Outbreak of the Undead Begins

It’s official: reports indicate that by midnight on October 31st, 2011, an outbreak of the undead will begin to infect the population of New York City. Roads will be barricaded, bridges will collapse, and the entire city may very well be turned on its head. Sensing this approaching doom, the greatest weapon that we can arm ourselves with is knowledge. In order to be completely ready to fight back the groaning, blood-drenched hordes that await us, we must first learn to understand the zombie at its most fundamental and philosophical levels.

Better Off Dead: The Evolution of the Zombie as Post-Human, edited by Deborah Christie and Sarah Juliet Lauro, explores the zombie from many different points of view, the contributors look across history and across media. Though they represent various theoretical perspectives, the whole makes a cohesive argument: The zombie has not just evolved within narratives; it has evolved in a way that transforms narrative. This collection announces a new post-zombie, even before the boundaries of this rich and mysterious myth have been completely charted.

We must ask ourselves: Are zombies becoming more human, or are humans becoming more like zombies? If we are, might that resolve some of our uniquely humanist problems? Will the equalizing force of the zombie horde undergo gender trouble, identity politics, and disparities between the haves and the have-nots? Might we not all be better off dead?

Here’s a sneak peek at “And the Dead Shall Rise”.

-Ben Sicker

It’s official: reports indicate that by midnight on October 31st, 2011, an outbreak of the undead will begin to infect the population of New York City. Roads will be barricaded, bridges will collapse, and the entire city may very well … Full Story

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Twitter Share to Twitter More...

Gothic: Halloween Summed Up in a Single Writing Style

“Scare Tactics is that rare academic work that’s accessible rather than purposefully opaque, and it has much to offer readers interested in American literature, gothic fiction, or uppity women.”—Bitch Magazine

The notion of “the Gothic” permeates our society’s art forms, conveying the darkest of possible tones. It is this sense of discomfort, this sudden acquaintance with the disturbing and the uncanny, which draws us towards this type of literature time and time again.

Scare Tactics, written by Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, explores the women authors who contributed to this strangely intriguing literary field. Between the end of the Civil War and roughly 1930, hundreds of uncanny tales were published by women in the periodical press and in books. These include stories by familiar figures such as Edith Wharton, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, as well as by authors almost wholly unknown to twenty-first-century readers, such as Josephine Dodge Bacon, Alice Brown, Emma Frances Dawson, and Harriet Prescott Spofford. Focusing on this tradition of female writing offers a corrective to the prevailing belief within American literary scholarship that the uncanny tale, exemplified by the literary productions of Irving, Poe, and Hawthorne, was displaced after the Civil War by literary realism.

To read Chapter 1, “The Ghost in the Parlor: Harriet Prescott Spofford, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Anna M. Hoyt, and Edith Wharton”, click here.

 

“Scare Tactics is that rare academic work that’s accessible rather than purposefully opaque, and it has much to offer readers interested in American literature, gothic fiction, or uppity women.”—Bitch Magazine The notion of “the Gothic” permeates our society’s art forms, … Full Story

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Twitter Share to Twitter More...

Portrait of Yarrow Mamout Finds New Home

From Slave Ship to HarvardTo follow up on the news of the sale of Charles Willson Peale’s portrait of Yarrow Mamout, our author, James H. Johnston talked to the Philadelphia Museum of Art about the acquisition. The painting is already on display, just inside and to the left of the front entrance. Fittingly, it is joined by Peale’s Self-Portrait in the Museum. The latter was a precursor to the artist’s larger work, The Artist in His Museum, which is owned by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and currently on display in a special exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington DC.

By the time he painted Yarrow, Peale was more than just a portrait painter. He was also a businessman, operating a combination natural history museum and art gallery in Philadelphia. In it were copies of Peale’s portraits of the first four presidents, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison. In 1818, the artist went in Washington, D.C. to get a painting of James Monroe to add to the presidential gallery in the museum. That is when he heard about Yarrow. Thus, Peale returned to Philadelphia with paintings of both president and former slave.

James H. Johnston’s book, From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family is forthcoming in May 2012. It will provide a great deal more about Yarrow and Peale and the friendship that developed between the two, which the Philadelphia Museum of Art suggests in its new exhibit. Johnston is also giving a talk December 4, 2011 on the Beall Family who owned Yarrow. It will be given at Claymont Court, Claymont Society, 667 Huyett Road, Charles Town, WV 25414.

To follow up on the news of the sale of Charles Willson Peale’s portrait of Yarrow Mamout, our author, James H. Johnston talked to the Philadelphia Museum of Art about the acquisition. The painting is already on display, just inside … Full Story

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Twitter Share to Twitter More...

George Washington Bridge Celebrates 80 Years

It goes without saying that New Yorkers and residents of the tri-state area are always on the go. Whether it’s in and out of JFK and LaGuardia by plane, running to catch a train or subway, or heading across crowded streets by car or bus, we are constantly on the move. If we’re not on the move, we’re stuck. Probably in bridge traffic.

In a city of over 8 million people, this is not surprising. What is surprising is that there is often little time for contemplation on the history of our roads and bridges and the cultural changes they have created. But today, the George Washington Bridge celebrates 80 years. To honor the engineering feats that created bridges and revolutionized the commerce of New York, the country, and the world, I will offer a short meditation on the “bridge.”

Bridge [brij] noun, verb, bridged, bridg•ing, adjective*

noun
1. A structure spanning and providing passage over a river, chasm, road, or the like.

The best part of the Henry Hudson Parkway is the view. Leading up to the George Washington Bridge is a winding view of trees and river. The Hudson river, which the GWB spans, is breathtaking in all seasons. From the summer when the palisades are ruddy and dry to the fall when the trees burst forth in colors, the sight is not to be missed. As a small child I would strain to see the river itself, full of tugboats and sailboats as we crossed over the bridge.

2. Connecting, transitional, or intermediate route or phase between two adjacent elements, activities, conditions, or the like: Working at the hospital was a bridge between medical school and private practice.

Even though the lives we lead can seem harried or fast-paced, we sometimes need to take time out to focus internally on our well-being. The yoga pose of Setu Bandha Sarvangasana or “Bridge Pose” helps me form an actual bridge of my body to wind down my yoga practice and metaphorically gives me a “bridge” into a calmer place. In our lives, it is just as important for reflection, as well as action.

3. Nautical
a. a raised transverse platform from which a power vessel is navigated: often includes a pilot house and a chart house.
b. any of various other raised platforms from which the navigation or docking of a vessel is supervised.
c. a bridge house or bridge superstructure.
d.a raised walkway running fore-and-aft.

A bridge can refer to the power center of the boat. It is a place to chart and set a course. Often these types of bridges are present on war ships. Not too far from the George Washington Bridge is one of New York’s unique museums. Housed on the aircraft carrier Intrepid, The Intrepid, Sea, Air, and Space Museum has a range of activities, exhibits, and events. The museum also hosts the annual Fleet Week in Manhattan.

4. Anatomy. the ridge or upper line of the nose.

I find this definition applicable to the George Washington Bridge because my mind makes the leap from the George Washington Bridge to another inspiring engineering feat where George Washington is present—Mount Rushmore. The same engineers that made bridges had to have the imagination to see what could be created in a space that nature fully inhabited.

5. Dentistry. an artificial replacement, fixed or removable, of a missing tooth or teeth, supported by natural teeth or roots adjacent to the space.

While this meaning of the word “bridge” does not seem applicable to the bridge that lends itself to transporting the masses, I think it is necessary to note the second half of the definition “supported by …roots adjacent to the space.” It is the roots of immigrant history that have in fact made bridges like the GWB and the Tappan Zee possible.

New York’s Golden Age of Bridges by Antonio Masi and Joan Marans Dim traces the roots of New York’s bridges, but also the stories behind the people who made them possible. Antonio’s grandfather, Francesco Masi, an Italian immigrant helped build the 59th Street (the recently renamed Ed Koch Queensboro) Bridge. Fascinated with bridges his entire life, Antonio has been capturing bridges with his brush for over a decade. Antonio’s work speaks to me, as it may speak to many others. Growing up, I was taught that my great-great grandfather, an Italian immigrant went to Cooper Union and became a painter. His paintings hung in our home, a constant reminder of the roots we have. I think Antonio and Joan’s narrative, accompanied by striking paintings will resonate with many others whose roots lie in a unique, yet collective American experience.

–Katie Sweeney

*Courtesy of Dictionary.com

It goes without saying that New Yorkers and residents of the tri-state area are always on the go. Whether it’s in and out of JFK and LaGuardia by plane, running to catch a train or subway, or heading across crowded … Full Story

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Twitter Share to Twitter More...

Yarrow Mamout Portrait Sold

This morning the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the portrait of Yarrow Mamout has been sold by the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Originally brought to Maryland on the slave ship Elijah, Yarrow gained his freedom forty-four years later. By then, Yarrow had been so well known in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., he attracted the attention of Charles Willson Peale. The portrait was painted by Peale in 1819 and is the earliest known portrait of a practicing American Muslim.

From Slave Ship to HarvardPeale’s striking portrait captured the imagination of James H. Johnston, an attorney and journalist in the greater Washington, D.C. area. Johnston went on to research Yarrow and his descendants, finding that his relatives were notable in their own right. Yarrow’s son married into the Turner family, and the farm community in western Maryland called Yarrowsburg was named for Yarrow Mahmout’s daughter-in-law Mary “Polly” Turner Yarrow. The Turner line ultimately produced Robert Turner Ford, who graduated from Harvard University in 1927. Their fascinating stories are told in Johnston’s forthcoming book, From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family.

The portrait was painted by Peale in 1819 and is the earliest known portrait of a practicing American Muslim.

Besides reconstructing the true story of an African American family in Maryland over six generations, Johnston puts a face on slavery and paints the history of race in America. Still fascinating Americans today, the portrait of Yarrow Mahmout is not just an historical artifact, but a journey that continues.

For more on Yarrow Mahmout’s journey, look for From Slave Ship to Harvard by James H. Johnston / 9780823239504 / $29.95 / MAY 2012

This morning the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the portrait of Yarrow Mamout has been sold by the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Originally brought to Maryland on the slave ship Elijah, Yarrow … Full Story

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Twitter Share to Twitter More...