Laurie Lisle


Louise Nevelson with her cats, 1975, Pedro E. Guerrero, Vintage Silver Bromide Print
March 25, 2020.

Author and biographer Laurie Lisle discusses her book Louise Nevelson: A Passionate Life (Simon & Schuster 1990; Rev. Ed., Open Road, 2016.)

'From her birth in Russia, her girlhood in Maine, to her years as an artist in Manhattan, Nevelson's life was difficult, dramatic and, after years of struggle, finally triumphant. Her rich iconography expressed in black, white, and gold wooden assemblages is an enormous and extraordinary prize-winning body of work found in parks, plazas, and museums throughout the world. Lisle has conscientiously investigated the numerous bizarre events in Nevelson's long life" -Washington Post Book World 

"Lisle's book is impressive in its thoroughness . . . its eclectic introduction of psychological analysis" -Woman's Art Journal


Wendy Graham

Simeone Solomon, Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene, 1864 Watercolour on paper, Tate Britain
February 19, 2020.

Wendy Graham, Professor of English and Chair of  the Department of English at Vassar College, talks about her latest monograph, Critics, Coteries, and Pre-Raphaelite Celebrity (Columbia University Press, 2017.)

Critics, Coteries, and Pre-Raphaelite Celebrity sheds new light on Victorian discourses on sexuality and masculinity through a thick description of literary bravado, the emotions of male bonding within cliques, and homoerotic frissons among the creators and reviewers of Pre-Raphaelitism. Graham threads together the qualities that made William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Gabriel Rossetti exemplary figures of aesthetic celebrity in the 1850s; Algernon Swinburne and Simeon Solomon in the 1860s; and Edward Burne-Jones and Walter Pater in the 1870s. The book documents the symbiotic relationship between periodical writers and the artists and poets they helped make famous, demonstrating that the origin myth of Bohemian artistic transcendence was connected with the rise of a professional class of journalists. Graham shows that the Pre-Raphaelites innovated many of the phenomena now associated with Oscar Wilde, arguing that they were foundational for him in forging an artistic and personal identity with a full-blown publicity apparatus. Wilde had models. This book is about them.

Patricia Phagan


February 12, 2020.
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center curator Patricia Phagan talks about the exhibition Louise Bourgeois: Ode to Forgetting, From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation, on view January 24 - April 5, 2020.

Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) is one of the most renowned artists of the twentieth and twenty- first centuries. She is perhaps best known for powerful sculptures, including monumental spiders, human figures, and anthropomorphic shapes. An enigmatic chronicler of her emotions, she confided in her diaries, made drawings daily, and returned regularly to printmaking. The exhibition focuses on prints she made in her eighties and nineties, with a few earlier examples and a massive spiral sculpture to give additional context. She made art because she had to, and described her practice as a means of survival, a lifelong managing of emotional vulnerabilities, traumas, and nightmares. As she put it, “Art is a guarantee of sanity.”


Nicholas Adams

Beinecke Rare Books Library, Yale University
February 5, 2020.

Nicholas Adams discusses his biography of the 20th century architect whose work defined the built environment of corporate modernism: Gordon Bunshaft and SOM: Building Corporate Modernism (Yale University Press 2019).

Gordon Bunshaft’s (1909–1990) landmark 1952 design for Lever House reshaped the Manhattan skyline and elevated the reputation of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the firm where he would spend more than 40 years as a partner. Although this enigmatic architect left behind few records, his legacy endures in the corporate headquarters, museums, and libraries that were built in his distinctive modernist style. Bunshaft’s career was marked by shifts in material. Glass and steel structures of the 1950s, such as New York’s Chase Manhattan Bank, gave way to revolutionary designs in concrete, such as the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University and the doughnut-shaped Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. Bunshaft’s collaborations with artists, including Isamu Noguchi, Jean Dubuffet, and Henry Moore, were of paramount importance throughout his career.

Nicholas Adams explores the contested line between Bunshaft’s ambition for acclaim as a singular artistic genius and the collaborative structure of SOM’s architectural partnership. Bunshaft received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988 and remains the only SOM partner to have achieved this distinction. Adams counters Bunshaft’s maxim that “the building speaks for itself” with necessary critical context about this modernist moment at a time when the future of Bunshaft’s iconic works is very much in question.

Amitava Kumar

January 29, 2020.

Vassar Professor of English on the Helen D. Lockwood Chair Amitava Kumar returns to the program to talk about his acclaimed novel Immigrant, Montana (Knopf, 2018). The novel was named one of the Best Books of 2018 by the New Yorker, was on the New York Times 100 Most Notable Books list of 2018, and on President Obama's Favorite Books list of the same year.  

"This is a deeply American novel, one that delves into the messiness of love (and sex!), and the meeting point between identity, character, place, and the constant cultural stuff floating around. . . . Kumar's novel is uproariously funny and deeply moving."
—David Means, author of Hystopia


"Amitava Kumar's Immigrant, Montana is a beguiling meditation on memory and migration, sex and politics, ideas and art, and race and ambiguity. Part novel, part memoir, this book is as sly, charming, and deceptive as its passionate protagonist, a writer writing himself into being."
—Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer




Wendy N. E. Ikemoto

John Frederick Kensett (1816–1872), View from Cozzens’ Hotel, near West Point, N.Y., 1863 [detail]
Oil on canvas
November 27, 2019.

Wendy Ikemoto, Associate Curator of American Art at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library, discusses her exhibition: Panoramas: The Big Picture, on view at the Society through December 8, 2019.

Panoramas: The Big Picture explores the history and continued impact of panoramas from the 17th to the 21st century, as they were used to create spatial illusions, map places, and tell stories. Highlights include John Trumbull’s sweeping double vistas of Niagara Falls (1808), sections of Richard Haas’ nearly 200-foot long trompe l’oeil panorama of Manhattan (1982), and Eadweard Muybridge’s 17-foot photographic panorama of San Francisco before the city’s devastating 1906 earthquake (1878). The exhibition examines and reveals the impact that these and other panoramas had on everything from mass entertainment to nationalism to imperial expansion.



Leah Price

Edward Laning, The Story of the Recorded Word, WPA Mural Panel, McGraw Rotunda, NYPL 1938-42.

October 30, 2019.

Leah Price, Distinguished Professor of English  at Rutgers University and Founder and Director of the Rutgers Initiative for the Book, returns to the program to talk about her book, What We Talk About When We Talk About Books (New York: Basic Books, 2019).

"Price's book-unlike other examples of what she calls 'autobibliography'-is funny and hopeful, rather than dour and pious...What We Talk About When We Talk About Books is an enjoyable tour, full of surprising byways into historical arcana."―Jennifer Szalai, New York Times



Mary-Kay Lombino

Richard Barnes, Murmur #23, Dec. 6, 2006, 2006
October 23, 2019. 

Mary-Kay Lombino, Curator of Collections at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar, discusses her exhibition Shape of Light: Defining Photographs from the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, on view through December 15, 2019.

Shape of Light: Defining Photographs from the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center presents a survey of Vassar’s renowned collection of close to 4,500 photographs. Spanning the history of the medium, the exhibition features numerous innovations in the history of photography including various types of photographic practices from daguerreotypes and gelatin silver prints to large-scale Polaroids and digital color prints as well as a wide range of styles and geographic focuses. This extensive exhibition, the first of its kind at the Art Center, aims to highlight the Art Center’s long interest and dedication to the photographic medium and present the unique character, depth, and diversity of the collection. Shape of Light also celebrates twenty years of commitment from the Advisory Council for Photography for supporting photography acquisitions.


Yvonne Elet


October 16, 2019.

Yvonne Elet, Associate Professor of the History of Art and Architecture at Vassar College, discusses her article, co-authored with Virginia Duncan for Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes (39:2, 2019) entitled: "Beatrix Farrand and campus landscape at Vassar: pedagogy and practice, 1925-29."  Farrand, one of the great landscape architects of the 20th century and a path-breaking woman in the field, came to Vassar as Consulting Landscape Gardener in 1925. She is well known for her institutional designs (unusual for a woman at the time), notably at Princeton and Yale; Vassar was her one opportunity to work at a womens’ college. Farrand came to campus at a significant moment when the Chair of Botany and pioneering ecologist Edith Roberts was fostering progressive programs in native plant ecology and landscape architecture – efforts that reformed young women’s training and career prospects, and made Vassar an early center for women and landscape. Yvonne Elet discusses the challenges these women faced, and traces Farrand’s design projects, from the forecourt of Main Building to the so-called Euthenics quad around Blodgett Hall. Most significantly, Farrand established an arboretum, conceiving it to comprise the entire campus: she mixed formal and informal design elements, and native and foreign species, to create a beautiful setting that would serve the instructional needs of students and faculty –a notion that has come to be central to Vassar’s identity.

Lindsay Shepherd Cook

October 9, 2019.

Lindsay Shepherd Cook (VC'10), Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Vassar College, discusses her essay "Religious Freedom and Architectural Ambition at Vassar College, 1945-1954," and Philip Johnson's unbuilt design for a modernist Vassar Chapel sited near Noyes Circle in the early 1950's.


Michael Joyce

September 18, 2019 (SEASON OPENER).

Michael Joyce, acclaimed novelist, poet, critic, media wayfinder,  and Professor of English at Vassar College, talks about his most recent novel, Remedia: A Picaresque (Steerage, 2018), and about creative writing, teaching, hypermedia and other conceptual wormholes, and about his relationship with media and literature. 

Count on Michael Joyce to reinvent the genre of the picaresque novel in a mode suited to the 21st century! With a light touch and sure sense of prose rhythm, he introduces a leitmotif of randomly appearing doorways, thresholds into and out of the world, to puncture the narrative space of this engaging novel. Scenes appear within scenes as the tales unfold in true keeping with the genre that recounts a hero’s progress. The sequence of events is made to make sense by sheer deftness of Joyce’s skill as a narrator and his willingness to use the unexpected as a structuring device, as well as an excuse to delight. Making sense of the past through the telling of his tales, Joyce offers his readers a fresh experience of a classic form filled with contemporary references. — Johanna Drucker

H. Daniel Peck

Thomas Cole.  Detail from View on the Catskill--Early Autumn, 1836–37. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
May 15, 2019 (SEASON FINALE).


H. Daniel Peck, Professor Emeritus of English at Vassar College, discusses his monograph and exhibition,  on view at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill May 4 - November 3, 2019 entitled: Thomas Cole's Refrain: The Paintings of Catskill Creek.

Thomas Cole's Refrain shows how Cole's Catskill Creek paintings, while reflecting concepts such as the stages of life, opened a more capacious vision of experience than his narrative-driven series, such as The Voyage of Life. Relying on rich visual evidence provided by paintings, topographic maps, and contemporary photographs, Peck argues that human experience is conveyed through Cole's embedding into a stable, recurring landscape key motifs that tell stories of their own. The motifs include enigmatic human figures, mysterious architectural forms, and particular trees and plants. Peck finds significant continuities—personal and conceptual—running throughout the Catskill Creek paintings, continuities that cast new light on familiar works and bring significance to ones never before seen by many viewers.


James Mundy

Edvard Munch, “Moonlight” (1896). Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Gift of Philip and Lynn Strauss, Class or 1946, 1995.20

May 8, 2019.

James Mundy (VC '74) Anne Hendricks Bass director of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, will talk about his education and life at Vassar in connection with the exhibition highlighting additions to the Loeb Center collections over his 28 year tenure: An Era of Opportunity: Three Decades of Acquisitions, on view April 26 - September 8, 2019.

This exhibition is a tribute to James Mundy (Vassar class of 1974) upon his retirement as the Anne Hendricks Bass Director of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, a post he has held for twenty-eight years. Organized by the curators of the Art Center, the exhibition spotlights a range of drawings, paintings, photographs, and other works acquired over three decades, and encompasses art from across the geographic scope of the collection. The exhibition emphasizes the dynamic role that opportunity has played in shaping the dramatic growth of the permanent collection of the museum during Mundy’s tenure. The exhibition is supported by the Friends of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center Exhibition Fund.



Robert K. Brigham

Maya Lin. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington D.C., 1982

May 1, 2019.

Robert K. Brigham, Shirley Ecker Boskey Professor of History and International Relations at Vassar College, discusses his book Reckless: Henry Kissinger and the Tragedy of Vietnam (PublicAffairs, 2018).


The American war in Vietnam was concluded in 1973 after eight years of fighting, bloodshed, and loss. Yet the terms of the truce that ended the war were effectively identical to what had been offered to the Nixon administration four years earlier. Those four years cost America and Vietnam thousands of lives and billions of dollars, and they were the direct result of the supposed master plan of the most important voice in American foreign policy: Henry Kissinger.

Using newly available archival material from the Nixon Presidential Library, Kissinger's personal papers, and material from the archives in Vietnam, Robert K. Brigham punctures the myth of Kissinger as an infallible mastermind. Instead, he constructs a portrait of a rash, opportunistic, and suggestible politician. It was personal political rivalries, the domestic political climate, and strategic confusion that drove Kissinger's actions. There was no great master plan or Bismarckian theory that supported how the US continued the war or conducted peace negotiations. Its length was doubled for nothing but the ego and poor judgment of a single figure.

This distant tragedy, perpetuated by Kissinger's actions, forever changed both countries. Now, perhaps for the first time, we can see the full scale of that tragedy and the machinations that fed it.



Harry Roseman



April 17, 2019: Part 1

In the first of a two part interview, Harry Roseman, Professor of Art on the Isabelle Hyman Chair at Vassar College, talks about his career as an artist and as a college teacher, beginning with a conversation about his photographic installation on the Worldwide Web: A Chronicle: Harry Roseman, A visual manifestation of shifting lines of Interconnectedness

Website:  https://roseman.digitallibrary.vassar.edu/



Harry Roseman. Curtain Wall, 2001, photographed on site - JFK International Airport,  Terminal 4

April 24, 2019: Part 2

Portfolio:  harryroseman.com

Ronald Patkus, Nikolai Firtich, Dan Ungurianu

April 10, 2019.

Historian and Associate Director of the Library for Special Collections Ronald D. Patkus joins Professors Nikolai Firtich and Dan Ungurianu of the Vassar Department of Russian to discuss the great Russian writer Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883) and the exhibit on view 23 January through June 10, 2019 in the Thompson Memorial Library entitled Ivan Turgenev and His Library, celebrating the bicentennial of Turgenev's birth.

Download the exhibition catalogue (PDF)


Charles Henry



March 13 & April 3 (repeat), 2019.

What is a library? Charles Henry, President of the Council on Libraries and Information Resources (CLIR) and former Director of Libraries at Vassar College, walks us through the door of that question as he is interviewed on February 27, 2019 for Radio New Zealand's popular program Nine to Noon  by that program's host Kathryn Ryan. He goes on to discuss CLIR's role in organizing the creation of a truly global digital library, and the promise of this effort for preserving cultural memory from threats of war and climate change. He also speculates on the potential of digital technology to enable literal discovery through the uncovering of hidden information.

34:19 minutes.

Mary-Kay Lombino


March 6, 2019.

Mary-Kay Lombino, Curator of Collections at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, talks about her exhibition Freehand: Drawings by Inez Nathaniel-Walker, on view February 1 - April 14 at the Center.

Inez Nathaniel-Walker (1907–1990) made her first works of art while she was serving a sentence at a maximum-security prison for killing a man by whom she had been abused. While in prison she began to draw, creating remarkable portraits of her fellow inmates whom she called “bad girls.” Her richly patterned works combine meticulous detail and playful simplicity, forming expressive depictions of her subjects’ personalities and physical attributes. Freehand is Walker’s first one-person museum exhibition. The exhibition is supported by the Friends of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center Exhibition Fund and organized with the cooperation of the American Folk Art Museum, New York.


Bailey Van Hook

Violet Oakley.  The Great Wonder: Vision of the Apocalypse, Vassar College, Alumnae House, 1924.  Oil on panel.

February 20, 2019.

Bailey Van Hook, Professor of Art History and co-director of the MA Program in Material Culture and Public Humanities at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, discusses her biography Violet Oakley: An Artist's Life (University of Delaware Press, 2016).  

"Violet Oakley: An Artist's Life is the first full-length biography of Violet Oakley (1874–1961), the only major female artist of the beaux-arts mural movement in the United States, as well as an illustrator, stained glass artist, portraitist and author. There is much human interest here: a pampered and spoiled young woman who suddenly finds herself in near poverty, forced to make a living in illustration to support her parents; a sensitive and idealistic young woman who, in a desperate attempt to save her neurasthenic father, embraces Christian Science, a religion derided by her family and friends; a 28 year old woman who receives one of the plum commissions of the era, a mural cycle in the Pennsylvania State Capitol, in a field dominated by much older and predominantly male artists; a woman in her forties who although professionally successful finds herself very much alone and bonds with her student, Edith Emerson; a friend of artists like dancer Ruth St. Denis and violinist Albert Spalding who nevertheless was supremely conscious of social mores, the “Miss Oakley” of the Social Register who preferred the company of upper class to bohemian society; the tireless self-promoter who traveled abroad to become the unofficial visual historian of the League of Nations yet who ironically was increasingly regarded as a local artist."

Joan M. Ferrante and Robert W. Hanning






















February 13, 2019.

Joan M. Ferrante and Robert W. Hanning, distinguished scholars who have long collaborated in translations and scholarship in comparative literature at Columbia University, discuss their new translation of the medieval roman d’antiquitéThe Romance of Thebes (The French of England Translation Series: 11; Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2018).

"The romans d’antiquité, medieval re-makings in French of the stories of Troy, Thebes, Greece, and Rome, first appeared in the reign of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in the twelfth century and continued to be read in England throughout the Middle Ages. Among them, the Romance of Thebes medievalizes the stories of Oedipus and Jocasta; Polynices and Etiocles; Antigone, Creon, and Theseus; and the Siege of Thebes. The medieval French re-working also complicates Trojan-based accounts of European identity by adding African and Muslim allies for Thebes to the narrative’s classical source in Statius’ Thebaid, thus suggesting that Europe is not forged simply in opposition to Islam.

"This new translation and introduction by two distinguished scholars of comparative literature is the first in English for thirty years. It is based on the late fourteenth-century manuscript text owned by ‘battling’ Bishop Henry Despenser, notorious for his harsh suppression of the 1381 rebels in Norwich and for his failed continental crusade. The translation can be read both for itself and to facilitate study of the original poem by scholars and students of the literary culture of England and North West Europe."




British Library record for the Manuscript: London, BL Additional 34114.

Joan M. Ferrante's Epistolae: Medeval Women's Letters (discussed in the interview).

Olga Bush


January 30, 2019.

Olga Bush, Visiting Associate Professor of Art History at Bard College, discusses her book: Reframing the Alhambra: Architecture, Poetry, Textiles, and Court Ceremonial (Edinburgh University Press, 2018). The book was a finalist for the College Art Association's 2019 Charles Rufus Morey Book Award, which "honors an especially distinguished book in the history of art, published in the English language."

"The Nasrid builders of the Alhambra – the best-preserved medieval Muslim palatial city – were so exacting that some of their work could not be fully explained until the invention of fractal geometry. Their design principles have been obscured, however, by the loss of all archival material. This book resolves that impasse by investigating the neglected, interdisciplinary contexts of medieval poetics and optics and through comparative study of Islamic court ceremonials. This reframing enables the reconstruction of the underlying, integrated aesthetic, focusing on the harmonious interrelationship between diverse artistic media – architecture, poetry and textiles – in the experience of the beholder, resulting in a new understanding of the Alhambra."

Raquel Rabinovich

December 12, 2018

The  artist Raquel Rabinovich (b. Argentina 1929) will discuss her exhibition Raquel Rabinovich: The Reading Room, on view in the Frederick Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College October 25 - December 20, 2018.  The exhibition is being held concurrently with the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center exhibition Past Time: Geology in European and American Art and another related exhibition in the Vassar College Art Library: Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Geological Illustration from Catastrophism to the Anthropocene.

"The exhibition title The Reading Room refers to the location where the works are installed (an intervention of sorts in the south transept of Vassar's main library) but also serves as a metaphor for a possible approach to the work.  The selections on view each represent an attempt to transcend the routine of every day, inviting viewers to enter into a place of contemplation in which many layers of meaning can be read in, or into, the individual artworks.  Rabinovich describes this approach as a language of metaphors.  In a recent interview she said, 'Beyond the language of the novel or the poem or the story, there is always an element that is beyond the words, in between the lines, which is not literal.  And that world is, for me, a wonderful world.  I love that world.  I resonate with that world.'"


Mardges Bacon

Andrew Tallon (1969-2018), Staircase leading to the Art Library reading room from Taylor Hall, 2015.  Chromogenic color print.

November 21, 2018.

Mardges Bacon, Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Art and Architecture Emerita, Northeastern University, discusses her book John McAndrew's Modernist Vision: From the Vassar College Art Library to the Museum of Modern Art in New York (Princeton Architectural Press, 2018).

"With the recent restoration of his boldly colorful modernist design for Vassar College's art library, John McAndrew has been revealed not only as a curator, historian, and teacher but as an adventurous designer and historical figure in his own right. Mardges Bacon's engaging study allows McAndrew to emerge more fully; he can now be seen as a key voice in dialogue with the changing valences of architectural modernism in the United States in the interwar period."
- Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History, Columbia University


Photographs of Andrew Tallon's series in the book of the Art Library can be found in this blog post for the exhibit Back To the Future: Andrew Tallon's Vision.



Patricia Phagan

Albert Bierstadt, 1830–1902. Geyser, Yellowstone Park. About 1881, 35.24 x 49.53 cm, Boston Museum of Fine Art.
November 7, 2018.

Patricia Phagan, Philip and Lynn Strauss Curator at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, talks about her exhibition Past Time: Geology in European and American Art on view at the Art Center September 21 - December 9, 2018.

"Past Time: Geology in European and American Art looks at sketches and studies made by European and American artists from the 1770s to the 1890s who were engaged with a new, scientific emphasis on the Earth. In this arguably golden age of art and science, artists traveled and investigated the land internationally, noting Earth’s craggy features keenly in their watercolors, drawings, and oil sketches made on the spot or back in the studio. From a topographical, often strata-focused means to a later mode that evoked nature’s great transformational powers over time, this major loan exhibition explores European and American artists pursuing geological wonders."


Yvonne Elet

October 31, 2018.

Yvonne Elet, Associate Professor of Art at Vassar College, talks about Raphael as an architect and her book Architectural Invention in Renaissance Rome: Artists, Humanists, and the Planning of Raphael's Villa Madama.

"Villa Madama, Raphael's late masterwork of architecture, landscape, and decoration for the Medici popes, is a paradigm of the Renaissance villa. The creation of this important, unfinished complex provides a remarkable case study for the nature of architectural invention. Drawing on little known poetry describing the villa while it was on the drawing board, as well as ground plans, letters, and antiquities once installed there, Yvonne Elet reveals the design process to have been a dynamic, collaborative effort involving humanists as well as architects. She explores design as a self-reflexive process, and the dialectic of text and architectural form, illuminating the relation of word and image in Renaissance architectural practice. Her revisionist account of architectural design as a process engaging different systems of knowledge, visual and verbal, has important implications for the relation of architecture and language, meaning in architecture, and the translation of idea into form."

Thomas Edward Hill

Tina Barney (American, (b.1945) The Librarian, 2010, Chromogenic color print © Tina Barney Courtesy of the artist and Janet Borden, Inc.
October 10, 2018.

In this installment of our series on the value of the liberal arts in contemporary society, Milly Budny (VC'71), Founding Director of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence, turns the table to interview Library Cafe host and Vassar College Art Librarian Thomas Hill about the Library Cafe, his career as a librarian at Yale University and Vassar College, and his background and views on subjects that include the connection between education and friendship, and how library education and practice might be better integrated into academic research and culture.

Part 1:


Katherine Mangiardi (b. 1982). Kerchief, 2018Acrylic on board, 12.7 x 12.7 cm.
October 17, 2018.

Part 2:     

Michael Halpin McCarthy

October 3, 2018. 

Michael Halpin McCarthy, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Vassar College, returns to talk about his recent book Toward a catholic Christianity: A Study in Critical Belonging (Lexington 2017).

"Michael Halpin McCarthy’s Toward a catholic Christianity offers a compelling account of how one might deftly combine intellectual seriousness and ethical sensitivity with creative fidelity to the Catholic Church. McCarthy’s vision of Christian discipleship continues to extend the path blazed by his illustrious predecessors John Henry Newman, Bernard Lonergan, S.J., and Charles Taylor. Few scholars would be able to produce a work that reflects such historical learning, philosophical depth, and religious wisdom. McCarthy’s description of ‘critical belonging’ captures beautifully what it means for one to love the church today—not naïvely, but as an adult. If the church drives you crazy, you ought to read this book; if the church does not drive you crazy, you ought to read this book."  -- Stephen J. Pope, Boston College 

Arielle Saiber


Season Opener: September 26, 2018.

Arielle SaberProfessor of Romance Languages & Literatures at Bowdoin College, discusses her book Measured Words:   Computation and Writing in Renaissance Italy, winner of the 19th annual MLA Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Publication and the Newberry Library's 2017  Weiss-Brown Publication Award (U Toronto, 2017).

Arielle Saiber explores the relationship between number, shape, and the written word in the works of four exceptional thinkers: Leon Battista Alberti’s treatis on cryptography, Luca Pacioli’s ideal proportions for designing Roman capital letters, Niccolò Tartaglia’s poem embedding his solution to solving cubic equations, and Giambattista Della Porta’s curious study on the elements of geometric curves. Although they came from different social classes and practiced the mathematical and literary arts at differing levels of sophistication, they were all guided by a sense that there exist deep ontological and epistemological bonds between computational and verbal thinking and production. Their shared view that a network or continuity exists between the arts yielded extraordinary results. Through measuring their words, literally and figuratively, they are models of what the very best interdisciplinary work can offer us.

James Merrell

Violet Oakley. "Quaker Legend of the Latch String" Mural for the Pennsylvania State House, 1919.

















May 16, 2018.

Season Finale:  James Merrell, Professor of History at Vassar College on the Lucy Maynard Salmon Chair, talks about historical vocabulary and his article "Second Thoughts on Colonial Historians and American Indians" (William and Mary Quarterly July 2012), as well as his two monographs The Indians' New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact through the Era of Removal  (North Carolina, 1989) and Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier(Norton, 1999), both winners of the Bancroft Prize.


"This stunning history of the Catawbas―and their black and white neighbors―sets a new standard for the field. Merrell's book bristles with new insights and skilled decoding of difficult evidence. After reading this book, all those involved in teaching early American history should want to alter their perspective." ―Gary B. Nash, University of California, Los Angeles
"The Indians' New World is closely argued from an astonishing amount of evidence, and it is lucidly written.... It emphasizes the ingenuity and strength of will by which the Catawbas coped with disaster and preserved their identity as a people. Only a genuine scholar and fascinating writer could have paid tribute as James Merrell has done." ―Francis Jennings, Director Emeritus, D'Arey McNickle Center for the History of the American Indian, The Newberry Library

"James Merrell's Into the woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier is an account of the "go-betweens," the Europeans and Indians who moved between cultures on the Pennsylvania frontier in efforts to maintain the peace. It is also a reflection on the meanings of wilderness to the colonists and natives of the New World. From the Quaker colony's founding in the 1680s into the 1750s, Merrell shows us how the go-betweens survived in the woods, dealing with problems of food, travel, lodging, and safety, and how they sought to bridge the vast cultural gaps between the Europeans and the Indians. The futility of these efforts became clear in the sickening plummet into war after 1750. "A stunningly original and exceedingly well-written account of diplomacy on the edge of the Pennsylvania wilderness."--

Rachel Friedman and Ronald D. Patkus































May 9, 2018.

 Rachel Friedman, Associate Professor of Greek and Roman Studies  and Ronald D. Patkus, Associate Director of the Library for Special Collections at Vassar College, discuss their exhibition Homer's Odyssey: A Sampling of Editions in English 1616-2017, on view in the Frederick Thompson Library of Vassar College through June 16, 2018.

Homer’s Odyssey: A Sampling of Editions in English, 1616–2017,  explores key works housed in Vassar’s Archives & Special Collections Library and Main Library. Nineteen books, about a third of the total number of English translations, are on display. They include some high points in printing and Homeric studies. The first work is George Chapman’s edition of Homer, made famous by the poem about it that was penned by the Romantic John Keats “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer.” The most recent example in the exhibition is University of Pennsylvania Professor Emily Wilson’s translation, the first by a woman. In between are books notable for their literary qualities and/or aesthetic aspects: John Ogilby’s folio with large engraved illustrations; early editions by the philosopher Thomas Hobbes and by Alexander Pope; several eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English offerings by writers such as William Cowper and William Morris; the first American translation, by William Cullen Bryant; a number of fine press editions, including the beautiful book designed by Bruce Rogers; and several mid and late twentieth-century examples, which have reached wide audiences. Together these works indicate an ongoing interest in the poem, while at the same time showing very different presentations.