Commentaries - March 2011

Teaching Ashbery

A Video

Engilsh 88, November 2008, Arts Cafe of the Kelly Writers House, Philadelphia

Recently my students and I finished up a "chapter" of English 88 on the New York School. The final class in this part of the course was devoted to some collaborative close readings of several poems by John Ashbery: "The Grapevine", "What Is Poetry", and "Hard Times". (Well, the discussion of "Hard Times," due to lack of time at that point, is really just me reading the poem and making a few comments.) A number of people watched the video live on their computers at home and work, and several of them telephoned in to ask questions or make comments. Here's your link to the video recording of the class.

The Seminar

A Short History

As it appears in Selected Essays about a Bibliography: Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. The Joy of Cooking, my short essay "Seminar": [PDF]

On Williams's Paterson

Joe Milutis

from left to right: Joe Milutis, Al Filreis, Randall Couch, Jessica Lowenthal, on a day a few summers back when Joe interviewed us about Williams

Joe Milutis at New Jersey as an Impossible Object has in my opinion mastered the form of the blog as an ongoing investigation or project. I've written about it here before. A few years ago Joe came to Philly wanting to talk about William Carlos Williams and he recorded a conversation with me, Randall Couch and Jessica Lowenthal. He edited it and made it available in segments as mp3 audio files. You can find links to the audio and Joe's nice entry on his visit here but I'm happy to reproduce the links below:

1. on teaching Paterson

2. Paterson, keep your pecker up

3. Ginsberg and Nardi

4. Sam Patch and general privation

5. the discovery of the triadic line

6. approaches to the knowledge

7. Paterson and the world

Open Access in Action

Screenshot of Selected Works Page for Filreis

As a strong proponent of open access, I'm an avid user of both Selected Works and Scholarly Commons. My Selected Works site is http://works.bepress.com/afilreis/. I've just begun to add old articles and book chapters to the site, but I can say that it's not at all hard: find the offprint or make a photocopy, scan, upload, add the bibliographic information with an easy interface, click. Now anyone can read these heretofore hard-to-find essays, reviews, etc. As I do this work I ponder whether anyone will care, but then I receive monthly stats on how many people have downloaded each article. I'm amazed and gratified by how many. I suspect many if not most are outside the academy, far-flung geographically, or are high-school students without access to a good library.

Anne Frank's Fetching Tartan Plaid Fashion Cover

The Holocaust in Westport

The Westport CT Country Playhouse is putting on a production of The Diary of Anne Frank along with a series of events intended to remind theater-goers and neighbors of the details of that genocide. One of the events features Lawrence Langer, whom I admire very much. Here's a blurb from an emailed newsletter:

Concurrent with the production of The Diary of Anne Frank, Westport Country Playhouse presents an unprecedented series of lectures, film-screenings, talkbacks, art exhibits and panel discussions designed to provide a wider context in which to access the life of Anne Frank, the Holocaust, genocide and issues of social justice. Join an important conversation with influential scholars, artists, advocates for human rights, educators, documentarians and eyewitnesses as they shed light on a broad spectrum of fascinating subjects. These programs, the fruit of partnerships with sixteen community organizations, offer something for every interest, and will enhance your understanding and appreciation of one of the most urgent stories of the twentieth century. But then there's this among the associated events: Making Diaries: A Family Workshop Based on The Diary of Anne Frank Friday, October 8 Westport Arts Center Join Molly Ephraim, the actress who plays Anne Frank, as she recites Anne's powerful words, and then create your own story in a mixed-media diary using a range of innovative art materials.

I'm sure I deserve some flack for being impatient with this, but...come on. Maybe it's the pink tartan snap-closed diary that's setting me off. But really. If there are ways to engage children aged 6 through 12 on the topic of the Holocaust (and I have my doubts, as I've said here in this blog in various ways), making your own "mixed-media diary using a range of innovative materials" is certainly not it. I rather think it's appropriate even for a family-oriented theatrical center to say: In this one instance, we suggest that you leave the children at home. A friend, in pointing out this session, acidly observed: "They get points for trying to shake up the Westport cocktail ice cubes with some Holocaust Awareness this Fall, but check out session with the Anne actress who will help you do your own diary--presumably with the fetching pink tartan plaid fashion cover! Had Anne just had a nice diary cover like this no doubt it would have eased her suffering."