Year in Review 2014-2015

ParsonageNow that the dust has settled from another busy and successful year for Drury’s Humanities and Ethics Center, it seems a good moment to reflect on all that has happened over the last year and also to look ahead to next year.

As in years past, the HEC kicked off the year’s activities with a barbecue at the Humanities House. Here new students were able to mingle and chat with returning students as well as faculty and administration. President Manuel once again spent the evening with us and the new year’s group of resident-scholars introduced themselves and their plans for their upcoming year in residence at the house. Despite the incidents from last year, we once again let Dr. Panza operate the grill, though thankfully this year no fire extinguishers were needed.

The HEC also continued to develop its three main programs: Humanities Book Club, Film Series at the Moxie, and our Thinking Aloud series.

BOOK SERIES

Building on the success of the Humanities and Ethics Center’s 2013-2014 theme – Revolutionary Humanities! – during the 2014-2105 academic year, the Humanities and Ethics Center chose to highlight how popular culture texts explore humanities and ethical questions, what we call #humgoespop.

This second annual book discussion group takes the same form as our first series, but this time will focus on four texts that might be understood as “pop culture” but serve as excellent springboards for discussing issues that go to the core of what it means to live well and have strong communities. By reading these books together, we hoped to create an ongoing dialogue about ideas and values and how they can shape the choices we make as individuals and as a society. The purpose of creating the humanities book discussion group is to transform reading from a solitary activity to one that builds community and helps us learn from one another.

As always, the book series is open to everyone. We invite anyone in the Ozarks who likes to discuss books to come and join us for one and or all of the sessions. All sessions met at the Harwood Reading Room in the Olin Library from 12:00-1:00 pm.

On September 23rd, 2014, we read Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, by Burt Royal

Dog-Sees-God-posterThe play imagines what life is like for Charles Schultz’s Peanuts characters once they become adults and confront contemporary problems. The Drury Theater Department also performed the play on October 1-3 and the Humanities and Ethics Center hosted a discussion (led by Peter Meidlinger) of the play’s humanities themes on opening night.

OOctober 28th, 2014, we read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen

zombies and prideThe novel blends 19th century England and the contemporary fascination with zombies and asks what it means to be human, especially during a period of rigid class hierarchy.

From the NYT Book Review:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded version of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. This deluxe heirloom edition includes a new preface by coauthor Seth Grahame-Smith, thirteen oil painting illustrations by Roberto Parada, and a fascinating afterword by Dr. Allen Grove of Alfred University. Best of all, this limited special edition features an incredible 30 percent more zombies—via even more all-new scenes of carnage, corpse slaying, and cannibalism. Complete with a satin ribbon marker and a leatherette binding designed to endure for generations, this hardcover volume honors a masterpiece of classic zombie literature.

 

On March 3, 2015, we read Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, part I by Hayao Miyazaki

pkus_nausicaa_f_zIn this important and influential graphic novel, Hayao Miyazaki details how a princess fights to create tolerance, understanding and patience among empires fighting over the world’s natural resources. The story is also the basis of a popular film.

 

On April 7th, 2015, we read Love is a Mixtape, by Rob Sheffield

mixtapeThis memoir explores love and loss as the author discusses the mixtapes he made for his now deceased wife when they were dating. In this moving account, Sheffield shows how music can convey the most human and intimate emotions.

 

FILM SERIES AT THE MOXIE

Thanks to a generous grant from the Missouri Humanities Council, as well as matching funds from The Moxie Cinema and Drury’s Humanities and Ethics Center, we have been able to expand our film series, which is now in its third year. All screenings are held on Saturdays from 1-3pm and are followed by brief faculty-led discussions of cinematic contexts and humanistic themes. This fall Drury Humanities and The Moxie were pleased to bring you the following line-up for 2014-2015. 

On The Waterfront – Discussion led by Dr. Kevin Henderson, Oct. 25

WaterfrontElia Kazan’s tense blend of crime drama and love story received twelve academy award nominations in 1954 and won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay (Schulberg), Best Supporting Actor (Lee J. Cobb), Best Supporting Actress (Eva Marie Saint) and Best Actor (Marlon Brando). Often hailed as an American classic, Kazan’s film uses the struggle of Terry Malloy, a longshoreman, mafia errand boy, and ex-prize fighter who “could have been a contender,” to explore themes of loyalty and betrayal, guilt and conscience, sin and redemption, and the power of the individual. Martin Scorsese and Roger Ebert cited On The Waterfront as the key turning point in film acting, and critics have long debated the film’s allegorical relationship to artists who “named names” before the House of Un-American Activities. We will be presenting a newly restored, high definition print of the film in coordination with the sixtieth anniversary of its release.

The Spirit of the Beehive – Discussion led by Dr. Heidi Backes, Nov. 8

BeehiveConsidered one of the most important Spanish films of all time, The Spirit of the Beehive (1973), by acclaimed director Víctor Erice, examines life in post-Civil War Spain through the eyes of an innocent young girl. Exploring themes of isolation, silence, emotional turmoil, and monstrosity, this film presents a bold critique of Francoist Spain in a symbolic fashion, allowing Erice to pass the censors who, two years before the dictator’s death, still controlled all forms of social media. Using the classic film Frankenstein as a reference point throughout the movie, Erice subverts the regime’s political propaganda and instead demonstrates the humanity of the monster.

Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb  Discussion led by Dr. Peter Meidlinger and Jess Heugle, Nov. 15

StrangeloveStanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (1964) is a hilarious satire that tells the story of world leaders’ frantic attempts to abort a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. It is an attack that will surely result in Mutually Assured Destruction, and Kubrick (and his co-writer Terry Southern) brilliantly — and frighteningly — capture the MADness of Cold War nuclear policies. Starring Peter Sellers , George C. Scott, and Slim Pickens, this film appears near the top of every list of “must-see” films, including #3 on AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies in American Cinema. Ironically, Kubrick set out to make a serious film about the horrors of nuclear war, but, he said, “I found that … one had to keep leaving out of it things which were either absurd or paradoxical, in order to keep it from being funny; and these things seemed to be close to the heart of the scenes in question.” Presented with local filmmaker Jess Heugel.

A Raisin in the Sun – Discussion led by Dr. Rich Schur,  Feb. 28

RaisinBased on Lorraine Hansberry’s play, the 1961 film version of Raisin in the Sun brought the burgeoning Civil Rights movement onto the silver screen with blistering performances from Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee. Stuck in a racially segregated Chicago tenement during the 1950s, the Younger family debates how they should invest the proceeds from an insurance policy: should they open a liquor store in their neighborhood, should they invest in education for the children, or should they realize the matriarch’s dream of owning a nice home? The film succeeds as both a series of character studies and as a commentary about race relations in America.

A Separation – Discussion led by Prof. Charlyn Ingwerson, April 11

SeparationA Separation (2012) received two Academy Award nominations, including Best Original Screenplay and the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The film, directed by Iranian filmmaker Asghar Hatami, was shot in Tehran and features a mix of non-actors as well as some of Iran’s top actors, a mix that is characteristic of Iranian cinema. While the surface story is about the dissolution of a marriage, many things come undone, rupture, and separate as the narrative unfolds. Iran’s proud national cinematic tradition has been a medium for national conversation as well as for telling stories to the non-Persian world.

The Punk Singer – Discussion led by Dr. Teresa Hornsby and Dr. Ray Patton, April 18

SingerPunk Singer is a documentary film (directed by Sini Anderson) that follows the career of Riot Grrrl pioneer Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill, The Julie Ruin). Hanna is a feminist activist who, as a student, started an all girl punk band. The band’s music focused entirely on political activism and generated a “Riot Grrrl” movement that produced bands such as L7, Sleater-Kinney, The Gits, Veruca Salt, and others. 

THINKING ALOUD SERIES

As its name suggests, the ‘Thinking Aloud” series was created as a space for colleagues in the Humanities division to take time to think out loud about current issues in teaching and research. In coming together as a division for these conversations, faculty work to transcend their disciplines and continue a longstanding tradition of seeking answers and approaches to a variety of issues faced today in the humanities. We invite students, staff, alumni, and the local community to join our efforts to keep the humanities tradition vibrant and relevant to today’s problems. This year we were pleased to offer the following schedule of talks:

Karen Craigo and Jo VanArkel, “Red Flags and Trigger Warnings: Navigating a Writing Minefield” September 4

Whether we are reading work by other authors or conducting peer reviews of student writing in class, the unexpected can bring strong reactions. The element of surprise is crucial to good writing, but some surprises take the form of a nasty, or even traumatizing, shock. This session will focus primarily on the hot topic of trigger warnings: are they advisable or necessary in a literature or writing class? It will also take up the issue of red flags in student writing (such as those noted in the writing of Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter). But how do these concerns about content affect creativity and free expression? Please attend prepared to participate in an interactive group discussion on these compelling topics.

Patrick Moser, “The Best Thing About Research Is Finding What I Didn’t Expect.” November 6

How do we get students interested in research? How can we in the humanities collaborate on research projects with our students? After reviewing a few strategies that have worked for me in the past, I’d like to open the topic up and find out what strategies have worked for instructors to get their students interested in research, as well as ideas instructors have for collaborative research projects with their students.

Kevin Henderson, “Teaching with Film” February 6

Dr. Kevin Henderson, who directs Drury’s Humanities Film Series at The Moxie, will help us consider ways to integrate film scenes into class discussions and responsive writings.  He will also highlight aspects of film theories (spectator theory, fidelity theory, gender and film studies) that can help students analyze humanities themes in classic and mainstream cinema.  

Hue-Ping Chin, “Teaching with Images” March 5

Dr. Hue-Ping Chin, Chair of the History Department and Head of Asian Studies, will discuss multiple ways of using images in the classroom.  She will share some of her pedagogical tips, as well as strategies for cultivating meaningful discussions around visual sources.

NEXT YEAR

That’s it for now. It’s been a great year! Next year we plan to continue building on the successes so far and we expect an even better lineup of humanities activities.

See you in the Fall. In the meantime, keep reading the blog, and follow us on Facebook and on Twitter!

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