Emeritus Faculty Association #107 March 2005
10:30 a.m., Friday, April 1st, Javits Seminar Room, Melville Library E2340. After a social half hour with coffee, fruit, and pastries, courtesy of the Provost's Office, Sue Bottigheimer will regale us with stories of the origins of foiry tales.
"The Archeology of Fairy Tales" begins with well-known stories and asks where they came from. In America the standard understanding remains the one put about by nineteenth-century nationalists, namely that Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786-1859) traveled the German countryside gathering tales from peasant storytellers. The facts, that they got the first half of their tales from the girls and women they had coffee with on Sundays, are far different as are the documentable origins of their informants' knowledge of fairy tales.
With the Grimms' French predecessor Charles Perrault (1628-1703) the question of fairy tales' origins are related to seventeenth-century social institutions and their intersection with the French book trade. Contrary to expectations, there is not a nursemaid or peasant storyteller in sight.
Sue Bottigheimer has written several books and some seventy articles on fairy tales and has taught the subject at Stony Brook (currently ACH 102) and as a visiting professor in Innsbruck, Gšttingen, Faro, and the Graduate University of Madurai. Her revisionist work first tackled generations of orthodoxies about the Grimms and has now moved on to fairy tales themselves, how they were generated as a new literary genre after the invention of the printing press, and how technology and colonial institutions spread European tales throughout the world. In June she will deliver a series of lectures called "The Archeology of Fairy Tales" at Oxford, from which our talk takes its title.
In Memoriam: Ed Cerwinski 1929-2005
Barbara Elling spoke of her old colleague. Ed Cerwinski was professor and twice chair here in the department of Slavic Languages, Russian and Comparative Literature from 1970 until his retirement in 1993. He founded and was editor-in-chief of the Journal of Slavic and E. European Arts here at Stony Brook. He was also the founder and artistic director of the Slavic Cultural Center in Port Jefferson. He was fluent in at least 7 languages and conversant with many more. He was credited with translating and popularizing theater, poetry, music, and dance from the USSR and countries of Eastern Europe from the time of the cold war when it was far from popular to do so here, as well as in the Soviets where he was publicly denounced. He was a passionate and distinguished teacher and a prolific writer, authoring 10 books, over 100 articles, over 30 translations of foreign works, and hundreds of reviews.
David Smith drew attention to the public hearings in the Suffolk Legislature on the preservation of Smoke Run Farm in Stony Brook. We are now happy to announce that, partly due to the efforts of several members, this subsequently passed unanimously both in committee and the full legislature.
Doris Williams then introduced John Fleagle, Distinguished Professor of Anatomical
Sciences, to give the featured presentation "Rediscovering Modern Human Origins".
Fleagle said the work, done as part of a team, and published recently in Nature, was part travelog, part detective story, and part science. The trail originated when a team led by Richard Leakey went into Southern Ethiopia just after such explorations were opened up by Emperor Selaissie in 1966. Partial skulls were found in two locations on either side of the Omo river and were quickly identified as early humans. But since the investigators were more interested in the much earlier hominids, they soon retreated back across the border to Kenya and did not pay much attention to age measurements, except that:
(1) the specimens were beyond radio carbon (>50,000 years), and
(2) radio thorium analysis of nearby oyster shells indicated a date >130,000 years but the relevance to the skulls was not taken seriously.
The country was again opened up for such exploration after the 1980's with the government now insisting on a route south from Addis Ababa. Now the problem was to get there, indentify the original sites, find more samples, and apply new dating techniques to the surrounding strata. This proved a logistical nightmare, involving inadequate and erroneous maps, lack of roads, crocodiles and snakes, and a broken ferry that needed to be welded back together. Local militias wielding AK47's refused permission to repair "their" ferry unless the lot of them were employed for the whole season. Finally, there was a need for knowledge of nine local languages (a recurring theme of this month's newsletter). Notwithstanding all of this, the sites were rediscovered (even with the Omo2 site 3km from where it was stated to be), and even a matching piece to an earlier femur fragment. A correlation of radioactive argon dating with other evidence of floods at 25,000 year intervals proved the age of the remains to be almost 200,000 years, thus pushing back the orgins of modern humans to agree with the age deduced from genetic reconstructions.
In questioning, it was brought out that our human ancestors appeared to have spent 170,000 years before they emerged from Africa and produced cave drawings and other relics elsewhere. A story on the recent paper in Nature can be found here
Re early campus - Jef Raskin
Stony Brook graduate (BS Math 64, BA Phil 65) Jef Raskin died Feb 26. Raskin was credited with the creation of the Macintosh computer, revolutionizing interface design and establishing the desktop metaphor with its "click and drag." He named the project after his favorite variety of apple, (modifying the spelling for copyright purposes). He strongly believed that computers should make tasks easy for people, not the other way around. Devotees are making a movie about his life. For more click here
Website of the month
Inevitably, discussion of the deficit is moving away from whatever else may have contributed to it and towards the perceived main source of the problem, namely you .
For example, David Brooks, NY Times Sat Feb 19 spoke of "the horrendous burden seniors are placing on the young", and a popular book at the moment is "the Coming Generational Storm" by Laurence Kotlikoff, (see http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?tid=10055&ttype=2). At a talk given by Kotlikoff at Renaissance Technologies on Feb 15, a questioner from the audience wanted to know why all senior entitlements should not just be ended altogether. In the ensuing discussion it turned out that the questioner was from the former Soviet Union, and that a significant fraction of seniors in Russia are destitute and attempting to survive on vegetable patches. Now it happens that I have some experience of this kind of thing in 40's and 50's London. Sad to relate it is not easy, since any time you manage to produce a little extra then everybody else has a surplus of the exact same thing. And likewise when they have nothing, so do you. Nevertheless in the public interest we provide a "How to do it guide to vegetable patch": here
If your own garden is not suitable, for $25 you can rent a plot at the Melville Memorial Park as I did for a number of years. Call 941-4302 and ask for Gene Cockshutt. Good luck!.