Arts & Culture

Cultural Experiences Discussed at Power of Language Conference

More than 110 Wesleyan students, faculty, alumni, and local guests participated in the second annual Power of Language Conference, April 26-27 at the Fries Center for Global Studies. The event was open to the entire Wesleyan community.

The two-day event featured six panels that focused on: Creative Language Learning, Crossing Time and Border through Translation, Language and Society, Language in Curriculum, Arabic in the U.S., and  Polyphony through Literature.

“The presentations ranged from class final projects (such as a comic version of Dante’s Inferno, reimagined at Wesleyan) to senior theses (such as the challenges of translating early modern Spanish into accessible contemporary English),” said Steve Angle, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies and director of the Fries Center for Global Studies. “Taken as a whole, the presentations captured the challenges and rewards of working with the world’s languages.”

Bobrick in The Conversation: What the Greek Tragedy Antigone Can Teach Us About the Dangers of Extremism

Elizabeth Bobrick

Elizabeth Bobrick

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 a new article, Elizabeth Bobrick, visiting scholar in classical studies and visiting assistant professor in liberal studies, writes about lessons from Sophocles’ Greek tragedy Antigone, a play which, she writes, “mirrors the state of America’s current disunion.”

What the Greek tragedy Antigone can teach us about the dangers of extremism

In a Greek tragedy written in the middle of the fifth century B.C., three teenagers struggle with a question that could be asked now: What happens when a ruler declares that those who resist his dictates are enemies of the state, and that ruler has as many supporters as he has detractors?

The story of Sophocles’ Antigone and the accursed royal family of Thebes belongs to the mythical pre-history of Greece.

Greek tragedy portrays in broad strokes the cruelties that take place within families and cities, but keeps them in the safe distance of the mythical past. The mythical past provided a safe space to present contemporary problems without outright political affiliation.

The play, named after its young heroine, mirrors the state of America’s current disunion: Political and moral views are framed in terms of a fight between patriot and traitor, defenders of civic order and its enemies, and law and conscience.

Whitney ’19 Wins DAAD Scholarship to Support Graduate Study in Germany

Lizzie Whitney ’19

Lizzie Whitney ’19

Lizzie Whitney ’19, a College of Letters and German studies double major from California, is the recipient of a 2019 DAAD scholarship for study/research in Germany.

The Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, or German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) supports the internationalization of German universities and promotes German studies and the German language abroad. The study scholarship is presented to graduating seniors at the top of their class.

Whitney, who is applying to the University of Konstanz for graduate school, will use her DAAD scholarship to support her studies in comparative literature. The study scholarship also provides students with a monthly stipend plus funds for health insurance and travel costs.

“I’d also like to focus on the creation of a concept of German national identity through literature and literary confrontation with the Other, in whatever form that might be over the past few centuries,” she explained.

Since 1925, more than 1.9 million scholars in Germany and abroad have received DAAD funding.

Woodcarver Yorburg ’77 to Speak on Jewish Immigrant Carvers

In his workshop, he carves a new leg and hoof for an antique carousel horse. (Photo by Melissa Rocha)

In his workshop, Bob Yorburg ’77 carves a new leg and hoof for an antique carousel horse. Yorburg will be speaking on “Coney Island Jewish Immigrant Carvers” at the Bushnell Park Carousel on April 28. (Photo by Melissa Rocha)

Bob Yorburg ’77, a master woodcarver renowned for his antique restorations of turn-of-the-20th-century carousels and calliopes, notes that the Jewish immigrant carvers of that era “raised the art of carousel carving to a new level.”

“Their realism and extraordinary ornamentation defined the Coney Island style of carousel carving,” he writes.

Additionally, these brilliant carvers translated their secular art into ornamentation that graced the historic synagogues of Brooklyn.

Offering a photographic journey into the workshops of some of these artists—Marcus Charles Illions, Charles Carmel, along with Solomon Stein and Harry Goldstein—Yorburg will be speaking on “Coney Island Jewish Immigrant Carvers” at the Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford, Conn., at 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 28. Tickets are $10 by reservation only and may be purchased by calling 860-585-5411.

Wesleyan in the News

In 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. The Middletown Press“Wesleyan Students Helping Former Prisoners to Gain Job Skills”

Wesleyan Students for Ending Mass Incarceration (SEMI) is a group of students working to help formerly incarcerated individuals acclimate back into society by providing them with job skills. The goal, according to member Asiyah Herrero ’22, is “making re-entry into the workforce a little bit easier. There are usually a lack of resources when people get out of prison, and starting to look for work, especially because there are a lot of jobs that do discriminate or have discriminatory ideas about people who have been in prison.”

“You Just Have to Read This…” 3 Books By Wesleyan Authors

In the first of a continuing series, Sara McCrea ’21, a College of Letters major from Boulder, Colo., reviews alumni books and offers this selection for those in search of 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.

In 2004, Susan Lanzoni ’85 read an O Magazine interview of then U.S. Senator Barack Obama, in which he said that, more than America’s budget or trade deficit, he was concerned about an “empathy deficit” in our country. The use of the word “empathy” has only increased over the past 15 years, and many would say for good reason. In Empathy: A History (Yale University Press, 2018), Lanzoni explores empathy as a tool, a technique, a practice, and an aspiration, involving the body, the mind, and the imagination. She tracks the word from its early conception as a translation of the German word Einfühlung (“in-feeling”)—a psychological term used to describe how spectators projected their own feelings into objects of art and nature—to its current usage, which more closely resembles the opposite of projection. In addition to her discussion of the etymology of empathy, Lanzoni investigates the limits and possibilities of empathy in art, science, psychology, popular culture, and politics to present an all-encompassing look at the evolution of how we understand what it means to place ourselves in the world around us.

Seniors Exhibit Art Theses at Zilkha Gallery

Works by seniors in the Art Studio Program of Wesleyan’s Department of Art and Art History are on exhibit through April 28. Exhibitions change each week.

The Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday; noon to 7 p.m. on Thursday; and noon to 5 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The show is free and open to the public.

The exhibit includes the following artwork on display April 2 through 7:

Cayla Blachman presented “Where To.”

 

 

Shirley See Yan Fang presented her exhibit titled “做得好.”

Bruce Performs Final “This Is It” Recital, Ending 6-Year Project

Neely Bruce performed his final “This Is It” concert March 31 in Crowell Concert Hall. (Photo by Alexa Jablonski ’22)

After publicly performing almost 16 hours of his solo piano compositions, Neely Bruce, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music played his final concert on March 31, concluding a six-year project.

Bruce, who took up piano at the age of 8, began the series titled “This Is It! The Complete Piano Works of Neely Bruce” in 2013. He performed a total of 17 CD-length recitals at Crowell Concert Hall during this time.

“I thought it might take 12 (recitals), but it ended up being 17,” Bruce said. “This was a great opportunity to take stock of my whole life as a composer for the keyboard.”

Bruce has composed more than 300 original songs in addition to three full-length operas; five one-act operas; works for orchestra, chamber orchestra, and wind ensemble; chamber music; electronic music; and documentary film scores. He also set the Bill of Rights to music. Read more about his work on neelybruce.com.

“I never set out to be a composer of such an extensive oeuvre for piano,” he said.

This spring, Bruce is teaching 18th-Century Counterpoint and Music of the 19th Century.

In March, the Center for the Arts Radio Hour featured a conversation between Neely Bruce and composer, scriptwriter, and essayist Michael Kowalski.

Who Are the Great Americans? Paintings by Lahav ’00 Spark Conversations

This portrait of George Washington by Jac Lahav ’00 is part of the project, The Great Americans, now on exhibit at the Florence Griswold Museum in Lyme, Conn., until May 12. (Photo by Tammi Flynn)

The paintings: Oprah is elegantly coiffed, gowned in a long blue dress, into which a portrait of her in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has been etched. Lincoln, his sad visage rising above the American flag that envelops him, stands in front of a reproduction of a painting by Henry Ogden, “The Battle of Spotsylvania.” Afong Moy, the first woman from China to arrive in the United States, is clad in a culturally traditional red wedding dress, hands primly—or nervously?—clasped at her waist; her head entirely concealed by a veil. We’ll never see her face—which the artist hopes might prod us to consider: Would we have remembered it anyway?

These are just three from The Great Americans, a show by artist Jac Lahav ’00, on exhibit at the Florence Griswold Museum in Lyme, Conn., until May 12. The work is attracting interest from both critics and schoolchildren alike, sparking dialogues among patrons responding to an implicit question behind the title: What makes someone “great”? Do the Americans shown here fit these criteria? 

While he was still in grad school, that question was the starting point for Lahav. He’d been watching a Discovery Channel miniseries, Greatest American, and his attention was captured by the debates that arose around naming a top-10 group. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln easily made the list. But the audience was divided between Jonas Salk or Oprah Winfrey, illustrating the difficulty: What is the definition of “great.” While Salk is the creator of the polio vaccine and might initially be a shoo-in, his legacy is more complicated, notes Lahav: His vaccine is no longer the one in use today, and his collaborators felt that Salk had ignored their contributions in favor of personal celebrity.

Wesleyan in the News

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

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Gizmodo: “What’s the Oldest Disease?”

Douglas Charles, professor of anthropology, professor of archaeology, says “we don’t know” the answer to this question because of limitations in fossil records. However, he says that there are indications of tuberculosis, leprosy and tumors found in ancient human and Homo erectus skeletons.

  1. The Middletown Press: “Wesleyan University to Move 90 Employees to Main Street Middletown”

Wesleyan’s University Relations staff and most Finance staff will move to the Main Street building as part of the University’s strategic facilities plan. This move further strengthens ties between the University and the community.

2. The Wall Street Journal: “Five Best: Andrew Curran on Intellectual Freedom”

Roche Remembered for Designing the Center for the Arts Complex

Pritzker Prize–winning architect Kevin Roche, who designed Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts, died on March 1 at the age of 96 at his home in Guilford, Conn.

In January, the Connecticut Architecture Foundation presented the Connecticut premiere of the feature documentary film “Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect” (2017) at Wesleyan. The film considers many of the key architectural questions through his 70-year career, including the relationship between architects and the public they serve. His architectural philosophy was that “the responsibility of the modern architect is to create a community for a modern society,” and he emphasized the importance of bringing nature into the buildings they inhabit. “It would be impossible to write a history of 20th-century architecture without Kevin Roche,” Robert A.M. Stern said in the film.

Some of his over 200 projects included the Knights of Columbus Tower in New Haven; the New Haven Coliseum; the Oakland Museum of Art; the John Deere headquarters in Moline, Ill.; the Ford Foundation in New York City; and a nearly 50-year relationship with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Audio Book Narrator Ballerini ’92 Wins Audie Award—Again

Edoardo Ballerini ’92

Edoardo Ballerini ’92 was named Best Male Narrator for his work on Watchers, by Dean Koontz, at the 2019 Audie Awards, sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association. He had also won this award three years earlier for Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters, and has narrated the work from a wide variety of authors, including Dante, the Dalai Lama, James Patterson, and Franz Kafka. (Photo by Max Flatow)

This year at the 24th annual Audie Awards, held on Feb. 4, Edoardo Ballerini ’92 was named Best Male Narrator for his work on Watchers by Dean Koontz.

The awards are sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association. In this winning entry, Ballerini was cited for “do[ing] a top-notch job of narrating this story. Listeners join Travis Cornell, who is hiking while trying to make sense of his life. When he chances upon an apparently stray golden retriever, things will never be the same. Ballerini creates a balance of warmth and suspense that reflects the heartwarming, yet at times frightening, aspects of the plot. He helps to characterize the three protagonists, including Einstein, the highly intelligent dog.”

This was Ballerini’s second time to receive the Audie for Best Male Narrator. In 2013, he stepped up to the podium for his work on Jess Walters’s Beautiful Ruins. But it’s not only modern fiction that finds its voice through Ballerini. His narration has made vibrant the books by a wide range of authors across centuries, including those by Dante, the Dalai Lama, James Patterson, and Franz Kafka.

Ballerini began working in film and television as a recent graduate, “then audiobooks kind of came to me,” he said. “Somebody asked me if I would record a version of The Prince, by Machiavelli, and I said, ‘Sure. Why not?’”

That was in 2007, when the audiobook industry started taking off. Although this form had been around for decades, the industry has been growing rapidly in recent years: in 2018 alone audiobook revenue increased 22.7 percent. While this uptick has been attributed to advancing technology, which makes it easier to stream or download and listen anywhere, Ballerini thinks other factors are at play.