Although the school year is winding down, we still have news to share with our loyal readers! The College of Liberal Arts at UT has recently released a slew of video conversations with faculty members across campus, and two of our own - Elizabeth Engelhardt and Randy Lewis – are among those professors who have shared some ideas about their work for the college.
Elizabeth describes her work with food studies (including a brief discussion of iconic Texas restaurants!), and Randy talks about The End of Austin and the challenges confronting the city. All videos are available at the LiberalArtsUT YouTube account here.
This weekend is Commencement at the University of Texas, and we’d like to again offer our hearty congratulations to all of those in the department who will be leaving with BAs, MAs, and Ph.D.s!
We’d also like to share some related news about one particular student: Carrie Andersen, who will be graduating with an MA, has been selected to speak at the University-wide Commencement Concert that immediately precedes the procession of degree candidates in the main mall. She recently completed her MA report on representations of Kennedy’s assassination in videogames, and how they reconstruct historical memory and political ideology, and she’ll continue on in the program as a Ph.D. student.
Her remarks at Commencement will center on a decidedly more whimsical topic: the recent internet celebrity known as Double Rainbow Guy.
The concert begins at 7:20pm on Saturday, May 19 in front of the Tower. If you’re not in Austin, you can watch the webcast here.
Any American Studies student or scholar has likely encountered the following question in the non-academic wild: what is American Studies? With the answer so difficult to tease out – there’s a reason we ask our faculty members that very question in our “5 Questions” series! – we were thrilled to see the emergence of this new departmental video, the fruits of faculty and undergraduate labor. The video not only explores what the field is, but how students encounter the field here at UT.
Here’s what Dr. Randy Lewis had to say about the project’s inception and focus:
When I arrived here in 2009, I mentioned the idea of a departmental video to Steve Hoelscher, who was very supportive. However, finding funding and time was difficult—no other department in the college had done something like this. Fortunately, we had some good luck about a year ago when were working with Associate Dean Mark Music on a separate project, and we mentioned our desire to create a short video promo for American Studies. We sometimes feel like one of the undiscovered gems on campus, and a video seemed like one way to get out the word and attract more majors. So with the backing of the Associate Dean, Steve asked Cary Cordova and I to spearhead the creation of the video, working with some fine videographers and editors on campus. The first challenge was finding undergraduates who could convey the breadth and depth of what we do in the AMS classroom, but we were able to find a dozen stellar students who did a great job on camera. It’s very hard to make something that is institutional in nature without it seeming too bland. I guess I’m glad that I didn’t push some of my earlier, more colorful ideas beyond the brainstorming stage. I’m thinking about the dark comic vision I had of the AMS faculty in full-on Insane Clown Posse garb, sitting around talking about Melville in Juggalo lingo. I think that would have had a much more limited demographic appeal, mostly with bookish Ninjalos, of which there may not be many, but it would have been really funny.
Check the video out here to learn about the field, the American Studies community here at UT, and the usefulness of our interdisciplinary mode of inquiry beyond the classroom – all from the mouths of undergraduates in the program.
Maybe next year we’ll see the Juggalo sequel – stay tuned, y’all.
Back in 2004, inspired by my friend Emily Wismer, I traded my car for a bicycle, and eight years, six cities, and thousands of miles later, I think it’s safe to say that I think riding a bike is pretty sweet. I’m rarely stuck in a traffic jam, I get front-row parking pretty much wherever I go, and hey, I get me some exercise and a little daily sunshine, too, especially here in Austin. In these enlightened times, it’s generally pretty awesome to be a lady cyclist, too, especially with more and more shops hiring female mechanics (thank you, Ozone and The Peddler!), more companies making women-specific gear, and folks like Mia Birk, Georgena Terry, and Shelley Jackson leading the charge in making cycling more accessible to everyone, including women.
Annie Londonderry, the first woman to bike around the world
But gender and bicycles can easily become complicated, too, and not just in a turn-of-the-century dress reform kind of way. Back in the 1980s and 90s, technophiles like Donna Haraway argued that technology was going to be the great equalizer, as though somehow the right combination of wheels and gears and metal tubing could erase centuries of gender inequality. As far as bikes go, that hasn’t happened – not yet, anyway. But, with more and more lady cyclists moving into what has so far been a male-dominated technological domain, the bicycle is beginning to raise some questions about gender, female sexuality, and what it means to be a lady on two wheels. Below, five very interesting answers to these questions.
Somehow, it’s already December, and you know what that means: a million year-end lists of the best (and worst) 2011 had to offer. So we’re throwing our collective hat in the ring with this list of the best movies from 2011 that are of particular interest to American Studies scholars of all stripes. We can’t vouch for the quality of all these, of course, but they at least provide some fodder for folks to potentially research and write about.
Quick note: there are a ton of worthwhile documentary films that were released this year that are worth a look, but this list only highlights fictional films. Have fun!
Ryan Gosling stars in this intense homage to a very gritty Los Angeles. He plays a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver, but a botched heist leaves him with a contract on his head. Though the film’s storyline is predominantly a tale of the unnamed driver dealing with a variety of folks who try to kill him, Drive also offers a fascinating and dark portrayal of the city. Visually and musically, it’s 1980s-style noir at its best (but caveat emptor: the violence is sporadic but incredibly graphic).
Here at AMS :: ATX, we’re – perhaps not surprisingly – huge fans of academic projects that engage with the digital realm in meaningful ways. We’re particularly excited by projects like the Archive of Childhood, which we featured last week, and other digitalarchiveslikethese (among myriad others, naturally). Public access, multimedia, and interactivity all open up possibilities for innovation in research.
But what about digital academic work of a different sort – those that blend the creative and the scholarly on a digital platform?
Our faculty members are certainly making the rounds on TV this month! Today, Dr. Elizabeth Engelhardt was interviewed on Fox’s Good Day Austin about her new book, A Mess of Greens, and food traditions around Thanksgiving.
This past weekend, Dr. Julia Mickenberg appeared on C-SPAN’s Book TV about her book, Tales for Little Rebels: Children’s Literature, the Cold War, and Radical Politics in the United States, co-edited with Dr. Philip Nel.
Good news: the video is now online! Bad news: the site doesn’t permit embedded videos. But you can check the interview out here, and the book here.
Since September 17, a large group of protesters has been convening in New York City’s Zuccotti Park in the Wall Street district to express their dissatisfaction with America’s financial system, corporate greed, and economic inequality. Similar protests have sprung up in hundreds of cities worldwide (Austin included, naturally). Because these protests have been so widespread, we’re likely seeing the birth of a lasting social movement, one that will potentially have substantial political consequences. This is an important moment.
As any graduate student will tell you, free time to enjoy any kind of leisure activity is at a premium. Amidst catching up with work or preparing for upcoming work, though, it’s important to find a moment to decompress and do an activity that exercises a totally different part of one’s brain.
But sometimes those activities manifest as completely odd diversions that still have some relevance to our work in American Studies. Here, we present a video (and sort of an art project) by Carrie Andersen, whose love for working with her hands has manifested in a strange, infrequent hobby: carving intensely detailed pumpkins. Take a look at this time lapse video to see an icon of American photography and life take form in a somewhat unexpected way…