Michael Lobel ’90 is the author of James Rosenquist: Pop Art, Politics, and History in the 1960s (University of California Press, 2009), the first full-length scholarly volume devoted to the artist.
Rosenquist’s paintings, notable for their billboard-sized images of commercial subjects, are emblematic of 1960s Pop Art. The artist’s startling and provocative imagery deals with some of the major political and historical events of that turbulent decade, from the Kennedy assassination to the war in Vietnam.
Lobel combines close visual analysis with extensive archival research, He provides social and historical contexts in which these paintings were produced and suggests new readings of a body of work that helped redefine art in the 1960s within the burgeoning consumer culture of postwar America.
Michael Lobel is associate professor of art history and director of the MA program in modern and contemporary art, criticism, and theory at Purchase College, State University of New York. His previous books include Image Duplicator: Roy Lichtenstein and the Emergence of Pop Art and Fugitive Artist: The Early Work of Richard Prince 1974–77.
On March 12, Seth Lerer ’76 was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism for his scholarly work Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter (University of Chicago Press, 2008).
On the website Critical Mass, NBCC board member Carlin Romano commented: “Lerer brought to his subject both the critical acuity and unlimited openness it deserved. He insisted on placing a complex literature within the history of childhood, a story both contested and blessedly clear. He took into account the cavalcade of publishing history, without permitting it to trample the imaginative ‘transformations’ wrought by the books.”
In his book, Lerer studies iconic ancient and contemporary children’s books that have encouraged a lifelong love of literature in young readers during their formative years. The author examines the changing environments of family life and human growth, schooling and scholarship, and publishing and politics in which children were changed by the books they read. This unique, single-volume work captures the rich and diverse history of children’s literature, considering such writers as J. R. R. Tolkien, Dr. Seuss, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Robert McCloskey, Shel Silverstein, and many others.
Lerer was recently interviewed by the San Diego Union-Tribune, in which he revealed that the book is a kind of “intellectual autobiography” that draws upon his “youthful passion for reading and his experience as a parent.”
After nearly two decades teaching in Stanford University’s English Department, Lerer recently became a Distinguished Professor of Literature and dean of the arts and humanities at the La Jolla campus of the University of California, San Diego. Lerer also is the author of Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language. His next project is an annotated edition of The Wind in the Willows.
Majora Carter ’88 was featured in February on HBO’s The Black List: Volume 2, which focuses on the achievements of a variety of African Americans.
Carter discussed her work as an environmental activist. As founder and executive director of Sustainable South Bronx, she rallied an economically challenged community to create Hunt’s Point Riverside Park and began a program to train people in green jobs.
Carter now heads the Majora Carter Group, a green-economic development consulting film. She also hosts the NPR radio series The Promised Land and is a host for the Sundance Channel’s The Green, the network’s weekly prime-time destination devoted to environmental programming. The Green includes the series Eco Heroes, and Season 2 begins on April 21. Each of the 13 episodes in the series features an interview between Carter and an innovator who is fueling the Green Movement and has been an inspiration to Carter in both her life and work.
Carter speaks regularly around the country and in other parts of the world about environmental issues and creating green jobs. The New York Times recently noted her as a keynote speaker at February’s Power Shift 2009 in Washington, D.C., where activists gathered to push for federal action on global warming.
In early March, her first speaking engagement in Toronto at the University of Toronto was sold out. In an interview in Toronto’s Eye Weekly, Carter said: “What I want to do is create more opportunities for people to get less poor. That’s why we’re so focused on green jobs, why we’re so focused on the development of a healthy horticultural infrastructure that’s supported by the development of more green jobs and making sure that we’re getting those jobs to the people that need the work the most.”
Mel White and Mike White '92 are contestants on The Amazing Race. (Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS)
Film director and screenwriter Mike White ’92 (Chuck & Buck, School of Rock, Year of the Dog) has teamed up with his 60-year-old father Mel as a team on the popular Emmy-winning reality competition, The Amazing Race. Mel White is a prize-winning documentary producer, a gay-rights Christian activist, and a best-selling author who ghostwrote books for Billy Graham and Pat Robertson.
White and his father have been interviewed for their appearance on the show in such publications as Newsweek, The LosAngeles Times, and Mel White’s hometown newspaper, The Lynchburg News and Advance in Virginia.
In various interviews, Mike White admits that he has long been a big fan of the show and decided to apply as a contestant during the last year’s screenwriters’ strike. He originally applied with another screenwriter who decided to drop out, and the producer of the show suggested that Mike team up with his dad.
On recent shows, the team dodged giant cheese wheels, and Mel White braved paragliding down a 6,000-foot drop in Germany.
Ron Daniel '52, Hon '88, P'77, P'82 speaks during the Daniel Family Commons dedication Feb. 27 in the Usdan University Center. Several members of the Daniel family attended. Noah Daniel is pictured at right.
Randall Pinkston '72 was a guest speaker during an "Unconventional Wisdom: Legacies of Success" seminar, organized by the Career Resource Center.
Randall Pinkston ’72, P’05, a national correspondent for CBS News in New York City, credits Wesleyan’s WESU 88.1 FM radio for launching his life-long career.
“When I was a student, I heard about WESU installing a new transmitter and I wondered, how can I be on a radio station,” Pinkston says. “I took the training required by the FCC at the time, passed a test, and was given a one-hour show, five days a week. I called it ‘Soul Session.'”
Pinkston recruited four other students, and replicated shows broadcasted in their hometowns including R&B and jazz. On the 55th minute of every hour, they would transmit Metromedia news and read the weather over the airwaves.
“This was my first introduction to broadcasting,” he says.
On Feb. 24, Pinkston shared his Wesleyan memories and career path with 20 students during an “Unconventional Wisdom: Legacies of Success” seminar, organized by the Career Resource Center (CRC).
Anand Satchidanandan '08, assistant director of the Wesleyan Fund, and Jeff Bizinkaukas '10 speak with Jody Hill '78 during the third Student Leadership Lunch Feb. 28 in Usdan University Center. The lunches are hosted by the Alumni Association to recognize student leaders and to provide them with an opportunity to meet and learn from prominent alumni leaders.
Thomas Kail ’99 who received a Tony Award nomination for his direction for the musical hit “In the Heights” (2008 Tony Award for best musical) on Broadway will stage the Encores! Summer Stars production of “The Wiz” this summer at City Center in New York City for a three-week run, June 12 to July 3. Kail will re-team with choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler who won a Tony for his work on “In the Heights.”
“The Wiz,” a retelling of L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz with an African-American cast, won seven Tony Awards, including best musical, in 1975. The show has not been revived on Broadway recently, though sometimes productions at Encores! transfer to a Broadway theater (the long-running Broadway revival of “Chicago” began at Encores! as did the recent Broadway revival of “Gypsy”).
Kail directed the play “Broke-ology” last summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival which was well-reviewed.
In his recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, Matthew Shaer talked to two graduates working at small presses, Johnny Temple ’88, publisher of Akashic Books in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Matvei Yankelvich ’95, a founding editor at Ugly Duckling Presse. Shaer reported that while conventional books sales are sinking in the current economy, e-book sales have been soaring. He pointed out, however, that it’s not the larger publishing houses who are moving quickly toward mass digitization but the small presses of the independent publishing world.
Temple plans to have e-book content from his company available soon and recognizes both its economic and environmental benefits. Yankelvich says that “many followers of independent publishers have an emotional attachment to the printed word” and isn’t certain poetry readers would buy poetry collections in e-book form. Still, Ugly Duckling Presse has already issued several popular online projects.
Christopher McKnight Nichols ’00 is co-author and co-editor of Prophesies of Godlessness: Predictions of America’s Imminent Secularization from the Puritans to the Present.
Christopher McKnight Nichols ’00 has co-edited and co-authored (with Charles Mathewes) a challenging essay collection, Prophesies of Godlessness: Predictions of America’s Imminent Secularization from the Puritans to the Present (Oxford University Press, 2008). The book considers the similar expectations of religious and moral change voiced by major American thinkers from the time of the Puritans to today. Generations of Americans, from colonial times to the post-modern present, have witnessed or predicted the coming of “godlessness” of American society.
The essay collection examines the history of these prophesies, and each chapter explores a certain era, a particular individual, a community of thought, and changing conceptions of secularization. Among the subjects addressed are: Thomas Jefferson’s philosophy of history and the future of American Christianity; Abraham Lincoln, William T. Sherman, and evangelical Protestantism during the Civil War; World War 1 and after—godlessness and the Scopes Trial; and secularization and prophesies of freedom during the Sixties.
Nichols is currently a postdoctoral fellow in U.S. history at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.
Adina Hoffman '89 is the author of My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness.
In her new biography, My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century (Yale University Press, 2009) Adina Hoffman ’89 tells the story of an exceptional man, Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali, and the culture from which he emerged. Born in 1931 in the Galilee village of Saffuriyya, he had to flee his homeland during the war in 1948. He traveled on foot to Lebanon and returned a year later to find his village destroyed. An autodidact, he has since run a souvenir shop in Nazareth, but his written work is highly respected by many of the world’s best writers.
Hoffman situates Muhammad Ali’s life in the context of the lives of his predecessors and peers, and provides an expansive perspective on an era full of dramatic events. As she reconstructs carefully the world of the poet’s lost childhood village, she provides a rich, empathetic view of the people and culture of the Middle East.
Hoffman had to piece together different pieces of the story she was telling from various accounts in Arabic, Hebrew, and English. She connected what she found in archives with the memories of people she interviewed, including peasants, poets, and military commanders. She offers fascinating portraits of a whole range of poets and novelists, many of whom who are unknown to much of the world.
Adina Hoffman also is the author of House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood. Her essays and criticism have appeared in The Nation, The Washington Post, and the Times Literary Supplement and on the BBC. One of the founders and editors of Ibis Editions, she lives in Jerusalem.
Three Wesleyan alumni took trophies at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament hosted by New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz in February. A total of 684 competitors from all over the world vied for victory in several categories. Along with the Wesleyan award-winners, three additional alums participated in the tournament.
Brian Cimmet ’95 placed first in Division E, and 278th overall. Brian is also half of a team writing the blog Brian and Ryan do Crosswords. Brian also participated in a panel on blogging crosswords.
Jesse Lansner ’96 placed second in the Rookies category (first time competitors), 90th overall, 4th in Division C, and 18th for New York City.
Erhard Konerding MALS ’82 placed third in Rookies, 94th overall, 6th in Division C, 5th in Connecticut, and 13th among competitors aged 60 to 69 years of age.
Donald Spencer ’77 ranked 138th overall, and 10th in Connecticut.
Emy (Johnson) Zener ’97 finished at 325 overall, and 50th among rookies.
Ed Stein ’60 was 521st overall. He has produced a “mockumentary” about the tournament, entitled Wordploy, and has given multiple WeSeminars on how to do the New York Times crossword puzzles.