Native American Music

October 28, 2020.

In anticipation of National Native American Heritage Month, we will take a break from our regularly scheduled program of interviews to air a selection of music from Folkways recordings from the Vassar Libraries Smithsonian Global Sound collection.

Laurie Lisle

Alfred Stieglitz, Portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe, 1918.

 October 14, 2020. 

Author Laurie Lisle returns to the program to talk about another of her landmark artist biographies: Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe (Seaview 1980).

"Portrait of an Artist is a sensitive and beautifully documented biography. It moved me deeply--I can't remember when a book involved me so totally."
Patricia Bosworth, author, Diane Arbus: A Biography


"What a personality emerges from these pages!...Portrait of an Artist is filled with riches."

Joyce Carol Oates, Mademoiselle

"Through interviews with O'Keeffe's friends and acquaintances, by delving into the published an unpublished sources and letters...she gives a fine and poignant accounting of the relationship between O'Keeffe and Stieglitz...Above and beyond the personal portrait, Lisle's biography is a marvelous evocation of the American places that have been important in the development of O'Keeffe's character and her art."
James R. Mellow, The Saturday Review

David Tavárez

October 7, 2020

David Tavarez, Professor of Anthropology and Director of Latin American and Latino/a Studies, talks about the exhibition Miracles on the Border: Retablos of Mexican Migrants to the United States, on view at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center September 5 - December 13, 2020.

Usually commissioned from local artists working anonymously, retablos feature a narrative that is both written and pictorial. First-person vignettes, dated and inscribed with the supplicants’ names, draw on a traditional vocabulary such as “doy infinitas gracias” (I give infinite thanks). In the luminous illustrations above the inscriptions, earthly figures share space with holy images and a dreamlike representation of the miracle. As they accumulate on church walls, both in Mexico and the United States, these votives become public records of private faith, fears, and familial attachments.

Liza Donnelly

Photograph by Elena Rossini
September 30, 2020.

Cartoonist, activist, author, and frequent visiting Vassar professor Liza Donnelly visits to talk about cartooning and the retrospective exhibition of her work, Liza Donnelly: Comic Relief,  on view at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  Liza is a New Yorker staff cartoonist, a resident cartoonist for CBS News, and has published in a host of news and cultural outlets, including the New York Times, The Nation, CNN, CosmopolitanCobblestone, Habitat, the Daily Beast, Open Salon, Forbes, and the Huffington Post.   She is also a columnist on politics and global women's rights for the online journal Medium Magazine. Among her 17 published books are Funny Ladies: The New Yorker's Greatest Women Cartoonists and Their Cartoons, and a series of illustrated children's books.

Other links to Donnelly's work:

Bryan W. Van Norden

Kano Toshun Yoshinobo (1747-1797). The Three Laughers of Tiger Ravine, 1886 (Fenollosa-Weld Collection).

September 23, 2020.

Bryan W. Van Norden, Professor of Philosophy on the James Monroe Taylor Chair at Vassar, talks about his recent monograph, Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto (Columbia UP, 2017).

Are American colleges and universities failing their students by refusing to teach the philosophical traditions of China, India, Africa, and other non-Western cultures? This biting and provocative critique of American higher education says yes. Even though we live in an increasingly multicultural world, most philosophy departments stubbornly insist that only Western philosophy is real philosophy and denigrate everything outside the European canon. In Taking Back Philosophy, Bryan W. Van Norden lambastes academic philosophy for its Eurocentrism, insularity, and complicity with nationalism and issues a ringing call to make our educational institutions live up to their cosmopolitan ideals.


Lindsay Shepherd Cook

May 20, 2020.

Lindsay Shepherd Cook (VC'10), Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Vassar College, returns to discuss her English translation of a new monograph by former Vassar Professor of Art Andrew Tallon and Dany Sandron, University Professor at the University of the Sorbonne, entitled Notre Dame Cathedral: Nine Centuries of History(Penn State, 2020).

Since its construction, Notre Dame Cathedral has played a central role in French cultural identity. In the wake of the tragic fire of 2019, questions of how to restore the fabric of this quintessential French monument are once more at the forefront. This all-too-prescient book, first published in French in 2013, takes a central place in the conversation.
The Gothic cathedral par excellence, Notre Dame set the architectural bar in the competitive years of the third quarter of the twelfth century and dazzled the architects and aesthetes of the Enlightenment with its structural ingenuity. In the nineteenth century, the cathedral became the touchstone of a movement to restore medieval patrimony to its rightful place at the cultural heart of France: it was transformed into a colossal laboratory in which architects Jean-Baptiste Lassus and Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc anatomized structures, dismembered them, put them back, or built them anew—all the while documenting their work with scientific precision.
Taking as their point of departure a three-dimensional laser scan of the cathedral created in 2010, architectural historians Dany Sandron and the late Andrew Tallon tell the story of the construction and reconstruction of Notre Dame in visual terms. With over a billion points of data, the scan supplies a highly accurate spatial map of the building, which is anatomized and rebuilt virtually. Fourteen double-page images represent the cathedral at specific points in time, while the accompanying text sets out the history of the building, addressing key topics such as the fundraising campaign, the construction of the vaults, and the liturgical function of the choir.
Featuring 170 full-color illustrations and elegantly translated by Lindsay Cook, Notre Dame Cathedral is an enlightening history of one of the world’s most treasured architectural achievements.

Broadcasts During the Remainder of Spring Term

Dear Listeners,   Due to the restrictions placed on movement in the shadow of the CoVid-19 pandemic, we will only be broadcasting past episodes of the Library Cafe during our regularly scheduled air time on Wednesdays, noon to one p.m.  The current broadcast list of episodes follows below. These will be mostly interviews with Vassar College faculty about their research, or programs directly related to the College.  Of course you can also listen to these and former interviews going back to October 2006 here from our website / archive by scrolling through episodes below.  

I hope you are all well and will remain that way, and that despite our dearth of current interviews you will find enough material here to entertain and inform you through this period of isolation to help keep you distanced and healthy.  

Spring Schedule:

April 8:   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.)

April 15: 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).

April 22: 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).

April 29: 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).

May 6: Holly Peppe, scholar, editor, and literary executor for the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, discusses Millay's life, her work, the new edition of Millay's Selected Poems (Yale, 2016), and the exhibition "Treasures from Steepletop" on view in the Main Library, Art Library, and Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center from January 22 through June 11, 2017, in celebration of the centennial of Millay's graduation from Vassar College.

May 13: 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).

May 20: Lindsay Shepherd Cook (VC'10), Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Vassar College, returns to discuss her English translation of a new monograph by former Vassar Professor of Art Andrew Tallon and Dany Sandron, University Professor at the University of the Sorbonne, entitled Notre Dame Cathedral: Nine Centuries of History(Penn State, 2020).  This will be a new broadcast.

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


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

April 24, 2019: Part 2


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).