Liz Weiman Speaks: On the Mind-Body Connection

February 28, 2018


The latest scientific research into the power of the mind-body connection shows us that we can be active participants in taking control of our health and healing. In my upcoming class, we will explore the latest scientific research about this mind-body connection and also learn modern and ancient techniques that have proven to have profound effects on stress reduction and health.

One factor that we will explore is the art of breathing properly. Shallow breathing is normally triggered when we are threatened, as part of our innate fight or flight defense system. However, in these stressful modern times, our breathing may have become primarily shallow. We may notice that the air stops in our throat or upper/middle chest on each breath. Babies and young children breathe naturally, using the large muscle of the diaphragm which also massages the internal organs on each breath. By learning specific exercises that counteract stress-induced breathing, we can relearn how to breathe properly, cultivate calm, and improve overall health, longevity, and quality of life.

For more information or to register for Weiman’s 6-week class “The Mind-Body Connection: Improving Health, Longevity, and Quality of Life,” starting April 5th, 2018, click here.


Helga Aurisch Speaks: On Artistic Couples

February 28, 2018

The Kiss by Gustave Klimt

Another title I considered for this course was “Artists in Love,” but that had been used by Veronica Kavass for her 2012 book on this fascinating subject. I did want to concentrate on painters. And they were not always in love. Many of the relationships that we will be looking at, for instance Dora Maar and Picasso, Gabrielle Münter and Vassily Kandinsky were turbulent to say the least. Starting as love stories, even seductions, they often ended in sadness and misery for the women. They had to battle on while their former partners rose to stardom.  At a moment when the #metoo movement is fiercely debated in our society, looking at the trajectory of these couples that often began as student/teacher relationships will add a historical dimension to the current discussion.

For more information about Helga Aurisch’s 6-week class “Artistic Couples”, beginning March 19th, click here.


The Extraordinary Role of Women in Religion

February 28, 2018

Virgin Mary and Jesus (old Persian miniature), wikipedia


The religions of the world would be mere shadows of their current iterations were it not for the women who championed them and, in many cases, illustrated the religions’ highest ideals with their very lives. In her upcoming class, “Women in Religion,” Professor Jill Carroll will focus on the extraordinary role that women have played, and continue to play, in the world’s religions.





WIH Reporter: From most people’s perspective, religions of the world are dominated by men. How will your upcoming class dispel this?

Carroll: The class, broadly speaking, won’t dispel this idea because historically it is mostly true. Religions have been made by men, for men and about men for the most part. That being the case, the stories and roles of women in the religions have been minimized. Our class will prioritize those stories and roles to balance out the portrait of the religions.

WIH Reporter: In many religions of the world, women are taught to be submissive. Would you give us an example of a female who went against this directive?

Carroll: Pretty much every woman who ever did anything notable in the realm of religion. Sometimes it was a matter of not being “submissive” – other times it was more about refusing the standard, limiting roles carved for women in a given socio-cultural context. The women who have achieved something in religion – started a movement, led a group, initiated socio-political activism, etc. – broke out of the prescribed roles in order to accomplish those things.

WIH Reporter: Do you have a favorite female prophet, disciple or saint and if so, what is her strongest characteristic?

Carroll: There are so many, but recently I’m enamored with Lucretia Mott, the 18th century abolitionist, women’s rights advocate, and religious reformer.  She was so brave, so smart, so powerful in her person and presence.  Another would be Angelina Grimke, abolitionist and women’s rights advocate.  Both these women were deeply radical in their contexts and had backbones of steel.  I admire them tremendously.

WIH Reporter: How do the women you will examine in this course illustrate the ideals of religion?

Carroll: In many ways, they exemplify the deepest ideals, teachings and ethical admonitions of the religions – and expand them into new area.  For example, Amma (a current day Hindu guru from the Dalit or untouchable caste) embodies in her life and practice many traditional Hindu virtues and does what respectable gurus everywhere do.  However, she expands her work into the world of widows – Hindu society is particularly hard on widows – and Amma from her own resources through the funds she raises has created a small pension system for widows.  I can’t imagine that such a thing would be on the forefront of a male guru’s agenda.  But Amma is a woman and understands the plight of women.  It’s not a blind spot for her.

WIH Reporter: Finally, in today’s world of women finding their voices to stand up to misogyny, what would surprise us to know about the amazing women you will be studying?

Carroll: I don’t know that it’s much of a surprise, but important to know is that so many of these women overcame significant odds against them to achieve whatever they’ve achieved.  They were scorned, put down, made fun of, harassed, rejected, etc.  But, as the recent meme indicates, “still she persisted.”

For more information or to register for Jill Carroll’s 8-week course starting March 19th, 2018, click here.


Breaking News: Bill Frisco Weighs In on Today’s Financial Market and Economy

February 28, 2018

wall2More than ever, investors are concerned with the high valuations in today’s stock and bond markets. William E. Frisco, Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Adviser, has a lot to tell us about the market and the economy in his upcoming class, “Today’s Market: Will the Boom Times Continue?” We visited with Frisco to find out more.


WIH Reporter: What is important to know about the areas you will cover in your upcoming class?

Frisco: The class will address key areas that concern every investor such as if the stock market is overvalued and ready for a significant drop and if bond yields will rise as a result of rising inflation.

Investors are also concerned about the major changes in the new tax bill. Investors should know how much they can spend in retirement without running out of money and how the mid-term elections will possibly impact financial markets.

WIH Reporter: What kind of information will you be sharing with your students in this class?

Frisco: In addition to covering how to manage investment risks, generate income for retirement, and diversify growth portfolios to minimize volatility, I will be covering such topics as index funds, what they are, and why Warren Buffett is recommending them. I will also detail how assets should be allocated in today’s economic climate.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do you think we have about a class like yours that covers financial markets?

Frisco: People often assume that the class is biased one way or another in covering the economy, which is an incorrect assumption. Instead, we will will review strategies that have survived good times and not so good times

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Frisco: The class is taught in a question and answer format to improve the learning process and to fully engage the participants. Each class has detailed, updated handouts covering the topics to be discussed. I will layer a foundation in each area and then open up the discussion to cover questions and concerns from the participants. The research for the class is very current, timely, and from a variety of different sources. The class is for those who want to do their own investing as well as those who choose to work with an adviser.

WIH Reporter: We are often curious about the books currently on your night table. Could you tell us what you are reading lately?

Frisco: Books include The Accidental Superpower by Peter Zeihan, Tools for Smart Thinking, by Richard Nisbett, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt:The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and The Flawed Giant – Lyndon Johnson by Robert Dallek.

For more information, or to register for Bill Frisco’s 5-week class starting on April 3rd, 2018, click here.

Romanticism: A Tradition and a Way of Life

February 27, 2018

“The Lover’s Whirlwind” 1872, William Blake

According to Professor Jade Hagen, who is teaching the upcoming class “Masterworks of Romanticism,” the literary tradition of Romanticism is far reaching and though it has been considered to be part of earlier centuries, it has strongly influenced many elements in these modern times. We checked in with Hagen to find out more.



WIH Reporter: What is important to know about Romanticism?

HagenRomanticism is arguably the most influential literary and artistic tradition in American history, and perhaps the most important tradition to arise in Great Britain after Shakespeare and Milton. Surrealism and the avant-gardes of the early twentieth century wouldn’t have been possible without Romanticism, and the Beat poets of the 1950s and ’60s explicitly acknowledge the Romantics as their precursors. 

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do we have about Romanticism?

Hagen: “Romanticism” does have the word “romantic” in it, but it’s not about romance in the popular sense of love or marriage. Rather, Romanticism has been described as both a literary tradition and a way of life, one that is distinctly modern in its commitment to history, change, individual genius, and cultivating a healthy relationship between nature and culture.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about Romanticism?

Hagen: Well, I realize its my own idiosyncratic take on things, but I would argue that Romanticism should be of interest because we are still in the Romantic period. That is, although Romanticism proper is usually considered an eighteenth and nineteenth-century phenomenon, most of the major issues we’re dealing with today—consumerism, climate change, the fight for individual rights and freedoms—are a part of the Romantic legacy. As a society, we’re still working out solutions and ways to live with these issues, and the Romantics were the first to alert us to the fact that these aren’t national or even regional issues, but human issues that affect all of us, regardless of our views on them.

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Hagen: I like to begin class with an overview of the historical and literary contexts, and the major themes and questions that I hope we as a class can explore. Then I open it up to discussion. I’m also working on setting up either a visit to Rice’s Woodson Archives, or a speaker from the Archives to come to us. The Woodson has a copy of the illuminated version of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, which we will be reading. Blake was an engraver by trade, and engraved and colored by hand each individual copy of his poems. You can read them in a book, but it’s just not the same as seeing the original plates, which evoke a totally different feeling than if you just see the black and white print version. We may also get into some adaptations of Romantic works. Frankenstein is a favorite of course, and has so many modern adaptations they’re hard to keep track of! Some are better than others though, and once you’ve read the book, you know why, and can appreciate the better versions that much more.

WIH Reporter: What books are on your night table right now?

Hagen: It’s quite the eclectic mix. Let’s see, there’s Don Allen’s anthology, The New American Poetry: 1945-1960; Hafiz’s The Gift; a collection of Rumi poems; Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic; an anthology by Robert Bly called News of the Universe; John Ashbery’s Selected Poems; Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake; and Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (a real thriller); and a pocket edition of Blake of course. There’s always Blake these days.

For more information, or to register for Hagen’s 6-week class starting April 3rd, 2018, click here.




How Much Do You Know About…the Stock Market?

February 27, 2018

In anticipation of Bill Frisco’s upcoming financial class, we created a quiz to test your knowledge about little-known stock market facts.

1. Where is the oldest stock exchange in the world?

A. Barcelona, Spain.
B. Hamburg, Germany.
C. Toulouse, France.
D. Antwerp, Belgium.

2. Where was the first stock exchange in the United States?

A. New York, N.Y.
B. Philadelphia, PA.
C. Washington, D.C.
D. Boston, MA.

3. The founders of the New York Stock Exchange took inspiration from which country’s stock market?

A. Great Britain.
B. France.
C. Italy.
D. Spain.

4. What is the name for the method of communications used by stock traders frantically running around a trading floor and using hand signals?

A. Verbal auction.
B. Open outcry.
C. Hand dealing.

5. Which of the following is an example of a defensive stock?

A. A weapons manufacturer.
B. A utility company.
C. An auto manufacturer.

6. What does it mean when a trader flashes four fingers parallel to the floor, palm out?

A. Sell four shares.
B. Sell nine shares.
C. Buy four shares.
D. Buy nine shares.

7. Which company is NOT a member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average?

A. Verizon.
B. Amazon.
C. Hewlett-Packard.
D. WalMart.
E. Pfizer.

8. How many companies are in the Dow Jones Industrial Average?

A. 10.
B. 30.
C. 50.
D. 100.


1. D. The oldest stock exchange in the world began in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1460.

2. B. The first stock exchange in the United States, opened in Philadelphia, in 1790.

3. D. The value of the dollar had been based on the Spanish real, so the NYSE founders looked to Spain for inspiration for their stock market.. The Spanish real is also the reason for all the fractional stock prices in the NYSE.

4. B. Open outcry is the way transactions are communicated using shouting and hand signals.

5. B. A defensive stock is named as such because its value doesn’t fluctuate much. A good example of defensive stock would be utility stocks.

6. B. Palm out means sell. Four fingers at a 90-degree angle indicates nine while four upright fingers signals four.

7. B. Amazon is not a member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

8. B. 30 is the correct answer.

 Film and Music: Two Great  American Art Forms

January 22, 2018

Photo by Connor Limbocker

In the year 2018, a year that will perhaps be known as “The Year of the Woman”, The Women’s Institute of Houston would like to feature two of its female professors and their upcoming classes. Hannah Biggs, whose class “Legendary Directors: And Film As Their Art” explores 3 major film directors says, “I always strive to make my classes lighthearted, fun, and let the movies themselves guide us in a conversation about film as an art form.”

Dominque Royem, whose class “How Music Makes the Musical: More Musicals,” takes us on a journey through the world of musicals tells us, “We will watch and listen to musicals and discuss how the music works with the drama. Since music as a language is based on perception, each member of the class might hear things differently!”

We visited with both of these professors to find out more.

WIH Reporter: What is important to know about each of your classes?

Biggs: In my class we will be studying the films of three directors: Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, and Martin Scorsese. I will show bits of these directors’ films in class, and I’ll pause for moments of lecture, ask questions of students, answer any questions, and provide clarification about the film.

Royem: In exploring the ways that music creates the musical, we will be looking at popular musicals to understand the special place music holds in drama.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do we have about film directors and musicals?

Biggs: We often think directors’ films all fall into one particular category, style, or genre when in fact directors often experiment with different film styles, motifs, and camera work as they evolve throughout their body of work. In their earlier works, you’ll see nods to the styles of their directorial role models. For example, Spielberg often uses a lot of editing elements of Hitchcock’s; and, early on in his body of work, the more Hitchcock-style elements of his films stand out. Only later on will you get to trace the development of a director’s body of work when they move to experiment and develop their own directorial footprint on the film industry.

Royem: One mistaken belief about musicals is that you have to like all the shows we will be covering – Carousel, Kiss Me Kate, The Music Man, Fiddler on the Roof, Into the Woods, and Les Miserables. The truth is that even if you don’t like a particular musical, everyone can learn something from each one!

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about the world of film directors and musicals?

Biggs: A director’s own personal biography can often have far more impact on the creation of a film than one would think. In addition to a director’s own personal biography, a director’s experiences making his/her earlier films can impact the types of films made later on. For example, Spielberg loved making films meant for children and young adults, like ET and Jurassic Park.He strove in all of his movies to reach that same feeling of suspended reality and total immersion in a world of imagination.

Royem: It will be surprising to find that we will be using the same methods of investigation for musicals that are used with classical music and opera. Learning these techniques in this class will make it easier to understand classical music as well.

 WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Biggs: I start off each class with a 15-20 minute lecture on the topic. We then view the film and work through the parts I’ve pre-selected to view in the class. Each film in this class will get two weeks of dedicated class time. I always play the movies with subtitles. You also don’t need to buy or watch the movies ahead of time unless you want to!

Royem: Our format is conversational! We will watch and listen to musicals and discuss how the music works with the drama. Since music as a language is based on perception, each member of the class might hear things differently! We will talk about why and how that happens, and what it means for our culture.

Hannah Biggs is receiving her PhD in English from Rice University. She was recommended to teach film at the WI by our very beloved professor, Dennis Huston. Hannah taught with Huston at Rice in his “Shakespeare on Film” class. Professor Biggs has published on film and television. Her review of Amazon Prime Instant Video’s original series, The Last Tycoon was published in the F. Scott Fitzgerald Review. She has served as the copy editor for The Comic Event: Comedic Performance from the 1950s to the Present, comedy on stage, tv, and movies. Currently, she is working on publishing an article on the film totem of funny farms, or comedy in agrarian storytelling—Chevy Chase’s Funny Farm, Green Acres, Cold Comfort Farm, and other such films and television series.

Dominique Royem is the Music Director of the Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra and, as such, one of the few female conductors in the country. She holds a doctorate in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Houston Moores School of Music. In her short tenure here at the WI, she has garnered a faithful following of students who have gone to see several of the symphony performances under her direction. Follow this link to see her upcoming schedule of performances

Discover one or both of these extraordinary women in their upcoming classes at The Women’s Institute.

Click here to register for Hannah Biggs’, “Legendary Directors and Film as Their Art” which begins Monday, February 5th at 10:00 a.m.

Click here to register for Dominique Royem’s, “How Music Makes the Musical: More Musicals” starts on Tuesday, February 6th at 10:00 a.m.

How Much Do You Know About…Women’s  Contributions to Film and Music?

January 22, 2018

“The Sense of Hearingo” by Philippe Mercier,  1744, Wikipedia

In anticipation of our upcoming classes featuring contributions by women in the arts, we put together a quiz to test your knowledge about little-known facts about women in music and film.





1. Who is is the only woman to ever win the Academy Award for Best Director?

A. Lina Wertmuller.
B. Jane Campion.
C. Kathryn Bigelow.

2. Who directed around 20 films over the course of her 24 years, taught Francis Ford Coppola, directed Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford?:

A. Bette Davis.
B. Lois Weber.
C. Dorothy Arzner.

3. What was the first superhero film to be directed by a woman?

A. Spiderman 2.
B. Wonder Woman.
C. Ant-Man.

4. Who was a medieval visionary, leader, poet, dramatist, herbalist and composer?

A. Catherine de Medici.
B. Eleanor of Aquitaine.
C. Hildegarde of Bingen.

5. Queen Victoria mistakenly thought a male had written one of her favorite pieces, “Italien” which was actually composed by:

A. Clara Schumann.
B. Fanny Mendelssohn.
C. Amy Beach.

6. Which actress became a pioneering director and producer and the only woman working within the 1950s Hollywood studio system to do so?

A. Ida Lupino.
B. Gene Tierney.
C. Dorothy Lamour.

7. Who was an American film and theater actress, singer, and dancer  best known for being the first African-American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress?

A. Hattie McDaniel.
B. Josephine Baker.
C. Dorothy Dandridge.

8. Which of these leading Broadway Ladies won 3 Tony awards and originated two of the most iconic Broadway roles in history?

A. Ethel Merman.
B. Liza Minelli.
C. Carol Channing.


1. C. Kathryn Bigelow won the Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker. Lina Wertmuller was the first woman nominated for the 1976 film, Seven Beauties. Jane Campion was number two for the 1993 film, The Piano, and Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation was also nominated in the past.

2. C. Dorothy Arzner was an American film director whose career in feature films spanned from the silent era of the late 1920s into the early 1940s. In fact, Dorothy Arzner was the only female director working in the 1930s in the United States.

3. B. Wonder Woman (2017) was directed by Patty Jenkins. The domestic gross for the film was $285.3 million.

4. C. Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) A composer of some 70 works, Hildegard was a writer, mystic and visionary. As a Benedictine Abbess, she founded two monasteries. One of her compositions, “Ordo Virtutum”, is the oldest surviving morality play.

5. B. Queen Victoria thought the piece was created by Fannie’s famous brother, Felix Mendelssohn.

6. A. Ida Lupino was an Anglo-American actress and singer, who became a pioneering director and producer—the only woman working within the 1950s Hollywood studio system to do so.

7. C. Dorothy Dandridge was the  first African-American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the 1954 film Carmen Jones.

8. C. Carol Channing is regarded as one of the most amazing stars in history and one of the top performers of all time. Her Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly and Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes are two of the most iconic roles in Broadway history. The year Barbra Streisand was nominated for Funny Girl (1964) she lost to Carol Channing’s Hello Dolly.


A Broader View: Jewish History in Germany in the Last 200 Years

January 22, 2018

Wikipedia, Synagogue at Nuremberg, c. 1890-1900., destroyed in 1938

If the pinnacle of German achievements in science, the arts, and industry at the end of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th century would not have been possible without the “German Citizens of Jewish faith”, why was Jewish life there destroyed so easily within just twelve years?

To answer this and other compelling questions on this topic, Professor Ursula Muenzel presents a 200-year history of the Jews in Germany in her upcoming class, “Beyond the Holocaust: German Jews From Napoleonic Times To Present Day“. We visited her to find out more.

WIH Reporter: Can you tell us what is important to know about your class?

Muenzel: The rise of Jews in German society and the end of German Jewry unfolded within the short span of one and a half century. In this class, I will cover the whole scope of Jewish-German co-existence.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do we have about Jews in Germany?

Muenzel: The mistaken impression is to see the history of Jews in Germany only in retrospect, from the Holocaust, which is sometimes in the way of a broader perspective.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know in analyzing German-Jewish history when looking through a broader historical perspective?

Muenzel: What is surprising is the Jews in Germany constituted such a tiny minority. However, they were perceived to have a much larger influence, both in good and malevolent ways.

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Muenzel: It will combine several elements: a lecture supported by PowerPoint presentation, suggestions for independent reading and always Q and A. Ideally we will create a dialogue between myself and the students.

WIH Reporter: We like to ask every so often about what books are on on our professors’ night tables right now.

Muenzel: Current books include Die Welt von Gestern (The world of Yesterday), a memoir by Stefan Zweig, an Austrian author, who gained world fame before 1933 and who committed suicide in exile in Brazil in 1942. I just visited his last home which has been converted to a small museum, in Petropolis, Brazil. In addition a small volume of poems Brazilyrik by Nikolaus von Behr, in Portuguese and German.

Professor Muenzel’s 6-week class begins on February 8th at 10:00 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.

David Brauer Speaks: On Women in Art

January 16, 2018


“Self portrait, 1610″ by Sofanisba Anguissola, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Soon after being asked to write this piece I learned of the passing of the distinguished American art historian Linda Nochlin (1931 – 2017).

Nochlin’s seminal piece “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists”, was published in 1971, on the first wave of feminist art criticism. The questions that Nochlin raised remain relevant to the present day.

This course will begin with the High Renaissance during which period Sofanisba Anguissola had become the first woman artist to enjoy wide-spread celebrity, leaving a body of some one hundred works.

The number of women artists increases through subsequent centuries to the present, but it is never a one-size fit all in terms of recognition and success. Not all countries produced significant women artists, this due to politics, religion and social issues. We shall try to create not so much definitive answers but at least clearer questions.

This course may have taken on an added relevance given the recent events in Hollywood and the creative world generally.

Professor Brauer’s 12-week class, “Women in Art: The Renaissance To The Present”, begins on February 8th at 1:00 p.m. For more information, or to register, click here.


Sacred Musical Compositions

September 26, 2017

cburchThe beliefs and history of different faiths are often symbolized by their sacred music, for instance a Mass by Palestrina reflects the glory and majesty of Renaissance Catholicism, and a Bach cantata expresses the bold confidence of early Protestantism. Professor Vicki Gresik’s upcoming class, “Sacred Music: The Association of Music and Religion.” takes us through the basic tenets of the world’s major religions and explores the liturgical and devotional music, and classical art music inspired by these faiths. We wanted to find out much more!

WIH Reporter: What makes your class a “must take” seminar?

Gresik: I think religions are fascinating and sacred music can be some of the most beautiful music ever written. I hope to introduce my students to a variety of religious compositions. Some religious compositions will be familiar, and others might be new discoveries. Most of us are familiar with music from our own faith, but we may not have heard how others praise God.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do we have about sacred music?

Gresik: I think that many people assume that sacred music is pretty old, even ancient, but composers are writing contemporary hymns today, some using a traditional format, others using an interfaith background. Young performers are creating a sacred sound that is meaningful to their generation.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about sacred music?

Gresik: Besides the fact that contemporary composers are writing sacred music today, if we listen to the lyrics of a number of popular songs we might be surprised to hear a religious theme. Also many well- known classical composers have contributed to the sacred genre.

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Gresik: The handout will contain a brief review of the religion(s) for the class, followed by a list of the pieces to be heard during the class & the composer, often with remarks about the composition itself. I hope to have you listening to the music more than hearing me talk.

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

Gresik: Because my house flooded with Harvey, I have no night stand at present, but I am presently finishing reading The Evolution of God by Robert Wright, and because I’m in a graduate program at Rice & taking a course on Russian history & music, I’m researching the Russian Orthodox Church using The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware. On my Kindle the two most recent selections are: A Distant View of Everything by Alexander McCall Smith & Glass Houses by Louise Penny.

WIH Reporter: Is there anything else about your class that you would like to add?

Gresik:  Because I want to introduce a number of pieces each week, the listening will be limited to 1-2 minutes each. You may want more, but if you don’t like the piece you won’t suffer long!

Professor Gresik’s class begins on October 18th at 1:00 p.m. For more information, or to register, click here.



Japan’s Unique & Traditional Culture

September 26, 2017

18th century woodblock print by Utamaro

WWII tends to dominate the vision that we in the West have of Japan since many of our fathers or grandfathers fought in WWII. But there is much more to be said about Japan and its art, culture, and historical significance in the wider world. Melanie Urban’s newest class is an intriguing exploration into Japan’s history, culture, and national psyche. We visited with her to find out more.



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

Urban: In all periods of Japan’s culture, art has played a significant role. As in most cultures, from West to East, art served first as glorification of one or many belief systems. When Buddhism arrived in Japan in the 6th century, art enhanced the religious experience. During the imperial period, patrons prized various forms of art for its own sake – not just painting, but also sculpture, ceramics, lacquer ware, textiles, architecture, and even garden design.

WIH Reporter: What do we need to know about Japanese culture?

Urban: The native belief system survives and holds an equal place with the imported religion of Buddhism in the minds and hearts of Japanese people. Another example is that Japan honors its craftsmen as living treasures, a practice that preserves ancient skills in many art forms.

WIH Reporter: What are more examples and results of this inclusive philosophy?

Urban: An example from the 7th century: the regent promulgated a constitution with 17 articles, among them rules for governing the country as a harmonious whole.  He borrowed directly from both the Buddhist canon and Confucian principles.  Following on that, a subsequent ruler commissioned the largest bronze Buddha in the world during the 8th century.  It stands over 50 feet tall (or should I say “sits”).  And in the 11th century, a lady of the Heian court penned one of the first novels ever written, The Tale of Genji, a wonderful portrait of imperial court culture.

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Urban: I lecture using pictures taken mostly from travels, either trips to locations pertinent to the subject or to museums.  My “technical assistant” takes the photographs and organizes my presentations to his own high standard.  I prefer discussion during the presentation when anyone in the audience has questions pertinent to the topic at hand.

WIH Reporter: What do you consider one of the most interesting facts we should know about Japan?

Urban: One of the most interesting facets of Japanese culture is how it fascinated people in the West from at least the 16th century.  As the Europeans discovered and exploited commercial opportunities in Asia, they imported Japanese, Chinese, and South East Asian art objects in increasing quantities.  The evidence of this trade can be seen in many European paintings, which often feature Japanese and Chinese ceramics and lacquer wares.  This fascination extended over centuries, and when Chinese goods were hard to come by, Japanese and South East Asian exports filled the gap.  This notion of imported Japanese art generated a whole new reaction during the late 19th century in France, the era of the Impressionists.  Many of the French painters of the 1880s and 1890s collected Japanese woodblock prints and used the new perspectives and compositional styles reflected in them.

Professor Urban’s class begins on October 19th at 10:00 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.


A Historical Introduction to the New Testament

September 26, 2017

Wikipedia-Papyrus 46, one of the oldest New Testament papyri, showing 2 Cor 11:33-12:9

In Charles Schmidt’s upcoming class, “A Historical Introduction to the New Testament” students will explore the texts of the New Testament from the perspective of modern academic scholarship, with an emphasis on their historical and social context. We checked in with Professor Schmidt to find out more.




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

Schmidt: This class will provide a historical and cultural background to the world of the early Jews and Christians who wrote the texts that would eventually become codified as the New Testament. We will take a look at the historical figures of Jesus of Nazareth and Paul within the broader history of ancient messianic expectations and discussions of the Torah (the Jewish Law). My goal is to share some of the insights biblical scholars have had about these texts and traditions.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do we have about the historical basis of the New Testament?

Schmidt: There are myriad examples, all of which I will discuss in more detail during the first week of this class. But for right now I would have to say that the arrangement of the texts in the New Testament gives us a false impression as to their relative dating. The New Testament opens with four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), before moving on to Acts and the letters of Paul. For over two centuries, however, biblical scholars have known that these gospel accounts about the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth actually post-date the letters of Paul.

In other words, if we wanted to read the New Testament chronologically, we would have to begin with Paul rather than the gospel writers. The arrangement of these texts in Christian Bibles gives us the impression that the gospel accounts are the real beginning of the story of Christianity. In many ways, this makes perfect sense; why not begin the story of Christianity with Jesus, after all. But for someone who wants to learn about the history of earliest Christianity and the development of its Scripture, it may not be the most historically accurate approach.

WIH Reporter: What don’t we realize about the New Testament?

Schmidt: For starters, I would say the most surprising thing would be that our earliest complete copies of Christian Bibles date to around the fourth century—about three hundred years after the life of Jesus. Additionally, these Christian Bibles contain some books in their New Testament that are not found in those used by modern Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox Christians. For example, they include texts such as 1 Clement and The Epistle of Barnabas, or substitute the Apocalypse of Peter for the Apocalypse of John. I’d also like to point out that the earliest canon list identical to the 27 New Testament writings in today’s Christian Bibles dates to the year 379. The point I’m trying to make is that the New Testament we’re familiar with today came into being through a complex historical process and did not appear one day, fully formed.

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Schmidt: This class will primarily take the format of a discussion-based seminar. In other words, I like to run my classes as open forums for sharing and discussing ideas. Each class meeting will be organized around a particular topic or text about which our learners will read short texts or select passages before we convene. I begin class with a brief lecture designed to provide some historical context for that week’s material and topic. After that, the remainder of the class will be spent doing close readings of select passages, leading discussion, and answering questions that arise in the moment.

WIH Reporter: What books are on your night table  right now?

Schmidt: At present I am re-reading George Orwell’s 1984 and attempting to get through a collection of Greco-Egyptian esoteric texts called the Corpus Hermeticum, which are magical-philosophical writings about the ultimate reality of the cosmos.

Professor Schmidt’s class begins October 19th at 1:00 p.m. For more information, or to register, click here.


Painters of Fashion & Their Famous Subjects

September 26, 2017

Wikipedia_ Portrait of Marie Antloinette by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1778

Helga Aurisch’s class, “Painters of Fashion: Fashionable Painters” seeks to take us on a fascinating journey exploring the interaction between artists, painters, and fashion. Starting with the reign of Marie Antoinette, arguably the most fashion-obsessed queen to occupy the French throne, the class will examine how she and her favorite portraitist Elizabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun, set the fashion world on its head in the years just before the French Revolution. We interviewed Aurisch to find out more.



WIH Reporter: Can you tell us a little about your upcoming class?

Aurisch: I hope it will be as entertaining and enlightening for the participants as it has been for me to assemble it. It will be a fascinating look at various moments in history, a snapshot look at collaborations between painters and fashion makers that speak volumes not only about art and fashion, but also about politics and the social developments that defined their historical periods.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about the painters of fashion?

Aurisch: I think most people classify them unjustly as shallow. But these artists, who were superbly gifted painters, had the great ability to paint their subjects as they liked to be seen, a difficult feat. Many specialized in portraiture, but not all. They also produced works in other genres such as still lifes, landscapes, and history paintings as well.

WIH Reporter: There must be interesting stories about the fashion painters and their interactions with subjects!

Aurisch: Yes! They also often had to be sensitive listeners, entertainers and oh, so much more than just dexterous with a brush.

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Aurisch: The class will be a richly illustrated lecture, with breaks for questions and answers. I would like to encourage the active participation of the class. Hopefully, the class will be enticed to look into the various topics more deeply on their own. I will be happy to supply reading lists for each class.

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

Aurisch: Right now, I’m reading Caroline Weber’s Queen of Fashion, What Marie Antoinette wore to the Revolution, Eleanor P. Delorme’s  Josephine, Napoleon’s Incomparable Empress, and Kimberly Chirsman-Campbell’s Fashion Victims, Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. All of them are great sources, and very readable. Meanwhile, I’m off to Paris tomorrow, hoping to garner a few more delicious details for the course.

Professor Aurisch’s class begins on October 23rd at 10:00 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.


How Much Do You Know About Houston’s History?

September 26, 2017

Sam Houston, circa 1850, Wikipedia

In anticipation of Professor Jim Blackburn’s class about the economic and ecological future of Houston we put together a quiz on little-known facts about our great city!




1. The first air-conditioned room in Houston was installed in 1922. It was located in:

A. The Rice Hotel.
B. The Second National Bank.
C. Rice University.

2. The Rice Military area near Memorial Park is named for an army training camp during:

A. World War II.
B. World War I.
C. Civil War.

3. Houston is larger than which of the following?

A. Maryland.
B. New Jersey.
C. New York City+Boston+San Francisco combined.

4. In Houston, you cannot sell the following on Sunday?

A. Limburger cheese.
B. Alcohol.
C. Caviar.

5. Houston was founded by:

A. Sam Houston.
B. John Kirby.
C. Augustus & John Allen.

6. Which of these is true about Sam Houston?

A. Beat a US congressman with a cane.
B. Opposed secession.
C. Honorary member of the Cherokee nation.


1. A. It used to be that large blocks of ice were placed in front of fans to try and keep cool air moving throughout a room. With the advent of air-conditioning, Houston installed a system first in the cafeteria of the Rice Hotel in 1922. The next year, the Second National Bank took it one step further by becoming the first completely air-conditioned building in Houston.

2. B. Rice Military area near Memorial Park was named for Camp Logan, an Army training camp from World War I. In fact, many streets are named for hometown heroes who lost their lives fighting in the war.  Dunlavy in the Montrose area is named for Herbert Dunlavy, a Marine and the first Houstonian killed in the war after an artillery shell landed in a trench near him.

3. A, B, and C. Houston is larger as a city than the entire state of Maryland and New Jersey. The total area of Houston is so large, it could contain the cities of New York, Boston, and San Francisco at the same time.

4. A. An old existing Houston law forbids the sale of Limburger cheese on Sunday.

5. C. Houston was founded by  Augustus Chapman Allen and John Kirby Allen, who honored Sam Houston by naming the city after him. Near the center of Houston where Interstates 45 and 10 intersect is almost the exact spot that Houston’s founders, the Allen brothers, settled.

6. A, B, and C. Houston is named after Sam Houston, the military commander who led the battle for the independence of Texas from Mexico. He was the first president of the Texas republic, and as he became more of a politician, he became more and more colorful as a personality. For instance he opposed secession, was an honorary member of the Cherokee nation, and once caned a U.S. congressman after being insulted.  

Houston: Economic & Environmental Issues for the Future

September 26, 2017

houstonnightJim Blackburn, Professor in the Practice of Environmental Law in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Rice University, is offering a unique course about the future of our city in the wake of recent events and issues. Blackburn’s course, “Full World: Houston’s Economic And Ecologic Future” explores where where we are heading as a local and global community, from the perspective of economics, ecology, eco-play, eco-spirituality; and, the implications that these changes will have on business, on city and regional form, and on each of us. We visited with him to find out more.

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

Blackburn: This class is about understanding and addressing the challenges of a world that is now full of humans and human impacts, a world that is changed from the world we grew up in, a world that is moving from “empty world” thinking  to “full world” thinking.  This class is about “full world” thinking and action.

It is about the future of Houston, the United States, and the world, and the challenges and adaptations necessary to succeed in the future.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do we have about Houston?

Blackburn: Perhaps the biggest mistaken impression about Houston and the Texas coast is that contrary to popular belief, it is an ecological wonderland – a place with biological diversity and tremendous outdoor recreation potential for kayaking and birding specifically.

WIH Reporter: What else might surprise us to know about Houston and Houstonians?

Blackburn: Another mistaken impression is that good Houstonians do not talk about climate change when in fact, good Houstonians are necessary to help the oil and gas industry into understanding, discussing and addressing the challenges of the 21st century.

WIH Reporter: Speaking of climate issues, how will Hurricane Harvey, in your estimation, affect the future of this city?

Blackburn: The economic future of the city of Houston is dependent upon our response to these floods.  We are at a crossroads and inaction or business as usual will be the beginning of the end of Houston as an economic powerhouse.

WIH Reporter: Can you elaborate on what we can do to keep Houston viable as an economic and environmental leader in the future?

Blackburn: The “full world” that I refer to is a world where the climate is changing, and Harvey was a climate-change storm.  We as a society do not know how to address these changing storms.  We also do not know how to address the cause of climate change.  The course will have specific lectures about the transition to the full world, hurricanes and flooding in Houston, climate change and addressing climate change.  I will likely devote a portion of at least one class to the 15 points concerning Hurricane Harvey and Houston that were first published by the  Baker Institute at Rice.

Professor Jim Blackburn’s class begins on October 17th at 10:00 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.



Terrence Doody Speaks: On “Loose and Baggy Monsters”

August 8, 2017
Dorothea Brooke and Will Ladislaw from Middlemarch by George Eliot,The Jenson Society, NY, 1910 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Henry James called the nineteenth-century novel a ” loose and baggy monster.”

James thought the novel ought to discipline itself to a single character’s point of view. This character need not be the narrator because the novelist’s art consists in finding a way to say everything necessary within these voluntary limits. What results is not the omniscient voice of the culture, but the consciousness of the individual, who grows more and more alienated as we enter the twentieth century. If nineteenth century novels are typically long, twentieth century novels are inevitably hard because there is no more all-knowing narrator to tell us what to think and feel.

George Eliot’s Middlemarch is loose and baggy, because it is filled with an unusually wide range of characters across the society of Middlemarch at a time of historical transition. Anna Karenina has fewer characters, a more intense focus, but it is built on the parallel fates of Anna Karenina and Constantine Levin, who is a version of Tolstoy himself. Anna is a tragic figure while Levin is a spiritual seeker. The novel has two endings that prevent conventional closure.

How do these and other novels of the time take us to the very edge of Modernism?

Anna Karenina has two endings that prevent conventional closure. Tolstoy’s style is “simple,” lucid, irrefutable—it is quite simply like no one else’s which is why, by everybody’s measure, Leo Tolstoy is the greatest of the nineteenth century novelists.

James’s The Portrait of a Lady poses American innocence against the Old World’s sophistication, which is seen through the eyes and assumptions of Isabel Archer. Its ending is very provocative, and James is no help at all: his characters are as independent of their author as any in the nineteenth-century—an independence that turns into modern alienation and puts us at the edge of Modernism.

None of these differences diminishes any one of the novels. They are all masterpieces and the grounds for a nice debate about the relationship between the exigencies of real life and the freedoms of fiction’s aesthetics.

“The Novel Moves to Modernity” begins Thursday, September 7 from 1:00 – 3:00.

Click here for more details.

How Much Do You Know About…Spanish (and other Romance Languages)?

August 6, 2017

veniceIn anticipation of Hector Urrutibeheity’s, Victoria Arbizu-Sabater’s and Luisa Kluger’s upcoming Spanish language classes, we put together a quiz on little-known facts about Romance Languages!

1. Which language below is not a Romance language:

A. German.
B. Romanian.
C. Italian.

2. Romance languages all descend from this original language:

A. Germanic.
B. Latin.
C. Celtic.

3. Which language is the number one spoken language of the Romance Languages?

A. French.
B. Spanish.
C. Russian.

4. Which Romance language is the language used in classical music?

A. English.
B. Spanish.
C. Italian.

5. Although Spanish is a Romance language, it is heavily influenced by:

A. Arabic.
B. Russian.
C. Portuguese.

6. Which is the largest Spanish-speaking country?

A. United States.
B. Spain.
C. Mexico.

7. When did the Spanish language begin (that we would recognize today)?

A. 11th century.
B. Before A.D.
C. 13th century.


1. A. German is not a Romantic Language.  German is actually the root of another linguistic family we call the Germanic languages, which English is a part of.

2.  B. Latin. Romance Languages descend from Latin, which was the language of the Romans.

3.  B. Spanish. Of the five most widely spoken Romance languages by number of native speakers, Spanish (410 million) is the most widely spoken.

4. C. Italian. According to Miles Hoffman, author of The NPR Classical Music Companion, Italian is the linqua franca of classical music. “So many of these musical forms—sonata, cantata, aria—started in Italy,” Hoffman says. “Plus, Italian musicians were in positions of prestige all over Europe, so it became the lingua franca.”

5.  A. Arabic. The origin of a lot of words in Spanish can be traced back to Arabic—the language that has had the most cultural influence on the Spanish language after Latin. The Arab presence in Spain that lasted for nine centuries led to the absorption of multiple Arabic words by Spanish speakers. About 4,000 words in the Spanish language are of Arab origin, such as “aceituna” (olive), “almohada” (pillow), “azúcar” (sugar)  and “arroz” (rice), to name a few.

6. C. Mexico. This country has a population of more than 121 million people who speak Spanish, and as such, is geographically the largest Spanish-speaking country. The United States is home to the second-largest Spanish-speaking population, followed by Colombia, Spain and Argentina. Each country is home to many different Spanish dialects.

7. C. 13th Century. It is still not known exactly when Castilian Latin of the north-central region of Spain turned into Spanish. However, the laws passed by King Alfonso in the 13th century that established Castilian as a distinct official language of the government helped to give rise to the language. In fact, when Columbus traveled to the Americas in 1492, the Spanish he spoke would have been understood by today’s Spanish speakers.



Contemporary Women’s Fiction: Experience, Style, and Themes

August 6, 2017

contempwomenWomen have been writing up a storm in the twenty-first century, sharing ideas, sufferings, and joys with their increasingly diverse audiences. Laura Richardson’s upcoming class, “Contemporary Women’s Fiction,” explores some of these current literary trends in women’s writing, seeking to identify shared threads of experience, style, and thematic approach in a diverse and interesting set of texts from the twenty-first century.

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

Richardson: Our syllabus is exceptionally contemporary. All of the novels we’ll read were written in the twenty-first century—in fact, half of the syllabus was published as recently as 2013!

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do we have about contemporary women’s literature?

Richardson: That women only write about women! Plenty of the texts we’ll be reading feature strong, often emotionally-complicated male characters. I would love for our class to have a lively conversation about what it means for a woman to write a male character and vice versa, especially in the context of contemporary writing.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about women’s experiences as reflected in the books you cover?

Richardson: Perhaps how many similarities there are among experiences of women from diverse backgrounds. Being a contemporary woman in a global community means a worldwide kinship with women’s issues. One of our primary objectives in the course will be to identify and celebrate (or commiserate with) these likenesses.

WIH Reporter: Can you tell us about the format of each class…readings, images, the legacy or importance of these women authors?

Richardson: We’ll discuss one novel (or memoir) each class, and three classes will also have “extra-credit” reading that’s meant to enhance or accompany our understanding of the main reading. Class will be broken up into lecture and discussion. I’ll start each day by providing students with biographical information about the author, as well as any important historical context that helps us understand the text. After that, I’ll have a series of questions to pose to students, who are welcome to discuss and/or listen as they feel comfortable.

WIH Reporter: What books are on your night table right now?

Richardson: Too many to list all of them here! I just finished John Barth’s Lost in the Funhouse, which is a short story collectionhilarious and weird. I’m now midway through Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections and have also begun rereading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Talein anticipation of watching the TV adaptation. I love book recommendations, so when you see me at the WI, please tell me what you’re reading and loving!

Laura Richardson’s class beings on September 6, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. For more information, or to register, click here.

How Women Won the West

August 6, 2017
calamityJane copy

Calamity Jane, wikipedia

Scott Pett’s upcoming class, “Women in the American West,” students will
learn about the hardships, hopes, and homes of the “American West” through the eyes, voices, and memories of women. Pett plans to use film, memoirs, biographical fiction, and poetry to discover how our ideas of the nineteenth-century and present-day West have been created and complicated. We checked in with the new WI professor to find out more.

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

Pett: This will be a multimedia class. We’ll be reading a few different kinds of writing from different women—some who were born and raised in the West and some who migrated there. We’ll also view excerpts from a terrific film, “The Homesman” (2014), starring Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones.

There is a lot of ground to cover (bad pun intended), so the class will be focused on breadth rather than depth. I will start each class with a lecture and discussion about particular women artists, activists, and public figures like Georgia O’Keefe, Laura Gilpin, and more. We’ll talk about representations of women in Hollywood westerns like Westward the Women (1951), which is almost too laugh-out-loud ridiculous to be offensive. We will also discuss the suggested texts for the course. And, if anyone would like to do a brief presentation on an ancestor of theirs, I think that would be a lot of fun.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do we have about the American West and women?

Pett: Perhaps the biggest thing is that we tend to think and talk about “the West” in the singular. For some reason, it’s easier to talk about the West that way, as one big region. There is a kind of romance to it; the singular West gives us some closure to and hope about the supposed destiny of American nation building.

But in fact, there are a plurality of “Wests” with distinctive geographies and overlapping social histories. Do we mean the Rocky Mountains? The US/Mexico borderlands? The plains of Oklahoma? The Pacific islands? “The West” is all of these.

Of course, we also have to make sure to think about “women” as a plural category, rather than singular. We tend not to think about the experiences and voices of black women in the American West, nor do we give much thought to places like L.A. It doesn’t fit within the master narrative of a singular “West,” which conjures images of wild, rural, lowland landscapes.

WIH Reporter: People are fascinated with Native Americans, and the interaction with settlers of the American West. Abductions of women were rare, but there were many stories about this. Although your class deals with literature, and this concerns chronicles or newspaper articles, can you comment about the interactions?

Pett: What little I know about this subject, I’ve learned from reading Mary Rowlandson’s account of her experience (1682), the novel Hope Leslie (1827), Dorothy M. Johnson’s story “Lost Sister” (1957) about Cynthia Ann Parker, and lastly the account of a young Mormon girl named Olive Oatman.

Captivity narratives were often sensationalized. They made for tantalizing reading in periodicals like Saturday Evening Post, while also reinforcing perceptions of American Indians as savages and white settlers as enlightened. Such a spin made it easier to justify the destruction and displacement of indigenous peoples in the name of protecting white womanhood.

With the exception of Rowlandson, who was kidnapped later in life and only separated from her family for a few months, these women and the literary characters they inspired had a difficult time being reintegrated into white communities. In the case of Cynthia Ann Parker, Texas Rangers “recaptured” her. Newspapers recorded how “she vainly tried to escape” white society. After years of being away from her family, she had come to identify culturally and ethnically with her tribe. She had become “thoroughly Indianized,” to use the words of an article purporting to tell the story of another woman taken captive, Frances Slocum, who also later refused to leave her Native family.

But, depending on an author’s agenda, there were competing narratives about the dangers of settler abduction. Propaganda novels like M. Emilia Rockwell’s A Home in the West (1858) were written to reassure women who were afraid to emigrate to places like Iowa because of captivity narratives. In her novel, Rockwell assures her readers that Indians, while “savage,” were not a threat. The goal was to convince women that westward expansion was in the best interest of both their families and the nation.

Q: What would surprise us to know about the American West in terms of women’s experiences?

One surprising thing is that in certain places—Wyoming and Utah territories, for example—white women were allowed to vote up to 50 years before the rest of the country! They didn’t necessarily do this for the right reasons, for example to make sure black citizens remained disempowered, and there were efforts to repeal in both cases. In Utah, women’s suffrage was later repealed as part of an effort to prevent the normalization of polygamy, which was its own unique experience for some women. I find that whole history very fascinating.

WIH Reporter: Do you have a quote from a woman of the American West from literature that symbolizes the experiences of women there?

Pett: For me, there is probably no more interesting and important figure than the ambitious writer and illustrator Mary Hallock Foote, an East-coast transplant whose work captured the life of mining communities in places like Idaho and California. She also lived in Mexico, Colorado, and South Dakota. She was likely the first woman to illustrate an American novel, which happened to be Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. She was very accomplished, but is now mostly forgotten except for being the inspiration (and sometimes direct source material) for Wallace Stegner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Angle of Repose (1971). Over a period of 35 years, Foote carried on a very intimate, conflicted, and beautiful correspondence with her friend Helena Gilder, which allowed them to express “the cries that one woman utters to another.”

Here is one of my favorite excerpts from a letter from Mary to Helena:

“I read in the Bible last night that a ‘meek and quiet spirit’ is the only thing for a woman. But how can one ever do or be anything if meekness and quietness are the best things in life. I know plenty of women who have meekness but they have attained it only by giving up all hope or thought for themselves. I could not do that without giving up ambition too.”

Scott Pett’s class begins on September 8th, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.



Celebrating 100 Years of Auguste Rodin

August 6, 2017

wikipedia, public commons

In this year, the centennial of Auguste Rodin’s death, Professor Anna Tahinci presents her new art course, “Auguste Rodin and Modern Sculpture“. In this course, students will engage in Rodin’s fascinating artistic career—initially full of rejections, controversies, and scandals, which he managed to transform into international successes.   We interviewed her to find out more.


WIH Reporter: What in your opinion makes this a “must take” class at WIH?

Tahinci: Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) was acclaimed as the greatest sculptor since Phidias and Michelangelo, boldly bringing the ancient art of sculpture into the 20th century. We are all familiar with Rodin’s iconic The Thinker, but this is the perfect moment to rediscover Rodin and his contributions to modern sculpture.

WIH Reporter: Since Rodin is your specialty, can you tell us what motivated you to study him?

Tahinci:  I studied Greek archaeology in Athens and when I moved to Paris for my graduate studies I became fascinated by Rodin’s passion for antiquity and decided to explore his oeuvre and contributions. At that moment I discovered the archives of the Musée Rodin in Paris and the rest is history, or I should say Art History! I did my doctorate at the Sorbonne on Auguste Rodin and studied at the Ecole du Louvre, while working at the Musée Rodin and the Musée d’Orsay.

WIH Reporter: Why is Rodin important for us to study?

TahinciRodin is a key figure in the history of sculpture since he is a bridge, a shifting point between academic sculpture of the 19th century and modern sculpture of the 20th century. He had a challenging career and practice, full of rejections, controversies, and scandals, but he always managed to transform those into future opportunities. As a result, he is an inspirational example of resilience.

WIH Reporter: In what ways did Rodin depart from the traditional sculpture of his time?

Tahinci: Rodin deliberately and systematically broke all academic conventions of his time in at least three different ways: in terms of his subject matters (dealing openly with sensuality without the pretext of mythology), of his style (treating fragments as complete and finished artworks), and his materials and techniques (with his endless experimentation with found objects and archaeological artifacts).

WIH Reporter: What is his legacy?

Tahinci: Rodin explored the expressionistic power of forms (including fragments) while remaining faithful to nature and life. He refused to idealize his figures and at the same time he would embrace accidents and the chance factor in his artistic process. He opened the way to entire generations of sculptors in France, Europe, and America.

WIH ReporterWhere can we see a Rodin sculpture in Houston?

Tahinci: The MFAH has an amazing collection of sculptures by Rodin that you can engage with by visiting both the Beck building and the Cullen Sculpture Garden, such as his iconic “Walking Man”, an amazing example of fragmentation that captures mid-stride motion. It also helps to put Rodin in context by studying sculptures by his master Carrier-Belleuse and by his students Bourdelle and Brancusi, also in the MFAH collection. 

WIH Reporter: What books are on your night table right now?

Tahinci: I am currently in Paris conducting research and gathering material. Thus, the exhibition catalogue of the Rodin centennial is what I am reading. I look forward to sharing my discoveries with my students in the fall.

Professor Tahinci’s six-week class begins on September 5th, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.