robertogreco + ucberkeley   14

The Subtle Radicalism of Julio Cortázar's Berkeley Lectures, Collected in 'Literature Class' - The Atlantic
[See also:
"Julio Cortázar's Berkeley Lectures Demonstrate the Writer as Dream Professor" (Tobias Carroll, 2017)
https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/articles/julio-cortazars-berkeley-lectures-demonstrate-the-writer-as-dream-professor/

"Cortázar at Berkeley" (Jessica Sequeira, 2014)
https://soundsandcolours.com/articles/argentina/cortazar-at-berkeley-22708/ ]

"“What good is a writer if he can’t destroy literature?” The question comes from Julio Cortázar’s landmark 1963 novel Hopscotch, the dense, elusive, streetwise masterpiece that doubles as a High Modernist choose-your-own-adventure game. Famously, it includes an introductory “table of instructions”: “This book consists of many books,” Cortázar writes in it, “but two books above all.” The first version is read traditionally, from chapter one straight through; the second version begins at chapter seventy-three, and snakes through a non-linear sequence. Both reading modes follow the world-weary antihero Horacio Oliveira, Cortázar’s proxy protagonist, who is disenchanted with the tepid certainties of bourgeois life, and whose metaphysical explorations form the scaffolding of a billowing, richly comic existential caper. Of his magnum opus, Cortázar said, laconically, “I’ve remained on the side of the questions.” But it was the novel’s formal daring—its branching paths—that hinted at what was to be the Argentine author’s most persistent and most personal inquiry: Why should there be only one reality?

That suspicion of grand narratives—both in literature and in life—informs much of Literature Class, a newly published collection of eight lectures the writer delivered at the University of California, Berkeley in 1980. The consequent lectures—originally delivered in Spanish and translated adeptly by Katherine Silver—are erudite, intimate, charmingly fragmented, and anecdotal, covering a range of topics, from “Eroticism and Literature” to “The Realistic Short Story.” The unifying through line is Cortázar’s abiding insistence on the elasticity of literary art, the better to capture what he saw as a fleeting, contentious, and ever-fluid reality. At one point, Cortázar tells his students, “I had lived with a complete feeling of familiarity with the fantastic because it seemed as acceptable to me, as possible and as real, as the fact of eating soup at eight o’clock in the evening.” The fantastic, then, was a means of leavening the flatness of the widely accepted, or the merely prosaic. The sentiment becomes something of a refrain. For Cortázar, like his creation Horacio, the joyless—and, in cases, politically expedient—narrowing of lived possibility was forever conspiring with a larger falseness, one he called “the prefabricated, pre-established world.”

While Cortázar doesn’t explicitly explain what he meant by this, his work suggests a deep distrust of the very everydayness of life, a suspicion that it constitutes a paralysis masquerading as a soothing routine. “It occurred to me like a sort of mental belch,” Horacio says in one of Hopscotch’s lengthy internal monologues, “that this whole A B C of my life was a painful bit of stupidity, because it was based solely on…the choice of what could be called nonconduct rather than conduct.” Elsewhere, in the short story The Instruction Manual, Cortázar writes with similar misgiving, “How it hurts to refuse a spoon, to say no to a door, to deny everything that habit has licked to a suitable smoothness.” The lectures take up arms against that smoothness with a disarming candor: “Why do people accept that things are the way they are when they could be some other way?” he asks his students in a lecture called “The Ludic in Literature.” It seems a simple, even banal, question, yet it animated his work to an extraordinary degree.

By the time of his Berkeley sojourn, Cortázar was no stranger to undermining these kinds of assumptions. Indeed, for the offshoot of literary modernism referred to as the Latin American Boom—in which Cortázar played a definitive role in its 1960s heyday—a radical reevaluation of reality came with the territory. The Boom, which included the fertile works of Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, and José Lezama Lima, among others, helped to shatter the barriers between the mundane and the fantastic. Cortázar himself brought a kind of cosmopolitan cubism to the novel in which time, place, language, even the literal text itself, became sites of contention, participation, and play. The read-as-you-like instructions of Hopscotch, then (“The reader may ignore what follows with a clean conscience”) should not be taken as mere gamesmanship or avant-garde posturing; rather, they actively pushed up against a literary realism that no longer suited the fragmented textures of contemporary Latin American life.

Widespread political turbulence was an inescapable feature of that experience, even as a concomitant concern with what it meant to be a politically engaged Latin American artist took shape beside it. A new wave of fiercely complex, narratively adventurous novels like Augusto Roa Bastos’s I, the Supreme, a barely concealed censure of the Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner, and Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Time of the Hero, copies of which the Peruvian military burned, showcased the potency of literature as a means of speaking to dictatorial power. “I think it is now clear that the inevitable dialect that always exists between reality and literature has evolved deeply in many of our countries through the force of circumstance,” Cortázar tells his students in “A Writer’s Paths,” the most nakedly autobiographical of the Berkeley lectures. Literature Class is punctuated by such candid remarks, and suggests that the sparkle and audacity of Cortázar’s work, to say nothing of the Boom as a whole, are in many ways inextricable from that tumultuous mid-century political moment. Cortázar’s mid-career epiphany that literature should be “born out of the process of the populace, the peoples that the author belongs to” arguably came out of this experience; it represented a radical awakening to a frankly political, though never crudely didactic, art. “I had to switch my emphasis to the condition of being Latin American,” Cortázar says in the same lecture, “and take on everything that came with that responsibility and that duty.”

No small part of that duty was Cortázar’s project of reality-testing. Just as in his novels and short stories, that word—“reality”—appears dozens of times throughout Literature Class. Over the course of the lectures, the word accretes a kind of moral gravity until one begins to understand it as Cortázar himself appeared to: a battlefield over which opposing forces grappled for control. This was no mere abstraction. During the brutal regimes of Perón, Batista, Somoza, and others, officially sanctioned reality lost any claim to the real; rather, it served as a kind of malignant fiction in which the State was the unquestioned narrator. (The Trump administration’s insistence on “alternative facts” is only the latest iteration of this tactic.) Cortázar’s experience of this encroachment would be sporadic—he had lived in Paris since 1951—but profound. The so-called “Dirty War” saw thousands of his countrymen killed or “disappeared” in the 1970s as anti-communist death squads ruthlessly eliminated supposed dissidents. “It is in this realm,” Cortázar says to his students in the lecture “Latin American Literature Today,” “so stained with blood, torture, prisons, and depraved demagoguery, where our literature is fighting its battles.”

Cortázar’s quest for reality, then, became indistinguishable from his critique of it. In a 1976 edition of the international literary quarterly Books Abroad, he wrote, “Nothing seems more revolutionary to me than enriching the notion of reality by all means possible.” No matter what form that enrichment took in his fiction (the branching paths of Hopscotch, the visionary naïveté of Cronopios and Famas, the genre instability of Blow-Up: And Other Stories), its objective, as he suggests in “The Realistic Short Story,” was to produce “reality as it is, without betraying it, without deforming it, allowing the reader to see beneath the causes, into the deeper workings, the reasons that lead men to be as they are or as they are not.” Always something of a moving target in his work, reality, finally, wasn’t meant to be found, much less achieved. It was an endless pursuit, morally malleable, generous, radically free. “When you reach the limits of expression,” he says in another lecture, “just beyond begins a territory where everything is possible and everything is uncertain.” In Cortázar’s terms, we’ve reached Eden: the ultimate state of grace.

The classroom, of course, was another story entirely. Cortázar might have seen it as a place where official narratives, that “pre-established world,” could be nurtured and legitimized for students—an irony he was doubtless abundantly aware of as he lectured. Indeed, almost immediately one can feel him chafing beneath the authority conferred by the lectern. “I want you to know that I’m cobbling together these classes very shortly before you get here,” he says on his first day. “I’m not systematic, I’m not a critic or a theorist.” Later, in the lecture “Writing Hopscotch,” he reveals the ultimate source of his apprehension: “How can [the writer] denounce something with the tools that are used by the enemy, that is … a language already used by the masters and their disciples?” Whatever the ostensible topic of a given lecture, these evasions continue to surface like an anxious tic. Taken together, they comprise the enormously enjoyable subtext of Literature Class: the ambivalence of a great writer who seeks to interrogate the efficacy of a weapon he has no choice but to use.

… [more]
juliocortázar  radicalism  authority  2017  ucberkeley  reality  1960s  literacy  theboom  elboom  life  meaning  everyday  literature  1963  rayuela  linearity  nonlinear  1980  katherinesilver  elasticity  magicrealism  fantasy  gabrielgarcíamárquez  carlosfuentes  josélezamalima  cubism  language  latinamerica  mariovargasllosa  alfredostoessner  augustoroabastos  argentina  alternativefacts  grace  non-linear  alinear 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Los Angeles' Moral Failing | California Planning & Development Report
"Whereas a Berkeley resident can cross from exuberance of Telegraph Avenue into the heart of the Cal campus in a few steps, UCLA is an auto-oriented campus surrounded by a moat of driveways, green space, and city streets. Its neighbors are some of the wealthiest and orneriest an institution could ever have the misfortune to live next to. The university, for all its academic heft, retreats from the city, and the city from it.

UCLA was an ironically illustrative venue for a talk by Michael Storper, lead author of "The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies," that I attended recently. Contrary to its expansive title, Storper’s study concerns only Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given that both are booming Pacific Rim metropolises, it may be hard to figure out which is the “rise” and which is the “fall.”

Until you consider this: In 1970, the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles areas ranked, respectively, numbers three and one in per capita income in the United States. In 2009, after both areas grew by more than 50 percent in population, they were, respectively, numbers 1 and 25.

You don’t have to have a Ph.D. to wonder: What happened?

Some of the reasons for the divergence of Los Angeles and San Francisco, which he defines by their multi-county metro regions, are obvious. L.A.’s aerospace industry crumbled along with the Berlin Wall. Steve Jobs happened to grow up in Cupertino. Et cetera. Hollywood is Los Angeles’ superstar, except that it represents only 2.6 percent of the area’s economy, compared with tech’s 11 percent in the Bay Area

Those factors are just the start. For virtually any given job function, and controlling for all sorts of variables, Storper, who teaches at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, finds that a worker in the Bay Area makes more money and does more complex work than her counterpart in Los Angeles does. In other words, they’re not just making more in the Bay Area. They’re making better. This patterns holds for educated and uneducated, immigrants and non-immigrants, and it trickles down even to unskilled workers.

These are the statistics that back up San Francisco’s smugness. Riveting as they are, they describe the only effect but not the cause.

The Intangibles

L.A.’s and the Bay Area’s divergence depends largely on what Storper referred to as the “dark matter” of public policy. Lurking behind every data point and every policy are forces like curiosity, relationships, open-ness, diversity, civic self-image, and values. These factors are often disregarded by short-sighted wonks and bureaucrats not because they’re not crucial but because they aren’t easily quantified.

Storper argues that people in Los Angeles are lousy collaborators. Scholars in L.A. cite each other less often. Patents made in L.A. refer less frequently to other L.A.-based innovations. Los Angeles’ great universities – UCLA, USC, and Caltech – are not nearly as entrepreneurial as Stanford, Berkeley, and UCSF. He cites L.A.’s Amgen as a successful, once-innovative biotech company but says that it’s nothing compared to the Bay Area’s biotech cluster. And it's in Thousand Oaks -- nowhere near a major university.

Storper’s analysis indicates that networks of civic leaders in Los Angeles are often mutually ignorant of each other. The Bay Area Council, the region’s preeminent civic organization, is three times more “connected” than its closest equivalent in Southern California, the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce. I know what Storper means. I’ve been to events at the Chamber, presided over by civic leaders of a certain generation.

Storper said the phrase “new economy” appears in none of L.A.’s economic development literature in the 1980s. At the same time, San Franciscans were shouting it from the rooftops.

Poverty & Pavement

These attitudes are fatal in an era when ideas, and not Fordist production, are the order of the day.

Echoing Enrico Moretti’s theories about innovation economies, high-wage jobs generate a multiplier that tends to take care of the workers at the bottom. "If you play to weakness (i.e. poverty) you get a weak economy,” Storper said. Interestingly, he said that there’s essentially zero good data on the efficacy of any public-sector economic development programs of the last 45 years. He chided Los Angeles’ leadership for its obsession with the low-paying logistics industry. A rising tide lifts all boats. Unless the boat is a container ship.

If an individual, firm, or government doesn’t have the knowledge or the capital to realize their dreams, so be it. But if they fail because they’re not open to the wisdom, energy, diversity, ambition, and creativity of other human beings, well, that’s something else.

Los Angeles’ economic failing is not just a business failing or a policy failing. It is a moral failing.

What else do you call it when 25.7 percent of residents in the biggest county in the richest state in the richest country in the world live in poverty?

Storper didn’t say so explicitly, but L.A.’s economics sins arise, in part, from our built environment. The two regions have plenty in common, especially in their outlying counties. But insofar as the center cities set the tone for their regions, the differences are striking. We have dingbats, setbacks, curb cuts, mini-malls, chain stores, McMansions, Pershing Square, streets like freeways, freeways like parking lots, and other elements of our landscape that push Angelenos away from each other.

How can you collaborate with someone when they’re in your way, making your drive longer, pouring pollution into your face? How can you feel as optimistic atop an asphalt sheet as you can strolling down a sidewalk lined with Victorians? How can you make friends when you can’t walk to a watering hole? Los Angeles is like a party full of beautiful people who have nothing interesting to say to each other.

Atonement

Atoning for our economic sins must include being a better Los Angeles.

We might not be able to trade Facebook (headquartered in Menlo Park, with 10,000 employees) for Snapchat (headquartered in Venice, with 200 employees). Nor can we can we trade Google for Disney, or the Transbay Tube for the Sepulveda Pass. But we can emulate some of the Bay Area’s urban sensibilities. We can use transit more often. We can build more mixed-use projects. We can embrace public space. We can build to the property line. We can plant trees. We can take advantage of our space rather than squander it. As our city changes, so can its culture.

The great news is that improvement is afoot, with downtown development, new transit, new types of development, and an optimistic corps of young planners. By the time Los Angeles comes into its own, today’s tech titans might be old news, just as Northrup Grumman and McDonnell Douglas are today. Something will have to replace them, and maybe they’ll reside in Los Angeles. We just need to give them a better home.

Postscript: Fortress Westwood

UCLA being what it is, many people who should have attended Storper’s talk – captains of industry, thought leaders, and everyday citizens interested in L.A.’s prosperity – are the ones who are least likely to actually have made the trip. Storper was preaching to a choir, mostly of fellow academics and urban nerds.

After the talk there was a reception. Hors d’oeuvres, wine, the usual. It provided a chance to do some of that mixing and mingling that elude us in L.A.

I would love to have stayed. Maybe I’d have developed new ideas or made new connections. But I had to go. My meter was running out."
losangeles  sanfrancisco  bayarea  ucla  ucberkeley  isolation  collaboration  urban  urbanism  2016  economics  poverty  wealth  janejacobs  cities  accessibilty  caltech  usc  policy  diversity  openness  values  relationships  westwood  california  publicspace  urbanplanning  enricomoretti  michaelstorper  joshstephens 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life
"Our Mission

The Greater Good Science Center studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society.

Based at the University of California, Berkeley, the GGSC is unique in its commitment to both science and practice: Not only do we sponsor groundbreaking scientific research into social and emotional well-being, we help people apply this research to their personal and professional lives. Since 2001, we have been at the fore of a new scientific movement to explore the roots of happy and compassionate individuals, strong social bonds, and altruistic behavior—the science of a meaningful life. And we have been without peer in our award-winning efforts to translate and disseminate this science to the public.

We have pursued this mission through the following activities, which are supported by people like you:

Greater Good, our online magazine, is home to a rich array of award-winning media, including articles, videos, quizzes, and podcasts—all available for free. With nearly five million annual readers, the research-based stories, tools, and tips on the site make cutting-edge research practical and accessible to the general public, especially parents, educators, health professionals, business leaders, and policy makers.

Greater Good in Action is a clearinghouse of the best research-based practices for fostering happiness, resilience, kindness, and connection. Synthesizing hundreds of scientific studies, it presents each practice in a step-by-step format that’s easy to navigate, digest, and act on.

The Science of Happiness, our free online course, is taught by the GGSC’s Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas, who lead students through a 10-week exploration of what it means to lead a happy and meaningful life. Students engage with some of the most provocative and practical lessons from a variety of disciplines, discovering how this science can be applied to their own lives. More than 300,000 students from around the world have enrolled in the course to date; evidence suggests that it boosts well-being and reduces stress.

The GGSC Education Program supports the well-being of students, teachers, and school leaders through a variety of activities, including Greater Good Education articles that cover new trends in social-emotional learning and contemplative practice in education. The program also runs an annual Summer Institute for Educators, which equips education professionals with social-emotional learning tools that benefit themselves and their students, and cultivate a positive school climate.

GGSC Events bring together leading scientists, educators, and members of the public to discuss concrete strategies for promoting the greater good. Our Science of a Meaningful Life seminar series has included presentations by luminaries like Paul Ekman, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Barbara Fredrickson, and Philip Zimbardo, many of which can be watched in our video archive.

The Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude project supports the scientific research and promotes evidence-based practices of gratitude in schools, workplaces, homes, and communities. This initiative is supported with funding from the John Templeton Foundation and run in collaboration with the University of California, Davis.

Fellowships to UC Berkeley undergraduate and graduate students are the flagship of the Center’s scientific initiatives. The GGSC’s fellowship program supports scholars whose work relates to our mission, from across a broad spectrum of academic disciplines. Previous GGSC fellows have gone on to top research and teaching positions at universities nationwide, providing a significant boost to the science of compassion, resilience, altruism, and happiness.

These programs are supported by donors large and small—and we hope you’ll consider signing up as a member. You can also sign up for our free newsletter to receive updates on our work.

To learn more about the GGSC, please download our brochure, which includes our “Six Habits of Happiness.”

Our Core Beliefs

• Compassion is a fundamental human trait, with deep psychological and evolutionary roots. By creating environments that foster cooperation and altruism, we help nurture the positive side of human nature.
• Happiness is not simply dependent on a person’s genes. It is a set of skills that can be taught, and, with practice, developed over time.
• Happiness and altruism are intertwined—doing good is an essential ingredient to being happy, and happiness helps spur kindness and generosity.
• Science should do more than help us understand human behavior and emotion in the abstract; it should be applied toward improving people’s personal and professional lives.
• Studying the roots of good, healthy, and positive behavior is just as important as studying human pathologies. To promote individual and social well-being, science must examine how people overcome difficult circumstances and how they develop positive emotions and relationships.
• Individual well-being promotes social well-being, and social well-being promotes individual well-being. The well-being of society as a whole can best be achieved by providing information, tools, and skills to those people directly responsible for shaping the well-being of others."
via:aimeegiles  education  happiness  psychology  research  science  neuroscience  sociology  well-being  resilience  compassion  society  ucberkeley  berkeley  ggsc  greatergoodsciencecenter  paulekman  jonkabat-zinn  barbarafredrickson  philipzimbardo  ucdavis  altruism  kindness  generosity  behavior  humans  human  life  living  cooperation 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Popular lecturer at Berkeley will lose job despite strong record of promoting student success | Inside Higher Ed
"Students at the University of California at Berkeley like Alexander Coward. A lot.

“He is not just one of the best math teachers, but one of the best teachers that Berkeley has ever had the fortune of having,” proclaims the Protest to Keep Coward at Cal Facebook page.

Coward, a full-time lecturer four years away from a more permanent "continuing status" (but very much off the tenure track), revealed recently in a public blog post on his website that the Berkeley mathematics department would not renew his contract to teach multiple sections of introductory calculus courses. Students immediately flocked to his support on social media. Some used the hashtag #IStandWithCoward, and nearly 3,000 signed up to attend the protest on Oct. 20 -- the day the university will formally review the nonrenewal decision.

Coward, who earned a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Oxford, used his blog post to detail years of combative interactions with faculty and administration in his department. He linked to pages of email chains and hundreds of student evaluations that collectively seem to paint the picture of a lecturer who is very good at his job, but not so good at doing it within the confines of departmental norms or expectations. Specifically, Coward opted to forgo standard measures of student progress such as graded homework and quizzes in favor of what he sees as a more natural approach.

"We all know hard work is important, but there's a question about how to motivate students to work hard," he said in an interview. Tangible rewards like better grades for better work are one option, Coward said, but piles of research -- some of which he references in an open letter he sent the department chair in December 2014 -- point to a more effective system: intrinsic motivation. Encouraging the "motivation that's bubbling up inside ourselves because we're curious and like to learn and like to improve is much more powerful than saying, 'I'm going to do this because it's 0.7777 of my GPA.'"

In his classes, Coward says, he works to foster a feeling of autonomy, competency and personal affinity rather than rely on humdrum grades to spark motivation in students. In his class sessions, he asks repeatedly if everyone understands concepts. He repeats explanations several times, which he says is important for teaching math. And students say he always has time for them.

Actual course grades are based on final exams, which he does give, so his students do receive formal, traditional assessment at the end of the course.

That strategy spurred sweeping approval in the student evaluations he posted, many of which point to his enthusiasm, accessibility and outgoing demeanor in class. "He genuinely cares about his students," one student wrote. "And his love for learning and teaching really shines through his work."

Coward noted, and documentation he posted including an internal “Report on A. Coward” appears to confirm, that his students performed at or above average in subsequent mathematics courses -- a key piece of evidence that his teaching works. But even though students love him and go on to succeed in other courses, the department still found his approach to be problematic.

Arthur Argus, former chair of the math department, wrote a 2013 email, Coward says, “I do think it [sic] that it is very important that you not deviate too far from the department norms.” The sentiment came up again in emails and memos in the following years.

“This raises the question,” Coward writes in his blog, “What does it mean to adhere to department norms if one has the highest student evaluation scores in the department, students performing statistically significantly better in subsequent courses and faculty observations universally reporting ‘extraordinary skills at lecturing, presentation and engaging students’?”

“In a nutshell: stop making us look bad. If you don't, we'll fire you,” says Coward.

“We cannot address individual personnel matters, as they are confidential,” university spokeswoman Janet Gilmore said in a statement emailed to Inside Higher Ed. “However, many lecturers have appointments that may be for a single term or up to two years. They often fill in for regular faculty who are on leave, provide additional teaching to cover surges in enrollment and teach large undergraduate classes. Lecturers do not receive a commitment to ongoing employment until after they have taught for six years and have undergone a rigorous academic review of their teaching.”

Emails Coward received and subsequently posted include similar statements, but taken with the evaluations and other data Coward put online, they portray a man beloved by students.

A letter from a teaching evaluation coordinator about Coward’s student evaluations says, “Both of Dr. Coward's Math 1A scores were markedly higher than those of any of the regular faculty who taught Math 1A during the six-year period ending in spring 2013.” He averaged 6.4 and 6.5 on a seven-point scale, and both sections attracted nearly four times as many students as another section of the same course taught by another faculty member. In fact, the letter goes on to say, “Dr. Coward's scores are higher than any of the scores earned by regular faculty for at least the last 18 years."

More than 500 actual student evaluations follow the letter. Most of them are entirely positive.

“Professor Coward is by far the best professor I have ever had at Cal so far,” writes one student. “He has an extremely positive attitude when it comes to math, which makes the course really enjoyable.” Asked about his or her instructor’s weaknesses, that student wrote, “no weaknesses; his teaching is perfection.”

Some students do mention the same critiques the department raised, though -- that they wished he assigned more homework or kept a clearer schedule and record of progress.

Coward also alleges that administrators suppressed his glowing reviews and watered down statistical evidence that his students go on to perform better in other classes. In an open letter he sent to the department, Coward also revealed he had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital for suicidal depression, saying, "The entire faculty in the mathematics department should introspect on this fact. Bullying is something that affects adults as well as children, and where it occurs it should be addressed very seriously."

He added, “I absolutely love teaching the students at Berkeley, but I cannot in good conscience follow the instructions you have given me. I am unwilling to go to work and feel ashamed of what I am doing any more.”"
2015  teaching  learning  howweteach  alexandercoward  autonomy  assessment  rules  norms  ucberkeley  bullying  academia  highered  highereducation  pedagogy  homework  testing  motivation  math  mathematics  competency 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Sun Ra's Full Lecture & Reading List From His 1971 UC Berkeley Course, "The Black Man in the Cosmos" | Open Culture
"A pioneer of “Afrofuturism,” bandleader Sun Ra emerged from a traditional swing scene in Alabama, touring the country in his teens as a member of his high school biology teacher’s big band. While attending Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, he had a out-of-body experience during which he was transported into outer space. As biographer John Szwed records him saying, “my whole body changed into something else. I landed on a planet that I identified as Saturn.” While there, aliens with “little antenna on each ear. A little antenna on each eye” instructed him to drop out of college and speak through his music. And that’s just what he did, changing his name from Herman Blount and never looking back.

Whether you believe that story, whether Sun Ra believes it, or whether his entire persona is a theatrical put-on should make no difference. Because Sun Ra would be a visionary either way. Combining Afrocentric science fiction, esoteric and occult philosophy, Egyptology, and, with his “Arkestra,” his own brand of free jazz-futurism that has no equal on earth, the man is truly sui generis. In 1971, he served as artist-in-residence at UC Berkeley and offered a spring semester lecture, African-American Studies 198, also known as “Sun Ra 171,” “The Black Man in the Universe,” or “The Black man in the Cosmos.” The course featured readings from—to name just a few—theosophist Madame Blavatsky, French philosopher Constantin Francois de Chasseboeuf, black American writer and poet Henry Dumas, and “God,” whom the cosmic jazz theorist reportedly listed as the author of The Source Book of Man’s Life and Death (otherwise known as the King James Bible).

Now we have the rare opportunity to hear a full lecture from that class at the top of the post. Listen to Sun Ra spin his intricate, bizarrely otherworldly theories, drawn from his personal philosophy, peculiar etymologies, and idiosyncratic readings of religious texts. Hearing him speak is a little like hearing him play, so be prepared for a lot of free association and jarring, unexpected juxtapositions. Szwed describes a “typical lecture” below:
Sun Ra wrote biblical quotes on the board and then ‘permutated’ them—rewrote and transformed their letters and syntax into new equations of meaning, while members of the Arkestra passed through the room, preventing anyone from taping the class. His lecture subjects included Neoplatonic doctrines; the application of ancient history and religious texts to racial problems; pollution and war; and a radical reinterpretation of the Bible in light of Egyptology.

Luckily for us, some sly student captured one of those lectures on tape. For more of Professor Ra’s spaced out presentation, see the Helsinki interview above, also from 1971. And if you decide you need your own education in “Sun Ra 171,” see the full reading list from his Berkeley course below, courtesy of the blog New Day."
sunra  art  culture  1971  ucberkeley 
october 2014 by robertogreco
The Persistence of the Old Regime
"This afternoon I ended up reading this Vox story about an effort to rank US Universities and Colleges carried out in 1911 by a man named Kendric Charles Babcock. On Twitter, Robert Kelchen remarks that the report was “squashed by Taft” (an unpleasant fate), and he links to the report itself, which is terrific. "



"University reputations are extremely sticky, the conventional wisdom goes. I was interested to see whether Babcock’s report bore that out. I grabbed the US News and World Report National University Rankings and National Liberal Arts College Rankings and made a quick pass through them, coding their 1911 Babcock Class. The question is whether Mr Babcock, should he return to us from the grave, would be satisfied with how his rankings had held up—more than a century of massive educational expansion and alleged disruption notwithstanding.

It turns out that he would be quite pleased with himself."



"As you can see, for private universities, especially, the 1911 Babcock Classification tracks prestige in 2014 very well indeed. The top fifteen or so USNWR Universities that were around in 1911 were regarded as Class 1 by Babcock. Class 2 Privates and a few Class 1 stragglers make up the next chunk of the list. The only serious outliers are the Stevens Institute of Technology and the Catholic University of America.

The situation for public universities is also interesting. The Babcock Class 1 Public Schools have not done as well as their private peers. Berkeley (or “The University of California” as was) is the highest-ranked Class I public in 2014, with UVa and Michigan close behind. Babcock sniffily rated UNC a Class II school. I have no comment about that, other than to say he was obviously right. Other great state flagships like Madison, Urbana, Washington, Ohio State, Austin, Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana, Kansas, and Iowa are much lower-ranked today than their Class I designation by Babcock in 1911 would have led you to believe. Conversely, one or two Class 4 publics—notably Georgia Tech—are much higher ranked today than Babcock would have guessed. So rankings are sticky, but only as long as you’re not public.

I also did the same figure for Liberal Arts Colleges, almost all of which are private, so this time there’s just the one panel:"



"The UC System is an astonishing achievement, when you look at it, as it propelled five of its campuses into the upper third of the table to join Berkeley."
rankings  colleges  universities  2014  1911  uc  universityofcalifornia  ucsb  ucla  ucsd  uci  ucd  ucr  ucberkeley  riceuniversity  duke  highereducation  highered  kieranhealey  kendriccharlesbabcock  via:audrewatters  usnewsandworldreport 
august 2014 by robertogreco
BOMB Magazine — Etel Adnan by Lisa Robertson
"EA: … Galleries wait for artists to be recognized and then they all solicit the same ones. That happened to me, but I had to say no, because I can’t produce. I can paint, but I can’t produce. I always have done that, even when I was younger. Visual art is big industry; lots of money moves around, which is okay, it’s vital. But it’s also a bit of a heartbreak—I wish this had happened, let’s say, twenty years ago. It’s a nice feeling to have your work appreciated, but it’s almost a fashion for women to be recognized late in life. Agnes Martin, for example. It’s a trend, but we hope it will change."



"LR I’ve been rereading your books in the past two weeks, three or four of them. I read this beautiful line in Seasons this morning: “Women are keepers of their own story therefore they are historians.” I put that in relation to images in your work. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about images—about how the image works in Baudelaire, for example. It’s not only a visual or optical event, it’s happening across all the senses. It’s a poly-sensual perceiving.

EA Yes!


LR So I have two questions. One is about the relationship between the image in poetry and the image in painting, and the other one, which might not be related to the first, is about women’s images. In an interview with Steve McQueen in The Guardian about his film Twelve Years a Slave, he said, “Some images have never been seen before. I needed to see them.” It resonated for me in relationship to your work. You are making images that have not been seen. Some of that might have to do with the fact that you are making women’s images. Do you feel that?

EA Until now at least, a woman’s life, her psyche . . . we don’t like the word essence anymore. As women, of course, we are different from each other as people, but we are also different from men. Or we have been up until now. So we have our own images. We’ve had little girls’ lives, so we carry that. When I grew up in Beirut, there weren’t many sports for boys or girls, but certainly girls were aware of being little girls, of being in. This idea of the outside and the inside works very strongly in women’s lives. In fact, women are rooted somewhere, they are stronger physically. Women are containers—the baby is in their belly; making love is receiving. This container contains hearts and stomachs. Images are, in one way, what we receive, but they are also the tools with which we think. To make images, you think with them, somehow. You mentioned Baudelaire. For Baudelaire, images work not like shapes, but like ideas made visible. He was particularly interested in the encounter between what we call the inner world and the outer world. And poetry deals magnificently with that. It is one of the major definitions of poetry. It addresses that relationship between what we call the subject and the object, which melt in what we call consciousness. Sometimes we transcribe this state of mind into words and call it a poem or a text. The same is true for the other arts. Writing is a very mysterious activity. When you write, you say things that would not have occurred to your mind otherwise. I don’t know if the fact that we don’t use paper and ink anymore affects writing. On a computer it’s a new situation.

LR Do you write on a computer?

EA My poetry is not long. I write in little paragraphs and they pile up, so I do it by hand. But I am more and more obligated to answer letters or emails, so then I use a computer. But to go back to what an image is—

LR That’s my real question. (laughter)


Afternoon Poem, 1968, ink and watercolor on paper, 8 1/2 × 96 inches.
EA For example, I look at this table in front of me. Somebody over there, however, may look at it and not see it. Seeing is an activity; it is not passive.

LR The last sentence I read before I got off the metro on my way here was, “Behind an image there’s the image.”

EA There are layers of images—that’s what I meant, very simply. There is thickness. Vision is multidimensional and simultaneous. You can think, see, see beyond: you can do all these things at the same time. Your psyche, your brain catches up. Some people today say that an image is not necessarily a clear figuration of something; it could be like a blurred abstract drawing, like a sliding door.

LR An event in perceiving.

EA Yes, an event. It is a speed that you catch. Images are not still. They are moving things. They come, they go, they disappear, they approach, they recede, and they are not even visual—ultimately they are pure feeling. They’re like something that calls you through a fog or a cloud.

LR So they are immaterial, in a way.

EA That’s it! They are immaterial in essence. But they could be strongly defined, or they could be fleeting, almost like a ghost of things or of feelings going by. So the word image is very elastic. It’s a very rich concept. Although we are bombarded with images, our culture is anti-image. We think we don’t like it; it’s not fashionable. That is why Surrealism exists: it intends to amplify the image, to force us to see it. Andy Warhol understood that we are surrounded by so many things, and people, that we do not see them. We are rather blinded by them. So he forced our attention on soup cans and Marilyn Monroe.

On an other level, there are also different clarities. Some things are not meant to be clear; obscurity is their clarity. We should not underestimate obscurity. Obscurity is as rich as luminosity."



"EA I went to Catholic schools all my life. There were no other schools in Lebanon. We had religion around all the time. I’m lucky—I never believed in catechism or any of that. I was always a dissident without effort, at a distance from all the things the nuns were saying. I never liked saints. What touched me was their speaking of revelation, even the word itself. That always made sense to me. We owe life to the existence of the sun; therefore light is a very profound part of our makeup. It’s spiritual, in the way that even DNA is spiritual. What we call “spirit” is energy. It’s the definition of life, in one sense. Light, as an object, as a phenomenon, is magnificent. I am talking to you and the light coming in through the window has already changed. You go on the street and you look at the sky and it tells you what time it is. We are dealing with it constantly, and obscurity is also maybe its own light, because it shows you things. Obscurity is not lack of light. It is a different manifestation of light. It has its own illumination."



"LR One of the things I really appreciate in your poems is this very quick and subtle shift of register in the language. So many different idiolects enter into the stanzas or paragraphs that you write, which I actually think of as images in the way we were discussing.

EA What do you mean by “idiolects”?

LR Well, extreme colloquialisms right up against much more subtle, highly literary language.

EA Oh, I don’t realize that I’m doing that. That’s not a decision. I write as things come to my mind, maybe because I love philosophy, but I don’t love theory. There is a big difference. Not that I don’t respect theory, but I am incapable of writing it or even reading it."



"LR That is a beautiful book.

EA Howe manages to show how you should read a writer. The writer is unique, but is also part of a context. You can only approximate what a writer might have said. Philosophy is freer now, and for that reason Heidegger could say that the great philosophers were the poets. That a real, trained philosopher like Heidegger would come to that is very important to poets. Poets were afraid to think and philosophers were afraid to let go, to let loose and speak of themselves as part of their thinking. This boundary has been broken down. I love contemporary poetry because it moves between what we call poetry and what we call philosophy. It joins these fields and makes writing more natural, as in how it is lived in the person. We don’t separate thinking from feeling in real life, so why should we separate it in writing? The life of the mind is one and the boundaries and the categories are useful tools. We made them realities, but they are not realities—they are only tools, categories.

This existed before. In Hölderlin, for example, there is a lot of Romantic German thinking. I’d say Ezra Pound is more of a philosopher than we realize. There is a great presence of thinking in his poetry. Of course there is thinking when you write, but I mean thinking as such—

LR Approaching a problem.

EA That’s it! I find it in Pound. And there is political thinking in Charles Olson, whom I like very much. There is what they call proprioception, which comes very close to thinking—in Robert Creeley, for instance."



"LR The love of the world?

EA Yes. I don’t call it “nature”; I call it “the world.”

LR Well, what is the difference between them?

EA It’s historical. By nature we always mean landscapes. Language! The world is really the word; it’s the fact that it is.

LR Its isness.

EA It is and I love that. It distracted me from other forms of love. At the end of my life, I realize that the love of a person is a key to the world. Nothing matters more. To love a person in particular is the most difficult form of love, because it involves somebody else’s freedom. That is where misunderstandings come in; two people don’t have necessarily the same timing. You may love books and you may love paintings. They have their own technical difficulties, you fight with them, but you are the master of that fight.

LR Are you talking about time and timing? I mean, if you love a book or a painting, it’s more or less stable.

EA At least you are on top; it depends more on you. But a person has priorities, his or her problems, his or her character—you can’t control that and you don’t want to anyway. I mean, your freedom … [more]
eteladnan  lisarobertson  interviews  2014  obscurity  writing  light  art  gender  women  shadows  night  nighttime  joannekyger  philosophy  canon  idiolects  colloquialisms  language  literature  poetry  poems  susanhowe  nietzsche  heidegger  nature  balzac  baudelaire  love  friendship  time  timing  relationships  invention  making  images  thinking  howwethink  howwework  howwewrite  posthumanism  beirut  lebanon  paris  berkeley  ucberkeley 
april 2014 by robertogreco
The Paradox of a Great University: Frederick Wiseman's 'At Berkeley,' Reviewed : The New Yorker
"As I watched the movie, I wondered—where are the rebels? Where’s the anger? Where’s the innate sense of rebellion, of resistance to authority, not on any principled opposition to specific policies but to the mere fact of authority itself? Wiseman didn’t go into the dormitories in search of hedonism, riot, or argument, didn’t look for partiers or revelers or malcontents or the ornery, contentious, solitary, disaffected students. He reveals the university as a great institution for the focussing of intellectual energy, the generation of virtually infinite possibilities of mind and invention, the transmission of a progress-oriented sense of values—but one that, ultimately, depends on a sort of energy that the university itself can’t transmit and that, for its very survival, needs to find a way to suppress, divert, or co-opt. In “At Berkeley,” Wiseman, looking admiringly at the historic seat of student radicalism, comes up against the impossibility of a radical university—because real radicalism isn’t something that responsible administrators unwilling to renounce the proper administration of the university itself, and maybe even to put its very existence at risk, can foster.

The paradox of the movie is that of the good student—the better the university does its job, the less likely its students are to defy the institution and the wider set of values and policies that it embodies and, ultimately, reinforces. And that’s why my nightmare is also, in a way, Wiseman’s own."
ucberkeley  radicalism  rebellion  revolution  protest  institutions  highered  highereducation  2013  film  documentary  frederickwiseman  atberkeley  education  unschooling  deschooling  invention  administration  dissent  progress  richardbrody  authority  resistance  policy  opposition  stagnation 
december 2013 by robertogreco
UC Students Demonstrate How Drones Can Help You - San Francisco - News - The Snitch
"At the UC Berkeley School of Information, a group of graduate students recently coalesced around the idea of building their own drones for a variety of reasons -- all good. They could be programmed to take exacting photographs at sports events, or interred at archeological dig sites to gather data about the environment, Cheshire says. They could be deputized to take "Google Street View"-style pictures of untrodden places -- like ground mapping of Mount Diablo for hikers."
drones  2013  ucberkeley 
april 2013 by robertogreco
Steidl: Chauncey Hare
"Chauncey Hare does not define himself as a photographer, but instead an engineer, family therapist &, above all, protester. Funded by three Guggenheim Fellowships & 3 National Endowment Fellowships, he spent only a short period of his life making photographs. Frustrated by the photo art world, he photographed only intermittently to 1985, when he stopped making photographs altogether. In 2000, distrusting art museums, Hare donated all of his photographs & negatives to the Bancroft Library of UC Berkeley. He has an engineering degree from Columbia, an MFA from SFAI, a Masters…in Organization Development from Pepperdine, & a Masters…in Clinical Psychology from Sierra University. He &…wife Judith Wyatt are co-authors of the denial-breaking clinical handbook Work Abuse: How to Recognize & Survive It (1997). As a licensed family therapist Hare now helps working people—in person, on the phone, & on the internet—minimize the abuse they suffer as workers in their corporate & government jobs."
ucberkeley  sanfrancisco  photography  artworld  leisurearts  labor  work  protest  therapy  judithwyatt  judywyatt  art  chaunceyhare  artleisure  from delicious
august 2012 by robertogreco
38 Alternatives to University and Design School in the Americas & Canada
"To do things differently, it helps to connect with new people and contexts. Universities and design schools seldom make that easy. Our xskool and City Eco Lab encounters aspire to meet this need – but there are many other experimental schools, courses and events out there. This handout contains the most interesting ones we’ve found so far.  It includes [with their permission] the findings of a scoping study for Schumacher College in England.  No quality judgment is implied by inclusion in (or omission from) this list. If we have made any mistakes here,or you would like to suggest an addition to this list, please email: john (at) doorsofperception dot com"
costarica  hollyhockleadershipinstitute  insterdisciplinarycentreforenvironment  interdisciplinary  sustainableinterpriseacademy  ubc  dalhousieuniversity  permacultureinstitute  permaculture  antiochuniversity  centerforcreativechange  archeworks  holynamesuniversity  coloradocollege  columbia  earthinstitute  ecosainstitute  prescottcollege  thesustainabilityinstitute  thenatureinstitute  tetonscienceschool  siriuscommunity  systems  systemsthinking  organizationsystemsrenewal  presidioschoolofmanagement  oberlincollege  naropauniversity  bainbridgegarduateinstitute  bainbridgeisland  ecoversity  iwb  dominicancollege  bioregions  design  ucberkeley  ecoliteracy  green  environment  sustainability  cityecolab  xskool  johnthackara  2012  education  alternative  altgdp  openstudioproject  lcproject  from delicious
april 2012 by robertogreco
peterme.com: Way more about paths at UC Berkeley than you'd ever want to read.
"For shame!

There's another interesting development. Look at the center of the first birdseye photo, and the bottom-right of the second. In the first, there's a wide dirt path cutting across the corner. In the second, there's a darker green patch, showing where it's been re-sod.

For some reason, Berkeley would rather spend it's money reinforcing it's poor landscape architecture with barriers and re-sodding, then recognizing that the paths suggest a valuable will of the people.

Though, this is not always the case. In another part of the campus, diagonal concrete paths were laid where it was clear that people walked, and are still in use:"
design  architecture  social  desirelines  elephantpaths  2003  force  coercion  berkeley  ucberkeley  ucsb  unschooling  deschooling  human  humans  travel  walking  anarchism  from delicious
june 2011 by robertogreco

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