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The Great War in the Middle East

Priya Satia

Historian Priya Satia investigates the tactics used by British agents in the Middle East during World War I. 

Satia, associate professor of modern British history at Stanford University, authored Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain's Covert Empire in the Middle East. Her talk will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2, in Alumni Recitation Hall, Room 302.

Satia’s work examines military tactics, intelligence gathering, and other strategies the British used before, during, and after the war, and their enormous cultural and political impact in Europe, South Asia, and the Middle East.

This event is sponsored by the Center for the Humanities and is open to the public. The Center is marking the centenary of the Great War with events, exhibitions, and lectures this year that look at the social, political, and cultural changes that emerged as a consequence of the First World War and other wars in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Team Tolstoy

On Wednesday, Nov. 12, Laura “Lola” Baltzell ’83 and Christiane Carney Johnson ’83 will discuss the collaborative process they used to create the War and Peace Project exhibited through Dec. 7 in Burling Gallery. Their gallery talk is free and open to the public, and will start at 4:15 p.m. in Burling Library Lounge.

During their talk, Baltzell and Johnson will describe the collaborative fusion of literature and art that led to the creation of collages that cover all 747 pages of Leo Tolstoy’s famous novel. Each 5 x 7 inch collage incorporates one page from the Russian text, combined with bits of maps, dried flowers, ink, wax, graphite, thread, letters, and other printed material.

Baltzell, who majored in Russian and economics, and Johnson, who majored in Russian and political science, developed the project with a group of artists who dubbed themselves Team Tolstoy. They both were inspired by their experiences in the late Professor John Mohan’s renowned course about the Russian writer.

The team included four additional Grinnell alumni — Otto Mayr ’82, Lucy Zahner Montgomery ’83, Elizabeth Jorganson Sherman ’83, and Lynn Waskelis ’83. Artists Emma Rhodes and Adrienne Wetmore also served on the team.   

In addition to giving the gallery talk on Wednesday, Baltzell and Johnson will help Grinnell students create their own collages during a study break from 8 to 9:30 p.m. in the Rotunda of the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

While on campus, Baltzell and Johnson will work with students enrolled in a tutorial on War and Peace taught by Associate Professor of Russian Kelly Herold, visit Russian language and literature classes, and attend a reception hosted by Professor of Russian Todd Armstrong.

The Faulconer Gallery brought the War and Peace Project to Grinnell’s campus in cooperation with the Russian Department and the Center for the Humanities. The project has been shown in Boston, New York and Russia. The Grinnell exhibit is the first in which the project has been exhibited in its entirety in the United States.


‘War and Peace Project’ exhibition open at Grinnell College

Grinnell, Iowa - The “War and Peace Project,” a collaborative work created on all 747 pages of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” is on display in Burling Gallery on the Grinnell College campus.

Laura “Lola” Baltzell began the project in 2008 by making a collage from each page of a 1970s Soviet edition of the novel she’d picked up in Leningrad. She expanded the project to include a small group of friends, dubbed “Team Tolstoy.”

The team consisted of six Grinnell College graduates, and nine artists total. In addition to Baltzell, Lucy Arrington, Christiane Carney Johnson, Otto Mayr, Lucy Zahner Montgomery, Emma Rhodes, Elizabeth Jorganson Sherman, both Lynn Waskelis and Adrienne Wetmore contributed to this work. Occasionally, they invited guest artists to contribute a collage.

There were three rules for the project:

  1. Each collage should contain at least one word of the original text;
  2. The artist may not touch up or redo any collage; and
  3. The artist is free to decide if he or she would like to respond to the story line or not.

Each 5 x 7 inch collage incorporates one page from the Russian text, combined with bits of maps, dried flowers, ink, wax, graphite, thread, letters, and other printed material. Waskelis, calls it a “mash-up of personal bits and random detritus washed up from the universe of print.”

Overall, the project is a creative dialogue between Tolstoy and a collaborative team of artists who “… struggle to make connections, find meanings, and ultimately to create something of value,” according to Arrington.

In addition to the exhibition, a roundtable, workshop and gallery talk are planned for October and November. All of the events are free and open to the public in Burling Gallery at Burling Library, 1111 Sixth Ave., Grinnell.

On Wednesday, Oct. 1, at 4:15 p.m., Kelly Herold, associate professor of Russian at Grinnell College, and Edward Cohn, assistant professor of history at Grinnell, and a visiting scholar of Russian art history, will lead a roundtable discussion on images of war in Tolstoy's “War and Peace,” Russia's role in World War I in an age of revolution, and representations of war in Russian art of the early 20th century. The “War and Peace Project” will provide a backdrop and starting point for the discussion.

On Nov. 12 at 4:15 p.m., Lola Baltzell and Christiane Carney Johnson will discuss the collaborative process involved in the “War and Peace Project.” They will then lead a collage workship from 8-9:30 p.m.

The “War and Peace Project” was brought to Grinnell’s campus by the Faulconer Gallery, in collaboration with the Grinnell College Russian Department, the Eastern European studies department and the Center for the Humanities.

It is open through Dec. 7. It can be viewed daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in Burling Library, and admission is free. In addition to being on view at Grinnell College’s Burling Gallery, the work will be featured in the events connected with the Humanities Center’s A Century of War.

Burling Gallery is located on the lower level of Burling Library at 1111 Sixth Ave., Grinnell. For more information about the exhibition and related programs, call 641-269-4660 or visit www.grinnell.edu/faulconergallery. Information on parking and accessibility is available on the college website. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235 or calendar@grinnell.edu.

Cutline for attached photos: Team Tolstoy, “War and Peace Project,” detail, collage on paper.

Photos: Collage 1, Collage 2

A Muslim Saint in Iowa

A look at the life of The Emir Abd el-Kader, for whom the town of Elkader, Iowa, was named in 1846.

A three-day symposium held Sept. 21–23 will reflect on the life of the Emir Abd el-Kader (1808–83). Described as an exemplary Muslim, the celebrated military hero of Algeria opposed French colonization and was an international peacemaker who saved 12,000 Christians in Damascus.

He was hailed at his death in 1883 as “one of the few great men of the century” by The New York Times.

Jan Gross, Seth Richards Professor in Modern Languages (Department of French and Arabic), organized the symposium. She says the Emir Abd el-Kader is the perfect subject for the Center for Humanities’ yearlong symposium on war because his life highlights the relationship between war and peace and the positive role that religion can play in promoting peace and dialogue.

“In the face of anti-Muslim sentiment and religious intolerance, this program seeks to counter stereotypes about Islam as a religion of violence and the Muslim as terrorist and enemy of the West,” says Gross. “The Emir’s life offers a perfect way to understand how religions can help to build bridges and preserve humanity even in wartime.”

Gross, who wrote “Celebrating a Muslim Hero, in Iowa,” says most people don’t connect Elkader, Iowa with Abd el-Kader.  

Working with John Kiser, author of Commander of the FaithfulThe Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader, Kathy Garms serves as executive director of the Abdelkader Education Project in Elkader, Iowa. The project sponsors an annual Abdelkader Global Leadership essay contest for high school and college students. The town has enjoyed a sister partnership with Mascara, Algeria, where Abd el-Kader was born.

“The spirit of Emir Abd el-Kader and his legacy can be seen throughout the community,” Garms says.


Sunday, Sept. 21

Free film showing Of Gods and Men, 2 p.m., Strand Theatre Introduction by John Kiser; Q&A following the film

Monday, Sept. 22

Joint talk with author John Kiser and Professor Jan Gross “From Abdelkader to Elkader: Stories of Connection to Iowa, Islam, and Algeria” at 7:30 p.m., Rosenfield Center, Room 101 

Tuesday, Sept. 23

Discussion “Creating Educational Outreach: The Abdelkader Education Project, Elkader, Iowa,” 10 a.m., Drake Community Library 

Panel discussion “Interreligious Dialogue in Action: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives” with Harold Kasimow, Gisela Webb, Katie Chowdhury ’05Rashed Chowdhury ’03 and John Kiser at 4:15 p.m., Rosenfield Center, Room 101.

Symposium Participants

  • John Kaiser, author of Commander of the Faithful: the Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader
  • Harold Kasimow, George A. Drake Professor of Religious Studies, emeritus;
  • Alumni Scholars Rashed Chowdhury ’03 and Katie Kiskaddon Chowdhury ’05;
  • Gisela Webb, professor of religious studies, Seton Hall University, Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations (faculty fellow);
  • Kathy Garms, executive director, Abdelkader Education Project; and 
  • Jan Gross, Seth Richards Professor in Modern Languages (Department of French and Arabic)

The program is sponsored by the Center for the Humanities; the Center for International Studies; the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights; the Peace and Conflict Studies Program; the Center for Religion, Spirituality, and Social Justice; the Office for Community Enhancement and Engagement; the Center for Prairie Studies; the Religious Studies Department; the Department of French and Arabic; the Alumni Scholars Program; and the Strand Theatre.

Private Music Lessons

Student practicing celloMusic expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. — Victor Hugo

Want to improve your ability to speak with the “universal language?”  Grinnell offers music scholarships for free or discounted private music lessons.

About the Lessons

Each semester, the Music Department offers weekly beginning to advanced lessons in voice and more than two dozen instruments.

Students learn from professional musicians, including members of the Des Moines Symphony and Orchestra Iowa, and have the use of College-owned instruments and practice facilities in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

About the Scholarships

Declared music majors may take unlimited free lessons of any type. 

All non-majors are entitled to one scholarship per semester worth $290, which covers 75% of the fee for 30-minute lessons, or 44% of the fee for 60-minute lessons.

Outstanding members of selected ensembles receive one-year Curd Ensemble Scholarships that cover 100 percent of the fee for 30-minute lessons or 60 percent of the fee for 60-minute lessons. Recipients are obligated to participate in a designated ensemble for one year.

To take advantage of the scholarships, students must sign up for lessons before the deadline to drop and add courses.

The Art of Making Art

In one month over the summer, the average person might get through a novel or two. Joe Engleman ’14 (pictured) wrote one. Both he and Gavin Warnock ’14, a physics/studio art major, were accepted to the Emerging Artist Residency at Grin City Collective.

Grin City sits on a 320-acre farm and in the summer invites nine college-level writers and visual or performance artists to a unique, subsidized artist residency specifically for undergraduates — Engleman and Warnock were undergrads when they applied.

The four-week residency culminates in a gallery show at the Grinnell Art Gallery.

Shared history

Engleman and Warnock were enrolled in the Collaborative Arts course taught by art professor Lee Running, English professor Dean Bakopoulos, and music professor John Rommereim in spring 2014, but didn’t get a chance to work with each other. They decided that in addition to the individual projects they intended to complete at the residency, they would collaborate on an art installation. “I was very interested in Joe’s motivations for his work,” says Warnock.

They were both interested in memory and what happens when you revisit shared experiences — specifically when it came to two Grinnellians telling stories about Grinnell. “The more we reminisce, the less true the memories are,” says Warnock.

The installation featured a filing cabinet with folders full of dozens of sheets of paper. At the front of each folder was a clear image that faded a little on each subsequent page. Visitors to the gallery are invited to take a picture from the front of a folder and shred it. By the end of the exhibition on July 31, only faded images or blank pages will remain.

More than art

Molly Rideout ’10, the residency coordinator and co-director of Grin City, is responsible for adding the goals of community enrichment and social commitment to the Emerging Artist Residency. One of the ways residents meet these goals is through working at Middle Way Farm, which Jordan Scheibel ’10 broke ground on two years ago.

In addition to helping the community, this work can help artists when they feel stuck. “When you do something that feels like it’s never done, like writing, it’s great to be able to look at the pile of weeds you’ve pulled or the basket full of beans you picked — something tangible,” says Engleman.

It’s remarkable how quickly nine artists from across the country formed a community — one based on passion and mutual interest. “I enjoy talking with artists about their work and motivations. To a large extent, it doesn’t matter what their content is as long as they’re passionate about it,” says Warnock.

Gavin Warnock ’14, a physics and studio art major from Perry, Iowa, is entering Grinnell’s ninth semester licensure program for teachers.
Joe Engleman ’14, a history major from Chicago, Ill., is pursuing his writing career.

Students Compose Music for Grammy Winners

One class of Grinnell students is taking advantage of a unique opportunity: composing music for a Grammy-winning vocal ensemble.

Roomful of Teeth will present a performance at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 27 in Sebring-Lewis Hall. It will be the premiere of several works by students of this semester’s Collaborative Arts course, a team-taught course that brings together student artists, writers, and composers.

This performance and exhibition will include:

  • Music by members of the Composition Seminar, taught by John Rommereim, Blanche Johnson Professor of Music;
  • Art objects created by members of professor Lee Running’s Advanced Studio: Site Specific art class; and
  • Works of micro-fiction written by members of the Fiction Seminar, taught by English professor Dean Bakopoulos.

The event is a good example of the collaboration that occurs regularly at Grinnell, which emphasizes academic strength, innovation, mentoring, and individualized study.

Earlier in the semester, the students became acquainted with the ensemble via Skype.  The students sent their scores to the ensemble. The ensemble will arrive in Grinnell a few days before the concert to review the compositions and rehearse.

Earlier in the semester, the students taking these classes collaborated, with help from artist-in-residence Scott Hocking, to create a series of site-specific installations. More than 100 people walked through the guided tour, stopping off at the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Herrick Chapel, Noyce Science Center, and even the Bear Center pool.

The class’ final project of the semester, on May 5, will be a presentation of a number of collaborative video-based projects that were conceived during artist-in-residence Katie McGowan’s visit in February. McGowan’s genre-bending, multimedia art explores the boundaries of mind/body discipline and ideology.

About Roomful of Teeth

The Roomful of Teeth ensembleRoomful of Teeth’s debut CD received a Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance earlier this year. The group formed in 2009.

In April 2013, ensemble member Caroline Shaw received the Pulitzer Prize in Music for Partita, the four movements of which appear on the ensemble’s debut album. The 30-year-old composer is the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in music ever.  The ensemble has quickly come to play a leading role in modern vocal performance, through their expansion of styles across cultures, through their many commissions, and through projects such as this one.


2nd Annual Iowa Humanities Festival

From the French origins of Des Moines to the Algerian roots of Elkader, this year's festival, "A Home in the World | A World at Home," focuses on Iowans' roles in the global community and on the international influences that shape our state.

On Saturday, April 12, join faculty members from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, Grinnell College, Drake University, and Cornell College, as well as curators and arts leaders from the Salisbury House and Des Moines Art Center for a global tour right here at home.

Presenters from Grinnell College:

  • Janice Gross: Iowa, Islam and Algeria: Bridging the Local and the Global in Small-Town Iowa”
  • Ralph Savarese: “Neurocosmopolitanism: Poetic Potential in Autism”
  • Hai-Dang Phan: “The Secret Life of Phan Nhien Hao, or, Translation and Transnation in the Midwest”

The Center for the Humanities is sponsoring transportation and admission tickets for students, staff, and faculty. Reservations are required.  Transportation leaves in front of the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center at 8 a.m. and returns to campus at 6:30 p.m.

Hollywood Has-Beens

Kevin Kopelson, professor of English at the University of Iowa, offers a humorous take on “Hollywood Has-Beens” and what we can learn from them about acceptance and delight.

His presentation, complete with film clips, is at 4:15 p.m. Friday, April 18 in ARH Room 102. The free event is open to the public.

Every one of us, he says, will become a has-been someday. What type of has-been may depend upon your imagination as well as your imaginary role model:

  • Lina Lamont in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), a spectacular failure who doesn’t realize she’s one;
  • Tony Hunter in The Band Wagon (1953), an uncanny, unaccountable success;
  • Norman Maine in A Star is Born (1954), an alcoholic suicide;
  • Jane Hudson in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), an alcoholic murderess.

He says, “I intend to show that those of us who are academics at a certain age, and in particular those of us who are queer theorists, have much to learn (professionally) from these movie musicals.” He suggests they can teach us to cope with chagrin and to feel a kind of delight.

Kevin KopelsonKopelson is the author of six books, including: Beethoven’s Kiss: Pianism, Perversion, and the Mastery of Desire; The Queer Afterlife of Vaslav Nijinsky; and the somewhat satirical Confessions of a Plagiarist: And Other Tales from School.

Kopelson's presentation is sponsored by the Center for the Humanities

Spring into the Humanities

College students often wonder how their chosen areas of study will affect their future.

The third annual Humanities Student Symposium, to be held April 7-9, will highlight student research and help students understand how the humanities can offer a wealth of life and career choices.

“The symposium is meant to inspire students in the humanities, to convey to them the value of their research and writing,” said Shuchi Kapila, director of Grinnell’s Center for the Humanities.

Scott Samuelson ’95, associate professor of philosophy at Kirkwood Community College, will give the keynote address at 7:30 p.m. April 7 in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101. His speech is titled, “Of Plato and Plumbers: Why We Should All Value the Humanities."

“I argue that we should all care about the humanities, and the liberal arts more broadly, because we should want to be a nation of free people,” Samuelson says. “The humanities are, once again, in an embattled state. There's a lot to lament, but I hope to inspire people that a fight for what matters can bring out the best of our commitments.”

Students who attend Grinnell will find many opportunities to develop their research and participate in symposia.

The Humanities Student Symposium features academic essays, art, music, creative writing and critical essays in the humanities broadly defined, Kapila says. Professors moderate panels, which are grouped together by topic.

“It’s meant to showcase our best student work,” Kapila says.

Students submit eight-page papers and work with professionals in the Writing Lab to refine their papers and improve their presentation skills.

“It’s great to see the practice and the final product,” says Janet Carl, director of academic support for writing and speaking.

Samuelson, the keynote speaker, will discuss his upcoming book, The Deepest Human Life, and his experiences teaching philosophy to a wide array of students, including plumbers, nurses, Sudanese refugees, and former inmates.

“My experience as a student at Grinnell was full of intellectual adventure and personal discovery, and it's exciting to be part of that adventure again,” he says. “But I also feel abashed. When you're a student, you're a worm spinning a chrysalis, and everybody, including you, has a set of expectations about what kind of butterfly or moth you'll become. So I feel a little nervous about flying back in as whatever I've turned into.”

The event is open to the public.

Complete Event Schedule

Monday, April 7

Noon, Bucksbaum Room 152
"Creative Writing" Alex Bazis, Sam Dunnington, Dylan Fisher
7:30 p.m., Rosenfield Center Room 101
Keynote Speaker: Scott Samuelson ’95 “Of Plumbers and Plato: Why We Should All Value the Humanities”

Tuesday, April 8

Noon, Rosenfield Center Room 101
"Power, People, Borders" Callie Hopkins, Lucy Marcus, Jenny Mith
4:15 p.m., Rosenfield Center Room 101
"The Erotic Gaze" Sophie Donlon, Teodora Kljaic, Hannah Safter
7:30 p.m., Rosenfield Center Room 101
"Genre Unbound” Courtney Hemker, Chris Gallo, James Marlow, Grace Tipps

Wednesday, April 9

Noon, Rosenfield Center Room 101
"Reimagining the Past: New Directions in the Humanities" Madeline Cloud, Hayes Gardner, Eric Mistry, Elizabeth Sawka
4:15 p.m., Rosenfield Center Room 101
"Translating Identities" Samanea Karrfalt, Andrea Nemecek, Eleanor Price
5:45 p.m., Rosenfield Center Room 101
"Just Follow the Directions" Ana Novak, Dance Ensemble