High Tech and Bilingual Conversations

Serrano-_Pilar2_2007_10_30_11_20_22Think of it as a multi-lingual conversation: two classes of Spanish students from two local colleges (Gordon and Clark University) having a discussion—in Spanish and English—with a playwright . . .  via Skype. Pilar Pérez Serrano, assistant professor of Spanish at Gordon, and her colleague at Clark, Dr. Belén Atienza, arranged the high tech, bilingual interaction with Paloma Pedrero, a Spanish playwright, actress, and theater director who lives in Spain. “The Pain of Seeing: A Conversation with Paloma Pedrero” will take place on Wed. March 2 at 4:30 at Clark University’s Fuller Music Room and is open to the public.

Here’s what Pérez Serrano said about the event: “The collaboration came about a long-lasting friendship between Belén Atienza and myself. Dr. Atienza is from Spain and we met years ago at a Language conference in New York City. She is an expert in Spanish Golden Age Theater and my expertise is in Contemporary Spanish Theater, so we had much to talk about then and now. Dr. Atienza visited our campus last year to present in my SPN371 course. Her presentation Memory, counter-memory and trauma: from Saint Jordi and Serrat to Freddie Mercury took an in-depth account of the effects of the Spanish Civil War in Catataluña, a region of Spain where she is from.

“The author we will be talking to next week, Paloma Pedrero, is one of the many I have come across through my own research in Contemporary Spanish Theater. I met her while researching about another author for my dissertation. Such is the theater world! She is one of the most recognized, published and performed women playwrights in Spain today. She is also an actor, a director and a sociologist and an incredibly warm and approachable person! So, next week I will be doing a small introduction to her work and later on, we, Dr. Atienza and myself, will be translating and posing questions to our students, the author and anyone else who attends the event. Since we want this to be the beginning of some conversation series with Spanish authors (and beyond), students would benefit from asking those dreaded questions face to face: ‘What did you intend with this piece of writing?’ But, most importantly, it will be an attempt to make literature a more democratic, more approachable subject in which everyone involved in the process of creating, reading, and discussing can feel like a contributor towards the piece of art.”

Creative Images: The Language of Today’s Students

Toddy2Toddy Burton, assistant professor of communication arts and award- winning filmmaker, teaches screenwriting, video production and film criticism. She knows the language of today’s students is visual. Consequently, she regularly reviews films for various publications (click here for two recent reviews she wrote, of films, “Biutiful” and “Country Strong”), engages with filmmakers throughout the country, and of course has made her predictions for this year’s Academy Awards. But it’s her students’ work that motivates her toward excellence in filmmaking. Of a recent advanced production class, she wrote:

“I assigned a film project recently with this description:
 Write, shoot and edit a 1 minute short film (no more than 1 min). Convey your voice in the role that you hope to play (ie: if you want to direct, focus on storytelling and acting; if you want to shoot, focus on the framing and camera work; if you want to produce, focus on the overall production/organization).


Every student in the class wrote a script and pitched it as a project to be produced this semester. In a class of 16 students, 4 projects would move forward (each with crews of 4). The short films were used (along with the script, a pitch from the student, and a voting process) in deciding which projects moved forward and which crew roles students played. Kyle Gordon ’11 wanted to show that he could tell a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end in a short period of time and also to display the use of handheld camera (a technique he wants to use in his final project). His script was chosen and he’s directing (a longer version of) his short film this semester. Here’s his short film.” Kyle’s Short Film

“Under the Skin” of Iranian Film

Cobbey_Rini_2008_11_20_11_17_06Rini Cobbey, associate professor of communication arts, contributed a short chapter to a new book entitled Film in the Middle East and North Africa: Creative Dissidence, published last month by the University of Texas Press. Rini’s chapter analyzes the Iranian film Under the Skin of the City, detailing how its individuals and families struggle to negotiate their social and political contexts.

The publisher describes the significance of this book as follows: “This is the first study to cover cinemas from Iran to Morocco. Nine essays present the region’s major national cinemas, devoting special attention to the work of directors who have given image and voice to dissent from political regimes, from patriarchal customs, from fundamentalist movements, and from the West. These country essays are complemented by in-depth discussions of eighteen films that have been selected for both their excellence and their critical engagement with pressing current issues. The introduction provides a comprehensive overview of filmmaking throughout the region, including important films produced outside the national cinemas. The long history of Iranian cinema, its international renown, and the politics of directors confronting the state, earns it a special place in this volume. The other major emphasis is on the Israel/Palestine conflict, featuring films by Palestinian directors, Israelis, and an Egyptian working in Syria.”

Psychology in the Popular Culture

photoJonathan Gerber, assistant professor of psychology, is curious about those places in popular culture where psychology intersects, specifically today’s music. In his music review that was published yesterday—on a site that claims over a million viewers a month— he writes of the music group Slint’s latest album:

“Slint’s Spiderland is possibly the least understood yet most influential album of the last 20 years. Every aspect of Spiderland, from its cover to its lyrics, from its timbre to its musical structures, suggests that the album is about sleep. In an uncanny way, Spiderland expresses our experience of sleep and musically contains all of its characteristics as noted by sleep researchers, moving from the uplifting and bizarre logic of dreams through to the possible psychosis that sleep resembles, while on the way touching on its sensory and restorative aspects.”

Click here to read the rest of Jonathan’s review in the column All Things Reconsidered.

Disciplines Mix in Salem’s Old Town Hall

114The Gordon College Institute for Public History has launched a public lecture series in Salem’s Old Town Hall, a historic building dating back to the early 1800s. The series opened with a lecture from historian Richard Francis that was covered by CSPAN and continues on February 17 with a talk by K. David Goss, assistant professor of history, on Salem and the Civil War.

The College’s work on Old Town Hall–led by Goss, Cliff Hersey (dean of Global Education), and Kristina Stevick (director of the Institute for Public History)–represents its commitment to interdisciplinary ventures. In addition to the lecture series, the building houses performances of the original play Cry Innocent, commissioned by Norm Jones, associate professor of theatre arts, and written by Mark Stevick, associate professor of English. Currently, the College is working with the city of Salem to transform the first floor of the building into a museum of public history.

For more information on the lecture series, which also features a presentation by associate professor of history Tal Howard next month on his forthcoming book, visit oldtownhalllectures.com.

God and the Atlantic

0199565511Tal Howard, professor of history and director of the Jerusalem and Athens Forum, has a book coming out next month from Oxford University Press. God and the Atlantic: America, Europe and the Religious Divide has already received favorable reviews; historian Mark Noll calls it, “a pathbreaking exploration.”

Here’s the description from the publisher: “Since the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, the United States and Western Europe’s paths to modernity have diverged sharply with respect to religion. In short, Americans have maintained much friendlier ties with traditional forms of religion than their European counterparts. What explains this transatlantic religious divide?

Accessing the topic though nineteenth and early twentieth-century European commentary on the United States, Thomas Albert Howard argues that an ‘Atlantic gap’ in religious matters has deep and complex historical roots, and enduringly informs some strands of European disapprobation of the United States.”

Read more on Tal’s book here.