Radio Show Discusses 'A Sense of Place'

Does place matter in the humanities in general, does it matter in literature in particular?

Robert Mann, host of 'Humanities Connection'

Victoria Larson, Director of the Institute for the Humanities at Montclair State, and Neil Baldwin, Director of the University's Creative Research Institute and member of the Department of Theatre and Dance, along with Jim Bloom, professor of English at Muhlenberg College, Pennsylvania, were interviewed Wednesday, May 15, 2013 by Robert Mann, host of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities' radio show "Humanities Connection."  

The broadcast's topic of discussion was "does place matter?"  Does place matter in the humanities in general, and does it matter in literature in particular? Prompting the debate was the Institute for the Humanities' NJCH-funded lecture series, "Jersey: A Sense of Place," which began in the Fall semester 2012 and will run through Fall 2013.  The goal of the series is to showcase the ways in which New Jersey -- as both a geographical as well as an emotional concept -- has inspired humanists, artists, and even utopians in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries.

Under the rubrics of "Dramatizing Jersey," "Living Jersey," and "Painting Jersey," three lectures in the series have already taken place  -- on the reality tv show Jersey Shore ("Performing the 'Real' on Jersey Shore," Hugh Curnutt, School of Communication and Media), on nineteenth- and twentieth-century utopian communities (the North American Phalanx, Free Acres, and Stelton -- "Utopia, New Jersey!" Perdita Buchan, freelance writer and Richard Veit, Department of Anthropology, Monmouth University), and on George Inness' nineteenth-century paintings of Montclair and environs ("George Inness and the Poetry of Place," Adrienne Baxter Bell, Department of Art, Manhattan Marymount College).  Two more lectures are still to come in Fall 2013: "Singing Jersey" (Wednesday, October 9, 2013, 4-5 p.m.) will focus on the New Jersey roots of  Bruce Springsteen's music ("'Talk About a Dream:' Bruce Springsteen's American Vision -- from New Jersey to the World," Louis P. Masur, Department of American Studies, Rutgers University)  and "Writing Jersey" (Thursday, November 7, 4-5 p.m.) will center around the works of two New Jersey writers: poet William Carlos Williams and novelist Philip Roth.

It was in connection with their upcoming presentation on these two writers that Neil Baldwin and Jim Bloom, scholars of William Carlos Williams and Philip Roth, respectively, and Victoria Larson, creator of the series, were interviewed recently.  To what extent are the New Jersey contexts of the poetry of William Carlos Williams, born and living all his life in Rutherford (1883-1963), and of the novels of Philip Roth, born and raised in Newark (1933- ), indispensable to their work?  Would their work be the same without them, and if not, why not?  How can we see operating in their work the proposition Carlos Williams makes in his autobiography (and attributes to John Dewey) that "the local is the only universal, upon that all art builds"? These and other questions were discussed with host Robert Mann.   The conversation was aired at 8.30 a.m. on Sunday, May 26 and Sunday, June2, 2013 on WFDU (89.1 FM).  Clips of the program may be heard here