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September 6, 2002

Travel Writer Pico Iyer to Kick Off Weissman Center Series


© Mark Richards

Pico Iyer

A little more than a year has passed since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but anxieties about safety still trouble many would-be travelers. While we fret, essayist and inveterate voyager Pico Iyer urges us to continue to explore, arguing that travel has taken on a new necessity since last September. "Travel," writes Iyer in Time magazine, "is how we put a face on the Other and step a little beyond our secondhand images of the alien. It is, in fact, how we learn about the world and come to terms (and sometimes peace) with it."

Using Iyer's vision as a starting point, Mount Holyoke's Harriet L. and Paul M. Weissman Center for Leadership will take up the meaning of travel this fall in a semester-long series of events. Destinations: New Meanings of Travel will include conversations with leading travel writers and editors and draw from the perspectives of a world-famous mountain climber, an art historian, a visual artist, an architectural historian, and a biologist. Iyer, author of The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home (2000), will kick off the series with a lecture titled "Moving around a Moving World: Travel as Modern Reality," Thursday, September 12, at 7:30 pm in Gamble Auditorium.

Tracy Kidder

Karen Remmler and Christopher Benfey, the Weissman Center's codirectors, hope the series will spark discussion on shifting ideas about travel, highlighting several developments: first, the ways in which "globalization" in its various forms—cultural, economic, and demographic—has changed our sense of travel; second, how the traumatic effects of September 11 have had an impact on our emotional response to travel; and third, the rise of new ways of writing and thinking about travel during a period in which the meaning of "travel" often merges with "travail." "What we are after," says Benfey, "is what the poet Elizabeth Bishop called the 'Questions of Travel'—to ask, in a deep sense, where it is we are going."

Conrad Anker

In planning the series, the Weissman Center has worked closely with the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum and the Center for Environmental Literacy, as well as faculty representatives from a variety of departments.

The first event of the series will feature "transcendental travel writer" Iyer. A prolific essayist and author of five books, Iyer has been writing for two decades about how cultures meet and mingle, and how travelers project their various notions upon the Other. In his most recent book The Global Soul, Iyer takes readers on "a tour of the transnational village," culture hopping from the Los Angeles International Airport to Toronto, Hong Kong, Atlanta's Olympic Village, and Japan. Along the way, Iyer attempts to interpret the effects of globalization and displacement on individual lives, and to decipher the meaning of "home" in a world that is increasingly, in his word, "centrifugal." A self-proclaimed "nowherian," Iyer was born in England to East Indian parents, moved to California as a boy, and was later educated at Eton and Oxford. He now spends much of his time in Japan. In addition to The Global Soul, Iyer is the author of a novel and three collections of essays, including Video Night In Kathmandu.

James F. O'Gorman

The series continues Friday, September 13, with "Destinations through Music," a night of music with travel themes featuring the works of Ives, Ravel, Corigliano, Montsalvatge, and others. The following MHC music department faculty are participating: Robert Eisenstein, David Gibson, Mark Gionfriddo, Adrianne Greenbaum, Alison Hale, Linda Laderach, Eugenie Malek, Marjorie Melnick, Larry Schipull, Melinda Spratlan, Gary Steigerwalt. The concert takes place at 7:30 pm in Pratt Hall's McCulloch Auditorium.

Pulitzer Prize–winning author Tracy Kidder will be the guest of honor at the opening reception for Changing Prospects: The View from Mount Holyoke at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. The exhibition, which runs through December 8, will interpret the historical significance of Mount Holyoke, the prominent mountain from which the College takes its name, and a nineteenth-century tourist destination that rivaled Niagara Falls. The gala opening reception, featuring Kidder in conversation with Marianne Doezema, director of the museum, takes place Friday, September 27, at 5 pm at
the art museum.

The most versatile and talented mountain climber of his time, Conrad Anker is best known for his role in discovering the body of legendary climber George Mallory on Mount Everest in 1999. The next event in the travel series is an intimate discussion with Anker that explores a range of subjects, including the alpinist's hypothesis about Mallory's death, Anker's climbing motivations and adventures, his Buddhist outlook on life, and his environmental ethic. The event, sponsored by the Center for Environmental Literacy, takes place Thursday, October 3, at 7 pm in Gamble Auditorium.

On Thursday, October 10, at 7 pm, in conjunction with the Changing Prospects exhibition at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, New York–based painter Alfred Leslie will give a lecture titled "My View from Mount Holyoke" in Gamble Auditorium. A member of the Amherst College faculty in 1972, Leslie was the first major contemporary painter to return to the site depicted in Thomas Cole's nineteenth-century canvas known as The Oxbow. Leslie's Holyoke Range, Near Oxbow, Easthampton, Massachusetts, painted in the 1970s, is a featured part of the Changing Prospects exhibition.

Thursday, October 24, is opening night for Thomas Cole: A Waking Dream. This multimedia production, based on the life of the Hudson River School painter, is written
and directed by Donald T. Sanders, executive artistic director of the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts. Staged by MHC's Department of Theatre Arts, the production features a jazz score by Henry Threadgill and costume and set design by Vanessa James, associate professor and chair of the theatre arts department. A preview performance takes place October 23 at 8 pm. The show runs from October 24 through 27, Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm, Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm in Rooke Theatre.

When the impressionist painter Claude Monet painted tourist spots along the Normandy coast, he eliminated all signs of tourism. In a lecture titled "Monet and the Tourist View," Robert Herbert, impressionism scholar and Mount Holyoke Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts, explores this paradox using old prints and photographs of actual sites painted by Monet. Herbert is the author of Monet on the Normandy Coast: Tourism and Painting, 1867–1886. The event, which is cosponsored by the Weissman Center and the art department, takes place Friday, October 25, at 5 pm in Clapp Laboratories' Hooker Auditorium. "Little by little the gap grows larger and larger between people and their roots. Western life now plays out far from its origins in nature and history," writes James F. O'Gorman in Connecticut Valley Vernacular: The Vanishing Landscape and Architecture of the New England Tobacco Fields. O'Gorman, architectural historian and Grace Slack McNeil Professor of American Art at Wellesley College, will discuss tobacco barns as vernacular architecture in a talk titled "Landscape, People, and Architecture of the New England Tobacco Fields." The lecture, sponsored by the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, takes place Friday, November 8, at
7 pm in Gamble Auditorium.

"New Meanings of Travel in Contemporary Travel Writing" will be the topic of discussion for a distinguished panel of speakers on Thursday, November 14. Panelists include Ian Buruma, writer on Chinese dissidents and contemporary Japan and Germany (Bad Elements: Chinese Rebels from Los Angeles to Beijing and The Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan); Nancy G. Novogrod '71, editor-in-chief of Travel + Leisure magazine; and Caryl Phillips, West Indian novelist and travel writer (The Atlantic Sound and The European Tribe). Michael Gorra, professor of English at Smith College, will moderate the event, which takes place at 7:30 pm in Gamble Auditorium.

On Thursday, November 21, David Foster, director of the Harvard Forest, lectures on the depiction of forests in landscape paintings included in the Changing Prospects exhibition. Foster, principal investigator on the Harvard Forest long-term ecological research site, will use his considerable expertise in how human and natural disturbances change forest ecosystems to explore and interpret a series of landscape paintings depicting the northern hardwood forests of the northeastern United States. Sponsored by the art museum and the Center for Environmental Literacy, the event takes place at 7 pm in the art museum's Weissman Gallery.

In conjunction with the Weissman Center series, the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections is featuring a historical display titled So, You Think the Delles to Dickinson is a Long Walk? Traveling through the Archives and Special Collections. Using the College's historic documents along with personal papers of alumnae and faculty and materials from the rare books collection, the display will illustrate the themes of imaginative travel, intellectual travel, work-related and political travel, and travel abroad. The display can be viewed through December in the lobby of Archives and Special Collections on the lower level of Dwight Hall. And, during October and November, the Film Studies Program will present Destination: Future, a film series on imagining future travel. Consult the CSJ calendar for details.

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