Category Archives: from language & thinking faculty

Faculty News

Transient’s Theme
Bethany Ides was recently interviewed in Bomb magazine.
Transient’s Theme, her month-long project, a soap-operatic opera in four acts, was presented & performed at The Knockdown Center in Queens, NY, October 2014.

Andrew Mossin has published an interview with the poet, Nathaniel Mackey, in the latest issue of The Iowa Review (Winter 2015) – the longest interview ever to be published in the pages of this journal. He also has new poetry in Conjunctions 63: Speaking Volumes, and work forthcoming in Hambone.

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Another Insane Devotion
An excerpt from Peter Trachtenberg‘s novel is out in StoryQuarterly February 2015, and he also has an essay in the winter issue of the L.A. Review of Books. His long essay “Inside the Tiger Factory” will appear in the Virginia Quarterly Review this summer. Oh, and he was just approved for tenure at the University of Pittsburgh. Congrats Peter!

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Cow House Studios
Tim Casey has been awarded a week-long Arts Educator Residency at Cow House Studios in Wexford, Ireland, for a week in April, 2015. He will work on a series of site-related watercolor studies, as well as do research for a novel in progress, which involves Irish and Irish-American characters.

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Rilke Shake
Order your copy of Rilke Shake, out 2/15/15, which was translated by Hilary Kaplan!

Cecelia Watson: “Points of Contention”

In late November of 1900, a spat broke out in Fall River, Massachusetts. “It was an unimportant, picayune sort of a personal quarrel,” the Chicago Tribune reported, “but it has had results of the greatest and most widespread importance.” The events were as follows: a resident of Fall River, Massachusetts walked into a hotel at 11:10 PM and ordered a drink. The hotel owner, aware that the man had been patronizing a rival hotel, decided to spite him by refusing him his drink, even though other patrons were being served. Thus denied, the man threatened to sue for discrimination; and on the following day he made good on his promise, retaining the services of a lawyer, who looked up the statute on liquor sales, which read:
“That no sale of spirituous or intoxicating liquor shall be made between the hours of 11 at night and 6 in the morning; nor during the Lord’s day, except that if the licensee is also licensed as an Innholder he may supply such liquor to guests who have resorted to his house for food and lodging.”

Based on this statute, the lawyer filed an injunction against the Fall River hotel owner, to prevent him from selling to anyone between 11 PM and 6 AM. A local judge granted the injunction, whereupon the hotel owner appealed the decision to the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Before the supreme court justices, the hotel owner’s attorney argued that the semicolon “was meant to be and should be construed, as a matter of fact, of being a comma.” In support of this claim, he noted that the law as originally passed in 1875 had contained a comma where the semicolon now intervened. The comma in the 1875 law was changed to a semicolon during “consolidation” of Massachusetts statutes in 1880. These consolidated statutes were presented to the legislature in 1881 and enacted with the semicolon in place. But because the 1875 parchment original of the law showed a comma, the whole debacle was an error of transcription, claimed the innkeeper’s attorney.

Find out who won, the comma or the semicolon, in faculty member Cecelia Watson’s forthcoming piece, “Points of Contention: Rethinking the Past, Present, and Future of Punctuation”>>


The sound of a thousand rifles
fire at once
through heavy fog

a sudden burst of light
blinding like the scream of a child

voices, inaudible at first,
then unrecognizable,
resolve as sobbing wails

a figure enters
then two
then ten
then fifty

Woman, child, and man
They are Antigone

1: Mic Check!
ALL: Mic Check!
1: Mic Check!
ALL: Mic Check!
1: I am Antigone
ALL: I am Antigone
1: Tonight you will hear
ALL: Tonight you will hear
1: My Story
ALL: My Story


US Consulate General: Language and Thinking at Al Quds University a success

From a press release from the Consulate General of the United States in Jerusalem:

Students and faculty from Al Quds University celebrated the completion of the “Language and Thinking” program on September 19 at a ceremony at the Red Crescent Society in Ramallah. The closing ceremony marked the conclusion of an innovative and rigorous academic program designed to teach first-year students at Al Quds University important skills in analytical thinking, writing, and reading. The pilot “Language and Thinking” program was funded through a U.S. Department of State Innovation Fund grant and was implemented by Al Quds University. The program, based on the Language and Thinking curriculum that has been in place at Bard College in New York for 30 years, provided an intensive 17-day introduction to the liberal arts and sciences for 50 freshmen from September 3-19, 2011.

Read the full press release>>

NYT: Computers in Classrooms

The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.

But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.

Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.

Read the full article, “A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute,” in the New York Times>>

Thomas Bartscherer: Switching Codes

Recently published: Switching Codes, edited by Program Director Thomas Bartscherer and Roderick Coover

From the University of Chicago Press: Half a century into the digital era, the profound impact of information technology on intellectual and cultural life is universally acknowledged but still poorly understood. The sheer complexity of the technology coupled with the rapid pace of change makes it increasingly difficult to establish common ground and to promote thoughtful discussion.

Responding to this challenge, Switching Codes brings together leading American and European scholars, scientists, and artists—including Charles Bernstein, Ian Foster, Bruno Latour, Alan Liu, and Richard Powers—to consider how the precipitous growth of digital information and its associated technologies are transforming the ways we think and act. Employing a wide range of forms, including essay, dialogue, short fiction, and game design, this book aims to model and foster discussion between IT specialists, who typically have scant training in the humanities or traditional arts, and scholars and artists, who often understand little about the technologies that are so radically transforming their fields. Switching Codes will be an indispensable volume for anyone seeking to understand the impact of digital technology on contemporary culture, including scientists, educators, policymakers, and artists, alike.

At a moment when culture’s digital makeover seems to have induced epistemological vertigo in many, Switching Codes offers a timely and well-targeted intervention. This book practices what it preaches, provoking cross-disciplinary dialogue and challenging the staid form of the usual essay collection, offering instead an engaging set of critical texts, poetry, fiction, games, and responses. Bartscherer, Coover, and their authors take up the challenges posed by the digital arts and humanities, mapping their new contexts, defining their analytic repertoire, and compelling a fresh set of insights. More than a portrait of our times, Switching Codes exemplifies the very logics that it explicates.
–William Uricchio, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Find the link to play “Figment”, a game featured in Switching Codes, and buy the book>>

Maika Pollack: Blinky Palermo: Original Gangster?

It’s worth asking why Palermo’s brand of indifferent, awkward objects looks so good to us today. The pieces from this show would look relevant in any contemporary art gallery on Orchard Street. He’s been influential to artists working now: Rirkrit Tiravanija invokes his name, Gareth James’s work echoes Palermo’s subtle architectural tracings, and his wobbly modernism is related to that of David Hammons and Franz West.

In a moment when America finds itself nostalgic for a powerful economic past and is increasingly unable to compete in a global economy, Palermo’s love of American style and his material meditations on the impossibility of living up to the task of being successfully American feel newly potent.

Read the full post from faculty member Maika Pollack in the New York Observer>>

The Essay Prize

From Faculty member Karen Lepri:

About The Essay Prize (

“The Essay Prize,” according to the sponsoring organization’s website, “is given each year to the work that best exemplifies the art of essaying—of inquiry, rumination, discovery, and change. Open to projects in any medium or form—be it text, film, radio, performance, or other—the Essay Prize intentionally stretches the definition of “essaying” in order to celebrate work that is defined by what it *does*—the activity that it engages in—rather than what it *is*—its “nonfictional” verifiability.”

The site offers links to current nominees, which right now include a wonderful essay by Jenny Boully “On Being,” in which Boully writes through her own quest for identity as a Thai-American writer, and a truly powerful and useful (teaching-wise) video piece “Bed Intruder Song” by The Gregory Brothers that parodies the media’s propagation of racial stereotypes. Texts referred to via this site can be engaging for writers and teachers of essay-writing, in the first place as a way to reflect on what it means “to essay,” but even more so, as a source for audio/visual prompts that might be used to begin or to alter the direction of an essay.

The current prize winner is “New Normal?” by Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich. My personal favorite among the current nominees is the video “Plastic Bag” by Ramin Bahrani, mainly because it works. I shared it with my mother who afterward said it finally, fully convinced her never to accept a plastic bag again. With all these examples, it’s interesting to ask, why do they work?

Visit The Essay>>

Huff-po: If music be the food….

If music be the food of educational excellence, play on Maestro Botstein. Give me excess of Richard Strauss’s Die Liebe der Danae at Bard Summerscape 2011.

That strain again Maestro, it had a dying fall. It came o’er my ear like the sweet sound of newly arriving Bard freshmen eager to experience this spectacular operatic production (comedy, romance and drama set against Strauss’s brilliant orchestral score), whilst relishing other rich works of literature and honing their writing skills in this, their first fantastical college orientation.

Enough, no more of this brevity.

Read the full piece and interview with Bard President Leon Botstein from C. M. Rubin on the Huffington Post>>

Kythe Heller: The Heart Receptive of Every Form

The Heart Receptive of Every Form:

Representations of Fire in the Unio Mystica of Mahomet (sal.)

(Mirâj Nâmeh (1436) Manuscript)

Kythe Heller, MDiv 2012

Abstract: This paper considers the depiction of fire in the miraculous ascension of Mahomet (sal.) as represented in the Islamic Turkish Miraj Nameh manuscript of the 15th century. The divine presence throughout the Miraj manuscript is illuminated in arabesques of fire and light, its presence often interpenetrating the figures of the paintings and transcending their frame. Through engaging with this pictorial and written account of the Miraj narrative, I attempt to offer insight into Mahomet’s unio mystica (mystical union) by showing how Islam represents its un-representable God. I argue throughout my discussion that fire as a representation of divine presence occupies both the hidden and apparent trajectories of Mahomet’s (sal.) journey from Mecca to his revelation of divine radiance, while also revealing the limitations of such representation. The issue forms an aporia within the conventional categories of representation, and rather than explaining away the distinctiveness of Islam’s un-representable deity, this paper shows how the nature of fire acts to constitute this un-representable image within the heart of the ‘complete human’ at the moment of unio mystica. For the viewer of these paintings, these representations of fire (whether visible or invisible to the eye) enact the continuous unveiling of the divine within the human and the human within the divine—the constantly flickering forms of this mutual interchange and construction.

Read the full article from faculty member Kythe Heller>>

Larissa MacFarquhar: Henry James

From faculty member Marjorie Folkman:

excerpt from an essay by Larissa MacFarquhar in Know the Past, Find the Future: The New York Public Library at 100

I don’t like precious books. First editions, inscribed copies, fragile, crumbling leather things-there’s something so precious about them. I prefer paperbacks to hardbacks, and I’d rather read a battered book that I can bend and write in than a beautifully bound edition I must treat with reverence. There is something fascinating about the smell and feel of old books, but that’s the smell and feel of pastness per se, nothing particularly bookish about it. So entering the sanctum of the Library’s Berg collection and sitting down in front of the manuscript of Henry James’s 1887 essay for The Century, “Coquelin,” which I was permitted only barely to touch, not to pick up, never to take out of the room, I felt I was there under false pretenses. What could be so thrilling afterward, replace them in some carefully climate-controlled book vault? The writing process is interesting, sure, but why make relics of its debris? I looked at the manuscript, I bent closer. I could read – nothing. James’s handwriting was graceful, tidy, evenly paced, and incomprehensible. With effort, I began to make out words, but the lines, the shapes, the gestures, and the pen that made them were from a society so removed from mine that even once I became used to them there could be no fluency in the reading. It was annoying. But that, of course, I realized, was the value of the thing. It’s so easy to read anything in type that you can fancy yourself fully inside the mind and time that produced it. Which is part of the pleasure of reading. But to move away from that false lingua franca, to move backward into handwriting, is to be forced to know how deeply foreign and opaque other minds and times really are.