The Beast in Ourselves 04 Talking with Mr. Townsend 05 A Report on the BVG 08 SCI: Junior & Senior Lab 12
St. John’s College • 60 College Ave, Annapolis, MD 21401 • Nov. 8, 2011 • Vol. XXXIII • Issue 10
<< Cover: The Gadfly staff comes together like a lovely lady and man named Brady. photos by Hau Hoang >> Jump for Joy: The Guardians, who went undefeated this Frisbee season, display their !"#$%. The student newspaper of St. John’s College 60 College Avenue Annapolis, Maryland 21401 email@example.com Editors-in-Chief Danny Kraft Grace Tyson Assistant Editors Nathan Goldman Ian Tuttle Layout Editor Hayden Pendergrass Assistant Layout Editors Hau Hoang Amy Stewart Staff Jonathan Barone Sarah Meggison Tommy Berry Joshua Snyder Robert Malka Charles Zug Jonathan Whitcomb-Dixon Business Manager Honore Hodgson Photographer Henley Moore Contributors Painter Bob Emily Ezell Galen Mancino Ryan Fleming Christopher Johns Stephanie Connolly Melissa Gerace Barbara McClay Founded in 1980, The Gadfly is the student newspaper distributed to over 600 students, faculty, and staff of the Annapolis campus. Opinions expressed within are the sole responsibility of the author(s). The Gadfly reserves the right to accept, reject, and edit submissions in any way necessary to publish the most professional, informative, and thought-provoking newspaper which circumstances at St. John’s College permit. Articles submitted will be edited for grammar, punctuation, spelling, and length in most cases. The Gadfly is not obligated to publish all submissions except under special circumstances. The Gadfly meets every Sunday at 7 PM in the lower level of the Barr-Buchanan Center. Articles should be submitted by Friday at 11:59 PM to Gadfly@sjca.edu.
!"#$%&'!()* > Galen Mancino A’12
am writing a letter to the editors regarding the latest column penned by Mr. Ian Tuttle. If I read his article with due attention, then I believe his central claim is the following:
exhibited in “Une Charogne” and other poems. As far as I can tell, Baudelaire was not part of what has been so tactfully dubbed “perverse modernism” as he predates this movement by quite some time. How can the column of someone “Perverse modernism has destroyed with such a closed mind be called the distinction between the sacred and “Bursting the Johnnie Bubble”? Is he not the profane.” further insulating us, or rather trying to The context in which I respond to pass off his own opinions as fact and his article is all too funny to me; it was corralling us to his views like fencednot so long ago that the very exhibit in cattle? I don’t know if he realizes mentioned in Mr. the implications of “It Tuttle’s article, “Piss does not take religious How can the column faith to recognize Christ” was removed of someone with from display at the that a society that Smithsonian because a celebrates Bach and such a closed mind right-wing/extremist Michelangelo will be be called “Bursting Christian PAC called much healthier than the Johnnie Bubble”? one that celebrates for its removal, citing that a portion of the 50 Cent and Paul Smithsonian’s budget came from tax McCarthy.” but I see one possible dollars. They cited the art as offensive implication, namely that art’s role is to and obscene because it associated Christ regulate society. Last time I checked, with defecation. upholding free speech was more I sound a call for the removal of Mr. pertinent to regulating society than the Tuttle’s weekly “exhibits” because they content of any art exhibit. offend me. And no, it is not in fact the In context of the Gadfly, however, associations he draws or the style of the editor — and by extension, we the writing that offend me. Put simply: his people — are the regulators of this column is a waste of space. Couldn’t we be news medium. Let’s demand something reading about things that might interest better, something interesting. I can’t us, rather than be told what should be help but wonder if Mr. Tuttle’s column considered sacred images? (See: “When is valued for nothing other than his a culture’s most sacred images have radical opinions, i.e. his shock value, lost their transcendent element...”) It (Is this starting to sound familiar?) but seems Mr. Tuttle has overlooked a little- enough is enough. Give us something known program author by the name of interesting, or, God forbid, something Charles Baudelaire who challenges our positive in your column; otherwise take associations of Beauty with the Good as your leave. !
How did your seminar character dress up for Halloween?
The Gospel of Luke
The Brothers K.
Socrates sets up a haunted house, where utopia devolves from republic to democracy, and then a dictator pops out behind you and shouts. > J. Whitcomb-Dixon
The Lord God dressed up as a proud parent. > Charlie Kline
Fyodor Karamazov does not need to dress up. He is already a buffoon. > Grace Tyson
He went as a soundtrack to a haunted house, so he could scream about his stones all night. > Drew Menzer
What would your seminar character buy (or sell) at Meet Market?
!""#$%&"'$NaNoWriMo Ate My Life > Melissa Gerace A’15
ell, here we are. Already one week into our thirty-day though, is that I’m finally writing again. Before school whirlwind of words. By now, writers should be well started, I wrote all the time, filling up notebooks and using acquainted with their characters, know the setting as if they’d up pens faster than I could buy new ones. I was determined, been born there, and have Tolkien-like background stories for on move-in day, that I would continue this writing habit. It their imagined worlds. Just kidding. would happen, I told myself. I would write. Every. Day. No In Week One, characters are still semi-strangers. Settings matter what. That fantasy didn’t make it through the first can still change, plots can still be doctored until they no week. I think it died right around the same time we started longer resemble what they did originally, and writers can still doing more complicated things than memorizing the Greek wonder what in the world they’re doing. alphabet. September passed. And then Week One is all about starting, hitting October appeared and disappeared within a The upside of having moment, causing me to realize two things: the ground running. It doesn’t matter so much what you’re writing. Some may have 1) NaNoWriMo was approaching; 2) I hadn’t my life devoured by started out right as Halloween changed into NaNoWriMo is that I’m really written anything beyond schoolwork November 1 with no outline and only vague since August. Unexpectedly, NaNoWriMo finally writing again. ideas of where their novel would be going. hasn’t been a stress as much as it has been Others could have sat down after class on a relief, a much needed chance to dig up a Tuesday with moment-by-moment timelines and detailed plot and play with it. Even if it did eat my life. At least I’ll get character charts. Some NaNos fell asleep on Tuesday night that back in December. Hopefully. with thousands of words safely tucked away on notepads and If you’ve made it through the first week on or above your laptops. Others began to worry that they wouldn’t make two word count, congratulations! It’s no easy feat to just punch thousand words, not to mention 50,000. Wherever they are in away at the same story, resisting the impulse to turn back word count, there is probably a shared feeling somewhat like and edit at every turn. If you didn’t quite make it or are much strapping into the seat of a rollercoaster. further behind than you ever intended to be, don’t panic. If For many, myself included, the reality of November did you somehow haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo until now and not set in until after the first set of work had been doled out suddenly have a burning desire to join in on the fun, don’t let in classes. Suddenly, with Greek memorization, Euclid, and the loss of one week scare you off. The best part of NaNoWriMo Plato to contend with, 1,600 words seemed a ridiculously large is the ability to play. Once you find a way to get around the little request…and I am absolutely certain that there are writers voice telling you that your writing is horrible (it’s probably out there with schedules far busier than mine. Surprisingly, not) and allow yourself to write anything that comes to mind, however, time managed to present itself. And, okay, it might it’s like play. It’s like standing in a 50,000 foot-long sandbox, have turned me into a recluse. Just a little bit. But it was worth or plopping a child down in a room filled with 50,000 toys. it.… Okay, maybe I didn’t leave my room at all on the first day At first, it’s daunting. But once you get comfortable, it’s some because I was so busy writing. Maybe. wacky Wonderland totally open to your own exploration. This The upside of having my life devoured by NaNoWriMo, is NaNoWriMo, after all. And we’re all mad, here. !
!"#$7#3.*$-5$ 8('.#94#. Disclaimer: I’ll be using loaded words in this article. My distinctions might not line up with your conceptions, so try to bear with me!
!(435$!"'&3*$6&51 > Hayden Pendergrass A’14 The electric hum Of a whistling shock of sound The River Alash
!"#$%&''()*#+$,-." > Christopher Johns A’12 You are sucked inside that picture you posted. I wish spam disappeared forever, you know, erased from existence? Out of this dump: I wish spam disappeared forever. you know, now I'm kinda sorry for making that picture. Spam dissapears forever. However "forever" works backwards and forwards, and since you wished for something that doesn't exist to disappear forever, it causes a paradox that wipes half of you from existence. (My other idea for this would have something to do with a forum crash) I wish I could change my skin color at will, green as a lizard or yellow like I'm ill.
/$0-1"*$23))&'* > Painter Bob
I’d never met a metaphor More lovely, than my simile But by and by, one, finally Caught me in its sweet allure And taught my soul to grateful be If I, create a sole to please For am I not a figure of Some strange language beyond speech That is, like all reality Imagined, in a thing to be More wonder full than minds believe When, open hearted... I conceive
> Jonathan Barone A’13
n theory, there’s a clear distinction. sition, on the other hand, is centered in In practice, I’ve always found the line our view towards others. Even though to much finer than theory indicates. we can compete with other people, our Naturally, this fits for many circum- goal is ultimately to be better than we stances, but here I’m focusing on the are. When we oppose others, our goal is nature between competitiveness and to be better than them. opposition. I’ve been inspired to write However, I do not see opposition as this article by some internal and exter- harmful in itself. I think it’s often presnal confrontations of late, and I feel it ent on the athletic grounds here at St. would be for the best to say a few words. John’s, and I think it crafts better playI’ll be the first to say that I think sport, ers. Yet, I see opposition lead to a much by its very nature, is competitive. This more harmful state: that of aggression. I competition can be among others or self- very much believe in being physical and oriented, but at its core, it must be pres- spirited, but I don’t want aggression to ent. It is this presence of competition be the motivating force behind my acthat makes us strive to be better, to prac- tions. I remember certain games in tice, and to achieve something. Without the past where that was my drive, and I it, we are mired in complacency. don’t look upon those memories fondly. It can’t be any other way. In any sort Though this may be a Stoic idea, I of athletic activity, we have goals. If think it bears on what I’m saying, namewe’re exercising on a treadmill or play- ly that the problem with opposition is ing striker in a soccer game, we have an that you’re placing your value and desire aim that we’re shooting for. To remove in something not under your control. In competition is to a game, we should destroy all goals be focusing on how and any sort of proEven though we can com- we can play better, gression. What is not the intangible pete with other people, the purpose of actstate of the other our goal is ultimately to be team. Through oping at all if there is better than we are. When position, satisfacno goal? This is why I see we oppose others, our goal tion comes in the competition as a victory over the is to be better than them. good thing. Our enemies, not in the sense of competipersonal achievetion is very broad, so I’d like to narrow ment and growth as a player. it down and create a distinction beThis distinction is not an easy one to tween competition and opposition. In make, but I feel that it’s a necessary one. the sense that we are striving for goals, Sometimes I think we all (especially myI think we are all competitive. However, self ) need to take a step back and look I do not believe we are all set in opposi- at ourselves. What are we playing for? tion. What are we striving for? At the end of To me, competition is embodied by the the day, I want to be able to walk off the reaching towards a goal. Unfortunately, field and be happy with how my team I think this is where the lines between and I played, regardless of whether I competition and aggression become win or lose. When I graduate, I want to blurred. Whereas competition con- look at how I matured and grew, not how tains the notion of duality (there must many times my name is on the plaques be something with which you are com- in the gym. I want to shake hands with peting), it does not view another as an my teammates and competitors on and enemy. Opposition does. Competition, off the field. I want the beast inside me at its core, is centered in the self. Oppo- tamed. !
!"#$%&'()%*+(,-.(!/)&01&2 How did you come to be a tutor at St. John’s? I was interested in going to St. John’s when I was in high school, but couldn’t afford it. I received a 1/3 senatorial scholarship, but it wasn’t enough. So instead, I accepted a full scholarship to Loyola, a Jesuit college in Baltimore, because it seemed this was God’s will. Loyola was excellent, but St. John’s revolutionary education held my interest, and after getting a Ph.D. at Harvard, I applied to teach at St. John’s in Santa Fe and became a tutor there in 1974. What classes are you teaching this year? Freshman Lab, Sophomore Music, Seminar and Preceptorial in the Graduate Institute— Mathematics & Natural Science Seminar and a GI Preceptorial on William Butler Yeats’ A Vision and selected poems. I am also offering two weekend Community Seminars—on Eudora Welty’s short stories and Emily Dickinson’s poems—and leading an Executive Seminar on the theme of “Happiness.” What was the biggest adventure you’ve ever had? The second of my four daughters was born at home and it happened so suddenly that the midwife couldn’t get there in time. I had to help my wife with the delivery all on my own. My daughter, Maeve, appeared with the amniotic sac intact and I knew I had to break through to get her out of there. Turns out you can bite through the tough membrane with your eye teeth in the tiny space between the baby’s nose and eye (it helps to be myopic). Then you get the baby breathing by rubbing her. Then you remove your heart from your throat. I pass this on as a useful adventure in case you find yourself in a similar situation. What is the single most important piece of advice you would like to give to freshmen (or upperclassmen)? Follow your heart and trust your gut. Intellectual life, as well as life itself, is best pursued by paying attention to what grabs you, to what you truly and deeply desire to know. Otherwise you can be caught up in rehearsing someone else’s interests and living someone else’s life instead of your own. You will work hard at what you love. What is your favorite seminar book and why? Dante’s Commedia. Tremendous vision, breaking all the
genre limitations: great poetry, philosophy, autobiography, and theology. Think of how the world might be different if we followed a trinity of Mary, Lucia, and Beatrice. What is your least favorite seminar book and why? Heidegger. He’s inauthentic, uses self-important jargon, and preaches a philosophy of dour skepticism that is morally pernicious. It’s not just that he was a bad man--we read other such authors, e.g. John Calvin, who personally had Michael Servius burned at the stake. But Heidegger’s writings are an awful denouement to our seminar readings. He makes it too easy to justify moral cowardice as philosophical Gelassenheit. If we take him seriously at St. John’s, why do we stop the reading two pages before he praises the glories of the Nazi Party? What is your favorite nonprogram book and why? Melville’s Moby Dick, a visionary spiritual and political work which symbolically presents the possibility of democracy and freedom within the challenges of a global economy. And Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, a luminous work which digs deeply into the relations of a man and woman who try to raise a family of eight talented and sensitive children. What is your biggest pet peeve (that students do) in class? Side conversations with neighbors that are not shared with the group. What is your favorite St. John’s tradition and why? Our best tradition is the earnest, forthright, morally present, equitable exploration and investigation around the table in our classrooms. It’s a radical American egalitarian form of education that enables the best of Plato’s pedagogy to come to life, maybe for the first time in history. What is your favorite class to be a tutor for and why? Awww, that’s like asking me to choose among my children. Being a member of an honest and exploratory seminar is a transcendent experience. I’ve always loved it, but it gets better every year for me. It’s not just because of the texts, but thanks to what each member of the small republic in each classroom contributes to the whole conversation. !
NO SHAVE NOVEMBER
“ Few men have the chance to grow a beard, yet few men are me.”
“Tommy Bonn with a beard has no neck.” 0.11%"/.(("22 “Jon Barone is going down.”
BIGGER doesn’t mean better.” 7&"%#$'8&95$:)"'++
Imma grow this sucka like it’s 1896. ,,'1#002)3'-4%56'
!"#$%&'(")'&*"(+$",&-'."&)"/010(&'1"-2."3&4$'2&'1 > Emily Ezell A’13
n behalf of Grace Tyson and myself, your Board of Visi- of the St. John’s curriculum and classroom style has proven tors and Governors (BVG) representatives, I will attempt to be a successful campaign for recruiting freshmen, and the to inform the polity about the discussion topics and concerns Santa Fe campus will most likely be adapting the practice in that were raised at the BVG’s recent meeting. First, I should be the hope of improving its bleaker admissions numbers. While clear about what the BVG is and what they do for our school. Annapolis has had an increase in undergrad enrollment, Santa The board is composed of alumni, donors, businessmen and Fe has suffered in recent years, with a particularly shocking women, and highly ranked administrators, who come together drop in students from California and New Mexico, which have three times a year, alternating between campuses, to consider been primary feeder states for enrollment in the past. how best to sustain St. John’s College. The Strategic Communications meeting imitated a classHow, you might ask, is St. John’s sustained? We walk around room discussion, but instead of inquiring about virtue, the a relatively busy campus, attend our classes, do our homework, members were pondering the question: How do we increase and think that the dining hall food is the biggest problem fac- awareness of St. John’s? Neither question yields easy answers. ing St. John’s. This ignorant—albeit blissThere appeared to be disagreement in the ful—lifestyle changes when you know some room about how well-known St. John’s is. ...in a world where of the critical challenges St. John’s currentOne board member insisted that young ly faces. Admissions is under tremendous people simply don’t know about our school. specialized degrees pressure to recruit and retain students; our they think they know about St. John’s, he are deemed useful, St. If endowment is frail; and, in a world where asked, are we certain they aren’t referring John’s battles prejudic- to St. John’s University in New York? specialized degrees are deemed useful, St. John’s battles prejudices about the worth of How do we get through to the potential es about the worth of a a liberal arts education. applicants? The board would like to inliberal arts education. crease name recognition of St. John’s, and A note on the overall structure and content of the meetings: The October BVG secure a better national reputation. Other meeting consisted of forums on topics ranging from St. Johns’ than continuing to work with journalists to write about St. financial standing to its alumni relations. Each of the forums John’s, it is unclear how to make a name for ourselves. In light began with a briefing period, in which board members were of these difficulties, St John’s has employed a public relations informed about past and present successes and shortcomings firm to assist in developing our communications strategy. in different aspects of the college. For example, in the first The final highlight of the vast information presented at the meeting we attended, there was a report from the admissions meetings came from the briefing during the alumni relations office about its recent recruitment efforts. These briefings meeting. Did you know that fewer than 30% of our alumni give were followed by discussions about how to improve which- back to St. John’s? It came as a surprise to learn that St. John’s ever aspect of the college was being considered. is financially abandoned by its own alumni. The board memRemember when the St. John’s admissions office was im- bers ask, why? It is certain that St Johns inspires a unique inportant to us that one time in the spring of our senior year of tellectual experience that we cherish for the rest of our lives, high school? The reality is that this office is crucial for the sur- yet our alumni fall short when compared to giving at other colvival of St. John’s. On the Annapolis campus, freshman enroll- leges. The philanthropy firm dispels the myth that our alumni ment numbers are up 18%, and the overall undergrad enroll- are not capable of contributing, because they have done the ment is up 10%. There were 467 students last year; this year research and comparisons. There will be strengthened initiathere are 492. On the other hand, GI enrollment is down com- tives to encourage alumni donations. pared to previous years, and considerations are being made to These were the major issues discussed at the recent BVG boost financial support for graduate students. meeting. I’d like to encourage you to approach either Grace The summer academy that gives high school students a taste Tyson or myself if you have further questions or concerns. !
!"#$%%!&$"'()#"*+$"!,-#./")''/0$ To all members of the St. John’s College community: Here’s your chance to win $1696! Do you have a hidden talent as a poet, composer, or lyricist? It’s time to put your talent to use by revising the St. John’s College school song—St. John’s College March, known more familiarly as St. John’s Forever. Adrian Trevisan, A84, & Claiborne Booker, A84, have offered a cash prize of $1,696 to the winning composition of new verses for this song. On the centenary of the St. John’s College March (written in 1911 by an SJC alumnus, R. Graham Moss), the TrevisanBooker Prize will go to whoever updates its lyrics to make
our school song more relevant to the Program. The updated version should be suitable for new vocal arrangements, one for four-part SATB chorus and one for solo voice, and is open to submissions in any form (video/audio presentation, written, emailed), but the winning entry must be transcribed into musical notation. (We’d also like to hear from interested arrangers.) Copies of the music and current lyrics are available online at: http://www.stjohnscollege.edu/events. Submit all entries to: St. John’s College Alumni Office, 60 College Ave., Annapolis, MD 21401. Mailing address: P.O. Box 2800, Annapolis, MD 21404 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. All entries must be received by November 30, 2011. Announcement of the winning verse(s) will be January 31, 2012, and the first public performance of the updated St. John’s Forever will be at Croquet 2012 on the Annapolis Campus.
!"!"#$%"#$%%" &'"!(&)'* > Ryan Fleming A’15
I Before we get to the letters: an apology to my loyal readers for the lack of a column these last two weeks. In case you haven’t read about it in the papers yet, I spent the better part of last month chained to a radiator in the basement of a slightly overzealous fan, who forced me to communicate advice to her directly through an earpiece while she went on dates, all while I was forced to run in a giant humansized hamster wheel, for some reason that she never explained adequately. I wish I could say that this is the first time this has happened, and I wish I could honestly say that I believe this will be the last time, but neither would be true. All I can do is continue to live my life as I always have: in a state of constant fear and apprehension towards my fans. Now, let’s go to the mailbag: Dear Tommy, I feel like the shrill and hyperbolic mockery of the food on campus has gotten ridiculous and needs to be toned down, because it directly led to a recent incident I’m uncomfortable [remainder illegible] • Dear Whoever-You-Are, Unfortunately, I couldn’t read the second half of your letter because I ate dining hall hashbrowns this morning and am therefore spewing vomit across my desk, destroying wide swaths of the heartfelt letters sent by people who were counting on me to fix their broken lives. Oh, well. I could aim away from my desk, I suppose, but they saw fit to serve this to me on a table, so I see fit to serve it back on a table. I could also change my policy of printing one copy of every email I receive and immediately deleting it, but I prefer to work on paper, because I try to recreate in every detail the routines and preferences of Ann Landers in her prime, June 1978 to August 1979, and that goes right down to what I am currently wearing. Dear Tommy, So, Ok, I’ll preface this by saying I’m a fairly attractive girl. Anyway, after my last math class, I accidentally took home the notebook of the guy sitting next to me. So then I was going to take it back to him, but when I picked it up it accidentally fell open to page 1, and then when I tried to pick it up again it accidentally started falling open to each of the subsequent pages at a slow, regular pace, and I just happened to glance out of the corner of my eye that
in the bottom-right corner of page 73 he doodled the first two-thirds of my name. So then I get that weird feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you realize someone’s in love with you, and I’m wondering how I’m going to tell him I’m not interested, when suddenly I realize I’ve been in love with him the whole time, so I get this idea that I’ll return his notebook, but it’ll “accidentally” be my notebook, and then he’ll see that I usually write his name 20 to 30 times on each page with little hearts around them, interspersed with totally random thoughts that take on a whole new meaning when I look back on them now like, “I want to have sex with this person whose name I’m writing.” I just want your opinion on whether the doubleswitched notebook scenario is a little too clichéd. ’Cause when we’re looking back on this whole crazy week 20 years from now, Hubby and I will remember it fondly, no doubt, but I’m wondering whether we might cringe a little too. (Not that that would necessarily be a bad thing.) Sincerely, Notebook-Crossed Lover • Dear Lover, I already told you this plan wouldn’t work two weeks ago, when you proposed it the first time. It’s not that I was “just being grumpy because I didn’t like the hamster wheel.” Quite honestly, I didn’t advise against it because I was upset about you putting me in a hamster wheel, I advised against it because it’s a bad idea, it’s as simple as that. !
don’t know what to hold accountable for this. Some say it’s the CommonApp, some say we’re just bad apples. Being a freshman, it’s been made more than abundantly clear to me what upperclassmen think of us, and sadly I agree. I don’t know what accounts for the increased destruction of campus property, or lack of enthusiasm to attend class, or even disgracefully as I have seen, people not completing their seminar readings. This list of atrocities could continue forever, but I’m not here to slander the class of 2015—because I could go on quite easily—I’m here for a call to action. TO ALL FRESHMEN: I know attending St. John’s is difficult, or perhaps the most difficult thing you have ever done; but when some great adversity presents itself to us, we must present our great diversity as students of Liberal Arts in counter-action to this. So here’s the plan, attend intramural sport games if you’re angry: take out your frustration on the field, not on campus property. Attend the great deal of assistance activities all over campus if you don’t understand something: that’s what they are there for. If you can’t handle the responsibility of the Program, then seek help before submitting to Futilitarianism. On this campus, it’s more than likely that at least one person is willing to help you; because we are a well-tuned machine, working better as a whole than just a sum of parts. I can only hope that this reaches someone willing to listen, and does not fall on deaf ears, because there is a serious problem here. The dignity of our prestigious institution is on the line. There’s a whole lot of prospective value without the entelechy (and if you don’t understand that, I recommend you do your Lab reading). So please, fellow freshmen, ask an upperclassman what it means and what it takes to thrive here; and stop being high school seniors without a care in the world and learn what it means to be a Johnnie, because I’m surely trying my damn best. !
!"#$!%&'#(#$!%&)* !"#$$%&'(%)*$#*+*%,* %%%%%%%%%%%%%%-.*/%0%1*$$%&'(2223
Stephanie Connolly, Energeia editor, discusses the great aesthetic value of poetry by looking at Camille T. Dungy’s “Requiem.”
hree weeks ago I wrote about understanding poetry as an art by comparing it to music. As I wrote, poetry is unique in comparison to other art forms by virtue of its medium: language. But the difficulty of understanding poetry does not prevent us from writing it, or from trying to understand it, a fact which implies that it has a great aesthetic value, perhaps one that is easily more valuable because of its difficulty. Indeed, because poetry is lingual, it may be easier to express the aesthetic effect which it has upon us, since But the difficulty of we can describe it understanding poetry using the same landoes not prevent us from guage in which it writing it, or from trying is written. I have difficulty articulatto understand it, a fact which implies that it has a ing how visual or musical art affects great aesthetic value... me, because I do not have a visual or musical language. But with poetry I can isolate a turn of phrase or structure and express, in the same language, what makes it beautiful to me. Camille T. Dungy’s poetry strikes me as appropriate to this topic because she writes, often and honestly, about raw and inexorable pain. Of all emotions, pain seems the least aesthetically appealing. Yet Dungy’s poetry is able to transform this pain into beauty, quite literally. In “Requiem,” she describes
a fatal accident from the perspective of the victim, who asks, “Will you believe me when I tell you it was beautiful— / my left leg turned to uselessness and my right shoe flung,” and describes a sensation of profound love for the witnesses, for the way one woman began a fast the moment she looked under the wheel. I saw her swear off decadence. I saw her start to pray. You see, I was so beautiful The poetry here has an oddly reflexive effect. It transforms a moment of pain into one of beauty, which is observed through the aesthetic medium of poetry, then experienced again as pain in the reader, who witnesses simultaneously the horror of the accident and the speaker’s serene, affectionate description of those present. The aesthetic quality of the poem itself heightens this experience of pain; some of the most exquisitely written lines are also the most emotional—the final lines, for example, in which a street cleaner wards off a young boy from the scene of the accident. These lines are quite striking, quite beautiful. Yet on closer reading, Dungy’s beautiful language reveals an awful and unshakable pain: The woman who cordoned the area feared my memory would fly him through the world on pinions of passion much as, later, the sight of my awful beauty pulled her down to tears when she pooled my blood with water and swiftly, swiftly washed my stains away. !
Jocks of the Week
Men’s Novice 8
> Stephanie Connolly A’12
Women’s Novice 8
In honor of Freedom Week, commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9) and Veterans Day (November 11), Ian Tuttle reflects on Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and the ongoing struggle for human rights in China.
> Ian Tuttle A’14
ewish mathematician Veniamin Teush, writing to Rus- rested, tried, and convicted of “damaging property and orgasian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn about Solzhenitsyn’s nizing a mob to disturb traffic”; his lawyers were not allowed One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a thinly fictionalized inside the courtroom during the trial. Diplomats, journalists, novella describing one day in a Soviet gulag, or labor camp, and intellectuals have attempted to visit Guangcheng’s home, published with Soviet imprimatur in 1962, described the book where he has been under “soft detention” since his release this way: “There are three atom bombs in the world: Kennedy from prison, but state security personnel have denied them has one, Khrushchev has another, and you have the third.” entrance. New reports claim that he is dead. And in a place And he was right. One Day was explosive. It provided the like China, there really is no way to know. first significant documentation of the vast crimes of Soviet Stories like Guangcheng’s confirm a frightening new reality: totalitarianism, leant extra credence by the Soviet govern- In significant, alarming ways, China is the new Soviet Union. ment’s permission to publish, and related a story that many China is not an out-and-out dictatorship centered around a Soviet citizens knew but had been too afraid to discuss. With- single ruler’s cult of personality (eg. Kim Jong Il’s North Koin months it appeared in English and dealt a severe blow to rea); rather, it is a state whose people are cowed by singleWestern communist sympathizers; in 1970, Solzhenitsyn party domination. It is a state that, after quietly consolidating received the Nobel Prize for Literature, power over the last half-century, is now though he refused to leave the Soviet stretching its tentacles; it is economically Stories like Guangcheng’s ascendant (China owns more than $1.2 Union to receive his prize, fearing that he confirm a frightening would not be allowed to reenter. Three trillion of America’s $14.9 trillion debt), years later, he published his (to-date) new reality: In significant, and has sought influence in resourcemagnum opus. The Gulag Archipelago was rich countries, among them virulently alarming ways, China is a massive, multivolume work, subtitled anti-American Iran. Finally, for all its the new Soviet Union. An Experiment in Literary Investigation, gross human rights abuses—forced aborin which Solzhenitsyn offered an exhaustions and sterilizations, beatings, censortive account of the Soviet gulag network (an invisible, archi- ship, “disappearings”—China maintains a healthy image and pelago-like “continent”) based on more than 200 eyewitness has received praise from Western intellectuals (e.g. The New accounts—and his own eight years in the camps. York Times’ Thomas Friedman). China faces significant difThis second blow was fatal. George Kennan, a key for- ficulties in the coming years—among them the consequences eign policy architect under Harry Truman, described Gulag of its one-child policy, which has left millions of marriageable as “the most powerful single indictment of a political regime men spouseless—but its ability to repress remains strong. ever to be levied in modern times,” and some commentators It is vital to recognize that the collapse of the Soviet Union have called it the most important book of the twentieth cen- was the result of intermingling forces: Ronald Reagan and tury. Solzhenitsyn’s work decisively undermined the legiti- Margaret Thatcher effected political demise, but behind that macy of the Soviet regime in the eyes of the Soviet people and lay the moral vision of Solzhenitsyn and Pope John Paul II. Western observers. As a result, he was exiled to the United These men became the conscience of millions suffering unStates, where he was revered—until his strong moral tone and der oppressive regimes, and their effectiveness in underminheavy criticisms of the vices of the West soured elite opinion. ing the moral legitimacy of communism facilitated the rise of But Solzhenitsyn’s works continue—and will continue—to anti-communist statesmen whose policy decisions drove the influence because, at their core, they are an exploration of dissolution of the world’s last empire. the capacities of the human heart for good and evil, which Twenty years later, China has become the juggernaut, sysSolzhenitsyn recognized had been uniquely revealed in the tematically trampling human rights in its quest to become cruelties of the Soviet ideology. His works did not focus on the world’s sole superpower. But no single moral leader has explicitly political remedies for communism; they focused on emerged to oppose this, to reveal to the Chinese people and to the nature of man, and how the fundamental misunderstand- the world the corruption and brutality of the Chinese regime. ing of that nature in communism was responsible for the Stories of courage and sacrifice, stories like Guangcheng’s, deaths of tens of millions worldwide. pour into the West—ubiquitous communications technology I came across a brief news item last week about Chen has helped publicize this brave resistance—but while these Guangcheng. Guangcheng is a blind lawyer in China who, stories emerge, no prominent leader has emerged within Chiin 2005, drew international attention when he filed a class- na to tie together the fragments of resistance into a cohesive action law suit against China’s communist government on intellectual whole. This was one of Solzhenitsyn’s chief acbehalf of thousands of women who were forcibly sterilized complishments: He made sense of the suffering of a nation, of or suffered forced abortions in eastern China’s Linyi district. a regime that persecuted and murdered its own people, and Shortly after filing the suit Guangcheng was imprisoned in his issued an unmistakable, irrepressible call for men to reawakhome; one year later, refusing to abandon his work, he was ar- en to evil in their midst. !
Upcoming Events Tuesday 11/8 SJC Orchestra Rehearsal Great Hall, 4-5:30 PM Kunai Netball Clinic Temple Iglehart, 4-6 PM Shakespeare in the Fall Henry IV, Part III General Hartle, 7:30-9:30 PM Dance Lessons Great Hall, 8-9 PM Wednesday 11/9 Athenian Reason Ball S v H, 3:50 PM St. John’s Chorus Great Hall, 7 PM Friday 11/11 Kunai Netball Temple Iglehart, 4-6 PM Lecture Josh Greene, Harvard University: Beyond Pointand-Shoot Morality: Why Cognitive Science Matters for Ethics FSK Auditorium, 8:15 PM Saturday 11/12 Mental Health Support Group BBC Room 109, 10:30 AM Shape Note Singing Group Mellon Room 133, 1-3 PM Soccer D v W, 1:30 PM S v H, 3:30 PM Sunday 11/13 Soccer D v S, 1:30 PM W v H, 3:30 PM If you would like to see your event on the weekly schedule, please email Gadfly@sjca.edu
Looking at Junior & Senior Lab Practica > Barbara McClay A’12
n Thursday, October 3rd, the SCI These lab reports could be followed considered the question, posed by up by personalized conferences (whethMr. Fleming (A’12): “What is the point of er by individual or by lab group) on each Junior and Senior lab practica?” lab report, and then a general discussion Unlike in Freshman lab, where the as a class on both the results and the erpractica are more about teaching stu- ror. Whether or not such a formalized dents to learn how to see and how to discussion would be necessary was a dive directly into an investigation of the point of disagreement: some felt that it natural world, Junior and Senior lab would prevent the results of such dispractica felt perfunctory. Since, in the cussions from dissipating, while others Freshman program, there are not always thought it might be a clumsy way of forcclearly delineated goals set out in each ing students to talk about questions they practica, there might be an openness to ought to—and do—raise organically. thinking about failure and error that did Another solution proposed was to not exist Junior and Senior year. move the timing of the individual practiIn some ways, in fact, the practica in cum to be done before the relevant readJunior and Senior year seemed more like ing, making it so that the results of the historical replication than actual inves- practica would be, if not exactly surtigation. When students got incorrect prising, at least less perfunctory for evanswers or bad results erybody involved. This in Junior or Senior lab, might also improve the In some ways, in they simply handwaved quality of discussions their mistakes and then fact, the practica in on the actual texts, moved on—making the Junior and Senior since students would actual doing of the exhave a better knowledge year seemed more of the phenomena being periments more perfunctory than in Freshlike historical repli- discussed going in. man lab. Could it be that Another solution cation than actual Junior and Senior lab proposed was to make investigation. practica do not work eisimple practica—such ther on the level of scias initial investigations entific proof or bringing out familiarity of force and electricity—more hands on, with the relevant phenomena? without formal instructions, and allow There was a general agreement students to make up their own experiamongst the tutors and students in at- ments. Another suggestion was made tendance that this was a problem, es- that students ought to be given some inpecially for the first half of the Senior struction in how their instruments and lab tutorial. Various reasons were as- equipment operated, perhaps even setcribed—for instance, that, particularly in ting up their experiments themselves. Senior lab, the experiments become less Other possible solutions included cutand less hands-on, and that we lacked ting some practica in order to make time the ability to properly replicate certain to do the others several times over, or experiments due to temporal restraints. even, in Senior lab especially, assigning One solution proposed was to stan- specific practica to specific people at the dardize the writing of lab reports across start of the year, and having those stututorials—since many lab classes do not dents do the experiment repeatedly over require them—and to include within the entire semester in order to get more those reports some attempt to account refined data. for error. Instead of the ubiquitous referIn the end, the overall opinion seemed ences to “human error,” there could per- to be that the point of Junior and Senior haps be some attempts to locate sources lab practica was a serious investigation of error. Some of the tutors pointed out into the phenomena and problems that that there is a great deal of value in er- the laboratory authors sought to underror, but that requires an understanding stand. Many agreed that, as things stand of where the error comes from and what now, the practica often fail to do this, the it might point to. Doing the experi- particularly in the first half of Senior lab. ments repeatedly and having to account Some level of greater, formal student infor the presence of error might help stu- volvement in the practica seemed to be dents think more carefully about what the answer—whether that meant more they are doing in lab, and the writing of lab reports, fewer practica or students lab reports could be a good way to crys- taking over certain lab assistant duties tallize this thought. for themselves. !
The tenth issue of Volume XXXIII