Reporting from the Rochester Graduate Conference

Today’s the day… This is the day of the Second Annual Graduate Conference at the University of Rochester, and so far it’s not going at all badly.  Even a freak foot of snow isn’t really affecting things much. The first panel was complete, and the papers went together really very well–discussions of proletarian music in America, the Harlem Renaissance, Knickerbocker movements, and social inclusiveness in 1950s American youth.  Individually the papers were very polished, and raised a lot of questions about various stages and periods of American culture.

Right now, we’re listening to Scott Sandage give us his presentation remotely; his flight out of Pittsburgh was canceled, what with the storm, but this was simply an opportunity to bring some digital humanities know-how to the fore. Thanks to Kenan, our colleague Alex’s husband, we now have his Powerpoint on the big screen, as well as video of Dr. Sandage himself as he’s speaking.  Rather state-of-the-art, I believe, and our Dean, Tom DiPiero (a huge proponent of digital humanities) would be (should be) proud.

As for the presentation itself…Fascinating stuff.  He is a great scholar, and he discovered a rather unique way of getting inside the mentality of an age. Right now, he’s relating the story of William Henry Brisbane, who had no success with anything he’d try, and was given a horrible rating by the Mercantile Agency (I think that’s right)–matching this report to Brisbane’s actual diary, revealing, re: Geertz, “thick description,” a more complete portrait of an individual and a time period by putting these different sources in dialog. Well…the presentation is ongoing, and page 23 of Geertz’s “Thick Description” has the idea in more complete, complex language.

The path wends its way now past the Civil War, and images of success and failure, and how these concepts are expressed and communicated in American culture.

To be continued…