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Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 30, 2012: September 2012 Recap

[A recap of the month that was in American Studying, which this time began a couple days late—see the August 2012 Recap for September 1 and 2!]
September 3: Labor Day Special: In honor of Labor Day, I took the day off but provided links to five posts in which I discuss work, the labor movement, and related American questions.
September 4: Fall Forward, Part One: A series on my fall projects and plans begins with this website, and all the ways you can contribute to it!
September 5: Fall Forward, Part Two: On my fall plans to bring a couple of my most-taught courses into the digital age—and how you can help!
September 6: Fall Forward, Part Three: On my fall efforts to design an online exhibition on 21st century immigrant American writers—and how you can help!
September 7: Fall Forward, Part Four: On the book I’m writing this fall, and a central question for which I’d love your thoughts and input!
September 8-9: Fall Forward, Part Five: The last in the fall series, on three ways you can get involved, this fall and beyond, with the New England American Studies Association.
September 10: Isabella Stewart Gardner: A series inspired by Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum kicks off with a post on Ms. Gardner herself.
September 11: John Singer Sargent: On the American painter who was Gardner’s closest friend and a very significant artist in his own right.
September 12: The Boston Cosmpolitans: On the justifiable critiques of yet unquestionable inspirations provided by Gardner, Sargent, and their peers.
September 13: An Education by Henry Adams: On what all Americans can learn from Henry Adams’ international life and writings.
September 14: Augustus Saint-Gaudens: Last in the series, on the sculptor and memorial creator whose cosmopolitan legacy is particularly impressive.
September 15-16: Crowd-Sourcing the Gardner: A crowd-sourced set of responses to the week’s series and ideas on its places, figures, themes, and connections.
September 17: American Hope Part One: A series inspired by my current book project kicks off with some thoughts on Shawshank, Obama, and the challenges of hope.
September 18: American Hope Part Two: Taking James Kloppenberg’s lead, I highlight two American voices and traditions to which Obama’s images of hope can be connected.
September 19: American Hope Part Three: On Franklin Roosevelt, Cinderella Man Jim Braddock, and narratives of hope in the Great Depression.
September 20: American Hope Part Four: On the Wilmington Massacre, The Marrow of Tradition, and the counter-intuitive but definite urgency of hope.
September 21: American Hope Part Five: On the question of whether we can and should still trust to hope, and what it means if we can’t.
September 22-23: Crowd-Sourced Hope: The next crowd-sourced post, with more American Studiers’ responses and ideas on the week’s topics and questions.
September 24-29: Grad Student Crowd-Sourced Post Extraordinaire!: In honor of my friend Jeff Renye’s dissertation defense, a week-along opportunity for graduate students (and their friends) to share the great work they’re doing.
Next series begins tomorrow,
Ben
PS. What would you like to see in this space in the months to come?

Monday, September 24, 2012

September 24-29,2012: Grad Student Crowd-Sourced Post Extraordinaire!

On Friday, September 28th, my friend and grad school colleague Jeff Renye defends his PhD dissertation, “Panic at the British Borderlands: The Great God Pan, Victorian Sexuality, and Sacred Space in the Works of Arthur Machen.” In honor of that occasion, I thought I’d open up this week’s blog as a crowd-sourced post extraordinaire, one dedicated to the great work being done by graduate students (in every discipline and field) around the country and the world.
So … please share in the comments below! If you’re a grad student yourself, I’d love to hear a bit about what you’re working on, whether for a dissertation, a Master’s thesis, or in any other aspect of your work. If you’re a faculty member who has worked or is working with grad students, please feel free to highlight aspects of their work. If you’re just friends with such a grad student, have one in your family, or otherwise know of his or her work and think it’s worth sharing (and I’m sure it is!), please feel equally free to do so. Bottom line, I’d really love for this to be a space where we can hear and talk about the great work being done by graduate students, to honor Jeff’s work and add all these voices and ideas to the conversation—so please share some of that work, if you would. Thanks!
September recap on Sunday, next series next week,
Ben
PS. Here’s a quote Jeff has highlighted, to get the ball rolling: “But no one could look into the alchemical writings of the Middle Ages and deny them the name of literature. Alchemy, in spite of all confident pronouncements on the subject, remains still a mystery, the very nature and object of the quest are unknown. The baser alchemists – there were quacks and impostors and dupes then as now – no doubt sought or pretended to seek some method of making gold artificially, but the sages, those who practiced the true spagyric art, were engaged in some infinitely more mysterious adventure...initiated in the perfect mysterious."—Arthur Machen, "The Literature of Occultism," 1899.
9/24-9/29 Memory Day nominees: For each day’s nominee, please see the Memory Day Calendar!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

September 22-23, 2012: Crowd-Sourced Hope

[Inspired by my current book project and much else in contemporary American culture and society, this week’s series has focused on hope in America. This crowd-sourced post is drawn from the responses and ideas of other American Studiers—please add yours below!]
Following up the Shawshank quotes in Monday’s post, Jeff Renye notes a similar quote in the great recent German film The Lives of Others (2006): “Hope always dies last.” As Jeff argues, the film’s multi-part ending (which I’m not going to spoil here!) might illustrate the darkness in that quote; although it’s possible to argue that it is ultimately more genuinely hopeful instead. In any case, another cultural and national engagement with dark histories and the question of hope to be sure!
Responding to the literary and philosophical connections in Tuesday’s post, Linda Patton Hoffman notes how fully “Transcendental (and Anti-Transcendental) ideas flow throughout American society,” argues for how much “Melville [was] way ahead of his time,” and makes the case that “all should read Walden—slowly and thoughtfully.”
Following up on my Wilmington thoughts in Thursday’s post, Jonathan Goodwin highlights Philip Gerard’s book Cape Fear Rising (1994), a historical novel based on the Wilmington coup and massacre (which neither he nor I have read, so if you have, please share your thoughts in the comments below!).
Steve Railton highlights one of the best hope-related lines in American literature, Ishmael’s description of Queequeg as “hopelessly holding up hope in the midst of despair” in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851).
Ezekial Healy points instead to a more recent, pop culture engagement with hope, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)—a film that also features as one of its most famous lines, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope!”
Finally, I can’t fail to mention a new blog post by my grad advisor and uber-American Studier Miles Orvell, based on his just-about-to-be-released book on Main Street (and much else American Studies). Check it out!
Week-long special post goes up on Monday,
Ben
PS. What do you think? Reactions to any of these thoughts, the week’s posts, or other takes on hope in America?
9/22 Memory Day nominee: James Lawson, the minister, draft resister, and Civil Rights leader whose theories and practice of nonviolence connect traditions of faith and spirituality, social protest and activism, and many other American voices and ideals.
9/23 Memory Day nominee: A tie between two very talented and very American musicians, songwriters, artists, and legends, Ray Charles and Bruce Springsteen.

Friday, September 21, 2012

September 21, 2012: American Hope Part Five

[Inspired by my current book project and much else in contemporary American culture and society, this week’s series focuses on hope in America. Your texts, takes, and thoughts very welcome for the weekend’s crowd-sourced post!]
On the unquestionable limits of hope, and how we might respond to them.
Toward the beginning of The Two Towers (2002), the second film in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, a new character, the banished Rohirrim warrior Éomer, warns three of our returning heroes, “Do not trust to hope. It has forsaken these lands.” On the specific question he is addressing—whether Merry and Pippin, the two hobbits for whom these three characters are searching, are still alive—Éomer is proven wrong by subsequent events. That, and many other details of the film’s arc, might suggest that he is likewise wrong more generally, that the forces for good can and should still trust to hope to carry them through. But I don’t believe it’s anywhere near that simple. For one thing, the events of the film and the trilogy as a whole take a terrible toll on those forces for good—lives lost and others forever changed, cities abandoned and destroyed, and so on. And for another, whatever victories good does achieve by the film and trilogy’s end cannot necessarily be attributed to hope, but rather to a desperate refusal to surrender even when all hope seems lost.
Is that the same thing, or at least a distinction without a significant difference? Perhaps—certainly something must inspire us to continue even when we feel that there is no hope, and maybe we thus would have to call that inspiration a secret, desperate, unyielding hope nonetheless. But on the other hand, if continuing to struggle in the absence of hope is defined as simply another form of hope, then we risk reducing the idea to one of those empty signifiers that means everything and nothing. So let’s call that source of unyielding struggle something different: perseverance, resilience, stubbornness, pride. It’s not a bad thing by any means, and can even comprise something to admire and emulate—there are few situations where surrendering the fight and giving in to the worst is the right decision—but it is a desperate one, a last resort, a perspective that we must resist as much as possible (since it can very easily lead to despair, to cynicism, to a sense that both the fight itself and what we’re fighting for don’t ultimately matter, and more). Which is to say, while the absence of hope does not necessarily imply a giving in to the worst—there’s a spectrum in between those two extremes—it’s a lot closer to that than we should want to go unless we have no other choice.
Which leads me, to put my cards on the table, to right now. To a presidential election in which one campaign has relied almost entirely on lies, perhaps to appeal to a base in which a majority of registered voters believe the current president to have been born in another country. To a world in which a war between Israel and Iran—a war which would almost certainly involve numerous other nations, the U.S. among them—seems at times almost unavoidable. To a future where, by virtually every meaningful measure and analysis, many of the worst effects of global climate change have become almost a certainty. Those are just a few of the many reasons why it feels as if we American Studiers, we Americans, we humans must heed Éomer’s advice and stop trusting to hope. But there’s another option, and it’s at the core of my new book project: that we should find hope by engaging with the darkest histories and realities. Fortunately for us, we have some pretty great models for doing so, in the powerfully realistic yet ultimately hopeful novels that I’ll be reading in that book. To paraphrase the final section of Obama’s DNC speech, they give me hope.
Crowd-sourced post this weekend,
Ben
PS. So one more chance: what do you think? Texts, takes, thoughts on hope in America for that weekend post?
9/21 Memory Day nominee: Edouard Glissant!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

September 20, 2012: American Hope Part Four

[Inspired by my current book project and much else in contemporary American culture and society, this week’s series focuses on hope in America. Your texts, takes, and thoughts very welcome for the weekend’s crowd-sourced post!]
On the counter-intuitive but real and important urgency and immediacy of hope.
Hope can seem like a long-term proposition, an emphasis on the need for such overarching, big-picture thinking when the present’s immediate circumstances feel untenable or at least unchangeable. Certainly I would agree that hope does entail and require an ability to look beyond the specifics or details of any one moment or situation, to consider what might be possible and different tomorrow as long as we don’t let those individual moments and situations become all-encompassing. But on the other hand, I think there can be a real danger in the idea that hope takes time to come to fruition, that we have to be willing and able to wait for it; sometimes perhaps there’s no other way, but in many circumstances, as the old saying goes, waiting gives the devil time, allows the worst of the present to become hardened into something set and even more difficult to change.
In my very first post on this blog, I wrote about the 1898 Wilmington, North Carolina massacre and coup, one of the darkest moments in our nation’s history; at the end of that post, I linked to a letter sent by an anonymous African American woman to President McKinley, pleading for federal intervention as the massacre’s violence and horrors continued into the weeks beyong Election Day. In the face of some of the most desperate circumstances ever to face a community, the letter expresses not only the despair and pain and frustration and terror that she and all of her peers were feeling, but also in its very existence a profound hope; that is, her choice to write and send the letter speaks to her hope, spoken “from the depths of my heart,” that she can reach her nation’s government and its highest elected representative, that her voice and experiences can change the course of history and save her community. Of all the tragedies surrounding this American low point, none is more tragic than the simple fact that her hopes were not rewarded; McKinley and the federal government did nothing, and the events in Wilmington continued to run their horrific course.
There are a number of things we could learn from Wilmington, if we better remembered it, and certainly many of them are bleak; high on that list would be the simple fact that the federal government, like the national media and much of white America, was all too willing to accept and even support the white supremacist stories of events such as Wilmington. But from McKinley and company’s inaction we can also learn just how often and how much hope must be met by action, as urgently and immediately as that hope demands. As I wrote in that earlier post, Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition (1901), the novel inspired by the Wilmington events that is also my favorite American novel and one of the two with which my book will open, ends with a moment of almost utopian hope that precisely captures this dynamic: the novel’s final line, which I can quote without spoiling the details, is “There’s time enough, but none to spare.” The sentence’s first clause is indeed a profoundly hopeful one, in the face of the many horrors that have preceded it; and the second, despite the “but” formulation, to my mind complements it, suggesting that the hope will not endure if it is not acted upon and made into something more concrete and lasting. The arc of history might be long, but sometimes both history and hope require immediacy as well.
Next in the series tomorrow,
Ben
PS. What do you think? Texts, takes, thoughts on hope in America?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

September 19, 2012: American Hope Part Three

[Inspired by my current book project and much else in contemporary American culture and society, this week’s series focuses on hope in America. Your texts, takes, and thoughts very welcome for the weekend’s crowd-sourced post!]
On two different and complementary narratives of hope in one of America’s darkest times.
For us American Studiers who are interested in the question of how hope can be found and kept in our darkest moments, it’s a good idea to examine closely the histories of particular such moments, and to consider specifically narratives of hope in them. I did that in part—if somewhat implicitly—in the series on bad American memories and how we engage with them, since most such engagements try to find the possibility of meaning and hope in the face of those dark histories. Those memories were generally tied to particular communities, though (if, as I argued, still broadly and nationally relevant), and so it’s worth examining as well our most collectively shared dark moments. And certainly at the top of that list, to my mind competing only with the Civil War in its breadth of impact, would have to be the economic, social, and communal nadir that was the Great Depression.
From literally the first moment of his presidency, Franklin Delano Roosevelt responded to the Depression by creating a narrative of a hope in an original and striking way. In the opening paragraph of his 1932 inaugural address, Roosevelt “first of all … assert[ed his] firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The line, like the tone of the whole speech, was as somber and serious as the moment demanded; but it’s an argument for hope nonetheless, one that suggests quite explicitly that the absence of hope (the opposite of it, even) represents a far worse threat than any economic or social realities could. Nearly a decade later, Roosevelt extended and amplified that idea, making “freedom from fear” one of his core “Four Freedoms” to which all Americans and all citizens of the world are entitled. Roosevelt’s emphasis on fear, on the dark and negative side of the emotional spectrum, connects directly to the central point of my current book: that we can’t find genuine hope until we admit and engage with the darkest realities and histories, and the emotions that they engender.
Obviously I believe in the value of that engagement—but I also recognize the need, at our darkest moments in particular, for feel-good stories, for histories that can inspire hope because they represent the best of what we can be and do. The depths of the Depression produced many such stories in America, and none was more famous nor more inspiring than that of Irish American boxer James J. Braddock, whose epic comeback tale was recently portrayed in the film Cinderella Man (2005). Braddock’s story offered Americans hope for at least two key reasons: he and his family had experienced the same desperate situation and poverty of so many of their peers, making him a truly representative everyman; and yet he had literally fought his way out of those conditions, becoming heavyweight champion from 1935 to 1937 and embodying the sense that the future was not determined nor circumscribed by the worst of the past and present. What Braddock seemed to exemplify, that is, was what Americans and America could achieve once they had faced down their worst fears and found their way through them to the hard-earned freedom for which Roosevelt argued.
Next in the series tomorrow,
Ben
PS. What do you think? Texts, takes, thoughts on hope in America?
9/19 Memory Day nominee: Sarah Louise “Sadie” Delany, the legendary educator and Civil Rights pioneer, whose book Having Our Say (1993), co-authored with her sister Bessie, is one of America’s most unique and important autobiographies.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

September 18, 2012: American Hope Part Two

[Inspired by my current book project and much else in contemporary American culture and society, this week’s series focuses on hope in America. Your texts, takes, and thoughts very welcome for the weekend’s crowd-sourced post!]
On the links between our contemporary debates over hope and two of America’s most longstanding ideas and ideals.
As I argued in yesterday’s post, Barack Obama has recently worked to redefine the images and ideas of hope on which he had campaigned for and won the presidency. Since his election, of course, some of his supporters have done the same in a very different light, disappointed and even disillusioned by what they have seen as the gaps between such ideas and the realities of Obama’s presidency. There would be various ways to analyze that trend, but to my mind one of the more convincing analyses is that advanced by American historian and scholar James T. Kloppenberg in his Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition (2010). For Kloppenberg, these disappointed supporters (and other Obama critics) have misread the president’s ideas from the outset, and more exactly have failed to understand the historical and philosophical figures, traditions, and contexts with which Obama’s ideas and goals should be put in conversation.
Kloppenberg’s connections and argument are multi-layered and complex, and deserve to be read and engaged with on their own terms, not in whatever ways I could paraphrase them here. So instead, I wanted to link the specific question of hope, as I framed it yesterday and as Obama did in his DNC speech, to a couple of other American narratives, ideas that have been central to our conversations for a couple centuries now. At the heart of the speech was what I’d call a communal individualism, an emphasis on creating and strengthening a society that gives each American the chance to succeed in his or her own life and arc. Both levels of hope at the heart of that idea—the hope that each individual has that potential, and the hope that a community can collectively help engender it—seem to me indebted to Transcendentalism, to Emersonian ideals such as the importance of each individual’s perspective and the way that those individual perpsectives can be perfected and made part of a collective oversoul.  Emerson was perhaps the first modern American liberal, in some key ways, and this link would help further that idea.
Transcendentalism is often opposed, in histories of the period and of American thought more generally, to pessimism about human nature—see for example Melville’s famous critique in Moby-Dick’s “Mast Head” chapter for a contemporary such rejoinder to Emersonian ideals. But I would actually argue that another contemporary writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne, highlighted in a work such as The Scarlet Letter (1850) a third possibility and American narrative, one that includes both pessimism and hope among its ideas. On the one hand, Hawthorne’s depiction of his two male protagonists, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingsworth, portrays Americans as fundamentally flawed, doomed by their own failings to come up short of our national, spiritual, and human ideals. But on the other, while his female protagonist Hester Prynne is similarly flawed, she also finds a way to remake not only herself but also her community, building from her own darkest moments an identity and a new communal role and ideal that, the novel’s conclusion suggests, influences the town long after she is gone. Hawthorne’s American landscape is far more fraught and flawed than Emerson’s—but at the same time it is more full of possibility and even hope than Melville’s. We would do well to remember this narrative in our analyses of Obama and his presidency as well, I’d say.
Next in the series tomorrow,
Ben
PS. What do you think? Texts, takes, thoughts on hope in America?
9/18 Memory Day nominee: Clark Wissler, the pioneering psychologist and anthropologist whose scientific work with Native American cultures, support for his peers, and ideas of culture and personality paved the way for much future research and analysis.

Monday, September 17, 2012

September 17, 2012: American Hope Part One

[Inspired by my current book project and much else in contemporary American culture and society, this week’s series focuses on hope in America. Your texts, takes, and thoughts very welcome for the weekend’s crowd-sourced post!]
On what makes hope so hard, and why that’s what makes it so important too.
When it comes to representations of hope in American popular culture, I doubt anything can compete with the film The Shawshank Redemption (1994). The film’s culminating and inspirational power rests on a particularly beautiful quote voiced by Tim Robbins’ Andy: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.” But while the film as a whole certainly illustrates that idea, it’s worth noting that the quote is the second half to a dialogue begun long before by Morgan Freeman’s Red, who notes that for men in a world like that of prison, “Hope is a dangerous thing.” And while for Andy and Red hope is indeed rewarded, it’s worth noting that when it comes to many (indeed most) of their peers, Red is not necessarily wrong—that in the darkest situations genuine hope can be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to find and achieve; and that striving for it in such situations can be a painful and even self-defeating quest.
At the very least, Red’s idea is an important rejoinder to the easiest versions of hope, the ones that suggest it’s simply a matter of positive thinking in the face of, well, pretty much anything. Such easy hope is to my mind no different from the simplistic type of patriotism about which I’ve written multiple times in this space, the kind that recites “God bless America” and “greatest country on Earth” and pledges allegiance by rote. Just as I have argued that genuine patriotism requires significantly more engagement and work than do those recitations, so too would I argue that hope is not just—and not really at all—a matter of frame of mind or attitude. The very suggestion of such simplistic solutions implies an equality of situation that is frankly utterly divorced from reality—the thought that an inmate serving a life sentence can simply will him or herself to hope in the same way that, for example, an American Studies professor depressed by national narratives can is, among other things, insulting and patronizing to the inmate.
So how do those of us who try to stay in the reality-based community find a more hard and genuine hope? I think that Barack Obama’s recent DNC speech exemplified that pursuit—Obama more or less overtly admitted that the hopeful rhetoric of his 2004 DNC speech and his 2008 presidential campaign has had to give way before many of the realities he and we have faced and experienced over the last four years; but his speech ended with a powerful series of images of Americans who continue to give him hope nonetheless. The last such example was to me particularly striking: a veteran and amputee who has become a Wounded Warrior participant and athlete, and who in that role is working to give the same hope he has found to other wounded veterans. Such hope cannot, it seems to me, be naïve or blind to the world’s realities—an amputee must live every day with the reality of what has happened to him or her—but neither is it circumscribed by the worst or hardest of them. If anything, such an example speaks to an ability not to transcend the realities exactly, but rather to make them into something forward-looking, something that moves both an individual and his or her community into a future that includes the realities and yet includes so much else and so much more: so much potential, so much life, so much, yes, hope.
Next in the series tomorrow,
Ben
PS. What do you think? Texts, takes, thoughts on hope in America?
9/17 Memory Day nominees: A tie between two iconic and iconoclastic 20th century American authors, William Carlos Williams and Ken Kesey.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

September 15-16, 2012: Crowd-Sourcing the Gardner

[There are few Boston sites that I would more highly recommend for a fall visit—for anybody, from tourists to lifelong residents, students to seniors, and American Studiers of all varieties—than the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. For this week’s series, I’ve blogged about five topics connected to the Museum and its historical and cultural contexts. This crowd-sourced post is drawn from responses to that series and from other ideas and voices—please add yours!]
In response to Monday’s Isabella Stewart Gardner post, Jeanne Duperreault writes “Haven’t been to Boston for years but passed by the Museum often as I went to library class at Simmons College. Fascinating place. I have a lovely book to recommend for those who like mysteries, Boston, ISG and a bit of whimsy: Murder at the Gardner, by Jane Langton. It is a very charming mystery set in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, starring her usual protagonist, ex-detective and Harvard lecturer Homer Kelly. Very evocative of the Museum and the area, and great fun.”
On the Open Salon version of that post, Kenneth Houck notes that “the Gardner is a must see pilgrimage site for any American artist. Isabelle Gardner was not only rich and powerful but a 'woman of the heart’ and she drew the best of her time to her. Working without references available- one of her more remarkable friends was the Japanese author of THE BOOK OF TEA from which I have drawn so many insights and moments- he actually lived in the Museum. We have more than a few sites here in Philadelphia but Fenway Court and the Gardner have as special a place in my heart.”
Thinking about her own experiences with the Gardner, Susan Stark writes that “The one piece of art I find most striking at the Gardner is the John Singer Sargent portrait of Gardner as a young woman. It stands out for several reasons. Firstly, in the portrait Gardner is looking straight ahead with an open expression on her face as if she were about to say something. She is neither smiling nor frowning (as many portrait sitters are), but instead has the look of someone caught mid-thought, creating an intimacy with those who look on her. It feels almost as though she were photographed a moment before she was ready—not an easy thing to capture in a painting, I would think. The informality of the portrait embodies a bit of what the musuem manages to do overall—a look into someone's life, someone's passions, someone's private history. The second way in which it stands out is how the tapestry behind Gardner creates a sort of glow or halo (or maybe even pillow!) behind her head, and how the ropes of pearls around her waist are reminiscent of a nun's rosary. In a museum filled with images of Christ and the Virgin Mary (and likewise liberally sprinkled with devils, fiends and spear-wielding archangels and such), to have the image of a woman depicted with an almost religious reverence is a bit shocking. I think it shows just in what high regard Sargent held Gardner (and also throws their personal relationship into question). Clearly she was an amazing woman who should be held in high regard and this portrait shows just that. Its inclusion in the museum (which was forbidden by Gardner's husband for a time) is an excellent capstone to Gardner's work and ultimate goals in creating the museum. The portrait, and the ideas it holds about Gardner, embody the celebration of art in the less traditonal ways that I believe she was striving for.”
Responding to Thursday’s Henry Adams post, Linda Patton Hoffman writes that she’s “Re-reading parts of The Education of Henry Adams. I think he captures the American soul. He still makes an impact in 21st century.”
In response to a question of mine about the Barnes Foundation, a Philadelphia Museum that has some strong similarities to the Gardner, Jeff Renye writes that That's the largest, most-prestigious collection of French Impressionism outside of France. There's been conflict for years over how to carry out the will of Albert C. Barnes, influential as you know as a supporter of the Harlem Renaissance. The museum moved in to Philadelphia just down the Parkway from the Phila. Museum of Art and opened officially in May. Part of the big deal is that the collection is an eclectic mix of French works, PA Dutch iron work, and African art. All of it is arranged in deliberate ways, too, especially walls covered with French masterpieces and the metal work, along with ancient art (Egypt, but also works from China in the Ming dynasty and earlier).” He adds that “a concern was that the collection would not be hung as it was out in Lower Merion (where it was located just behind St. Joe's University in one of the priciest areas for real estate just outside the city and at the start of the Main Line). The new museum in the city does replicate the way that the works are hung and arranged, though I haven't had a chance to go there, yet. I visited the old location five times, with galleries located on a multi-acre arboretum, which, the surroundings, is one thing lost with the move to the city.
Next series starts Monday,
Ben
PS. What do you think? Other responses to the Gardner or the week’s posts? Other inspiring spaces and places you’d highlight?
9/15 Memory Day nominees: A tie between two American authors who couldn’t be more different in identity and style, but who both merit continued reading, James Fenimore Cooper and Claude McKay.
9/16 Memory Day nominee: Francis Parkman, the pioneering historian who both catalogued and helped create and perpetuate many of America’s most significant stories, histories, and narratives.