A Few Days at Yale: ALSCW Conference Memories, Part 2

These three posts—the one about the trip and the two about the conference—barely graze the surface of all that happened. But it’s important to say something while the memories are fresh. The slower, more private reflections can take their time and probably won’t take the form of prose. So here we go: Saturday, October 22.

In the morning I attended the Shakespeare plenary session, which I loved. (My summaries might be slightly inaccurate, since I was holding a lot in my head at once and the day was so full.) Rebecca Rush spoke about the different kinds (and meanings) of rhyme in Shakespeare’s plays, with particular attention to Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In particular, she examined how rhyme can express traditional doctrine and mores on the one hand and spontaneous desire on the other. Robert Stagg spoke about the unfortunate tendency to smooth Shakespeare’s verse into perfectly regular iambic pentameter; he made an argument for honoring Shakespeare’s syllables. Then Lee Oser gave a lecture titled “Providential Groping in Hamlet,” which considered, among other things, the possible unity of the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy and the “providence” monologue—and with that, the unity of the play as a whole. (There was much more to it than that.)

After that, I skipped out for coffee with Martha. I came back for lunch. Then came the second session of the “Setting Poetry to Music” seminar.

If I were to do one thing differently, I would have asked the presenters to send me any slides, recordings, etc. a week in advance, so that they would all be on my laptop, ready to go. (But then, that probably wouldn’t have worked; people often have last-minute revisions or prefer to use their own devices.) There were a few small glitches with people connecting and reconnecting their devices—and for Lara Allen’s piece, I initially opened the wrong file. None of this really distracted from the session, though; it was all promptly resolved. It just meant that we had a little less time for discussion at the end.

The session opened with Lara performing an excerpt from her interdisciplinary performance piece The Hairy Eyeball and then speaking about Harry Partch’s music and its influence on the piece. Except for the glitch that I caused, it was riveting. (You can see more of her work on her website.)

One of the great highlights of the conference for me was the presentation by Fruzsina Balogh and Panna Kocsis, on the artist Lajos Kassák and the composer Béla Bartók, and artistic responses to their work by students of MOME (Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design), where both Panna and Fruzsina are studying. It looked at how the arts can translate into one another; in this sense it tied in with all the others and evoked many responses later.

Sebestyén Czakó-Kuraly’s presentation on two ways of setting Pilinszky’s poems to music (accompaniment and song) brought us back into the realm of the seminar topic. He spoke of the many definitions of poem and song, the close relationship between them, and how he had set two Pilinszky poems (in the English translation of Géza Simon) to music. He played both pieces; it was moving to listen to them again, there in that room. He also talked about the personal nature of the act of setting poetry to music: how it comes from a deep response to the poem, a sense of recognition and shock. He spoke of his experience setting Csenger Kertai’s “Balaton” to music, and about the wordless, intuitive nature of the encounter between poem and music.

I am not going to be doing any justice to the other presentations; there’s much to say about each of them, but I don’t want to weigh this down. Piotr Gwiazda’s presentation on Grzegorz Wróblewski—and the musical-visual setting of two of his poems on YouTube—stood out for its attention to the other presentations and papers (he referred to many of them as he went along). Many strands and sounds came together as he spoke. I enjoyed the fearless straightforwardness (and complexity) of the presentation, as well as the video itself. He brought up the idea—central to several of the presentations and to the seminar’s theme—that you can listen to a poem in a language entirely unknown to you and grasp something of its essence. Here is one of the videos (©Archiwum Literackie 2014).

Mary Maxwell then spoke of the challenges involved in setting the Roman woman poet Sulpicia to music. She brought up an idea that contrasted with what had been said before: that of standing outside the writer and judging her in a way, but doing so in order to understand and portray her better (the way many actors study a role). Ultimately she sought to convey the humanness of Sulpicia’s poems. (This notion of “judging” requires nuanced explanation; she discussed it in more detail during the discussion.)

Next, the poet Jennifer Davis Michael and the composer Nathan Davis spoke of their work “Bell of Silence,” in which the former’s poem was set to music by the latter, as a piece for SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) and handbells. During the presentation, Nathan Davis sounded a bell; we listened to its long fade into silence. It was still dimly ringing, very dimly, when he muted it. You can listen to the piece here.

Kimberly Soby then spoke about the Korean-American composer Earl Kim and his musical setting of Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem “Listen to it rain” (“Écoute s’il pleut écoute s’il pleut”) in his 1983 work Where Grief Slumbers. There was a fascinating visual aspect to this: the text of Apollinaire’s poem runs vertically, like falling rain, and the melodic lines, too, convey a sense of falling. Soby explained how it worked musically, with the sparseness, instruments, and pitch intervals. (You can listen to it here.)

We were unfortunately running very low on time when Iris Zheng gave her presentation on musical settings of Tennyson. She brought the seminar together into a unity; her presentation brought back memories of Emily Grace’s from the day before, but also spoke, as others had in different terms, of the role of the composer as critic, one who delves into the poem and comes back with an unexpected insight.

The discussion afterward was brief but exciting, since people had so much to say and ask in response to each other.

I then headed to the neighboring auditorium, along with others, for the plenary session on Japanese literature, which got better and better as it went along, culminating in a talk by Keith Vincent on “Haiku and the Novel”—about the novelist Natsume Sōseki, who initially was a haiku poet, and about the relation between the shortest of poetic forms and the much longer form of the novel. He suggested that for Sōseki, haiku writing was excellent preparation for novel writing, since the novel, like the haiku, demands intensity of compression (a point that in turn brought Gergely Balla’s presentation to mind).

And then the banquet! We walked up to the Divinity School, where it was held, found our way in, and arrived just shortly before the feast began. It was delicious and celebratory. There were remarks by David Bromwich, the outgoing president, and David Mikics, the vice president and incoming president (each conference has a new president). Then Rosanna Warren introduced Ishion Hutchinson, who gave the much-anticipated poetry reading. Then Lee Oser, immediate past president, gave closing remarks.

I will close with a recommendation: Read Ishion Hutchinson’s “The Mud Sermon” (which he read, among other poems, at the banquet), “Little Music,” and “Reading ‘The Tempest’“—and then take your own road through his work (to the extent that any road can be anyone’s own, and to the extent that it actually is a road).

I made a few edits to this piece after posting it.

A Few Days at Yale: ALSCW Conference Memories, Part 1

Of all the ALSCW conferences in which I have taken part, this one was my favorite, not only because of its setting (Yale University, my undergraduate and graduate alma mater), not only because of the Hungarian group (I traveled to the conference with seven Hungarian adults and a baby; six of them presented in my “Setting Poetry to Music” seminar), not only because of the “Setting Poetry to Music” seminar itself, not only because of the many occasions for meeting and conversing with others (receptions, outdoor lunches, and the banquet), not only because of the excellent lineup of panels, seminars, and readings, not only because of the glorious October weather and foliage, not only because we had waited three years for this conference, but because it leaves me now with so much to think about and return to. The conference took place in the Humanities Quadrangle (formerly the Hall of Graduate Studies); its large windows and luminous corridors arrested me several times when I was rushing somewhere or other.

Those days were so thick with detail that time constantly overlapped; at any moment, I was thinking about what was, is, and will be, but in concrete terms (is the laptop hookup working? Will we have time to receive the guitar?). So, unlike yesterday’s post, which gave a rundown of the whole trip, this one will focus on a few highights.

All along, what I have loved about ALSCW conferences is their high quality and their unabashed devotion to literature. The people who attend these conferences love literature and participate in it as writers, critics, readers, scholars, students. The seminars present attendees with difficult choices: Do I go listen to a discussion of Proust or on literary portraiture? Literature and science or Muriel Spark? For me, these choices were mostly absent, because my seminar had two sessions, I was presenting in yet another seminar, and I skipped the Saturday morning seminar block to have coffee with a friend (who had come up to the conference in part to see a few people, including me).

The conference began with a reception (appetizers upon appetizers, and a generous assortment of vegetables), followed, in an auditorium downstairs, by readings by Meringoff Prize winners and a plenary reading by Vivian Gornick. The readings were terrific and ended with”Rubythroat” by Hope Coulter.

Vivian Gornick then spoke about the art of personal narrative: the distinction between situation and story, and the stringent requirements of the latter. To write a good story about your own life, she said, you have to keep yourself somewhat out of it—that is, you need a keen ear for the false note, the pretense. Strip all that pretense away, and you end up with something different from what you might originally have planned to tell. She brought up the example of Natalia Ginzburg, whose experience of devastation leads her to ask others for help and to offer help too, actions which carry the understanding that (in Ginzburg’s words) “we could look at our neighbor with a gaze that would always be just and free, not the timid or contemptuous gaze of someone who whenever he is with his neighbor always asks himself if he is his master or his servant.” This revelation is hard-earned, not glib; to attain it, Ginzburg had to face her capacity for cruelty. Gornick spoke, for her part, with the authority that comes from looking directly at yourself at the times when it is most difficult to do so.

The next day (Friday, October 21) began with a panel on T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. I listened with absorption and later reread the poem, which I have not read in years. This rereading is just a step, I hope, to many slow returns.

Then came the first round of seminars, including the first session of “Setting Poetry to Music.” Both sessions had eight presenters, most of whom used the technology in the room to play recordings or show images. (One presenter had to miss the conference, but I presented briefly in her stead.) So between the presentations and technology switches, we were left with little time for discussion—but what we had was lively and intriguing.

Gergely Balla gave a commanding opening as the first presenter; he spoke about the Platon Karataev song “Nem felelhet” (“It Cannot Answer”), which draws on nine poems by Sándor Csoóri. He introduced Platon Karataev, then Csoóri; he discussed the subjectivity of definitions of poem, and proposed his own definition: “a poem begins where, at the level of words, the fabric of the language cannot be woven any denser than the word phrase, line, or stanza that is being composed.” He then took us into the song itself and played aloud an unreleased recording—not the final version. (I believe the song will be released later this year.)

Then came Claudia Gary, who spoke on “Song as Conversation,” giving a thoughtful overview and a personal perspective on the questions involved in setting poetry to music. She was followed by Emily Grace, who contrasted two very different musical settings—by Benjamin Britten and John Adams—of John Donne’s sonnet “Batter my heart, three-person’d God.”

The fourth presenter was Todd Hearon, who spoke about his poem “Caliban in After-Life” and its musical setting by Gregory Brown (who was present in the audience) as a monodrama for soprano, violin, and piano. His essay takes the form of a dialogue between him and Brown. In the video below, Mary Hubbell performs the piece with Joel Pitchon and Judith Gordon.

Kata Heller then spoke about the Hungarian rapper Holi and his long work Roadmovie (Sírok és nevetek). She first asked whether rap can be considered poetry (and arrived at the affirmative). She then explored, from a linguistic perspective, whether it is verbs of motion that create the roadmovie atmosphere of the song, or whether it is something else. She concluded that the song does convey motion, but not primarily through the verbs.

In Anna Maria Hong’s stead, I read aloud her poem “Patisserie du Monde” and played a recording of its transformation into the aria “Cloudberry Pie” in the experimental chamber opera H&G, a great and terrible story, a collaboration between the poet (Hong) and the composer Allen Shawn. (The libretto is based mostly on her novella H&G, which tells the story of Hansel and Gretel from the perspective of different characters.)

Csenger Kertai then spoke of the essential oppositions and their resolution in Attila József’s poem “Tudod, hogy nincs bocsánat” (“Mercy Denied Forever”) and its musical setting by Kaláka. In particular, he explored how the instrumental part of the song reflects a breakdown of the “I” (which in some ways reminds me of Vivian Gornick’s talk).

Alyse O’Hara’s presentation on her song rendition of Sir Walter Ralegh’s “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd“—brought the first part of the session to a thoughtful and moving close. You can listen to the song here.

Discussion followed. The audience members had all sorts of questions: about different kinds of repetitions, about tonality, about collaboration, and much more. We passed around the microphone for a multi-part dialogue and fugue. I was delighted to hear the presenters refer to each other’s presentations and respond in different ways to the questions. I only wish we had had an additional hour to talk.

I will tell about the second session in the next post! The two differed from each other in focus and scope. This first session stayed more or less within the topic of setting poetry to music; the second session branched out a bit into visual renditions, theatre, and more (while also staying with the original theme and questions).

From here, we had lunch in the courtyard. Then, in the afternoon, I presented in Ernest Suarez and David Bromwich’s seminar on “General Education and the Idea of a Common Culture”—in which we examined what happens to education when a common culture is waning or absent—and what questions arise when educators endeavor to build something common. Questions of curriculum, canon, allusion, ideals, “we,” student response, institutional integrity, and more came into play. I spoke about the problems with the very concept of “liking” a work: how “liking” has become superficial, and why it is important for students to grapple with works that they do not necessarily like at first. (I also argued for a counterbalance to this: students also need room and time to read for pure fun, or out of their own interest.)

Then came the Dwight Chapel session, which I described yesterday, and the pizza dinner. As for the Friday evening readings, I wish I could say something about them, but as I mentioned yesterday, I fell asleep in the auditorium—which was no comment on the readings, as I would have fallen asleep anywhere at that point. The combination of jet lag, excitement, pressure, joy, and numerous details all coalesced to knock me out. An incredible day! To be followed.

I made a few edits to this piece after posting it.

We did it! (A short summary of the trip)

Most of us are back in Hungary now. It will take a long time to assemble thoughts about this extraordinary trip—to Yale for the ALSCW conference, and to NYC for music, sightseeing, and visits—but it happened and was beautiful.

A brief rundown: We went to the U.S. primarily for the literature conference but also for a few days in NYC. (This trip had been in the planning since March.) Several members of the group arrived in NYC a few days before the rest of us. (The group consisted of seven Hungarian adults, a baby, and me; six of them presented in my seminar on “Setting Poetry to Music.”) We all met at Grand Central Station on October 19, had dinner there, and took the train together to New Haven. I walked with them to their AirBnB apartment—a spacious, sunlit first floor of a house near Wooster Square—and headed off to my own lodgings. The next morning, I came by for breakfast, and then we headed off to campus to look around. We visited the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library with its translucent marble walls and its map exhibit.

Then we took different directions for a while (I had lunch with my friend Ron) and met later outside the Humanities Quadrangle, where the conference was to take place. An old friend of mine, Jenn, came by to lend Gergő and Sebő her husband’s guitar. Another friend would lend a second guitar the next day. The Platon Karataev duo concerts we had scheduled in New Haven and NYC had to be cancelled, because they are not permitted under a tourist visa or ESTA waiver, but we had scheduled a private session at Yale’s Dwight Chapel, and they were also to record in a studio in Brooklyn. We then entered the quadrangle for a genial, flavorful reception and an evening of fine readings. (More about all of this later.) Afterwards I went with my friend Claudia (from Dallas) to the former Viva Zapata, now VivaZ Cantina.

The next morning, I attended a panel on Eliot’s The Waste Land, then headed into our seminar room to set up for the first session of “Setting Poetry to Music.” We had a fairly large audience (for a seminar), an inspiring round of presentations, and a lively, too-short discussion. (Again, more about this later.) Then we headed out to the courtyard for lunch. During our lunch, Tim came by with his guitar and cheer. In the afternoon, I presented in the seminar on “General Education and the Idea of a Common Culture.” Then darted out the door and rushed to Dwight Chapel.

About a week before our trip, I had written to the Yale chaplain, Sharon Kugler, to ask whether we could visit the chapel, which holds many memories for me, and whether Gergő and Sebő could play music there. She not only welcomed us but put us in touch with Dwight Hall staff to work out the details. This was an unannounced, informal, unofficial session, completely acoustic, with only the group members and a few others in the audience. The sound filled the space but was also crisp; you could hear every guitar note.

The video I shot (of them playing “Ki viszi?” is visually grainy, with a few clumsy filming moments (particularly when I was walking backward), but the sound approximates what this was like. Many, many thanks to Chaplain Sharon Kugler, the Dwight Hall staff (especially Debra Rohr and Alexine Casanova), Tim, Jenn, and Tony, and of course Sebő and Gergő.

In the evening we had dinner at a pizzeria of well-earned fame (which offered vegan pizza, among other delights). We were joined by my friend Lara Allen, who would be presenting the following day in the second session of “Setting Poetry to Music.” Delicious pizza, lively conversation and laughter. After an hour or so, I left the group to attend the ALSCW readings—but was so tired that I fell asleep in the auditorium and woke up only when the readings were all over.

The next day was packed again: an outstanding Shakespeare panel, coffee with Martha, lunch in the courtyard, the second “Setting Poetry to Music” session, a panel on Japanese literature, and then an elegant, rousing banquet in the dining hall of the Yale Divinity School. To top off the night, some of us went to hear the Algerian band Imarhan at Cafe Nine. They were fanatastic; the room swayed and danced.

The next morning, I took part in the ALSCW Council meeting, then met up with the group at the train station.

Before I forget, I should say that the foliage was almost peaking. October is my favorite New England season, especially in New Haven. I love it not only for the leaves, but for the tones of light.

The New York part of the trip was just as momentous and moment-filled, but since it was more personal in nature, I’ll tell, just briefly, about my own part. We all stayed, for different lengths of time (some for one night, some for two, some for four) on the top floor of a legendary old stone home in Queens (known as “The Castle”). On October 24, Sebő and Gergő recorded at Leesta Vall Sound Recordings; I had the joy of listening to the session. Then I brought the guitars back to New Haven (my first chance in days to sit back and let my thoughts roam) and returned them to Tim and Jenn. In the evening some of us got together at an Irish pub with good music playing through the speakers. Long conversations, both jovial and serious—the kind I treasure. Then we more or less went our different ways, except that a few of us stayed at the “Castle” until Thursday, and I took a walk with them on Wednesday.

On Tuesday I saw my friend Tara, who came down from Troy (New York) to see me. On Wednesday I walked around a lot and had coffee with my friend Lizzie. On Thursday I moved to an apartment in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn; I also saw Godard’s Breathless (À bout de souffle) at Film Forum and had dinner with my friend Sharon (who was my freshman-year roommate at Yale and plays violin in the New York Philharmonic). On Friday I did laundry in the morning (I miss laundromats, of all things), then had lunch in Chinatown with a former colleague. In the afternoon I headed up to my storage space in Washington Heights and managed, in just two hours, to move my things into a smaller and cheaper unit. From there I headed to Queens for a lovely gathering at my friend Liz’s. On Saturday morning I attended the Shabbat service at B’nai Jeshurun. This was a joyous but extremely brief return—I got to talk with Jenny during kiddush lunch, with Harriet briefly, and with others just barely, but the service itself had a boundless quality. Then I bounded off to Williamsburg, where I heard Hannah Marcus (also an friend of many years) play and sing in her Cajun band The Red Aces. A delightful end to the trip. From there I sped back to the place in Flatbush, gathered my things, and took a cab to the airport. The plane took off close to midnight.

Such a stretch of time in NYC is an unpaid luxury for me. It happened because I originally assumed we would have autumn break in the last week of October, as we usually do. In addition, I originally wanted to leave some room for a possible literary/musical event that we would hold in NYC. (The event didn’t come together, which is just as well, given that it might have led to visa problems for members of the group. But it is an idea and possibility for the future.)

Then it turned out that our fall break would be in the first week of November, beginning on October 31. It seemed that I could leave NYC no sooner than October 26, arriving in Szolnok on the 27th—so I figured, why not call it a week and stay a few more days, insto the fall break? But even that changed; it was later decided that we would have no autumn break at all, just a long weekend—so I changed my return flight and came back a few days earlier than previously planned, just so that I wouldn’t be absent an additional Wednesday, which is my longest teaching day of the week. Still, these extra days gave the whole trip a sense of time and lingering, even though it all went by fast. I have much more in my memories than I have laid out here. Also, the friends I saw, both in New Haven and NYC, are some of my dearest friends anywhere, so there was a fullness to it all.

Next time I will describe the content of the conference itself. For now, a few more pictures—and a special thanks to Zalán and Marianna, who took care of Sziszi and Dominó while I was away.

I made a few edits to this piece after posting it.

“See, there’s magic hiding in every departure…”

That is a loose translation of a line from Platon Karataev’s “Lombkoronaszint,” “lásd, hogy varázs rejlik minden indulásban.”* Most of the traveling group is now on route to the U.S.; the rest of us will join them on Wednesday. Over the past six months, we all have been planning and preparing, adjusting to circumstances, changing certain plans, preparing the conference papers and presentations (I am presenting too, in a different seminar), scheduling concerts, canceling them, handling vaccinations, lodging, passports, visas, gathering everything together, packing—and now here we are, right at the bundle of moments.

We had to cancel the two concerts in New Haven and NYC because, as we learned, foreign musicians traveling to the U.S. need a special artist visa to perform in any capacity, even for free. Even if we had known about this long in advance, Sebő and Gergő might not have been able to get the visas in time, since they require many steps and extensive documentation (and cost a fortune too). So there will be no Platon Karataev duo concerts at all, but the trip itself and the conference remain intact. (At the 2022 ALSCW conference at Yale, I am leading a seminar on “Setting Poetry to Music,” in which six members of the Hungarian group and twelve composers, writers, and scholars from the U.S. will be presenting.) In some ways it’s even better this way, since we will have more time to enjoy the trip, with less rush from one event to the next.

The concerts leading up to this trip have been some of my favorites in all my five years in Hungary. On Friday night, Cz.K. Sebő, Gábor Molnár, and Grand Bleu held a concert at the cozy Borpatika, the first in a series of concerts intended to help Budapest’s tiny clubs and pubs survive. I think Sebő—and maybe the others who performed that night—created the series. The idea is not only to hold concerts in little pubs, but to give them a personal and relaxed atmosphere. The musicians talk with the audience, tell stories between songs, welcome requests, etc. It was so beautiful and genuine that I had a weird attack of happiness.

In more ways than one, I was not alone. One person invited me to join her and her friends at a table; another treated me to a glass of wine and told me he liked my blog (this one here). These are people I have seen at various concerts and online but never met before. I stayed almost until the end of the concert, then took the latest train back to Szolnok and got home around 2:00 a.m. I didn’t even feel the lack of sleep the next day, which was a work day for us, but an easy one: the “Katalin Day” celebration (an annual tradition: a humorous competition and induction for the ninth graders, along with the equally traditional and legendary skit in which students from Class 11B parody the teachers).

After the celebration, I went home for a few hours and then headed out to Budapest again, visited a favorite Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall restaurant, and then set out for the Táncszínház, where Platon Karataev gave a rich, charged performance, just hours before Gergő, Sebő, and the others would head out to the airport. It had been a few months since I had last heard the whole band (the last time was at Fishing on Orfű). This time I heard new textures in the songs, or combinations of textures. Some of the high points for me were “Most magamban,” “Wide Eyes,” “Lassú madár,” “Elmerül,” “Tágul,” the cover of VHK’s “Halló mindenség,” and “Elevator.” But I was so excited about the trip that even sitting there in the hall was a high point: magic hiding in a departure, and a departure hiding in the act of sitting still.

Art credit: Andrew Walaszek, Departure (1989). Platon Karataev concert photo credit: sinco. I took the three pictures in the middle of the post: (1) of the entrance to the Borpatika, (2) of Cz.K. Sebő and Gábor Molnár, and (3) of Grand Bleu.

*Update: I later learned that the line from Lombkoronaszint is a quotation from Hermann Hesse’s poem “Stufen” (“Stages”), “Und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne, / Der uns beschützt und der uns hilft, zu leben.”

Ahead and Behind

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Today I leave Dallas for Nashville (a short trip); from this evening until Sunday noon, I will be taking part in the ALSCW conference: presenting two papers, participating in a poetry reading (by ALSCW members, on Friday evening), attending as many other seminars, panels, and readings as possible, talking with colleagues and friends, and taking part in the ALSCW Council meeting. I hope to take some walks in Nashville too. Then, on Sunday evening, I head back to Hungary and should arrive Monday evening, if all goes as scheduled. (I am grateful to the three colleagues who agreed to cover my classes on Monday; to return by Monday, I would have had to skip the Council meeting and possibly more.)

I wrote a sestina yesterday; I may include it in what I read on Friday, or I may choose something shorter. I am reading a new translation as well; more about that in the future!

The book talk and discussion at the Dallas Institute was lively and warm; I am grateful to everyone who worked to put it together and who came out for it. There were over forty people in the audience, and the books almost sold out. But the best part was the combination of planning and spontaneity, familiarity and surprise, content and question.

First Dr. Larry Allums introduced me, then I spoke about the book and read some passages from it, then Dr. Allums and I had a dialogue, and finally I took questions (of which there were many) from the audience. I am delighted that this was the book’s first event; I will try to do something like this in events to come, though I will not be able to replicate it. It was great to be back at the Institute; I look  forward to returning in July.

There are some videos of the evening. Soon I will upload them to my website; for now, you can view them here. (They are numbered 3903, 3904, 3905, and 3906. The first one contains the introductions–Dr. Allums’s introduction and my preliminary remarks; the second, my readings from the book; the third, Dr. Allums’s dialogue with me, and the fourth, the exchange with the audience.)

Yesterday I went back to the Dallas Institute in the lovely rain and met with my colleagues, who took me to dinner at Gloria’s, our favorite Salvadoran/Latin restaurant. Here is the Dallas Institute’s patio just before we left.

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On a sad subject, I will have more to say soon about the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. Others are already making important arguments: for instance, that this was not simply a deranged act, but an act fueled by social media, a reckless and callous president, and easy access to weapons. Some have been looking specifically at its anti-Semitism; others, at its resemblance to other recent hate crimes in the U.S. and elsewhere. Some are analyzing it from the point of view of psychology, others from a political perspective, others from the perspective of gun control, others from personal pain. I will try something a little different (or maybe not different, since I have not had time to read all the responses). I want to consider what it means to believe one has the right (or even duty) to take another’s life, or the lives of members of a particular group. This is so far from my own understanding of rights and duties that I have to see where the difference lies. I might not arrive at answers, but I hope to raise some questions. Is the idea of liberty–of living the way you like, as long as you do not impinge on others, and protecting others’ right to do likewise–still young in our history and imagination? Does it contradict itself? Is it feasible? Do people support it today?

I will be thinking of this and more as I head to the airport.

  • “Setting Poetry to Music,” 2022 ALSCW Conference, Yale University

  • Always Different

  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

     

    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In April 2022, Deep Vellum published her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.

  • INTERVIEWS AND TALKS

    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.
     

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.

  • ABOUT THIS BLOG

    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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