The City of Light Under the Nazis: Rosbottom's New Book
With a National Book Foundation award nomination and write-ups in the Washington Post, Reuters and other news sources, readers are talking about When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation 1940-1944, the new book by Ronald C. Rosbottom, the Winifred L. Arms Professor in the Arts and Humanities and Professor of French and European Studies.
“I wanted to give a sense of what it felt like to get up every morning either as a German or a Parisian and have to worry about feeding your family or going to work or saying the wrong thing or what to do if your Jewish neighbor asked a favor of you,” Rosbottom told Reuters about the collection of first-hand accounts. The book grew out of a course that he taught at Amherst.
“The French after only four years of occupation are still, seven decades later, trying to reconcile their memories with what history reminds that they did in order to survive,” he told Examiner.com.
Infinite Jest, Brick by Brick
If you you have been too intimidated to tackle Infinite Jest, the master work by David Foster Wallace ‘85, take hope in the news that an 11-year-old in Ohio has been able to piece the book together. Out of Legos.
Tor.com writes that Kevin Griffith, a Professor of English at Capital University, and his son Sebastian were inspired by The Brick Bible, by Brendan Powell Smith. Sebastian created over 120 scenes from the 1,079-page novel, following his father's descriptions of the plot.
“Wallace's novel is probably the only contemporary text to offer a similar challenge to artists working in the medium of Lego,” the elder Griffith writes at the project’s website. You can see the whole work at www.brickjest.com, but be warned: there are spoilers.
A Ticket to Amherst: Courting Low-Income Students
Boston's NPR affiliate WBUR recently devoted a segment to Amherst's dedication to recruiting low-income students on "the belief that all students benefit from an economically diverse student body."
The piece focused on Amherst College's practice of each year paying to transport more than 100 accepted students —first-generation, low-income or students of color— in order to persuade them to enroll.
“Many of them worry about leaving home for college even when all expenses are paid because they are accustomed to being contributors to their families’ welfare back home, and if they don’t have enough financial aid to cover their expenses, and also, potentially, to travel, that puts them in a very difficult position,” Biddy Martin, Amherst’s president, told WBUR.
Stavans: Making Amends for Alhambra
The Spanish government recently decided to grant citizenship to the descendants of Jews expelled from the country in 1492. Ilan Stavans, the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst, doesn’t think anyone needs to be packing their bags just yet.
In a column for the New York Times, Stavans wrote “Spain's latter-day conversion to philo-Semitism … is more apparent than real. The truth is that the Jews left in 1492 — but the anti-Semitism stayed behind.”
“Spain finds itself still mired in the worst financial crisis in memory,” he wrote. “Inviting Jews to settle in times of economic trouble is a strategy employed before, including in the Hispanic world. At the end of the 19th century, Jewish immigrants were courted as harbingers of modernity by Argentina and Mexico. And in the 20th century, the region of Sosúa on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic was allocated for Jewish refugees from the Holocaust — in hopes that they would push the underdeveloped region forward.”
He concluded “it would be foolish to think of Spain's self-interested offer as the end of that diaspora. In fact, we are in the midst of a Sephardic cultural revival, largely in the United States and Israel.”
Geffert on Knowledge Unlatched
Amherst College Librarian Bryn Geffert recently weighed in a new open-access startup looking to connect publishers with libraries.
Amherst’s library is among some 300 which have signed up with Knowledge Unlatched, a non-profit which pools money to pay publishers title fees for scholarly books that librarians select. These become Creative Commons-licensed, DRM-free PDFs available for free download.
Geffert told the Chronicle of Higher Education that Amherst’s involvement is in line with the college’s supporting “every OA initiative we can,” in search of good models.
He has some reservations about KU’s model while supporting the basic idea.
“What I like about the KU model is also what troubles me about the KU model—namely, the decision to let libraries ‘vote' on which books to ‘unlatch,'” he said. “There's a certain appeal in choosing titles through democratic principles—it's hard to argue with democracy.” But the topics with fewer votes could suffer, he said.
“Scholarship about issues in the developing world is particularly ‘unpopular,' and yet such scholarship—whose natural audience lives in the developing world—is in particular need of being ‘unlatched,'” he said.
Tiersky: Careful, Vladimir
Ronald Tiersky, Amherst's Eastman professor of political science, recently offered Russian President Vladimir Putin some friendly advice: what goes around comes around.
Writing recently for the Huffington Post, Tiersky authored “an imaginary memo to President Putin from an Old Friend,” in which the old friend, “Pavel,” cautioned the Russian leader following the annexation of Crimea to not overplay his hand.
“Your magnificent speech of March 18 announcing Crimea's annexation hit the right notes: legitimate grievance, the greatness of Russia, personal glory,” wrote “Pavel.” “For the moment, everyone is looking at Moscow, everybody fears Russia. (It's almost like old times.)”
But “You have launched a dangerous game for Russia. If you know what you're doing then Russia is back. If you play badly, things will end badly, for you as well as Russia,” he concluded.
If you were ever wondering where an Amherst education might place you in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, USA Today College’s Sarah Smith recently wrote that Amherst College best exemplifies the altruistic Abnegation faction of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent.
The novel, which has been adapted into a film current in theaters, describes a society broken down into 5 different factions based on certain personality traits: Candor, Erudite, Amity, Abnegation, and Dauntless.
In “‘Divergent’ on campus — which faction is your school?” Smith wrote, “Abnegation members are the selfless governing body of this world. A major aspect of this faction is their altruistic behavior – always putting others above yourself. Amherst College embodies a similar decree.”
Smith cites Amherst’s approach to financial aid as a proof of this, and quotes Gail Holt, Amherst’s dean of financial aid: “Nearly two-thirds of the student body receives financial aid from Amherst, and the college’s aid packages are among the most generous in the world.”
Kimmie Weeks '05 Wins Humanitarian Prize
Dr. Kimmie Weeks '05, executive director of Youth Action International, has been awarded the 2013 World Children's Prize Honorary Award, considered the most prestigious prize for children's rights in the world. He received the award from HRH Crowne Princess Victoria of Sweden on Oct. 17 at the Gripsholms Castle in Mariefred, Sweden.
Yes, Mr. President, But...
Amherst College President Biddy Martin wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education that President Barak Obama is correct to prioritize the affordability of higher education, but urges caution in setting standards of accountability.
"Our understanding of value ought to include students’ intellectual growth and understanding; the lasting impact of what they learn and the unpredictable ways in which its benefits make themselves felt over time," she wrote. "The financial success of graduates is a crucial bottom line, but we reduce a college education to the development of job skills and future income at our collective peril."
"President Obama stresses postgraduation income for understandable reasons," she concluded, "He sees higher education as the key to a middle-class life ... Higher education has been a path to opportunity and upward mobility for countless Americans and is a significant part of the mission for which we receive public support. In return, we owe the public a concerted effort to control costs while aggressively recruiting and supporting students who might otherwise not consider or imagine graduating from our colleges—or from college at all."
Dr. Charles R. Drew Portrayed in Mural
Dr. Charles R. Drew '26 is among a group of African-American achievers with ties to Massachusetts portrayed in a permanent art exhibition unveiled at the Edward L. Cooper Community Garden and Education Center in Roxbury, Mass. Drew was an outstanding surgeon who discovered the chemical method for preserving blood, and later became the director of the first American Blood Bank. He died in 1950. A residence hall at Amherst College, the Charles Drew Memorial Culture House, is named in his honor.