Faculty

Boulware Presents Paper on Labor Market Conditions at Economics Meeting

Karl Boulware

Karl Boulware

Karl Boulware, assistant professor of economics, presented a paper at the Allied Social Science Associations (ASSA) Annual Meeting on Jan. 4. The three-day meeting was attended by more than 13,000 economists, who gathered to network and celebrate new achievements in economic research.

Boulware’s paper, titled “Labor Market Conditions and Charges of Discrimination: Is There a Link?” examines whether the degree of labor market conditions affects the frequency of claims of discrimination based on race, sex, age, national origin, color, and disability.

“Our findings have implications for how macroeconomic policies might be used to promote equal opportunity in the labor market,” Boulware explained.

Economics majors Will Levinson ’19 and Avi Lipton ’20 also contributed to the project as research assistants.

This spring, Boulware is teaching courses on Quantitative Methods in Economics and Monetary Policy Transmission.

Murillo’s Poem Featured in American Poetry Review

John Murillo (Photo courtesy of American Poetry Review)

New poetry by John Murillo, assistant professor of English, is published in the Feb. 2019 issue (Volume 48, No. 1) of American Poetry Review. Murillo also is featured on the publication’s cover page.

His poem, titled “A Refusal to Mourn the Deaths, by Gunfire, of Three Men in Brooklyn,” is a nod to Dylan Thomas’s famous poem, “A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London.”

Bloom Creates New Memoir and Personal Essay Specialization on Coursera

Amy Bloom

Amy Bloom, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, recently launched a new nonfiction writing course housed on the Coursera platform. This is Wesleyan’s 21st free massive, open, online course (MOOC) offered through Coursera.

Launched on Jan. 14, Bloom’s Memoir and Personal Essay: Write About Yourself Specialization shows participants how to write with confidence. Taught by award-winning essayists and memoirists, this specialization provides tips, prompts, exercises, readings, and challenges that prepare students to write compelling nonfiction.

Bloom, author of two New York Times best-sellers, also is professor of the practice in creative writing and professor of the practice, English. In this Q&A, Bloom discusses the new specialization. (The Q&A also appears on Coursera.)

Q: What is the Memoir and Personal Essay Specialization?

A: The Memoir and Personal Essay Specialization focuses on these two popular forms of creative writing about the self. One of the wonderful opportunities in this kind of work is that memory and observation are even more important than imagination and the ability to create fictional plot lines. Here, you weave all these skills together to help you put to paper the story you’ve always wanted to share.

Roberts’s Book Revisited by Society for Classical Studies

Michael Roberts

During the Annual Meeting for the Society for Classical Studies, Michael Roberts, the Robert Rich Professor of Latin, Emeritus, served as a respondent in a session devoted to commemorating the 30th anniversary of the publication of his book, The Jeweled Style: Poetry and Poetics in Late Antiquity.

The meeting took place in San Diego, Calif., Jan. 3–6, and included numerous paper and panel presentations; roundtable discussion sessions; performances by the Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance; meetings and receptions of affiliated groups; and more.

In The Jeweled Style (1989), Roberts offers a new approach to the Latin poetry of late antiquity, one centering on an aesthetic quality common to both the literature and the art of the period. In Roberts’s view, the writer or artist of this period works as a jeweler, carefully setting compositional units in a geometric framework, consistently demonstrating a preference for effects of patterning over realistic representation.

Bruce Named Music Ambassador for the City of Middletown

Neely Bruce, left, a professor of music and American studies at Wesleyan University, and Walter Frank, a masters student in piano performance and composition, work on some music Tuesday in Bruce's office from The Sacred Harp. Bruce was named Middletown’s Music Ambassador on Jan. 5, 2019.

Neely Bruce, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, left, and Walter Frank, a masters student in piano performance and composition, work together on music. (Photo courtesy of The Middletown Press.)

Neely Bruce, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, was named Music Ambassador for the City of Middletown in 2019. He received the honor during a reception Jan. 10 at the Municipal Building in Middletown, Conn.

Bruce, a composer, pianist, conductor, and scholar of American music, was previously an artist-in-residence at Middlebury College, Bucknell University, the University of Michigan, and at Brooklyn College. He is the chorus director for Connecticut Opera and music director at South Congregational Church in Middletown.

His compositions include three full-length operas; five one-act operas; works for orchestra, chamber orchestra, and wind ensemble; about 300 solo songs; chamber music; electronic music and documentary film scores; and many hours of solo piano music and other keyboard works. Recent major works include Circular 14: The Apotheosis of Aristides, for eight soloists, two choruses, and large orchestra. He is currently engaged in a series of 17 CD-length recitals comprising his complete works for solo piano.

An article in the Jan. 5 edition of The Middletown Press provides accolades for Bruce’s work as a composer and musician including:

“Neely Bruce’s importance in contemporary American music has never been sufficiently recognized…. Bruce’s art ranges from the most difficult and virtuosic contemporary writing to simple tonality, and moves from one idiom to the other effortlessly and convincingly—something hardly anyone can do without sounding forced. Bruce seems equally at home in every style he uses…. This is one of the most significant releases to come my way in quite a while.” — Timothy Taylor, professor of ethnomusicology at UCLA.

Bruce earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa; he received his DMA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This spring, he’s teaching courses on 18th-century counterpoint and music of the 19th century.

Robertson Remembered for His Love of Mathematics

Lewis Robertson, professor of mathematics, emeritus, passed away Dec. 22, 2018, at the age of 80.

Robertson received his BS and MS from the University of Chicago and his PhD from the University of California—Los Angeles. He came to Wesleyan with tenure in 1970 after serving as an assistant professor at the University of Washington, and he remained at Wesleyan for 28 years until his retirement in 1998.

Robertson’s scholarly research focused on Lie groups, topological groups, and representation theory. His PhD thesis was on algebra, influenced by topology, and that remained his primary interest throughout his career. He published 23 papers, many with Wesleyan colleagues, and supervised three PhD students at Wesleyan.

Robertson loved mathematics and was always eager to think about any mathematics problem that arose.

“Lew was a gentle fellow, and unfailingly kind. As a mathematician, he was extremely self-effacing,” said Edward Burr Van Vleck Professor of Mathematics, Emerita, Carol Wood. “Nonetheless, it was impossible for him to hide his mathematical ability. Lew was a regular in the topology seminar over the decades, and when a topic (often outside his area of expertise) caught his interest, the depth of his comments would yet again remind me that Lew was a gifted mathematician.”

His colleague, Tony Hager, professor of mathematics, emeritus said, “Lew was my colleague and friend for about 50 years. He and I coauthored three fine papers together around 1980, one of which has become a go-to reference in its field. I will miss him greatly.”

Robertson is survived by his wife of 44 years, Janet; their son, Michael; one child from a previous marriage, Laureen; Janet’s daughters from a previous marriage, Julie and Jeanne; and eight grandchildren. A memorial service is being planned for early May 2019. The family requests that memorial contributions be made in Lew’s name to the Wesleyan Fund to support students studying math and science, and sent to the care of Marcy Herlihy, University Relations, 330 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459.

Tucker in The Conversation: In ‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ an Ode to the Gas Lamp

Jennifer Tucker

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, Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker explores our ongoing romance with the gas lamp in connection with the new Mary Poppins film. Tucker is also associate professor and chair, feminist, gender, and sexuality studies; associate professor, science in society; and associate professor, environmental studies.

In ‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ an ode to the gas lamp

Mary Poppins Returns” transports audiences back to 1930s London.

The beloved nanny at the center of the original 1964 hit film will return, this time played by Emily Blunt.

But Mary’s original companion, Bert, a chimney sweep played by Dick Van Dyke, has been replaced by Jack, a lamplighter played by Lin-Manuel Miranda [’02].

Some fans of the original might be disappointed to see Bert cede screen time to Jack. But as a historian of Victorian science, I was delighted to see a bygone industrial technology – the gas lamp – take center stage.

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. Los Angeles Times“As the World Warms, Deadly and Disfiguring Tropical Diseases Are Inching Their Way Toward the U.S.”

In this op-ed, Professor of Biology Frederick Cohan and Isaac Klimasmith ’20, both in the College of the Environment, write that infectious disease is a growing threat, resulting from climate change, that humans may find hard to ignore. Cohan is also professor, environmental studies and professor, integrative sciences.

2. Hartford Courant: “Trump’s Immoral Response to Climate Report”

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, writes in this op-ed that it is “irresponsible” and “immoral” to ignore the findings of a major new report on climate change. Delaying action to mitigate and adapt to climate change will be increasingly damaging and expensive, he writes. Yohe is also professor of economics and professor, environmental studies, and was a reviewer on the new National Climate Assessment. He also recently co-authored an op-ed in HuffPost titled “People Are Already Dying by the Thousands Because We Ignored Earlier Climate Change Warnings.” 

3. National Geographic: “Both of NASA’s Voyager Spacecraft Are Now Interstellar. Where to Next?”

With both of NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft now having crossed the threshold into interstellar space, Seth Redfield, associate professor and chair of astronomy, comments on what the spacecraft are likely to encounter on their journey. Redfield is also associate professor, integrative sciences, and co-coordinator of Planetary Science.

4. Inside Higher Ed: “Ordinary Education in Extraordinary Times”

President Michael Roth writes in this op-ed that in uncommon times, “traditional educational practices of valuing learning from people different from ourselves have never been more important.”

Recent Alumni News

  1. The Takeaway; WNYC Studios: “Politics with Amy Walter: Pentagon’s First-Ever Audit Exposes Massive Accounting Fraud”

David Lindorff ’71, the investigative journalist who wrote an exclusive on the topic for The Nation, joins Walter’s guests—including Staff Sergeant Patricia King, Ambassador Eric Edelman, and Dr. Isaiah Wilson III, a retired Army colonel and senior lecturer with Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs—to discuss military spending and its alignment with the military’s strategic goals.

Yohe Attends Nobel Week in Stockholm

Gary Yohe, left, with Nobel Prize winner Bill Nordhaus, right, and his wife, Barbara, center, at Nobel Week in Stockholm, Sweden.

Gary Yohe, left, with Nobel Prize–winner Bill Nordhaus, right, and his wife, Barbara, center, at Nobel Week in Stockholm, Sweden.

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, attended the 2018 Nobel Week in Stockholm, Sweden, Dec. 7–11, as a guest of William Nordhaus, the Yale University professor of economics who received this year’s Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Nordhaus was recognized for his work “integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis.” Nordhaus was Yohe’s dissertation advisor at Yale and inspired Yohe’s own decades-long career studying the economics of climate change. Yohe himself received a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Yohe joined Nordhaus’s family and other invited colleagues at Nobel Week. The group, which called themselves the “Stockholm 2018 Climate Club,” enjoyed the Nobel Lectures, the Nobel Concert, the Nobel Prize Ceremony, and the Nobel Banquet.

“That the Nobel Committee chose to recognize Bill for the Economics Prize ‘for integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis’ is a big deal,” said Yohe. “It means that young scholars who want to apply their growing knowledge of economics to improve the abilities of communities, cities, states, nations, civil society, and even global institutions to respond to the existential threat of climate risk should be met by a welcoming audience. These responses and the need to explore fully long-term issues across enormous and challenging plains of uncertainty clearly lie within purview of legitimate economic science.”

Put another way, said Yohe, “It means that the economics profession has a new branch of applied and theoretical inquiry. Nearly the entire gathering in Stockholm seemed to say ‘It’s about time.’”

Smolkin Discusses Her New Book on the History of Soviet Atheism at Brother’s Accompanying Art Exhibit

Artist Vlad Smolkin; gallery curator Linda Pinn; Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin; book talk organizer Ellen Nodelman, and congregation member George Amarant gather at the Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek in Chester, Conn., where siblings Vlad and Victoria shared their recent work. (Photo by Deborah Rutty)

On Nov. 11, Victoria Smolkin, associate professor of history and Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian studies, joined forces with her brother, artist Vlad Smolkin, to share their work with the public at a new and revamped Main Street Gallery Art Opening/Books & Bagels Talk at Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek in Chester, Conn.

Smolkin is the author of a new book, A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism, published by Princeton University Press in 2018. A scholar of Communism, the Cold War, and atheism and religion in Russia and the former Soviet Union, Smolkin’s expertise also covers religious politics and secularism and the Soviet space program.

In A Sacred Space Is Never Empty, Smolkin explores the meaning of atheism for religious life, for Communist ideology, and for Soviet politics. When the Bolsheviks set out to build a new world in the wake of the Russian Revolution, they expected religion to die off. Soviet power used a variety of tools—from education to propaganda to terror—to turn its vision of a Communist world without religion into reality. Yet even with its monopoly on ideology and power, the Soviet Communist Party never succeeded in creating an atheist society.

The book presents the first history of Soviet atheism from the 1917 revolution to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Drawing on a wealth of archival material and in-depth interviews with those who were on the front lines of Communist ideological campaigns, Smolkin argues that to understand the Soviet experiment, we must make sense of Soviet atheism. Smolkin shows how atheism was reimagined as an alternative cosmology with its own set of positive beliefs, practices, and spiritual commitments. Through its engagements with religion, the Soviet leadership realized that removing religion from the “sacred spaces” of Soviet life was not enough. Then, in the final years of the Soviet experiment, Mikhail Gorbachev—in a stunning and unexpected reversal—abandoned atheism and reintroduced religion into Soviet public life.

Victoria Smolkin discusses her new book at the art exhibition.

Victoria Smolkin discusses her new book at the art exhibition.

During the event, Victoria discussed her new book while Vlad debuted his art exhibition, Light Beams. The Smolkins were born in the Soviet Union and moved to the United States and at a young age; through their experiences, each sibling found a distinct way to explore, highlight, and celebrate their heritage.

Like Victoria’s book, Vlad’s art also showcases the themes of religion and outer space. His exhibition envisions how Judaism might exist on other planets. In his work, he looks at how the Western Wall might be transferred to Mars, and how the cultivation of flowers on Mars might be the last vestige of Jewish humanity.

Light Beams by Vlad Smolkin can be viewed from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday during December and the first three weeks of January 2019.

Vlad Smolkin, titled "Transfer of the Western Wall," 2018

“Transfer of the Western Wall” (2018) by Vlad Smolkin.

 

Shapiro Featured in Poetry Magazine Better Than Starbucks!

Norman Shapiro, professor of french.

Norman Shapiro

Four poems, translated by Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation and Poet in Residence Norman Shapiro, appear in the November 2018 Vol. III edition of the international esoteric journal, Better Than Starbucks!. This poetry magazine is edited by American poet and translator Michael Burch.

The poem below, titled “You …” is translated from the French of Cécile Périn and appeared in The Gentle Genius of Cécile Périn. (Copyright © 2016 by Norman Shapiro and Black Widow Press.)

You …

When you were but the merest tot,
Babbling in cowering awkwardness,
When you were only fresh-begot,
Flesh of my flesh, I loved you less …
What are you now? I scarce know what.

You are Yourself, not part of me:
So little mine, the soul within,
I cannot pierce your mystery!
Be beautiful, be good! Yes, be
Everything I could not have been.

I placed my desperate hopes upon
Your childhood … Light of heart, as then,
Joys will be born anew, anon,
As when you gave them birth. Though gone
Life holds them fast, to come again …

You are this, you are that … Ah yes …
You are our fruit of twofold race,
Who, with each step, bear off, caress
Against your breast, a bit of space.
You are this, you are that … Ah yes …

―Yet you are You, no more, no less.

View all of Shapiro’s poems published in Better than Starbucks here.

Shapiro also is a member of the Academy of American Poets, and Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française.

Bloom ’75 Speaks on the Importance of Research in Storytelling, Character Development

Amy Bloom '75, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, spoke on "Lies, Facts, and Research" during a Staff Luncheon Series talk Nov. 27 in Daniel Family Commons. Bloom, a New York Times best-seller, has been a nominee for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Bloom explained how she weaves historical events and research into her stories. "The story leads me to research, or research leads me to the story," Bloom said. "Research is behind the whole umbrella behind the story. It offers me so many opportunities to see, develop, and illuminate characters."

Amy Bloom ’75, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, spoke on “Lies, Facts, and Research” during a Staff Luncheon Series talk Nov. 27 in Daniel Family Commons. Bloom, a New York Times best-selling author, has been a nominee for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Bloom explained how she weaves historical events and research into her stories. “The story leads me to research, or research leads me to the story,” Bloom said. “Research offers me so many opportunities to see, develop, and illuminate characters.”

Amy Bloom

For her most recent novel, White Houses (Penguin Random House 2018), Bloom studied approximately 3,000 letters written over a 30-year-period between Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena Hickok at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library to develop her new take on the secretive relationship between Eleanor and “Hick.” Bloom also is professor of the practice in creative writing and professor of the practice, English. (Photos by Olivia Drake)