Though I’m sure some of my fellow bloggers have expressed similar sentiments in the past, allow me to add my oft-squeaky voice to the chorus: there are few collegiate pick-me-ups that can beat a good care package. While homesick freshmen might seem the most apt candidates for a box of goodies from their families, I can promise you that we seniors are equally needy. Freshmen face the ups and downs of transitioning to uni life for the first time, but seniors–inevitably swamped with theses, job applications, the challenges of off-campus living, and possibly a bit of pre-grad melancholy–have to get ready to enter their independent lives for the first time.
I’d almost rather be seventeen again, dealing with my first winter and the perils of shared bathroom facilities.
I don’t know how many parents/siblings/relatives/significant others/mystical guardian figures of college seniors read my blog, but in the off-chance that any do, I’ve compiled a brief list of books that would be the perfect addition to any artsy 2014 graduate’s “You can handle senioritis!” care package.
And if you’re a senior yourself (but lack any mystical guardian figure to send you relevant books in the mail), I recommend tracking down one of these texts at Olin the next time you begin considering an ascetic’s life in the woods instead of grad school or a career. They’ll make you feel better, and the job apps, homework, and world of social media can wait a few hours. I promise.
Alena by Rachel Pastan
It amazed me that sitting in a darkened room looking at slides of Madonnas and Venuses and bowls of oranges counted as work….I loved the way you could trace the evolution of perspective, how it was perfected in southern Europe over centuries, and then stretched and tested and discarded over more centuries until it became a quaint anachronism, like a whalebone corset or a doublet and hose.
This one goes out to all the friends and relatives of art, archaeology, art history, and museum studies majors (or other students likely to turn the basement into an installation in the event that they move back in with their parents after college). I’m already a huge fan of “museum fiction”–it only takes a few lines about preparators or Peggy Guggenheim to get me hooked–and Alena embodies the joy and trials of entering the art world while spinning an eerie tale modelled on du Maurier’s Rebecca.
If your senior doesn’t know Marina Abramovic from Marina and the Diamonds, though, Pastan’s third novel is still worth a read. The narrator’s frustration with her first post-grad curatorial job and the string of weird encounters and coincidences that inexplicably lead her to the position of her dreams (nightmarish though it sometimes seems) will surely resonate with and comfort any frazzled future graduate.
Or, you know, make him/her start searching around for eccentric, haunted museum directors in search of the perfect inexperienced but talented curator to fill the shoes of a woman who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. One of the two!
John Cage: Writer, selected texts ed. by Richard Kostelanetz
One day he happened to say that to be an architect, one must devote oneself entirely to architecture, that is, give all one’s time to it. The next day I told him that I could not do that because there were many things I loved that were not architecture, and there were many things I did not even know, and I was still curious.”
When “A Composer’s Confessions” was assigned early on in my Experimental Music course, I quickly began a passionate (and inevitably one-sided) relationship with John Cage. Before reading the essay, I had already listened to some Cage and thought his music (especially the prepared piano pieces) was pretty much the best thing ever, but this look into his background convinced me that we must be kindred spirits of a sort.
Like me (and perhaps like your creative ’14 grad!), Cage was torn between a great number of artistic passions, and eventually left college after two years to explore Europe and take a hands-on approach to learning. I’m certainly not planning to drop out of school any time soon, but it’s helpful to realize that at least some of the artists, writers, and performers plagued with uncertainty about their future careers can indeed end up eventually achieving artistic success (and/or sticking random stuff on and under piano strings).
Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings
There are, in my mind, two possible consequences of reading this exceptionally witty book by Jeopardy! champion extraordinaire (and blatant maphead) Ken Jennings.
Sometimes the nightmarish process of consolidating passions into resume-ready categories like skills, experience, and professional goals makes it difficult to remember what truly loving a subject is like. If your creative-type soon-to-be postgrad has spent the past few months feeling nothing more than the dull apathy that inevitably sets in after tens of employers deign to even send back a confirmation email, Maphead might provide the rejuvenation s/he needs.
Yes, the esotericism of the map-collecting (and geocaching, and National Geographic Bee, etc) world might seem (more than) a little obsessive at times, but I found that reading about people who cared so passionately about something helped me recall that I do have a lot of interests (e.g. writing, environmentalism, vintage synthesizers) that I care about–and knowing my interests and passions makes it easier to set goals.
The second possible outcome? Well, your future Cornell alum might simply read this book and become a maphead him/herself.
Still, what cooler way to procrastinate sending off Job App #55 than by tracing the contours of that one random National Geographic poster map stuck between quarter cards and gas bills in your housemate’s messy desk?
In a 2012 statement about the changes to the academic calendar, Provost Kent Fuchs suggested that a brief February break (and the subsequent delay of spring break until the very end of March) had been added to the calendar to “help address university concerns about student stress.” Well, that inaugural February break has come and gone, and I, the quintessential stressed student, wish they’d just change things back and pretend this never happened.
What’s the point of two days off from school when professors still assign heaps of homework (and, dare I say, perhaps even more work than usual in an attempt to “make up” for the missed Monday and Tuesday of class time)? The change also makes it harder to coordinate spring breaks with other universities: were it not for the new schedule, my sister and I could have spent our break together with our far-away family.
Yet at least this glorified long weekend gave me a day or so of freedom, including a chance to catch my favorite play of all time at Ithaca’s Hangar Theater.
In the alternate universe where I inevitably fulfill my destiny and become an English teacher, I know exactly which play I’d use to get kids really excited about the Bard. When I was in high school, I was lucky enough to have a great teacher who assigned plays other than classic ninth-grade fare like Romeo and Juliet or A Midsummer Night’s Dream–and it was in one of his classes where I fell in love with my second- and third-favorite Shakespearean works, Macbeth and King Lear.
Look, I guess I can forgive you if Edmund’s “Why bastard? Wherefore base?” speech doesn’t move you or if the fact that Macduff seemingly beats Macbeth via a deus ex C-section seems a little ridiculous, but I can’t understand how anyone couldn’t fall in love with The Tempest: if only a little!
It starts with a shipwreck and takes place on an island; there are spirits, harpies, hell-hounds, and all sorts of random magic stuff going on; and the language–especially Ariel’s songs–is haunting. Whether you’re into political intrigue, physical comedy, drunk butlers, saccharine Disney-esque “Let’s get married after knowing each other for five seconds!” romance, or just want to know where that oft-misquoted “We are such stuff as dreams are made on” line comes from, I promise there’s something in The Tempest for you.
During my very first semester at Cornell, I had the opportunity to play Miranda in the Cornell Shakespeare Troupe’s winter production of this incredible show. Three years later, I was eager to see the Ithaca Shakespeare Company’s Tempest (which closes this weekend, incidentally) and travel back to the rocky shores of Prospero’s weird island.
I was surprised by how familiar the production seemed. The set was visibly similar to Risley’s, though a little more aesthetically striking, and I felt like the ISC’s Miranda used many of the inflections I did when performing the innocent heroine’s lines. There was one main point of difference, however, that simply blew me away and made me wish that I could get a ride up to the Hangar to see the show a few more times.
One of the most complex aspects of The Tempest is its questionable views on colonialism and imperialism. Since it was written around 1610, long after (deadly) interchange with the “New World” and the Atlantic Slave Trade began, I always found it hard to believe that Prospero’s island paradise didn’t ultimately represent some far-off place “exotic” to a seventeenth-century audience: like the Americas, Africa, or the so-called “West Indies.” After all, Prospero commands all the spirits of the island, and keeps its only human inhabitant (the “savage” Caliban) cruelly enslaved and tortured. Yet if Shakespeare were offering a critique of colonialism, why is Caliban portrayed as a genuine monster, and why is he punished in the end while Prospero remains triumphant?
The Ithaca Shakespeare Company solved this problem by openly identifying Caliban, to quote the program notes, as “an African who has been enslaved by Europeans [who] see him as a monster, a savage, and a ‘thing of darkness’ because he is of a different race from them.” This choice–combined with the fact that Caliban was played by perhaps the most phenomenal actor I have ever had the joy to watch–made the classic “comedy” scenes of Caliban begging two drunk [white] fools to be his gods take on an entirely different tone.
By the end of this production, the audience (or at least this audience member) doesn’t want to laugh at Caliban’s apparent ignorance or shrink from his ridiculous monstrosity, but cry with him and fight for him: and the ISC validated this sentiment by changing the ending so that Prospero, thanks to Ariel’s interference, acknowledges his mistreatment of Caliban and does not punish him along with his inebriated “gods,” Trinculo and Stephano. Consequently, Caliban doesn’t crawl offstage, dragged around on the ground like the monster most other productions (and Shakespeare himself) think he is. Instead, for the first time in the entire play, he walks tall, free of Prospero’s magical punishments and abuse.
Basically, I can’t imagine a more perfect interpretation of The Tempest.
(Except for The Tempest set in Atlantis, of course, which I’ve dreamed of directing since I was fifteen. Community theatre, here I come!)
Since I’m an English & Art History major, it’s no surprise that much of my homework consists of (lots and lots of) reading. And, hey–I wouldn’t have it any other way. I would much rather curl up with a textbook (or a million-page article printed out from Blackboard) and a cup of tea than spend my evening struggling through problem sets!
If you’re a potential Cornellian (or a nostalgic alum or one of those lovely spambots who keep leaving me linguistically fascinating nonsense-comments) interested in the humanities but curious about how much required reading goes on outside of the classroom, wonder no more! Here’s a weekly snapshot, class by class, of the literary life of a Cornell senior.
- MUSIC 2280: Experimental Music
Let’s start with the best, shall we? Experimental Music is my requisite “fun senior elective class,” and, as I suspected, it’s only making me further regret my decision not to major in music. Most of our homework consists of listening (to some of the most beautiful, moving, and bizarre pieces I have ever heard), but there’s usually an short essay on theory or history thrown in there too.
The best reading materials involved in this course, however, are the scores. I thought my musical background would give me an edge here, but decades of music theory won’t help you when scores look like this Christian Wolff piece…
To avoid the inevitable “learning about John Cage is the best thing that has ever happened to me” rant that inevitably begins as soon as I start talking about this class, though, I’ll stop here.
Page count: 23 (11 for Tuesday’s class, 12 for Thursday’s)
- ENGL 4330/FGSS 4330: Women, Real & Imaginary
I wasn’t sure about this course when I first registered during pre-enroll, but any class that requires me to purchase the Romantic volume of the Norton Anthology of English literature is all right in my book.
So far, the real and imaginary women have been sufficiently interesting: although since I prefer poetry and literature to essays, I’m excited for the time when we inevitably leave behind Mary Wollstonecraft and her contemporaries and move on to ballads, Coleridge, and Northanger Abbey.
Page count: 54 (which actually seems surprisingly low for an English class…)
- ARTH 4175: Visual Encounters in the Early Modern World
Since this class is currently competing with Experimental Music for the coveted title of “Keely’s favorite course for the semester (and possibly EVER),” it’s hard to even think of its readings as homework. I find the accounts of and scholarship on early encounters in the Americas so fascinating that I probably would read this kind of stuff even if it weren’t required.
Page count: ~46 (but it feels like nothing!)
- ARTH 4438/LING 4438/COGST 4438/[literally every department prefix] 4438: Language and Image
When a class is cross-listed under so many different titles, it makes sense that it might also feature a large amount of readings from various disciplines. In a shocking twist, Language and Image’s reading requirements for this week (and, let’s be honest, all the past weeks too) has managed to beat out both my English seminar and a graduate-level art history course. We’re currently working our way through The Semiotic Spectrum: a dissertation that I find strangely accessible, considering that my interest in formal linguistics is more of a hobby than anything else.
At least the only other assignment for this week is to complete a perspective drawing!
Page count: 86 pages of text, plus ~200 pages of Understanding Comics (but all 200 pages are comic strips!)
- ARTH 4999: Honors Work II
Hey, this is a class too! Even though it’s independent study and I don’t have set class time, I would say that researching for my thesis adds a lot on to my schedule. Less so this semester, since I’m (thankfully) in the editing and expanding stage–but there are still nights when I just have to re-watch Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl or another film to double-check its portrayals of Aztec art.
Page count: At least 80 minutes of Beverly Hills Chihuahua per month
FINAL TALLY: 209 pages of full-on scholarly text, 409 “pages” total
Well, considering that a mid-length novel usually numbers in the early 200s, that doesn’t sound bad at all–but if you factor in job applications, thesis reviewing, and the two papers and one mini-response I have to write too…
I guess I’d better get reading!
With another wave of chilling winds well on its way, how better to escape the doldrums of winter than with cannons and colonists?
(And some cannibalism too, unfortunately.)
When Ithaca seemed to transform into Antarctica last week, I was so swept up in my need to comment about the cold that I completely neglected to describe the most exciting (and museum-related) part of my winter break! During a quick trip to Virginia on my way back to Cornell, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit the Jamestown settlement: ultimately a near-transcendental experience that rivalled my adventures in Scotland (though Jamestown’s pretty young compared to most of those castles).
I’m also taking a really exciting art history seminar on images of “encounters” in the Americas during the early modern world this semester, so I hope I’ll eventually be able to reframe the works I saw at Jamestown in a more informed context.
Anyway, when I start using words like “context” and “reframe,” it’s probably time to turn off the vaguely meaningless scholar jargon and bring out some pictures!
I first read about “Historic Jamestowne,” as it’s called, during my endless senior year job hunt. Now that I’ve visited, I’m extremely disappointed that they’re not currently hiring educators or interpreters, because I think working at Historic Jamestowne would be extremely fulfilling and fun. The settlement consists mostly of reconstructed buildings, fences, and markers–the actual remains are kept beneath the earth, presumably so they won’t get damaged. (The cost, of course, is that nobody ever gets to see them.)
The best part of Historic Jamestowne, however, isn’t captured in any of my pictures. Out among the cannons and commemorative statues is the settlement’s not-so-hidden gem: the Archaerium. This miniature museum holds an impressive collection of objects excavated from the settlement, including a few human skeletons that have been eerily (yet amazingly) matched to potential faces thanks to forensic reconstruction software.
It was in the Archaerium, unfortunately, that I became incredibly disturbed by the suggestive description of cannibalism during the “starving time”–a grim little footnote of history that is particularly ironic when you consider that Europeans had been decrying cannibalism as one of the beastly traits of “savages” for ages.
If there’s one thing I miss in Ithaca after my Scotland adventures, it’s easy access to historically significant sites. I mean, I like the gorges and other natural features as much as anyone else, but living somewhere with a castle or a colonial settlement must be nice.
Should any of you fine readers know of a nearby landmark that I should visit before I graduate, leave me a comment and let me know–otherwise I’ll continue to dream of crumbling stone walls, tragically “restored” interiors, and buying pieces of history for $2.99 at little gift shops.
Where do you think this picture was taken, friends? Is this the frozen porthole from some research vessel on its way to Antarctica? Or perhaps the delicate work of newly-minted Disney queen Elsa?
In any case, it surely couldn’t be the inside of someone’s window, right?
Is it a rite of passage for East Coast kids to witness their first frozen condensation? After nearly four years wintering in Ithaca, I foolishly assumed I could qualify as an honorary Mainlander–but the notion that the air outside could be cold enough to freeze both sides of my window completely blew my mind this morning. As soon as Nature had shown me that ice could somehow exist even in my 70-degree apartment, I became convinced that I might actually see a polar bear lumbering down the recently-closed East Avenue.
When the meterological event the media erroneously christened the “polar vortex” first hit the Mainland in early January, I sent my best thoughts towards those unfortunate enough to suffer the worst effects of the cold–and then spent a few days collecting shells and swimming in the Pacific.
Imagine my horror when my daily obsessive checking of the National Weather Service last week produced evidence of another impending arctic blast: one seemingly more powerful than the first. And Ithaca was scheduled to weather the worst on the first day of classes.
This morning’s winds put temperatures at a balmy -22 degrees F when I left the house. Since I don’t think I’ve ever spent much time below zero–the two winters I’ve spent at Cornell really haven’t been that bad in comparison–I was genuinely terrified. When Cornell (unlike the Ithaca school district) neglected to cancel classes, I knew it was time to take drastic action to save myself from hypothermia (or being captured by armoured ursines a la His Dark Materials).
I polled lifelong Mainlanders and researched online until I became convinced that there are two main commandments of below-zero weather (both of which, honestly, I already knew):
- LAYER!! (preferably with several layers of natural fabrics that can easily wick moisture away from the body while keeping the torso warm)
- Limit skin exposure–and especially keep your head covered.
Consequently, I constructed an “inner core” that included a long-sleeved, easily-drying shirt layered under a sweater, corduroy pants over fleece-lined tights, THREE (!!) pairs of socks (including the obligatory wool layer), and, of course, my snood, a charmingly gauche scarf/hat combination I bought in Scotland. Trust me, when you can get frostbite in fifteen minutes, it’s nice to have something that leaves only your eyes exposed.
Although my ensemble was just warm enough, I admit I felt a little out of place lolloping about campus wearing my weight in clothes when so many of my peers were hat- and scarf-less. Did they not know how to dress properly, I wondered, or had they merely not checked the weather? (An alternative explanation–that they were some kind of snow demons in disguise–still remains a possibility.)
If these arctic blasts are to be the norm for this winter, wouldn’t it be nice if there were somehow a bucket of warm wrappings in Olin or Goldwin Smith to help out those who left their hats at home/lost their gloves in class/misjudged the temperature situation? I wish I had a hat and scarf for every cold soul I saw shivering across the quad today!
Free hats aside, however, here’s the bottom line: if you’re from a warm climate and are considering Cornell, don’t freak out too much about the polar temperatures we tend to feature in the winter. Okay, actually, that’s a lie–you should certainly “freak out” enough to take the deadliness of cold weather seriously, but if you layer properly and walk quickly, you can survive just as well as Iorek Byrnison.
(Although I wouldn’t recommend challenging rival armoured bears to single combat–the growls might disrupt classes even more than the construction at Goldwin Smith…)
Coming to Cornell from Hawai’i is, in terms of sheer travel time, a lot like being an international student. (In fact, international students from basically any part of Europe probably still have a shorter journey than Hawai’i kids do.)
In the time it took me to travel from Ithaca back to Hawai’i this winter, I could’ve flown from Newark to London and back again (with nine extra hours for stocking up on my favorite Twinings products), caught up on a little over two days’ worth of sleep, or watched approximately 25 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
For the sake of potential Cornellians from my island home (and for those of you who are lucky enough to get back to your families in two hours and want to know how the other half lives, so to speak), I documented this year’s harrowing journey, which, as usual, was filled with cancellations, delays, and the shocking realization that I, apparently, do not exist.
I would’ve rather been tasked with stealing the Arkenstone from a draconic Benedict Cumberbatch.
3:00 AM in New York / 10:00 PM in Hawai’i
I wake five minutes before my alarm goes off and begin the frantic process of preparing for a full day of travel. Most of my energy is spent fretting over the possibility of my taxi showing up too late (I’ve only ever taken a taxi in Edinburgh, where the service is impeccable). It arrives early, however, and I soon reach the airport, where I encounter a Cornell friend who’s also from Hawai’i. She’s flying a different route than I, though, and will apparently touch down in Honolulu two hours before I will, even though my Ithaca flight leaves first. My envy is indescribable.
7:00 AM in Newark, NJ / 2:00 AM in Hawai’i
The moment I land in Newark, I use the United Airlines app to see if any delays have occurred while I was in the air. My flight to Houston has been put off by two hours, which will make me miss my subsequent flights to LA and Hilo. I am not particularly surprised.
I book it to the customer service desk as soon as I deplane. There, I tell my tale of woe to a gruff fellow who grabs my tickets, types my confirmation number into the computer, and then proceeds to mash keys at random, as though he were a cartoon character pretending to type, whilst waiting for my records to come up.
Smashy the Keyboard Masher eventually hands me a new ticket that will take me straight from Newark to LA. I ask him about my final flight from LA to Hilo, but he just shakes his head at me. I assume that it hasn’t changed (what a fool I was!), thank Smashy for his time, and proceed to my new gate. To celebrate my success, I buy a smoothie and read David Kirby’s Death at SeaWorld while waiting to board.
1:45 PM in California / 4:45 PM in New York / 11:45 AM in Hawai’i
After waiting on the LAX runway for a few hot minutes, I arrive for my layover without incident. Unsatisfied with the un-grilled panini I ate in the air, I search the terminal directory for some vaguely tempting vegetarian fare. “The Green Burrito” in Terminal 8 sounds the most promising. In reality, it shares space with a Carl’s Junior and doesn’t appear to offer a single green veggie in any of the eponymous burritos.
I order a cheese quesadilla. As usual, the cashier offers me a charming new spelling of my name.
4:30 PM in California / 7:30 PM in New York / 2:30 PM in Hawai’i
I queue for my flight to Hilo with a growing sense of dread. An hour ago, my mother informed me via phone that my United web account was no longer indicating that I had a seat for my final segment. “How could I not have a seat?” I scoffed. “I have a boarding pass right here that says I’m in 11F!”
When the agent scans my ticket, the computer screen reads “Passenger does not exist.” It appears that Smashy the Keyboard Masher has betrayed me.
I wait in the corner like a kid in time-out while everyone else on the flight boards: so much for my hard-won “Boarding Group 3.” Eventually, the agent somehow brings me back into existence, but only at the cost of expelling one stand-by passenger who thought today was her lucky day. I’m assigned to an exit row for the very first time and feel the responsibility weighing on my mind immediately. Or that might just be the jet lag.
8:15 PM in Hawai’i / 1:15 AM (ugh) in New York
Twenty hours after I first woke up in my apartment, I step off the plane into the rainy, 70-degree Hilo night. I’m so happy to have survived my ordeal that the strains of Jahwaiian music playing from the speakers don’t even perturb me.
Moments later, I’m reunited with my family–but not with my suitcase! As I search through my purse for my claim sticker, I realize that my friend Smashy has cursed me once again: he gave me back my old claim instead of my new one. It will take a day for my bag to return from LAX. When it arrives, I will gaze affectionately at its dented green exterior. “What horrors have you seen, old friend?” I’ll ask.
But for the time being, I’m just happy to be home, where everything is bright and green and the ground is covered with lava instead of snow.
Whatever plans you’ve made for those glorious days following the end of exams, I hope there’s room for a viewing of Disney’s Frozen somewhere in there.
It’s rare that I truly enjoy a contemporary “children’s” film other than Fantastic Mr. Fox (which, honestly, is more of a coincidentally child-friendly flick for grown-up Wes Anderson fans), but this newest addition to the Disney vault took my cynical expectations, froze them deep in the cryosphere, and proceeded to melt them with the warmth of (sisterly!!) love.
Cornell, of course, can easily transform into a kingdom of ice without the help of an accidental curse. In the past, I’ve done more than my fair share of grumbling about the weather–forgetting, of course, how excited I was for every snowfall when I was but a wee freshman fresh off the plane from Honolulu.
Before I head back to the tropics for winter break, then, I’ve decided to celebrate winter as much as I can, adopting snow queen Elsa’s perspective from the film’s best song: although I haven’t quite mastered the ability to withstand freezing temperatures whilst wearing only a gossamer gown and a French braid.
(I’m working on it, okay?)
Mainlanders will have to bear with me whilst I marvel over the amazing way in which you lot handle snowy obstructions to normal travel. It’s only a bit after sunrise when I hear those plows blazing their way through the icy roads, and the idea that a healthy sprinkle of salt can keep sidewalks snow-free still seems like magic to me. If some impossible snowstorm ever hit Hawai’i, I don’t know how we’d cope (besides just eating really fresh shave ice after every meal, of course).
Most seemingly miraculous of all are the massive piles of snow formed after the plows have completed their good work.
(It actually took me a few minutes to conclude that this was not, in fact, a makeshift den created by a particularly bashful yeti.)
The falls at Beebe Lake persist even in the coldest weather, sporting a patchy crust of ice that quivers and clings to the rocks. With the fences gone, strange, snow-loving tourists like me can gaze freely into the gorge, thinking about glaciers while Vangelis runs through their heads.
Of course, by the time my quaint little walk was complete, I was shivering in my fleece-lined leggings and ready for some sedentary snowfall watching from the comfort of my apartment. Until I develop Elsa’s icy powers, then, I suppose I’ll have to take my wintertime exploration in small doses.
What does a marker sketch of Loki by the incomparable Tom Hiddleston have in common with Cornell’s copy of the Gettysburg Address?
Well, as the clearly leading nature of my opening sentence suggests: a lot more than you’d think.
In conjunction with Remembering Lincoln at Gettysburg–an exhibition hosted by Cornell’s Kroch Library in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address–a copy of the speech written in Lincoln’s hand has been display on campus for the past few weeks. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to catch the Gettysburg Address in person the day before it went back into storage!
The Address itself was, as you can see, displayed in a simple, elegant wood frame. The gallery, located two floors beneath Olin’s main entrance, was crowded with students and members of the Cornell community. Most delightfully, the visitors in attendance included a good number of children who possessed remarkable knowledge of Civil War history.
Surrounding the display were cases containing other ephemera related to the Gettysburg Address and its legacy, including the most fantastically named book of all time…
Image from CU’s online exhibition for Remembering Lincoln at Gettysburg.
Though its title may suggest otherwise, The Perfect Tribute was actually a factually incorrect, romanticized version of the Gettysburg Address’s origins: and yet its popularity in schools following its publication in 1906 allowed its fictionalized history to persist for years.
What I found most fascinating, however, was the story behind Cornell’s copy of the Gettysburg Address. Our Address traveled to Cornell in the possession of Wilder Bancroft, a chemistry professor, and was finally donated to the university by Marguerite Noyes in memory of her husband–and yes, that’s Noyes as in West Campus’ Noyes.
What of my tenuous connection to Tom Hiddleston’s “Loki, by Loki,” though?
Image from Mr. Hiddleston’s Twitter (surprising, I know!).
Well, Professor Bancroft received the address by way of his father, who had in turn been given the address by his stepson, Alexander Bliss. Turns out that quite a few people, including Bliss, began asking Lincoln to write out signed copies of the Gettysburg Address in order to procure funds for charitable causes.
Lincoln obliged, and offered this copy to Bliss to include in a book (containing manuscripts by the likes of other public figures such as Edgar Allan Poe) that Bliss was assembling to raise money for the Baltimore Sanitary Fair–kind of like the contemporary celebrity charity auctions where you can purchase Hiddleston’s doodles.
Anyway, somehow Lincoln’s first copy for Bliss turned out to be the 1864 equivalent of the wrong pixel resolution or something, so Lincoln made Bliss yet another address facsimile, while Bliss eventually gave the rejected copy to Bancroft. I’m sure the mix-up inconvenienced Lincoln a little bit, but I’m sure I speak for the rest of Cornell when I say that I’m glad that he inadvertently made an extra that ended up on campus over a century later!
As I mentioned earlier, the Bancroft copy of the Gettysburg Address has now returned to the Disney Vault–I mean, the Kroch collections, but you can still view a facsimile of it and the rest of the Remembering Lincoln exhibition until December 20: so if you have to walk from North to Collegetown or something, why not stop off in Olin to warm up and check out some history?
Allow me to sum up my activities for the past few weeks with one particularly horrifying image.
There is a certain point, my friends, at which the overworked mind begins to descend into a level of madness only matched by that of the protagonists found in Gothic fiction. I personally reached this nadir one fateful night last week, when, after days of constant writing and research, I realized that my senior thesis–the culmination of all my art historical studies at Cornell–was really going to include a scholarly discussion of a movie trailer in which CGI-altered chihuahuas rap in a vaguely Mayan (but purportedly Aztec) setting.
Back when I was still in Scotland, I wrote a post detailing how excited I was to have finally settled on a thesis topic: the representation of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican art objects in contemporary American film. Now that I’ve officially survived the trials of my first semester of independent research and have produced a satisfactory first draft, here’s a quick guide to the basic structure of the Cornell honors program (at least, in the glorious world of the art history department).
If you’re interested in being a prospective honors candidate in art history, you’ll enroll in four credits of independent study under your thesis advisor in the fall of your senior year. The structure of this “class” is at the discretion of you and your advisor, provided you produce a first draft by mid-November. In my case, those four credits basically consisted of lots and lots of research.
And I do mean lots: this lovely dragon-framed stack is merely a selection of the texts I consulted for my project.
Still, if you really love your subject (and you should!), research should be exciting! Cornell’s library system is incredibly extensive and will likely offer nearly all of the books you may need, but if you find yourself without some obscure tome, you can always use the free Borrow Direct service to have the necessary volumes shipped from any Ivy League library.
Before I began my research process in earnest, my advisor also introduced me to Zotero, an invaluable citation and research tool that makes the busywork of typing footnotes and bibliographies as outdated as hand-painted manuscripts.
Once you’ve finished over-enthusiastically poring over books (like The Road to El Dorado’s Tzekel-Kan featured above), it’s time to get writing! Most of the art history theses from past years that I examined were around seventy-five pages in length; I decided to begin with a slightly shorter draft in order to save room for more material to be added before I submit the final work in April.
Even though it may sound intimidating to any college student accustomed to the ten- or fifteen-page term paper, I’ve found my thesis to be a surprisingly satisfying expression of the opinions about the art historical discipline I have cultivated throughout my years at Cornell. Of course, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I had my epiphany about how such quality works as Ancient Aliens connect to museum and curatorial practices, but now that I have my theme, I’m ready to let it shape not only the next draft of my piece but also my approach to the last few Cornell art history seminars I’m taking next semester.
(Though seriously, it’s pretty weird that I could find a way to talk about bad movies–my favorite things–for school, right? Maybe I had some extraterrestrial assistance…)
Whether you’re a rising senior who just received an Early Decision admissions letter or a particularly precocious thirteen-year-old with your sights set on Cornell, I can guarantee that you’ll witness at least one massive construction project during your time on the Hill.
In my four years at Cornell, I’ve seen Morrill Hall and Risley, my former dorm, completely covered with (and eventually stripped of) scaffolding. Cornell received its new architecture building sometime after my freshman year, and the Johnson Museum’s New Wing was first opened to the public when I was a sophomore.
Then again, I’ll probably never walk past Anabel Taylor without having to cross the street to dodge the major Law School revitalization, and even my own dear Goldwin Smith Hall will likely be a surreal mess of loud noises and gated-off pits for the rest of my Cornell career.
Although I’d often heard of the glories that awaited those lovers of ice cream who dared travel far beyond the Ag Quad to visit Stocking Hall, I never expected to be able to visit the Dairy Bar as a Cornell student: it was closed for renovations during my first year here. Luckily, the construction chaos ended sometime after Homecoming, and I can now continue to say that I’ve officially visited every Cornell Dining-sponsored a la carte eaterie on campus.
Though I don’t know what the Dairy Bar looked like before the construction, I’m digging its current mod aesthetic. The entrance features a modernist interpretation of a milk bottle while the interior looks like what renowned Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius might’ve dreamed up if he were a time-traveller from 2300 with a penchant for dairy products.
The “Bar” itself currently offers coffee, your average Grab & Go fare, some fresh sandwiches, and, of course, ice cream! Except it’s not Cornell ice cream. Yet.
Although I thought I remembered reading that Cornell’s dairy would go back into production in late September, the “Cornell-approved” Perry’s Ice Cream flavors were all the Dairy Bar had to offer today. Because the selection of Perry’s flavors tragically did not include Lemon Pound Cake, I decided to branch off and try one of the tempting “ice cream cupcakes” sold pre-packaged out of a freezer.
What a fool I was!
How could something decorated with rainbow sprinkles go so terribly wrong?
I expected an ice cream cake in cupcake form; instead, I received a cupcake that appeared to have been frozen since the Devonian Period, topped with rock-solid vanilla ice cream and a mound of frosting. Since I don’t make a habit of carrying a pickaxe around in my purse, I was barely able to scrape any ice cream or cake off that veritable glacier with my sorry plastic spoon.
(It’s also particularly sad because I’m sure someone at Cornell Dining spent his/her time creating this otherwise lovely cupcake that was subsequently destroyed by an extra-long stay in the deep freezer.Friends, heed my tale of woe and ask for a sugar cone with a scoop of Perry’s pumpkin ice cream instead.)
So, though the atmosphere has a kind of intergalactic appeal, I might spare myself the long walk up Tower Road until Cornell dairy products are available once more. In the meantime, here’s hoping I can have my first taste of the new Cornell ice cream before I become an alumna!