Sunday, September 1 | 1:00–5:00 pm
A window into the Bennington classroom experience. We encourage you to choose a workshop in an area outside of those you’ll be studying this fall. Signups will take place during Orientation check-in under the tent. Confirmation of your workshop will be emailed to you on Saturday, August 31.
Making Connections: What can paintings teach us about other countries?
Barbara Alfano and Ikuko Yoshida
In this workshop, participants will examine, compare, and analyze paintings from Europe and Asia as well as discuss what historical, religious, and cultural aspects are represented in the paintings. The participants will also practice drawing connections among the elements in the paintings and explore how distant cultures relate to each other.
Paintings can teach you a lot. A painting such as Leonardo da Vinci’s La gioconda (Monna Lisa) can tell you quite a few things about Italian society during the Renaissance and about the Renaissance itself. In addition, the impressionist paintings of Claude Monet (1840–1926) are a result of 19th century cross-fertilization, which happened in France and Japan. Together, we will investigate Monet’s paintings and the historical background of the Impressionist movement, and we will discuss how one event can have an impact on many countries. No foreign language background is necessary.
Sir John Hershel and the Cyanotype Process
John Bullock and Jonathan Kline
As photography morphs into digital imaging in the 21st century, this workshop goes back in time and investigates one of the earliest methods of making paper light sensitive using iron salts and sunlight. We will begin by reviewing the overlap in science and philosophy of the late 18th and early 19th century in Europe and the UK, and its keen interest in verisimilitude in what is now referred to as the era of “proto photography.”
Sir John Herschel’s (1792‐1871) early experimentation with light sensitive iron salts in 1842 is the basis for this hands‐on workshop. What was the nature of his initial inquiry that allowed for this discovery? What are the effects of varying the strengths of the two iron salts involved? A variety of papers, fabrics, and alternate substrates will be provided for participants to brush with chemistry in the darkroom, followed by exposure to sunlight, and then returning to the darkroom to process them using water alone.
Participants are encouraged to bring a range of flat, opaque and/or semi‐translucent objects to create cameraless photograms in sunlight. Leaves or plant cuttings make especially great subjects for this process. Please bring your imagination, a notebook to jot down your specific methods, and an extra helping of patience.
A Close Reading of “Gilbert’s Mother”
In this introduction to a basic literature course, we will read “Gilbert’s Mother,” a short story by William Trevor. We will examine and discuss how to take notes on characters, story, plot, voice, themes, threads, echoes, sentence structure, word choice, context and anything else that is important. We will also talk about how to develop a thesis for a 2,000-level literature paper. Copies of the story will be provided, just bring a pen and a notebook and any questions you may have.
How to Read a Play
What are dramatic conventions? How do they work? What brings them into being and then causes them to lose their power over time? We'll look at early scenes from four plays: Ibsen’s A Doll House, Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Beckett’s Endgame, and Muller’s Hamletmachine. We'll note how Ibsen and Wilde use the nineteenth-century convention of the paradigm scene to set up the thematic and dramatic development of the play. We'll then see how Beckett and Muller, twentieth-century experimental writers, subvert and “theatricalize” this same convention.
Originality, Inspiration, Indebtedness: The Art of Literary Translation:
As Jorge Luis Borges famously said, “The translation is the original.” What do you think he meant by that? We’ll spend our time pondering the tensions between originality, inspiration, and creative indebtedness as we compare and contrast multiple translations of single poems, theatre scenes, and literary prose. What do we note about the ways in which a particular translator reads a particular text? What are the challenges presented by image, rhythm, voice, texture, the particularities of time and place? How do translators “stay true” to the original text? By staying close? By acknowledging distance? Through poetic license? Everyone is welcome. No prerequisites.
The Philosopher’s Eye
What is art? How should we look at works of art? How is art related to its social context? Is there a “correct” interpretation of an artwork? We will confront these and other questions in this workshop devoted to philosophical thinking about art. Our case studies will be based on examples from art history, recent art world controversies, and the Bennington art collection. The artworks will serve as provocations to philosophical questioning, which we will supplement with reading and research.
What is sequential art? Why and how do we study it? Participants in this workshop will consider ways in which cartoons tell a story. Practicing the essential skills of connecting work to broader contexts, and presenting and explaining work, students will produce original pieces that draw on, and speak to, an interactive presentation on comics in the US and Spain. Together, we will examine the evolution of the graphic novel, from its historical relegation to the realm of the juvenile and lowbrow, to its more recent boom in both popularity and critical legitimacy. In considering examples of comic strips, cartoons, and graphic novels from Spain, we will also explore what these media expose about the cultural climates from which they emerge, and simultaneously learn something about how Bennington faculty teach about language and culture. Lastly, drawing on their experiences of Orientation and the first part of the workshop, students will work in tandem to create and present a comic strip of their own. No language or artistic background is necessary.
Sustainability at Bennington College
Sustainability can be dismissed as a buzzword or it can be used as a powerful framework to base decision-making about our future world. What is sustainability? What does it mean to live a sustainable lifestyle or to create a more sustainable Bennington College? We will discuss the mission of the College’s Sustainability Committee, our Climate Action Plan and other projects underway. We will explore the campus with first-hand tours of behind-the-scene operations as well as the natural beauty around us. Finally, we will brainstorm ways for you, Bennington’s fresh movers and shakers, to become engaged in this unique place you find yourselves.
Brush up your Shakespeare
Challenge your acting muscles by lifting a little bit of Shakespeare. This will be a rigorous, physically intensive workout with the Bard. We will explore the sound, emotional content and imagery of his words from their smallest unit to their largest meaning. We will work as an ensemble playing with meter, scansion, rhythm and rhyme. No previous experience with either acting or Shakespeare required. Simply come prepared to move, sweat, and make noise.
Chinese Characters and Culture
As Chinese has a pictographic writing system, its written words reveal culture in interesting ways. Take for example the Chinese word “hao”, 好 meaning “good”: it is actually a picture of a woman, nu, bearing a son, zi. What does that tell you about the values of the ancient Chinese who created the characters? What evidence is there that these values still influence Chinese culture? By studying the etymology and morphology of some basic Chinese characters participants will simultaneously gain insights into the basis of the written language and traditional Chinese cultural values. Participants will also get an idea of how languages are taught at Bennington and maybe even pick up some Chinese.
The highest mathematics most people ever encounter is calculus—if that. Yet the whole of university level calculus covers only a part of what Newton knew, 340 years ago. People have been busy discovering new mathematics ever since, which only mathematicians, and a few physicists and engineers, ever hear about. Perhaps surprisingly, not only has the pace of discovery not slackened since Newton, but it has steadily accelerated, right up to the present day.
How can people still be discovering new mathematics? It would not be possible if mathematics was concerned only with mechanical computation. (This is why the computer has so far played only a minor role.) Mathematics stands in relation to number in much the same way that poetry stands in relation to language. Mathematics makes an art out of reason; whole numbers are one theme, but there are others: shape, symmetry, combination, structure. Each age has a particular flavor and each great mathematician has a distinct signature, just as it is in music, art, or literature.
In the mathematics program at Bennington, we try to make this larger world of mathematics accessible from the start, without excessive prerequisites. (Introduction to pure mathematics drops you right in.) This workshop is a brief introduction to these ideas. You do not need to know any mathematics to participate; in fact, if you had a difficult relationship with math in high school, I would especially encourage you to sign up. On the other hand, if you already know a lot of math, I believe you will still find that the workshop will all be new to you.
The Bennington Campus
Eileen Scully and Donald Sherefkin
How do we order space? How does it order us? In this workshop, we will acquire skills to observe, record, evaluate and re-imagine alternative solutions. Our focus will be the Bennington College campus. After a brief discussion of how the campus was first imagined, and how it has developed over the past 80 years, we will set out, sketchbooks in hand, for a first-hand exploration of the landscape, both planned and unplanned, including built structures, pathways, and functional clusters. We will reconvene and then break up into teams, each set to the challenge of creating a new campus. Teams will explain and present their proposals, which will be discussed and critiqued. Materials generated during this workshop will subsequently put on display in Crossett Library. Sunglasses and comfortable shoes are recommended. Sketchbooks, pencils, lemonade, biscuits will be provided.