Tuesday, July 30, 2019

His students remember John Dewey

John Dewey
Will Durant, Transition: A Sentimental Story of One Mind and One Era. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1927, pp. 262-263—

Finally I came to Professor [John] Dewey. I smiled as I saw him cross the campus on a winter's day, hatless and overcoatless, collar turned up and hands in his pockets, hair unsubdued and neck-tie awry; none of us would have supposed, from his bearing or his appearance, that he was the leading figure in American philosophy. Nevertheless his lectures were almost the worst in his university. His voice was a monotone and his pace an even drawl,—except when he sought Flaubertianly for the fittest word, and stared out upon the lawn till it came. Some of us went to sleep; others of us copied his lecture in longhand word for word in order to remain awake. But he was slow because he did his own thinking, and ploughed virgin soil. Most lectures are compilations; and if they flow easily on it is because they follow a beaten path. But where Dewey thought there were no paths; he had to make them as he went; and like a frontiersman he had no time for ornamental delicacies. When, in the leisure of the evening, we read over what we had taken down during the day, we discovered gold in every second line. We found that without excitement, and without exaggeration, this man was laying a firm basis, in biological psychology, for the progress of his country and his race. Sometimes he spoke so radically that only the obscurity of his speech and the modesty of his manner saved him from the sensationalism of reporters or the hunters of heresy. And then at times, with a quiet sentence of irrefutable analysis, he annihilated a theory or a movement, and brought the eager ideals of youth within the circle of reality.


Earl K. Peckham, quoted in Robert Bruce Williams, ed., John Dewey, Recollections (Washington DC: University Press of America, 1970), p. 12—

[American philosopher John] Dewey was speaking slowly and very carefully [in an evening class in 1935 at Columbia University], also in simply constructed sentences, which was typical of his style. I was listening intently to a point. Many of the class seemed to have left the area of thought. Dewey himself seemed to have left, to have gone into his own world. I felt that I was with him regardless of the seeming absence of the other members of the class. He hesitated after his point was made, and he looked at me through his thick bifocals. I said to him in a too loud, nervous voice, “Doesn’t emotion play a part in this thought process?” His stare fixed on me. I was embarrassed. He was silent—then he walked slowly over to the window and looked into the night, for the better part of two minutes. Then he looked back and fixed his stare at me (at least that is how I felt) and he said in a very slow and almost inaudible voice—but he knew I heard and he seemed to me not to care if anyone else heard or not—“Knowledge is a small cup of water floating on a sea of emotion.”

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Frank Lloyd Wright and Ezra Pound

Frank Lloyd Wright Posters © Roy R. Behrens 2017-18
I ran across this recently in Humphrey Carpenter's gargantuan biography, A Serious Character: The Life of Ezra Pound New York: Dell, 1990, p. 832. It has to do with the controversy in the fall of 1957 about what do with American poet Ezra Pound. At the end of World War II, he had been arrested in Italy by the US Army, and charged with making treasonous (and anti-Semitic) wartime radio broadcasts against President Franklin D. Roosevelt and in praise of Mussolini. Brought back to the US, it was decided that he was mentally unfit to stand trial, and was instead committed to St. Elizabeth's psychiatric hospital in Washington DC.  A dozen years later, when his release became a possibility, there was much debate about where he should be permitted to live (he moved back to Italy). Lots of people offered suggestions about what should happen to Pound—even architect Frank Lloyd Wright

[Editor and publisher James Laughlin] reported that Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect, was willing for Ezra to come and live with him at Taliesin West, the house had designed for himself near Phoenix AZ.  This prospect greatly tickled [poet Robert] Frost, especially as he had feared the spectacle of Ezra leaning across his own fence. "I can hardly resist the temptation of putting Ezra and Frank Lloyd Wright in the same gun turret," he wrote, "but we must be serious where so much is at stake for poor Ezra. I should think he might acceapt a house from the great architect for the great poet at a safe distance."

Below A spread from our book on Frank Lloyd Wright and Mason City: Architectural Heart of the Prairie. It is not a book about his marital indiscretions, his arrogance or his leaky roofs. Nonetheless, it has often ranked among the top selling books about Wright on Amazon since its publication in 2017.

Frank Lloyd Wright and Mason City

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Bird Posters at Hartman Reserve Nature Center

A new exhibition of twenty-five posters pertaining to birds was installed on July 1 at the Interpretive Center at the Hartman Reserve Nature Center in Cedar Falls IA. The posters will remain on view throughout July and August 2019. All the posters can also now be viewed online.

The posters are promotions for a series of informative talks, one per month, always on the second Sunday. This is second in a series of four poster exhibitions that promote presentations on nature-related topics. The upcoming presentation include a program on nature and poetry by storyteller, poet and teacher Laura Sohl-Cryer (Sunday, July 14, at 2:00 pm), and a talk about area birds by members of the Prairie Rapids Audubon Society (PRAS) (Sunday, August 11, at 2:00 pm). All presentations are free and open to the public.

Bird poster exhibition at Hartman Reserve Nature Center

Future presentations will take place in September-October, and November-December. Each time, a new series of posters will be designed and exhibited in connection with each pair of talks. Created by Iowa-based author and designer Roy R. Behrens, these posters are digital montages, made by combining components from public domain photographs and other graphic elements.

Hartman bird poster exhibition