When Mark Twain Got Mad

So Mark Twain had a dark side after all. At least that’s what Steve Alter, professor and chair of the history department, says.

In the first of a series of occasional lectures from the history department this year, Alter will address Twain’s other side and its implications in a talk entitled, “Mark Twain’s Anger: Individualism versus Social Conformity in America, from Ben Franklin to Huck Finn,” on Monday, Sept.  30, at 4:00 p.m. in Jenks 406.  Alter hopes to put the reputation of the great American writer’s in a broader historic context. The lecture is free and open to the public. Here’s how Alter describes the talk:

“I’ll be tracing a ‘great conversation’ about the individual in relation to society, especially the problem of American individualism v. social conformity—and the related question of whether we can trust what our conscience tells us is true. Writers on these subjects include Ben Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Alexis de Tocqueville, and—giving the most penetrating analysis—Mark Twain: whose deepest reflections, of course, occur on a raft floating down the Mississippi.”

This Just In: Gordon Faculty Continue to Offer Public Scholarship

Even at the start of a new academic year, Gordon faculty members are contributing their gifts and scholarship to the broader community in a variety of ways. Below is just a sample of what’s been happening lately for some professors outside of the classroom:

Tal Howard, professor of history and the executive director of the Center for Faith and Inquiry, wrote about The Promise of Religious Colleges for the leading web site, Inside Higher Education, which they published Sept. 19.

The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) published a story Sept. 21 on the Accessible Icon Project that features Brian Glenney, assistant professor of philosophy, and his work with that project: Is it Time for a New Wheelchair Icon?”

Ruth Melkonian Hoover, associate professor of political science and international relations, is a featured panelist this week at the John C. Danforth Center on Politics and Religion at Washington University in St. Louis, addressing the topic of Welcoming the Stranger: A Panel Discussion on Religion and Immigration. She will also be the keynote speaker for the Zylstra Symposium on Politics and Culture at Redeemer University College in Ontario, Canada, this week addressing the issue of “Proximity, Globalization and the Common Good.”

Wm. B. Eerman Publishing Company released the new hardcover book, “Through Your Eyes: Dialogues on the Paintings of Bruce Herman”co-authored by Bruce Herman, Lothlórien Distinguished Chair in the Fine Arts, and G. Walter Hansen. One reviewer calls Herman one of the “wisest practitioners of art today and Hansen one of the key influencers and patrons of Christians in the arts.”

In the September edition of the national Green Chemistry Commitment, Irv Levy, professor of chemistry and computer science, as well as Gordon’s green chemistry program were featured in an article called “Gordon College: Transforming chemistry through the next generation.”

Boorse Invited to Address National Leaders During Climate Week NYC

Invited as one of only 20 speakers to address an influential group of leaders, Dorothy Boorse, professor of biology, will be making brief remarks at the opening ceremony of Climate Week NYC 2013 on Monday, September 24, at the Morgan Library & Museum, and participating in a panel discussion later. Because of her work on the NAE report, Loving the Least of These, that addresses, in part, the economic implications of climate change, Boorse was invited by a representative to the United Nations to address the group.

She reflected the voice of evangelicals concerned about climate change, especially noting why climate change is an issue evangelicals should care about, how perceptions are changing, what actions the U.S. could take to address climate change going forward and how evangelicals can be part of that. 

Climate Week NYC is the annual summit that convenes the world’s top government, business and thought-leaders to discuss the potential of innovation, clean energy and smart technologies to boost growth and create jobs. The Fifth Climate Week NYC addresses the theme: “Our low carbon future: Leadership. Opportunity. Security.”

The Opening Ceremony brings together a coalition of political, business and community leaders who will discuss their shared commitment to a Clean Revolution, and offer specific ideas on how American leaders can collaborate to invest in clean energy, efficiency, innovation and infrastructure for a better future.

Boorse will be joining other speakers such as: David Kenny, CEO, The Weather Channel;
 Deborah Fikes, Permanent Representative to the United Nations for World Evangelical Alliance;  Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank; Meg Whitman, CEO HP; Amy Davidsen, Executive Director, The Climate Group North America
Rt Hon Tony Blair (late arrival);
 Dr Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer, IKEA; Bob Inglis, Executive Director of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative;
 Sen. Timothy E. Wirth, Vice-chairman, UN Foundation, and
 Ted Turner, Founder and President, UN Foundation.

Practicing Peace in Urgent Times

With so many recent headlines pointing to global, corporate or personal conflicts, it seems particularly appropriate to be thinking more about peace and how to promote it. In preparation for the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21, 20013, representatives from Gordon’s faculty and staff have planned a week of conversations, vigils and discussions. Special guests will be on campus to talk about peace efforts and the role of faith in promoting peace. The Week of Peace is a combined effort of the Gordon College Initiative for the Study and Practice of Peace led by Daniel Johnson, professor of sociology; the Balkans Semester; the Peace and Conflict Studies program; and the U.S. Institute of Peace Public Education for Peacebuilding.

“At a time when the world is looking at the crisis in Syria, it is crucial that our  students are prepared to consider alternative strategies that can deter war, and create opportunities for peace,” said Judith Oleson, professor of social work and director of the Peace and Conflict Studies minor. “With our mission to prepare students to be global leaders and our unique ethical frame as a Christian college, we’re in a unique position to explore issues of peacemaking in this urgent time.”

The Week of Peace events include the following:

Monday, Sept. 16, 12:00-1:30: “Philosophy, Faith, and the Practice of Peace”— Why this is important to Gordon College?   A Lunch Conversation with Richard Kearney, the Charles B. Seelig Chair of Philosophy at Boston College.  President’s Dining Room, Lane Student Center.

Monday, Sept. 16, 7:00: “The Small Work of Peace”—A Panel Discussion with Richard Kearney;  Padraig O’Malley, the John Joseph Moakley Professor of International Peace and Reconciliation, McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies, University of Massachusetts; and Aida Vidan,  Lecturer, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University.

Thursday, Sept. 19, 7:30: “Seeking Peace in Film: Halima’s Path”—A Film Screening and Conversation with the Director, Moderated by Aida Vidan  8:00-10:00 BCA 138

Saturday, Sept. 21,7:00: “Peacemaking and the Spiritual Disciplines”—A Walking Peace Vigil, Chapel Steps.


Visiting the Land of Peter Rabbit and His Creator

Janis Flint-Ferguson in Ambleside, England.

As many fans and scholars honor the 70th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s death, Janis Flint-Ferguson, professor of English and education, visited the author’s home in June to see first hand the setting that launched such works as “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” and “The Tale of Gloucester.” A lecturer with Wisconsin Lutheran College for its “Best of Britain” course, Flint-Ferguson, along with 11 undergraduate students, spent four days in Ambleside of the Lake District north of London. With dozens of walking paths, trails and hills, the rural beauty of the Lake District is both a tourist destination and the inspiration for much of Britain’s best literature, especially, Flint-Ferguson said, from the Romantic period. The class visited William Wordsworth’s home as well as the property and home of Potter (1866-1943). Here’s what Flint-Ferguson, whose expertise includes children’s literature, said about Potter:

“At the 70th anniversary of Potter’s death, it was particularly interesting to visit her home and land. As the grandmother of children’s literature, she revolutionized the genre through her illustrations and stories. For instance, as a natural scientist and conservationist, she studied all of the mold and fungi in the Lake District’s wooded areas, fields and pastures so as to draw them in detail, using her scientific skill and knowledge to capture them in illustrations. Many of these drawings as well as her journals were on display at her home this past summer, which we got to see.

At Potter’s home.

“The Lake District is also home to the sheep industry in England—Potter herself owned some 270 sheep farms in the region—and when she died, she left all of her property to the National Trust of England, which virtually opened up the Lake District. She wanted people to be able to come and see, to walk and enjoy the area as much as she did. But in terms of her literary contributions, she wrote in good, standard, proper and appropriate English, even though some of her editors felt she should ‘dumb down’ a bit for children. But she absolutely refused. And as a result it was one of the first times in England that parents were reading to their children, not in simplified English but in good standard English. There’s some tough vocabulary in her books. She would also sometimes ask caretakers to bring  dead animals to her—mice, rats, rabbits—where she would set them on the desk in front of her to draw them. So when you’re looking at the illustrations in her books, you’re not only seeing the setting in her home but every animal drawn anatomically correct because she studied them so carefully. She was a woman far more intelligent and curious about the natural world than we often give her credit for being.”