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Melinda O'Neal photoHolding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

In this week's edition, we speak with Melinda O'Neal, Professor Emerita of Music and Artistic Director and Conductor Emerita of the Handel Choir of Baltimore.  With O'Neal's book, Experiencing Berlioz: A Listener's Companion (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018) readers are introduced not only to the sonic landscape of Berlioz' work, but to the ways that history, biography and literature can deepen and enrich one's appreciation of his music.

What is your book about?

Experiencing Berlioz is about finding touchstones for understanding the music of Berlioz—discovering what works to listen to, what to listen for, and how listening can bring deeper enjoyment.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

When I first rehearsed a choral work by Berlioz in graduate school, its beauty and originality took my breath away. Then while preparing Berlioz works for performances with the Dartmouth Chamber Singers, Handel Society, Seattle Symphony Chorale, and other ensembles, I looked more broadly at his repertoire. I discovered that the majority of his works are for singers and instruments, not for instruments alone as is commonly supposed. Why this misconception? The central questions then became, what is it about his music—songs, choruses, extended choral-orchestral works, operas, and symphonies—that makes performing and listening to them so gratifying, so compelling? How can I connect others to this treasure-trove? I am grateful for all the Dartmouth performers and students in my courses who contributed to this effort.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

To write this book I needed access to all of Berlioz’s scores, the poetry, novels and plays he set or based his music on, his books and reviews, and the perspectives of every other Berlioz scholar. Live concerts, attended or conducted, were essential so I could hear the music as it interacted with the acoustics of the hall, see the sources of individual sounds, and experience different interpretations. High quality recordings, texts, and excellent translations were invaluable, of course.

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

Walking into a music library brimming with bustle and interaction is always a pleasure. I hope those who enter in the future will also find…

  • easy access to as many world-wide styles and genres of music as possible, newest to old and in a variety of formats.
  • multiple recordings of the same repertoire (including rare recordings off the beaten path), so listeners can perceive how different interpretations and performance practices vastly affect the impact of a composition.
  • a silent, calm space. Much of the musical experience takes place from inside out. For example, a performer imagining the sound with only the score in hand, or a composer or improvisor simply imagining, or a listener remembering/imagining. These all require deep concentration.
  • an experimental digital laboratory designed to hear selections as they might sound and feel in spaces altered to different sizes and shapes or played by different instruments and other media.

 What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

Aspiring music scholars should perform, listen, attend live concerts, read thoroughly and widely, be well-grounded in music history and theory. Take those graduate courses in bibliography, learn foreign languages, explore music’s intersection with other disciplines, travel. When writing, seek feedback often and be prepared to write many drafts. Most importantly, write about what you know and love.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

I read the daily news, The New Yorker magazine, and mysteries by Donna Leon, Deborah Crombie, and others. As I enter into retirement, I look forward to reading more American history and biographies.

Photo of Alexander CheeHolding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

In this week's edition, we hear from Alexander Chee, author of the collection of essays How to Write an Autobiographical Novel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018).  Chee has received critical acclaim for this and his recently published The Queen of the Night (2016).  About How To [...], J.W. McCormack, for the New York Times, writes "Chee has written a moving and personal tribute to impermanence, a wise and transgressive meditation on a life lived both because of and in spite of America."  On Wednesday, October 24, at 4 PM, Chee will give a talk, "Your Life in Fiction," in which he will present his book and join in conversation with fellow writer, Peter Orner.  Please join us.

What is your book about?

The essays in this book span 25 years and are about everything from rose gardens, to money and social class, to protesting government inaction during the start of the AIDS epidemic, to writing novels.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

I think of the ideas here as ideas that wouldn't leave me alone.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

Fiction writers, contrary to popular belief, do research. I begin typically by asking myself what I don't know that I should know to write, and then I go to the library and begin usually by speaking to a librarian with expertise in that field. I follow the bibliographies and footnotes of the works I read and use that as a map to further reading. Translated novels, for example, typically contain the context clues you won't get by reading the novel in the writer's own language, and this is important if you're setting a novel, say, in 19th Century France and you weren't alive then, or in France.

I like to visit the places I'm writing about. I take pictures because I won't notice everything on the visit right away, and sometimes even video on my phone. If I can't get away to visit for financial reasons or time constraints, social media helps--an Instagram or Flickr tag is super helpful. And visits to special collections are always fun when researching anything in the past. I still remember the box brought to me containing a subject's passports from over his entire lifetime, including the French ones he had while an agent of the OSS during World War II.

Even when writing about yourself in a personal essay, research yourself. Treat yourself like a subject when you write about yourself. In writing these essays about my own experiences, I went back to my own diaries, letters, emails, notebooks--I re-read the books I was reading sometimes, referred to photos, asked questions of those I remembered being there. Most of what I found needed checking was what I was most confident about. This is because you have to outwit both your ego and the ego's child--the too-confident memory. As for what I could not do without, well, I already have mourned the loss of the card catalogue, for the way it allowed me to find the essential things I hadn't meant to search for. I hope there will always be stacks. I love wandering stacks and finding things I never imagined possible. This is a kind of research, and if I have a personal motto, it is probably "Wandering finds it."

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

A university I once taught at early in my career froze its acquisitions because of budget cuts, and the librarians I knew there described how fatal that could be to a library. I came to fear a library made out of an accountant's imagination then. I hope that's not the library of the future.

I think thriving libraries are the sign of a healthy community--they are part of a community's immune system. My hope is that the library of the future works to retain commitments to the communities it serves while also keeping its own integrity as a series of spaces, and a series of contexts. I think libraries are at their best when they introduce communities to each other, in particular, and facilitate not just knowledge but new interactions that lead to new knowledge and new connections. I don't know what that looks like but I hope to find out.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

It is very important to do the work that feels most connected to your sense of yourself--and to begin by choosing the field or fields that have the ability to make your ideas articulate to yourself and others. Your career won't be something you can sustain if it doesn't connect to your imagination directly. This may seem like obvious advice but I see so many young people determined to prepare for a future that feels unimaginable to them, that they feel they should pursue, to fulfill someone else's idea of their right future. Work for a future that has room for you to live in it.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

For a few years I read Iris Murdoch novels for fun--it was something of a hobby, with no critical mission except my own pleasure--and I hope to get back to it soon (there's about 16 left on my list). I also love Japanese Manga, and comics like Saga, and I still read my oldest love, the X-Men.

photo of paul musselwhiteHolding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

In this week's edition, we speak with Paul Musselwhite, a historian of early America with a particular focus on the political economy of early plantation societies in North America and the Caribbean.  Paul is the co-editor of  Empire of the Senses: Sensory Practices of Colonialism in Early America (Brill, 2017), which explores the role that the senses played in the production of empire.

What is your book about?

In order for Europeans to colonize the Americas and tap its resources they had to first be able to sense it - to figure out what it smelt like, tasted like, etc. That process made it comprehensible as a set of commodities, people, and places that could be acquired and integrated into their world.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

I'd been working on the history of English cities in America and I'd been thinking about the way colonists tried to recreate urban sensory experiences (music, food, physical interactions) there. In the process of doing that work I made contact with Prof. Daniella Hacke from Berlin and we came up with the idea of bringing together a lot of scholars who were working on similar topics as part of a new volume.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

I'm not a neat researcher. I'm a very synthetic thinker so I need lots of books and files open at once, often strewn across my desk, so I can keep jumping back and forth. That's my excuse anyway!

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

I don't think we'll ever move away from the value of some printed material, but the key is going to be finding way to make different kinds of media work together. I'd love to see workspaces that can combine digital media with printed sources and manuscripts.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

You can never rewrite your introduction too many times - keep going back to it.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

I love to read good travel writing.

photo of faith beasleyHolding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

In this week's edition, we speak with Faith E. Beasley, Professor of French and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  Author of Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal (University of Toronto Press, 2018) Beasley is an expert in seventeenth-century French literature by women.  Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2012, Beasley used the prize to complete research and writing on this book, an exploration into the conversations about India during the early modern period in France.

What is your book about?

I identify and explore the traces that the encounter with India left on the cultural artifacts and mindset of early modern Europe. I focus on France's "Grand Siècle" and the female-dominated salon culture that was unique to France and resurrect the traces of conversations about India in the literary works, correspondences, philosophical texts, novels, fables, and memoirs produced by members of a particular salon.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

I have always been interested in the shadows of history, in finding and telling the stories that have been lost or sometimes intentionally cast aside and rejected from the dominant narrative of the past. My first two books, Revising Memory and Salons, History, and the Creation of 17th-century France, focused on the women writers of France's canonical 17th century and their influence on culture, and then explored why their story and the institution associated with them, the salon, was either erased from history or revised so it no longer posed a threat to the traditional view of the image of Louis XIV's France. This book also places into question our idea of what the west thought of India and the influence India exerted on the western imaginary. For the past 20 years I have lived between France, the US, and India, and been immersed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I started to notice references to India in some of France's most well-known works of literature and philosophy and was struck by how these references reflected a very different relationship between West and East than the one portrayed by orientalism. This interdisciplinary and cultural analysis of the encounter between two great civilizations at peak moments of their history challenges our preconceptions of the relationship between west and east, as it complicates our understanding of the past by including voices, especially those of women, who have been silenced.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

Research for me is above all reading: reading versions of history, literary works, letters, philosophy...works from many different disciplines. In the early modern period, the boundaries between disciplines were much more fluid and sometimes didn't even exist. I also love to visit museums to see what people who were writing the texts I'm reading were looking at as they constructed images of the world around them. My goal is to learn how people thought, and how they came up with new ideas, not just what those ideas were. We read literary works differently when we have a deep understanding of their historical context. I find texts and images online, but I derive much more pleasure from time spent in libraries in Paris, in the archives, looking at the marginalia in early editions of works. I can't work without touching physical books, nor read a book without having a pencil in hand for notes! I always have to have a writing utensil and paper around me to jot down ideas, even on my bedside table!

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

My ardent hope is that it will still contain actual books. Reading a text online is simply not the same experience.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

Write about questions and issues that engage your mind but also your heart, your very being. Don't just go with the latest fad or write to please others. Your work must come from deep within you to keep your interest as well as attract readers. And don't be afraid to revise!

And finally, what do you read for fun?

I have always loved to read biographies. My next project will be a biography in fact! I'm fascinated by how a writer constructs someone's life, and by different biographies of the same subject. My other great passion is historical novels. I love to enter the past, become engrossed in another world. I appreciate texts that get me into people's mindsets and that offer different ways of viewing and interpreting the world.

Photo of Carlos MinchilloHolding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

In this week's edition, we hear from prize-winning author Carlos Minchillo, Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures.  Carlos' new book, Erico Veríssimo, escritor do mundo [Erico Veríssimo, writer of the world] (EDUSP, 2015) involved exhaustive detail-oriented research, in multiple archives across the Americas.  The hard work paid off: Carlos's book earned the 2018 Premio Literario for Brazilian literature from the Casa de las Américas the venerable cultural center in Latin America and the Caribbean.

What is your book about?

My book focuses on the career of Brazilian writer Erico Verissimo and examines how inter-American cultural diplomacy impacted Brazilian intellectual life in mid-20th century.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

Basically, my inspiration came from my readings of Pierre Bourdieu's theory of the "literary field," which illuminates the political dimension and the social dynamics of literary life. Bourdieu helps us understand that literary prestige does not rely exclusively on the textual merits of the writings of a given author, but rather depends on various extra-literary factors, such as personal and institutional contacts, academic membership, and political context. This framework was very useful for understanding Verissimo's trajectory as a writer and an intellectual.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

For this book, I worked extensively with the archives. I delved through Verissimo's and other writers' personal papers, newspaper digital collections, US government records and archives of institutions like the Smithsonian and the Congress for Cultural Freedom. Retrieving and systematizing a massive documentation was not always simple. Besides having access to good catalogs and competent librarians, it was essential to develop strategies to organize and tag thousands of files.

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

I hope libraries will still offer in the future comfortable and quiet spaces for reading and working and, above all, continue to hire well-trained, engaged, and inspiring librarians.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

Be patient and persistent: good research takes time. And it can be exhausting: try to have fun and take a break now and then.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

I'm currently reading Não falei [I Didn't Talk], by Beatriz Bracher. It's a story about the dark period back in the 1960s when Brazil was ruled by a military dictatorship. The book deals with the long-lasting pain caused by those who survived state violence.

 

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A portrait of Laura Edmondson, associate professor of theater, and program administrator for African and African American studies and women's and gender studies.Holding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

In this week's edition, we speak with Laura Edmondson, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Theater.  The research and writing of Laura's book, Performing Trauma in Central Africa: Shadows of Empire (Indiana University Press, 2018), developed over the span of more than a decade, proving that quality scholarship takes time and persistence to produce.

What is your book about?

My book explores theater and other forms of cultural production that respond to conflict and post-conflict in Rwanda, northern Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Basically, it’s a journey through the performance of war in Central Africa.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

From fieldwork. In 2004, I traveled to northern Uganda to research how theater artists were responding to the conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Ugandan government. Based on my previous work in neighboring Tanzania, I anticipated that theater in northern Uganda would serve as a vital forum of community (re)building and cultural resilience; instead, I found that it had been thoroughly appropriated as a humanitarian tool of “marketing trauma.” This launched an exploration into what I call, after Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman, an “empire of trauma.”

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

To understand the complexities of an empire of trauma, I draw upon both fieldwork and textual analysis. And the element that I need is time, time, and more time. The research and writing of my book took over a decade. I was pregnant with my second child when I started doing research in Uganda in 2004—she had just celebrated her 13th birthday when my book came out last April (!).

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

I’m hopeful that the library of the future will always include material books. Wandering the stacks of Baker-Berry leads to unexpected paths of inquiry, far more so than the soullessness of a Google search.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

Find your prime writing time (first thing in the morning, late at night, whenever). Then, protect it as much as possible and utilize it as much as possible, even if you can only manage half an hour.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

I love novels. Right now, I'm reading Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.  In the Summer 2018, I directed the theater Foreign Study Program in London, and I took the students on an excursion to Bath. It was a fun excuse to get reacquainted with Austen.

 

Wheelan photoHolding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

To kick off the fall term, we hear from economist Charles "Charlie" Wheelan, Class of 1988, Senior Lecturer and Policy Fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy.  Wheelan, former correspondent for The Economistis the author of the "Naked" series: Naked Economics (W.W. Norton, 2002), Naked Statistics (W.W. Norton, 2013), and the latest, Naked Money (W.W. Norton, 2016).  What advice does the prolific writer offer those who get stuck?  To power through the early drafts.

What is your book about?

It describes what "money" is and why it matters. In the process, I try to explain the broader global financial system.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

Money is such a strange phenomenon. (That $100 bill in your wallet is just a piece of paper.) Yet finance has a huge impact on all of our lives, as we learned during the 2007/2008 financial crisis. I wanted to explore and demystify all this.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

Most of my work is applied. I take other people's ideas and make them more accessible. I'm also the founder of Unite America, which is an effort to re-empower the political middle by electing independents.

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

I'm hoping that libraries will always be physical spaces, as well as repositories of information. They should be a place where we share important community resources, whether that is computer terminals or just good air-conditioning when it's really hot outside.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

The first draft is always awful. Just power through.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

I've always made time to read for fun, ever since I was a Dartmouth undergrad. I once read War and Peace while hitchhiking in New Zealand. I currently alternate between fiction and nonfiction.

 

misagh parsa photoHolding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

Today we feature Misagh Parsa, Professor of Sociology, and author of Democracy in Iran: Why It Failed and How It Might Succeed (Harvard University Press, 2016).  Hailed by the Wall Street Journal as "easily the most important work in English on the Islamic Republic since the revolution," the Times Literary Supplement as "brilliantly argued," and Choice as "erudite and intellectually challenging," Parsa's book analyzes Iran's prospects for democratic reform, given historical events and ongoing challenges.

What is your book about?

The book is about the failure of democracy in Iran over more than forty years. It traces the struggles that led to the 1979 revolution and to the Green Movement that shook the foundation of the Islamic regime but failed to transform Iran's political system.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

I have studied the economic, social, and political conditions that produced democratization struggles in highly authoritarian countries, such as South Korea, Indonesia, Egypt, Nicaragua, and the Philippines over the last half a century. Based on developments in those countries, I developed a theory of democratization through alternative routes of reform or revolution.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

Key to my research are the internet, published newspaper articles, and interviews.

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

While books and articles provided a great deal of historical and theoretical material for my book, the internet helped a great deal on the contemporary developments in the social, economic, and political spheres. Without the internet, I would not have had access to the data and I would have had to wait for a long time to collect the necessary information to analyze and finish my book.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

Raise fundamental, challenging questions, keep searching for data that address those questions, and don't be afraid to draw unorthodox conclusions.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

I continue to be drawn by the dilemmas faced by people who have been unjustly treated and their struggles to liberate themselves and restructure their world.  Here again, I read a lot on the internet. I follow some blogs to see people’s problems, their conflicts; the ways in which people understand their situation, and what they are doing to change their world.

Morris Levin photoThomas Ward photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

In this week's edition, we speak with Morris "Mo" Levin and Thomas Ward, headache specialists in the Department of Neurology at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and faculty at the Geisel School of Medicine.  Levin and Ward are the authors of Understanding Your Migraines: A Guide for Patients and Their Families (Oxford University Press, 2017), an accessible and practical source of information for those who suffer from migraines.

What is your book about?

Morris Levin (ML): This is a book about the nature, causes, and treatments of migraine for people who have the condition, as well as their families and friends.  Thomas Ward (TW): We intended to provide a case-based user-friendly resource of answers to questions that headache sufferers and their families often ask.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

TW: It was based on our combined work together at Dartmouth seeing patients in the Headache Clinic. The same questions and issues came up, again and again. We felt this showed how important some of these topics were to so many people.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

ML: For me, the research mission consists of continuing observation of patients, analyzing what we see, and designing careful studies about the nature and treatment of illness.  TW: Collaboration with colleagues and mentees, teaching, and being able to see so many patients over the years with so many diverse headache problems. Being at a large medical center helped provide these conditions.

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

TW: Probably a small chip implanted in our brains that creates a heads up display, activated simply by thought, and linked to everyone else's chips and the internet. It might go beyond that to a genetic change accomplishing the same thing. I, however, will still like my books.  ML: Obviously, fewer books and journals on shelves, and lots of virtual search and learning platforms, attuned to different learning styles.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

ML: Decide which subjects stimulate you to the point where you will spend all day/night learning about them. Then do that. The research and writing will inevitably follow.  TW: Read, read, read as broadly and as much as possible. Talk to established topic authorities but also listen to new people in your fields of interest for new ways of approaching issues. Incorporate the good things you encounter and discard the rest.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

TW: I enjoy old medical texts, especially those that are greater than 100 years old.  ML: Novels that seem plausible and news that seems credible.

Lewis Glinert photoHolding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

In this week's edition, we hear from Lewis Glinert, Professor of Hebrew Studies in the Middle Eastern Studies program.  Glinert is the author of The Story of Hebrew (Princeton University Press, 2017), which, true to its title, tells the sprawling and complex story of the origins, preservation, revival, and present-day usage of the Hebrew language.  Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, finalist for the 2017 National Jewish Book Award, and named by CHOICE Magazine as one of the "Outstanding Academic Titles for 2017," Glinert's book has won wide critical acclaim.

What is your book about?

I explore the extraordinary hold that Hebrew has had on Jews and Christians, who invested it with symbolic power beyond that of any other language in history.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

Watching the Emmy Award-winning series "The Story of English", I thought "That's nothing compared with the story of Hebrew..."

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

A deck without wifi, some raisins and almonds, and (so 20th century) pen and paper.

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

They'll all be like Sanborn Library, places to curl up with a book.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

Think how many rejections JK Rowling got...

And finally, what do you read for fun?

The Big Book of Jewish Humor by William Novak and Moshe Waldoks.