by Lauren Rubenstein •
Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” Amid a flood of accusations against public figures for sexual misconduct and other improprieties, Ashraf Rushdy, the Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language, writes a piece exploring “the art of the public apology.” Rushdy is also professor of English, professor of African American studies, and professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies. Read his bio in The Conversation.
The art of the public apology
Just prior to his sentencing, former USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar formally apologized to the more than 160 women whom he’d sexually abused. He joins a growing list. Over the past few months, many public personalities accused of sexual assault have apologized in public.
Many of us at this point are wondering what these apologies mean. Indeed, like others before him, Nassar said that an adequate apology was impossible. He stated,
“There are no words that can describe the depth and breadth of how sorry I am for what has occurred. An acceptable apology to all of you is impossible to write and convey.”
What, then, is it that he and other public figures are doing when they say sorry publicly?
In a forthcoming book, I look at different kinds of public apologies, including the kind of celebrity apologies we’ve witnessed in the past few months. What I argue is that public apologies are a type of performance and therefore should be understood as being different from private.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Wesleyan, in collaboration with Random Hacks of Kindness Jr., is hosting a “hackathon” for social good for students in grades 4 through 8, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24. This free event, to be held in Beckham Hall, will show local youth how technology can be used to create solutions that benefit nonprofit organizations. The hackathon is open to the public and requires no prior coding experience.
“Participants will be working with Wesleyan student mentors to create technology for social good,” explained Patrice Gans, president and executive director of Random Hacks of Kindness Jr. “By the end of the day we hope they will see how technology can have a positive impact on someone’s life.”
by Cynthia Rockwell •
Professor of Psychology Emeritus Karl Scheibe recently published two new books, The Storied Nature of Human Life: The Life and Works of Theodore R. Sarbin (co-written with Frank J. Barret), which, he says, “sets the tone” for the second, Deep Drama: Exploring Life as Theater, a collection of recent essays. The latter book’s final piece, “The Wisdom of Hamilton,” recalls Scheibe’s first meeting with Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, his advisee in the autumn of 1998, and then explores the psychological depth and truth within Miranda’s award-winning Broadway musical. Miranda had been a member of Scheibe’s course, A Dramaturgical Approach to Psychology, in the spring of his junior year.
Scheibe also presented a talk on “The Wisdom of Hamilton” at the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty on Feb. 14.
In a Q&A, he further discusses the two books in context to each other and his work:
Q: You’ve said that your intellectual formation as a psychologist owes so much to Sarbin and the intellectual positions that he taught you to honor and value. How would you describe this intellectual stance that you owe to Sarbin, your mentor?
by Laurie Kenney •
Molly Bogin ’18 and Tekla Monson ’18 represented Wesleyan in the university’s inaugural program with the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Connecticut, last month. The students joined 36 established and emerging composers and lyricists to participate in the two-week creative residency—the only one of its kind solely dedicated to the creation of new musicals. Kathleen Conlin, Theater Department chair, and Ellen Nerenberg, dean of the arts and humanities, initiated Wesleyan’s involvement with the program.
by Cynthia Rockwell •
Lyricist for the Grateful Dead and cofounder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation John Perry Barlow ’69 died Feb. 7, 2018. He was 70.
A College of Letters major as an undergraduate, he collaborated with his friend from high school, Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir, on lyrics for songs that included “Cassidy,” “Mexicali Blues” and “Black-Throated Wind.”
In the 1980s Barlow was active in an early online community. Then in 1990, with John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor, founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). In the summer 1994 issue of Wesleyan, an article, “Cognitive Dissident,” written by Lisa Greim ’81, profiled his journey.
“To the surprise of many who know him, John Perry Barlow ’69 has become respectable,” wrote Greim.
“In the last ten years, Barlow, 46, has evolved from a Wyoming cattle rancher into one of the nation’s most outspoken computer experts and defenders of the right to electronic freedom….
‘I don’t know anyone else who is welcome at the White House, backstage at a Grateful Dead concert, at CIA headquarters and at a convention of teenage hackers,’ says Howard Reingold, author of The Virtual Community.”
In a statement released by the EFF, Executive Director Cindy Cohn said of Barlow: “He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.”
To read the article from the 1994 issue of Wesleyan, click this link: JPBarlow_WesMag1994.
Student-Athlete Bledsoe ’18 Says Rebounding Is about Positioning, Luck and “Wanting the Ball More than the Other Team”
by Olivia Drake •
On the basketball court, there really is nothing that Maddie Bledsoe cannot do. The senior captain on the Wesleyan University women’s basketball team averaged 7.5 points and 5.4 rebounds during her junior campaign, but during the 2017-18 season, she has taken the next step and become a truly elite, game-changing type of player for the Cardinals.
The evolution began with the versatile athlete becoming a dominant rebounder on both ends of the floor, increasing her boards per game to 10.8, which is the most in the NESCAC. Bledsoe corralled a career-high 21 rebounds, to go along with 18 points, during an 88-76 victory over Westfield State on Dec. 2 en route to earning MVP honors, as the Cardinals won the Courtyard by Marriott Tournament in Middletown, Conn.
Grabbing 21 boards once was not enough for the Newton, Mass. native, as Bledsoe accomplished the feat again during a 69-64 triumph at Connecticut College on Jan. 20. She also recorded her first career 20-point, 10-rebound game, finishing with a career-high 22 points and 10 boards during a thrilling 74-65 overtime win over Little Three-rival Williams on Dec. 9 at Silloway Gym.
by Laurie Kenney •
Award-winning author Amy Bloom ’75, Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, will release her latest novel, White Houses, on Feb. 13. The book centers on First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s love affair and friendship with reporter Lorena “Hick” Hickok. Told from Hickok’s point of view, White Houses covers everything from the inner workings of the Roosevelt administration to Hick’s own brutal upbringing in rural South Dakota.
Kirkus Reviews, in a starred review, says, “Bloom elevates this addition to the secret-lives-of-the-Roosevelts genre through elegant prose and by making Lorena Hickok a character engrossing enough to steal center stage from Eleanor Roosevelt.” While Publishers Weekly says, “Cleverly structured through reminiscences that slowly build in intimacy, Bloom’s passionate novel beautifully renders the hidden love of one of America’s most guarded first ladies.”
Bloom will embark on a book tour in support of White Houses later this month, starting at R.J. Julia in Madison, Conn., on Feb. 13. A full list of events, including several additional Connecticut appearances, can be found on Bloom’s website.
We caught up with Bloom to ask about her experience writing White Houses.
Is this your first time attempting such a novel, based on historical figures and events? Why this story, in particular? And what were the biggest challenges involved?
Every novel is, for me, an attempt to do something new. The Roosevelts were fascinating: great leaders, complicated people. The story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok was a love story not just lost to history but literally torn out of the history pages. (Lorena was routinely cropped out of White House photos.) The greatest challenge was pretty much what it always is: Who are the people, how to the tell the story and who is telling the story. With the added burden that periodically a little voice would yell: These are real people!
How was this process different than creating characters sprung from your imagination (even if based on real people)?
The characters inevitably, even when based on fact and history, are products of my imagination, of empathy, of research and of a certain hard-to-describe leap.
How did you begin the process? Did you read the letters first and then decide to write a novel based on the relationship? Or were you always interested in exploring the genre?
I read Blanche Weisen Cook’s wonderful biography of Eleanor Roosevelt in which she mentions the 3,000 letters between Eleanor and Lorena and writes a bit about who Lorena was—crack reporter, first woman to have a byline in The New York Times, author—and about the love affair between them. Cook was pilloried for asserting that it seemed very likely there had been a love affair, until other historians finally read the letters and, slowly, too slowly, and privately, apologized and acknowledged that it was obvious from the letters that this had not been a schoolgirl crush on either side—between women in their 40s!—but a love affair that laid the foundation for a lifelong friendship.
How much did you know about the relationship, and about “Hick,” specifically, when you began writing? What additional research did you do, and how did that additional research inform your writing?
Research always offers one new rivers to follow, new gardens to visit. There have been tons of books about Eleanor Roosevelt and a few about Lorena Hickok in relation to Eleanor. I read an awful lot.
What did you find most interesting about (and what were the challenges involved in) inhabiting the mind of, and creating a voice for, Hick?
I struggled to find my narrator and there were parts of Hick I did not admire, but the Hick that I created from her letters and from her professional work is funny, frank, tough, clear-eyed, impulsive and a hell of a storyteller.
What about this story spoke to you—and what did you learn along the way that will stay with you?
Two things: A life of pretense is a death sentence, and love is not wasted, even when it ends.
by Olivia Drake •
On the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Wesleyan is celebrating his legacy with several commemorative events focused on the theme “Black Agency: Finding Freedom.”
“Dr. King, of course, spoke on our campus on several occasions and had a profound impact on efforts here to promote equity and inclusion,” wrote Demetrius J. Colvin, director of the Wesleyan Resource Center, in an all-campus email. “I encourage you to take advantage of the powerful programs developed for Black History Month. Students have put a lot of work into these programs, providing us all with the opportunity to engage with core aspects of our history and Dr. King’s living legacy to us all.”
On Feb. 15, Joi Lewis, the CEO and founder of Joi Unlimited Coaching and Consulting and the Orange Method, will deliver the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration speech on “From Hollering to Healing: Black to the Future.”
by Lauren Rubenstein •
When President Michael Roth speaks about the purpose of college, he frequently boils it down to three key things: students should find what they love to do, get better at it, and learn to share what they love with others. This semester, Wesleyan is adding to its curriculum to help students develop this third critical skill.
Wesleyan recently received a 3-1/2 year grant for over $600,000 to pilot on campus the Calderwood Seminars, which train students in translating complex arguments and professional jargon from their academic disciplines into writing that can be understood and appreciated by the general public. The seminars, developed by Professor David Lindauer at Wellesley College in 2013, have proven valuable for students in life beyond college. The program’s pedagogical approach has been successfully adapted across many different disciplines.
by Olivia Drake •
During Winter Session, 14 Wesleyan students studied live, site-based theater performances in Santiago, Chile.
The course, THEA 357: Space and Materiality, was taught by Marcela Oteíza, assistant professor of theater, and took place during the Festival Internacional Santiago a Mil (FITAM), the most renowned theater festival in Santiago. This was the first abroad course offered by Winter Session.
“It was a wonderful experience for students and myself; particularly, to be able to share in situ with them the social and cultural history of Santiago within the framework of the festival,” Oteíza said. “Students learned about performance and reception theories, while participating in the performances and activities that the festival had to offer.”
Twenty students applied for the two-week intensive course, of which Oteíza was able to take 14, including sophomores, juniors and seniors. Half were theater majors, but the group also included anthropology, English, Spanish, biology, mathematics and American studies majors.