October 23rd, 2012 § § permalink
Author Nathaniel Dell (MAPH ’12)
I hope this post finds all of you well. I appreciate that some of you may have time to read this, as much as I appreciate that many more of you may not have such time because you are so immersed in your zealous study of those recondite things we call the humanities. Whatever your passion that has drawn you to MAPH, whether literature, philosophy, music or art history—even classics—I trust that you respect the arduous labor of clarifying your thought as a labor of great importance. Between us, this feeling is mutual. However, in my personal experience with the humanities, the relevance of tarrying with the Platonic dialogues is something I have frequent need of renegotiating for myself. What ought I to do with my now clarified, or, more often, sublimely muddled thought? In MAPH, I was guided and fortified by the notion that my philosophizing should advance some common good. Credit that notion to all of the Socratic fan-fiction I’ve read from Plato; blame the generality of that notion to me. At any rate, Maren has graciously invited me to share how my experience in MAPH challenged me to think of how humanistic inquiry has informed my AmeriCorps service. I would also like to share how MAPH challenged me to re-think the spaces in which humanistic inquiry can flourish.
At the outset of my MAPH year last September, I was confident, though not certain, that I would find myself in a year or two attending some Ph.D. program in philosophy. At the same time, I thought it peculiar that I would have spent the past five years contemplating the common good along with my dead Greek friends, Plato, Socrates, and Marx (pretty much an Aristotelian) but doing little direct service towards forming the community I had been imagining. That said, towards the middle of my MAPH year, I became more confident that I would find myself working in some social service organization, which is just what happened. Through AmeriCorps’ Catholic Volunteer Network, I now work as a caseworker for the Guardian Angel Settlement Association at Hosea House in St. Louis, Missouri. GASA’s social services site, Hosea House, provides emergency assistance for persons and families in crisis who may need food, clothing, utilities or rental assistance. Hosea House also partners with other agencies to offer seasonal, public health, senior and back to school programs.
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October 18th, 2012 § § permalink
Tim Fosbury, MAPH ’12
Tim Fosbury, MAPH ’12, reflections on the MAPH year and his internship at the Project on Civic Reflection.
Two phrases stick out in my mind from my MAPH year. First is David Wray’s assertion, during one of our first core lectures no less, that we could expect MAPH to be a sort of “P90X for the soul.” Those words stuck right away and proved correct in many ways, most of them good. Second was something I heard from various mentors, advisors, and professors. This was the idea that “as humanities scholars, it is easy to forget that we are actually a part of humanity.” That is, we spend so much time reading, critiquing, and analyzing humanity, that we often inadvertently forget to participate in it. This separation was something I tried to avoid, but during the drudges of thesis and seminar paper time – those days when I started having imaginary conversations with Cormac McCarthy and the Judge from Blood Meridian began taunting me in my dreams -I began paying more and more attention to those second set of words. So, I then started to look for outlets where I could take my academic training beyond the classroom.
I was lucky when the Project on Civic Reflection was offered as one of the internships this past summer. Based on their website and the internship description, I wasn’t quite sure what I’d be doing with the organization, but there was something that drew me to it. All I knew going in was that PCR facilitated discussions, and trained facilitators to lead their own discussions, with community and civic organizations around the country. But I soon learned that these were not typical discussions that revolved around the illusion of solving large problems in an hour or creating action plans full of empty verbiage. Rather, they were spaces of reflection on why we do the work we do, or what we expect to accomplish in civic work, with no pressure to resolve anything, but only to consider closely these larger themes. And during my internship I was lucky enough to participate in discussions that ranged from education to idealism in non-profit work to racism and segregation in Chicago. What impressed me in each discussion was how the PCR model was able to bring people together from various backgrounds and foster serious and considered dialogue.
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August 10th, 2012 § § permalink
Anna Burch and Marybeth Southard MAPH '12
I first heard about the Odyssey Project during a “What am I going to do with my life?” conversation with Hilary Strang, who teaches Critical Thinking and Writing to Odyssey students. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into, other than what I knew from the description on the Illinois Humanities Council website: “The Odyssey Project provides a college-level introduction to the humanities through text-based seminars led by professors at top-tier colleges and universities to help adults with low incomes more actively shape their own lives and the lives of their families and communities.” This sounded compelling, but my true motivation at the time was gaining some solid tutoring experience for future job applications. I began tutoring with the OP in January, which meant I hung out at Robust Coffee Lounge on 63rd and Woodlawn for an hour or two on Saturdays. To get familiarized with the students and the course content, I began sitting in on weekly U.S. history classes. During the first day, students voiced their personal perceptions of America, and I was hooked. These students were eager to participate, brutally honest, and ready to learn. Attending the classes and meeting students during the Saturday writing workshops was a learning experience for myself; not only was I reading new texts that I had always meant to read but never got around to, but I was meeting students, hearing their individual stories, and learning how the Odyssey Project was directly impacting their lives.
Although I was familiar with the OP through my tutoring experience, this internship has given me the opportunity to really dive into the inner workings of the organization and learn about the variety of often-unseen responsibilities that go into non-profit administration. I was unsure what to expect going in, so I was surprised by how much independence and responsibility I have as an intern. I feel like I am actually able to do significant work within the organization, such as developing new events and workshops to provide continuing resources to enrich and sustain the community of OP alumni. I was given the opportunity to design and lead a creative writing workshop on my own, which was the most amazing (and nerve-wracking) experience. Searching for relevant readings, developing in-class writing exercises, and leading weekly workshops of about fifteen students without direct guidance was scary at first, but I now feel much more confident in my ability to design curriculum and teach adults. But even more than that, leading the workshop was a way for me to get to know the students that this organization serves; learning their stories and hearing how the Odyssey Project has affected their lives has shown me that I am working for an organization that I can really believe in. It may sound hokey, but this mentality is quite a change from my past jobs at hair salons and property management companies—this is a job where I am actually excited to come into work to see what else can be done to help make the Project even better.
MAPH ’12, focus in American Literature
In the midst of final papers and thesis work, all of MAPH was encouraged (at the time, “harassed” seemed like the proper word) to think beyond the last harrowing weeks of school and apply to the summer internships offered through the program. Looking at the list, I was both confused and intrigued by the Odyssey Project. After I did a little research and talked to Hilary Strang, I thought it sounded like a great opportunity to combine my interests in humanities scholarship with a growing desire to get involved with the kind of socially progressive work done by non-profit organizations like the Illinois Humanities Council. After I took the Teaching in the Community College course offered by MAPH, I became more concerned with the social and economic barriers facing many adults who want to pursue higher education. The Odyssey Project tries to eliminate more of these barriers than any other educational institution that I am aware of—even covering bus fare and providing childcare during the classes.
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February 22nd, 2012 § § permalink
Reposted from the Court Theatre Blog. The first part of Angels in America opens March 30, 2012
“The World Only Spins Forward”
by Deborah Blumenthal MAPH ’11
Above: ACT UP New York advertisement, 1969, 1982-1997 (bulk 1987-1995).
I was seventeen when I first saw Angels in America, and it did, as it does, change how I saw the world. It was the magnificent HBO miniseries; I remember two cold, snowy Sunday evenings, tip-toeing around my house, covertly staying up far past my school-night bedtime to see it, and from my naive perch among the couch pillows, watching an entire unfamiliar history unfold from the glow of my Dad’s big-screen TV.
I don’t know that my parents would have let me watch it if they had known what it was, but it was almost by accident, really. I had tuned in just to see one of my favorite then-obscure stage actors on television, none the wiser to what I was about to see, other than that it had been adapted from a play I had never seen.
My most distinct memory from either of those two evenings is that I couldn’t sleep after watching the ending of Millennium Approaches. Not that I was afraid of an angel crashing through my ceiling (though of course you never know), but because Prior was so sick, and I was so scared. Watching it became, very quickly, about much more than just a beloved actor. Recorded VHS tapes were joined immediately by paperback copies and DVDs, a few years later by working copies for thesis notes and a holiday-gifted first edition. There’s a Tony Kushner section on my bookshelf, and each resident is worn with love.
I was born during the period in which Angels in America takes place. Having grown up in a school system that ignored, or at least sugarcoated, the existence of the AIDS crisis (I did have one teacher—elementary school art—who taught second and third graders about Keith Haring, much to the chagrin of some parents), encountering some of the AIDS plays as a teenager—first Angels, and a few months later, Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, with Rent sandwiched in between—was like opening a pop-up book. Even in my high school health classes, AIDS was just a bad thing that happened to you if you didn’t use a condom, in no major way separated from other STDs. The curriculum gave some clinical biology, here’s what happens to your cells, but the politics and the details and the terrifying history were left out, and real understanding was foregone.
It’s not uncommon to hear from people my age, or even younger, that Angels in America changed their lives—which might be strange considering that we weren’t there. But for us it’s like a history lesson, live in living color, opening our eyes to a reality that we can only try to imagine. Progressive sex-ed or sugarcoated evasion, the AIDS epidemic has become incorporated into our cultural consciousness. My generation has no idea what it was like for it to barely even have a name. The immersion of the theater may be the closest we’ll ever get to understanding.
More on Angels in America after 20 years after the jump
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January 26th, 2012 § § permalink
Sarah Best Self Portrait
Dance Films Kino is a three-week project that I am presenting as an artist in residence at Hyde Park Art Center, March 4-25, 2012. Over three weeks, I will present 30 works of dance on film, as well as over a dozen live music, dance, and literary readings. All of the programs will be free to the public.
The seeds of this project were planted ten years ago, back when I was a MAPH student sitting in Yuri Tsivian’s intro to film class, learning about how filmmakers whose works were censored, or considered to be too experimental for mainstream distribution, showed films out of their own homes.
The films and performance I am presenting will be shown in an environment inspired by “kinos”, underground, avant-grade art clubs of the 1920s and 30s. I’m currently getting ready to paint the walls of my residency studio red, put out the caberet tables, and art deco objects I’ve sourced from Etsy. I’m creating artwork inspired by movement to hang on the walls of the space.
My first goal is to show movies in a place that feels like someone’s home, so that people are a little more willing to give something they’ve never seen before a try. My second goal is to bring all kinds of artists, writers, musicians, dance makers and filmmakers together to create a lot of different points of access into the work.
My third goal is to invite people to help create the space by imagining what it would be like to be a part of an underground society, to feel nostalgia for a fictional place situated in the past. I think there is a collective desire to engage in this type of activity. I think it is part of the reason why bars inspired by speakeasies are so popular, and why people like to fantasize about travel, even in tough economic times.
More on how Sarah arrived at this point after the jump
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December 5th, 2011 § § permalink
Drew Messinger-Michaels (MAPH ’10)
Drew Messinger-Michaels ’10
Some Gallery Somewhere
It’s 2010, and the week before graduating from MAPH, I walk into an art gallery with my best friend. We’re intellectual equals, this friend and I, but I’ve studied art history formally and he hasn’t, and he is painfully aware of this fact. He doesn’t form an opinion without immediately turning to me for confirmation, validation, and general assurance that he gets it.
And I try to tell him that’s silly and self-defeating. I try to make my friend understand that he’s free to find a given piece of art life-changing or yawn-inducing or anything in between, and to drive that point home, I try to humanize the sainted artists whose work we’re both trying to get.
Penitent Hour – Ruth Gregory
I joke about Marcel Duchamp being foremost a provocateur and a jerk (which he was), and about how so many pre-Renaissance paintings feature baby Jesuses who look like Mikhail Gorbachev in miniature (which they do). But that just makes things worse. What my friend hears is simply that I know lots of stuff, and that he should shut up because he doesn’t know nearly as much stuff as I do. He stops offering opinions, and so I clam up, too. We walk around in silence for a while.
This time next year, I’ll be the Founding Director of a new, online art gallery. I’ll be clicking that last “OK” button that will peel back the Under Construction page from our website, and I’ll be thinking about my friend, and about how badly I want to help smart-but-intimidated people like him find artwork that they’ll love.
More about Drew’s work running Gray Blush Gallery after the jump. . .
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October 7th, 2011 § § permalink
MAPH Alumni Writers during the 2010 Alumni Weekend
Most of you will be getting Tableau (the Humanities Division Magazine) in the mail in the near future. However, it is worth noting now the thoughtful article on the history of MAPH and the first 15 years of the program, by A-J Aronstein (MAPH ’10) featured prominently in this issue. If you don’t want to wait to get your copy you can read the article online now.
The memorable sign at Clark Street Ale House
If you are feeling fond memories of your MAPH years you have the opportunity to catch up with your fellow alumni at next week’s alumni meet up Thursday, October 13 between 5:30-8:30 at Clark Street Ale House.
If you are not in Chicago or haven’t been in touch for a while drop us a line and let us know what you are doing or let us know if you want to set up an alumni get together in another city.
September 15th, 2011 § § permalink
Eric McMillan’s unit, capturing an arms cache in Iraq (2007)
In response to Nick Fox’s (MAPH 2011) thoughts about military service in the wake of 9/11 Eric McMillan (MAPH 2010) offers a guest reflection on life after combat. Eric was honorably discharged from the US Army having attained the rank of Captain and is working on a book about the life of a soldier. He lives with his wife in Seattle.
Walking from my apartment to campus was like planning a patrol. First, I determined a route I would take. Then I planned an alternate route, a contingency route, an emergency route. I could never get over how many kids I saw walking around listening to iPods instead of paying attention to their surroundings. Every morning, I laid out my packing list and prepared as if I were going outside the wire. As I walked, I watched people’s hands, classified them as “threat/ no threat,” peered around every alleyway before crossing them, watched windows on the second stories of the street. I did this all year in the sun and the rain and snow. It was habit. It was survival. It was what I knew. » Read the rest of this entry «
September 12th, 2011 § § permalink
Mike Wilson (MAPH ’11) was this year’s MAPH intern at WBEZ’s show 848. Last week, he traveled up to Minnesota, where fellow MAPH ’11 grad and former Army Ranger Nick Fox reflected on a military career shaped by the events of September 11, 2001. Nick’s words speak for themselves. Hope you check it out.
Nick is one of many former military officers and enlisted men and women who have come to the program after serving. Many thanks to all of you. We have you in our thoughts.
August 15th, 2011 § § permalink
Check out Mike Wilson, this summer’s MAPH intern at WBEZ’s Chicago News Magazine 848. He complains about [slash] lovingly describes watching “football” in America….as a foreigner. Listen to Mike’s soothing accent, which fits in perfectly with the NPR set. There are other silly accents in his piece too.
And, when you’re done, imagine yourself working at NPR and figure out your own NPR name.