Arts & Culture

Bloom’s Novel Lucky Us on Success, Luck, Big Dreams, Scandals

New book by Amy Bloom.

New book by Amy Bloom.

Amy Bloom, the Distinguished University Writer-in-Residence and director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing, is the author of a novel, Lucky Us, published in July 2014 by Random House.

Disappointed by their families, Iris, a hopeful star and Eva the sidekick, journey through 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris’s ambitions take the pair across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, and to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island.

With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine though a landscape of big dreams, scandals, betrayals, and war. Lucky Us is a resonant novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, the creation of a family, and the pleasures and inevitable perils of family life, conventional and otherwise.

In celebration of her book release, Bloom will be speaking Sept. 2 at the Society Club in London, and Sept. 3 at Shakespeare and Company in Paris.

Bloom’s stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, and numerous anthologies here and abroad. She has written for The New Yorker, Thee New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, Slate and Salon, among many other publications, and has won a National Magazine Award.

Former Artist-in-Residence Redpath Remembered for Teaching Folklore

Jean Redpath (Photo courtesy of

Jean Redpath (Photo courtesy of

Jean Redpath, a Scottish-born singer who delighted audiences worldwide and was described by The Boston Globe as “something very close to Scotland’s folk singer laureate,” died Aug. 21 at age 77. She brought her musical talent and extensive knowledge of Scottish history to Wesleyan and the Middletown community as an artist-in-residence in the 1970s.

According to her official website, Redpath arrived in the United States in 1961 with $11 in her pocket.

Whedon ’87 Is Subject of New Biography

Joss Whedon '87 delivered Wesleyan's Commencement address in 2013.

Joss Whedon ’87 delivered Wesleyan’s Commencement address in 2013.

Award-winning film and television director, producer and writer Joss Whedon ’87 is the subject of the informative and entertaining Joss Whedon: The Biography (Chicago Review Press) by Amy Pascale, a director at MTV.

The book begins by tracing Whedon’s growth from a creative child and teenager who spent years away from his family at an elite English boarding school (Winchester College in Hampshire), through his early successes—which often turned into frustration in television (Roseanne) and film (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). The biography then covers his breakout career turn as the creator, writer, and director of the highly successful Buffy television series, which garnered a passionate fan base.

Book about Josh Whedon '87.

Book about Josh Whedon ’87.

Following Buffy, Whedon directed, produced or wrote more television series (Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse and the current ABC hit Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), several movies, Marvel comic books, and an innovative web series, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which gave him his first Emmy win. He went on to direct and write The Avengers film in 2012, which earned a worldwide box office of $1.5 billion. He followed this blockbuster with his film of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, a critically acclaimed personal project shot in black-and-white at his home with a cast of friends.

One of the chapters of the biography deals with Whedon’s time at Wesleyan, where he majored in film. As an undergraduate, he further developed his keen interest in gender studies and feminism. He also wrote a paper on Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which focused on four themes: the Watcher, the Watched, Isolation, and the Role of the Viewer, themes that would appear in his own creative work. Whedon became a TA for film classes and made a student film. He studied with Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of English Emeritus, and with Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, who says: “His lectures were absolutely brilliant. They had … a kind of poetry that showed how his heart and soul really understood the medium, as well as his brain … He wasn’t just intellectually sharp about film, he was also emotionally, creatively sharp about it.”

Pascale conducted extensive interviews with Whedon and his family, friends, collaborators and stars, resulting in candid, behind-the-scenes accounts of the making of his groundbreaking TV series and films, and new stories about his work with Pixar writers and animators during the creation of Toy Story.

Two Whistler Drawings from DAC to Be Featured in PBS Documentary

Open Access Image from the Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University

Whistler’s sketch showing how his Venice works should be exhibited in 1880

Two drawings by James McNeill Whistler, part of the Davison Art Center’s collection of more than 100 Whistler works, will be shown in a new documentary on the life of the painter.

The sketches, one in pencil and one in pen and ink, will be seen in “James McNeill Whistler & The Case for Beauty,” premiering September 12 on PBS.

They represent just a small part of Wesleyan’s extensive holdings of works on paper by Whistler, one of the most important American artists of the 19th century.

“Whistler was crucial in making the connection between the Impressionists and British art, and … American art,” said Clare Rogan, curator of the Davison Art Center and adjunct assistant professor of art history. “While he worked mostly in Europe, he was incredibly important in creating that link.”

Neither sketch is large – unlike finished prints or paintings, both were for Whistler’s personal use and not intended to be seen by a larger audience. They are, however, interesting glimpses of an artist at work. The pencil sketch, measuring at just 4.4 by 6.9 inches, represents his ideas about displaying his famous landscape prints of Venice at an 1880 exhibit by the Fine Arts Society in London.

Basinger Remembers Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall

Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, curator of the Cinema Archives, reflected on the life of actress Lauren Bacall, who died this week at age 89. When Bacall’s acting career began as a young woman in the 1940s, Basinger said, “She was a legend from the very first minute…And she was so unique–her looks, her style, her voice.”

Although Bacall was dismissed by some critics early on, Basinger said, the longevity and quality of her career proved that she “wasn’t just an appendage to Humphrey Bogart.”

Read the full story in The Chicago Tribune here.

Professor of Art John Frazer Remembered for Teaching, Painting, Films

John Frazer, professor of art, emeritus, taught drawing and film classes at Wesleyan from 1959 to 2001. He's pictured here in his Middletown studio with two of his own still life paintings. (Photo by Olivia Bartlett)

John Frazer, professor of art, emeritus, taught drawing and film classes at Wesleyan from 1959 to 2001. He’s pictured here in his Middletown studio with two of his own still life paintings.

John Frazer, professor of art, emeritus, died July 7 at the age of 82.

“Generations of Wesleyan students knew John as a gifted teacher of students at all levels of artistic ability,” said Ruth Striegel Weissman, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Throughout his career on the Wesleyan faculty, from 1959 to 2001, Frazer introduced hundreds of Wesleyan students to the art of drawing, painting and film. He taught the first filmmaking courses at Wesleyan and continued this teaching until the Film Program, which he helped found, became independent of the Art Department. His influence lives on through his endowment of the John Frazer Instructor of Drawing position in the Department of Art and Art History. The John Frazer Visiting Artist Endowment Fund was established in 1999 and endowed in his honor through the generosity of the Andrus family.

Audrey Hepburn Stars in July’s Summer Film Series

Audrey Hepburn stars in the 1961 romantic comedy Breakfast at Tiffany's. Hepburn was nominated for "Best Actress in a Leading Role" by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for her role as Holly Golightly. The film will be shown July 22 at the Center for Film Studies.

Audrey Hepburn stars in the 1961 romantic comedy Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Hepburn was nominated for “Best Actress in a Leading Role” by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for her role as Holly Golightly. The film will be shown July 22 at the Center for Film Studies.

“Hollywood Icons: Audrey Hepburn” is the theme of Wesleyan’s Summer Film Series, sponsored by the College of Film and the Moving Image (CFILM). All four films, featuring Oscar-award winning actress Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993), take place at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays in July.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for the accompanying “Posters From the Collection” exhibition in the Rick Nicita Gallery.

All films will begin with an introduction by Marc Longenecker, CFILM programming and technical director.

All films are open to the public and are free of charge.

The films include:

Roman Holiday on July 8;
Sabrina on July 15;
Breakfast at Tiffany’s on July 22;
And Funny Face on July 29.

See the Summer Film Series website for more information and additional poster images.

Gruen Edits Book on Contemporary Ecofeminism

Book co-edited by Lori Gruen.

Book co-edited by Lori Gruen.

Professor Lori Gruen is the co-editor of a new book titled Ecofeminism: Feminist Intersections with Other Animals and the Earth, published by Bloomsbury Academic in July 2014.

Gruen is chair and professor of philosophy, professor of environmental studies, and professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies. She also co-coordinates Wesleyan Animal Studies.

In this 288-page book, leading feminist scholars and activists introduce and explore themes central to contemporary ecofeminism.

Ecofeminism: Feminist Intersections with Other Animals and the Earth first offers an historical, grounding overview that situates ecofeminist theory and activism and provides a timeline for important publications and events. This is followed by contributions from leading theorists and activists on how our emotions and embodiment can and must inform our relationships with the more than human world. In the final section, the contributors explore the complexities of appreciating difference and the possibilities of living less violently. Throughout the book, the authors engage with intersections of gender and gender non-conformity, race, sexuality, disability and species.

The result is a new up-to-date resource for students and teachers of animal studies, environmental studies, feminist/gender studies, and practical ethics.

Gruen also is the editor of The Ethics of Captivity, published in May 2014, and the author of Ethics and Animals: An Introduction, published in May 2011.

Jenkins Explores Bali’s Saraswati Ritual in New Book

New book by Ron Jenkins.

New book by Ron Jenkins.

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, is the author of a new book titled Saraswati in Bali: a Temple, a Museum and a Mask, published by the Agung Rai Museum of Art, Peliatan, Ubud, Bali, in July 2014.

Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge, through whom the Balinese symbolically link their tangible (sekala) and intangible (niskala) worlds. The Balinese celebrate Saraswati at an annual festival.

In a July 7 Jakarta Post article, contributing writer Jean Couteau explains that instead of trying to “understand” Bali like anthropologists would, “often reifying it or losing themselves in abstruse concepts of dubious ‘universalist’ value, Jenkins presents it ‘in action.’

In Saraswati in Bali, Jenkins explores the festival as a “performance” or ritual in motion. Jenkins explains how local Balinese express their collective wisdom through ceremonies, and their understanding through active participation in communal song, prayers and ritual preparations.

He also explains the relation of several paintings to the story of Saraswati and the esoteric Balinese knowledge associated with it.

“Jenkins’ purpose is not to conceptualize, but to ‘bring to life,’ which is obviously to him a more efficient way to cross the cultural barrier that separates modern people from traditional Balinese,” Couteau writes.

View a PDF of The Jakara Post story here.

Jay Siegel’s Tokens, Super Girls Group to Headline WESU’s Doo Wop Benefit Concert

On July 12,  Wesleyan's 88.1 FM WESU radio is hosting a fundraising concert in celebration of 75 years of community radio. The concert will feature several doo wop, rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll artists. 

On July 12,  Wesleyan’s 88.1 FM WESU radio is hosting a fundraising concert in celebration of 75 years of community radio. The concert will feature several doo wop, rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll artists.

Lovers of vintage doo wop, rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll attended a night to remember when Wesleyan’s 88.1 FM WESU Middletown presented the “WESU 75th Anniversary Doo Wop Extravaganza” on July 12.

The fundraising concert, held at the Middletown High School Performing Arts Center, was a celebration of 75 years of community radio.

Headlining the show was Jay Siegel’s Tokens, the legendary group that recorded the mega hit, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” They’ll be joined by The Super Girls Group, featuring original members of some of the greatest female groups of rock ’n’ roll, including:  Louise Murray of The Hearts & Jaynetts (“Lonely Nights” and “Sally Go Round The Roses”);  Lillian Walker of The Exciters (“Tell Him” and “Doo Wah Diddy”); Margaret Ross of The Cookies (“Chains” and “Don’t Say Nothing Bad About My Baby”); Beverly Warren of The Raindrops (“The Kind of Boy You Can’t Forget” and “What a Guy”); and Nanette Licari of Reparata and The Del Rons  (“Whenever A Teenager Cries” and “Tommy”).  

WESU has been broadcasting ‘oldies’ music for 35 years on Saturday mornings on the “Moondog Matinee” radio show (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.).

“While most commercial radio stations have abandoned this musical format, our ‘oldies’ programs are among our most popular shows. This is a great examples of how community radio, like WESU, serves the needs of listeners who are marginalized by main stream media,” said WESU General Manager Ben Michael.

Rose’s ‘The Shelf’ is Editor’s Choice

The Shelfa new book by Phyllis Rose, professor of English, emeritus, was featured as an “Editor’s Choice” in The Chicago TribuneThe review praises Rose’s “brilliant, generous counterintuitive voice” in this literary experiment, through which Rose attempts to “un-curate her reading life” and bring back the joy of random discovery that was lost with the extinction of the library card catalogue.

The reviewer explains: “The beauty of her idea lay in its arbitrary quality, the uniqueness appealed to her — that no one else in the history of the world had read this particular set of novels. She wanted a mix of new and old, women and men, and maybe a classic she had been meaning to read. In books, and in life, Phyllis Rose was after spontaneity, inclusiveness and uniqueness.”