I have been out in the virtual world asking for people to join me in blogging here. So, in addition to what I said was "coming soon" in the immediately prior entry, watch for guest bloggers -- alums and more - coming soon to a blog you are, apparently, reading. Guest bloggers will include faculty, alums, and perhaps, just perhaps, more Shimerians or people who are so Shimerian-like as to be . . . well, honorary Shimerians.
1. There has been some attention to the film Monsters University. And, it has included attention to the fake website associated with the (fake) university. So, both here and elsewhere, I will take this on, with an eye to the notion that our new website might be much cooler than this fake one. And no, I have not seen the movie, but here is the (fake) website. A dandy implied critique of dot edu websites. And, an intriguing marketing maneuver. I am writing about this for Chicago Is Our Campus, but will write here as well!
2. I will continue to comment on Bill Readings' book The University in Ruins, because I am still reading it -- and want to get to the chapter entitled "The Scene of Teaching." Really -- what else matters to today's university more than teaching? (Maybe learning?)
3. I am starting another relevant book called Paying for the Party. And, it turns out to be about the ways women experience gender stratification through their experience of university education (in the midwest). The opening example, of two very similar women ending up in very different circumstances (and I use the passive framework intentionally) is deeply troubling about the ways institutional structures lead to very different outcomes.
4. For more fun reading, I am going to be asking a few people to do guest blogs. So: keep an eye out for that! (Let me know if you think YOU want to do one!)
When I arrived at Shimer, a group of students were doing a tutorial on the "political novel." Among their readings: the work of Marge Piercy. I had taught (having been nudged into it by my partner) a book called Sex Wars in Introduction to Women's Studies in my prior life -- and have read some of her other novels. And, I love her poetry. So, I am thrilled to say that Marge Piercy is going to be doing an event for Shimer in April (details below).
Why Marge Piercy for a great books college in Chicago? Well, of course, it is not all about the fact that I love her work -- and so do some other Shimerians. There are other reasons. Here are a few:
1. We read the Declaration of Sentiments in some of our courses here at Shimer. This document is a fascinating use of a founding US document to move forward the argument for women's rights. Written in 1848, a year when the Communist Manifesto and much else was penned, the document begins as follows:
"When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
Recognize its origins? The changes?
What does Piercy have to do with this? S0me of the characters of Sex Wars were among the key figures in the creation of this document -- and in the social movements associated with the document. As historical fiction, the novel instances one way to take the past (including past texts) and make them alive and relevant today.
2. Because Marge Piercy is a poet -- and she knows what phlogiston is. Try this poem, entitled "For the Young Who Want To" to see her use the term in a poem. The poem is worth a read for many other reasons, including its relevance to reflecting on the purpose and the impact of education.
3. Because she is mathematically inclined. She knows that one plus one equals one. (Yes, she does. Try this poem.)
4. She knows the midwest, having been born in Michigan and ended her graduate work at Northwestern. Here's what she says on her website about Chicago as a part of her biography:
After that marriage, Piercy lived in Chicago, trying to learn to write the kind of poetry and fiction she imagined but could not yet produce. She supported herself at a variety of part-time jobs; she was a secretary, a switchboard operator, a clerk in a department store, an artists’ model, a poorly paid part-time faculty instructor. She was involved in the civil rights movement.
She remembers those years in Chicago as the hardest of her adult life. She felt she was invisible. As a woman, society defined her as a failure: a divorcee at twenty-three, poor, living on part-time work. As a writer, she was entirely invisible. She wrote novel after novel but could not get published. Piercy remarks that at that time she knew two things about her fiction: she wanted to write fiction with a political dimension (Simone de Beauvoir was her model) and she wanted to write about women she could recognize, working class people who were not as simple as they were supposed to be.
(Here I should note that this evidences, as do the comments further above, that she has been influenced by works read in the Shimer curriculum!)
For these and many other reasons, including my suspicion that her work itself is of enduring historical significance, she wil be joining the Shimer community -- and you, if you want -- in April.
Marge Piercy is coming to Chicago (of course, she has been here before) and will be giving a talk for Shimer at the Standard Club on April 18. If you are interested in attending, click here to RSVP.
The following events, listed in no particular order, are coming soon to Shimerland (and Chicagoland). We hope you will join us to hear
AN ALUM: On February 21, 2013, Robert O. Keohane, Professor of International relations, Princeton University -- Shimer '61 -- will be speaking at the Standard Club in Chicago on the following topic: “Hobbes’s Dilemma and the Liberal Quest for World Order” will showcase the newest thinking on tensions of liberal progress in our increasingly complex world. For further information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in Hobbes, in international relations, on life after Shimer, this one's for you.
A FACULTY PERSON: Eileen Buchanan, of Shimer's faculty, will speak about Antigone on March 6. For time and location, should you wish to join, email our Dean.
VERY SMART STUDENTS: Watch, too, for the student ACTC conference at Shimer (3424 S. STATE STREET) beginning March 8. Don't know what ACTC is? Click here. This is a student conference. For more information, email our Dean.