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Northwestern University – Harris Hall 107 Redux: Bound to Please by Michael Dirda

Harris Hall

Harris Hall

I sat many hours in Northwestern University’s Harris lecture hall 107 during my years as an undergraduate and graduate student from 1968 to 1982.

As an undergraduate I listened to Alfred Appel lecture on James Joyce, Nathaniel West, Ernest Hemingway, Vladimir Nabokov, and the modernist significance of the great jazz artists of the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s: Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, and Charlie Parker. How many college lectures have a soundtrack?

Appel’s lectures on Nabokov and the pop culture motifs that form much of the substance of Lolita informed and entertained us. Much of the content of Appel’s lectures on Nabokov and Lolita can be found, mutatis mutandis, in Appel’s still authoritative Annotated Lolita. Students listened in attentive silence to his lectures on Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River” and how Nick Adams found healing and relief for his battle-scarred psyche through fly fishing. This silence was atypical: more often than not, many of Appel’s lectures were punctuated with frequent laughter.

Alfred Appel

Alfred Appel Jr.

Appel made a lot of people laugh. I’ll never forget sitting in a Romantic poetry class on the second floor of University Hall when, just as Professor Gerald Prince was reciting these lines from Keats Ode to a Nightingale, “Away! away! for I will fly to thee, / Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,” Appel walks by the door opening to the hallway, flapping his arms like a bird. The class roared with laughter; Professor Prince, his back to the door, just stared at the class, mouth slightly open, dumbfounded.

In the early 70’s I also remember two other lecturers who held forth in Harris 107: anthropology professor Stuart Struever and, guru to the hippies, Stephen Gaskin.

Stuart Struever

Stuart Struever

Hearing anthropology professor Stuart Struever explain how the Vietnam War was essentially “maladaptive” encouraged students to continue or begin their protests of the war. I was so impressed and moved by the perspectives that an anthropological approach to understanding opened up that I changed my major to anthropology. During the 1970’s Struever was host to 100’s of student assistants who helped in excavating the 10,000 year old Hopewell burial mounds in Greene County, Illinois, about 270 miles south of Chicago. Struever was a colorful character who wore denim jeans and khaki short sleeved shirts as often as a tie and jacket, who interjected into his lectures stories of the years he spent buying and selling artifacts for import and trade in Africa. Think Indiana Jones.

Monday Night ClassOne warm spring evening in 1970 I listened to Stephen Gaskin — eventual founder of The Farm coop that settled in Tennessee — give a talk from a seated zazen half lotus pose, a talk about Buddha, weed, psilocybin, LSD, Jesus, and enlightenment — not necessarily in that order. That lecture was eventually anthologized in Monday Night Class, still in print forty years later. I will also never forget wandering outside after Stephen’s talk to the parking lot along Lake Michigan and being invited into one of the caravan school buses that followed Stephen’s lecture tour from the left to right coast and back again. I hung out for an few hours with a several guys and girls who were sharing a converted school bus. To this day the smell of patchouli oil brings back with hallucinatory vividness that evening and that after-lecture party in a converted school bus.

As a graduate student teaching assistant some 10 years later in the early 80’s, I remember Martin Mueller’s lucid background lectures on Shakespeare, especially his talks about The Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar, and The Tempest. The last lectures I attended in Harris 107 were given by Henry Binder in a course comparing literary and cinematic treatments of the “American West” with evening screenings of Stagecoach, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, and The Wild Bunch.

These memories of hearing experts on various and sundry topics holding forth on their chosen fields of literature, philosophy, religion, politics, history — memories now thirty and more years old — wash over me in mostly, but not always, pleasurable waves of nostalgia. Nostalgia cloys, does not really satisfy, but that is part of its poignancy, part of its seductive charm — the fact that it does not satisfy is part of what makes it what it is.

Bound to Please - Michael Dirda

Recently I discovered Bound to Please, an anthology of a quarter century’s worth of book reviews by Washington Post Book World editor, Michael Dirda. Dirda has spent his professional life reveling in the writings, thoughts, and works of various authors, translators, biographers, artists, and historians who have each individually in turn dedicated their individual lives to exploring the works, thoughts, or times of their chosen subjects and fields of research.

Reading these reviews is like sitting once again as a bearded young man listening to an inspiring, knowledge-laden professor holding forth in Harris 107.

Postscript: By chance I happened to read recently that Harris Hall is being renovated. New generations scholars and, perhaps, a next-gen hippie-guru or two await their turns to lecture in Harris 107 to new generations of current and yet-to-be born Northwestern students preparing for their futures.

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Scott Hall, Seabury-Western, Lunt Hall, Alice Millar, Tech Library: Early in the Day

Lunt Hall - Northwestern University

Lunt Hall – Northwestern University

Certain memories continue to fascinate me. I find myself conjuring these memories often — images, places, and scenes from summer 1968 through fall 1977, involving Northwestern, Evanston, and Chicago Museums. Like many (most?), my real life began upon finishing high school and leaving home — for me that meant enrolling and moving into a Northwestern dorm just weeks after graduating from Ridgewood High School. Now, thirty years later, in this month of beginnings, March 2007, just days until the first day of spring, I am finally putting in writing and found images what until now I have done only privately.

I think of Emily Dickinson’s choosing a “certain slant of light” to communicate what must have been a most private, obscure feeling. She clearly hoped someone, somewhere, somehow, sometime similarly had contemplated a ray of light hitting a rug, floor , hosting a myriad of glistening, floating, drifting dust crystals. There is a certain light that colors my memories of Northwestern and Art Institute — memories of the years in which I first began to dream dreams. And the “certain slant of light” that illuminates these memories are no small part of the memories and feelings themselves.

The places with which I became familiar and intimate during those years, the places that came to carry these feelings were each glimpses into what were to me amazing places created by the already achieved and accomplished. My setting foot in them somehow made me feel connected to great possibilities: the Lunt Building classroom where I took differential calculus from Professor “Ma” Clark; the large reception lounge on the second floor of Scott Hall, filled with dark red, green, and black leather chairs and couches, and long, oak reading tables, incandescent reading lights, shaded lamps on the end tables, high, high ceilings, arched stained glass windows; the Tech Library study carrels reached via narrow, spiral metal stairs ; the reception lounges of the Alice Millar chapel — good for many hours of studying; the study carrels in the Seabury-Western seminary library; the Impressionist galleries at the Art Institute; the Bahai Temple in Wilmette; and the Shakespeare Garden.

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Plato - Crito

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If 'Despacito' Were Written by an Evo-Devo Biologist

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James Baldwin Debates William F. Buckley

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Genius of the Ancient World - Socrates

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In his new book, "Superiority Conceit in Buddhist Traditions," Bhikkhu Analayo investigates some of the ways we as Buddhists have deluded ourselves about the "other." The post There Is No Hinayana appeared first on Lion's Roar. [...]

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Same AP that once pushed propaganda for Adolf Hitler now pushing transgenderism with extreme media bias

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Biden's America: 13 dead in serious crash near Mexican border were illegal aliens being trafficked

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Newly discovered "swirlonic state" of matter bends the laws of physics

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For the first time, an asteroid has been found with essential ingredients for life

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Almost all High-Energy Neutrinos Come From Quasars

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A New Study Says That Betelgeuse Won’t Be Exploding Any Time Soon

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How Would Rain be Different on an Alien World?

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Earth’s Atmosphere Can Generate a “Space Hurricane”

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China’s Super-Heavy Lift Rocket Will Carry 100 Tons to the Moon

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NASA Invests in a Plan to Build Landing Pads and Other Structures on the Moon out of Regolith

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The Mars Helicopter Could Charge up the Atmosphere Around Itself as it Flies

Plasma globes are a common enough sight in retails stores across the rich world.  If you’ve ever seen one and gotten a chance to touch it, you’ve seen how the plasma will arc toward your touch creating a sense that you’re able to harness electricity like Thor. That effect does not only take place on … Continue reading "The Mars Helicopter Could Charge up the Atmosphere Around Itself as it Flies" The post The Mars Helicopter Could Charge up the Atmosphere Around Itself as it Flies appeared first on Universe Today. [...]

SpaceX’s Starship Prototype Flies High AND Sticks the Landing!

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New Perspective of Jezero Crater Shows the Path Perseverance Could use to Navigate

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Could catnip become the new insect repellent?

New research may have people heading to their backyard instead of the store at the outset of this year's mosquito season. [...]

Did woolly mammoths overlap with first humans in what is now New England?

Woolly mammoths may have walked the landscape at the same time as the earliest humans in what is now New England, according to a new study. Through the radiocarbon dating of a rib fragment from the Mount Holly mammoth from Mount Holly, Vt., the researchers learned that this mammoth existed approximately 12,800 years ago. This date may overlap with the arrival of the first humans in the Northeast, who are thought to have arrived around the same time. [...]

Origin of life: The chicken-and-egg problem

New research shows that slight alterations in transfer-RNA molecules (tRNAs) allow them to self-assemble into a functional unit that can replicate information exponentially. tRNAs are key elements in the evolution of early life-forms. [...]

Neanderthals had the capacity to perceive and produce human speech

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The right '5-a-day' mix is 2 fruit and 3 vegetable servings for longer life

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Microbes deep beneath seafloor survive on byproducts of radioactive process

Researchers found that microbes living in ancient sediment below the seafloor are sustained primarily by chemicals created by the natural irradiation of water molecules. Results of this research may have implications for life on Mars. [...]

Did teenage 'tyrants' outcompete other dinosaurs?

Paleo-ecologists have demonstrated that the offspring of enormous carnivorous dinosaurs, such as Tyrannosaurus rex may have fundamentally re-shaped their communities by out-competing smaller rival species. [...]

Comet makes a pit stop near Jupiter's asteroids

After traveling several billion miles toward the Sun, a wayward young comet-like object orbiting among the giant planets has found a temporary parking place along the way. The object has settled near a family of captured ancient asteroids, called Trojans, that are orbiting the Sun alongside Jupiter. This is the first time a comet-like object has been spotted near the Trojan population. [...]

Gulf Stream System at its weakest in over a millennium

Never before in over 1000 years the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), also known as Gulf Stream System, has been as weak as in the last decades. Researchers compiled proxy data, reaching back hundreds of years to reconstruct the AMOC flow history. They found consistent evidence that its slowdown in the 20th century is unprecedented in the past millennium. [...]

Apollo rock samples capture key moments in the Moon's early history

Volcanic rock samples collected during NASA's Apollo missions bear the isotopic signature of key events in the early evolution of the Moon, a new analysis found. Those events include the formation of the Moon's iron core, as well as the crystallization of the lunar magma ocean -- the sea of molten rock thought to have covered the Moon for around 100 million years after the it formed. [...]

NASA's Perseverance rover sends back postcards aplenty following its arrival on Mars as it prepares to explore Jezero Crater. The post Perseverance's Fortnight of Firsts on Mars appeared first on Sky & Telescope. [...]

When a potentially hazardous asteroid glides safely past Earth on March 6th, astronomers will conduct a dress rehearsal for a dramatic close-miss pass in 2029. The post Asteroid Apophis Pays Earth a Visit This Week appeared first on Sky & Telescope. [...]

Sirius shines high on the meridian right after dark, as Orion starts tilting westward. Mars keeps company with the Pleiades. And three planets help you greet the dawn. The post This Week's Sky At a Glance, March 5 – 13 appeared first on Sky & Telescope. [...]

Dip into this easy guide to seeing the brightest asteroid, Vesta, and understanding what makes it unique. The post March — A Good Time to Visit Vesta appeared first on Sky & Telescope. [...]

March: Find the Winter Hexagon

Our Sky Tour astronomy podcast provides an engaging guided tour of the planets, stars, and constellations overhead during March. The post March: Find the Winter Hexagon appeared first on Sky & Telescope. [...]

Mars is passing the Pleiades. Sirius and Canis Major take over the early-evening meridian from Orion. And low in the dawn, Jupiter closes in on Mercury. The post This Week's Sky at a Glance, February 26 – March 6 appeared first on Sky & Telescope. [...]

Now, there's more evidence that astronomers have found the pulsar at the heart of Supernova 1987A. Plus, a new stunning image of Venus. The post 60-second Astro News: Venus Close-up and Supernova 1987A appeared first on Sky & Telescope. [...]

Scientists may have discovered a clue to how massive stars form in the Orion Nebula and a stellar birthplace. The post A Map of a Stellar Explosion appeared first on Sky & Telescope. [...]

The images from five Brazilian amateur astronomers have captured Hubble-level details in galaxies, laying the ground for future work in understanding their histories. Want to join the fun? The post Amateur Astronomers Reveal Long-Ago Galaxy Mergers appeared first on Sky & Telescope. [...]

A single high-energy neutrino may shed light on a star being swallowed by a supermassive black hole some 690 million light-years away. The post Star-shredding Black Hole Makes Ghostlike Particle appeared first on Sky & Telescope. [...]