The Library Café

Aaron Sinift, Kahkashan Khan & Jitendra Kumar
"The Artist Aaron Sinift and project co-curators Kahkashan Khan and Jitendra Kumar discuss the artist book featured in the exhibition ""OTHER IMAGININGS: Artist Collaborations with Gandhi Ashrams"" on view in the Vassar College Art Library through March 4, 2022. As western modes of advertising and television began to be adopted in India on a mass level in the early ’90s, there was a shift towards a generic global style in popular culture. The uniquely S. Asian styles of portrayal which flourished in the pre-digital era began to disappear as the imagination began to be more aggressively colonized. As vestiges of Gandhi ashram visual culture become rarer in public it is evident that we are nearing the end of a particular visual era that helped define a unique sense of Gandhian social purpose and national identity as popularly understood after Indian Independence. The images in this book are traces of a world that exists even today and continues to provide a baseline means of self-sufficiency for tens of millions of people. Yet how we express ourselves is being transformed by our present circumstances and at this very moment is searching for its compelling voice. Perhaps this book is an opportunity to catch a glimpse before it’s gone of a more local sensibility that is unimpressed by glamour and worldliness, more focused on the ideals of communal harmony and love of country, particularly its rural pastoralist culture, what Gandhiji called “India’s heart and soul.” As we reflect on these unique qualities (rasa), it is important as well to consider the present, the point from which we encounter the future, and from which we must find our voice. OTHER IMAGININGS is intended to create community (you included) and assert absolute equivalence among all participants so that no labor, no effort, no artist known or unknown is prized above any other. This artwork is an attempt to weave together stories rooted in community in order to create a primal resource for understanding and collaboration."
Agriculture, Art and Politics, Artists' Books, Asian Studies, Collectives, Collectivism, Cultural Democracy, Economics, Environmental Studies, Exhibitions, Gandhism, Media Studies, pop art, Textiles, Women in Art
Adam Michaels
Adam Michaels, principle designer at Project Projects, talks about the book he co-authored with Jeffrey T. Schnapp entitled: The Electronic Information Age Book: McLuhan/Agel/Fiore and the Experimental Paperback, an Inventory Book published this year by Princeton Architectural Press. “The Electric Information Age Book explores the nine-year window of mass-market publishing in the sixties and seventies when formerly backstage players—designers, graphic artists, editors—stepped into the spotlight to produce a series of exceptional books. "
Advertising, Avant-garde, Design History, Marshall McLuhan, Media Studies, Paperback Publishing, Photography, Scholarly Communication, Typography
Adam Michaels and Jeffrey T. Schnapp
In a new installment of our series on the role of liberal arts education in contemporary society, co-authors Adam Michaels, principle designer at Project Projects and founder of Inventory Press, and Jeffrey T. Schnapp (VC'75), Co-director of the Berkman Center for the Internet and Society and Faculty Director of the Harvard Graduate School of Design's knowledge design studio metaLAB, talk about their reissue of Blueprint for Counter Education (Inventory, 2016). "Perhaps one of the most extraordinary books ever issued by an American commercial publisher.” —Richard Kostelanetz. "Blueprint for Counter Education is one of the defining (but neglected) works of radical pedagogy of the Vietnam War era. Originally published in 1970 and integrated into the design of the Critical Studies curriculum at CalArts, the book was accompanied by large graphic posters that could serve as a portable learning environment for a new process-based model of education, and a bibliography and checklist that map patterns and relationships between radical thought and artistic practices—from the avant-gardes to postmodernism—with Marcuse and McLuhan serving as points of anchorage."
American History, Art History, Avant-garde, Bibliography, Editing, Graphic Design, Higher Education, Humanism, Innovation, Interdisciplinarity, Liberal Arts, Libraries, Marshall McLuhan, Modernism, Sociology, VC
Adina Hoffman & Peter Cole
Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole talk about their book Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza, published in 2011 by Schocken. Adina Hoffman is the author of House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood and My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century, which was named one of the best twenty books of 2009 by the Barnes & Noble Review and one of the top ten biographies of the year by Booklist. Peter Cole’s most recent book of poetry is Things on Which I’ve Stumbled—whose title poem revolves around the Cairo Geniza. Cole’s translations from Hebrew and Arabic include War & Love, Love & War: New and Selected Poems by Aharon Shabtai; So What: New & Selected Poems by Taha Muhammad Ali; and The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492, which received the National Jewish Book Award in Poetry and the American Association of Publishers’ 2008 Hawkins Award for the university press book of the year.
Antiquities, Archaeology, Biography, Cultural Transmission, Historiography, Independent Scholarship, Jewish Studies, Libraries and Archives, Medieval Studies, Memory, Paleography, Religion, Study, Translation
Alex Byrne
Alex Byrne, University Librarian at the University of Technology, Sydney, and 2005-2007 President of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), discusses intellectual freedom advocacy, libraries, internationalism, and his book: The Politics of Promoting Freedom of Information and Expression in International Librarianship, published by Scarecrow.
Academic Freedom, ALA, Censorship, Copyright, Cultural Democracy, IFLA, Internationalism, Libraries and Archives, Literacy, Open Access Movement, Professional Ethics, UNESCO
Alix Christie
Writer, journalist, and printer Alix Christie, (VC'80) talks about her historical novel, Gutenberg's Apprentice (Harper Collins, 2014). "If ever there were a historical novel with up-to-the-minute resonance, this is it. As we go through another information revolution, Christie’s novel takes us back in brilliantly-observed detail to the first – the invention of the printing press. Her characters are engaging, the world as beautifully crafted as one of Gutenberg’s hot-metal letters, and the themes more relevant now than ever."
Authorship, Early Modern Studies, Guttenberg, Historiography, History, Independent Scholarship, Innovation, Journalism, Manuscripts, Media Studies, Medieval Studies, Print Culture, Religion, Technology, VC
Amitava Kumar
Amitava Kumar, Helen D. Lockwood Professor of English at Vassar College, discusses his new book of essays Lunch With a Bigot: The Writer in the World published this year by Duke University Press. "These are the very best sort of essays: the kind in which the pleasure of reading derives from the pleasure of following a writer's mind as it moves from subject to subject, making us see connections we might otherwise have been unawayre of. Often a single paragraph contains such a story or detail so arresting that the reader must pause to appreciate it before moving on." -- Francine Prose, author of Reading Like a Writer
Authorship, Autobiography, Editing, Fiction, Films, Humanism, Journalism, Libraries and Archives, Literary Criticism, Monograph Publishing, Non-fiction writing, Reading, Religion, Transculturation, VC
Amitava Kumar
"Vassar Professor of English on the Helen D. Lockwood Chair Amitava Kumar returns to the program to talk about his acclaimed novel Immigrant, Montana (Knopf, 2018). The novel was named one of the Best Books of 2018 by the New Yorker, was on the New York Times 100 Most Notable Books list of 2018, and on President Obama's Favorite Books list of the same year. " "This is a deeply American novel, one that delves into the messiness of love (and sex!), and the meeting point between identity, character, place, and the constant cultural stuff floating around. . . . Kumar's novel is uproariously funny and deeply moving."" —David Means, author of Hystopia " "Amitava Kumar's Immigrant, Montana is a beguiling meditation on memory and migration, sex and politics, ideas and art, and race and ambiguity. Part novel, part memoir, this book is as sly, charming, and deceptive as its passionate protagonist, a writer writing himself into being."" —Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer"
Adolescence, American Literature, Archives, Bildungsroman, Citizenship, Columbia University, Composition, Desire, Diversity, Edward Said, Higher Education, History, Humor, Immigration, Law, Transculturation, VC
Andrew Piper
Andrew Piper, Associate Professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures and associate member of the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University, discusses his book Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times, published in 2011 by the University of Chicago Press. “Contending that our lived experience of reading belies naive generalizations about the future of books, Book Was There is an elegantly argued and thoroughly up-to-date tribute to the endurance of books in our evolving digital world." Professor Piper's first book, which won the Modern Language Association Prize for a first book is entitled Dreaming in Books: The Making of the Bibliographic Imagination in the Romantic Age (Chicago UP, 2009). He is co-founder of the research group, Interacting with Print: Cultural Practices of Intermediality, 1700-1900.
Children's Books, Cognition, Cultural Transmission, Design History, Drawing, Education, Embodiment, Handwriting, Literacy, Machine Reading, Media Studies, Memory, Perception, Reading Practices, Study
Andrew Watsky
Andrew Watsky, art historian and professor of art at Vassar College, discusses his award-winning book about the Japanese island of Chikubushima, it's history, architecture, and art.
Architecture, Art History, Asian Studies, Assemblage, Chanoyu (Tea Ceremony), Japanese Art, Libraries and Archives--Japan, Momoyama Period, Oda Asian Art, Religion, VC
Ann M. Blair
Harvard College Professor and Henry Charles Lea Professor of History Ann Blair will discuss her book Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information Before the Modern Age, published by Yale University Press in 2011. "There has always been 'too much to know.' In this lively and learned book, Ann Blair shows us how early modern Europeans managed to survive—and even to surf—what they saw as tidal waves of information. Her insightful comparisons, careful attention to the survival of traditional methods, and clear vision of the new culture of passionate curiosity that took place in the Renaissance give her work extraordinary range and depth." — Anthony Grafton.
Alphabet, Authorship, Bibliography, Classification, Cultural Transmission, Early Modern Studies, History, Humanism, Knowledge Systems, Libraries and Archives, Memory, Metadata, Note-taking, Typography
Arielle Saiber
Arielle Saber, Professor of Romance Languages & Literatures at Bowdoin College, discusses her book Measured Words: Computation and Writing in Renaissance Italy, winner of the 19th annual MLA Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Publication and the Newberry Library's 2017 Weiss-Brown Publication Award (U Toronto, 2017). Arielle Saiber explores the relationship between number, shape, and the written word in the works of four exceptional thinkers: Leon Battista Alberti’s treatis on cryptography, Luca Pacioli’s ideal proportions for designing Roman capital letters, Niccolò Tartaglia’s poem embedding his solution to solving cubic equations, and Giambattista Della Porta’s curious study on the elements of geometric curves. Although they came from different social classes and practiced the mathematical and literary arts at differing levels of sophistication, they were all guided by a sense that there exist deep ontological and epistemological bonds between computational and verbal thinking and production. Their shared view that a network or continuity exists between the arts yielded extraordinary results. Through measuring their words, literally and figuratively, they are models of what the very best interdisciplinary work can offer us.
Archives, Art History, Biography, Cryptography, Intellectual Property, Liberal Arts, Literature, Mathematics, Renaissance Studies, Typography
Arthur H. Groten
Ephemerist/Philatelist Arthur H.Groton discusses the collection of poster stamps he assembled and recently gifted to Vassar College and the exhibit "Posters in Miniature: The Ephemeral Cinderella" on view in the Vassar College Art Library through December 16.
Advertising, Antiquarianism, Collection Development, Commercialism, Curatorship, Design History, Independent Scholarship, Material Culture, Media Studies, Printmaking, Textual Communities, Transportation
Bailey Van Hook
Bailey Van Hook, Professor of Art History and co-director of the MA Program in Material Culture and Public Humanities at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, discusses her biography Violet Oakley: An Artist's Life (University of Delaware Press, 2016). "Violet Oakley: An Artist's Life is the first full-length biography of Violet Oakley (1874–1961), the only major female artist of the beaux-arts mural movement in the United States, as well as an illustrator, stained glass artist, portraitist and author. There is much human interest here: a pampered and spoiled young woman who suddenly finds herself in near poverty, forced to make a living in illustration to support her parents; a sensitive and idealistic young woman who, in a desperate attempt to save her neurasthenic father, embraces Christian Science, a religion derided by her family and friends; a 28 year old woman who receives one of the plum commissions of the era, a mural cycle in the Pennsylvania State Capitol, in a field dominated by much older and predominantly male artists; a woman in her forties who although professionally successful finds herself very much alone and bonds with her student, Edith Emerson; a friend of artists like dancer Ruth St. Denis and violinist Albert Spalding who nevertheless was supremely conscious of social mores, the “Miss Oakley” of the Social Register who preferred the company of upper class to bohemian society; the tireless self-promoter who traveled abroad to become the unofficial visual historian of the League of Nations yet who ironically was increasingly regarded as a local artist."
Allegory, American History, Art History, Bible, Biography, Christian Science, Democracy, Feminism, Illustration, Internationalism, Mass Media, Murals, Vassar College, Women in Art, Women's Studies
Barbara A. Olsen
Barbara A. Olsen, Associate Professor of Greek and Roman Studies at Vassar College, talks about her book Women in Mycenaean Greece: The Linear B Tablets from Pylos and Knossos (Routledge 2014). "Women in Mycenaean Greece is the first book-length study of women in the Linear B tablets from Mycenaean Greece and the only to collect and compile all the references to women in the documents of the two best attested sites of Late Bronze Age Greece - Pylos on the Greek mainland and Knossos on the island of Crete. The book offers a systematic analysis of women’s tasks, holdings, and social and economic status in the Linear B tablets dating from the 14th and 13th centuries BCE, identifying how Mycenaean women functioned in the economic institutions where they were best attested - production, property control, land tenure, and cult. Analysing all references to women in the Mycenaean documents, the book focuses on the ways in which the economic institutions of these Bronze Age palace states were gendered and effectively extends the framework for the study of women in Greek antiquity back more than 400 years."
Alphabet, Antiquities, Archaeology, Archives, Classical Studies, Cultural Transmission, Knowledge Systems, Paleography, Religion, Transculturation, VC, Women's Studies
Barbara Beisinghoff
Internationally acclaimed graphic artist Barbara Beisinghoff will talk about her artist's books and etchings, installations and public commissions, her residency at Vassar College during September and October of this year, and her exhibition, "When Light Touches Paper," on view in the Vassar College Art Library and the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center September 19 - October 14, 2016.
Artists' Books, Children's Books, Enchantment, Exhibitions, Feminism, Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Language, Material Culture, Memory, Papermaking, Printmaking, Time in Art. Goethe, Women's Studio Workshop
Beth Luey
Beth Luey, Founder of the Scholarly Publishing Program at Arizona State University, talks about her book: Expanding the American Mind: Books and the Popularization of Knowledge, Published by the University of Massachusetts Press. Ms. Luey is the author of Handbook for Academic Authors, first published by Cambridge University Press in 1987. After working as an editor for university presses and textbook companies, Ms. Luey founded the Scholarly Publishing Program at Arizona State University and directed the program for more than twenty-five years. She has also served as president of the Association for Documentary Editing, the International Association for Publishing Education, and the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing.
Authorship, Charles William Eliot, Education, Literacy, Monograph Publishing, MOOCs, Scholarly Communication
Brent Sverdloff
Brent Sverdloff, memory coach and author of How Could I Forget You: A Creative Way to Remember Names and Faces, talks about the ancient art of training your memory to help you better remember people, names, and information for academic examinations. "When you are ready to admit that you need help remembering names and faces, this book is the place to start. Using playful methods based on how our minds generate information, Sverdloff shows us how we can get our brains back in gear." —Timothy Young, The Yale Review
Medieval Studies, Memorialization, Memory, Renaissance Studies, Rhetoric
Brian Lukacher
Brian Lukacher, art historian and Professor of Art at Vassar College, talks about his new monograph on the British artist and architectural visionary, Joseph Gandy.
Antiquities, Architecture, Drawing, Elias Magoon, Funerary Sculpture, John Soane, Joseph Gandy, Libraries and Archives, Memorialization, Memory, Ray Harryhausen, Rosslyn Chapel, Vassar College, VC
Bryan W. Van Norden
"Bryan W. Van Norden, Professor of Philosophy on the James Monroe Taylor Chair at Vassar, talks about his recent monograph, Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto (Columbia UP, 2017). Are American colleges and universities failing their students by refusing to teach the philosophical traditions of China, India, Africa, and other non-Western cultures? This biting and provocative critique of American higher education says yes. Even though we live in an increasingly multicultural world, most philosophy departments stubbornly insist that only Western philosophy is real philosophy and denigrate everything outside the European canon. In Taking Back Philosophy, Bryan W. Van Norden lambastes academic philosophy for its Eurocentrism, insularity, and complicity with nationalism and issues a ringing call to make our educational institutions live up to their cosmopolitan ideals."
Anti-Intellectualism, Asian Studies, Buddhism, Confucianism, Higher Education, Internationalism, Liberal Arts, Multiculturalism, Philosophy, Taoism, VC
Bryn Geffert
Bryn Geffert, Librarian of the College at Amherst College, talks about the crisis in scholarly book publishing and his new venture to address the crisis, the Amherst College Press.
Editing, Electronic publishing, Monograph Publishing, Open Access Movement, Serials Publishing, University Presses
Buzz Spector
"The artist Buzz Spector talks about his retrospective exhibition at the St. Louis Art Museum on view through May 31, 2021: Buzz Spector: Alterations. Spector is a contemporary Conceptual artist who explores the aesthetic possibilities of language, paper, and books. The exhibition spans the artist’s career from the 1970s to the present and includes drawings, altered books, postcard assemblages, collages, and more. The artist also discusses the catalogue raisonée of his work just published by the Zolla/Lieberman Gallery in Chicago and available through the SLAM bookstore. Spector has recently moved his home and studio to the Hudson Valley. ""Taking cues from Marcel Duchamp and Marcel Broodthaers—two influential 20th-century artists whose careers shaped the course of contemporary art—Spector draws from art historical precedents and adapts borrowed materials, injecting poetic humor and philosophical musings along the way. . . . ""Spector is internationally recognized for his contributions to the field of contemporary art. He taught painting, sculpture, and two-dimensional design at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis for a decade before retiring in 2019. This is the first presentation of the artist’s work at a St. Louis museum."" The Rowland Atkinson skit we mention. Art Speaks: a 53 minute video on Buzz Spector: Alterations by SLAM"
Archives, Art Collecting, Art Galleries, Artists' Books, Conceptual Art, Drawing, Exhibitions, Higher Education, Landscape, Media Studies, Scale in Art, Sculpture
C. Stephen Jaeger
Our series on the role and value of the liberal arts in contemporary society continues with a conversation with the cultural historian C. Stephen Jaeger, Gutsgell Professor Emeritus in Germanic Languages and Literature and Comparative Literature at the University of Illinois, about his research into the transcendental function of charisma in education and the arts and his book: Enchantment: On Charisma and the Sublime in the Arts of the West (Univ. Pennsylvania Press, 2012). "What is the force in art, C. Stephen Jaeger asks, that can enter our consciousness, inspire admiration or imitation, and carry a reader or viewer from the world as it is to a world more sublime? We have long recognized the power of individuals to lead or enchant by the force of personal charisma—and indeed, in his award-winning Envy of Angels, Jaeger himself brilliantly parsed the ability of charismatic teachers to shape the world of medieval learning. In Enchantment, he turns his attention to a sweeping and multifaceted exploration of the charisma not of individuals but of art."
Art History, Cathedral Schools, Charisma, Enchantment, Films, Great Depression, Higher Education, Liberal Arts, Literature, Odyssey, Religion, Time in Art. Goethe
Celebrating Dante at Vassar
"Nancy Bisaha, Simona Bondavalli, Alberto Gelmi, Emma Iadanza, Elizabeth Nogrady and Ronald D. Patkus discuss the teaching of Dante at Vassar through the College's history, and the opening of a series of three simultaneous exhibitions on view through December 4, 2021 in the Thompson Memorial Library and the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center under the collective title Celebrating Dante at Vassar, commemorating the 700th anniversary of Dante Aligheri's death on September 14, 1321. ""Celebrating Dante at Vassar represents one way that the college is taking part in Dante activities this year. It is not meant to be a comprehensive study of interactions with Dante at the college; instead it aims to present essays that investigate key moments and aspects, written from several perspectives. Simona Bondavalli discusses the Dante Pilgrimage of 1921 and the early history of teaching Italian. Nancy Bisaha reflects on the interest in Dante among historians at Vassar and beyond. Ron Patkus presents highlights of the rare book collection in the Archives & Special Collections Library that relate to Dante, and Elizabeth Nogrady shares some resources in the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center."" -- Andrew Ashton, Director of Libraries, Vassar College"
Commemoration, Crime and Punishment, Dante Aligheri, Exhibitions, Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Higher Education, Language, Medieval Studies, Print Culture, Reading, Religion, Translation, Vassar College, VC
Changing Forms
"Elizabeth Nogrady (VC'99), Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Academic Programs at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar, Lara Yeager-Crasselt (VC'06) Curator of The Leiden Collection, and Ronald Patkus, Associate Director of the Libraries for Special Collections and Associate Professor of History at Vassar on the Frederic Weyerhauser Chair, discuss the exhibition on view at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center entitled Changing Forms: Metamorphosis in Myth, Art, and Nature 1650-1700, on view September 28 - December 19, 2021 at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center.This Focus Gallery exhibition explores the rich concept of metamorphosis—with links to art, myth, science, and the exchange of knowledge—in the late seventeenth-century Netherlands. The paintings, drawings, prints, and illustrated books on view include artists’ renderings of Ovid’s Metamorphoses from around 1600 by Virgil Solis, Abraham Bloemaert, and Hendrick Goudt. This tradition contributed to a dynamic moment later in the 1600s, when painters such as Godefridus Schalcken, Willem van Mieris, and Samuel van Hoogstraten created their own mythological imagery. Meanwhile, the book market for Ovid kept pace and contemporaries explored biological metamorphosis in lavishly illustrated insect studies like those by Johannes Goedaert, Jan Swammerdam, and Maria Sibylla Merian. Works in the exhibition come from Vassar collections and include significant loans from Cornell University, Bard College, Lehigh University, and The Leiden Collection—the preeminent private collection of Dutch art in the United States."
Art History, Bibliography, Biology, Drawing, Early Modern Studies, Exhibitions, Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, History, Libraries, Material Culture, Painting, Print Culture, Printmaking
Charles Henry
Charles Henry, President of the Council on Library and Information Resources, former CIO and University Librarian at Rice University, and a former Director of Libraries at Vassar College, talks about CLIR, its history, mission, and programs, as well as the role of liberal arts college libraries in the implementation of a coherent information infrastructure for higher education.
Academic Computing, Cultural Transmission, Curatorship, Digital Humanities, Digital Libraries, Digital Library Federation, DPLA, Innovation, Interdisciplinarity, Knowledge Systems
Charles Henry
What is a library? Charles Henry, President of the Council on Libraries and Information Resources (CLIR) and former Director of Libraries at Vassar College, walks us through the door of that question as he is interviewed on February 27, 2019 for Radio New Zealand's popular program Nine to Noon by that program's host Kathryn Ryan. He goes on to discuss CLIR's role in organizing the creation of a truly global digital library, and the promise of this effort for preserving cultural memory from threats of war and climate change. He also speculates on the potential of digital technology to enable literal discovery through the uncovering of hidden information.
Climate Change, Cultural Transmission, Digital Libraries, Digital Library Federation, Electronic publishing, History, Human Rights, Internationalism, Libraries and Archives, Preservation, Technology
Charles Henry
Charles Henry, Vice Provost and University Librarian at Rice University and incoming President of the Council on Library and Information Resources, talks about his venture to revive Rice University Press as the first digital-only academic publishing house.
Independent Scholarship, Interdisciplinarity, Libraries and Archives, Monograph Publishing, Rice University Press, Scholarly Communication, University Presses
Christopher D. Johnson
Christopher D. Johnson, Professor of early modern literature in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at UCLA, discusses his book, Memory, Metaphor, and Aby Warburg's Atlas of Images, published by Cornell University Press in 2012. "This is a rich and learned book, and also an extremely humane and attractive one. The final chapter, on Warburg and Bruno, has the status of revelation. It is absolutely fascinating, not only as a dialogue in intellectual history but also as a political allegory. Christopher D. Johnson pays close attention to Warburg's ethical and epistemological aspirations when he focuses on Warburg’s final and uncompleted project: the Atlas of Images. Assembled during the years prior to his death in 1929, these collages strove to mount a history of cultural memory via a dense series of images from antiquity to the present." — Michael P. Steinberg, Brown University
Aby Warburg, Aristotle, Art History, Classification, Historiography, Humanism, Iconography, Interdisciplinarity, Knowledge Systems, Libraries and Archives, Metaphor, Mythography, Renaissance Studies
Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen, Executive Director of the Digital Public Library of America, discusses the DPLA, its organization, programs, and aspirations on the occasion of its first anniversary. "[T]he DPLA will go beyond its basic mission of making the cultural heritage of America available to all Americans. It will provide opportunities for them to interact with the material and to develop materials of their own. It will empower librarians and reinforce public libraries everywhere . . . ." -- Robert Darnton, NYRB May 22, 2014
Collection Development, Collectivism, Cultural Democracy, Digital Libraries, DPLA, Education, Exhibitions, Libraries and Archives, Open Access Movement, Public Domain, World Wide Web
Danielle Allen
Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and a MacArthur Fellowship recipient, will contribute to our series on the role of liberal arts education in contemporary society by discussing her recent work on language and politics: Education and Equality (Chicago University Press, 2016) and Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (Norton, 2014). "Featured on the front page of the New York Times, Our Declaration is already regarded as a seminal work that reinterprets the promise of American democracy through our founding text. Combining a personal account of teaching the Declaration with a vivid evocation of the colonial world between 1774 and 1777, Allen, a political philosopher renowned for her work on justice and citizenship reveals our nation's founding text to be an animating force that not only changed the world more than two-hundred years ago, but also still can. Challenging conventional wisdom, she boldly makes the case that the Declaration is a document as much about political equality as about individual liberty. Beautifully illustrated throughout, Our Declaration is an “uncommonly elegant, incisive, and often poetic primer on America's cardinal text” -- David M. Kennedy. “Education and Equality mounts a powerful philosophical argument for putting ‘participatory readiness’ for civic and political life at the center of American education. Developing a rich, pragmatic account of the purposes of schooling, Allen shows the poverty of reductionist notions of education as preparation for work and global economic competition alone. To achieve the political equality that is indispensable for democratic governance, a humanist education for all is required. A must read for all concerned about the future of American education and American democracy.” -- Leo Casey, executive director, Albert Shanker Institute
American History, Authorship, Curriculum, Education, Hannah Arendt, Higher Education, History, Humanities, Industrial Revolution, Interdisciplinarity, Language, Liberal Arts, Philosophy, Revolution, W.E.B. DuBois
David Tavárez
"David Tavarez, Professor of Anthropology and Director of Latin American and Latino/a Studies, talks about the exhibition Miracles on the Border: Retablos of Mexican Migrants to the United States, on view at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center September 5 - December 13, 2020. Usually commissioned from local artists working anonymously, retablos feature a narrative that is both written and pictorial. First-person vignettes, dated and inscribed with the supplicants’ names, draw on a traditional vocabulary such as “doy infinitas gracias” (I give infinite thanks). In the luminous illustrations above the inscriptions, earthly figures share space with holy images and a dreamlike representation of the miracle. As they accumulate on church walls, both in Mexico and the United States, these votives become public records of private faith, fears, and familial attachments."
Allegory, American History, Anthropolgy, Art History, Assemblage, Cosmography, Exhibitions, Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, History, Immigration, Mexico, Religion, Transculturation, VC
David Weinberger
David Weinberger, philosopher, author, commentator, and Fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for the Internet & Society discusses his latest book: Everything is Miscellaneous: the Power of the New Digital Disorder, published by Times Books.
Advertising, Alphabet, Aristotle, Cognition, Collectivism, Libraries and Archives, Melvil Dewey, Metadata, Phenomenology, Second Life, Study, V.S. Ranganathan, Wikipedia, World Wide Web
Dora Apel
"The acclaimed art historian and cultural critic, Dora Apel, W. Hawkins Ferry Professor Emerita of Modern and Contemporary Art History at Wayne State University, talks about her recent monograph, Calling Memory Into Place (Rutgers UP, 2020). Her many books include Imagery of Lynching: Black Men, White Women, and the Mob; Memory Effects: The Holocaust and the Art of Secondary Witnessing; and Beautiful, Terrible Ruins: Detroit and the Anxiety of Decline." "In this deeply personal work, acclaimed art historian Dora Apel examines how memorials, photographs, artworks, and autobiographical stories can be used to fuel a process of “unforgetting”—reinterpreting the past by recalling the events, people, perspectives, and feelings that get excluded from conventional histories. The ten essays in Calling Memory into Place feature explorations of the controversy over a painting of Emmett Till in the Whitney Biennial and the debates about a national lynching memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. They also include personal accounts of Apel’s return to the Polish town where her Holocaust survivor parents grew up, as well as the ways she found strength in her inherited trauma while enduring treatment for breast cancer. " "These essays shift between the scholarly, the personal, and the visual as different modes of knowing, and explore the intersections between racism, antisemitism, and sexism, while suggesting how awareness of historical trauma is deeply inscribed on the body. By investigating the relations among place, memory, and identity, this study shines a light on the dynamic nature of memory as it crosses geography and generations."" "
African-American Studies, Art History, Artists' Books, Autobiography, Collectivism, Commemoration, History, Holocaust, Intellectual Property, Medicine, Memorialization, Memory, Palestine, Photography, Racism
Eileen Leonard
Eileen Leonard, Professor of Sociology at Vassar College, talks about her book Crime, Inequality, and Power published in 2015 by Routledge. ‘In Crime, Inequality and Power, Leonard offers a powerful critique of our current system of justice and the underlying socially constructed biases that continue to focus upon specific types of criminal behavior, while minimizing others. Central to her thesis is that "…power and persistent inequality in America has more to do with our understanding of crime and our punishment of it, rather than the harm that behavior inflicts". Crime, Inequality and Power is an important addition to the discipline of criminology and an essential read for students, policymakers and scholars interested in this complex topic.’ -- David Polizzi, Associate Professor, Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Indiana State University,
Civil Rights Struggle, Crime and Punishment, Democracy, Human Rights, Journalism, Justice, Law, Racism, Sexism, Sociology, Torture, VC
Elizabeth Eisenstein
Elizabeth Eisenstein (VC'45), author of the massively influential history on the impact of the introduction of printing on Western society, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (2 vols., Cambridge 1979), will discuss her book Divine Art, Infernal Machine: The Reception of Printing in the West (U Penn, 2011). "Eisenstein's research is impressive, reaching far and wide across languages and centuries. Her knowledge of the history of publication engages the wealth of recent scholarship and extends as far back as Roman copyists. . . . Her breadth enables her to identify topoi and their mutations; to observe long-term trends, diminishing ripples, and delayed reactions; and to distinguish what is new or newly dressed in authors' concerns and readers' complaints."— Journal of Scholarly Publishing
Bibliography, Cultural Transmission, Early Modern Studies, Historicism, Historiography, Humanism, Innovation, Marshall McLuhan, Material Culture, Media Studies, Print Culture, Religion, Scholarly Communication, VC
Elizabeth Eisenstein
To commemorate the passing of Elizabeth Eisenstein (VC'46) last month we will re-air our 2014 interview with her about her last book Divine Art, Infernal Machine: The Reception of Printing in the West (U Penn 2011). "Eisenstein's research is impressive, reaching far and wide across languages and centuries. Her knowledge of the history of publication engages the wealth of recent scholarship and extends as far back as Roman copyists. . . . Her breadth enables her to identify topoi and their mutations; to observe long-term trends, diminishing ripples, and delayed reactions; and to distinguish what is new or newly dressed in authors' concerns and readers' complaints."— Journal of Scholarly Publishing
Elizabeth H. Bradley
Vassar College President Elizabeth H. Bradley talks about the book she co-authored with Lauren A. Taylor entitled, The American Health Care Paradox: Why Spending More is Getting Us Less, published by Public Affairs Press in 2013. "In The American Health Care Paradox, Bradley and Taylor illuminate how narrow definitions of 'health care,' archaic divisions in the distribution of health and social services, and our allergy to government programs combine to create needless suffering in individual lives, even as health care spending continues to soar. They show us how and why the US health care 'system' developed as it did; examine the constraints on, and possibilities for, reform; and profile inspiring new initiatives from around the world."
Education, Healing, Health, Higher Education, History, Human Rights, International Studies, Medicine, Nutrition, Pharmaceutical Industry, Pragmatism, Sociology, Stereotypes, Vassar College, VC
Ellen Condliffe Lagemann
Ellen Condiffe Lagemann, Levy Institute Research Professor at Bard College and Distinguished Fellow in the Bard Prison Initiative, discusses her book Liberating Minds: The Case for College in Prison (New Press, 2017) in the next installment of our series on The Role of the Liberal Arts in Contemporary Society. “An excellent new book that makes a compelling case. Lagemann’s is a reasoned, knowledgeable, and compassionate voice for higher education as a means to achieve the goal of prison as a place for rehabilitation.” — Vartan Gregorian, president, Carnegie Corporation of New York
American History, Citizenship, Civil Rights Struggle, Crime and Punishment, Curriculum, Democracy, Higher Education, Human Rights, Jane Addams, John Dewey, Law, Liberal Arts
Emily S. Warner
Emily S. Warner, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Art at Vassar College, talks about the exhibition she composed with her students in Art 385, Surveys and Souvenirs: American World's Fairs 1876-1939, on view in the Vassar College Art Library March 12-June 29, 2018. "Sell the cookstove if necessary," novelist Hamlin Garland wrote to his parents in 1893; "You must see the fair." Garland's comment captures the excitement and urgency that drew 27 million visitors to the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, one of several world's fairs that dominated American cultural life around the turn of the century. From 1876 to 1039, over 15 world's fairs opened in American cities, showcasing the nation's industry and art, and introducing Americans to a world of foreign goods and accomplishments. Drawn chiefly from materials in the Archives and Special Collections Library at Vassar College, this exhibition presents the rich material culture of American world's fairs, from surveys and guidebooks to photogaphs, children's literature, poster stamps, and souvenirs. Many of these objects tell official stories from the fairs, promoting messages of American progress, imperial expansion, or scientific advancement. They also tell more personal stories, as material objects that were used, gifted, inscribed, and collected. Together, they paint a vivid picture of American world's fairs during a time of intense national growth and consolidation, as the country celebrated its centennial, closed its Western frontier, and arrived at the eve of World War II.
American History, Architecture, Art Galleries, Asian Art, Colonialism, Commercialism, Cultural Transmission, Design History, Native America, Photography, Propaganda. Mass Media, Science, Technology, VC
Emily Sheketoff
Emily Sheketoff, Associate Executive Director of the American Library Association and head of the Washington Office of the ALA, talks about the important public policy issue of Network Neutrality and the threat that AT&T, Verizon, and other corporate media giants pose to equal access to information on the Internet.
ALA, Cultural Democracy, Environmental Protection Agency, Internet Neutrality, Libraries and Archives, Privacy
Eve D'Ambra
Eve D'Ambra, art historian and Professor of Art at Vassar College, talks about the subject of her new book, Roman Women, published this year by Cambridge University Press.
Antiquities, Archaeology, Classical Studies, Cosmetics, Education, Fayum Portraits, Foundation Literature, Funerary Sculpture, Healing, Historiography, Memorialization, Religion, Satire, VC, Women's Studies
Eve Dunbar
Vassar Associate Professor of English Eve Dunbar discusses African American writers abroad and her book Black Regions of the Imagination: African American Writers Between the Nation and the World, published this year by Temple University Press. Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Chester Himes were all pressured by critics and publishers to enlighten mainstream (white) audiences about race and African American culture. Focusing on fiction and non-fiction they produced between the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement, Eve Dunbar's important book, Black Regions of the Imagination, examines how these African American writers—who lived and traveled outside the United States—both document and re-imagine their "homegrown" racial experiences within a worldly framework.
African-American Studies, American Literature, Anthropolgy, Authorship, Black Arts Movement, Colonialism, Cultural Transmission, Ethnography, Harlem Renaissance, History, Photography, Surrealism, VC
Free Government Information
Librarians and information advocates Jim A. Jacobs (UCSD) and James R. Jacobs (Stanford University) talk about their organization, Free Government Information and their efforts to raise all Congressional, Executive & Judicial Branch information, publications and data, including current fee-based services, to the level of federally funded scientific information, and the publication of all government information as Open Access.
ALA, FDLP, Government Documents, GPO, NARA, Open Access Movement, Public Domain, Wikileaks
Geoffrey C. Bowker
Geoffrey C. Bowker, Regis and Dianne McKenna Professor and Executive Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University, discusses his book, Memory Practices in the Sciences, winner of the 2007 Ludwig Fleck Prize of the Society for Social Studies and Science, and named the "Best Information Book of 2006" by the American Society for Information Science & Technology, published by MIT.
Archives, Biodiversity, Classification, Cybernetics, Geology, Historiography, Knowledge Systems, Memorialization, Memory, Metadata, Modernism, Photography, Scholarly Communication
Gloria Kury
Art historian, editor, and publisher Gloria Kury (VC '65) talks about art history, literature, education, and the fabrication of the Renaissance in the 19th century and her book When Giorgione Died: A Rebuildungsroman in Two Volumes (Periscope, 2016). "A memory book with a fierce verve for piercing the false enchantments of memory, its dangerous nostalgias, its zombies and composite monsters, its necrophilia and kitsch. Exuberantly in love with art, Gloria Kury works to disentangle the blind-paths of connoisseurship and historical scholarship, what so often gets forgotten there - and what hides in plain sight. A brilliant story teller herself, she trusts other storytellers - Shakespeare, Henry James, Edith Wharton, William Gaddis, Cindy Sherman among others - to lay bear the strangeness of things, even as she invites the wild-eyed prophets, the crystal gazers, the code breakers, the hypnotists, the psychics, the psychologists, the parapsychologists, the time travelers, the explorers of the fourth dimension to say their part. Seeded within this complex slide show is a sharp, cohesive, often comic and sometimes chilling meditation on how any life is lived and remembered, how smoke gets in your eyes." -- Kenneth Gross, author of The Dream of the Moving Statue and Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life
American Literature, Art History, Autobiography, Bildungsroman, Colonialism, Education, Historiography, Ideology, Interdisciplinarity, Literature, Memory, Pastoral, Renaissance Studies, Slavery, VC
Grace G. Roosevelt
In the first of a series of episodes to be aired this season devoted to the value and uses of the liberal arts and liberal arts education in contemporary society, Grace G. Roosevelt, intellectual historian and Associate Professor of History and Education at Metropolitan College of New York, returns to the show to talk about pragmatism, service learning, and the liberal arts and her book Creating a College That Works: Audrey Cohen and Metropolitan College of New York (SUNY, 2015). “In 1964 educational activist Audrey Cohen and her colleagues developed a unique curricular structure that enables urban college students to integrate their academic studies with meaningful work in community settings. Creating a College That Works chronicles Cohen’s efforts to create an innovative educational model that began with the Women’s Talent Corps, evolved into the College for Human Services, and finally became, in 2002, what is now Metropolitan College of New York (MCNY), a fully accredited institution of higher education that offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees."
Archives, Biography, Civil Rights Struggle, Education, Higher Education, Interdisciplinarity, Liberal Arts, Plato's Cave, Pragmatism
Grace Roosevelt
Grace Roosevelt, Professor of History and Education at Metropolitan College of New York and author of Reading Rousseau in the Nuclear Age, talks about the history of the liberal arts curriculum, the encroachment of market forces on higher education, and the relation between liberal education and liberal politics.
American History, Aristotle, Charles William Eliot, Commercialism, Democracy, Higher Education, Jean Jacques Rousseau, John Dewey, Liberal Arts, Political Philosophy, W.E.B. DuBois
Gretchen Goldman
Gretchen Goldman, Research Director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, talks about the role of science in public policy, including issues ranging from scientific integrity in government decision-making to political interference in science-based standards on hydraulic facturing, climate change, sugar, and chemicals. Dr. Goldman holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in environmental engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a B.S. in atmospheric science from Cornell University. She has authored pieces for Science, The New York Times, NPR, The Boston Globe, Reuters, Politico, and Bloomberg.
Academic Freedom, American History, Censorship, Climate Change, Cultural Democracy, Environmental Protection Agency, Nuclear Proliferation, Scholarly Communication, Science, Sustainability, Technology
H. Daniel Peck
H. Daniel Peck, Professor Emeritus of English at Vassar College, discusses his monograph and exhibition, on view at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill May 4 - November 3, 2019 entitled: Thomas Cole's Refrain: The Paintings of Catskill Creek. Thomas Cole's Refrain shows how Cole's Catskill Creek paintings, while reflecting concepts such as the stages of life, opened a more capacious vision of experience than his narrative-driven series, such as The Voyage of Life. Relying on rich visual evidence provided by paintings, topographic maps, and contemporary photographs, Peck argues that human experience is conveyed through Cole's embedding into a stable, recurring landscape key motifs that tell stories of their own. The motifs include enigmatic human figures, mysterious architectural forms, and particular trees and plants. Peck finds significant continuities—personal and conceptual—running throughout the Catskill Creek paintings, continuities that cast new light on familiar works and bring significance to ones never before seen by many viewers.
Allegory, American Literature, Art History, Climate Change, Composition, Exhibitions, Geography, Henry David Thoreau, Historicism, Hudson River School, James Fenimore Cooper, Thomas Cole, Time in Art. VC