Story posted December 21, 2009
Among the thousands of visitors to Maine over the summer was a small group of musical scholars who traveled to Bowdoin from three continents to discuss the finer points of a music treatise first published in 1597.
Not the kind of event to make local headlines perhaps, but from their work together a new critical edition of Thomas Morley's A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Musicke will be published.
Accompanying the edition will be a companion volume of essays on a wide range of contextual subjects that illuminate the text—the role of music in 16th century society, pedagogy, book production, religious conflict, patents, and commerce between England and Italy—all contributions from the Bowdoin symposium participants.
Establishing the Past: Problems in 19th Century African American Literary Studies April 9, 2010, examines the challenges of editing newly discovered works of early African American literature. Faculty sponsor: Tess Chakkalakal.
Tomorrow's Parties: A Queer Americanist Colloquium, April 30-May 1, 2010, focuses on aspects of temporality—the place of queer people in stories about the past and, especially, the future—some of the most dynamic new work being done in the discipline. Faculty sponsor: Pete Coviello.
Occasional Temperament Conference, Oct.9-10, 2010, unites researchers and practitioners to share the latest developments in the study and application of knowledge regarding early-appearing individual differences, emphasizing ways that environment can shape expression of traits in early childhood. Faculty sponsor: Sam Putnam.
"From a scholar's point of view, symposia are a human version of supercomputing," notes Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd, one of the music symposium's organizers. "With the right crossover of subspecialists in the room, you can put things together in new, important ways. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts."
Academic symposia are becoming an increasingly important part of the educational enterprise at Bowdoin and are attracting a wide range of scholars and artists to campus.
Recent symposia have included:
* Changing Environments, Changing Societies: Community Responses to Environmental Uncertainty
* Insularity and Integration: Recent Trends in Caribbean Scholarship
* Conservation As If People Mattered: Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas Around the Globe and Here at Home
* Faith, Reason and Evolution: A Public Colloquium
* State of Marine Ecology in Maine
* Peary's Quest for the Pole
* Race, Justice and the Environment
* Redefining the Common Good After Communism: A Conference on International Worker's Day
* Transnational Africa and Globalization
* Spiritualities and Secularisms in Southeastern Europe
Recently, the College has developed semester- or even year-long series, which are designed to engage many corners of campus and beyond. These series support faculty in developing new, multidisciplinary courses around wide-ranging issues, and include public talks by experts in the field, exhibitions and performances.
The yearlong Visual Culture in the 21st Century coincided with the reopening of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Fall 2007, and included dozens of public talks and performances. A range of new multidisciplinary courses in the arts and humanities explored the vitality of the visual arts through the lens of gender, politics, memory, architecture and spirituality.
Seeking the Common Good, which heralded the opening of the Center for the Common Good during the 2008 academic year, included a yearlong series of public events that focused on particular visions for achieving some element of "the common good." The series emphasized cross-disciplinary inquiry and debate of some of the most compelling issues of the day, including: the environmental crisis of waste disposal; unequal access to health care; and equity in education.
The Seeking the Common Good series continues into 2009-10, with examinations of Empowering through Policy, Innovation for Change, and Literature as a Lens on the Common Good.
One obvious benefit of symposia and series like these is the opportunity to bring speakers of renown to Bowdoin and to the wider community. Kenyan Deputy Environment Minister Wangari Muta Maathaj, who spoke at a Bowdoin symposium on Race, Justice and the Environment in 2002, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
Some recent outstanding keynote talks have included National Medal of Science winner Susan Solomon, one of the atmospheric chemists who first identified the cause of the ozone hole; and innovative urban environmentalist Majora Carter, winner of a MacArthur Genius Grant.
"Part of the vibrancy of the academic community at Bowdoin is the kind of intellectual hospitality we offer," notes Dean Judd. "Our students often benefit from in-class discussions with visiting experts. And scholars who come to our campus are genuinely impressed by the depth of our faculty expertise, the level and intensity of intellectual interchange with students, and the quality of resources in our museums, libraries, science labs, and recital hall.
"I think it's a point of pride with our faculty members—many of whom participate in large national and international conferences and research—that developments in their field also are centered here and take place in an intimate and welcoming setting."