George Drake '56 kicks off Season 2 of All Things Grinnell by taking us on a tour of the College's religious history. The College was founded by a group of Congregationalist ministers, in large part to train future ministers. Drake discusses how Congregationalism impacted the development of the College's values and priorities. Although Grinnell is no longer affiliated with any religious institution, the legacy of its religious past endures, manifested in its tolerant environment and commitment to critical thought.
All Things Grinnell is back for season 2 starting September 19. This season, we'll turn the lens inward to examine the people, places, and history that make up Grinnell- the town and the College. Highlights include George Drake '56, former professor and president of the College, and Edith Renfrow Smith '37, the first African-American woman to graduate from the College. Episodes will be released every other Thursday.
On this episode, the season finale, we say goodbye to Mike Latham, outgoing vice president of academic affairs and dean of the College, and talk about his time here in Grinnell and the importance of global education, before he becomes the president of Punahou High School in Hawai’i. Then we get global ourselves and talk to the language assistants from this past year, Mélanie Izrael, Maria Kustova, and Carla Wagner from Argentina, Russia, and Germany. We’ll also hear from Ania Chamberlin ‘19, who put on quite the art exhibit in Smith Gallery before graduating this spring. To round out the show we recap this year’s Summerfest event at the College.
Amy Tan, bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club and many other novels, aspiring nature journalist, and musical dominatrix for the literary band The Rock Bottom Remainders, gave the 2019 Commencement address. She sat down to talk about the values she shares with Grinnell and how she found her own path to a meaningful career after a traumatic childhood. She discusses how writing has influenced her life and helped her to understand who she is and connect with her family, as well as millions of readers around the world.
What happens after death? On this episode, we wrestle with that age-old question alongside Shakespeare and our very own John Garrison, associate professor of English. His recently published book, Shakespeare and the Afterlife, reckons with how the Bard grappled with some of the biggest questions of life and death during his time. Then, we turn to a seemingly more uplifting topic, reconciliation, with Jan Frans Van Dijkhuizen, associate professor of English literature at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Dijkhuizen, paints a bleak picture of the literary history of reconciliation, but his conclusions bear strongly on our present moment, especially the polarized political landscape that surrounds us. We also hear from our music correspondent, Gabriel Shubert ’20, who spoke with the drummer from Camp Cope, an Australian independent alternative punk band that performed in Grinnell on April 19.
On this podcast extra, we talk with Gina Caison, assistant professor of English at Georgia State University, about the famous podcast, S-Town, from the producers of Serial and This American Life. We discuss the tropes of southern literature present in S-Town, the relative shitty-ness of Woodstock, Alabama, and the complexity of characters in the show. Is S-Town just a recycled Faulknerian tragedy, or something deeper and more revealing?
We talk with scholars of Native studies about important issues facing Indigenous people throughout the United States, from the effect of oil booms on people and land to misrepresentation in literature. Sebastian Braun, director of the American Indian studies program at Iowa State University, discusses the Bakken oil boom and the impact it’s had on Native and non-Native people and the environment based on his time at the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. Gina Caison, assistant professor of English at Georgia State University, talks with Ben about the often overlooked role of indigenous people in the South and how focusing on that history impacts contemporary Native peoples. There’s also a short story on Noura Mint Seymali, the Mauritanian musical emissary who performed in Grinnell's Herrick Chapel on April 3.
We talk with Ella Williams ’18, who graduated from Grinnell in December with big plans for her music career. Since graduating, she went on tour in Europe with Adrianne Lenker, playing to sold out crowds all over the place as her musical persona, Squirrel Flower. By the time she got to Grinnell, Ella had already released her first album, but she chose not to study music academically at Grinnell. Williams continued to play music, though, and her songs show the influence of her time in Grinnell. On the show, Williams reflects on her music and time in Grinnell, which was coming to an end when we talked back in the fall. We also have a preview of Will Bennett and the Tells' new album, "All Your Favorite Songs." Bennett '13 grew up in Grinnell and his music focuses heavily on his rural Iowa roots and navigating life since Grinnell.
The history of racial violence in this country is long and ugly, and the trauma is ever-present for many people. But can art help us reckon with that history? On this episode, we talk to the people behind the current exhibitions on display at the College’s Faulconer Gallery. First, we discuss Reckoning with the Incident: John Wilson’s Studies for a Lynching Mural, which brings together the preparatory studies and sketches of John Wilson’s 1952 mural, The Incident, which depicts the scene of a racial terror lynching at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan while a young African-American family looks on. Then we take a look at Dread and Delight: Fairy Tales in an Anxious World, curated by Emily Stamey ‘01, who brought together the work of 19 artists whose work grapples with and reinvigorates early-modern European fairy tales. If you think you know fairy tales, think again. Finally, we end with a story about the alumni care packages sent to students before spring break.
We rupture the infamous "fourth wall" of theatre, going behind the scenes with Rob Neill '91, founding member of the New York Neo Futurists, to discuss their unique brand of performance, which lies somewhere between improv, sketch comedy, and avant-garde theatre. We also talk with Ellen Mease about the more traditional theatrical world of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, which Mease directed this semester. She shares what Grinnell's theatre has meant to her, 40 years after she first directed her first production of the show.