New Series Focuses on New Jersey


A series of five presentations from Fall 2012 through Fall 2013 exploring the role of New Jersey and/or places within it as a source of inspiration for the humanities as well as for experiments in living will take as its point of departure the MTV reality show Jersey Shore!  The lecture series, entitled Jersey: A Sense of Place, is funded by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities and hosted by Montclair State University's Institute for the Humanities.

In most people's minds, New Jersey is probably first and foremost associated with traffic congestion and malls, but arranged under the themes of "Dramatizing Jersey,"  "Living Jersey," "Painting Jersey," "Singing Jersey," and "Writing Jersey," this series will provide perspectives from a distinguished group of speakers about the ways in which the state has been both celebrated by and inspirational to "high" culture and popular culture, past and present, in media as varied as literature, music, art, and TV drama!

The series debuts on Wednesday, November 14, 4-5 p.m. (Brantl, Dickson Hall) with a presentation by Hugh Curnutt of Montclair State's School of Communication and Media. Intriguingly entitled "Performing the Real on Jersey Shore," Dr. Curnutt's talk will take the stance that economic forces and financial considerations impacting modern TV production at least as strongly condition the show's picture of New Jerseyans and their life at the New Jersey shore as does any "reality" to be found at Seaside Heights, NJ.  Which begs the question: just how "real" is the "reality" we are offered here?  Or does the show rather beget its own reality, as its followers prove the truth of the adage that life tends to imitate art? 

In the Spring semester (RESCHEDULED TO March 20, 2013) Perdita Buchan, free lance writer, and Richard Veit, professor of Anthropology, Monmouth University, will provide a fascinating view of a little-known aspect of our state's historynamely, that it has served numerous times in the last two centuries as inspiration for a utopian life-style. Buchan will survey the traces of this "nearest Eden," with glimpses of what remains of and what inspired utopian colonies in places as unimaginable (given their modern metamorphoses) as Englewood, Piscataway, and Berkeley Heights.  Richard Veit will show us the relics of the North American Phalanx, a nineteenth-century utopian community in Colts Neck township, Monmouth County, and explain the ideas of the French philosopher, Charles Fourier, that underlay it.

The nineteenth-century painter, George Inness (1825-1894), who painted bucolic scenes of  Montclair and Bloomfield in the days when these towns were largely rural communities, will be the focus of a talk (April 4, 2013) by Adrienne Baxter Bell of Marymount Manhattan College  in the surroundings of Montclair Art Museum which, with a gallery dedicated especially to an extensive collection of George Inness' work, is full of Inness' "poetry of place."

In Fall 2013 (RESCHEDULED TO October 9, 2013), Louis P. Masur, professor of American Studies at Rutgers University, will on the other hand, focus on a diametrically different vision of Jerseyand that of a century laterwith a look at pop icon Bruce Springsteen's "dream!"  Finally, the series will be rounded out with literary representations of an earlier and more urban New Jersey, with a joint presentation (RESCHEDULED TO November 7, 2013) by Neil Baldwin, professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance and Director of the Creative Research Center at Montclair State, and James Bloom, professor of English at Muhlenberg College, Pennsylvania, on the role played by New Jersey in the poetry of William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) and the novels of Philip Roth (1933- ), authors raised in Rutherford and Newark, New Jersey, respectively. 

Further information can be obtained at the Institute's website or (973) 655 7516.

This program was made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.