Archives for In the News

Trinity College Professor of Language and Culture Studies Thomas S. Harrington Shares Expertise on Catalonia in News Broadcasts Around the World

Hartford, Connecticut, December 4, 2017 – This semester, Trinity College Professor of Language and Culture Studies Thomas S. Harrington—a noted scholar on the culture and politics of the Catalonian Autonomous Community of Spain—has appeared on local, national, and international news broadcasts to speak about Catalonia’s recent vote for independence and its ongoing confrontation with the Spanish central government.

“This is a nationalist movement about peace, persistence, and inclusion,” Harrington said. “What I think is fascinating, and something I’d like to transmit to students and the public, is the almost David vs. Goliath persistence of this culture. They are, in effect, saying to the world: ‘What we have is very special to us and we want to preserve it, but that preserving it does not mean, as it does in so many other nationalist movements, restricting the influx of outsiders to the country or recurring to supremacist schemas of  identity.’ To me that is an amazing story.”

Trinity College Professor of Language and Culture Studies Thomas S. Harrington

As the Catalan independence process has moved forward, Harrington has been addressing not only classrooms full of students, but also people around the world who want to learn more about what has led up to the current confrontation. He has provided commentary for news outlets including Russia TodayChina Global Television Network, and Connecticut Public Radio, and has written many articles and blog posts designed to provide more  historical and cultural context for those seeking to understand the October 1 vote on independence and all that has followed in its wake.

“In the latter part of September, when the situation came to a head, I became more active. My goal was to shed light on historical issues and details that are not often mentioned in the mainstream press,” Harrington said. “Many reporters, working in good faith, simply do not have the historical or linguistic background needed to understand the Catalan issue in an in-depth manner. Most people in big American and European media—at best—speak some Spanish; very few speak and read Catalan or have reported before on a daily basis from inside Catalonia,” he said.

While some believe that this is an unimportant detail, Harrington said that he believes it is absolutely essential to gaining a more solid understanding of this situation and many others like it. “There is no such thing as unbiased media; everything comes from a point of view. Language and historical context, or what we might call our cultural ‘point of entry,’ affect our perceptions of a given reality in significant ways,” Harrington said. “While we cannot necessarily undo the slants that we and other bring to our analyses of social and political events, we can seek to become aware of their possible effects on our perceptions of ‘reality.’”

Harrington believes that current impasse has its roots in Spanish Constitution of 1978, which was forged only three years after the death of Francisco Franco amidst looming threats of renewed military intervention in the civic life of the country. “It was very much a compromise document designed to bring a still fractious country into the community of democratic nations,” Harrington said. “As such, it was seen by most of those signing on to it, and especially those embracing in Catalonia, as being subject to adjustment in the not too distant future. This was the understanding that everyone had until the beginning of the 21st century when the party now in governance, the PP, then headed by Jose Maria Aznar, turned around and said this constitution was sacred and could not be changed and that, therefore, the Catalans could never look forward to any incremental increase of their political power within the Spanish state.” Harrington suggests that it was the articulation of this “hard” upper limit on Catalan political, cultural, and economic aspirations, subsequently ratified in 2010 by a PP-dominated Constitutional Tribunal, which many saw as corrupt, that has led to the current situation.

Harrington’s interest in the problems of nations within states began with his college studies of the borderlands between Poland and Russia. When he began his doctoral work in Hispanic studies, he transferred his interest in the phenomenon to the Iberian Peninsula. In the course of his career, he has lived and or studied in all of the major culture-nations of that geographical and cultural entity, earning his master’s degree in Madrid, teaching for two years in Galicia, studying in Lisbon, spending numerous summers in the Basque Country, and exploring the breadth and depth of Catalonia.

Harrington teaches courses in 20th and 21st century Spanish cultural history, literature, and film. He is a two-time Fulbright Senior Research Scholar (Barcelona, Spain and Montevideo, Uruguay). He has published two books, co-written a documentary film, and written several refereed publications.

Harrington is the founder and one of three faculty advisors of the Trinity in Barcelona study away program, which offers students the opportunity to spend a semester, summer, or full academic year in the city of Barcelona, Spain. Open to all levels of Spanish language, Trinity in Barcelona is a “hybrid” study abroad program in which students enroll in a combination of Trinity-taught and local university courses as they experience both the Spanish and Catalan cultures.

Written by Dana Martin ’18

Trinity College Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Michael Preston Makes Debut as Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Hartford Stage Nov. 24

Trinity College Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Michael Preston as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at Hartford Stage. Photos by Defining Studios.

Hartford, Connecticut, November 17, 2017—Trinity College Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Michael Preston’s favorite thing about playing Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at Hartford Stage is undergoing the miserly character’s transformation. “I love Scrooge because he gets redemption,” Preston said. “It’s a great journey because I get to make that switch. Scrooge becomes the positive, and that’s the thing that we all crave—for things to change in a positive way. The story never gets old.”

This year’s production of the classic Charles Dickens story, which opens on November 24, marks the play’s 20th anniversary at Hartford Stage. Preston is taking over the lead role from Bill Raymond, who had performed as Scrooge since 1998 before retiring last year. “The main thing I’m taking from Bill is that you have to care about Scrooge; you have to want him to change. Bill did that in a lovely way,” Preston said. “The audience needs to care enough about Scrooge so that when the change comes, it resonates.”

Preston has been involved with A Christmas Carol at Hartford Stage since 2011, playing the inventor Mr. Marvel. Last season he had the opportunity to serve as an understudy for the role of Scrooge. “I learned the part and had two half-days of rehearsal with the cast. I didn’t know if I would enjoy doing it, and I had a really good time,” Preston said. “I was surprised how mean and vicious I got and how I enjoyed exploring the dark side along with the humor.” He was offered the lead role after Raymond’s retirement was announced.

Preston said that he finds himself relating to Scrooge’s confrontation with mortality. “The ghost that really causes him to change is the ghost of the future and seeing his own gravestone, which tells him that it’s time to wake up, that this life isn’t infinite,” Preston said. “I had a heart attack five years ago—it was a minor one and I’m okay, but it certainly raises those questions. When one gets to this age, there’s the fear of the unknown and the fear of ending your life, which is the great common fear that we all have and that we all don’t know what to do with.”

Preston, who teaches acting, stage production, and playwriting at Trinity, has been sharing a teaching position with his wife, Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Barbara Karger, since 2004. He was first introduced to the theater when his mother got a job as the registrar at the Yale School of Drama. “I was 13 or 14, and when they needed a kid, they called upon me,” Preston said. “I was terrified on opening night of my first show. I didn’t want to go on. But I did it, and I fell in love with the students of the drama school at the time—Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver—and it was the most magical world. I acted in high school, and I tried to give it up in college, but I kept getting drawn back into it.” Preston studied mime, circus, clowning, and comedy while living and working in New York City. From 1991 to 2000, he toured the world as one of the juggling Flying Karamazov Brothers, which included three different runs on Broadway.

The opportunity to teach at Trinity came from Professor of Theater and Dance Emerita Judy Dworin ’70, with whom Preston had worked during his time as a member of the Shaliko Company, founded by Leonardo Shapiro. “She needed a teacher, so my wife and I came up and did four classes,” Preston said. “We had said, ‘Let’s try it for a year.’ That was 13 years ago.” He said that balancing teaching and a career in theater is challenging, but he believes students benefit from having working professionals as instructors. “I think students get our passion about it being an option for their life and that they can do this,” he said.

To Preston, learning to create and appreciate art is an integral part of a liberal arts education. “The arts add an immeasurable amount to the life of a college and to the life of the students,” Preston said. “The arts are about what make us human and about opening yourself up to your full potential. We want people coming out of a liberal arts college to be the most human they can be. We’re lucky to have a place like Hartford Stage—one of the best regional theaters in the country—right here. They’re doing incredible work all the time.”

Rachel Alderman, the director of A Christmas Carol, said that Hartford Stage is thrilled to welcome Preston to his new role. “The fact that Michael has been involved for the past six years and that he’s going to take the lead in the show this year is just another wonderful way that Hartford Stage and Trinity are able to help knit the city together and also highlight the city’s cultural capital,” Alderman said.

Trinity students have the opportunity to learn more about the behind-the-scenes operations of Hartford Stage by applying for Trinity’s “Hartford Stage 360” internship, in which interns rotate through all departments of the nonprofit theater company. Visit the Center for Student Success and Career Development for more information about that internship. Hartford Stage also offers many paid apprenticeships and unpaid internships to early-career theater professionals and college students. Jennifer L. Roberts, visiting assistant professor of theater and dance at Trinity, is the director of education at Hartford Stage. Click here for more information about Hartford Stage apprenticeships and internships.

A Christmas Carol at Hartford Stage opens November 24 and runs through December 30. For more information, visit

Written by Andrew J. Concatelli

Documentary Spotlights Arts Intervention Work of Judy Dworin ’70 and JDPP

Hartford, Connecticut, October 3, 2017 – This week marks the premiere of a documentary film, Making Me Whole – Prison, Art & Healing, showcasing the arts intervention programs of Trinity College Professor of Theater and Dance Emerita Judy Dworin ’70 and her nonprofit organization, Judy Dworin Performance Project (JDPP).

The 30-minute documentary―part of which was filmed at Trinity―will air on Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) on Thursday, October 5, at 8:00 p.m., and on Sunday, October 8, at 12:00 p.m. Also on Thursday, October 5, a free screening of the film will take place at 7:15 p.m. at the Hartford Public Library’s Center for Contemporary Culture (click here for details).

Dworin and JDPP have become known nationally for arts engagement programs that empower incarcerated or previously incarcerated individuals and their families to express their emotions and experiences through art, thereby facilitating healing and transformation. One of JDPP’s programs is New Beginnings, a weekly arts workshop in which women who have been released from York Correctional Institution and are part of Community Partners in Action’s Resettlement Program participate alongside Trinity College students. Utilizing expressive arts activities, the group works to explore the challenges of re-entry and support the women after their time in prison.

Produced in partnership with Connecticut Public Television and under the direction of Emmy award-winning videographer John O’Neill, the new film documents the process of transformation, demonstrating the stark realities of incarceration, its impact on families, and the healing power of the arts partnered with social service.

Judy Dworin, left, gathers with New Beginnings program participants in a Trinity dance studio.

Trinity student and human rights studies major Celeste Gander ’19, who has participated in New Beginnings and served as a Human Rights Fellow with JDPP this past summer, said, “The New Beginnings course and others offered in the Trinity Prison Seminar Series have been some of the most intellectually enriching experiences I have had at Trinity.”

“There is something incredibly humanizing about the work that Judy and her organization do, and it is work that is so necessary today as our country has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Programs like New Beginnings challenge us to think critically about real world problems such as our prison system,” said Gander.

Recent Trinity graduate Margaret Brown ’17 said that she feels so strongly about the impact of the New Beginnings program that she has continued her involvement post-graduation. “I think the greatest reward that New Beginnings has offered me over the past three years is a self-conscious awareness and deep appreciation of how sacred the gift of freedom is, not only in the literal sense of physical freedom―like that experienced by the women who have been previously incarcerated―but also in the sense of achieving a freedom from the burdens of our past experiences that allows us to heal,” said Brown, who works at the Yale Child Study Center in a program that supports young mothers and fathers with substance use disorders.

Dworin said, “This documentary hopefully will reach a broad cross-section of people and bring awareness to alternative approaches to incarceration. Healing is an essential component that most often is left out of the discussion. The arts, in partnership with social service, open up critical avenues of transformation and change.”

The Judy Dworin Performance Project is a nonprofit organization of professional artists who innovate, inspire, educate, and collaborate to harness the arts as a catalyst for creative expression, community building, and positive change. Its other programming includes the Moving Matters! residency program and its professional dance/theater ensemble. JDPP also participates as a partner in Free to Succeed, a Trinity College-led program that offers college study in prison and post-release for women at York Correctional Institution.

The production of Making Me Whole – Prison, Art & Healing was supported in part through funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Mid-America Arts Alliance, New England Foundation for the Arts, and the Department of Economic and Community Development: Connecticut Office of the Arts. More Art For More People.

After October 8, the film will be available on CPTV’s website here​.

Written by Kathy Andrews
Photo by John Atashian

Vijay Prashad Featured in Project About History of Nonaligned Movement at ‘documenta 14’ Festival in Kassel, Germany

Vijay Prashad is used to sharing his expertise on television news segments and in documentary films, but he said he has never been a part of anything quite like the unique art installation in which he is featured this summer.

Vijay Prashad in a scene from Two Meetings and a Funeral, a multi-channel digital video installation on display through September 17, 2017, at documenta 14 in Kassel, Germany. ​

Prashad, the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Trinity College Professor of International Studies, is a central subject in Two Meetings and a Funeral, a multi-channel digital video installation created by writer and artist Naeem Mohaiemen about Bangladesh and the Third World Project, shown at the contemporary arts festival documenta 14 in Kassel, Germany. The piece was commissioned by documenta 14 and co-commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation and Ford Foundation Just Films. The installation is on display at documenta 14 in Kassel until September 17 and will then be brought to art galleries around the world.

A premiere venue for innovative installation art, documenta was founded in 1955 by an artist who wanted to help erase the sting of Nazism after WWII. “Documenta means to document something,” Prashad said. “It’s held in Kassel every five years and is probably the biggest arts festival in the world. It runs for 100 days and takes up the entire city. Over a million people come to see it.”

The 85-minute Two Meetings and a Funeral tells the story of a pivotal time in the history of Bangladesh. In 1971 and 1972, after Bangladesh won its independence, founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman sought out international allies at the Non-Aligned Movement summit. “Mohaiemen was interested in the fact that there was a very important conference held in Algiers in 1973, which was the first time his native country of Bangladesh came into the world spotlight,” Prashad said. The next year, Rahman went from the socialist perspective of the NAM meeting to its ideological counterpoint, the emergence of a strong Islamic perspective at the 1974 Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) meeting in Lahore, Pakistan. These meetings, which are referenced in the film’s title, form the backdrop of the installation.

Two courses that Prashad teaches at Trinity – “Global South” and “Global Ideologies” – discuss historical topics that are central to the film. “The issues in the film are at the heart of these classes,” Prashad said. Mohaiemen knew that Prashad also examined these subjects in his book, The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (2007), and invited him to be a part of the film. “I thought this was going to be a straight-up documentary, but he’s not a straight-up filmmaker,” Prashad said of the director. “It’s kind of an art film, and it’s very beautiful. This blurs the lines between fiction and nonfiction, art and politics, which is what makes it such a wonderful film.”

Two Meetings and a Funeral is a three-channel digital video installation in which three video images are projected simultaneously on side-by-side screens.​

The three-channel format of the installation means that three digital film images are projected simultaneously on side-by-side screens, providing the viewer with a visually complex experience and a unique perspective on time and place. Prashad described one scene that he felt made especially good use of the format: “On one screen, I am interviewing someone in French in the room where the Algiers meeting occurred. On another screen you have the subtitles. In the third screen is the archival footage from the actual meeting. It’s very cleverly done.” The New York Times described the piece as “brilliantly woven.”

A four-evening seminar in August called “The Parliament of Bodies: Rebuilding the Idea of a Global Left” featured the filmmaker and three people who appear in the film engaging in conversations about politics. Mohaiemen and Prashad were joined at the seminar by Bangladeshi politician Zonayed Saki and Algerian ecofeminist and archaeologist Samia Zennadi. “It was a great audience. People came from all walks of life and they asked really serious questions,” Prashad said. “It was quite interesting to have four nights of very good discussion.”

Prashad said that he would welcome the opportunity to continue these conversations at Trinity. “It would be great to have a showing of this film in Hartford,” he said.

Written by Andrew J. Concatelli

Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Michael Preston is New Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Hartford Stage

Hartford Stage announced recently that Trinity College Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Michael Preston has been cast as Ebenezer Scrooge in its annual holiday production of A Christmas Carol. Preston will be taking over the lead role from Bill Raymond, who had performed as Scrooge since 1998 before retiring last year.

Trinity College Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Michael Preston. Photo courtesy of Hartford Stage.

Preston has been involved with A Christmas Carol at Hartford Stage since 2011, playing the inventor Mr. Marvel. In an interview with The Hartford Courant, Preston said that he understudied the role of Scrooge last season. “I had a very deep connection to it. Both the dark and the comic side,” Preston told Courant reporter Christopher Arnott. Read the full Courant article here. Preston spoke about his new role in a press release distributed by Hartford Stage and shared by Broadway World Connecticut. Read that release here.

Rachel Alderman, the director of A Christmas Carol, said that Hartford Stage is thrilled to welcome Preston to his new role. “The fact that Michael has been involved for the past six years, and that he’s going to take the lead in the show this year, is just another wonderful way that Hartford Stage and Trinity are able to help knit the city together and also highlight the city’s cultural capital,” Alderman said.

Michael Preston as Mr. Marvel in a previous year’s production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Hartford Stage. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Preston, who teaches acting, stage production, and playwriting at Trinity, has been sharing a teaching position with his wife, Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Barbara Karger, since 2004. Prior to that, he studied mime and comedy and lived for many years in New York, where he was a member of the Shaliko Company, founded by Leonardo Shapiro. He also worked with artists including John Sayles, Richard Elovich, David Cale, Wynn Handman, and Theodora Skipitares. From 1991 until 2000, he toured the world as one of the juggling Flying Karamazov Brothers, which included three different runs on Broadway.

A Christmas Carol at Hartford Stage opens November 24 and runs through December 30. For more information, visit

Vijay Prashad Discusses New Book at UN Headquarters in New York

(Left to right) Andrew Gilmour, assistant secretary-general for human rights and head of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in New York, and Mona Khalil, former senior legal officer in the UN Office of the Legal Counsel, with Vijay Prashad and co-editor Karim Makdisi.

George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Trinity College Professor of International Studies Vijay Prashad recently released a new book called Land of Blue Helmets: The United Nations and the Arab World with co-editor Karim Makdisi. The book is a close and informed study of the UN in the region that taught the organization how to do its many jobs. This volume collects essays from some of the finest scholars and practitioners writing about the potential and the problems of a UN that is framed by both the promises of its charter and the contradictions of its member states.

Prashad and Makdisi discussed their book and the role of the UN in the Arab world at the United Nations Bookshop at the UN Headquarters in New York City on December 2. Makdisi is associate professor of international politics and director of the Program in Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut (AUB), visiting scholar at the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, and research director of the UN in the Arab World Program at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs.

The co-editors were joined at the UN by Andrew Gilmour, assistant secretary-general for human rights and head of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in New York; and Mona Khalil, former senior legal officer in the UN Office of the Legal Counsel. Prashad said, “It was very special to present at the UN, to explore with UN staff and others about the complexity of the history and future of the UN.”

Prashad highlighted the relevance of the book to the current political climate. “It is out at a time when the UN is challenged by world events, stretched to handle the humanitarian burdens of several calamities,” he said. “We hope our book will contribute to understanding why the UN is crucial and why it is under challenge.”

A panel discussion about the book was also held at Harvard University in Boston on December 6. To watch a video of the United Nations Bookshop panel discussion, click here.

Written by Bhumika Choudhary ’18

Jade Hoyer’s ‘study’ Exhibit Addresses Socioeconomic Inequality in Secondary Education

WHAT: study is an exhibition by artist Jade Hoyer that uses printmaking and installation to reimagine a secondary classroom setting. The exhibit confronts socioeconomic inequality in secondary education. study is sponsored by the Department of Fine Arts at Trinity College and is free and open to the public.

WHEN: Opening Reception: Thursday, October 13, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Exhibition Period: October 13 – December 9, 2016

Gallery Hours: Monday – Saturday, 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Gallery closed on Sundays

WHERE: Widener Gallery at the Austin Arts Center

Trinity College, 300 Summit St., Hartford, CT 06106

(For directions and a map of the Trinity College campus, please click here)

Hoyer - study - install 1web700

study, installation view, Ewing Gallery, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


In study, Hoyer has taken educational data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Minnesota Department of Education to create a vivid installation on socioeconomic stratification. Hoyer states, “While education is often touted as a means to achieve financial success, the quality of high school education available to American students is far from equal.”

Jade Hoyer is an artist and educator specializing in printmaking, book arts, and social practice. Hoyer is currently the Ann Plato Fellow at Trinity College for 2016-17 and is teaching two courses. She is interested in what she refers to as, “our common tragic, comic, and ultimately limited quest for order.” Hoyer draws upon various systems, including language, mathematics, symbols, and educational data. Her work addresses informed experiences associated with race, gender, or class. Hoyer has been recognized by the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans. She has held leadership positions on international print organizations like SGC International and the Association of Print Scholars. Hoyer’s artwork has been exhibited internationally, including venues such as the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and Philippine Women’s University.

Hoyer received her MFA with an emphasis in printmaking from the University of Tennessee and B.A. in studio art and environmental studies from Carleton College.

To view more of Hoyer’s work, visit

Professor of Biology Kent Dunlap Receives Recognition from International Congress of Neuroethology

Kent Dunlap in Uruguay

Kent Dunlap (fifth from left), professor of biology at Trinity College, was recognized for his contribution to the development of neuroethology in Latin America at the XII International Congress of Neuroethology.

Kent Dunlap, professor of biology at Trinity College, was recognized recently for his contribution to the development of neuroethology in Latin America at the XII International Congress of Neuroethology held in Montevideo, Uruguay, from March 30 to April 3. Dunlap, a Fulbright fellow to Uruguay in 2009, was one of a small group of scientists from all over the world awarded this distinction.

Uruguay has become a center for neuroscience in Latin America, Dunlap said, so cultivating young scientists to pursue further research there is important. The way his research has forged connections between North and South American scientists has been as important as the research itself, the professor said.

Dunlap conducted research in Uruguay during his Fulbright stay in 2009, when he studied the neurobiology of electric fish at the Instituto Clemente Estable in Montevideo with Ana Silva and Omar Macadar. Relationships with this research group led to Dunlap advising and teaching graduate students. In addition to serving as a mentor to the students, he joined a thesis committee and co-authored various publications with them. In 2009, Dunlap taught in the Latin American School of Neuroethology, a short graduate course for students from all over Latin America, and in 2016, he served as co-director of the course, contributing to his most recent recognition.

Dunlap has found ways to incorporate what he has learned in Latin America into the courses he teaches at Trinity. “In many cases I come back from work in Latin America with a lot of stories and first-hand examples that help enliven concepts taught in the classroom,” Dunlap said. All the research from his Latin American experiences has included participation by Trinity students in Hartford and resulted in publications co-authored by his Trinity research students. Recent work from Panama done with Michael Ragazzi ’16 was published in one of the world’s oldest scientific journals, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, based in London, England. Although Trinity students have not traveled with Dunlap to Latin America, they have been to Europe and Canada for meetings to present their research. They have also been in contact with Latin American scientists regarding the work, offering a truly global experience.

Written by Liz A. Boyhan ’18

Brownell Professor of Philosophy Dan Lloyd Continues to Learn from Mentor Daniel Dennett by Studying Philosopher’s Brain

IMG_2916 Web450Probably we’ve all met people whose brilliance is so apparent that we exclaim, “Wow, I wish I had that brain!” My personal list of admired brains is headed up by philosopher Daniel Dennett, director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. Dennett has written extensively on the mind, evolution, and religion, and is one of the leading public intellectuals of our time. In addition, Dan Dennett has been a mentor and friend, beginning during my short stint as a graduate student adjunct instructor at Tufts. His books are worthy of admiration, but it’s in conversation that his brilliance shines brightest. His advice to me has always been, “Be bold!”

A few months ago, my wish to acquire Dennett’s brain was fulfilled – in a manner of speaking. With the help of Dr. Michael Stevens at the Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center (part of the Institute of Living, two blocks from Trinity), I peered into Dennett’s brain using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), the technology behind many of the glowing brain images that we all have seen in the media. Fortunately the scan left Dennett’s actual brain intact; my takeaway consisted of 12 gigabytes of 3-d snapshots of his cranium, taken about every half second.

What can you see in a scrapbook with 8,000 images? To ask what you see may not be quite the right question. Instead, what do you hear? My current research at Trinity is informed by the radical hypothesis that brain dynamics resemble the dynamics of music. There are many ways to explore this idea (click here to read an empirical study of the idea). But a more entertaining approach is through “sonification,” the process of converting data to sound. Sonified data can have a variety of sonic properties. In my work I favor data translations that use familiar musical scales and instruments. I’ve taken this path because we are all extremely sensitive data filters (i.e. listeners) in musical idioms we know well. Ultimately, I imagine an “fMRI stethoscope” that could be a diagnostic tool for mental disorders like schizophrenia or ADHD. Trinity has uploaded a podcast and slideshow of my recent talk on this subject here.

All brains are musical – you and I are symphonies. Dennett’s brain is symphonic, too; you can listen to it here. Is his brain different from others’? That’s a question for further research. (As I write, software is crunching through the numbers from the scan.)

DSC_5259 Naty Bush Nadine Taghian Michael Zarra Dan Lloyd Web450I like that a past teacher of mine is still sharing his thoughts, even though the medium is strange and new. I, in turn, am sharing Dennett’s brain (and what I’ve learned from him) with my current research students: Naty Bush ’19, Nadine Taghian ’17, and Mike Zarra ’19. These young scientists might take some ideas from my research and run with them. Even better, they will hatch new ideas, marching toward their own bold horizons. From teacher to student to student, the torch passes.

Written by Dan Lloyd, Brownell Professor of Philosophy
For other examples of Lloyd’s brainmusic, visit his YouTube channel.

Scott Gac Featured in Hartford Installment of C-SPAN’s ‘Cities Tour’ to Discuss His Book, ‘Singing for Freedom’

Trinity College Associate Professor of History and American Studies Scott Gac was featured in the recent installment of C-SPAN’s “Cities Tour” series that focused on Hartford.

Scott Gac CSPAN Cities Tour450Gac discussed his book, Singing for Freedom: The Hutchinson Family Singers and the Nineteenth Century Culture of Antebellum Reform (Yale University, 2007), about one of the most famous American family singing groups of the 1840s and its impact on the abolitionist movement. Click here to watch the 16-minute video, which includes art, photographs, and music from the era.

Scott Gac CSPAN Cities Tour VehicleAccording to C-SPAN, “the ‘Cities Tour’ brings C SPAN programming to your community, interviewing local figures and visiting area sites using specially outfitted Local Content Vehicles (LCVs).” Gac was interviewed on campus in Seabury Hall’s History Library when one of C-SPAN’s LCVs came to Hartford last fall.

Each installment of the series features the history and literary life of a different community. The history segments air on American History TV (AHTV) on C-SPAN3 and the literary events/non-fiction author segments air on Book TV on C-SPAN2. The Hartford segments were broadcast on January 16 and 17, and are now available online.

Page 1 of 4:1 2 3 4 »