28 August 2009

and the pursuit of happiness

in light of the hss125 discussion about american attitudes towards others, i thought this great illustrated essay by maira kalman "i lift my lamp beside the golden door" apropos for the week. the photo above is from her blog...and her drawings are quite terrific. enjoy!


27 August 2009

american empires unfolds

on tuesday in hss125, we considered jasper johns "flag" of the mid-century as an iconic image that, when looked at quite closely, reveals many layers of messages. this led to a greater discussion today about issues of american identity and some challenges that we have as a nation and our place in the world. at the core of this discussion, students read (and spoke well) from gordon wood's "radicalism of the american revolution." in this work, as students recounted, wood structures a series of evidence to suggest that the forces unleashed by the american revolution (and some consequences that resulted) emerged in the decades following the revolution in the early nineteenth century. students characterized a most interesting aspect of the debate as one that revolves around balancing individual freedom with social responsibility. not bad for the second day of class! see the students i am working with in their own "empire" on the handout below.

for his work, wood won the 1993 pulitzer prize for history....which got me thinking about other pulitzer prize history book winners...http://www.pulitzer.org/bycat/History

de-constructing foust

this morning, students in the hss105 course dissected and speculated about the foust building as visual evidence for values of the university. their first efforts at "reading" using the classroom of the campus yielded some salient observations about buildings and the language that we all use to talk about them. here they complete the "thick description" exercise (with a nod to clifford geertz) before we began our class discussion.

the building that represented the target for our analysis: foust (originally the administration building on campus), built at the end of the nineteenth century. above, my drawing that represents my "thick description" for the morning.

here's a terrific ca. 1905 image of foust all "flagged up," with the two towers marking the center of the structure. horizontals and verticals balance here as surface decoration, and the massive front facade, facing spring garden avenue, suggest the importance of the building in the community landscape. to respond to the observation of the student who indicated that foust "looked so different," consider the following additional historic image of the building (ca. 1900) and its built environment context. looks to be the only survivor...

the latter two images posted here are part of a neat digital exhibition on postcards by the university archives and manuscripts division of the uncg walter jackson clinton library. you can see the display, Postcards from the University, in its entirety online.

25 August 2009

the semester begins

today, i begin my journey as a chancellor's resident fellow for the lloyd international honors college at the university of north carolina at greensboro. i am teaching three seminar classes...the first entitled "you are your own gpu" which meets this morning, the second "visualizing american empire" gathers for the first time this afternoon.

in the gpu course, we'll be looking at local greensboro sites physically and then considering, through digital means, the same or similar sites across the globe. my thesis for this course is that despite the overwhelming amount of information literally at our fingertips, we know less about ourselves and who we are than ever before.

in the empire course, we'll consider the visual evidence of art, architecture, and media images as a way to look at the american empire at some critical junctures in the history of the nation. my central idea about this course is that our sense of "american-ness" is a much more complicated enterprise than relying on key iconic images of the nation to define us all.

in the third course, one of six sections for all first year honors students at the university, i'll help guide students in getting to know their campus -- and each other -- through attendance at arts and theatre performances, and through a common read of "enrique's journey" along with innumerable other explorations.