Photo of flowers blooming on campus

Jersey: A Sense of Place

A year of presentations from November 2012 through November 2013 explored the role of New Jersey and/or places within it as a source of inspiration for the interdisciplinary humanities (drama, literature, music, painting), past and present, as well as for experiments in living. In so doing, they aimed to show both how our concept and lived experience of “Jersey” – as, indeed, of any place – are reciprocally modified by artistic representations of it, as well as how the “local” can become exemplary of the “universal.”

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,” “Writing Jersey,” “Singing Jersey,” “Living Jersey,” and “Painting Jersey,” this series provided perspectives from a distinguished group of analysts about the ways in which the state has been celebrated – as both geographical reality (country, city, shore) as well as emotional concept – by both “high” culture and popular culture in media as varied as literature, music, art and television drama!

The series was open to the public and free of charge.

‌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.

The Series

“Performing the Real on Jersey Shore”

Wednesday, November 14, 2012, 4-5 p.m., Brantl, Dickson Hall.  Presenter: Hugh Curnutt, School of Communication and Media, Montclair State University. This presentation will discuss how the MTV show “Jersey Shore” constructs so-called “reality” programming in which it is the costs of production that determine what is presented as “real life” (and “real” Italian-Americans) at the New Jersey shore.

“‘Life here has many attractions and advantages:’ the North American Phalanx,” and “Utopia, New Jersey: Travels in the Nearest Eden.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 5.30-6.30 p.m., Schmitt Hall, 104.  Presenters (respectively): Perdita Buchan, freelance writer, and Richard Veit, Professor of Anthropology, Monmouth University, New Jersey.  This presentation will examine nineteenth- and twentieth-century New Jersey as a state of hope, dreams and utopian experiments for many kinds of people, including industrialists, intellectuals, artists and reformers of all stripes.

“George Inness and the Poetry of Place”

Thursday, April 4, 2013, 7-8 p.m., Montclair Art Museum, Montclair.  Presenter: Adrienne Baxter Bell, Professor of Art, Marymount Manhattan College, New York.  This presentation will grapple with the somewhat paradoxical way in which the terrain of Montclair inspired the artist and amateur philosopher George Inness to produce some of the greatest contributions to nineteenth-century American art.

“Talk about a Dream: Bruce Springsteen’s American Vision — from New Jersey to the World”

Wednesday, October 9, 2013, 4-5 p.m., Brantl, Dickson Hall.  Presenter: Louis P. Masur, Professor of American Studies, Rutgers University, New Jersey.  This presentation will discuss Bruce Springsteen’s New Jersey origins and how his American vision was shaped by his Jersey roots and then carried to the world.

“William Carlos Williams – Philip Roth: ‘the local is the only universal'”

Thursday, November 7, 2013, 4-5 p.m., Cohen Lounge, Dickson Hall.  Presenters (respectively): Neil Baldwin, Director, The Creative Research Center, Montclair State University, and James D. Bloom, Professor of English and American Studies, Muhlenberg College, Pennsylvania.  This presentation will discuss the way in which the Jerseyscapes of both the New Jersey poet William Carlos Williams and the novelist Philip Roth provide particularized locations for explorations — on a grander scale — of American identity and of the human condition in general.

The Presenters

Neil Baldwin, PhD

Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Montclair State University, Dr. Baldwin is a widely-published cultural historian and literary critic who has been immersed in the life and works of William Carlos Williams for many years. Baldwin’s doctoral dissertation from SUNY/Buffalo, a descriptive catalog of Williams’ manuscripts and letters at SUNY/Buffalo and Yale’s Beinecke Library, was published by G. K. Hall in 1978; his definitive biography, To All Gentleness: William Carlos Williams, The Doctor-Poet, was published by Atheneum in 1984 and reissued in paperback by InPrint Editions in 2008 in celebration of the one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary of Williams’ birth.  Dr. Baldwin’s web site is

Adrienne Baxter Bell, PhD

Associate Professor of Art History at Marymount Manhattan College and Director of its College Honors Program, Dr. Bell’s scholarship centers on intersections among American art, psychology and spirituality. She curated the exhibition “George Inness and the Visionary Landscape” for the National Academy Museum, authored a book of the same name (George Braziller, 2003) and edited George Inness: Writing and Reflections on Art and Philosophy (2007). Recent publications include a chapter in Nancy Siegel’s The Cultured Canvas: New Perspectives on American Landscape Painting (University of New Hampshire Press, 2011) and a new introduction to Meyer Schapiro’s landmark collection of Selected Papers in Modern Art (George Braziller, 2011).

James D. Bloom PhD

Dr. Bloom has taught English at Muhlenberg College since 1982. His publications include:Hollywood Intellect (Rowan and Littlefield, 2009), Gravity Fails (Praeger, 2003), The Literary Bent (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), Left Letters (Columbia University Press, 1992) and The Stock of Available Reality (Bucknell University Press, 1984), along with shorter work in scholarly journals, magazines and newspapers such as the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Bloom began his undergraduate studies at Columbia and completed them at Bennington. He earned an MA in literature from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a PhD in English from Rutgers/New Brunswick. Bloom has also worked in publishing and retail bookselling.

Perdita Buchan

A freelance writer who graduated from Radcliffe College (Harvard University) with a BA in English, she has worked in publishing in New York and London and held a fellowship in creative writing from The Bunting (now Radcliffe) Institute of Harvard University.  She has published two novels.  Her short fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Ladies’ Home Journal, Fiction Network, House Beautiful, The New York Times, Harvard Magazine and New Jersey Monthly, among other publications.   Her book Utopia, New Jersey was a 2008 New Jersey Council For The Humanities honor book.

Hugh Curnutt

Hugh Curnutt, PhD, studies and teaches media history and criticism with a focus on critical theory and cultural studies. His current research explores the media industry’s growing reliance on participatory cultures and the corresponding intersections between production and consumption that result from this institutional realignment.  Dr. Curnutt has published essays in a variety of journals and anthologies including Media, Culture & Society, Television & New Media, Communication Quarterly, and Film and Television Stardom.

Louis P. Masur

Louis Masur, PhD, is Professor of American Studies and History at Rutgers University. He has published many books and articles including Lincoln’s Hundred Days: The Emancipation Proclamation and the War for the Union (Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 2012), The Civil War: A Concise History (Oxford University Press, 2011), The Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph that Shocked America (Bloomsbury Press, 2008) and Rites of Execution: Capital Punishment and the Transformation of American Culture, 1776-1865 (Oxford University Press, 1989).  He is the author of Runaway Dream: Born to Run and Bruce Springsteen’s American Vision (2009), and is co-editor with Christopher Phillips of the forthcoming work Talk About A Dream: The Essential Interviews of Bruce Springsteen, both with Bloomsbury Press.

Richard Veit

Richard Veit, PhD, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Monmouth University, is the author of the award-winning book Digging New Jersey’s Past: Historical Archaeology in the Garden State (2002), and co-author of New Jersey Cemeteries and Tombstones: History in the Landscape (2008) and New Jersey: A History of the Garden State (2012), all published by Rutgers University Press.  His research interests include the archaeology of Native-Americans in the colonial period, Dutch-American farmsteads, early American gravemarkers and early American industries. He is currently studying Joseph Bonaparte’s New Jersey estate, Point Breeze, and planning a study of the North American Phalanx.