Professor Stefano Colangelo from the University of Bologna made a compelling case and a thorough presentation on the origin of contemporary poetry. First, i would like to applaud him for his charisma and effort to deliver the lecture in English, he personally mentioned that he taught himself how to read and write English in his 30’s. Even though he studies Italian poetry, Colangelo translated every single bit of useful information to support his arguments. His humor and enthusiasm truly filled the night lecture session. He introduced poetry as a study of literature that introduces new metaphors to understand new subjects. The skillful word play in poetry and its passionate delivery would cause you to take interest in any subject matter.
Poetry is also abstract, it is tough to accurately trace the origins of contemporary poetry because for all we know the practice might have been deeply embedded in the earlier centuries. Colangelo made an interesting claim that travel by sea was very connected to writing poems. Travel by sea was the primary mode of travel for traders and explorers, this gives us a skeleton estimate on poetry’s origins. Colangelo also pointed out that drinking wine was also associated with writing poems. Wine drinking can be traced back to the BCE eras, again making it hard to pinpoint a specific origin.
Through the use of a series of case studies on early poets, Colangelo did his best to situate poetry in the early 1900’s and how it became very popular in Italy. One case study that stood out to me was Benedetto Croce (1966-1952) Professor Colangelo presented him as an active defender of the arts with poetry included. “Art is intuition and expression.” I dug deeper into this phenomenal poet of his day to try figure out the origins of his passion for arts and poetry. He became introduced to art by his uncle. He developed an early interest in law and later enrolled at the University of Rome where he eventually dropped out. Croce moved out of Rome and thanks to his inheritance, he did not need to work so instead he traveled and read widely.
Benedetto Croce became interested in history and began to develop fundamental questions such as whether history was an art or a science? He concluded that history was an art and this birthed his passion for arts. He developed uttermost respect towards those who created, interpreted, constructively criticized and viewed art. Croce formed an idea termed ‘artistic intuition.’ Later in his life, in an effort to promote art he started a magazine that became very influential during his time. His famous work Breviario di Estetica (Breviary of Aesthetics) -which Professor Colangelo mentioned, made claims that art was superior to science or metaphysics. He later went on to write a lot of literature that is today being studied and translated into several languages. Using his brief history of his artistic journey when can lay parallels to the origins of contemporary poetry.
Chris Gavaler a specialist on superhero fictions attempted to trace back the origins of superheros. He acknowledged that comics studies is an expanding field, admitting that he himself was sort of pushed into it by the curiosity of senior students aiming to do a thesis on the subject. He describes that he used superman as a reference point or a lens if you like to magnify and evaluate what came before and observe what came after. He suggests that it is tough to give an exact origin of superheros due to the several building blocks tied to this particular narrative.
What thrilled me was the discussion of the role of Hollywood in spreading superhero ideas. Companies like Marvel have dedicated their entire portfolio into movies that re-tell these superhero tales. Blockbuster action movies are tremendously profitable. The big advantage that film producers are capitalizing on by producing such films is that, there is already an existing demand (the stories are already quite popular) and people would pay to watch each edition that comes out. Marvel is creating franchises out of these scripts and making serious profits as a result.
Companies are spending millions to acquire rights to these superhero original scripts. Disney and Marvel have the capital needed to fund these films, ability to source and pay for star actors and existing partnership with movie distributors and streaming services. It is believed that these firms courageously spend nearly $300 million on a budget to create Spider man, Justice League, X-Men, Batman vs Superman and Avengers films. It is interesting to draw the parallels on how initial fiction tales can transform to money making machines. Markets for such superhero blockbusters outside the US are essentially what hold the industry together. Superhero movies in Brazil, China, U.K, Mexico, and South Korea open their first weeks with an average of $15 Million. The recent Justice League film for example, opened in theaters in Brazil generating about 14.2 Million in its first weekend. The probability of success for producing Superhero movies is higher than producing drama, comedy or romantic-comedy movies. Gavaler might be tracing a history, an origin but his research has contemporary context connotations. The superhero narrative is here to stay, it will be very interesting to see the re-making of these stories as films to fit the modern society expectations. Superhero comic books seem to be faced out with the rise of technological advancements such as Imax movie theaters. The demand on superhero literature also seems to have flatten but this is a topic that will never be eroded as there is no boundaries to the creativity that can be employed to push forward these superhero tales.
The Artist Book Class Presentations
I spoke with Maddy Placik about her project titled, “1932”. For this response I will share with you all the interview I conducted with Maddy Placik about her project.
S: What have you been working on in your Artist Book Class?
M: We started by learning how to bind; we bound our own sketchbooks. Then we moved on to our zine projects and made 25 of them. My Zine was about fashion and trends. After that we worked on page design and layout. I made a page design based on future. After that we started working on our books. I wanted to do 1932 because that was the year my grandpa was born, 1932. We are both in physics. I found when I looked at the photos that a lot of important things happened in American. For example that was the year Einstein came to America and a scientist won a Nobel Prize.
S: Tell me how you chose the collection of photographs in your book.
M: They all had to be from 1932. I picked the ones I thought were most interesting in terms of the aesthetic and also the subject. I wanted the physics pictures that I took to be artistic as well.
S: What’s your favorite photograph in your book?
M: My favorite is probably this picture of Einstein, taken by an unknown photographer.
S: Why do you like it so much?
M: I think it is super clear and I wouldn’t expect a photograph from an unknown artist to be so clear. It is shocking how good of a picture it is. It is very candid.
S: Explain the process of making the book.
M: First we decided what subject it would be on and then I looked at some pictures that I would want to include. Then I laid out how all the photos would be organized. We had to make a draft because is hard to organize the pages. We printed the first draft on normal paper. Then we printed our final pictures on really nice paper and then we took our paper to the bookbindery. We took them to Chuck Ferguson in the basement of the Chapel. He directed us and we bound our own books, it took a total of 3 hours.
S: What was your favorite part of book project?
M: Seeing it all come together at the end as one.
S: Do you think you will ever book bind again?
M:I would like to. It was a fun process and it is rewarding to have a book that I made start to finish.
Gary Green joins us*
(He picks up the book)
G: This is beautiful this is great. Wow! Congratulations.
S: What are you going to do with the book?
M: I feel like it would be nice to have on a bookshelf. It reminds me of my grandpa which is nice. I’m excited to show my parents. I’ll probably bring it home for winter break. Maybe I’ll just keep it safe at home.
On her second visit to Colby, Professor Janet Browne lectured on her specialization – Charles Darwin. “The origin of the Origin.” Opening her presentation with visuals of Darwin represented in a picture, oil painting and caricature she narrated on how popular Darwin had become. Darwin was one of the most famous scientists of his day. His work was regarded as the foundation for the modern world. A man who had a revolution named after him. At the age of 22 while on his voyage of the Beagle his experiences gave him the apparatus to speak about the Origin of Species. Darwin’s publication The Origin of Species sold out and its arguments spread like forest fire not only in scientific circles but also in public domains. He arguably started the first international scientific debate in history.
Theology or Science? The church had been a dominant institution in the early 17th century but science overthrew religion. Science through Darwin attempted to explain what people thought was a divine origin. His doctrines made people feel uncomfortable. The notion of evolution was new to the Victorian society. Evolution had been a subject of study for years prior to Darwin’s publication, there were several other evolutionary thinkers and opponents of organic evolution such as Lyell and Louis Agassiz but Darwin’s 1859 publication was the climax and served as a mid-point to the so-called Darwinian revolution.
The Darwinian revolution is an on-going movement whose origins can be traced to the 18th Century. The impacts of the climax publication live on long after Darwin’s death. The effects of his theories began to be felt while he was yet alive, his concepts are experiencing gradual acceptance as the centuries go by. The 21st Century is currently witnessing the most heated debates of Darwin’s notions. The debates are fueled by the contemporary knowledge of genetics and heredity. Darwin’s concept of natural selection became popular in all kinds of spheres, this concept was in some way used positively but majority of the times it became adopted to push forward narratives of injustice. Herbert Spencer’s widely published works were read and embraced by elite in society. Spencer coined the term ‘survival of the fittest’ in an effort to replace Darwin’s natural selection. This was a vulgarization of the evolution theory that became very popular in the 19th Century. Spencer emphasized that only some would survive the struggle stressing that the lower class were not worthy in society. He flipped Darwin’s findings to justify and promote inequality and injustice.
Eugenic doctrines were invariably coupled with other ideologies the Darwinian revolution. Initially, Eugenics began as a study to explain the decline of the nation’s biological fitness as evidenced by the British army during warfare. Galton referenced Darwin’s work as he spearheaded the Eugenics movement. He saw the need for society to diverge from what was becoming the norm of degeneration. ‘Keep Britain clean’ and he thought Eugenics would do this. Galton thought society was confining in natural selection and voiced out that they should add artificial selection. He might have wished for the success of natural selection but he certainly felt that things should be added on to make it all work.
On November 28th we received a lecture from Elena from the University of Santa Barbara about the origins of science and the history of science. Elena studied the history of science. The origins of science can be understood as revolutions. Elena looked specifically at 3 origin stories.
The scientific revolution of the 17th century was very important. One way to look at this group of scientific findings is to look at them as a collection of experiments.
Joseph Priestley created a chart of history and chart of biology that framed history in quantitative terms. You can see that there is a great acceleration in arts and sciences in the 17th and 18th century. You can observe the patterns in the chart. Priestley did not use the term scientific revolution. The scientific revolution was during a time that was simultaneously a time of crisis. While people were contributing to the scientific revolution people were trying to survive the political revolutions going on at the time.
The second international congress for the History of Science took place in London, 1931. The most memorable paper was, the social and economic roots of Newton’s principia. The paper argues that political upheaval and the scientific revolution were connected. The other speakers are hardly remembered.
Vavilov had many collecting expeditions. He explored Europe, Asia, Mediterranean countries and expeditions in North and South America. People envy his collections. The collections contained an assortment of cereals and other foods such as barley.
There was a special soviet session at the International Congress for the History of Science in London 1931. Unfortunately, someone recalled that the chair of the convention tried to “shut up” the Russians. The Russians were very different compared to the English scientists. The Russians “proceeded integrally with the social aspect dominant.
Elena’s last point regarded the information revolution of the 1960s and the history of science (measuring the scientific revolution). Bernal was one of the most imminent scientists of the time. He was the personification of a real scientist in Britain. Bernal was part of the communist party and visited the Soviet Union on a regular basis. Bernal was designated as a threat of democracy in the west. His ideas about scientific communication were taken very seriously.
The Russians’ documentation facilities were envied in the west. Sputnik exacerbated anxieties in the US. The Soviet system was “locked”. The strength in the system was the upside of the communist regime.
Who was Eugene Garfield (1925-2017)? We looked at the trajectory of Garfield’s work. Garfield founded his own firm and looked for sponsors for his new project. His new project was titled the use of citation data in writing the history of science. However, sponsors were unresponsive. He questioned, “Can a computer write the history of science”? He found that yes, a computer can. He argued that the timeline is linear. You can see citation patterns. The citation index was published in 1965. The project turned into something bigger and larger. However, at the time the reaction to the citation index was not particularly enthusiastic.