About Author: Wendy Robertson

Posts by Wendy Robertson

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Wisława Szymborska, 1923-2012

Wisława Szymborska, Nobel-prize winning Polish poet, died on February 1, 2012. According to The Telegraph:

The Nobel award committee’s 1996 citation called her the “Mozart of poetry,” a woman who mixed the elegance of language with “the fury of Beethoven” and tackled serious subjects with humor. While she was arguably the most popular poet in Poland, most of the world had not heard of the shy, soft-spoken Szymborska before she won the Nobel prize.

She has been called both deeply political and playful, a poet who used humor in unforeseen ways. Her verse, seemingly simple, was subtle, deep and often hauntingly beautiful. She used simple objects and detailed observation to reflect on larger truths, often using everyday images – an onion, a cat wandering in an empty apartment, an old fan in a museum – to reflect on grand topics such as love, death and passing time.

On May 6, 2011, Prairie Lights hosted a poetry reading celebrating the work of older poets, including Szymborska.  You can hear her poems, as well as selections from Elizabeth Bishop, Donald Justice, Stanley Kunitz, W.S. Merwin, and W.B. Yeats in this recording: http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/u?/vwu,2897

Our collection also includes a discussion with Bronislaw Maj on the difficulties of translating Szymborska’s idiomatic language and colloquialism into an international literary language: http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/u?/vwu,448

And if you’d rather remember her by reading one of her books, you can check those out too!

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Books are spawned with the fecundity of Egyptian frogs

It can be interesting to see how views of education have changed since the late 19th century.  The journal Educational Weekly, published from 1877–1881, opens a window onto teaching methodology of the era. One article, from the April 7, 1881 issue, offers some interesting thoughts from Dr. A. R. Benton, including the following snippets:

“The pettiness of pedantic specialism” is the bane of teaching and the death of all inspiration and contagious enthusiasm.

There is much in a liberal education that cannot be learned well and orderly from books alone.

… the teacher should be a trusty guide through the mazes of hypothesis and speculation, moderating the intoxication begotten of new and surprising glimpses of knowledge, and conducting, as a faithful Mentor, the learner through all difficulties, into the safe moorage of truth, verified by experiment or established by a sound philosophy.

My favorite quotation is:

In former times, the living teacher was a necessity, because of the scarcity and costliness of books. In the present, books are spawned with the fecundity of Egyptian frogs, sometimes as disgusting and pernicious, making the function of the teacher no less important and vastly more varied and complex.

The complete essay follows:

METHODS IN EDUCATION

We take the following on methods from a lecture on “Liberal Education,” delivered before the Indiana College Association, by Dr. A. R. Benton, of Butler University :

In liberal education method is no inconsiderable factor. The pressing question among college instructors of our time is not so much what to teach as how to teach. The practice of our best teachers is much below the inculcations of the best thinkers on education. It is an infelicity of our work, that it is hard to realize even our own ideal. A change of studies, for which the New Education clamors, to the exclusion of those which have been approved by the suffrages of educators, is no remedy for bad methods. The gerundgrinder, as the teacher of ancient languages is facetiously called, is not a whit less faulty in method, than he who teaches the English language, or one who drones through a text-book of hard, technical names, with a bewildering cumulation of insignificant and uninteresting details. “The pettiness of pedantic specialism” is the bane of teaching and the death of all inspiration and contagious enthusiasm. This defect is not peculiar to our times. Two hundred years ago John Locke wrote, in the spirit of sharp criticism, words that have an amazing fitness and pertinence in our day. Says he, “If any one among us has a felicity or purity more than ordinary in his mother tongue, it is owing to chance or genius, or anything, rather than to his education or any care of his teacher.” I have no wish to stay the hand of any educational reformer who wishes to hew to pieces this modem Agag of false method in teaching. But let this avenging zeal be impartial, and according to knowledge. If the abuse of method is hoary with age, let it claim some of the privileges of honorable age ; but smite with the hammer of the iconoclast every false image set up for homage in the name of the new education. If I may be allowed a certain freedom of utterance, and without offence, I opine that the chief defect in method is personal. The reliance which modern method places on the machinery and appliances of instruction is quite disproportioned to their merit. The personality of the teacher is retired, the method stands in the foreground. It is one thing for a teacher to master the machinery of method; it is quite another to master that for which all method exists—the mind and heart of the student, and the approaches to them. It occurs to me that the chief word in the method of liberal education is inspiration. From the time of Socrates to that of Dr. Arnold of Rugby this has been the “primum mobile.” A learned Englishman, in the Contemporary Review for March, 1878, has pertinently inquired, “In what does the gift of teaching consist ? Assuredly not in the possession of a large body of solid learning. It consists infinitely more in the power of sympathy, the ability to place oneself in the exact position of the learner, to see things as he sees them, and to feel difficulties as he feels them, and to be able to present the solution precisely in the form that will open the understanding of the pupil, and enable him in gathering the new piece of knowledge to comprehend its nature and value.” This method stands out in sharp contrast with what may be called the impersonal method. This latter sends the student out to browse in the field of knowledge, and from time to time examines his intellectual growth, and marks it on the intellectual scale with scrupulous exactness and pretentious significance. The student is left largely to himself, to organize painfully, and to correlate imperfectly the various facts and principles of his research into such unity as science or philosophy demands. Or, forgetting that “the subtilty of nature is forever beyond the subtilty of man,” impersonal teaching often requires some marvelous feat of memory in which an infinity of detail, dry as the clown’s “remainder biscuit after a voyage,” is made the test of knowledge and culture. There is much in a liberal education that cannot be learned well and orderly from books alone. Many subjects need the vivifying, directing mind of the teacher. This needs to be active, comprehensive and judicial. The personal element must so handle both the matter and manner of teaching as to compel confidence. In the matter, the teacher should be a trusty guide through the mazes of hypothesis and speculation, moderating the intoxication begotten of new and surprising glimpses of knowledge, and conducting, as a faithful Mentor, the learner through all difficulties, into the safe moorage of truth, verified by experiment or established by a sound philosophy. Such a one will discard the speculating, romancing style of teaching, which catches at half truths, having, perhaps, a nebulous grandeur, exciting wonder, rather than imparting exact information. This question of the matter, which shall enter into liberal education, has been distinctly raised in Germany in the well known controversy between Professors Virchow and Haeckel. In the highest reaches of thought belonging to history, ethics and biology, and kindred subjects, the personal power, and, in some sense, the authoritative and discriminating judgment of the living teacher is indispensable. In former times, the living teacher was a necessity, because of the scarcity and costliness of books. In the present, books are spawned with the fecundity of Egyptian frogs, sometimes as disgusting and pernicious, making the function of the teacher no less important and vastly more varied and complex. The instinct of every well constituted mind impels the learner to reconcile contrarieties and to explain paradoxes, so as to reduce all his knowledge to a seemingly consistent and concordant system. The mind strives to organize its knowledge, so that it may be scientific in fact, as well as in form. In this respect the office of a wise, comprehensive, judicious instructor is of great moment.

With books, as with companions, it is of more consequence to know which to avoid than which to choose.

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Improved searching of Wallace Collection

We have recently improved the searching of our Henry A Wallace Collection. This enhancement makes finding letters, telegrams, postcards or memorandum much easier.

Wallace Collection homepage

In 1975, Earl M. Rogers and Leslie W. Dunlap published an index to the letters in our microfilm collection as well as to the correspondence in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library (Micro film 18327) and Library of Congress microfilm collections. The two volumes have been essential to find materials in these collections.

Display of name search

We have converted this print index into a searchable database. The results will link to our digitized materials or to the reel number for the other collections.

When you start typing in the correspondent search box, names will appear, showing the number of results for each name, based on sender or recipient. Select the name you want and press search.

The resulting list includes everything to or from the individual you selected.  The film numbers for the Iowa microfilm link directly to the digitized version.

The results display in date order. You can re-sort the columns by sender, recipient or film number.

Display of search results

You can also search by year or by multiple years.

If you are interested in a specific date, try the general search box, formatting the date with the year first, e.g. 1945-04-12. This top search box also allows you to search by first name or by a last name to get correspondence for everyone with that last name.

This project would not have been possible without our programmer Rajendra Sedhain or our student assistant Lisa Mendenhall.

Try out the great new interface at http://wallace.lib.uiowa.edu/!

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100,000!

Iowa Research Online has just passed the 100,000 mark!

The repository launched in January 2009. Since that time, we have added 3,630 items to the collection which have now been used over 100,000 times. We are very pleased that our local scholarship has been receiving so much use.

Our highest use collection is our electronic thesis and dissertation collection, which shows the importance of our recent graduates’ scholarship.  This collection has a wide range of content across all disciplines.  The theses receiving the most use are:

Our peer-reviewed journals also receive high use. Walt Whitman Quarterly Review and Medieval Feminist Forum were both print only and now the back content is freely available and the current issue is available to subscribers. Poroi and Electronic Journal of Africana Bibliography moved into Iowa Research Online to provide an improved interface. Some of the articles receiving the most use are:

Our collections of faculty scholarship are also receiving high use.  Highlights from these collections include:

Our partnership with the University of Iowa Press to make the back volumes of selected series available has also contributed several popular items:

Several reports from the Public Policy Center have also been receiving a lot of use, including:

We have found that IRO is used by people all over the world.  While most use comes from the United States, substantial use also comes from people in the United Kingdom, Canada, India, Germany, Australia, France, Hong Kong, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and China, demonstrating the international nature of our collection and of research.

Thanks to everyone who has helped make the collection such a success!

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Happy Fourth of July

The Digital Library Services staff hopes everyone has a great Fourth of July weekend.

We hope you have good times with family and friends.

Fourth of July gathering outside house, Fonda, Iowa, July 4, 1915

We hope you eat good food.

Patriotic Petits Fours from Sunkist bulletin, menu planning for health, 1937

We hope you enjoy fireworks displays.

Fireworks display above pool, The University of Iowa, 1920s?

Fourth fireworks by Eve Drewlowe

Fireworks, Iowa, July 4, 1976

Tower bridge fireworks 100th Anniversary, London, England, 1994

And we hope you stay safe.

Now let's all be careful by Ding Darling

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Korean War

The Korean War started 60 years ago today. I grew up knowing about the war as fictionalized by M*A*S*H. In history class, we never made it that far into the twentieth century and, unlike today, the conflict between North & South Korea never came up in our current events conversations, making it a forgotten war.

Otto Knauth talking about Korean War headlineThe University of Iowa Libraries digital collections have a small amount of material relevant for people interested in learning more about this conflict.

In an oral history interview, Otto Knauth, a former Des Moines register reporter, recounts putting together the story of the invasion.

“I think it was on June 25, 1950, and the North Koreans invaded South Korea. I got the job of editing that story. It was a Saturday night and it was for the Sunday Register. That was, by far, the biggest story that I had ever handled. I worked on it all night long because we kept getting updates all the way through. So, from edition to edition, it meant changing the story, maybe putting a new lead on it, expanding the text down below, and writing new headlines for it.”

According to the October 1950 issue of the Iowa Alumni Review, the war was featured as part of the 1950 summer lecture series, with three speakers giving different perspectives on the war.  One speaker, Max Lerner, stated “We must help the revolutionary forces in Asia become a democratic force. We must be on the side of racial equality and social reform everywhere—and at home, too.”

Henry Wallace letter to Harry WeinbergOur collections also include papers of Henry A. Wallace. His view towards communism changed due to the Korean War, so some of these letters are of particular importance for learning about the effects of the war on attitudes in the United States. A Feb 20 1951 letter to Harry Weinberg clarifies his differences of opinion with Truman.

“That I partially agree with the Administration on Korea does not mean I back all its foreign policy … I believe the USA should provisionally offer to the USSR and the World a genuine peace program to stimulate productivity and rapidly improve the standard of living of all backward and undeveloped areas of the world.”

Korean War Phase 4 poster

Our government poster collection includes a chronology of phase 4 of the war, detailing events of 25 January-21 April 1951.  During this time the US and republic of Korea forces decided to cross the 38th parallel again and General MacArthur was relieved of duty.

You can also learn about the war from the broader social context in the United States, including the Cold war and fears of the “Red Menace”. One of the speakers on the Chautauqua circuit, Edward Hunter, the author of Brain-washing in Red China,Brain washing and what it means to you brochure advertised his talk about the communist brainwashing, by saying “Here is an expose of the Communists’ best kept secret, a glimpse behind the bamboo curtain at the sinister, ruthlessly effective technique by which the Reds are attempting to conquer the minds of men.”

This is not the only view presented on the Chautauqua circuit; our collections include a brochure for a movie by Thomas E. Benner showing life and culture of the Korean film, made before and after the communist invasion.

While the UI press book Memoirs of a Cold War Son doesn’t directly talk about the Korean War, it gives a first hand account of growing up in this era.

Our collections also include analyses of various aspects of the war. For example, we have a 1997 interview of Han Ki about the effect of the Korean War on literary production in Korea.  You can also listen to Marshall Poe’s interview of Julian E. Zelizer about his book Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security From WWII to the War on Terrorism.

Unfortunately, the armistice between North and South Korea is fragile and the world still is dealing with hostilities. Our Foreign Relations Council series includes several talks about North Korea, including a lecture by Scott Snyder on Dec 1, 2009 about the 6 party talks.

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1970 Student Protests

Spring of 1970 was a tumultuous time on college campuses. On April 30, President Richard Nixon announced that U.S forces would invade Cambodia because of the recent communist coup. Students around the country protested this escalation of the Vietnam War. On May 4, the National Guard fired on students at Kent State University, killing 4 and wounding 9 people, which ignited protests all over the country.

 Daily Iowan front page May 5, 1970

Anti-war protests were not new to Iowa City or to elsewhere in Iowa; protests had been occurring throughout the 1960s.

Iowa City Peace March    Des Moines Protestors in 1966

Spring of 1970 was different.

After the Kent State shootings, students marched on the National Guard Armory, broke windows there and also in some downtown businesses. The City Council gave the mayor curfew powers. On May 6 there was a student boycott of classes. That night about 400 people had a “sleep-in” in front of the Old Capitol.  That night about 50 people broke into the Old Capitol and set off a smoke bomb. The protestors left voluntarily when asked to do so. Around 2 AM Friday morning President Boyd requested arrest of the students on the Pentacrest by highway patrolmen, but the next day he regretted the mass arrests and said he had received faulty information. On May 8, President Boyd cancelled the 89th annual Governor’s day ROTC observance for the following day. On Friday and Saturday a National Guard helicopter circled the Pentacrest.

Map showing location of "big Pink"In the early morning hours of Saturday, May 9, the Old Armory Temporary (O.A.T.), also known as “Big Pink”, which housed the writing lab, was burned down. This building was located was next to the Old Armory, where the Adler Journalism and Mass Communications building currently is located. O.A.T was said to be at the top of a list of buildings for burning, probably due to its poor condition and was considered a firetrap. Fireman controlling "Big Pink" fireThe Iowa Alumni Review includes an article about the fire in which the author states: “Only the ends stayed upright. … On the south, Lou Kelly’s Writing lab bearing the sign ‘another mother for peace,’ escaped.” There was a second, smaller fire on Saturday evening in a restroom in the East Hall Annex.

By Sunday morning, President Boyd gave students the option to leave. Classes were not cancelled but students could leave and take the grade they currently had.

Daily Iowan front page May 11, 1970

Student ProtestsAn account of the May 1970 protests can be read in the June-July issue of the Iowa Alumni Review.

In his autobiography, My Iowa Journey: The Life Story of the University of Iowa’s First African American Professor, Philip Hubbard (University Vice-Provost in 1970) gives an administrator’s perspective of all the protests of the 1960s.  He supported the student’s right to protest and in 1966 stated:

Students should not accept everything that is dished out to them. We don’t want to dictate what they should or should not do. However, student demonstrations should remain within the law and good taste without interfering with the university’s primary purpose of instructing students.

During this time there was also a strong ROTC presence on campus.

ROTC

The 1970 yearbook includes many pictures of the men and women who chose to serve the country in this manner. Their presence on campus and the academic credit they received for their service was called into question by both students and faculty in the spring of 1970, but Boyd said he could not abolish ROTC. The Alumni Review had an article called “ROTC: Alive and well at Iowa” in the December 1969 issue which helps provide a more complete picture of this period in history.

More information about protests at the University of Iowa can be found by consulting the “University Archives Resource guide to Student Protest Movements.”