Arts & Culture

New Book by Film Historian Arnold ’91: Christmas in the Movies

Jeremy Arnold ’91 on set at Turner Classic Movie channel, discussing his newest book, Christmas in the Movies: 30 Classics to Celebrate the Season (Turner Classic Movies and Running Press, 2018).

Newsday writer Rafer Guzmán quotes Jeremy Arnold ’91, a film historian, commentator, and author, in his roundup of new movies and old favorites for this time of year in his article “More Christmas Movies Than Ever This Holiday Season.”

Arnold, the author of Christmas in the Movies (Running Press, 2018) a Turner Classic Movies book, points out that “The new big-screen films are not only competing with Hallmark and Lifetime but all the previous feature films that are available on home video.”

A film studies major as an undergraduate, Arnold also answers Guzmán’s question of what constitutes a film of this genre: “‘I would say a successful Christmas movie is when Christmas plays a meaningful role in the story,’ Arnold says. ‘That encompasses many things—not just joy and love, but also loneliness and alienation, commercialism and dysfunction. You could do dramas or comedies about any of those things.’”

(Photos courtesy of Jeremy Arnold)

With the 30 classics listed chronologically, beginning with Miracle on Main Street (1939) through Elf and Love Actually (both 2003), the book invites nostalgia and offers film buffs plenty of stills from favorite scenes, as well as commentary along with little-known facts—for example, how director Bob Clark cast Peter Billingsley as Ralphie in A Christmas Story (page 145).

This was the second book that Arnold wrote for TCM, following The Essentials, published in 2016. He also appeared on TCM as a guest host in early December to present four films included in his newest book and discuss their place in the Hollywood tradition of Christmas movies.

Vanity Fair Cover Story: “Supercalifragilistic” Miranda ’02

Cover of the Holiday 2018 issue of Vanity Fair, featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02; Photograph by Ethan James Green; Styled by Samira Nasr.

In a cover story for Vanity Fair, titled “The Supercalifragilistic Lin-Manuel Miranda,”  writer Bruce Handy explores both the upcoming movie, Mary Poppins Returns, as a sequel to Walt Disney’s 1964 adaption of the children’s books by P. L. Travers, and one of its stars, Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15. In the 1964 movie, the chimney-sweep companion to Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) was Bert, played by Dick Van Dyke. This 2018 Mary Poppins (Emma Blunt) has chimney sweep Jack (supposedly a former protégé of the late Bert), played by Miranda, as her sidekick and friend.

Hardy offers biographical background, along with personal insights on Miranda from Wesleyan Visiting Scholar in Theater Quiara Alegria Hudes (who wrote the book for the musical In the Heights), Thomas Kail ’99, and Sam Wasson ’03, exploring the creative genius of Miranda, as expressed in his work. Additionally, Vanity Fair offers photographs by Andres Kudacki documenting Miranda’s June visit to D.C., in a feature titled, Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda Visits the Founding Fathers’ Stomping Grounds.”

From the article by Handy:

Not a jaded bone in his body. Sam Wasson, a friend of Miranda’s from their undergraduate days at Wesleyan, said much the same thing when he described Miranda as “a human gumdrop.” At Wesleyan, Wasson and Miranda worked on shows together, including an improv group that Miranda played music for. “He was game for anything,” Wasson said. “He had a little Mickey-and-Judy feeling in him. ‘Let’s go! Let’s do it!’ It’d be impossible to think of Lin as depressed in any way, which makes me hate him. You want to think, ‘Oh, genius comes with darkness,’ and I’m sure it’s there, but I haven’t seen it.”

Students Perform at 45th Annual Worlds of Dance Concert

Students who are enrolled in Introduction to Dance, Bharata Natyam I, and Jazz Technique performed during the 45th annual Worlds of Dance Concert Dec. 2 in Crowell Concert Hall.

Introduction to Dance covers the basic components of dance technique—stretching, strengthening, aligning the body, and developing coordination in the execution of rhythmic movement patterns. Through improvisation, composition, and performing, students develop a solid framework applicable to all forms of dance. The class is taught by Katja Kolcio, chair and associate professor of dance; associate professor, environmental studies; and associate professor, Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies.

Bharata Natyam I: Introduction of South Indian Classical Dance is designed to introduce students to the fundamental aesthetic, social, and technical principles underscoring the culture of Bharata Natyam dance in both its indigenous and modern contexts. The course introduces students to Bharata Natyam largely through classroom practice (in the form of rhythmic and interpretive exercises), supplemented by brief lectures outlining the sociohistorical and cultural contexts of the form. The class is taught by Hari Krishnan, associate professor of dance and associate professor, feminist, gender, and sexuality studies.

Jazz Technique is an introduction to the African American jazz dance vernacular. Students learn about alignment, centering, and technique through the context of jazz’s African roots. Class sessions consist of movement exploration including a comprehensive warm-up and online discussions and media to better understand the place of jazz dance in society and culture at large. The class is taught by Joya Powell, visiting assistant professor of dance.

Photos of the concert are below: (Photos by Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19)

 

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.

8 Undergraduates Make Presentations at Arts and Humanities Symposium

Eight Wesleyan students participated in the CTW Undergraduate Symposium in the Arts and Humanities held at Trinity College in November.

Eight Wesleyan students presented papers during the inaugural CTW (Connecticut College, Trinity College, Wesleyan University) Undergraduate Symposium in the Arts and Humanities on Nov. 10.

This symposium, hosted at Trinity, provided undergraduate students from the three partner institutions, as well as other institutions in the region, an opportunity to present their original scholarly work in a professional setting. Topics included languages and literatures, philosophy, theater and dance, art history, women’s studies, cultural studies, ethnic studies, religious studies, film studies, and more.

Paper submissions were accepted by a committee of faculty members.

During a panel on The Construction of Spaces, Teresa Naval ’19 spoke on “Corrugated Cartographies: Performing the Balikbayan Box” and Asa Spurlock ’20 presented his paper titled “Nature and Stone: A Mythology of Central Park.”

Aviv Rau ’19 presented his paper titled “Queering the ‘Quails’: The Making of White Womanhood at Wesleyan University 1872–1912” during a Considering Gender panel.

Visiting international student Victoria Bianchi spoke on “Sicily and the Dar-al-Islam: Multiculturalism in the pre-Crusading Mediterranean,” during a panel on Culture, Identity, Nation, and State.

As part of a panel on Negotiating Identity in France and the Francophone World, Sophie Tulchin ’20 presented her paper titled “Performing Diaspora: Mohamed Kacimi’s Babel Taxi (2005).”

Tomas Rogel ’19 presented a talk on “These Are Not People, These Are Animals: An Analysis of the American Perception of Salvadorans” during a panel focusing on Giving Voice to the Voiceless.

Lizzie Whitney ’19 spoke on “Refugee Crisis in German Literature” during a panel on The Production of Culture across Borders.

And during a panel on Ancient Texts, Benjamin Sarraille ’19 shared his paper titled “Measure for Measure: Translating the Illiad of Homer.”

In addition to sharing their own work, the students had the opportunity to participate in 16 different panels and attend a keynote lecture by Maurice Samuels, the Betty Jane Anlyan Professor of French and Chair of the Department of French at Yale University.

Support for this symposium was provided in part by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Submission guidelines and further information are online here.

Curran Receives French Academy of Sciences Book Prize

Andy Curran

Andy Curran

Andrew Curran, the William Armstrong Professor of the Humanities, has received the 2018 Prix Monsieur et Madame Louis Marin from the Académie des sciences d’outre-mer for his 2017 book L’Anatomie de la noirceur [The Anatomy of Blackness], which was published by Classiques Garnier.

This prize, which is given by the French Académie des Sciences d’outre-mer, recognizes an outstanding work in the social sciences. The Académie des Sciences d’outre-mer was founded in 1922 and has conferred the Prix Marin since 1976.

Curran’s book, a translation of his Anatomy of Blackness: Science and Slavery in an Age of Enlightenment, is the first comprehensive history of the birth of race in French thought. Curran is also professor of French and chair of Romance languages and literatures.

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. The Washington Post: “Major Trump Administration Climate Report Says Damage is ‘Intensifying Across the Country'”

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, was widely quoted in the media about the fourth National Climate Assessment, the first to be released under the Trump Administration. “The impacts we’ve seen the last 15 years have continued to get stronger, and that will only continue,” Yohe, who served on the National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed the report, told The Washington Post. “We have wasted 15 years of response time. If we waste another five years of response time, the story gets worse. The longer you wait, the faster you have to respond and the more expensive it will be.” Yohe was also quoted on the report in The Hill, The Verge, Al Jazeera, and many other news sources. He is also professor of economics, and professor, environmental studies.

2. The Hill: “If Brits Don’t Want a Redo on Brexit, They Should”

In this op-ed, Richard Grossman, professor and chair of economics, writes that Brexit, or Britain’s “divorce” from the European Union, is anticipated to “reduce Britain’s economic prospects in both the short and long run and leave the country poorer than it would have been had it remained within the European Union.” He writes: “There is a way out of this mess,” but the difficulties are political, not legal.

Sumarsam Named Honorary Member of the Society for Ethnomusicology

Sumarsam

Sumarsam, pictured standing, at right, was named an honorary member of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

For his contribution to the field of ethnomusicology and music scholarship, Sumarsam, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, was recently named an honorary member of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM).

The encomium was presented by Wesleyan alumna Maria Mendonca MA ’90, PhD ’02, during the 63rd SEM General Membership Meeting, Nov. 17, in Albuquerque, N.M.

Sumarsam was commended for his scholarship on gamelan and wayang performance traditions, which inspired the SEM membership, explained Gregory Barz, president of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

“Your mentorship of countless students and colleagues, both directly and by example, is held in high esteem, and the ways that you simultaneously embrace and speak to the various subfields among the disciplines of music scholarship is exemplary,” Barz said. “You demonstrate not only a unique career, but one to which we all aspire.”

Sumarsam is the third Wesleyan faculty member to receive this award. The first one is the late David McAllester, professor of music and anthropology, emeritus (2001); the second is Mark Slobin, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, Emeritus (2013).

During the meeting, Sumarsam also attended a number of panels, the Society for Asian Music Business meeting, and the SEM Journal of Editorial Board meeting, in which he is a member.

Holtzberg ’79 Honored by American Folklore Society

Past prize winner Maida Owens (left) and AFS President Dorothy Noyes present Maggie Holtzberg (center) with the 2018 Benjamin A. Botkin Prize at the Annual Meeting of the American Folklore Society in Buffalo, New York. Photo credit: Meredith A. McGriff.

Past prizewinner Maida Owens (left) and AFS President Dorothy Noyes present Maggie Holtzberg (center) with the 2018 Benjamin A. Botkin Prize at the Annual Meeting of the American Folklore Society in Buffalo, New York. Photo credit: Meredith A. McGriff.

At its recent annual meeting in Buffalo, N.Y., the American Folklore Society (AFS) named prominent American folklorist Maggie Holtzberg ’79 of Boston, Mass., as the 2018 recipient of its prestigious Benjamin A. Botkin Prize.

The Botkin Prize is given each year by the American Folklore Society and its Public Programs Section in the name of Benjamin A. Botkin (1901–1975) to recognize lifetime achievement in public folklore. Botkin—eminent New Deal–era folklorist, national folklore editor of the Federal Writers’ Project in 1938–1939, advocate for the public responsibilities of folklorists, author and compiler of many publications on American folklore for general audiences, and head of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress 1942–1945—has had a major impact on the field of public folklore and on the public understanding of folklore.

In its report, the 2018 Botkin Prize Committee praised the outstanding contribution of this year’s awardee, noting: “Maggie Holtzberg has surveyed, documented, and promoted public understanding of the traditional arts and heritage in three states.

Artist Melissa Stern ’80 on Strange Girls as a State of Being

Artist Melissa Stern ’80 and her piece, ‘Wig Shop,’ that appears in her latest exhibition, Strange Girls, now at the Garvey|Simon Gallery in New York City through Nov. 11. “All the people in my work and in my head are triumphant,” she says.

In this Q&A, we speak to artist Melissa Stern ’80, whose latest exhibition, Strange Girls, is open at the Garvey Simon Gallery in New York City Oct. 11–Nov. 11. Stern double-majored in anthropology and studio art at Wesleyan, and earned her MFA in ceramics from SUNY New Paltz. In Strange Girls, Stern uses media such as assemblage, ceramics, painting, drawings, and collage to explore girlhood as a state of being and state of mind.

Q: You have been exhibiting your art since the ’80s, and Strange Girls is your ninth solo show in New York. How is this exhibition a continuation of your past work, and how is it a departure?

A: I think that an artists’ work is like handwriting, if you look hard enough you will always recognize who they are from the work. If you look at my work from college on, maybe younger, you would always know it’s mine. Obviously, it’s changed. Hopefully it’s gotten better, more skillful, more developed, richer, but it is always a continuation of what’s going on in my head, what my cares and concerns are.

My interest in storytelling and narratives, none of that has fundamentally changed. This show is called Strange Girls, but, as I say in my artist statement, boys can be strange. It’s a show about the feeling of being on the outside. It’s about feelings that both genders have of trying to fit into the expectations of your gender, and the expectations of society. It’s about feeling like an outsider. It’s certainly more female-oriented because I’m a girl. My memories are of all of those things that you grow up with when you’re female, both positive and negative. The show encompasses a lot of ideas that I’ve always been interested in—identity, storytelling, and memory. I’m really interested in the stories that people have to tell. And the fact that my work can elicit a response, whether it be a story or a memory, a smile or a knowing laugh from someone is wonderful. This desire for connection is pretty fundamental to why I make things.

Bobkoff ’05 Explores Cultural History of ‘Household Name’ Brands in New Podcast

Dan Bobkoff '05 is the executive producer and host of the Household Name podcast from Business Insider.

Dan Bobkoff ’05 is the host and executive producer of the Household Name podcast from Business Insider.

Dan Bobkoff ’05 believes that, for better or worse, much of American life is lived through brands.

“Whether you like iPhones or Androids is almost like a religious affiliation,” he says. “Or you might have had a poignant family moment at McDonald’s.”

This is the lens through which Bobkoff explores brands in his new podcast, Household Name, from Business Insider. Bobkoff launched the podcast in July, and will produce and host 36 episodes over the course of the year. Its tagline—“Brands you know, stories you don’t”—captures the cultural history and surprising stories of unintended consequences that are featured in each episode about brands such as Pizza Hut, TGI Fridays, and Blockbuster.

“This is not a show for Wall Street traders. It’s a show for people who like stories and want to think about how we live,” he says.