Home » Languages and Literatures

Languages and Literatures

Art Collecting, Inventory, and Criminality in Ming Imperial China (1368-1644)

Huiping PangHuiping Pang, professor of art history at the University of Iowa, will give a talk using Chinese art as historical documents to investigate the legal history and imperial violence of the Ming imperial era. The free, public lecture starts at 4 p.m. Nov. 20, in Alumni Recitation Hall, Room 120.

Titled "Art Collecting, Inventory, and Criminality in Ming Imperial China (1368-1644)," this lecture will explore the darker side of the art collecting culture of the Ming imperial dynasty. Pang will look at 201 canonical Chinese artworks, focusing on the imperial half-seals and half-codes marked on the art. These marks show how Ming emperors abused their prime ministers, took their art collections, and put inventory half-marks on the stolen art to make their actions legally justifiable. 

An accomplished art historian, Pang holds two Ph.D. degrees in the history of Chinese art, one from Stanford University and the other from Beijing University. She received her postdoctoral fellowship from the Smithsonian Institution. Her scholarship focuses on a diverse range of topics, including 10th-17th century Chinese institutional and court history, climate change, politics, art-collecting culture and horse paintings. Pang has published 20 articles in leading English and Chinese peer-reviewed journals.

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.

The Deed of Word

The Deed of Word

Describing his course to first-years, Angelo Mercado says:

Human language: what is it? And its parts?

Its rules, the things that we acquire unthinking?

Now, how do poets fashion speech into art?

Students in this course will be exploring

linguistic aspects of poetry, like rhyme,

rhythm, and structures of varying complexity.

We’ll look at other traditions at the same time,

but English will be our focus primarily.

On up to sentence from syllable and sound,

students shall invent for language a theory

and for linguistic poetics, and look around

at how other scholars answer the query.


The French program explores the diverse literatures, identities, and cultures of the French-speaking world. All courses are taught in French, provide intensive work in oral and written expression, and are approached from an interdisciplinary perspective. Students may meet prestigious artists, intellectuals, and government figures hosted by the department.

Almost Everyone is Afraid of Writing

Staring out at an assembly of bright-faced Grinnellians, Verlyn Klinkenborg announced: “The way you’ve been taught writing is wrong.” A few people flinched.

“Forget about the rules and the writing myths,” he continued. “All you can do is jump in and start thrashing around.”

He gave the room a reassuring smile: “Don’t worry, you’ll learn what you need to know.”

A nonfiction writer and member of The New York Times editorial board, Klinkenborg was one of seven authors who spoke on campus this semester as part of the English department’s Writers@Grinnell series. This spring, visiting authors used their unique styles to examine a diverse set of themes, engaging with ideas about feminism, race and miscegenation, genocide, and environmentalism.

Introduced as “the nation’s official lightning rod,” U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey explored her own identity as a biracial woman before turning her eye on colonial Casta paintings, depictions that tried to classify mixed-race children. “The boy is a palimpsest of paint — layer of color,” Trethewey read liltingly. “History rendering him that right shade of in-between.”

While Randa Jarrar’s humorous fiction got young writers laughing and Andrew Sean Greer’s fiction brought students into a world hued by magic, The Nation’s Katha Pollitt got Grinnellians thinking, asking in her lecture on feminism, “Have we achieved it? Are men and women equal yet?!”

Environmental activist and writer Rick Bass emphasized words in the service of a message. Walking the trails at Conard Environmental Research Area, Bass discussed the importance of understanding a place for its unique ecology, culture, and beauty — and the extreme importance of maintaining natural landscapes against the human threat.

In her new book about the Cambodian genocide during the Vietnam War, Madeleine Thien also touched upon human destruction. “Where is the self buried?” Thien asked as she investigated the tales of survivors and refugees, focusing on the dynamics of identity. “Is any part of us incorruptible, the absolute center of who we are?”

For young writers, the Writers@Grinnell series is a window into the possible — a moment in which to see what can be done with language, what diverse styles and themes can be explored, what singular characters can be elucidated.

“Almost everyone is afraid of writing,” Klinkenborg told his audience. Afraid to fail, afraid to break the rules, afraid to write the wrong thing. To this, Klinkenborg had only one thing to say: “Don’t be.”

The John Mohan Russian Study Award 2013

Sydney Devine-Rausch ’13 and Sharon Tan ’14 received the 2012-13 John Mohan Russian Studies Award 

Devine-Rausch will be studying at Kuban State University in Krasnodar, Russia, and Tan will travel to St. Petersburg to study Russian on an SRAS program.

The John Mohan Russian Study Award provides students who have seriously pursued the study of Russian with an opportunity to develop their language skills in the Russian-speaking world.

The award enables Grinnell College students to pursue a intense language study during the summer after their second year, or a language study or a project of their own design after graduation.

Funding was raised by three devoted friends of the Russian department: Diane Fisher Perkinson ’82Sharon McKee ’82, and Emily Silliman ’81.

 Счастливого пути!