Author Archives: WIH Reporter

Two Rainbows To Appear At WIH This Fall


July 18, 2017

rainbowsAs lifelong learners, Jesse and David Rainbow have much in common with the students who attend The Women’s Institute of Houston. The brothers, raised in Strathmore, California, a small town in the state’s agricultural center, learned from the land, not merely from textbooks. Growing up, the grandsons of a seed salesman had agricultural jobs, Jesse working in the orange and olive groves, while David was dairy farming.

College was a jumping off point for Jesse, who attended the University of Houston Honors College on a scholarship, majoring in history. He also studied Spanish, and took a special interest in Near Eastern languages and civilizations. “It was a wonderful place to be a student,” he recalls. “What drew me in at 18 was the curriculum. It’s an intellectual community, where the faculty learns with the students.”
David, today a Russian scholar, tried a couple of different approaches to college, and in between, worked as an engineer aboard a merchant ship in the Pacific. Later, as a student at Fresno Pacific University, he visited Russia for the first time. “I felt like I was studying a totally different world,” David says. “It hooked me.” He graduated from Fresno Pacific, completing an honors thesis on Vladimir Lenin’s role in the Russian Revolution.

Following college, Jesse and David both took a step back from academia. But the yen for more knowledge kept tugging on the brothers. Jesse, a high school history teacher, took humanities classes during the summers. “The more I learned, the more I wanted to know,” he notes. “When I ran out of things to study, I decided to go to grad school.” Jesse received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, where he was a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

After college, David headed back west, and for the next two years was a cowhand on a ranch in western North Dakota, where, like Jesse, he felt a similar draw to continued learning. “I started taking courses from the Teaching Company,” David says. “When I found myself listening to their CDs in my tractor, I knew it was time to go back to school.” David earned an M.A. in European intellectual history from Drew University, a Ph.D. in Russian history from New York University, and was a postdoctoral Fellow at the Harriman Institute for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies at Columbia University.

The brothers are now assistant professors at the University of Houston Honors College. Jesse teaches courses in ancient Near Eastern History, Religion, and Medicine. He has written on topics such as scribal culture in the ancient Near East, ancient Jewish and Christian interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, and the place of magic and divination in the Bible. He regularly leads archaeological study trips to Israel, Turkey and Italy. David teaches and writes about modern Russian and Eurasian history. He is writing a book on Siberian regionalism from the 1860s-1930s, and is editing a book on the history of race in Russia.

Jesse is looking forward to teaching his first WIH class, “Egypt’s Greatest Pharaohs,” this fall. “At Harvard, some very inspiring teachers piqued my interest in the ancient Near East,” he notes. His study of the Hebrew Bible included comparative study of other ancient Near Eastern civilizations, including Egypt. “We’ll be getting inside the Egyptian way of thinking,” he explains, “telling the stories about the people who lived and died.” Jesse will focus on 8-10 significant figures, from Ramses the Great to Cleopatra, telling their stories in interesting and compelling ways. He plans to use a lecture format, employing lots of images and photos.

David, who taught a WIH class on the Russian Revolution this past spring, will  offer a fall class on “Forced Exile in Modern History,” looking at significant points in time where people were forced to leave their homes for political reasons. He will focus on six cases in the last two hundred years: Britain, Tsarist Russia, France, the United States, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

David says he is excited to return to WIH, “where the students are extremely engaged. It’s a self-selected group, and people ask good questions.” David appreciates the perspectives of students, who have rich life experiences. “Teaching the Russian class, it was great to talk with people who know about Russia, who are immigrants or are the children of immigrants.”

Although the brothers are busy teaching, writing and raising families, they enjoy spending time together, particularly combining their academic interests with a love of travel. This summer they are taking 16 of their Honors College students to Russia, visiting St. Petersburg and Moscow.

Jesse Rainbow’s class, “Egypt’s Greatest Pharaohs”, begins on September 7, 2017 at 1:30 p.m. For more information, or to register, click here.

David Rainbow’s class, Forced Exile in Modern History, begins on October 19th, 2017 at 10 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.

The Writer’s Art: Keys to Unlocking Creativity


June 12, 2017
orpheus

Orpheus poet of classical mythology, by Corot, via Wikipedia

In Sarah Cortez’s upcoming writing workshop, “Keys to Enjoying the Writer’s Art: Literary Romps and Productive Pauses,” students will learn the secrets of creating compelling and enduring stories, characters, and places. Starting on September 5th, and meeting once a month for a total of 6 sessions, this class will explore such topics as how to tell a story, how to use the tricks of creating poetry to enhance your prose, how to use vivid imagery in writing, how to use humor, and how to focus on what’s important in your story. We visited with Cortez to find out more about her unique class.

 

 

WIH Reporter: What is important to know about your upcoming class?

Cortez: What’s important to know is that we are going to have fun in this class as we explore the wide, wide world of writing, reading, and thinking about what others have written so that we could experience their experiences. A poem comes to us as a potent message in a blue bottle washed ashore at the edge of the ocean. It is a gift. (in the words of wonderful Edward Hirsch).

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about the topic of your class?

Cortez: This is a class where we will really hone your storytelling skills by looking at the secrets of oral and written storytellers. You will learn when to pause in your writing and when to add details. You will learn when it is best to speed up the story and when the story needs to be slowed down. The stories you create will mesmerize with their magic.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions might folks have about the subject of your class?

Cortez: I will talk about my first class “Don’t Be Afraid of Poetry”. Many people think just because they open a book of poetry in the bookstore and it doesn’t make sense that they don’t like poetry. Hogwash! I don’t like most poetry I read. But the poets I do like—there’s nothing better to read! You have to be patient and curious to find the poets you admire and enjoy. In this class I will hand over to you the keys to the poetry kingdom—those golden keys that will unlock a world of enjoyment.

WIH Reporter: What format do you plan to use in your writing class?

Cortez:I am an energetic and engaging lecturer. We’ll also stop often for participants’ questions and comments. We are TOGETHER in all of this.

WIH Reporter: Can you tell us what books are on your night table right now?

Cortez: I have Henri Nouwen’s “Prayer” and Pat Conroy’s “Prince of Tides.”

WIH Reporter: Please add anything else about what we should know about your upcoming class.

Cortez: I have been published and won awards in almost every genre of writing there is! I love writing, editing, and reading. But what I love even more is teaching….so I was particularly thrilled when The Women’s Institute reached out to me to compose these classes for its clients.

For more information on this class, click here.

Shakespeare: From Page to Stage


June 12, 2017

theatre2 The authority on all things Shakespeare, Kate Pogue, shares about her exciting class for the Fall:

“Shakespeare’s plays are great and satisfying in part because they were written for fine actors to perform. Shakespeare (unlike many of his contemporary playwrights) was himself an actor and wrote parts for his own performance. As a result, he learned to encode interpretive stage directions into his language—messages for his fellow actors to pick up on to shape their performances. Through his writing he gave keys for memorization, set the rhythm of a scene, and the pace of the play. He punctuated the ends of scenes, created the dynamism of relationships, established irony and ambiguity, established mood and atmosphere. In the 1980s John Barton rediscovered these Shakespearean stage directions and shared them in a BBC series with a team of actors including Judi Dench, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and David Suchet. In the Fall 2017 Shakespeare class we will be sitting in on John Barton’s master classes, learning to perceive Shakespeare’s directions to his actors. This thrilling exploration will change our way of approaching and appreciating the works of the greatest poet/playwright of the English language.”

This class will meet for six weeks on Thursdays beginning September 7. Click here for more information.

Contemporary Women’s Fiction


June 12, 2017

tablet-1632909__480 “A novel is not an allegory … It is the sensual experience of another world. If you don’t enter that world, hold your breath with the characters and become involved in their destiny, you won’t be able to empathize, and empathy is at the heart of the novel. This is how you read a novel: you inhale the experience. So start breathing.” -Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

Professor Laura Richardson’s class “Contemporary Women’s Fiction” meets Wednesdays, September 6 – October 11 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. More details here.

How the West Was Won: Women of the American West


June 12, 2017

Homesteader sized

Join Scott Pett on Fridays from 10:00 – 12:00, beginning September 8 as he explores the strong women of the American West.

“After thirty years here I know this area a little, but the earth is constantly changing, rocks that move, pebbles that roll out from under the sole of your shoe and throw you down, shifts and changes that are new to me because they were not here, not yet visible.” ~Leslie Marmon Silko, The Turquoise Ledge

To learn more, click here.

 

Auguste Rodin and Modern Sculpture


June 12, 2017

rodin

The progenitor of modern sculpture, Auguste Rodin said, “The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.”

 

Dr. Anna Tahinci’s six-week class “Auguste Rodin and Modern Sculpture” will meet on Tuesdays from 10:00 – 12:00 beginning September 5. Learn more here.

How Much Do You Know About…Egypt’s Pharaohs?


June 12, 2017
King Tut, wikipedia

King Tut, wikipedia

 

In anticipation of Jesse Rainbow’s upcoming September class, Egypt’s Greatest Pharaohs, we put together a quiz on that intriguing subject!

 

 

 

 

1. To keep their blood lines pure, Pharaohs only married:

A. Members of their own race.
B. Members of their own family.
C. Members of their own social class.

 

2. The last Pharoah of Egypt was a woman. Who was she?

A. Nefertiti.
B. Cleopatra.
C. Hatshepsut.

3. How did 19-year old King Tut die?

A. He was gored by a hippo.
B. He was murdered.
C. He had malaria and a leg infection.

4. The word Pharaoh means:

A. King.
B. God.
C. Great House.

5. Cleopatra’s first husband was:

A. Julius Caesar.
B. Mark Anthony.
C. Her half-brother.

6. All Pharaohs wore:

A. Ceremonial robes.
B. Makeup.
C. Fake beards.

7. A Pharaoh’s meal typically consisted of…

A. Meat, grain, and wine.
B. Bread, honey and beer/wine.
C. Rice, corn, and beer.

Answers:

1. B. Pharaoh’s married family members to keep their bloodlines pure. This enabled them also to claim ancestry from the Gods so the family bloodlines were even more important. DNA research on King Tut showed his parents were brother and sister.

2. B. Cleopatra was the last Pharaoh. She tried and failed to hold off the Romans under Augustus.

3. C. DNA research showed that King Tut died of malaria which exacerbated his leg infection.

4. C. The word “pharaoh” means “great house”. It is a Greek word that referred to the palace of the king, rather than the ruler specifically.

5. C. Per Egyptian custom, she married two of her brothers (one after the other one died).

6. B, C. Both male and female pharaohs wore fake beards and makeup. Egyptians were obsessed with being hairless, and made sure that they were hair-free, so their beards were fake.

7. B. Egyptians had a poor diet, and DNA testing shows obesity and diabetes among the Pharaohs.

How to Make Abstract Art


June 12, 2017
Wassily Kandinsky_ On White 2_ 1923_ Wikipedia

Wassily Kandinsky_ On White 2_ 1923_ Wikipedia

According to artist and educator Sheila Zeve Lipkin, abstract art—for all its complexities—is much easier to create than other kinds of art. In her upcoming September class, How to Make Abstract Art, she will introduce the key principles of this style of art so her students can then begin setting up their first abstract painting. We checked in with Lipkin to find out the details.

WIH Reporter: What is essential to know about your upcoming class?

Lipkin: Abstract art is not difficult to make when one is aware of the basic components. After the presentation and discussion of making abstract art, ideas will be presented for each participant to begin making his/her abstract painting.

WIH Reporter: What is crucial to understand about creating abstract art?

Lipkin: Abstract art is easier to make than representational art. When painting landscapes and still life and other subjects, a stronger foundation in drawing is needed, which is not the case in making abstract art.

WIH Reporter: What is necessary to know about making abstract art?

Lipkin: The elements of abstract art are basically shape, color, line, working with positive and negative spaces, imagination, and design.

WIH Reporter: Can you tell us the format of the classes?

Lipkin: The first class will introduce the basic concepts of design, mainly composition, showing by examples how this works and talk about the creative process involved. Ideas on setting up abstract paintings and thoughts to go along with them will also be introduced. At the beginning of each class the abstract paintings created by each member will be discussed.

Sheila Lipkin’s class, How to Make Abstract Art, begins on September 5, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.

Fernando Casas Speaks: On The Politics of Art


June 12, 2017
magi

Adoration of the Magi, El Greco 1568, via Wikipedia

Migration, racism, Islamophobia, religious intolerance, and persecution have come to define our present political circumstances.These also defined the political circum-stances of the Spain in which El Greco, Velazquez and Goya lived. However, unlike the artists of today, these three artists were forced to work for and under the control of authoritarian monarchies.

Nonetheless, these artists are not only admirable for the technical and aesthetic quality of their work but, more importantly, in spite of their repressive and dangerous circumstances, they were able to speak truth to the abuse of power and close-mindedness through their paintings. This is exactly the method used by the best political artist of our times.

How did they do this?

Look at any of their great paintings and what do you see—masterly technique and beauty? Yes.  Images that aptly convey and support the oppressive and close-minded values of their society? No. Indeed, these paintings seem to embody the strict social, political, and religious tenants regulated by the Spanish Inquisition for three centuries.  But this is true only of their superficial look—a protective skin required for the survival of the artist.

Hidden underneath the conventional content of these paintings resides another painting; one far more profound and noble which is, in one form or another, in sharp opposition to the accepted societal norms. In fact, it is the voice and beauty concealed in such paintings that largely exhibits the aesthetic and moral development of humanity.   We ought to look and listen to them.

Fernando Casas’ class, Politics, Religion & Ethnicity: El Greco, Velazquez, Goya, & Picasso, begins September 11th, 2017, at 1:00 p.m. For more information, or to register, click here.

 

Artist/philosopher Fernando Casas is a native of Bolivia. In 1968 he arrived in the USA with a LASPAU scholarship. In 1970 he received his BA in Philosophy from Colorado College graduating Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa and receiving the Hastings Prize for a paper in Philosophy. He continued his studies at Rice University receiving his MA in 1972 and his PhD in Philosophy in 1978.

Casas has exhibited his works of art in numerous group and solo exhibitions in commercial galleries and museums in cities such as Houston, New York City, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Florence, Lima (Peru), La Paz (Bolivia) and Santiago (Chile). In 2003 he was awarded the Premio alla Carriera at the Florence Biennale.

Since the 1980s, Casas has taught and lectured at several universities in South and North America. His longest association is with Rice University where he has taught in Humanities and Philosophy as Distinguished Lecturer for about 20 years.

Among his publications are The Limit of The Visual World (1990), Polar Perspective: A Graphical System for Creating Two-dimensional Images Representing a World of Four Dimensions (1984), and Flat-Sphere Perspective (1983).

 

 

100 Years of Texas Art: A Celebration of Stylistic Diversity


June 12, 2017

stout Since the days Texas was settled, artistic activity has been pivotal to Texas cultural life. Yet Texas art has all too often been stereotyped as offering only depictions of cowboys, cattle, and wildflowers. According to art historian and fine art appraiser Sarah Foltz, those subjects only represent a small fraction of the art that Texas offers. In fact, these days Texas art is being recognized by the larger art world as a vibrant center of stylistic diversity. In her upcoming class, “100 Years of Texas Art”, (starting on September 11th at 10 a.m), Foltz takes us on a whirlwind tour exploring the unique and eclectic mix of art works that make up Texas art. We spoke with her to find out more.

WIH Reporter: What do we need to know about your upcoming class?

Foltz: There will be three important exhibitions on Texas Art occurring during the class, and visits will be made to our class by the curators, art historians, and artists involved with these projects. This gives our class an opportunity to hear first-hand information about these projects.

WIH Reporter: Can you describe these exhibitions for us?

Foltz: The first one focuses on two Houston artists cooperatives from the 1930s – the Houston Artists Gallery and the Negro Art Guild—separate-but-parallel groups organized by Houston artists so that they could exhibit and sell their art. The second one celebrates the abstract expressionist paintings and sculptures of Richard Stout, a Houston artist (born in Beaumont, Texas, 1934). Stout is an acknowledged artist with a significant following in Texas who has international accolades. The third exhibition is called “Of Texas Rivers and Texas Art ” showcasing a compilation of some of the finest contemporary river art detailing the gorgeous traits of Texas landscapes.

WIH Reporter: What misconceptions about Texas art have you encountered in your work as an art historian and fine art appraiser?

Foltz:  One common misconception about “Texas Art” is that it is only paintings of cowboys and bluebonnets. While those subjects are a (very) small portion of it, there is a wide range of stylistic diversity, and an embrace of new ideas and media that have evolved over the past 100 years.  

 WIH Reporter: What format do you plan to use in the class.?

Foltz:  As this course covers 100 years of Texas art, this survey-style course will consist of classroom lectures, as well as visits to private collections and exhibitions, which will familiarize participants with the key movements and artists active in the state.  Additional resource references and reading lists will be provided for anyone interesting in delving further into the art history of Texas. 

WIH Reporter: We like to ask what books are on your night table right now?

Foltz:  The books I am reading right now include, “Why the Raven Calls the Canyon” by E Dan Klepper, “Minding the Store” by Stanley Marcus, “Texas Identities” by Light Cummins, and “William Goyen: Collected Short Stories” by William Goyen.

Sarah Foltz’s class, 100 Years of Texas Art, begins on September 11, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. For more information or to register, click here.

Immerse in the History, Culture, Food, and Wine in the Heart of France 


March 1, 2017
dijon

Place François-Rude dite du Bareuzai in Dijon, wikipedia

Experience the Champagne and Burgundy regions in all their historical and cultural glory in Linda Kelly’s upcoming class “History, Culture, Food And Wine In The Heart of France.” We visited with Linda to get all the details.

 

 

 

WIH Reporter: What do we need to know about your class?

Kelly: The aim of all my classes is to help people become informed travelers. This particular class will spotlight the historic monuments, museums, culture, and gastronomy of Champagne and Burgundy. Both regions played a major role in French history.

WIH Reporter: Can you give us some examples of the role these regions played in French history?

Kelly: The Gothic cathedral at Reims was the site of royal coronations for over a thousand years. The town of Troyes prospered in the Middle Ages, thanks to its trade fairs created by the counts of Champagne. The walls of the city’s many churches glow with medieval and Renaissance stained-glass. Among the many châteaux featured in the course, the most fascinating ones belonged to the flamboyant Count Roger de Rabutin, who decorated the interior with portraits of kings, royal mistresses, and ladies of the Sun King’s court.

WIH Reporter: What can you tell us about the Burgundy region and about Dijon, its capital city?

Kelly: Burgundy was the cradle of the monastic movement which spread from Cluny and Cîteaux all over Europe. The Cluniac monks promoted a flowering of the arts-architecture, sculpture, and painting. To the Cistercians, we owe advances in agriculture, metallurgy, and the cultivation of the vine. The historic center of Dijon boasts a wealth of medieval, Renaissance, and neo-Classical buildings. Among the city’s many treasures are the ornate tombs of two dukes of the Valois dynasty on display in the former ducal palace (now the Museum of Fine Arts). The course will feature masterpieces of painting and sculpture commissioned by the dukes, who were great collectors and patrons of art.

WIH Reporter: What do you consider to be the most interesting events occurring in that region that still reverberate today?

Kelly: The death of Charles the Bold, the last Valois duke of Burgundy, during the Battle of Nancy in January 1477 was a decisive event in European history. His defeat put an end to the threat of the formation of an independent kingdom of Burgundy stretching from Burgundy to the North Sea. The map of Europe would have been different had the duke succeeded in uniting his northern and southern territories.

I have always been fascinated by the critical role played by the Valois dukes of Burgundy during the Hundred Years’ War.  During the reign of the mad king, Charles VI, the second Valois duke, John the Fearless, had the king’s brother killed.  Duke John lusted for power and control of the royal treasury.  His cousin, the king’s brother, stood in his way.  The murder of Louis d’Orléans triggered a civil war between Burgundians and followers of the dead prince.  Henry V of England took advantage of a divided France to inflict a humiliating defeat on the French on the battlefield at Agincourt.

WIH Reporter: What more should we know about your classes?

Kelly: Showing the historical background of a region makes travel more meaningful.  Anyone planning a trip to the area covered in the class, will benefit by the research I have done in planning my own trip.  I think that armchair travelers, who may not have immediate plans to visit France, will find the class intellectually stimulating & visually exciting.  My lectures are illustrated with hundreds of photographs taken during our travels by my husband, architect Frank Kelly.

Although I tend to focus on history, art, and architecture, I also talk about culture, cuisine, places to stay and restaurants.  Frank and I are fascinated by the French food culture.   We love to visit and photograph markets.  The market at Dijon will be featured in the class.

We will also go south of Dijon to the fabled wine road of the Côte d’Or leading to Beaune, renowned for its Hotel-Dieu, a 15th century charity hospital with a spectacular multi-colored glazed tile roof.  Southern Burgundy is a land of picture-postcard scenery, villages with lovely Romanesque churches, stone-walled vineyards, and fields of grazing cattle.

WIH Reporter: What other advice can you give us as armchair travelers?

Kelly: To experience the pleasures of the table in France, one doesn’t have to spend a fortune at a three-star restaurant.  We have had outstanding meals produced in less-renowned kitchens.  In short, Frank and I are unabashedly Francoholic.  I try to communicate this enthusiasm for France to the students in my classes.

Linda Kelly’s 6-week class begins on March 21st at 1:00. For more information or to register, click here.

Aid in War: The Pros and Cons of Humanitarian Action


August 18, 2014
RAF

RAF plane airdropping food during 1985 famine (Wikipedia)

From Ebola vaccine distribution to aid for Yazidis fleeing Iraq, the scourges of war necessitate international help. However, humanitarian aid all too often comes with political and economic strings attached, bringing with it long range repercussions. In her upcoming class, “Aid and War: The Investigation of Humanitarian Action”, instructor Rebecca Timsar explores the complex world of humanitarian aid in time of conflict. We spoke with her to find out more.

 

WIH Reporter: What is important for us to know about the issue of humanitarian aid?

Timsar: First of all, this subject is very timely in view of what is happening in the Middle East and Africa at the moment. Secondly, I will give an insider’s look at the aid world and its key players. Finally, we will look into important humanitarian principles such as neutrality and independence and investigate why these are important when giving assistance in a war zone.

For example, in Iraq, US military assistance is certainly not neutral, especially given our long history of war in this country. Thus questions regarding perception and security of the victims as well as independence from political power arise. We will delve into these and many other topics on humanitarian assistance. Another example is the recent concern over delivery of Russian humanitarian aid to Ukraine. The international community was calling for distribution by the International Committee of the Red Cross and not Russian soldiers – we will probe the reasons behind this.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise people to know about aid during conflict?

Timsar: Aid most often comes with strings attached. It is not impartial and neutral at all, even in the most acute situations. In my class, we will use lectures, witnesses, PowerPoint slides, news media, video, and guest speakers to enrich the 8-week odyssey we plan to undertake. I have worked in the field of humanitarian aid for almost 2 decades and will certainly be calling on my own experiences to add complexity to the problems we study.

WIH Reporter: In a nutshell, can you tell us the biggest misconception we have about aid?

Timsar: The biggest misconception we have about humanitarian aid during conflict is that all aid is good aid.

A Guided Tour of Ancient Egypt: Immerse in the Mystery & Magic


August 27, 2013

Steep yourself in the 5,000 year-old world of ancient Egypt! Participate in a fascinating lecture at WIH and then a guided tour of the new Houston Museum of Natural Science’s 10,000-sq ft Egypt Hall. It’s all happening on Sunday, Sept. 8th, 2 p.m to 6 p.m., as we join renowned speaker and guide Dirk Van Tuerenhout, Anthropology Curator of the museum.

Designed to be a completely immersive experience, this exhibition has been described as the most comprehensive ancient Egypt display in the southwestern United States. From Chiddingstone Castle to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Germany’s Roemer und Pelizaeus Museum to Emory University, stunning artifacts have come into Egypt Hall, and numerous items will continue to move through HMNS’ ever-changing yet permanent display.

The preliminary lecture will be held at Women’s Institute of Houston, after which participants will proceed to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The guided tour begins in Egypt Hall, with a walk along the river Nile, and moves forward into the daily life of ancient Egyptians, with up-close views and explanations of their temples, mummies, sarcophagi, hieroglyphic panels, friezes, and more. The tour then segues into the modern day, with stories of the most exciting discoveries of the 1920s, and the latest technological methods of artifact gathering. Join us for a one-of-a-kind experience!

 For more information, and to sign up, visit the Sunday lecture page by clicking here.  

How Much Do You Know About…Ancient Egypt?


August 27, 2013

1. Cleopatra was:

A. Egyptian.
B. Greek Macedonian.
C. Jordanian.

2. The pyramids were built by:

A. Slaves
B. Israelites.
C. Paid workers.

 3. In order to stop incessant flies from landing on him, one Pharaoh:

A. Never went outdoors.
B. Had honey smeared on slaves near him.
C. Created an effective bug killing substance.

4. Early Egyptian medical innovations included:

A. Treating infections with moldy bread.
B. Using copper to disinfect wounds.
C. Sewing wounds with needle and thread.
D. All of the above.

5. Egyptian children wore:

A. No clothing at all.
B. Body makeup.
C. Robes, like their parents.

6. A Pharaoh’s hair was:

A. Braided by slaves daily.
B. Oiled and scented by slaves daily.
C. Never seen.

ANSWERS:

1. B – Cleopatra was Greek Macedonian. Although she was born in Alexandra, she was descended from Ptolemy I, one of Alexander the Great’s lieutenants. The Ptolemaic Dynasty ruled Egypt for 275 years, from 305 BC to 30 BC, and retained their Greek heritage. Cleopatra was one of the first members of this dynasty to speak the Egyptian language.

2. C – Evidence points to the fact that pyramids were build by paid workers. The workers who built the pyramids ate meat and worked in three-month shifts. Although paid, their labor was extremely hard as shown by their bone damage.

3. B - In order to stop flies from landing on him, Pepi II of Egypt always kept several naked slaves nearby whose bodies were smeared with honey.

4. D – All of the above. In early Egyptian medicine infections were treated with moldy bread which has antibiotic properties. They used copper as a disinfectant for wounds, performed autopsies and surgeries, and more.

5. A – Due to the high temperatures, Egyptian children wore no clothes until they were in their teens.

6. C - A Pharaoh never allowed his hair be seen. A crown or headdress was worn instead.

A Writer’s World


October 13, 2011

Christopher Woods has been teaching his popular creative writing class at the Women’s Institute for years. The class is designed for those who wish to express themselves in writing and participants are encouraged to write poetry, fiction, or non-fiction.  They are also encouraged to experiment in new forms in order to build a stronger writing foundation. We recently got a chance to visit with Chris. 

WIH Reporter: Of all the topics you could have chosen, was makes this one especially important to you?  

Woods: Conducting a writing workshop is the most natural thing I can do. I have been writing in one form or another since I was seventeen. I enjoy becoming familiar with the work of others, and encouraging them to find their voice. An added treat is to watch them find their way in the world and to begin to publish their work, which is a very gratifying thing.

WIH Reporter: What books would we find on your night table this month?
Woods:  You would find literary journals and photography books.

WIH Reporter: What were the strongest influences in your life?
Woods:  My parents. They provided such a normal childhood that I am surprised I became a writer. Later, a special creative writing teacher encouraged me, and in a way, he gave me permission to explore my own creativity. 

WIH Reporter: What is the one thing people should know about you (but do not)?
Woods:
I once played guitar in a jug band on a ship crossing the Atlantic. Fortunately the ship was far away from the U.S., so no one here had to listen to my music. I don’t know that anyone needs to know about this, but it is something different. Other than that, as a writer I struggle as much as anyone else to find the right words. It’s an endless battle. 

WIH Reporter: What advice do you have for other writers?

Woods: Every writer should keep a journal, and make entries as often as possible. Most of the information in the journal will be perceptions, descriptions, and general thoughts about day to day life. From those journal entries, ideas for longer pieces can come about. A description of a person might lead to the creation of a fictional character, for example. Keep in mind that our lives are often frenetic, so any specific details that we record can be extremely helpful later when we attempt creative writing, in any form.

When an idea for a poem or story comes to me, I try to sit down and write immediately if at all possible. Otherwise, the inspiration passes. If I wait until later the moment could be lost.

WIH Reporter: What about writer’s block?


Woods:
Personally, I do not believe in such a thing as writer’s block. But, we are very good at making excuses. If we want to be writers, our job is to write. Life throws roadblocks, crises, all kinds of things to take us away from our writing. There are even writing workshops for victims of trauma. I think we should try to make use of our life experiences, all kinds, and in the end we can become better writers because of it.

Foreign (and other) Affairs


October 13, 2011
Sidney Buchannan’s class has arrived at an opportune time, as representatives from the nation’s political  parties are debating the size and power of the federal government

Buchannan’s class delves into the important subject of constitutionality, exploring each branch of the federal government and the powers it can exercise.  In particular, he will examine the constitutionality of forced detention of aliens (and US citizens) without trial, the use of military power without formal declarations of war, recognition of foreign governments, and more – all of which are have occurred in recent years. We asked Professor Buchannan to tell us the particulars about his class, and his propensity to burst into song at unexpected moments.

WIH Reporter: Why have you chosen this particular subject for your class?
Buchannan: I have chosen The Constitution and Foreign Affairs as my topic for the current fall season because if fits neatly with the present foreign affairs issues that confront our nation. This course also gives me a chance to show how difficult it often is to even get the Supreme Court to review a case.


WIH Reporter:  We understand that you often sing in your classes, placing your own lyrics into well-known songs to get the point across. Can you tell us more about this?  
Buchannan: From childhood forward, I have thrived on putting my own lyrics to familiar tunes. As I surged through boarding school, college, and law school, I did this frequently, and it became a regular habit as I entered my adult years, a habit from which people could not escape even if they wanted to.  And so, at family birthday occasions, in the law school classroom, and in various church activities I belt out songs with lyrics appropriate to the situation at hand.   It is advantageous to me in that, because of the settings in which these songs occur, no one expects me to sing in operatic tones.  It is like the dog that can stand on three legs: it is not that I do it well, but that I do it at all.  In any event, it has brought me great joy to sing my lyrics to the various audiences that have been subjected to them over the past decades!  

WIH Reporter:  Can you tell us what books are on your night table?
Buchannan: I am currently reading “How Would a Patriot Act” by Glenn Greenwald and “The Land of Painted Caves” by Jean M. Auel, the last in her excellent series on Earth’s Children.  The strongest influences on my life are too numerous to list but certainly include my family, my church, my close friends, and my teaching career at the University of Houston Law Center.  I think most people who know me well would describe me as a joyous person, and I plead guilty to that charge!  Finally, as a child, I was a fervent fan of the Oz books authored by L. Frank Baum and later by Ruth Plumly Thompson.  I am “joyously” happy to share that fact with the world at large.

Are You Well Read? – October


October 13, 2011
Venice is one of the most magical cities in Europe, and authors over the centuries have made ample use of its enchanting ambiance in their work. Here are just a few of the well-known books set in Venice:
Death in Venice, Thomas Mann
The Aspern Papers, Henry James

Death at La Fenice, Donna Leon

A Venetian Affair, Andrea di Robilant

Venice Observed, Mary McCarthy

The World of Venice, Jan Morris

The Comfort of Strangers, Ian McEwan

Don’t Look Now, Daphne du Maurier

For a more comprehensive list, along with a description of some of the books, see the following web page: Fictional Cities.

Are You Well Read?


September 5, 2011

Question: How many 19th century novels (short stories or novellas) can you name that prominently feature a character who descends into madness?

Hint: One famous novel features a madwoman in the attic.

Answer: Nineteenth-century literature reflects changing Victorian attitudes to mental illness. In the early decades, madness was often described in terms conveying horror and disgust. Only in later novels do we find a more compassionate portrait of mental illness. Indeed, this adjustment in attitude was evidenced in two separate works by author Charlotte Bronte. Her earlier novel, “Jane Eyre”, offered a characteristically Gothic interpretation, introducing the repulsive, feral madwoman in the attic. Some years later, Bronte painted a more enlightened picture of mental illness in her semi-autobiographical novel, “Villette”.
Here is a list: 
Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens (1837)

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (1847)
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte (1847)
David Copperfield, Charles Dickens (1850)
Vilette, Charlotte Bronte (1853)

Little Dorritt, Charles Dickens (1857)

Cassandra Florence Nightengale (1860)

Lady Audley’s Secret, Mary Braddon (1862)

He Knew He Was Right, Anthony Trollope (1869)

The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892)


Follow-up Reading:

Books and articles on this subject can be found as follows:

Allan Beveridge and Edward Renvoiz

McCandless, P. (1981) Liberty and lunacy: The Victorians and wrongful confinement. In Madhouses, Mad doctors, and Madmen: The Social History of Psychiatry in the Victorian Era.

Lisa Appignanesi, Mad, Bad and Sad: A history of the mind doctors from 1800 to the present (Virago 2008)
Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The woman writer and the nineteenth-century literary imagination (Yale University Press, 1979)
Elaine Showalter, The Female Malady: Women, madness and English culture 1830-1980 (Virago, 1985).







New Perspectives on 9/11


September 5, 2011
September 11, 2011 marks the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Professor Terry Doody is teaching “Politics and Other Fictions”,  a literature class that centers around this event. Recently, we visited with Professor Doody to find out more.
  
WIH Reporter: Three of the novels featured in your class focus on the actual event, but the rest do not. What informed your choice of novels for this class?

Doody: The anniversary of 9/11 is exactly the reason I want to teach the books–not only the three of them immediately focused on the event itself, but the other novels that give us a sense of Islam, in some of its very many forms.

WIH Reporter:  How can reading fiction enlarge our perspectives in approaching this event? 

Doody: Shelley says in “The Defense of Poetry” that we must be able to imagine what we know. What we merely know are facts.  Imagination, at least for the Romantic writers of the nineteenth century, is the greater power necessary to comprehend our whole reality with the fullness of our consciousness.  And fiction is not merely useful but always essential to our comprehension precisely because it takes us beyond ourselves and our familiar reality into the minds of others.

WIH Reporter: What is an example of the importance of imagination in relation to merely knowing facts?

Doody: One of the reasons we lost the war in Viet Nam is that we could not imagine losing it. We could not imagine the culture, the need, the endurance of the Vietnamese.  We thought they would react just as we would react, and they didn’t. 

As the old saying goes, the generals are always fighting the last war, which was in the jungle not in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan, which itself is not a modern nation-state. They are not us, and we are having trouble imagining them, despite all the information technology at our disposal.-

Politics and Other Fictions begins on September 8th, 2011, and features the following novels: Malgudi Days (Narayan),  The Satanic Verses (Rushdie);  Palace Walk (Mahfouz);  Let the Great World Spin (McCann);  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Foer);  The Good Life (McInerney);  Say You’re One of Them (Akpan);  Unaccustomed Earth (Lahiri); and  The Thing Around Your Neck. (Adichie).


Of Biblical Proportions: Power, Revenge, and Salvation in The Book of Samuel


September 5, 2011
For two thousand years, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have been reading the Bible, and it has never lost its fascination. This fall at the Women’s Institute of Houston, Professor Seymour Rossel’s is offering a dynamic class about the Book of Samuel, titled “Prophets, Priests, and Kings”. We asked Professor Rossel to tell us about the particulars about his class, and more. 


WIH ReporterWhy have you chosen this particular book of the Bible for your class?

Rossel: It is one of my personal favorites among the books of the Bible. I like it for the same reason that I admire the three films of “The Godfather.” It is filled with towering moments of drama, with characters struggling for power and repute, with stories of Judges, priests, prophets, and kings and how they interact, with stories of soothsayers and witches, with the desires of real people to make a better nation for themselves, with tales of marriage and divorce, rape and murder, crime and punishment, and wars with enemies and wars within families. 


The Book of Samuel (found in modern translations in two parts, as First Samuel and Second Samuel, but still one book) has everything that made the “Godfather” so compelling (aside, perhaps from a horsehead in the bed).

WIH ReporterWhat other parallels to our time can we find in The Book of Samuel?

Rossel: In a time when we ponder with issues of how much power should be vested in our national, state, and local government, Samuel takes on the same issue and provides some surprising insights. In a time when we wonder why so many of those who rise to high office manage to fall through their own human weakness, the Book of Samuel proves that this is an age-old dilemma. At a time when splinter groups seem to wield so much political power and divisiveness seems to dominate our national politics, the Book of Samuel gives us glimpses into the processes that drive people apart and the best in us which can sometimes reunite and heal our national will. No wonder, then, that the ancient sages recommended that we “Turn it, turn it, and turn it again, for everything is in it.”

WIH ReporterWhat were the strongest influences in your life and work?

Rossel: The strongest influences in my life have always been teachers who became friends and friends who became teachers. I have been remarkably blessed in this sense. You might not recognize many of the teachers I have had the honor of knowing, but you would certainly recognize one or more. As a youth, I had a brief interview with Martin Buber that proved influential. Ever since, when I read his books and essays, I hear his voice and recall his presence, so he has remained my teacher. 

I was fortunate enough to study writing with Marshall Terry, a fine Texas author, and Ken Shields, a brilliant critic and interpreter, both of SMU and both of whom became lifelong friends. In New York, I studied at NYU with Cyrus Gordon and Manuel Gold, both of whom became close friends; and I was fortunate to study with Joseph Campbell at his workshop The Open Eye and to become his friend, as well. As a teacher, I continue to try to emulate these folk and others who brought wisdom and learning into my life and what I love most about the Women’s Institute is the closeness that allows those of us who teach to be friends with those of us who are taught. We have so much to learn from one another.


Professor Rossel’s class meets on Tuesday afternoons, from 1:00 – 3:00, and starts September 6, 2011.