Lia Purpura and Deborah Rudacille, English, Reflect on Freddie Gray’s Death in the Baltimore Sun and American Short Fiction

English Writer in Residence Lia Purpura and English Professor of the Practice Deborah Rudacille recently published their thoughts and reflections on the death of Freddie Gray in American Short Fiction. Their powerful commentaries focused on the problematic use of cliches in how the Baltimore riots were described and the tactics of police in certain neighborhoods in the city.

Lia PurpuraIn “Baltimore, April 2015: Some Thoughts on Thugs and Clichés,” Purpura wrote about some of the words that were surrounding descriptions of the riots (thugs, criminals, etc.) and the need to listen and reflect to fully understand the complexity of the situation: “What can done to accurately communicate the complexity of Baltimore, April 2015? Slow the language way down. Occupy the space clichés have claimed—clichés want to buddy up, cozy up, shut the door and flip the lock. Set up, in place of clichés, language that searches, creates friction, challenges sensibilities. Restless language. Language arrived at after listening hard. Refuse the ease of rant and cant—the power gained by repeating words that have come before yours, and that no longer work.” An excerpt of Purpura’s commentary was also published in the Baltimore Sun.

DeborahRudacilleIn “Our Depraved Hearts,” Deborah Rudacille wrote about her observations of different police tactics in certain areas of Baltimore City: “We may not have administered the beating, we may not have loaded Gray into the van, but like the subjects of [Sidney] Milgram’s experiment…we acquiesce to the authorities who tell us we will not be held responsible for the state of our city or for the fate of young men like Freddie Gray… Last week white Baltimore joined black Baltimore in rejecting the experiment. The protests and marches around the city have been remarkable for their diversity. I attended one of the rallies at City Hall and saw old people and young, black and white, similarly outraged by Gray’s death.”

To read complete versions of both articles in American Short Fiction, click here.

Rebecca Adelman, Media and Communication Studies, Writes About the Adam Gadahn Case in The Conversation

In an article published May 18 in The Conversation,  Rebecca Adelman, an assistant professor of media and communication studies, wrote about Adam Gadahn’s complicated relationship with the U.S. government in the wake of the announcement of his death on April 23. Gadahn, an American propagandist for al-Qaida, was killed by an accidental drone strike in Pakistan on January 19. He had previously been charged with treason in 2006.

Rebecca Adelman“The federal government’s decision to indict him for the capital offense of treason reveals its need to confront and contain visual threats. Like a latter-day Toyko Rose, Gadahn’s skillful use of propaganda made him a potent enemy in the eyes of the state,” Adelman wrote.

In her article, Adelman draws reference to her book Beyond the Checkpoint: Visual Practices in the Global War on Terror, in which she closely examines how the Gadahn case evolved: “I analyze the documents surrounding the case to argue that the state did not truly desire to execute Gadahn or even to try him. Neither of these actions would have satisfactorily redressed his explicitly visual crimes Instead, I suggested that the most likely outcome for a captured Gadahn would have been indefinite detention: active, perpetual disappearance in an effort to finally control his image. My hypothesis that the government would not seek to kill Gadahn was borne out by his status as an unintended casualty of this drone strike.”

To read the full article titled “What the accidental killing of an American ‘traitor’ says about the power of visual weapons,” click here.

“The Mathematics of Being Human” Reviewed in Siam News

Photo by Marlayna Demond.

Photo by Marlayna Demond.

Ahead of a scheduled performance of “The Mathematics of Being Human” on July 29 at the BRIDGES Conference in Baltimore, the play received a positive review in Siam News. It debuted at UMBC on November 4, 2014, and has since been performed across the country in San Antonio, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

Featuring Michele Osherow, associate professor of English, Manil Suri, mathematics professor, Savannah Jo Chamberlain ’16, theatre, Chaz Atkinson ’16, theatre, and directed by Alan Kreizenbeck, associate professor of theatre, the play chronicles the struggles of two professors trying to develop a joint seminar studying the intersection of math and literature.

“I was lucky enough to get a seat at a performance held at UMBC, along with apparently a dozen or more of the students who had taken the real-life freshman humanities seminar that inspired this play. Judging by their appreciative laughter at pivotal plot points, I think that much of the performance rang true to their experience as humanities students suckered into a mathematics class,” wrote Katherine Socha, who reviewed the play for Siam. 

“Wonderful selections of mathematics connections in literature and art highlight the rich opportunities for the cross-cultural battles led by these sharply defined faculty characters,” she added.

To read the complete review “Play Takes Aim at the ‘Two Cultures’ Divide,” click here. For more information on the July 29 performance in Baltimore, click here.

Lia Purpura, English, to Present Reading at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts (4/10)

Lia PurpuraEnglish Writer in Residence Lia Purpura is scheduled to present readings from her new book It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts on Friday, April 10 at 8 p.m. The reading will be part of an event with the Poulenc Trio, a Baltimore-based wind trio that has been presenting virtuosic performances for over a decade.

Purpura, whose work frequently appears in New Yorker magazine, will pair excerpts from her forthcoming book with a new arrangement for the Trio of Alfred Schnittke’s Suite in the Old Style. For more information on the event, click here.

Update: On the day of the performance, Purpura appeared on WYPR’s Maryland Morning with the trio to discuss her work. To listen to the full segment, click here.

Clifford Murphy, American Studies, in The Conversation

In February, Smithsonian Folkways released Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, a box set and book dedicated to Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter – an influential country musician in the early twentieth century. Clifford Murphy, an ethnomusicologist and adjunct lecturer of American studies, published an article in The Conversation which examined Lead Belly’s legacy and lasting cultural impact.

Clifford Murphy

“But beyond his influence on (mainly white) musical artists, the collection is significant because it shows how Lead Belly defied the racial categories of blues and country (as black music and white music, respectively) – stereotypes established by the burgeoning record industry of the Jim Crow era that persist today,” Murphy wrote.

In the article, Murphy honored Lead Belly’s influential musical legacy an analyzed the cultural context in which he performed.

“Thankfully, Lead Belly’s Smithsonian Folkways Collection defies those cultural reductionists who would suggest that firm racial categories of blues and country ever truly existed, and that “traditional” singers were uninterested in – or, worse, corrupted by – popular music. The set’s 108 tracks may be a small sampling (Lead Belly claimed to be able to sing 500 songs without repeating one – and he likely knew far more). But a bi-cultural reality glimmers within the set’s five CDs,” Murphy added.

To read the full article titled “Lead Belly’s music defied racial categorization,” click here.

Rebecca Adelman, Media and Communication Studies, in The Conversation

Rebecca AdelmanIn the wake of Brian Williams’ six-month suspension from NBC News, Rebecca Adelman offered a fresh perspective on the story and argued that Williams’ actions were more complex than their first appearance on the surface.

Adelman, an assistant professor of media and communication studies, wrote an article for The Conversation in which she examined public reactions to Williams’ false claims about his experience reporting in Iraq and how they spoke to the way military service is valued in American culture: “…I’d suggest instead that Williams inadvertently revealed something about the profoundly contradictory place military service occupies in American culture,” Adelman wrote.

In her article, Adelman discussed how the automatic nature of public gratitude for military service in the United States makes it easy to mistake its origins.

“The Williams story revealed how readily, and convincingly, such attachments can be fabricated. Indeed, he explained his wrongdoings in terms of bewildered appreciation. It all started, he said in his apology, ‘in an effort to honor and thank’ the man who had protected him. This turned, he admitted, into a ‘bungled attempt … to thank one special veteran’ of the many who have his ‘greatest respect.'”

She added: “The public anger at Williams, in other words, may be rooted in something more than his deceitfulness. What may be upsetting us is his very visible failure to perform what many see as the purest expression of good citizenship – thanking the military.”

To read the full article titled “Brian Williams, the military and American culture, click here.

Baltimore Dance Project (2/5 – 2/7)

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On February 5, 6 and 7, Baltimore Dance Project returns to UMBC for its 31st year, featuring choreography by Dance faculty Carol Hess and Doug Hamby, and performances by Sandra Lacy and the company, with guest artists Adrienne Clancy, Jessie Laurita-Spanglet, and Matthew Cumbie. All performances will be held at 8 pm in the Proscenium Theatre in the Performing Arts and Humanities Building.

Carol Hess presents a new evocative work for five women, and Lightfield, a multimedia event that fuses choreography with a mix of both live and recorded video manipulated by dancers interacting with an onstage Kinect camera.

Doug Hamby presents Red Wings of Desire, in which the dancers’ actions bend Ferdinand Maisel’s sound score using wearable sensors, and a new work for four men.

Time and destiny are contemplated in a humorous and quirky new duet by Adrienne Clancy and Sandra Lacy. Lacy will also perform the silky and mysterious solo Slip, a collaboration with former Trisha Brown dancer Mariah Maloney performed to an original score by Timothy Nohe (Visual Arts).

Guest artists Jessie Laurita-Spanglet and Matthew Cumbie investigate the role and power of ritual in Ritual Cycle #1. How do we deal with change now, and how have those before explored the same question?

$20 general admission, $10 students and seniors, $7 UMBC students. To order tickets in advance by credit card, purchase online through MissionTix. Patrons who prefer to pay cash or check at will call may make a reservation by calling x56240.

Complete information: http://bit.ly/1IhXPLF