamp for Wesleyan while Walker Harris ’20 finished with four points (one goal, three assists) to tie the NESCAC Championship game record for the highest point total by a single skater. One night removed from making 40 saves in the Cardinals’ semifinal win over the Ephs, Tim Sestak ’20 was tremendous once again, posting 38 saves on 40 shots-on-goal from Trinity as he continues to deliver in the postseason for Wesleyan throughout his career.
by Editorial Staff •
At its most recent meeting on Feb. 29, the Wesleyan Board of Trustees discussed how to better align endowment investment practices with the University’s broad sustainability efforts.
In a recent campus-wide email, President Michael Roth ’78 and Board of Trustees Chair Donna Morea ’76, P’06 shared the following message:
Given the climate emergency, the investment and ecological risks associated with fossil fuels and the Investment Committee’s own environmental, social and governance guidelines, there was broad agreement among trustees not to make new fossil fuel investments and to wind down current investments in this sector as quickly as possible while minimizing the negative impact to the value of the endowment. The University will be divested from direct fossil fuel investments by the end of the decade.
Wesleyan has already made a climate commitment aiming at carbon neutrality and will now be accelerating work in this direction. This weekend, the Board authorized the first phase of converting our energy infrastructure from steam to hot water. When complete, this project will reduce Wesleyan’s carbon footprint by thousands of metric tons per year.
by Olivia Drake •
On Feb. 27, the Gordon Career Center hosted a Google Career Virtual Panel featuring Wesleyan alumni who offered insight on their roles in sales, business, product management, marketing, legal issues, and other roles at Google.
The panel was assembled by Sherry Liang ’20, who completed a WEShadow at Google last winter, and Peer Career Advisor Esmye Lytle ’21.
Aaron Stoertz ’03: Stoertz graduated with a BA in English. Since then he worked in conservation biology, public health, and international health policy at the World Health Organization before landing in tech, where he’s worked his way into a position as a product manager at Google Health.
Terry Wei ’07: Wei has 13 years of experience in public relations and communications. She currently leads communications for Waze, the world’s leading crowdsourced navigation app. Previously, Wei was head of public relations at Squarespace and managed product communications at Mercedes-Benz. Originally from California, Wei studied English at Wesleyan and graduated in 2007.
by Olivia Drake •
On March 2, three student-run enterprises received $5,000 seed grants from the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship (PCSE). The unrestricted funding is accompanied with training, advising, mentoring, incubator workspace, and other resources from the Patricelli Center.
These $5,000 awards are intended to fund the launch or early-stage growth of a social enterprise, project, program, or venture. Projects or ventures must address a social problem; be sustainable, scalable, and/or replicable; and have a potential for impact. Entries can be for-profit, nonprofit, hybrid, or have no legal structure.
On Feb. 28, six finalists pitched their ventures to judges and members of the Board of Trustees.
The 2020 PCSE Seed Grant winners include:
- Mental Wealth Consulting by Inayah Bashir ’20;
- Opioid Harm Reduction and Education Initiative by Livia Cox ’22 and Nick Wells ’20; and
- Narratio by Ahmed Badr ‘20, Edward Grattan, Brice Nordquist, and Gemma Cooper-Novack. (Read a Wesleyan University Magazine article on Narratio online here.)
Other finalists include:
- ONA by Ona Hauert ’20;
- Pather Education Development Initiative by Kyllian Pather ’20; and
- Sustainable Surfing Products by William Huestis ’22 and Michael Eustace ’22.
Photos of the finalist pitches are below. (Photos by Olivia Drake)
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In this article, Marc Longenecker ’03, MA ’07, assistant professor of the practice in film studies, explains the history of invisible characters in films. Longenecker ’03 majored in film studies and physics for his BA, and film studies for his MA.
A brief history of invisibility on screen
What would you do if you could be invisible? Would this newfound power bring out the best in you, instilling you with the courage to discreetly sabotage the efforts of evildoers? Or would the ability to slip in and out of rooms unnoticed tap into darker impulses?
This alluring fantasy has long been fodder for filmmakers, many of whom have taken cues from the eponymous character in H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel, The Invisible Man.
First adapted to the screen in 1933, the invisible man (and his descendents) appeared in six films from 1933 to 1951. Now, he’ll be making his latest screen (dis)appearance in a film directed by Leigh Whannell. This iteration takes a horror-movie tack: Its protagonist, played by Elisabeth Moss, is harassed by an ex who has faked his own death. But beyond “The Invisible Man” franchise, the concept of invisibility has inspired a raft of movies over the decades.
As a film professor who studies adaptations and series, I’m most interested in the versatility of these invisible characters. They can star in cautionary tales or embody underdog heroes; they can act as vessels for social critique or vehicles for masochistic power fantasies.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Wesleyan in the News
1. The Open Mind: “Democratizing the Jury”
Associate Professor of Government Sonali Chakravarti is interviewed in connection with her new book, Radical Enfranchisement in the Jury Room and Public Life, in which she offers a “full-throated defense of juries as a democratic institution.” “I am very interested in how ordinary people engage with political institutions, and juries are the place where ordinary people have the most power,” she says. Chakravarti calls for more robust civic education, continuing into adulthood, in order to have a “more effective, modern jury system.”
Senator Chris Murphy, who is the co-sponsor of a bill to expand the federal Pell grant program for college students to include inmates, met with 11 inmates who have participated in educational programs at York Correctional Institution through the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education and other college-in-prison programs.“What’s important about the REAL Act is that college affordability should be accessible to all students regardless of where they are,” said CPE program manager Allie Cislo. “It’s one thing rhetorically to commit to reentry,” she said, but resources like educational programs “can make or break it for people.”
3. American Theatre: “Digging for New Roots”
This article on “climate change theatre” features Ocean Filibuster, a play by Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl through her theater company, PearlDamour. Commenting on the play’s premise, in which a new Senate bill proposes sentencing the world’s oceans to death and the ocean stands to speak in its own defense, Pearl said, “We thought, well, what if the ocean finally got fed up with taking all of our crap, and started talking and didn’t stop until we actually shut up and listened?” American Theatre, a leading publication in the theater industry, writes: “Ocean Filibuster recalibrates the human experience by reminding us of the comparatively small scale and depth of our own existence.”