What are Faculty Shop Talks all about?


A Call for Papers


Fall 2003 Schedule

Spring 2004 Schedule


Past Shop Talks




Fall 2003 Schedule

Presenter:  Rob Gardner

Title:  An Actor Prepares

Time and Place:  September 12, 2003 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


You've probably heard stories of young actors who were discovered at lunch counters and then rocketed to fame without the least training. You may also have heard grizzled stars like Jason Robards, Jr. make remarks like this:  "What's my Acting Method?  Well, they want the happy face, I give them the happy face. They want the sad face, I give them the sad face.  That's my Acting Method."

Against the view of acting as an innate talent which one either has or doesn't have and which (in contrast to "true" arts like sculpting or playing a violin or dancing en pointe) requires no special training, is the view which you may have encountered on the Bravo Channel: specifically, "Inside the Actor's Studio" with its insufferably pretentious host. In this view, acting is a craft with principles and practices, techniques and methods (more or less esoteric) which must be assiduously studied and practiced if one is to achieve mastery of "the instrument." What distinguishes acting from other arts, in this view, is not the need for craft, discipline and training, but the peculiar nature of the instrument and the artist's relationship to it. For the actor, "the instrument" is not some thing, an external object like a brush, a piano, a written language or even one's own body, but one's entire self, inner as well as outer: body, voice, imagination, personality, character, emotional life, even personal history. The actor, in other words, is both artist and instrument, and to play the instrument skillfully is both a subtle craft and a high calling. Or, as NYU says in the glossy brochure for its Professional Actor Training Program, "There's more to acting than just walking out on stage"--and for $30,000 a year you can start to learn just how much more.

For the past three years, and for considerably less than $30,000, I've been trying to learn a little bit more myself. I've been doing this for myself--I hope to do some acting after I retire--and for my students--I still have a few years to go before I retire and there are classes to teach and would-be actors to mentor in those years. So, with the help of a sabbatical leave and some generous support from the College, I've been studying my craft in two ways. First, I've taken intensive classes in two distinct approaches to acting: the Michael Chekhov technique and the Sanford Meisner technique. Second, I've tried to put the lessons of these classes to practical use in two shows I've acted in at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul.

In this Shop Talk, I'll talk about the two techniques and the two shows.  I'll make Happy Faces and Sad Faces. And I'll teach you to Mold, Float, Fly, and Radiate. Expect audience participation. There's wine.

Presenter:  Stewart Flory

Title:  Thucydides, the "Pear Stories" Project, and the Nature of Human Consciousness

Time and Place:  September 26, 2003 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


[This paper presumes no knowledge of Greek!] 

Here I am combining two of my current interests: 1. The mechanics of writing in antiquity and how these mechanics affected the finished product; 2. Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnnesian War (431-404 B.C.).

The “Pear Story” project was an experiment in cognitive psychology that involved a home movie about a boy on a bike, a girl, and the theft of a basket of pears. The experiment was designed by a linguistics professor, Wallace Chafe, in the 70s: Subjects were exposed to the pear movie and then asked one-by-one what they had seen. Their responses were recorded and minutely analyzed for pauses and word groupings. This experiment showed that when we speak spontaneously, we group our words in roughly 2-second bursts, even though we and our hearers may perceive that we are speaking smoothly and without interruption. This segmentation of discourse appears to correspond to a similar segmentation of consciousness. We think our thoughts flow continuously but in fact they jump from point to point roughly every 2 seconds.

Aside from their intrinsic interest, these discoveries are of special interest to classicists and are particularly relevant, I believe, to the study of Thucydides. These discoveries enable us to examine a written text and learn whether the text on the page is a transcript of spoken words. If we can break down the text into 2-second sense units, the writing is the transcript of an oral performance, This ability to identify oral texts is useful, since controversy surrounds the role of writing and speaking in antiquity:  How did authors use speech and writing to produce the poetic and prose texts that have survived from the ancient world? The received wisdom is that ancient books were written to be read aloud, but we want to know what role speech had in the original writing of the text.

Some authors, like Homer, we know composed orally. Thucydides, however, seems an unlikely suspect for oral composition. His style is complex, a complexity that appears to be the result of repeated rewriting and elaboration. Thucydides is often described as the first ancient author who composed as modern writers do, first taking notes, making an outline, and arranging and editing words on a page. It is also argued that Thucydides wrote his work to be read silently like a modern book because no one could follow its meaning without long study.

I have discovered, however, that Thucydides passes the “pear test” and thus composed his work, as I believe all ancient writers did, by a process of self dictation. For this presentation I will give an example from the original pear experiment and an example of the method applied to Homer. Finally I will give a pear analysis of a famous passage from one of the speeches Thucydides attributes to Perikles. Not only does it seem clear that Thucydides composed orally, the pear methodology reveals a new way of reading Thucydides’ speeches, the most “difficult” parts of his book. We can read them in linear fashion as a sequence of brief bursts of meaning rather than as a hierarchical grammatical structure dependant upon a subject, main verb and predicate. Those features are indeed present, but they are often only little dabs of linguistic glue to hold together a far more important structure. Such a reading of Thucydides shows not only how he used his voice to compose but it would indeed have been possible for an audience to follow such a speech, either delivered live by an orator or read aloud by an author like Thucydides.

Presenter:  Laurent Dechery

Title:  On the Road with Agnès Varda.  An Analysis of the first five minutes of Vagabond (1985).

Time and Place:  October 10, 2003 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


I will talk about Agnès Varda’s 1985 film, Sans toit ni loi (Vagabond in English) which won the silver lion at the Venice festival; the main actress, Sandrine Bonnaire, also won the best actress prize at Cannes Festival.  We will watch the first few minutes of the movie and I will analyze how these first scenes introduce the spectators to the construction, genres, themes, and points of views of the movie.

Agnès Varda has often been called “The Mother of the New Wave” because her first film, “La pointe courte” integrated many of the elements later used to define the movement; it came out in 1954, about five years before the first three major movies of the New wave: Jean-Luc Godard’s A bout de souffle (Breathless), Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima mon amour, and François Truffaut’s Les 400 coups, (The 400 blows).

Varda is remarkable for at least three reasons.

She constantly alternates between documentary and fiction; her fiction films use documentary technique and her documentaries often create true characters.

She has always kept her creative freedom by starting her own producing company (Ciné-Tamaris).

She not only directs but also writes her own scripts, chooses the locations and the actors, and edits. She calls what she does “cinécriture” (“cinewriting”).

Her filmography is long and diverse. She made documentaries on the Loire Valley, 1957 (O saison, ô chateaux), the Black Panthers movement (Black Panthers, 1968), people who live in her own street (Daguerreotypes, 1974, Los Angeles’s murals (Murs murs, 1980) as well as modern “gleaners”(Les glaneurs).  Her fiction films include Cléo de 5 à 7 (1961), filmed in real time where she shows the change of a young popular singer who becomes the subject of her own gaze instead of being the object of others’ looks. L’une chante,  l’autre pas, 1976 (One sings, the other does not) on the issue of abortion through two opposite characters, and more recently Les glaneurs et la glaneuse, 2000 (The Gleaners and I).

Presenter:  Janine Wotton

Title:  Here is what you hear or is it there?

Time and Place:  October 24, 2003 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


How does the brain distinguish a signal from noise?   How do we locate sounds?  How can we distinguish one voice from another?  The brain acquires and processes an enormous quantity of auditory information that needs to be analyzed and organized.  My research focuses on understanding the way the auditory system extracts cues and codes information to enable animals and humans to perform everyday tasks.  The ability to localize sound sources simplifies many tasks because it allows listeners to separate simultaneous sounds from different origins.  For example, people are able to listen to one spoken voice and ignore other sounds by focusing attention on the direction of the voice. Hearing aids are not designed to optimize spatial hearing abilities and as a consequence people with hearing disabilities do not always have access to some of the information needed to directionally separate sounds.  I am studying the way in which humans process directional information with a view to improving the design of hearing aids.

Presenter:  Mark Granquist

Title:  Gustavus and the Church from which it came

Time and Place:  November 7, 2003 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


Gustavus owes its existence to actions taken by the Augustana Synod, the Lutheran denomination formed by Swedish immigrants to America. The relationship between the college and the Synod was strong for the first 100 years of the colleges' history, and this bond has much to do with the way that Gustavus developed over time.  Though the Synod no longer exists, and formal ties between Gustavus and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are not as intense as in the past, there is still much that can be learned about our institution from the patterns of the previous relationship.






Spring 2004 Schedule

Presenter:  Tom Huber

Title:  Sound Production in Reed Organ Pipes

Time and Place:  February 20, 2004 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


This talk will focus on the vibrational modes of the reed in reed organ pipes. As with most musical instruments, the majority of the development of the pipe organ has taken place without detailed understanding of the underlying physics. Organ builders have used empirically determined scaling laws, intuition, and trial and error, to produce the array of pipes that can be found in organs. A reed (or lingual) pipe uses a brass reed, somewhat similar to a clarinet. However, unlike the clarinet and most other wind instruments, the length of the resonator does not determine the pitch of the pipe; the pitch is set almost entirely by the length of the vibrating reed. 

We have been working with Charles Hendrickson (GAC, '57), president of Hendrickson Organ Company to better understand the vibrational motion of these reeds. Using 3-d computer animations of results obtained with a $150,000 scanning laser vibrometer, we will show that the motion of these reeds includes torsional and other complicated modes of vibration that had not been expected by organ builders or other researchers.

Presenter:  Leila Brammer

Title:  Exclusionary Politics of Social Movements

Time and Place:  March 5, 2004 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


Social movements must respond to internal and external pressures in order to be successful. These pressures sometimes result in an exclusionary trend in the movement in which ideology may become more conservative and radical members might find themselves outside of the organization. The woman suffrage movement of the nineteenth century (particularly the experiences of Matilda Joslyn Gage and Elizabeth Cady Stanton) is used to illustrate this phenomenon. Understanding this rhetorical process involved in the internal dynamics of social movements advances movement study in the field of communication.

Presenter:  Deborah Goodwin

Title:  Going Native?  Medieval Christian Hebraism, postcolonially speaking

Time and Place:  March 19, 2004 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


Starting in the early twelfth century, Northern European Christians re-discovered biblical Hebrew and Jewish scriptural exegesis as valuable tools for studying the Bible. Some of these Christians were condemned by their co-religionists as judaizers, presumably having crossed a line between legitimate interest in Hebraism and undue sympathy for their "perfidious" Jewish contemporaries.

My Shop Talk will discuss a significant Christian Hebraist, Herbert of Bosham (d. 1194?). Scholars of medieval Christian exegesis have long regarded him as the most sophisticated student of Hebrew language and rabbinical exegesis of this period. Interestingly, he managed to elude the accusation of judaizing and even leveled it at some of his contemporaries. His work exhibits a notable degree of empathetic interest in the plight of European Jews, however, suggesting that his text occupies an ambiguous, even uneasy position on the discursive frontier between Christianity and Judaism. I've begun to examine his work and career in terms of postcolonial theory (broadly speaking), trying to tease out the strategies Herbert, a "colonist," used to negotiate the challenges of this position.

Presenter:  Jill Locke

Title:  Marriage in America

Time and Place:  Postponed Until Fall 2004


My work on the relationship between American values and the institution of marriage has focused primarily on Alexis de Tocqueville's observations about the unique relationship between marriage and American democracy in the early 19th century. Tocqueville applauded the hierarchical nature of Americans' marriages as necessary checks on the potential disorderliness of democratic egalitarianism. Democracy could only work, in Tocqueville's view, if some institutions were not wholly democratic.

For the shop talk, I will address the extent to which a Tocquevillean understanding of marriage explains and fails to explain current efforts to link marriage and democratic citizenship. I hope we can have a lively discussion about Americans' distinctive commitment to marriage and what is at stake in current (and simultaneous) efforts to promote it among heterosexuals, limit it from gays and lesbians, and secure rights for same-sex couples who wish to marry.

Presenter:  Brian O'Brien

Title:  Slippery, Fiery Phenomena - Forays into Fluorine and Phosphorus Chemistry

Time and Place:  April 23, 2004 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


In this talk, I will present research that involves the elements phosphorus and fluorine, alone or in combination.  Compounds of these elements have myriad uses, and often possess interesting and unusual physical properties (one example being Teflon®, a fluoropolymer).

After presentation of some introductory and background material, the synthesis, properties, and uses of phosphorus compounds that I and my students have prepared at Gustavus and during my recent sabbatical leave will be covered.  This will be followed by discussion of some fluorine chemistry as practiced for both basic research (discovery of new modes of reactivity of small molecules and applications of room-temperature ionic liquids) and commercial applications (fluoropolymers and fuel cells).

At some point in the presentation, a video that shows the extraordinary reactivity of elemental fluorine (F2) will be shown, and various examples of experimental apparatus and chemical compounds will be available for examination by audience members.





What are Faculty Shop Talks all about?

Faculty Shop Talks provide a serious (though not solemn) forum for the presentation of original research and artistic creation by Gustavus faculty.  The meetings are generally Friday afternoons at 4:30 and last no more than an hour, though some may come earlier or stay a bit later.  The audience is limited to Gustavus faculty and their guests. The actual presentation should be no more than 30 minutes.  The model should be a "conference" paper adapted to a non-specialist academic audience.  Shop Talks aim to speak both to departmental colleagues and those in completely different disciplines.  Wine, soft drinks, and snacks are provided.





A Call For Papers

The Shop Talk organizing committee (Paul Saulnier) would like to solicit abstracts for the Shop Talk series.  These 20-30 minute presentations allow Gustavus scholars to share their research/art and enthusiasm.  A title, brief abstract (electronic format), and A/V requirements should be sent to Paul (psaul@gustavus.edu).   If the current Shop Talk schedule does not have any vacancies do not hesitate to contact Paul to reserve a future date.