Arts & Culture

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. CNN: “What the ‘Woke Student’ and the ‘Welfare Queen’ Have in Common”

“Every age seems to need a bogeyman, some negative image against which good people measure themselves,” writes President Michael Roth ’78 in this op-ed. Roth compares today’s bogeyman, the “woke” college student, with those of past eras—the “welfare queen” and “dirty hippie”—and seeks to build understanding and dispel negative misperceptions of activist college students. “The images of the welfare queen and of the woke student are convenient because they provide excuses to not engage with difference, placing certain types of people beyond the pale,” he writes. “These scapegoats are meant to inspire solidarity in a group by providing an object for its hostility (or derision), and educators and civic leaders should not play along.”

2. Los Angeles Times: “Opinion: Our Food Is Tainted with E. Coli, Yet the FDA Is Rolling Back Safety Rules”

As yet another food-borne E. coli outbreak sickens Americans, Fred Cohan, the Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment and professor of biology, and Isaac Klimasmith ’20, argue in this op-ed that more can and should be done to prevent dangerous contaminations of our food supply. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rolled back rules that “would have required monitoring and treating irrigation water for E. coli,” a major cause of these outbreaks. “We should not be surprised that a regulation-averse administration would disregard the science of food safety, but it is concerning that consumers have become complacent about yearly outbreaks of E. coli contamination and largely silent about the rollback of food safety regulations,” they write.

3. The Washington Post: “What Happens When College Students Discuss Lab Work in Spanish, Philosophy in Chinese or Opera in Italian?”

Stephen Angle, director of the Fries Center for Global Studies, professor of philosophy, and the Mansfield Professor of East Asian Studies, is interviewed about Wesleyan’s efforts to promote language study, including the new Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum (CLAC) initiative, through which students can study a range of disciplines in other languages. For example, Angle teaches a Mandarin-language section of Classical Chinese Philosophy, a course historically taught in English. Read more about CLAC and Wesleyan’s language instruction here.

“You Just Have to Read This…” 3 Books By Wesleyan Authors: Otteson ’94, Stoberock ’92, Wickwire PhD ’83

In the sixth of this continuing series, Sara McCrea ’21, a College of Letters major from Boulder, Colo., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

book cover for ActivistKK Ottesen ’94, Activist: Portraits of Courage (Chronicle Books, Oct. 8, 2019)
Ranging in age from 12 to 94 years old, the activists photographed and recorded in Activist: Portraits of Courage will inspire you to “dissent, disrupt, and otherwise get in the way.” They are those who took action on the Senate floor, on art museum walls, and in leading marches throughout city centers. In short, they are people who made difficult choices, out of hope for and faith in a better future. In this beautifully assembled book of portraits and stories, KK Ottesen ‘94 highlights 40 of the most influential, admirable change-makers of our time, following their journeys from the beginning. While each featured activist stood out and stepped up in a way that was unique to their talents and character, they all did so with the shared vision of justice and equality. This book comes at a time where it has perhaps never felt so relevant; yet upon further consideration, it seems to have always been exactly the inspiration we needed. Striking in its images and moving in its stories of change, Activist is an homage to the people who practice courage as a way of life.

KK Otteson ’94 is an author and editor who is a regular contributor to the Washington Post magazine. A government major at Wesleyan who earned an MBA at Yale University, she is the author of Great Americans (Bloomsbury 2003), which explored what it meant to be an American through interviews with ordinary citizens who shared a name with national icons.

 

cover of the novel PIGSJohanna Stoberock ’92,  Pigs: A Novel (Red Hen Press, 2019)
On an island filled with reposited trash, four children live among pigs. In Pigs: A Novel—which has been compared to Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Orwell’s Animal Farm—Johanna Stoberock ’92 writes a tale that is disturbingly familiar in its outlandishness. The pigs on the island are insatiable and greedy, eating any filth or wreckage that comes to the island. But when a barrel washes up on the shore of the island with a boy inside, the carefully constructed dynamic between the children and the pigs is thrown into conflict. Though the premise is absurd, Stoberock grounds the novel in a multi-faceted emotional realness that permeates the narrative with tenderness and compassion. The reader may start to see themselves not only in the children who are just trying to get by, but also in the snouted characters, as the animality of the pigs is reminiscent of humans in late-capitalism at their worst, as well as at their most vulnerable. In a meditation on consumerism, community, and culpability, Pigs portrays some of the most frightening parts of being human today, while ultimately encouraging immersive empathy as a method of response.

Johanna Stoberock ’92, who majored in English and religion at Wesleyan, earned an MFA at the University of Washington. Her honors include the James W. Hall Prize for Fiction, as well as an Artist Trust GAP award. Her work has appeared in the New York Times and the Best of the Net anthology and other venues. She teaches at Whitman College.

 

AT the Bridge coverWendy Wickwire PhD ’83, At the Bridge: James Teit and an Anthropology of Belonging (UBC Press, 2019)
From a base of Spences Bridge, British Columbia, little-known ethnographer James Teit created a new form of participatory anthropology which allowed him to work with and advocate for Indigenous peoples in the area from 1884 to 1922. Despite his unquestionable innovation in the field of anthropology and dedication to ethical storytelling, Teit had almost disappeared from the historical record before Wendy Wickwire wrote At the Bridge: James Teit and an Anthropology of Belonging. In this impressive cobbling together of history, Wickwire crafts a stunning biographical portrait that not only secures Teit as one of the most influential anthropologists of his time, but also continues in Teit’s tradition of representing stories in their full complexity. Traversing the narrative plains of Pacific Northwest political history, the field of anthropology, the concepts of indigenous knowledge, and the hidden corners of historical archives, At the Bridge makes a compelling case for the intentional preservation of stories, while bringing the story of a very notable storyteller out of lost history.

Wendy Wickwire PhD ’83 is a professor emerita in the Department of History at the University of Victoria. She earned her bachelor’s degree in music at the University of Western Ontario and her doctorate at Wesleyan in ethnomusicology. 

Parker ’48, First Theater Major, Mentor to Hamilton Creators, Dies at 92

Gilbert Parker ’48, a retired literary agent who represented many of the country’s most influential playwrights over the span of nearly half a century, died Oct. 29, 2019. He was 92 and had served in the US Navy during World War II.

The first theater major at Wesleyan, he earned his degree with honors and distinction. Beginning his career at Liebling-Wood, Inc., as the assistant to Audrey Wood, the renowned agent who represented Tennessee Williams and other significant playwrights, Parker later joined the William Morris Agency, retiring in 2000.

Parker was noted as an adviser and mentor to many young and aspiring Wesleyan theater majors, and in his honor, Thomas Kail ’99 and Claire Labine (a former client of Parker’s and creator/head writer of Ryan’s Hope) created a Wesleyan scholarship in Parker’s name in 2012. In a note to those gathered in New York City to celebrate the Gilbert Parker Endowed Scholarship, President Michael S. Roth ’78 had observed, “During your sparkling 50-year career as an agent, the Wesleyan community took pride in your reflected glory. You made this relationship with our alma mater deeper and more personal, then and following your retirement, by closely mentoring Wesleyan graduates in the theater world like Thomas Kail ’99, Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, John Buffalo Mailer ’00, and Bill Sherman ’02, among others. It’s wonderful that a group of your friends and protégés initiated this scholarship fund (and typical of your generosity, Gilbert, that you have contributed to it).”

A memorial service is planned for Parker on Feb. 3, 2020, in New York City. Those who would like more information, or would like to make a gift to the Gilbert Parker Endowed Scholarship Fund at Wesleyan University in celebration of his life, please contact Marcy Herlihy at mherlihy@wesleyan.edu; 860/685-2523; Wesleyan University Office of Advancement, 291 Main Street, Middletown, CT 06457.

Language Study at Wesleyan Holds Strong, Bucking Trend of National Declines

Bologna study abroad class

Students use and develop their Italian language skills through Wesleyan’s study abroad program in Bologna, Italy, designed to complement the rigorous language curriculum offered on campus.

Foreign language enrollments at colleges and universities across the country have sharply declined in recent years, according to the Modern Language Association, yet language study at Wesleyan is holding quite strong.

Despite the fact that Wesleyan, unlike the vast majority of our peers, has no language requirement, 60 to 70% of Wes students choose to study a language other than English. The average student takes around three semesters of language classes, while approximately 30% go on to study at advanced levels and 13% study more than one language.

Wesleyan has stepped up to meet students’ interest in language study. With the addition of courses in Hindi-Urdu in Fall 2019, Wesleyan now offers full classroom instruction in 15 different languages—the most of any liberal arts college in the country, tied only with Wellesley College.

Smith ’66 on Translating and Promoting Global Indigenous Literature

Front cover of Meditations After the Bear Feast: The Poetic Dialogues of N. Scott Momaday and Yuri Vaella

Claude Clayton “Bud” Smith ’66, professor emeritus of English at Ohio Northern University, is an author who throughout his career has worked behind the scenes to bring Native Siberian creative writing to an English-speaking audience and to promote global indigenous literature. In that spirit, before Smith’s story starts, he recommends we tune in to the PBS premiere of N. Scott Momaday: Words From a Bear, on Nov 18.

Smith’s connection with N. Scott Momaday is personal. In 2016, Smith co-edited and translated Meditations After the Bear Feast, a collection of poems exchanged between Momaday, a Kiowa writer and the defining voice of the Native American Renaissance in American Literature, and Yuri Vaella, a writer, reindeer herder, and political activist of the Forest Nenets people in western Siberia. But Meditations After the Bear Feast nearly did not see print. How did Smith, a descendant of one of the founders of Hartford, Conn., on his father’s side and an immigrant Czech on his mother’s—who does not speak Russian or any native languages—become the critical player in bringing Meditations to publication? According to Smith, the story begins where it does for every writer, in his childhood backyard.

Claude Clayton “Bud” Smith ’66 enjoying “retirement” at an art show at University of Wisconsin, 2017. (Photos courtesy of C.C. Smith ’66)

Smith grew up a 45-minute drive from Wesleyan, in Stratford, Conn. Despite the erasure of Native American history, Smith became aware of his hometown’s long past through local Stratford history and the stories of the Sioux man who rented fishing boats to his grandfather. He remembers that, as a child on a field trip to where the Paugussett tribe first encountered settlers in 1639, “my imagination went wild.”

By 1978 Smith had published his first book, The Stratford Devil, and begun teaching when his mother sent him an article from the Bridgeport Post that mentioned the Paugussett tribe. The tribe had just won a yearslong struggle to protect from termination their quarter-acre reservation—a small remnant of their ancestral lands and the oldest continuous reservation in the United States. The reservation happened to be three miles from where Smith grew up, and so Chief Big Eagle of the Paugussett tribe became the subject of Smith’s first book of creative nonfiction. After hours of taped interviews on the Chief’s front porch, Smith began writing the tribe’s story in the voice of the Chief. Miscommunications often arose; of one such conflict Smith said, “I was discussing the gustoweha (the chief’s headdress), which has antlers. The Chief had evidently led quite a love life, marrying four times, and so when discussing the headdress I commented, in the Chief’s voice, something to the effect that, ‘the antlers remind me of myself as a young buck.’ The Chief fumed, and I changed the line to, ‘reminds me of the deer, a noble animal.'” Through the Chief’s editing of his drafts, Smith learned how to write in another’s voice, a skill that would serve him well in his translating work later. The book, Quarter-Acre of Heartache, was published in 1985, a first-person account from the perspective of the Chief, and today, when Smith reads the quotes on the novel’s rear jacket, “half are the Chief’s actual words, half are mine. I’d so absorbed his voice that I can’t now tell which is which.”

Derry and Puffin D’Oench ’73 Film Award Open to Submissions

Community Health Center logo

The Community Health Center of Middletown is a sponsor of the film contest.

A new annual contest for budding filmmakers is now welcoming submissions. The Derry and Puffin D’Oench Film Award, sponsored by Community Health Center, Inc. (CHC), of Middletown, is open to Wesleyan University and Middlesex Community College students and alumni.

The contest’s name honors Derry and Ellen “Puffin” D’Oench ’73, community members who contributed to the local arts and cultural community. At Wesleyan, Puffin served as curator of the Davison Art Center, adjunct professor of art history, and a trustee. Russell “Derry” D’Oench was editor-in-chief of the Middletown Press from 1959 to 1991. The couple was involved in many organizations, including the Middlesex County Community Foundation, Middlesex Hospital, Community Health Center, and the NAACP.

The film contest, accepting submissions from Nov. 1, 2019, until May 1, 2020, seeks “to find talented, emerging filmmakers who are getting their start or have roots in our Middletown community,” said Mark Masselli, Hon. ’09, P’16, CHC’s founder and president/CEO. “We’re looking forward to screening the submissions, and giving a new generation of filmmakers a launching pad.”

“You Just Have to Read This…” 3 Books By Wesleyan Authors: Abramowitz ’76, Hill ’93, Rotella ’86

In the fifth of this continuing series, Sara McCrea ’21, a College of Letters major from Boulder, Colo., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

Jay Abramowitz ’76 and Tom Musca, Formerly Cool (Jerome Avenue Books, July 2019)

Warren Brace may want to write funny television, but it seems that his reality could be a sitcom in itself, with all the jokes at his expense. In this subversive take on Hollywood culture, Jay Abramowitz and Tom Musca team up to provide a witty and laugh-out-loud window into the absurdities of the television industry. As it takes on family relationships, celebrities, and the commodification of storytelling, Formerly Cool is sharply funny, with a humor that also delivers poignant insights into what it means to navigate human relationships in an irrational business. For people with and without experience in the film world, Warren Brace’s plunders and wins will keep you laughing with sympathy, and also with recognition.

Jay Abramowitz ’76, a psychology major at Wesleyan who earned his master’s at UCLA film school, wrote and produced a dozen situation comedies for television. He has conducted comedy-writing workshops at the American Film Institute and consulted on projects for Columbia/Tri-Star International Television. Al Jean, longtime executive producer of The Simpsons, calls this “a compelling darkly funny look inside the Hollywood of today; a Day of the Locust set in the world of sitcoms.”

Edwin Hill ’93, The Missing Ones (Kensington Books, August 2019)

In this spooky month of October, what could be better than a fast-paced, page-turner mystery? As a follow-up to Hill’s first novel Little Comfort, The Missing Ones features Hester Thursby, the Harvard librarian and sleuth, as she uses her sharp research skills to make connections and uncover crimes. When Thursby is summoned to an island off the coast of Maine by a cryptic text, she is led into a web of deception and long-held grudges, which she must untangle in order to solve a case of disappearing children. From there, she confronts ethical binds that challenge her moral convictions and force her to reconsider all that she had previously perceived to be simple. Weaving a narrative full of suspense and twists, Edwin Hill expertly crafts a mystery that will keep you guessing—not only at the core of the mystery, but also at what constitutes the right choice in ethically grey areas.

Edwin Hill ’93, whose first novel was nominated for an Agatha Award for best debut, is already at work on the third mystery in the Hester Thursby series. At Wesleyan, he majored in American studies. Joanna Schaffhausen, author of The Vanishing Season and No Mercy, called this book “a chilling mix of envy, deceit, and murder. Everyone is lying about something in this tense, stylish novel.”

Carlo Rotella ’86, The World is Always Coming to an End: Pulling Together and Apart in a Chicago Neighborhood (The University of Chicago Press, April 2019)

While writing The World is Always Coming to an End, Carlo Rotella would take a daily stroll between two houses in Chicago’s South Shore, one on the 7100 block of Oglesby and the other on the 6900 block of Euclid. “They’re not quite a mile apart . . . but to go from one to the other is to pass through distinct worlds,” Rotella writes in his introduction. In his examination of how this came to be, Rotella explores the interplay between these worlds with the care of meticulous reportage mixed with a personal perspective to the story. Informed by interviews with locals and archival research, The World is Always Coming to an End not only delves into the dynamics of one neighborhood; it also questions and investigates the very meaning of a neighborhood universally, as well as what it means to form community across divisions.

Carlo Rotella ’86,  a professor of English, American studies, and journalism at Boston College, is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine. An American studies major at Wesleyan, he earned his doctorate at Yale and is the author of Playing in Time: Essays, Profiles, and Other True Stories (2012), and others. Author Oma M. McRoberts calls this “a rich, incisive portrait of social change in Chicago’s iconic South Shore neighborhood.”

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. CT Post: “Former Wesleyan Provost is First Woman President at Hobart and William Smith Colleges”

Joyce Jacobsen, formerly Wesleyan’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs and the Andrews Professor of Economics, was inaugurated Oct. 18 as the first woman president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. At the ceremony, the chairman of the HWS Board of Trustees said: “Dr. Jacobsen enters the presidency of Hobart and William Smith at a time of increasing complexity in higher education both here on campus and nationally. It is my belief, and the unanimous belief of the Board of Trustees, that there is no one better to help us navigate this future than Dr. Joyce Jacobsen.” Read more coverage of the inauguration in Finger Lake Times.

2. Wilson Center Blog: “Victoria Smolkin: A History of Soviet Atheism”

In this Q&A, Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin discusses her book, A Sacred Space is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism. She explains how religion in the former Soviet states has changed since the fall of the Soviet Union, and offers a preview of her second book project. Smolkin was a Title VIII Research Fellow at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in 2014–15.

Barber Authors New Book on ‘One Man’s Journey from Gangleader to Peacekeeper’

Citizen OUtlaw

Charles Barber is the author of Citizen Outlaw, published Oct. 15 by HarperCollins.

Charles Barber, writer-in-residence in letters, is the author of a new book that tells the dramatic story of William Juneboy Outlaw III. Formerly the head of a major cocaine gang in New Haven, Outlaw turned his life around and now is an award-winning community advocate, leading a team of former felons who negotiate truces between gangs on the very streets that he once terrorized.

Barber wrote Citizen Outlaw: One Man’s Journey from Gangleader to Peacekeeper, published Oct. 15 by HarperCollins, in collaboration with Outlaw. The two gave a WESeminar and book signing on Nov. 1 at Russell House as part of Homecoming/Family Weekend. Their collaboration was also featured on the Today Show on Nov. 13.

Three Wesleyan students and alumni also worked over the summer and contributed to the book including Ben Owen ’21, Nicole Updegrove ’14, and Natalia Siegel ’18.

Indian Sarod Master Performs at Wesleyan’s 43rd Annual Navaratri Festival

Wesleyan’s 43rd Navaratri Festival, held Oct. 10-14, celebrated traditional Indian music and dance.

2019 Navaratri Festival events included:

    • A colloquium focusing on “Re-sounding Islam—Marking Religious and Aesthetic Pluralism in the Historiography of South Indian Music.”
    • The Saraswati Puja (Hindu ceremony), where audience members bring instruments, manuscripts, and other items for blessing.
    • “The Sarod Trilogy” by Amjad Ali Khan.
    • The Bhojanam (feast) featuring vegetarian Indian delicacies.
    • “The Courtesan Dance” from South India by guest performer Yashoda Thakore.
    • “Vocal Music of South India” by vocalist and Adjunct Associate Professor of Music B. Balasubrahmaniyan and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music David Nelson on mridangam and violinist Nandini Viswanathan.
    • A free interactive presentation of the fundamental concepts of Indian classical music, and how the practice of composition continually helps to preserve both tradition and musical technique.

The festival was presented by the Center for the Arts, Music Department, and Dance Department, with leadership support from the Madhu Reddy Endowed Fund for Indian Music and Dance at Wesleyan University, and additional support from the Jon B. Higgins Memorial Fund.

Grammy Award-nominated sarod (19-stringed instrument) master Amjad Ali Khan performed “Sarod Trilogy” Oct. 10 as part of the 43rd Navaratri Festival at Wesleyan.

Khan was joined by his sarod-playing sons Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash, along with tabla player Amit Kavthekar. Khan was born into the sixth generation of the illustrious lineage of the Senia-Bangash school of music, and is credited with reinventing the technique of playing the sarod, which means “melody” in Persian.

Photos of the “Sarod Trilogy” performance are below: (Photos by Rich Marinelli)

"Sarod Trilogy"

"Sarod Trilogy"

Davison Art Center Offers Museum-Quality Art Reproductions

Breton Women at a Fence (Bretonnes à la Barrière) BuyPaul Gauguin

“Breton Women at a Fence” (“Bretonnes à la Barrière”) by Paul Gauguin is available for reproduction in Art Authority’s Davison Art Center collection.

Art enthusiasts can now enjoy Wesleyan’s Davison Art Center (DAC) collections on their own living room walls.

This month, the DAC has partnered with Art Authority and 1000 Museums to offer the public high-quality reproductions of select holdings from the DAC collection. Currently, the DAC store includes works by Albrecht Dürer, Paul Gauguin, and all 80 prints in Francisco de Goya’s series, Los Caprichos.

Each reproduction is made using a professionally photographed digital image and printed on archival fine art paper. A variety of sizes and framing options are available for each print.

The DAC is working to make reproductions of additional DAC holdings available over time.

To see what’s available now, visit wesleyan.edu/dacprint.

art

Miniature Artworks Displayed at Into the Image Exhibit

The exhibit titled Into the Image is on display at the Davison Art Center (DAC) through Nov. 24. This exhibition of miniature artworks—drawn entirely from the Davison Art Center collection—features objects made across several centuries and includes examples by Rembrandt van Rijn and Henri Matisse.

On Oct. 10, Miya Tokumitsu, DAC curator, and Andy Szegedy-Maszak, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek and Professor of Classical Studies, led a gallery talk during the opening reception.

Into the Image will be the final exhibition in the Davison Art Center’s current gallery at 301 High Street. A new gallery will be constructed between Olin Library and the Public Affairs Center over the next few years.

Photos of the opening reception are below: (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

exhibit
exhibit