Ellen Handler Spitz, honors college professor of visual arts, recently spent several days in southern Appalachia as part of a program at the University of the South sponsored by the Yale University School of Medicine and Scholastic Books.
During her visit, Spitz spoke on “Reflections on Children’s Cultural Lives.” Spitz’s lecture was the third event in the annual Easter semester lecture series presented by Community Engaged Learning, the University of the South’s academic community engagement program. This annual series features a range of speakers from all over the world. Speakers address a variety of topics of concern for people living on the Cumberland Plateau and in surrounding communities.
Spiz was also a guest lecturer in “Child, Family, and Community Development in Rural Appalachia,” a psychology course developed out of a partnership between Sewanee’s Psychology Department and Yale School of Medicine’s Child Study Center. The purpose of the program is to help children and families in poverty-stricken Appalachia and to build community and foster a rich cultural life.
In addition to lectures, meetings, classes, Spitz also read aloud to four groups of small children in Grundy County. She read “Trumpet,” “A Birthday for Frances,” and “Miss Agatha’s Lark.”
On Saturday, March 16, Ellen Handler Spitz, honors college professor of visual arts, will participate in a panel discussion in New York City about what we can learn from the perennial controversies about children’s books that are “too dark.”
Spitz will be joined on the panel by author Lois Lowry and former New York Times children’s books editor Julie Just. The event will take place at 2:00 p.m. at the New School’s Arnold Hall, 55 West 13th St., New York, NY.
Ellen Handler Spitz, honors college professor of visual arts, discussed Maurice Sendak’s posthumously-published “My Brothers Book” in a column for The New Republic. Spitz writes that while the book is “unintelligible as a story, mostly unoriginal as art, [and] emotionally distant,” it “may send us back to Sendak’s other work with new critical insights.”
Spitz notes that one aspect of Sendak’s life that has not been analyzed is his sexuality; Sendak was gay. “’My Brother’s Book’ offers us a chance to return to Sendak’s prodigious body of complex, fascinating, sometimes troubling work and reexamine it through lenses that have not yet been tried. When an artist’s sexuality, or indeed any other core aspect of his identity, is denied public acceptance and affirmation, that denial cannot but find its way into his work,” Spitz writes.
“Although ‘My Brother’s Book’ is ostensibly an elegy for Sendak’s brother Jack, who died in 1995, Guy may well represent [Sendak’s parter] Glynn as well, who died in 2007. Jack and Guy seem to love each other with an overweening passion. We see them nude or draped in gossamer cloths but minus clearly identifiable male genitalia.” writes Spitz. “The loneliness and occasional anger of Sendak’s protagonists may be another element of his work that suggests the as yet unexamined influence of his sexuality.”
“In a time of growing tolerance, we may anticipate a reconsideration spearheaded by this final work, the one in which Maurice Sendak says his farewell to a life that was not always kind to him,” Spitz concludes.
The piece, “Maurice Sendak’s Sexuality,” appeared online on February 21.
On Tuesday, January 22, Jodi Kelber-Kaye, associate director of the honors college and former faculty member in gender and women’s studies, was a guest on the “Marc Steiner Show.” Kelber-Kaye discussed the 40th Anniversary of the historic Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout the United States. She was joined by Meshelle, founder of Goaldiggers The Sankofa Project; Ruth Rosen, Professor Emerita of History at the University of California at Davis; Andrea Plaid, Associate Editor and Sexual Correspondent at Racialicious; and Maggie Little, Director of Georgetown’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics.
The guests discussed the fact that an entire generation of women have grown up while abortions have been legal.
“College students have grown up knowing that that was an option and not really knowing, until we talk about the history, what it was like to be a woman faced with a decision where she may die, she may not be able to have children in the future. That’s a crushing decision to have to make,” Kelber-Kaye said.
The full conversation can be heard here.
Ellen Handler Spitz, honors college professor of visual arts, recently reviewed the art show The Event of a Thread by Ann Hamilton, which runs through January 6 at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City, for the online magazine Artcritical.
Spitz says that “The Gothic Revival Park Avenue Armory… provides a perfect venue for Hamilton’s swings, her 42 pigeons in miniature, stacked dovecotes, and the immense white silken fabric that billows from on high, responsively rising and falling according to the visitors’ velocities as they sway on their swings, pushed often by perfect strangers.”
Relating the exhibition to its title, Spitz says, “by the most gossamer of threads— of silk and of sound—connections proliferate.”
The review, “Gentling The Savage Enormity Of Gargantuan Space: Ann Hamilton at the Armory,” appeared online on December 20.
Ellen Handler Spitz, honors college professor of visual arts, was a guest on the “Marc Steiner Show” on Tuesday, December 18, to discuss children’s literature, the best children’s literature of the year, and books that make good gifts. Spitz was joined by Deborah Taylor, School and Student Services Coordinator for the Enoch Pratt Free Library, and JoAnn Fruchtman, owner of The Children’s Bookstore in Roland Park.
Spitz spoke to the bond that books can create between a parents and a child. Because children cannot read when they are very young, the experience of books must be shared with an adult, which creates a bond.
“Even though we have all kind of wonderful technology, the books are there for a relational cultural experience,” she said.
Spitz also encouraged parents to take care with the books they share with their children.
“I feel passionately that just as we think about the food that we give to our children, and we want to give them something nourishing, I think what goes into their minds, into their heads, is equally important. I think parents, and teachers, and editors, and the writers themselves, need to think very seriously about the cultural lives of children. When you are a child, you are a sponge. Everything goes in; every subtle hint becomes a part of your psychic equipment,” she said.
The full segment can be heard here.
Jodi Kelber-Kaye, associate director of the honors college, has appeared in several recent news articles discussing marriage equality and the African-American vote. Kelber-Kaye researches and teaches about historic and current struggles for LGBT equality with a focus on analyzing strategies employed by activist groups.
A December 7 story in the Afro-American entitled “Different Factors Within African American Communities Shaped Votes on Question 6” featured Kelber-Kaye’s perspective on the disconnect between how African American Marylanders were expected to vote on Question 6 and how they actually voted. “This election dispels this myth that the African-American population is against same-sex marriage. There has not been a shift in the community, but just how we understand the issue” she said.
The Washington Times also ran a story on the same topic featuring Kelber-Kaye entitled “Blacks’ support a surprise on same-sex marriage” on December 9. The story, which is a shorter version of the one that ran in the Afro-American, was produced by the Capitol News Service.
The story also ran on Monday, December 10, on the Laurel Patch website under the headline “Different Factors Within African American Communities Shaped Votes on Question 6.”
Ellen Handler Spitz, honors college professor of visual arts, discussed the young adult novel Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, byKatherine Marsh, in her latest column in the New Republic.
The historical novel follows the story of Jepp, a court dwarf in the Spanish-ruled Netherlands of the late sixteenth century. Spitz compares Jepp’s story – in whichhis destiny is defined by his body and dictated by the whims of others – to the plight of the story’s adolescent readers.
“Adolescents are newly encased—like Jepp—in bodies that seem too small (or too large) but never a match for what is inside them, which nobody else can see…. despite the plethora of insignificant choices accorded them, young people’s lives are not in their hands, and they often feel cooped up in prisons not of their making,” she writes.
“As one reads Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, present and past entangle just as childhood and adulthood spar.”
The column, “The Age of Adolescence,” appeared online on November 7.
Jodi Kelber-Kaye, associate director of the honors college, was featured in a recent Baltimore Messenger story on phone banking for marriage equality. Kelber-Kaye has joined the pro-marriage equality efforts at Bolton Street Synagogue.
“I’m extraordinarily hopeful” that Question 6 will pass, Kelber-Kaye told the paper. Kelber-Kaye was one of the plaintiffs in a 2004 lawsuit challenging a state ban on same-sex marriages
The story, “Bolton Street Synagogue trying to get out the vote for marriage equality,” appeared online on October 22.
Ellen Handler Spitz, honors college professor of visual arts, appeared on Southern California Public Radio’s “The Madeleine Brand Show” on May 8 to discuss the death of Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak. Spitz is a renowned expert on children’s literature.
“It’s hard to think of any other American who did more for children’s literature,” Spitz said. “Maurice Sendak had an uncanny way of seeing into a child’s private world, a child’s world of fantasy. But I think what is most important about his legacy is that he was able to create books and characters that captured the way every child, at some point, feels alone.”
The full interview can be heard here.