lecturehop Archive

Apr

22

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Don't forget...they're LITERARY annuals

Don’t forget…they’re LITERARY annuals

Self-professed romance fan Nadra Rahman attended one of the Book History Colloquium events yesterday evening, titled “The Rise of the Literary Annual, Powerful Femininity, and Beautiful Books.” There wasn’t as much romance as she expected.

I was the youngest person in the room by far—the average age of attendee (of which there were six, besides me) hovered at around 60 years old. While I felt out of place, the sense of an intimate environment pervaded; speaker Katherine Harris, ready to deliver her lecture on “The Rise of the Literary Annual, Powerful Femininity, and Beautiful Books” easily chatted with guests about her work and such scintillating topics as microfilm (I imagine).

Harris, an Associate Professor at San Jose University, specializes in Romantic 19th-century British literature, the literary annual, and the digital humanities. As she started her presentation, her excitement about literary annuals–published collections of short stories, poetry, and engravings meant to be consumed by young women–was fully visible. The literary annual had been described to me as a 19th-century equivalent of Twilight, and there are certainly striking parallels, in that the literary annual catered to women and was disparaged by critics as being frothy and silly, the “‘cakes’ of literature,” according to one critic as late as 1902.

More froth after the jump

Apr

21

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Is there a corporate sponsor in this very room?

Is there a corporate sponsor in this very room?

Money: something we, as college students in NYC, love to think about but rarely have on hand. We sent Bwog staffer Betsy Ladyzhets to a lecture on neoliberalism and campus finance to torture her with money talk, but it ended up being an informative panel. We’ll try better next time–maybe a talk on how millennials are doomed in the job hunt? 

When I walked over to Fayerweather for the Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism’s panel “The Neoliberal University” last night, I passed Low Library, in which CDCJ protesters had been locked for several days. I wondered what the view of Butler will look like when the new Henry Moore sculpture is installed next semester. I thought about Tuesday’s Barnard tuition hike, the highest increase in the college’s history. With all of these issues in mind, an event that discussed the influence of capitalist sponsors on private universities seemed all too timely. And I didn’t appear to be the only one with that opinion. The small lecture hall was packed: an undergrad, grad student, or professor in almost every seat.

A representative from the Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism introduced the event by attempting to define “neoliberal.” The term, she said, is “associated with the liberalization of economic policy and the privatization of public services.” In the context of this panel, “neoliberal” refers to the way in which private donors can influence Columbia (and other universities) through grants that give an agenda to research, professors, and private institutes.

Reinhold Martin, the first panelist and an associate professor at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, expanded on this idea with his discussion of the different facets of neoliberalism. He first explained the history of Columbia as not a university, but a corporation: the university was founded to promote Anglicanism, then was later refounded as a research institution with specific ideal-centric goals, and has since only become more corporatized. Despite its supposed purpose as a site of public learning, Columbia is constantly redefined by the individuals who hold monetary power. He then posed questions about who the subject and the object of such corporatization is, what the effects of corporatization will be, and how this idea connects to social change and wealth distribution on a global scale.

Wait … what?

Apr

5

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The woman herself--Irina Nistor--the voice of an oppressed Romania under Ceausescu.

The woman herself, Irina Nistor, the voice of an oppressed Romania under Ceausescu.

No, Chuck Norris didn’t actually fight communists, pistols blazing in both hands. But the infiltration of Western media into the Soviet bloc definitely helped to fan anti-communist dispositions. Staff writer Gabrielle Kloppers writes about the recent documentary, Chuck Norris v Communism, and its effects on communist Romania.

For many Columbia students, movies represent an escape from a world where they are overexposed to everything, and they need a mental break. For those living in communist Romania, however, movies represented an escape from a world in which they were exposed to very little, and fed only the lies of the communist regime.

Recent movie screening and question and answer session at the Maison Française was designed to give current students a intimate portrait of life under Ceausescu through the work of a translator who illegally dubbed censored films and distributed them to the populace of Romania.

Okay but what is Chuck Norris v Communism? Click here to find out

Mar

25

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Second Lecture in the Focus Aleppo Series

Second Lecture in the Focus Aleppo Series

“City And Landscape in the Ottoman Aleppo: Experiencing Architecture, Narrating Space,” was the next lecture in the Department of Art History and Archaeology’s “‘Islamic Art:’ Disrupting Unity and Discerning Ruptures series,” presented by Heghnar Watenpaugh, professor of Art History at the University of California, Davis. We sent staff writer Romane Thomas to check it out last night.

“The art of Islam is not unified as many of us were taught,” Watenpaugh began.

Watenpaugh is an expert on architectural history in Islamic societies. Her book, The Image of an Ottoman City: Imperial Architecture and Urban Experience in Aleppo in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries received the Spiro Kostof Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians in 2006. A polyglot, Watenpaugh attended Rice University and MIT before moving to the University of California. She agreed to visit the East Coast (#Beast Coast) to tell us about her research in Aleppo, Syria.

Avinoam Shalem, Professor of Islamic Art at Columbia and creator of the Focus Aleppo series, introduced Watenpaugh. He pointed out that “The Art of Islam is not unified as many of us were taught” and explained that, accordingly, Watenpaugh’s lecture would address the architectural innovations resulting from the Ottoman rule in Aleppo. Before starting her speech, she mentioned that the Syrian War has had a devastating effect on Aleppo architecture. According to her, “the destruction of Aleppo’s patrimony stands for the destruction of her varied social fabric.” Referencing the wreckage of the Minaret of the Great Mosque, Watenpaugh pointed out that as “products of the historical moment that we are in,” we need to reflect on the effect of our actions on centuries of history. The photographs that she was able to show the audience were taken by aerial view or by guerrilla fighters in the area.

She gave a short architectural history of Aleppo. Under Ottoman rule, Aleppo was a thriving hub of commercial exchange. Silk and spices from the East were exchanged within Aleppo’s walls in one of the world’s largest covered Bazaars (now destroyed). The Ottoman Empire had a huge impact on the architecture of the city, of which remains only a few Ottoman-style mosques. The nostalgia in Watenpaugh’s voice was palpable and gave her lecture a story-like character as she described how a foreign traveler would experience coming upon the sight of the great city.

More about the lecture next.

Mar

2

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Extracting wisdom has never been this easy

Extracting wisdom has never been this easy

Last night, Professor Claudia Dreifus hosted Editor’s Night, which boasted a great selection of editors in international and science journalism. Eager to soak up their collective wisdom, Joanna Zhang attended the event with an open mind. 

As someone with no background in journalism, the one thing I took away from Editor’s Night is that it’s a hell of a time right now for the field. Held in Lewinsohn 602 (which took a while to find because I’m not in GS and Google Maps initially directed me to Dodge for some reason), Editor’s Night is hosted by Professor Claudia Dreifus every semester for her class SUMA K4180: Writing About Global Science for the International Media. The event invites top editors in the city, this time consisting of past and current journalists from The Nation, Business Insider, World Policy Journal, The Awl, The New Yorker, Scientific American, and New York Observer, to discuss their experience in the field and especially the area of science journalism.

An initial introduction was held, during which I realized I was the only undergrad in the room. As for the journalists, it seemed that attendees came from a variety of backgrounds, none of which were actually rooted in journalism. Instead, they had been event planners, 60s hippie dropouts, gender studies majors who initially wanted to study marine biology, social workers, and English teachers in Hong Kong. Of course, they all eventually found a collective love for journalism and ended up where they are right now through some talent, luck, and hard work.

Joanna continues to drink from the fount of wisdom

Feb

25

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What assumptions are you making about this man? What kind of narrative do you think he has?

What assumptions are you making about this man? What kind of narrative do you think he has?

Last night, the Columbia MFA program concluded its creative writing lecture series with Saïd Sayrafiezadeh – acclaimed writer, professor at Hunter College and NYU, and man with a nearly unpronounceable last name. Betsy Ladyzhets – significantly less acclaimed writer, student at Barnard, and girl with a nearly unpronounceable last name – attended, and thinks she might have learned something.

Saïd Sayrafiezadeh walked to the front of 501 Dodge and immediately requested that the audience, consisting of thirty or so MFA candidates, move up a row or two. “Tonight’s gonna be seminar-style,” he said. And, after a moment of that half-confused, half-nervous panic all first-years feel when the professor of a class marked lecture starts asking questions of their students, we complied.

Sayrafiezadeh didn’t waste much time with introductions. He simply stated that tonight would be focused on “how not to bore your reader,” then took us right into our main activity of the evening: making assumptions.

“The moment we start reading a story, we start making assumptions about what’s going to happen,” Sayrafiezadeh explained. With that thought in mind, he hooked up his phone to a speaker and played the first ten seconds of a song. He then asked us to guess: who would the speaker be? Would it be a man or a woman? What kind of tone would the song have? What would the narrative be?

What song was it, though?

Feb

10

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Iconic.

Iconic.

Sarah H. Cleveland is Columbia Law School’s Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights, as well as the Faculty Co-Director of the Human Rights Institute. Her areas of expertise include National Security and International Humanitarian Law, Foreign Affairs and the Constitution, and International Law in U.S. Courts. Last night at 6 pm, she held a lecture on “Human Rights Connectivity and the Future of the Human Rights System,” and Daily Editor (and fellow human herself) Lila Etter was in attendance.

As I made my way up the steps of Low Library and entered the Rotunda, I began to notice that this was not just another lecture. I had thought that I was one of the early birds, and my plan had been to snag a seat up front by arriving a whole 20 minutes early. Little did I know, people had begun flooding in as early as 5:15 pm. The Rotunda was full by 5:45 pm, which is when I realized that the University Lecture only happens once a semester.

President Bollinger and Provost Coatsworth delivered two separate but equally-praiseful introductions for Professor Cleveland. PrezBo emphasized that there “could not be a more important subject in the world today than human rights,” and after affirming his love for the word “global,” he called Cleveland a brilliant mind and the embodiment of what Columbia stands for intellectually. Coatsworth was similarly complimentary, and for those who knew nothing about Cleveland up until this point (which I’m sure were very few), this opening may have seemed almost adulatory. I myself had known of only some of her numerous accomplishments, including her position as a beloved professor at the Law School, as well as her work with Amal Clooney at the Human Rights Institute. I arrived at the lecture already impressed. But when this semester’s University Lecturer was finally welcomed to the podium, it was immediately clear that she deserved the praise.
Read more about this once-in-a-semester opportunity, after the jump.

Feb

3

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A demonstration of his effortless cool

A demonstration of his effortless cool

Yesterday afternoon, Prof. Timothy Frye, CU political science professor and director of the Harriman Institute, presented his new paper about the popularity of infamous president Vladimir Putin – or, more specifically, whether or not this popularity was real or a trick of the Kremlin. Bwog writer and popularity seeker Betsy Ladyzhets was in attendance to document the lecture.

Vladimir Putin: fearless leader of the Russian Federation, slayer of tigers, victor of wrestling matches, subject of musical satire, banner of memes, and, perhaps surprisingly to many Americans, far and wide the most popular politician in Russia. Despite opposition from numerous foreign politicians and Russian activists, Putin’s approval ratings in Russia have remained high; the most recent poll results show that about 80% of Russians claim to approve of Putin’s political activities.

But that can’t be true, right? Putin is a dictator who squashes opposition, controls the media, and does whatever is necessary to stay in power, right? It’s impossible that so many Russians are able to ignore his faults—either they must be brainwashed by their country’s leaders, or they must be too scared to admit their true sentiments. Right?

This question was precisely what Professor Timothy Frye sought to answer in his presentation yesterday. Despite the lack of free food at the lecture, the room it was held in, up on the fifteenth floor of the International Building, was still nearly full. (It appears that, although Putin’s popularity may be false, the popularity of the concept of studying his popularity is definitely real.)

Okay, but, for real, is Putin’s popularity real?

Feb

2

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Who knew books could be so controversial? Actually, we take that back.

Who knew books could be so controversial? Actually, we take that back.

A professor of Religion, a professor of Law, a professor of Anthropology, and a professor of Sociology walk into a bar—we mean book review. What happens? Staffers Romane Thomas and Jennifer Nugent cover what happens next. 

Those who expected a staid and overly polite book launch were in for a surprise.

On Monday evening, La Maison Francaise hosted the formal launch of a collection of essays titled, Religion, Secularism and Constitutional Democracy. Editor Jean L. Cohen faced passionate criticism from an eclectic panel of academics that included Courtney Bender (professor of Religion), Jeremy Kessler (associate professor of Law), Rosalind Morris (professor of Anthropology), Gil Eyal (professor of Sociology) and moderator, (scorekeeper?) Adam Tooze. The collective work addressed the heated debates over the role of religion in public and political life in the US and Europe today.

After Cohen’s presentation of the book, each member of the panel gave a thoughtful critique of the work. Instead of a passive stream of praise, the professors discussed the main ideas in the work in a debate that ended up turning into somewhat of a war of the departments. Each professor defended their perspective based on their specialty, resulting in Columbia’s very own academic mean girls fight. And for one night only! Needless to say, the room was packed and the debate was heated, just like the vent we sat on…for lack of space.

What did each professor say, though?

Dec

11

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This guy's writing is out of this world

This guy’s writing is out of this world

Last night, the Columbia MFA Program hosted its final creative writing lecture of the semester, in which novelist Mat Johnson (CU School of the Arts ‘99) discussed story structure – what to do, what not to do, and what’s necessary to understand before you start. Betsy Ladyzhets, Bwog writer, creative writer, and drawer of many imperfect circles, attended the lecture and attempted to learn something.

An author walks into a room full of MFA students and tells them to draw a circle.

The audience has been prepared for this; they were given sharpened pencils and pieces of blank white paper upon arrival. (They were also given sandwiches, beverages, and cookies, although whether or not this was at all related to the circle-drawing process is up for debate.) But the audience has also not prepared for this; although not every single audience member was a Columbia MFA student, the vast majority were writers who likely hadn’t been required to draw circles since their high school geometry classes. And none of them are Giotto, a thirteenth-century artist who drew a perfect circle as his resume when he was up for a commission from the Pope.

Prepared or not, each audience member at Mat Johnson’s lecture last night attempted to draw a circle. Johnson also picked one volunteer to draw a circle on the whiteboard that stood at the front of the room. Of course, none of the writers were able to complete the task. Johnson spent a minute critiquing various circles, describing them as lopsided, misshapen, or just plain unfortunate.

But why all this preoccupation with circles? They’re just shapes, right? Wrong – in writing, a shape is never just a shape. And in a lecture on writing, a circle is a metaphor for structure. This circle-drawing became an extended analogy Johnson used throughout his talk to discuss story structure.

But how is a circle like a story?

Dec

5

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Witchy black hole

Last night in Pupin, the Astronomy Department opened its doors to both the Columbia community and the public for its regular Stargazing and Lecture series event. Bwog has sent writers to cover the last few starry Friday night programs, and this week staffer and Friday Night Lights fan Amara Banks was lucky enough to check it out.

Although Friday nights are usually reserved for EC, 1020 and later Koronets, it should be noted that Pupin, too, could be a place to spend your wild nights. Walking into a lecture room with a projector displaying the words “How to Feed and Care for Your Black Hole” confirmed this. Last night around a hundred people, of varying ages, occupied every seat in the Pupin physics classroom, eagerly eyeing a projector.

Aleksey Generozov, currently a grad student at Columbia, led the lecture. He had an adorably nerdy demeanor, complete with classic glasses and a sometimes uncomfortable laugh. However, his brilliance shined through.

The lesson for the night was on black holes–a difficult concept to truly understand without deep astronomical background knowledge. Generozov was able to break down the concepts and explain them so simply that both the five-year-old in front of me and the 50-year-old behind me could confidently reiterate the information. In fact, when Generozov asked the audience to what size the earth needed to be compressed in order to become a black hole, both of their hands shot up. The little girl answered, “to the size of a peanut,” earning laughs, while the elderly man’s more scientific answer brought impressed brow raises. The correct answer was simply “by a few millimeters.”

Generozov’s PowerPoint was refreshingly basic, its slides comprised of solid black backgrounds with single graphics. On his slide about Tidal Disruption Events, he included the Top Dawg Entertainment XXL magazine cover, because the two share an identical acronym: TDE. This slide merited laughs, as Generozov’s dad pun reminded the audience that they weren’t in a 4000 level class preparing for finals, but instead enjoying the fruits of the Astronomy Department’s Friday-night generosity.

Although the night was about science, my favorite aspect of the event was the diversity of the audience. People of completely different races, ages, and interests had all come together to learn more about a puzzling space phenomenon. As I mentioned, the five- and 50-year olds in front of and behind me were two people in opposite stages of their lives, but to my left and right were two people in nearly identical stages: CU students. This was about their only similarity. The eyes to my left were on his Instagram profile more than they were on the projector, and the ones to my right were closed the majority of the time while he passionately “hmmm”ed throughout the lecture.

At the lecture’s conclusion, a woman from the Astronomy department announced the locations of the post-lecture stargazing and the 3D wall. Find more information about the astronomy department’s next outreach event, on December 18th.

Wintry black hole via Shutterstock.

Dec

2

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The "Thinking of You" exhibit

The “Thinking of You” exhibit

Last night, IRWGS hosted a panel for the opening of a new art exhibit titled “The Legacy of Rape.” We sent Avid Art Admirer Sarah Dahl to check it out.

Conceptually, a panel and art exhibit titled “The Legacy of Rape” doesn’t sound…heartening? To be sure, last night’s discussion of how to deal with the effects of sexual violence was heavy, yet it offered a tone of hope, showcasing the creative ways in which today’s artists and academics are addressing rape.

Marianne Hirsch, a professor in Columbia’s Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality, introduced and moderated the program; and Columbia Law professor Katherine Franke also spoke. The other panelists were Leora Kahn, the founder and Executive Director of PROOF, the organization behind the Legacy of Rape photo exhibit; artist Patricia Cronin; and sociologist, policy analyst, and New School professor Anna Di Lellio.

What do these speakers think about art portraying the effects of rape?

Dec

2

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Poor Hamilton. You were already killed once.

Poor Hamilton. You were already killed once.

With talk of replacing Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill with a historically famous woman, Barnard hosted a discussion with US Treasurer Rosa Rios to talk about the process. Currency Connoisseur Betsy Ladyzhets headed over to the lecture and reports on the event.

Yesterday evening, US Treasurer Rosa Rios sat down with Barnard economics professor Anja Tolonen to discuss the current ongoing process of redesigning the ten dollar bill with a woman at its forefront. This process spans years of planning and a complicated series of bureaucratic steps, but ultimately, it aims to put women where they belong: in a place of recognition for their contributions to American history.

Rios herself is the 43rd treasurer of the US, part of a legacy of all-female treasurers since 1949. Her background in public service facilitating economic development prepared her for her role in advising Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, but her strong commitment to representation for women came later. Rios describes herself as an “accidental feminist,” who realized later in her life that feminism was not the strongly biased viewpoint she’d been taught it was. Now, she’s committed to promoting financial literacy and education, as well as intersectional representation both inside and outside government.

When? How? Who?

Nov

25

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"We'll always have Paris."

“We’ll always have Paris.”

129 murdered in Paris on November 13th, 43 killed in Lebanon one day earlier, and hundreds more killed since the beginning of 2015 – all these deaths were at the hands of the terrorist organization ISIS. As the dead were mourned and awareness of the bloodshed spread, the Islamic state only gained more power world-wide.

Yesterday, SIPA hosted a panel called “ISIS after Paris” which discussed ISIS’s ever growing influence despite the western world’s plans to contain it. Although the panelists were all very knowledgeable about the subject, the discussion stayed fairly broad and hypothetical.

What were the conclusions of the panel?

Nov

19

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no you idiot

Being stuck in a jar: one of the perils of marriage equality?

Marriage inequality might have been terrible, but marriage equality, it seems, is also dangerous. Staff writer Ross Chapman reports on yesterday’s panel, in which several Columbia and Barnard professors discussed the perils of legal fairness in marriage, that institution held above all others.

After the recent progress of LGBTQ+ marriage equality, has love really won? Columbia’s Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality, in association with the Institute for Research in African-American Studies, held a capacity crowd panel discussion on just that question in Roone Arledge Hall yesterday afternoon.

The talk centered around a recently released book by Columbia professor Katherine Franke, Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality. Mignon Moore (Barnard sociology professor), Kendall Thomas (Columbia law professor), Patricia J. Williams (Columbia law professor), and Marianne Kirsch (Columbia English and IRWGS professor) made up the rest of the expert panel. Wedlocked asks what was gained and lost by the LGBT marriage equality movement, and compares it to the interracial marriage movement that climaxed in the 1960’s and the black marriage laws passed in the 1860’s.

But as anyone who has taken a class at either of these Columbia institutes might know, black and gay identities don’t exist in a vacuum. The speakers took an intersectional approach to marriage, questioning the racial context of marriage and the sexual context of race. Mignon Moore took the most speaking time of the panel, and she looked at marriage as a test. The success or failure of marriage, an institution still technically designed to last forever, can be a public sign of a community’s validity. That is to say, a fight for marriage equality is a fight for a community’s opportunity to prove itself.

What did the speakers think the gay marriage movement did wrong?

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