New Lectures on Campus are Well-Received
January 05, 2009
Several of Emmanuel College's academic departments along with student clubs and organizations collaborated during the fall semester to present a few new lecture series to the campus and community. These series gave guest speakers, professors, students and the community the chance to interact outside of the classroom and discuss a variety of important, diverse topics.
One new lecture series, The Ghosts of the Past: The Concentration Camp Century, discussed general themes of history, music, memory, trauma, and ethical issues surrounding the Holocaust.
In the inaugural presentation, Harvard University Chair of the Department of Literature and Comparative Literature Professor Susan R. Suleiman presented "History, Memory and Moral Judgment after the Holocaust" on October 27th. Suleiman discussed her recent book, "Crises of Memory and the Second World War," focusing on chapters related to Jean-Paul Sartre's essays about the Nazi Occupation of France and Marcel Ophul's Oscar-winning documentary Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Kalus Barbie.
Suleiman was originally invited to campus for a single lecture organized by Associate Professor of Foreign Languages Jose Alvarez-Fernandez. He subsequently coordinated with Associate Professor of History Melanie Murphy, Associate Professor of History and Chair of the Departments of History and Political Sciences William Leonard and Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies and Director of the Center for Mission and Spirituality Sr. Mary Johnson, SND to expand the program into an in-depth lecture series throughout the fall semester. The Departments of Foreign Languages, History, Political Science, Sociology, Religious Studies, Performance Arts, English and Global Studies further collaborated on the series along with the Campus Ministry Office, the Political Forum, and the Education Club.
Suleiman is the author and editor of numerous books and articles on contemporary literature and culture, published in the U.S. and abroad, and has published poetry and autobiographical works. In addition, she has won many honors, including a Guggenheim fellowship and a Rockefeller humanities fellowship. She served as an elected member of the executive council of the Modern Language Association from 1993 to 1996, and as vice president and president of the American Comparative Literature Association from 1995 to 1999.
To begin the lecture, Suleiman explained to the audience her own definition of the term “crisis of memory,” a moment of choice where people try to make sense of past experiences, and related the theory to the tragedies of World War II.
Sulieman described World War II as the central event of the 20th century, arguing that the memory of World War II transcends national boundaries due to the increasing global presence of knowledge regarding the Holocaust. She stated that neither the recollection of September 11th nor the new millennium has overtaken the memory of World War II.
In her discussion, Suleiman provided analysis of Ophul’s documentary, a collection of interviews with victims who came into contact with the notorious war criminal Klaus Barbie. She questioned whether one could make a film about others’ experiences without subconsciously pulling from his or her own. She related the film to her own “crisis of memory” theory.
“Individuals and nations who undergo tragedy are faced with the challenge of trying to make sense of it,” she said. “Crisis of memory is not necessarily a turning point in time, but how we choose to see it.”
In the second installment of the lecture series, Assistant Professor of Performance Arts and Co-Chair of the Department of Performance Arts Thomas Schnauber presented “Tanzen Verboten: Degenerate Music and Nazi Jazz” on November 3rd.
The lecture discussed the types of music most supported by the Nazi’s during their time of power, such as Beethoven, Mozart and Vagner, music that Schnauber described as “traditional and simple.” Schnauber also played an excerpt from the music of composer Carl Orff, a musical experimentalist at the time, who tried to recreate the original roots of music called “privitism.”
“The Nazi’s in power liked Orff’s work because it went back to original German music, with simple melodies and repetitions,” said Schnauber. “Although as an experimentalist, Nazi support was not his intent.”
Schnauber also presented music that was categorized during the time period as “degenerate” because it did not keep with the Nazi ideology of pureness. The Nazi’s in power would ban music based on the racial and political origin of the composers while blaming it on the experimentalism of their music. Swing music, for instance, was considered the music of black and Jewish people and therefore only jazz composed by German musicians was allowed, although such musicians lacked the ability to compose great jazz.
The lecture recognized the use of music during the Nazi era as a form of propaganda, meant to demoralize the British. A German swing band called ‘Charlie and his Orchestra’ could be heard over the British airwaves, playing popular jazz music from the United States. The band would perform the original first verse and change the second verse with words that would demoralize the British listeners.
The series continued throughout the fall semester with an “Open Discussion of the Holocaust, Memory, Nazism, Genocide and Related Issues” as well as “Remembering the Night of Broken Glass", presented by guest speaker Margaret Krell. The departments in charge of the series are already considering the idea of having a follow up series next fall, perhaps focusing on the Spanish Civil War.
Also new this semester, the English Department and the Filmmakers Club of Emmanuel introduced Making/Meaning: A Film Forum, a series that explores film from the perspectives of screenwriting, directing, producing and acting in terms of film history, visual aesthetics and cultural analysis.
The film forum was conceptualized through conversation amongst faculty within the English Department. Professors from different disciplines were also interested in the initiative, viewing it as a means of sharing films outside of the classroom. The faculty teamed up with the Filmmakers Club of Emmanuel and started the forum as a means of providing professors who normally present film from a technical, thematic viewpoint the opportunity to share different views with their students and the Emmanuel community.
“Professors choose films that are important to their work, research and teaching; films that are important to them personally that they would like to share with their students,” said Assistant Professor of English Kelly McGuire. “The forum provides another place to discuss film, why it matters and how it is connected to the cultural context.”
On October 15th Associate Professor of History Dr. Melanie Murphy and Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Petros Vamvakas presented the inaugural lecture on “Film: Milou in Mai (May Fools)” and discussed Louis Malle's 1990 comedy set in the French countryside during the May 1968 student uprising in Paris. The presentation took place in the Janet M. Daley Library Lecture Hall.
The initial forum was well received with roughly 40 students in attendance. McGuire hopes to continue to bring in different professors throughout the year, creating more opportunity for faculty and students to interact outside of the classroom.
Additionally, Emmanuel College’s Art Department along with The Society of Architectural Historians (SAH), New England Chapter hosted a series of presentations by members of the board during the chapter’s traditional Director’s Evening on Thursday, November 20th. The event was held in the Janet M. Daley Library Lecture Hall.
This was the second year the Director’s Evening was held on campus. Adjunct Professor of Art Milda Richardson, who also serves as the president of the SAH, New England Chapter, originally brought the series to Emmanuel last November.
“This event allowed an opportunity for people currently on the board to share their research with members of the society and the public,” said Richardson.
Presenters included Cole Roskam of Harvard University, recipient of the 2008 John Coolidge Research Fellowship, who discussed Shanghai’s building culture and modern architectural development. Tim Orwig of Boston University discussed the restoration architecture of Joseph Everrette Chandler. Jacob Albert of Albert, Righter and Tittmann Architects, Inc. presented his work titled, “SAH Tours 2008: Naples and the Campania and Chicago North Shore.” Also, Mark Jarzombek, dean of architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discussed “The Architecture of Fasil Gheorgis and the Question of an African Avant-garde.” Lastly, Marie Frank of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell discussed “Design Theory at Harvard before the GSD.”
The Society of Architectural Historians was founded in 1940 to advance knowledge and understanding of the history of architecture, design, landscape, and urbanism worldwide. The Society serves scholars, professionals in allied fields such as architecture, historic preservation and planning, and the interested general public.
Emmanuel continues to create and carry on lecture series throughout the academic year, touching upon diverse topics and gaining attention from much of the College community. Thus far, all of the lecture series have been well received, drawing in impressive audiences of students, faculty, and staff.