Novak (novak) wrote,

Personal/Theological Notebook: Perpetua & Felicitas; Museum Time: Dead Sea Scrolls and "Street Seen"

Today is the Feast of Perpetua and Felicitas, who continue to remain favourites of mine, although I haven't been able to fit them into my teaching schedule at Marquette in my Introduction To Theology course in the way that I featured them prominently in my high school Church History course. The edited text of their imprisonment, trial and martyrdom contains one of the most remarkable documents we have from the ancient world: a sort of prison journal kept by Perpetua, from an era where we have very little actually written by women. My trip to Tunisia in 1998 with Erik and Hugh featured a long photostudy of the Amphitheatre of the Martyrs in ancient Carthage, the place where their execution occurred, as recounted in the edited text. Barnes has been making use of those photographs in his Theology of the Early Church class, which is satisfying: I'm glad they can be used to enhance students' experience in that way.

Speaking of enhancing student experience, I am prepping for tomorrow's "field trip," which is not something I am able to do a lot of in my classes, since most of what I am teaching students occurs in Asia (we tend to forget that all the "Western" religions, being from the Middle East, are also "Asian religions"), Africa and then Europe. Having just completed the intensive sweep through the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures that makes up the first half of my Introduction To Theology course, I am taking my students tomorrow afternoon to the Milwaukee Public Museum for a tour of the Museum's own exhibition, Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible: Ancient Artifacts, Timeless Treasures. It really is a magnificent opportunity, having that just in walking distance off campus. The College of Arts and Sciences is even picking up the tab for taking the whole group over. Our Department's expert in such ancient Near Eastern languages, Professor Deirdre Dempsey, who worked with the Museum in putting the exhibition together, helped arrange the opportunity, which was magnificent of her, and will be on hand tomorrow to help with the tour. So I'm pretty jazzed about that.

I took a similarly fun museum-dive this afternoon with Uncle Bill, Aunt Helen and Surprise Guest Cousin Becca, who was home over the weekend from UW Madison. We headed over to the always-gorgeous Milwaukee Art Museum for Street Seen: The Psychological Gesture in American Photography, 1940–1959, an exhibition described on the website with these words:
See more than 100 photographs in the first major exhibition of street photography from this era in nearly 20 years. Refuting the common claim that photojournalism was the only significant photographic activity at the time, Street Seen: The Psychological Gesture in American Photography, 1940–1959 uncovers a crucial time in American art, when global media was in its adolescence and photography was just beginning to gain recognition in the art world. The exhibition focuses on the work of six photographers (Lisette Model, Louis Faurer, Ted Croner, Saul Leiter, William Klein, and Robert Frank) who broke the rules of conventional photography to create emotionally engaging photographs.
I was particularly taken with some of the "Reflections" work of Lisette Model early in the exhibition and with the narrative or biographical studies by Robert Frank. Overall, the selection seemed entirely successful in illustrating the psychological perception possible with the photograph in such mundane settings. I found myself marveling to Uncle Bill that, despite the fact that this was all in living memory, and that many if not most of the younger subject in these photographs were still alive, it seemed an entirely different world was being revealed in the photographs. I know I'm all about the "history of ideas" in my professional work, but I don't know that I had ever sensed so tangibly the way in which, with our rapid technological and cultural turnover, our era can create and contain so many different "worlds" in the space of one human lifetime. So this was even more powerful an exhibition than I had expected it to be. I'm now particularly keen on making sure that my friend Erynn, whose work in photography is just beginning, takes this in before it is finished. I'd be really interested to hear what she sees in it.

Tags: america, archaeological, art, biblical studies, class-intro to theology, cultural, family, friends-marquette era, jewish mysticism, judaism, milwaukee, patristics, personal, photography, teaching, theological notebook

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