Current News and Notes
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Assistant Professor of Written Arts and National Book Award finalist Jenny Xie has been selected as a 2023 Jerome Hill Artist Fellow in literature. Xie received one of 54 fellowships awarded to early-career artists based in Minnesota and New York City. Eight fellows each were selected in the fields of dance; film, video and digital production; literature; music; theater, performance and spoken word; and visual arts, and three in each of the newly added fields of technology centered arts and combined artistic fields. Xie will receive $50,000 over two years ($25,000 per year) in direct support to create new work, advance artistic goals, and/or promote professional development.
Jenny Xie is a New York City-based writer and educator. She is the author of two poetry collections, Eye Level (Graywolf Press, 2018) and The Rupture Tense (Graywolf Press, 2022), and the chapbook Nowhere to Arrive (Northwestern University Press, 2017). Her work has been supported through fellowships and grants from Kundiman, New York Foundation of the Arts, Civitella Ranieri Foundation, and the Vilcek Foundation. She is an assistant professor of written arts at Bard College.
“I strive to create work that demonstrates the vital force unassimilated language can have, of the power and charge that can pulse through words when they behave differently, against rules and convention, and against forces that collude to render language more utilitarian, more homogenous, and free of nuance and rich complexity,” she writes.
Field-specific panels, composed of artists, curators, artistic leaders and arts administrators, reviewed a total of 702 applicants before identifying 129 as finalists for fuller discussion in advance of recommending a slate of fellows to the Jerome Board of Directors for approval. In their deliberations, panels considered applicants’ past works, artistic accomplishments, the potential impact of a fellowship on their careers and their artistic field, and their alignment with Jerome’s values of diversity, innovation and risk, and humility. This year’s cohort exemplifies Jerome Foundation’s commitment to diversity and the diversity of artists across all fields with 82% of the fellows identifying as Black, Native American, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian or Arab American or as multi-racial or multi-ethnic.
Fellows are also offered one-on-one coaching and peer gathering opportunities through the MAP Fund’s Scaffolding for Practicing Artists (SPA) program, designed to help artists individually and collectively consider, invent and co-devise solutions tailored to their specific practice and aesthetic ambitions.
Polling shows the British people and Americans are coalescing around the idea that Brexit and Trump were, respectively, mistakes for each country. When it comes to long-lasting impact, however, in Ian Buruma’s view, it’s no contest which is worse. “While Brexit and the election of Trump caused severe shocks to both Britain and the US, it looks like the damage of Brexit will be worse and last longer,” writes Buruma, Paul W. Williams Professor of Human Rights and Journalism, for Bloomberg. Poor leadership is, in the long run, easier to recover from than a disastrous referendum, he writes, as the latter “cannot be easily undone.” For the United States, “as long as [Trump] does not return for another term in 2024, much of the damage he did can probably be undone.” With Brexit, no matter the change in leadership, “most people in Britain will be worse off and the country will continue to lag behind its neighbors for the foreseeable future.”
Five Bard College students have been awarded highly competitive Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships by the U.S. Department of State. Gilman Scholars receive up to $5,000, or up to $8,000 if also a recipient of the Gilman Critical Need Language Award, to apply toward their study abroad or internship program costs. The recipients of this cycle’s Gilman scholarships are American undergraduate students attending 452 U.S. colleges and represent 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. These Gilman Scholars will study or intern in 81 countries through October 2023.
Written Arts major Havvah Keller ’24, from Montpelier, Vermont, has been awarded a $4,000 Gilman scholarship to study in Valparaíso, Chile, on CEA’s Spanish Language and Latin American Studies program at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, for spring 2023. “Receiving this scholarship means that I will be able to fulfill my dream of studying Spanish in total immersion, living with a local family in an art-filled, exuberant city, and studying Latin American and Chilean poetry and literature, as well as many other subjects such as Latin American history, Indigenous dances and arts of the Mapuche people, and making international friends of all backgrounds. I am eternally grateful to Gilman for helping me plant the seeds which will open many incredible doors for me in my life this spring, and beyond,” said Keller.
Philosophy and German Studies joint major Bella Bergen ’24, from Broomfield, Colorado, has been awarded a $5,000 Gilman-DAAD scholarship to study at Bard College Berlin for spring 2023. “The Gilman Scholarship allows me to pursue studying abroad in Berlin, Germany. I have never left the country despite a deep desire to do so, and the Gilman Scholarship helps me finally accomplish this goal. As a joint major in Philosophy and German Studies, my studies and language proficiency will both benefit greatly from my time in Germany. Ich freue mich auf Berlin,” said Bergen.
Art History and Visual Culture major Elsa Joiner ’24, from Dunwoody, Georgia, has been awarded a $5,000 Gilman-DAAD scholarship to study at Bard College Berlin for spring 2023. “The Gilman scholarship will enable me to study the subject of my dreams, sound art, in the city of my greatest fantasies, Berlin, Germany. With the scholarship, I plan to explore the role of sound in identity formation and develop my skills as a deep listener, eventually returning to America with the strongest ears in the world and, perhaps, the sharpest mind,” said Joiner.
Art History and Visual Culture and Film Studies joint major Sasha Alcocer ’24, from New York, New York, has been awarded a $5,000 Gilman-DAAD scholarship to study at Bard College Berlin for spring 2023. “As a first-generation American, I am incredibly honored and humbled by the support from the Gilman scholarship to pursue this unique opportunity to learn from and connect with like-minded international students and Berlin-based creatives. Having grown up in New York City, I’ve always been interested in artistic communities and cultural history, therefore Berlin could not be a better place to be immersed in for my studies abroad,” said Alcocer.
Asian Studies and GIS joint major Kelany De La Cruz ’24, from Bronx, New York, has been awarded a $5,000 Gilman scholarship, in addition to a $5,000 Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) scholarship and a $5,000 Freeman ASIA scholarship, to study in Taipei, Taiwan, on the CET Taiwan program for spring 2023. “To me these scholarships mean encouragement to follow my academic and professional dreams because I would not have been able to study abroad without them,” said De La Cruz.
Since the program’s establishment in 2001, over 1,350 U.S. institutions have sent more than 36,000 Gilman Scholars of diverse backgrounds to 155 countries around the globe. The program has successfully broadened U.S. participation in study abroad, while emphasizing countries and regions where fewer Americans traditionally study.
As Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said, “People-to-people exchanges bring our world closer together and convey the best of America to the world, especially to its young people.”
The late Congressman Gilman, for whom the scholarship is named, served in the House of Representatives for 30 years and chaired the House Foreign Relations Committee. When honored with the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Medal in 2002, he said, “Living and learning in a vastly different environment of another nation not only exposes our students to alternate views but adds an enriching social and cultural experience. It also provides our students with the opportunity to return home with a deeper understanding of their place in the world, encouraging them to be a contributor, rather than a spectator in the international community.”
The Gilman Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and is supported in its implementation by the Institute of International Education (IIE). To learn more, visit: gilmanscholarship.org
For Architectural Record, Bard Associate Professor of Literature and Director of the American and Indigenous Studies Program Peter L’Official interviews architect and writer Sejou Cooke, who is the curator of Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip-Hop Architecture, an exhibition on view at the Museum of Design Atlanta through January 29, 2023.
In the interview, L’Official quotes from Cooke’s 2021 book Hip-Hop Architecture: “Many have managed to exist simultaneously as successful architects and Black. Few have managed to express their Blackness through their architecture. Within hip-hop culture lies the blueprint for an architecture that is authentically Black with the power to upend the racist structures within the architectural establishment and ignite a new paradigm of creative production.” L’Official references Toni Morrison’s “unapologetic use of codes embedded in Black culture” and “her own struggle for writing that was ‘indisputably black,’” asking Cooke “Does Hip-Hop Architecture also strive for an architecture that is, after Morrison, ‘indisputably black?’”
This year, various media outlets are selecting works by Bard faculty members for their Best of 2022 lists. Some notable mentions include:
Assistant Professor of Music Angelica Sanchez’s album Sparkle Beings is named one of the Best Jazz Albums of 2022 by the New York Times.
Professor of Literature Hua Hsu’s memoir Stay True is named one of the 10 Best Books of 2022 by the New York Times Book Review and The Best Books of 2022 by the New Yorker.
Professor of Comparative Literature Joseph Luzzi’s Botticelli’s Secret is named one of the Best Books of 2022 So Far in nonfiction by the New Yorker.
James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and the Humanities Walter Russell Mead’s The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People is named among 100 Notable Books of 2022 by the New York Times Book Review.
Bard Graduate Center's Threads of Power: Lace From the Textilmuseum St. Gallen featured in the New York Times Best Art Books of 2022.
Botticelli’s Secret by Joseph Luzzi, professor of comparative literature at Bard College, was named one of the best books of 2022 by the New Yorker. “In this wide-ranging history, Luzzi considers why the drawings, which illustrated eighty-eight cantos of Dante’s Divine Comedy, had fallen into oblivion, and charts both Dante’s and Botticelli’s reputations across the ages,” they write. “Many of the ideas for the book came from my classroom discussions with our students,” Luzzi says, making the book’s inclusion on this list “especially gratifying.” In Botticelli’s Secret, Luzzi posits “Botticelli’s drawings as ‘a “poem” in their own regard,’ and as a crucial link in the ‘mapping of the human spirit’s transition’ from one era to the next.”
Conjunctions 79: Onword, the latest issue of the innovative literary magazine published by Bard College which has been in print for more than 40 continuous years, has just been released. “Like many endeavors in the arts,” writes Conjunctions editor Bradford Morrow, “literary journals are quixotic undertakings, and no matter how vigorous are the idealism, resilience, and stubbornness that sustain them, they are fragile enterprises. Fragile and yet crucial constituents in the literary ecosphere.” As its title suggests, Onword celebrates the continuation of the journal’s storied legacy.
Edited by novelist and Bard literature professor Morrow, Conjunctions:79, Onword features new work by Fred Moten, Can Xue, John Crowley, Nathaniel Mackey, Sofia Samatar, Yxta Maya Murray, Deb Olin Unferth, Rae Armantrout, G. C. Waldrep, Bonnie Nadzam, Vi Khi Nao, Carole Maso, Julia Alvarez, Fred D’Aguiar, Peter Gizzi, Shane McCrae, a novella by Russell Banks, as well as three previously unpublished poems by C. D. Wright. In his Editor’s Note, Morrow adds, “If the title was ambidextrous, the theme was nonexistent. Our organizing principle was simply great writing by great writers. Yet commonalities, shared themes, did arise over the course of putting the issue together.” He notes that themes of survival, migration, loss and renewal, evolution of mind and place, reimagining and rebuilding, stillness, how to live with disappointment, and how to move onward through difficult spiritual terrains, thread through the works collected in this issue.
Additional contributors to Onword include Leah Newsom, Alyssa Pelish, Jack Shear and Forrest Gander, Cole Swensen, Barrie Jean Borich, Jai Chakrabarti, Karla Kelsey and Nancy Kuhl, Melissa Pritchard, Peter Orner, Minna Zallman Proctor, Yannick Murphy, John Yau, Martine Bellen, and Andrew Mossin.
The Washington Post says, “Conjunctions offers a showplace for some of the most exciting and demanding writers now at work.”
Edited by Bradford Morrow and published twice yearly by Bard College, Conjunctions publishes innovative fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction by emerging voices and contemporary masters. For four decades, Conjunctions has challenged accepted forms and styles, with equal emphasis on groundbreaking experimentation and rigorous execution. Morrow won PEN America’s 2007 Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing and the 2022 Community of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) Lord Nose Award, given in recognition of a lifetime of superlative work in literary publishing. In 2020, Conjunctions received the prestigious Whiting Literary Magazine Prize. The judges noted, “Every issue of Conjunctions is a feat of curatorial invention, continuing the Modernist project of dense, economical writing, formal innovation, and an openness to history and the world.” Named a “Top Literary Magazine” of 2019, 2020, and 2021 by Reedsy, the journal was a finalist for the 2018, 2019, and 2021 ASME Award for Fiction and the 2018 CLMP Firecracker Award for General Excellence. In addition, contributions to recent issues have been selected for The Best American Essays (2018, 2019), The Pushcart Prize XLIV: Best of the Small Presses, Best American Experimental Writing 2020, Best Small Fictions 2019, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2019, and The Best American Short Stories (2021, 2022).
For more information on the latest issue, please visit conjunctions.com/print/archive/conjunctions79. To order a copy, go to bardian.bard.edu/portal/conjunctions, call the Conjunctions office at 845-758-7054, email [email protected], or write to Conjunctions, Bard College, PO Box 5000, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504-5000. Visit the Conjunctions website at conjunctions.com.
Valeria Luiselli, celebrated writer and Sadie Samuelson Levy Professor in Languages and Literature at Bard College, will receive the Inspiration Through the Arts Award at the 92nd Street Y’s Seventh Annual Extraordinary Women Awards on November 14. The awards honor women leading the way and making a difference. The event will take place in person and be streamed online. Juju Chang, coanchor of ABC News’ Nightline, will host this year’s awards ceremony.
Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City and grew up in South Korea, South Africa, and India. She is the author of the award-winning novels The Story of My Teeth (2015) and Faces in the Crowd (2013), and the collections of essays Sidewalks (2013) and Tell Me How It Ends (2017)—all published by Coffee House Press. Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions was described by the Texas Observer as “the first must-read book of the Trump era” and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism in 2017. Her work has been translated into more than 20 languages and has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Granta, Harper’s and McSweeney’s. Her most recent novel, Lost Children Archive (Knopf), won the 2020 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. It was a 2019 Kirkus Prize finalist and was longlisted for the Booker Prize, Women’s Prize for Fiction, and Aspen Words Literary Prize, and shortlisted for the Simpson Literary Prize. Luiselli received the 2020 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature and is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. She has been on the faculty at Bard College since 2019.
After being banned from making films for 20 years, Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi made This Is Not a Film while under house arrest. “We see him talking to his lawyer on the phone; watching TV; feeding his daughter’s pet iguana, Iggy; politely turning down invitations; and acting out a movie he wants to make about an isolated young woman,” writes Francine Prose, distinguished writer in residence, for the New York Review of Books. Tracing Panahi’s work through the decades, Prose draws attention to his intermixture of fiction and documentary, his dedication to the depiction of the lives of Iranian women, and his now regular appearances as a character in his own films, where he appears “genial, kindly, easily amused, remarkably easygoing—an unlikely candidate for an enemy of the state.” Now imprisoned as his newest film debuts in New York, sick with Covid and receiving “intentionally inadequate medical care,” Prose sees Panahi’s films as “a testament to the determination, perseverance, and courage required to keep making art, no matter what.”
Author Violet Kupersmith has received the Bard Fiction Prize for her first novel, Build Your House Around My Body (Random House 2021). Kupersmith’s residency at Bard College is for the fall 2023 semester, during which time she will continue her writing and meet informally with students. Kupersmith will give a public reading at Bard during her residency.
“Violet Kupersmith’s Build Your House Around My Body never ceases to surprise, as it intertwines disparate time periods, locations, and cultures, not to mention realities, and its sentences are worlds in themselves,” writes the Bard Fiction Prize committee. “She approaches her subject matter in fresh ways, and the novel’s otherworldly elements are expertly interwoven with the mundane, through an imagination truly rich and strange. This novel is sensual, it is visceral, it is outrageously comic. By turns, Kupersmith makes you squeamish with distaste, shivery with terror, giddy with laughter, awestruck by beauty, and warmed by unexpected tenderness. She always makes you marvel at her inventiveness, enticing you to solve the novel’s central mysteries, as she elicits the widest range of sensations possible. She is a writer of astonishing perspicacity and fluidity of language, and succumbing to her magic is a risk no reader should hesitate to take.”
“What a staggering honor to be in the company of all the literary luminaries who were previous winners of the award or have called Bard home at some point in their careers,” said Kupersmith. “I am just grateful beyond words to the prize committee for this recognition and for such an extraordinary gift. And I cannot wait to plant myself in this fertile intellectual environment next fall and grow something strange and new.”
Violet Kupersmith was born in central Pennsylvania in 1989 and later moved with her family to the Philadelphia suburbs. Her father is a white American and her mother is from Da Nang, Vietnam. Her mother’s family fled the country by boat following the fall of Saigon in 1975, and were resettled in Port Arthur, Texas. After graduating from Mount Holyoke College in 2011, Violet spent a year teaching English in Tra Vinh, Vietnam, on a Fulbright Fellowship. Between 2013 and 2015, she lived in Da Lat and Saigon, Vietnam. She was the 2015–2016 David T. K. Wong Fellow at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, and is the recipient of a 2022 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her short story collection The Frangipani Hotel was published by Spiegel & Grau in 2014. violetkupersmith.com
Bard College Assistant Professor of Written Arts Jenny Xie’s new poetry collection, The Rupture Tense, has been selected as a finalist for the 2022 National Book Award for poetry. Beginning with poems inspired by photojournalist Li Zhensheng’s rare images of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Jenny Xie’s The Rupture Tense recovers ancestral history through an investigation of state-sanctioned memory loss and intergenerational trauma. Xie’s debut collection of poems, Eye Level, was also selected as a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award for poetry.
Winners will be announced on Wednesday, November 16 at the invitation-only 73rd National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. Two lifetime achievement awards will also be presented as part of the evening’s ceremony: Art Spiegelman will be recognized with the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, presented by Bard College Professor in the Arts Neil Gaiman, and Tracie D. Hall will receive the Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.
“This is a memoir that gathers power through accretion,” writes Jennifer Szalai of Professor of Literature Hua Hsu’s Stay True for the New York Times. Calling Stay True “quietly wrenching,” and Hsu himself “a subtle writer, not a showy one,” Szalai hesitates to put the memoir too tidily into any one box. “To say that this book is about grief or coming-of-age doesn’t quite do it justice; nor is it mainly about being Asian American, even though there are glimmers of that too,” she writes. Instead, she sees Stay True as a patient exploration of a friendship cut short by tragedy, and the ways in which such bonds can linger on in our lives and writing. The memoir was also reviewed in the Washington Post, and Hsu was profiled on Vulture, as well as interviewed by CBS News, GQ, NPR, and others.
Assistant Professor of Written Arts Jenny Xie’s newest poetry collection, The Rupture Tense, evokes the spoken and unspoken, seen and unseen experiences of China’s Cultural Revolution as its painful legacy is passed through the generations. “In the book, the poet not only peeks at her family’s past and their country’s history, but also explores the subversive power to be found in examining what has been concealed or overlooked: Li’s long-hidden archive, the older generations’ silence about the past, and the unexamined trauma that goes on shaping how family members relate to one another,” writes Han Zhang for the New York Times.
The Division of Languages and Literature is pleased to announce the tenured appointment of Dawn Lundy Martin to the faculty of Bard College as Distinguished Writer in Residence in the Written Arts Program at the rank of full professor. Her appointment begins in the spring 2023 semester. Dawn Lundy Martin is an American poet, essayist, and memoirist. She is the author of four books of poems: Good Stock Strange Blood, winner of the 2019 Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry; Life in a Box is a Pretty Life, which won the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry; DISCIPLINE; A Gathering of Matter / A Matter of Gathering; and three limited edition chapbooks. Her nonfiction can be found in n+1, The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The Believer, and Best American Essays 2019 and 2021. Martin is also co-editor (with Erica Hunt) of Letters to the Future: BLACK Women / Radical WRITING. Laceration: Poems is forthcoming from Nightboat Books. When a Person Goes Missing: A Family Memoir is forthcoming from Pantheon Books. She is the recipient of a 2016 Investing in Professional Artists Grant from the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Heinz Endowments, a 2016 poetry grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts, a 2018 NEA grant in nonfiction, and a 2022 United States Artist Fellowship. In 2016 Martin cofounded the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh. Twenty-five years ago, she cofounded the Third Wave Fund, which resources youth-led intersectional gender justice movements for BIPOC young people. Martin has been teaching at Bard since 2018.
As the world watches the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant suffer “weeks of shelling,” the potential for “another nuclear disaster on the scale of the Chernobyl explosion” looms large, writes Bard alum C Mandler ’19 for CBS news. The similarities between Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia are as much organizational as they are structural, says Jonathan Becker, executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs for Bard College. Both share “an environment… in which people are disincentivized from communicating genuine problems to higher-ups,” Becker says, which could result in a “series of mistakes, which are reinforced by a system which doesn't encourage transparent communication.” A nuclear disaster in Ukraine would be catastrophic on “both human and geopolitical” levels, Becker says. Should a nuclear disaster occur, “it will be difficult to imagine the path forward after that,” he said.
Charles Ranlett Flint Professor of Humanities at Bard College Daniel Mendelsohn has won the 2022 Malaparte Prize, Italy’s highest honor for foreign writers and one of the country’s most prestigious literary awards. Mendelsohn won the prize for his body of work in literary criticism, translation, and narrative nonfiction. He will receive the prize at an awards ceremony held on the island of Capri at the beginning of October.
“It is thrilling and somewhat daunting to be in the company of such writers as Susan Sontag and Saul Bellow as a recipient of this prize,” Mendelsohn said, on learning of the prize. “And, as a person who has devoted his life to the study of European civilization, I am particularly moved to have my work so warmly appreciated in Italy, a country whose culture I, as a classics scholar, particularly revere.”
In its citation, the Malaparte jury singled out the themes of exile, displacement, and memory in Mendelsohn’s three major memoirs, especially The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, an investigation into the deaths of six relatives who perished during the Holocaust in what is now Ukraine. “The choice of Mendelsohn may seem like a tribute to current events and to Ukraine,” says Gabriella Buontempo of the 2022 Malaparte Prize decision. “In truth, at the time we decided it, the Russian aggression did not start. But when literature is really well addressed, almost naturally its themes turn out to be current.”
Named for Curzio Malaparte, an Italian journalist and short story writer who died in 1957, the Malaparte Prize has been awarded to Saul Bellow, Susan Sontag, Nadine Gordimer, Donna Tartt, and Vaclav Havel, among others. The jury of this year’s award included: Leonardo Colombati, Giordano Bruno Guerri, Giuseppe Merlino, Silvio Perrella, Emanuele Trevi and Marina Valensise.
Daniel Mendelsohn, Charles Ranlett Flint Professor of Humanities, is an internationally bestselling author, critic, essayist, and translator. Born in New York City in 1960, he received degrees in Classics from the University of Virginia (MA) and Princeton (PhD). Aside from The Lost, which won the National Books Critics Circle Award and the National Jewish Book Award in the United States and the Prix Médicis in France, Mendelsohn’s books include: An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic (2017), named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, Newsday, Library Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, and Kirkus; The Elusive Embrace (1999), a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year; three collections of essays; a scholarly study of Greek tragedy, Gender and the City in Euripides’ Political Plays (2002), and a two-volume translation of the poetry of C. P. Cavafy (2009), which included the first English translation of the poet’s “Unfinished Poems.” His tenth and most recent book, Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate, was published in September 2020, and he has just completed a translation of Homer’s Odyssey, to be published by University of Chicago Press in 2024.
“The first generation thinks about survival; the ones that follow tell the stories,” writes Hua Hsu, professor of literature. In an excerpt from his upcoming memoir Stay True, published in the New Yorker under the title “My Dad and Kurt Cobain,” Hsu writes about his relationship with his parents, immigrant identity, and music. “My father’s record collection had the effect of making music seem uncool to me,” he writes. However, through years of correspondence via fax and phone, the two would come to relate to each other through a mutual appreciation of American popular music. “We seemed to spend hours apart, occasionally intersecting in some unlikely aisle,” Hsu writes. “We were enthralled by the same music, but we related to it differently.” Hsu weaves personal history and cultural critique, exploring themes of assimilation and double consciousness. On the former, he writes: “Later still, I came to recognize that assimilation was a race toward a horizon that wasn’t fixed. The ideal was ever shifting, and your accent would never quite be perfect.” Stay True: A Memoir will be published September 27, 2022.
When Valeria Luiselli, Sadie Samuelson Levy Professor in Languages and Literature at Bard College, was asked to guest-edit the 2022 iteration of the O. Henry Prizes, a “fundamental thing” had changed: the prize was now open to any writer, not only “American” ones. “That alone was reason enough for me to accept,” Luiselli writes in Poets & Writers. The rule had “accumulated a number of absurd consequences,” she writes, including the exclusion of authors who “had been living, sometimes entire lifetimes, in the United States” but lacked a U.S. birth certificate. This barrier, she argues, was not only exclusionary, but damaging to literary culture: “Imposing upon literature rules written in some government office, in a nation’s obscure and labyrinthine immigration system, is not only absurd, but simply contrary to the very nature of literature.” The Best Short Stories 2022: The O. Henry Prize Winners, edited by Luiselli, ultimately included 10 stories in translation out of a total of 20 selected works. Their inclusion is a reflection of their excellence, Luiselli writes, serving as a recognition of “a moment in which we are beginning to open the doors and windows of this old locked-down house, letting new light and air come in to stir us powerfully into movement.”
Bard College Professor of Comparative Literature Joseph Luzzi has been selected for a Public Scholars award in the amount of $60,000 by the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) in support of his book project, Brunelleschi’s Children: How a Renaissance Orphanage Saved 400,000 Lives and Reinvented Childhood. The NEH Public Scholars award funds well-researched books in the humanities aimed at a broad public audience. Luzzi’s grant supports researching and writing a cultural history of the Hospital of the Innocents in Florence, Italy, an exceptional institution for the care and protection of abandoned children and a notable example of both early Italian Renaissance architecture and the power of Renaissance humanist principles, from 1419 to the present.
“I am deeply honored and grateful for this generous grant from the NEH,” says Luzzi. “This support will enable me to tell the dramatic story of how the Hospital of the Innocents saved the lives of so many children while also reflecting the remarkable cultural and creative developments that were transforming Florence into a center of the European Renaissance. I am especially committed to exploring how these discoveries made by the Hospital of the Innocents centuries ago can be a vital source for our own understanding of childhood today.”
The “Innocenti,” as the hospital is called, originated as a home for babies and children born “out-of-wedlock” or who could not be raised by their parents due to illness, poverty, or other reasons. Initiated by a charitable bequest from philanthropist Francesco di Marco Datini, the orphanage was one of the first major architectural commissions of Filippo Brunelleschi, a pioneer of Renaissance architecture who also engineered the Duomo, the massive cupola of the Florence Cathedral. One of the most recognizable buildings in all of Florence, the Innocenti is known for its dignified and compassionate design.
From its opening until 1875, the Innocenti rescued more than 400,000 abandoned children from starvation, exposure, and other threats, offering them care that went beyond mere physical protection. The Innocenti’s pedagogical practices revolutionized childhood educational curricula, moving away from being primarily religious towards a more humanistic understanding, grounded in a rediscovery of the morals, values, beliefs, and cultural forms of ancient Greek and Roman worlds. The foundlings were taught music and the arts, previously reserved for the Florentine elite, and “unwanted” girls were taught a trade and provided with a dowry, so that they could enjoy economic independence or find suitable marriages. In the 19th century, the Innocenti modernized medical science to create the conceptual underpinning for the birth of the field of pediatrics as a viable scientific discipline. To this day, Andrea della Robbia’s high-relief, glazed blue figures of swaddled babies that have adorned the façade of the Innocenti since 1487 are still the inspiration for the American Academy of Pediatrics insignia.
With the support of the NEH Public Scholars award, Luzzi will conduct research, travel, and writing leading towards the publication of a comprehensive history of the Innocenti and its groundbreaking impact over six centuries. Brunelleschi’s Children: How a Renaissance Orphanage Saved 400,000 Lives and Reinvented Childhood will be the first deeply researched, nonfiction book on the Hospital of the Innocents, and the first work to combine the history of childhood and children, children’s rights, and Renaissance Studies, encapsulating rich analysis on the history of art, architecture, medicine, and Italian culture and society.
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