Arts & Culture

Kuenzli to Research European Artist through Learned Societies Fellowship

Katherine Kuenzli, associate professor of art and art history.

Katherine Kuenzli, associate professor of art and art history.

Associate Professor of Art and Art History Katherine Kuenzli has won a prestigious American Council of Learned Societies fellowship for next year. The award will support her work on Henry van de Velde, a European artist whose aesthetic helped shape modernism.

The fellowship – one of 65 awarded this year to scholars in the humanities and humanistic social sciences – provides salary replacement for faculty who are embarking on six to 12 months of full-time research and writing.

“I am thrilled to have the support for and acknowledgement of my work,” Kuenzli said. “I began (the project) in 2009 and will devote next year to completing a full draft of a book manuscript – having the energy and train of thought will be essential.”

She said the project, “Designing Modernsim: Henry van de Velde from Neo-Impressionism to the Bauhaus emerged out of her first book, on “intimate modernism” in Paris in the 1980s. While that book examined paintings and prints artists created for private homes, theater stages, and street corners, Kuenzli’s new work broadens that scope to include not just painting, but also the applied arts and architecture. She’s studying the internationalization of art around 1900 and attempts to broaden the public for art, while maintaining a high level of formal and intellectual sophistication. The book uncovers a forgotten chapter in the emergence of abstraction, which has been understood as painting-specific; she hopes to demonstrate how “abstract aesthetics emerged out of an attempt to coordinate the arts, and to unify art and life.”

Matthew Goldfeder, director of the ACLS fellowship programs, said that this year’s fellows were “chosen for their potential to create new knowledge that will improve our understanding of the world and its diverse cultures and societies.”

The fellows represent more than 50 colleges and universities and an array of disciplines, including music, philosophy, art history and sociology. More than 1,000 applications were received for this year’s fellowship cycle.

Kuenzli’s project on van de Velde will explore how the painter, designer and architect – who worked in Belgium, France and Germany in the decades before WWI – developed an abstract formal vocabulary that proved seminal to both painterly modernism and an activist, engaged avant-garde.

‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ on Broadway

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” a cult classic with music and lyrics by Stephen Trask ’89, opened on Broadway to rave reviews this month, 16 years after its original run off-Broadway in 1998. Trask, who also did orchestration for the show, tells The Wall Street Journal how much times have changed since then:

When Mitchell and composer Stephen Trask tried to court the mainstream theaters with the show in 1998, not a single theater wanted to house “Hedwig.”

“Only a few months before our 1998 off-Broadway debut at the Jane Street Theater, there was no theater,” Trask wrote in an email to Speakeasy. “Instead there was an abandoned, derelict ballroom at a flop-house SRO hotel. Peter Askin, our director and producer, built the stage, bought some old movie theater seats, and made that theater for us because no one would have us. The Public? No. New York Theater Workshop? No. The theater on 8th Ave that had been empty for two years: they turned US down. And forget about Broadway. Theaters recoiled at the rock music that actually sounded like rock. They weren’t so fond of the drag element, much less the trans element. The combination was deadly. And frankly, we were just too queer.”

But the Jane Street Theatre did finally stage “Hedwig,” and the show began to catch on.

“It was a very, very slow build,” Trask said. “We slowly built a coalition of the sliver of theatergoers who didn’t mind the drag and the punk rock, the rockers who didn’t mind the drag and the theater, the gay audiences who didn’t mind the rock music.”

Eventually, “Hedwig” would manage a solid run of 857 performances to ever-growing acclaim. So much acclaim that Mitchell was able to produce and star in the feature film. No small feat, at a time when gay characters, let alone transgender characters, were rarely portrayed on screen.

The show also was recently reviewed in The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Guardian and The Chicago Tribune, among others.



Smith ’17 to Study Arabic as a Critical Language Scholar in Oman

After participating in an intensive 10-week language institute this summer, Casey Smith '17 plans to continue studying Arabic at Wesleyan. She also hopes to earn certificates in international relations and Middle Eastern studies.

After participating in an intensive two-month language institute in Oman this summer, Casey Smith ’17 plans to continue studying Arabic at Wesleyan. She hopes to use her language skills to work with refugee populations in the future. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Casey Smith ’17 has received a scholarship from the U.S. Department of State to study Arabic—considered a “critical needs language” by the U.S. government—in Oman this summer.

Smith, who plans to major in the College of Social Studies, was one of approximately 550 American undergraduate and graduate students to receive the Critical Language Scholarship. CLS participants will spend seven to 10 weeks in intensive language institutes in one of 13 countries. They will study critical needs languages such as Chinese, Hindi, Russian, Turkish and Urdu, among others.

Smith currently studies Arabic at Wesleyan. She began learning the language as a senior in high school, when she enrolled in a course at nearby University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Her interest in the language was sparked by her work in high school with local refugee populations, including an internship at a refugee resettlement organization.

“Through the internship, I met a lot of people from the Middle East and North Africa. I was struck by the fact that millions of people had to flee their homes in the region, and wanted to learn more,” said Smith.

She previously had studied French in high school, but found the experience of learning Arabic to be different.

Smith's interest in Arabic was sparked by her work in high school with local refugee populations.

Smith’s interest in Arabic was sparked by her work in high school with local refugee populations.

“When you learn a Romance language, a lot of the words are similar to English, so it’s easier to pick up vocabulary. Arabic is difficult, because you don’t find many words that are familiar. The alphabet is also different, and you write from right to left,” she explained. “Once you get used to it, though, it becomes more like learning any other language.”

Smith was eager to study abroad at some point during her college career. This semester, when her Arabic professor emailed the class about the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship, Smith saw an opportunity to study in the Middle East—a part of the world she has always wanted to visit.

According to Smith, the CLS program sends students to Morocco, Jordan and Oman to study Arabic. She was surprised to learn she would be studying in Oman.

“I didn’t know anything about Oman, really, until I started researching the places I’d be going. It got a lot more exciting because it’s so unfamiliar and different,” she said.

Garrett Offers First Literary-Historical Analysis of the Episode in New Book

Matthew Garrett

New book by Matthew Garrett.

Matthew Garrett, assistant professor of English, is the author of Episodic Poetics: Politics and Literary Form after the Constitution, published by Oxford University Press in April 2014.

In Episodic Poetics, Garrett merges narrative theory with social and political history to explain the early American fascination with the episodic, piecemeal plot.

Since Aristotle’s Poetics, the episode has been a vexed category of literary analysis, troubling any easy view of the subsumption of unwieldy narrative parts into well-plotted wholes. Episodic Poeticsproposes a new method of reading and a new way of conceiving of literary history. The book combines theoretical reflection and historical rigor with careful readings of texts from the early American canon such as The Federalist, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and the novels of Charles Brockden Brown, along with hitherto understudied texts and ephemera such as Washington Irving’s Salmagundi, Susanna Rowson’s Trials of the Human Heart and the memoirs of the metalworker and failed entrepreneur John Fitch. Garrett recounts literary history not as the easy victory of grand nationalist ambitions, but rather as a series of social struggles expressed through writers’ recurring engagement with incompletely integrated forms.

Read more about Garrett in this past Wesleyan Connection article.

Maines Edits Book on Monks, Canons during Middle Ages

New book edited by Clark Maines.

New book edited by Clark Maines.

Clark Maines, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities, is the co-editor of the book Consuetudines et Regulae: Sources for Monastic Life in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period, published by Brepolis Publishers in April 2014. Maines also is professor of art history, professor of archaeology, professor of environmental studies and professor of medieval studies.

This volume addresses the nature and quality of the lives of monks and canons in Western Europe during the middle ages and the early modern period.  Building on the collaborative spirit of recent work on medieval religion, it includes studies by historians of the religious orders, liturgy and ritual as well as archaeologists and architectural historians. Several studies combine the interpretation of texts, most particularly customaries and rules, with the analysis of architecture. The volume sheds new and exciting light on monastic daily life in all its dimensions from the liturgical and the quotidian to the spatial and architectural.

Clark Maines

Clark Maines

Carolyn Marino Malone, professor of art history at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles co-authored the book.

At Wesleyan, Maines specializes in the study of monasticism from architecture in its structural and ritual dimensions to technology and monastic domains.

Twins Stone and Stone ’05 Perform Standup Comedy

Twin comedians Todd ’05 and Adam Stone ’05 first took the stage as Stone and Stone while at Wesleyan. Today they perform standup together and have been featured on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, a series of national Verizon FiOS commercials and in videos on Comedy Central. They have performed at comedy clubs and theaters throughout New York and Los Angeles, including the UCB Theatre, Carolines, Gotham Comedy Club and the Laugh Factory, and they perform regularly at the People’s Improv Theater (PIT) and at the New York Friars Club, where they have roasted people including Larry King, George Takei, and most recently, Dennis Rodman.

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Neuroscience Major Nakib ’16 a Slam Poet, Blogger, Sewing Expert

neuroscience major who is also pursuing the writing certificate, Rama Nakib ’16 comes to Wesleyan from Iraq. Around campus, she is a monitor in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, performs slam poetry, writes for the student-run blog Wesleying, and is known for her sewing and tailoring skills, which she shares with other students. After graduation, Rama wants to pursue a medical career while remaining involved in activism for women’s rights in the Middle East.

Watch this video and more on Wesleyan’s Video @ Wesleyan site.

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Kleinberg Speaks with Former Humanities Director White about History, Theory

In this video, Ethan Kleinberg, director of the Center for the Humanities, professor of letter, professor of history, talks with Hayden White, professor of comparative literature at Stanford University, about history, theory and the humanities. White is the former director of the Center for the Humanities at Wesleyan. Watch this video and many more on the Video @ Wesleyan website.

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Student Bands Perform at The MASH

Recorded at the campus-wide MASH music festival Sept. 6, this video EP features full-length original songs performed by Wesleyan bands Molly Rocket and the Crooks, Robert Don, Novelty Daughter and Sky Bars.

The MASH is co-sponsored by the Center for the Arts, the Office of Student Affairs and the Green Street Arts Center. This second annual festival is a legacy event of Music & Public Life. Watch this video and many others on the Video @ Wesleyan website.

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Travel Writer, Radio Host Frommer ’88 Speaks about Wesleyan Education

In this video, travel writer, editor, and radio host Pauline Frommer ’88 talks about growing up in the travel industry, and reveals how her Wesleyan education changed her mind about her career. Frommer majored in intellectual history at Wesleyan. “I thought I was going to be a theater major, and then I started taking a lot of history and philosophy classes and they blew my mind.” Watch this video and many more on the Video @ Wesleyan website.

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