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Trigger Warnings: Not Punching Down

By Annie Julia Wyman

In 2013, I taught my first university course: it was to be just me, then a fourth-year graduate student, and five college juniors in the Harvard English honors program. Some weeks before, a student who’d been assigned to my tutorial approached me at a department reception. “I’m so excited for the class,” she said, “I love comedy.” She told me she was a comedian and an actor. We talked about what we were going to read and watch — Chaplin, Joyce, Nabokov, Rogen, Rock, Glazer and Jacobson, and Kondabolu were all on various drafts of my relatively improvisatory syllabus — and how we were both thrilled to have the chance to combine theory and practice. We’d be reading about laughter and trying to make each other laugh. “It’ll be awkward,” I said, “but eh!”

Surprisingly — to me, at least — my half-joke didn’t hit. Taylor looked at her feet, and then she looked at me. “I wanted to tell you something, which is actually why I came over,” she said. “I can’t laugh.” Continue reading


Inside the Rhode Island School of Design’s New York Fashion Week Show

Article and photos by Edith Young

Phelan, Mansur Gavriel, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Nicole Miller, Eckhaus Latta: Glancing at the New York Fashion Week calendar, it’s not immediately apparent that so many designers on the roster spent years toiling away in studios at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) before launching their eponymous labels. One might speculate that there will be more famous names in fashion to emerge from RISD; its history speaks for itself. On the second to last day of this season’s New York Fashion Week, ten newly-minted RISD apparel graduates presented the school’s first ever Fashion Week show. They convened backstage at Skylight Clarkson, one of the premiere event spaces for shows like Vera Wang, Cynthia Rowley, Hood by Air, and Band of Outsiders. Helping models shimmy into garments, strap into Tevas, and lace up cleats, the recent alums prepared to reveal a year’s worth of work to a new audience. While the designers had already debuted their Apparel Design theses in May on a makeshift runway in RISD’s Fleet Library, September 14th’s New York presentation felt like a coming out ball.

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Photo by Matúš Benian

Berlin Scenes

By Alex Cocotas

Berlin is a waiting room. Last week we went to a dinner party. There were Syrians, Israelis, Somalis, Germans, a Croat, a Greek, and, myself, an American. At times it was a Danse Macabre of sorts. Syrians and Israelis commiserated about overcoming preconceptions. A Somali interjected that five years of war was nothing — see what fifteen years of war does to your reputation. Two Somalis argued about the security situation of their country. One insisted it was getting better; there is a boom in the Mogadishu real estate market. The other said she was just there. She spent three nights sleeping under her bed, the sound of gunshots ringing out in the distance. There’s a government now, he countered. Who elected them? She retorted. Are there hospitals, public schools? The Greek exclaimed: That’s the key! Continue reading


Working the Spaces Between: an Interview with Korea Lit founder Hannah E. Carson

By Charles Montgomery

In the last dozen years or so, Korea has made a concerted effort to increase its cultural presence in the “foreign” world. Noting the successes of the “Korean Wave” (also known as hallyu) and hip-hop dance teams, the Korean government has begun to see that what is Korean can also be international, and that Korean soft power can spread around the globe. But this process has been fitful, the country’s governmental agencies sometimes being their own worst enemies. (A blog post about that topic might get my next entry into Korea denied.) Continue reading

Caravaggio: Narcissus, 1594

A Book of the Bible Even an Atheist Can Love: Secular Inspiration in Ecclesiastes

By Jeffrey Tayler

“Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity,” announces Ecclesiastes, a book of the Old Testament that I, an atheist with an ardent distaste for religion, find consoling, calming, and wise. As the years pass and cares mount, as pleasures fade with repetition, and as the senescence and deaths of family members bear down relentlessly, I find myself turning to Ecclesiastes for comfort, inspiration, and, despite its melancholy tidings, cheer. Continue reading


Difficult Situations: Zoe Leonard’s In the Wake

By Zack Hatfield

Photographs of photographs constitute a peculiarly self-conscious genre. These images often emit a jejune urgency, an automatic feeling that the photographs they depict must be preserved. Given the rapid transformation of the photographic medium, it’s noteworthy that a physical photograph no longer qualifies as a preservation in and of itself — there must be a digital replication of the object. Photos are taken so that information can be shared (one thinks now of the reliable screenshot) — or so that information can be destroyed, the simulated a proxy for the actual. Sometimes, a photograph of a photograph implies historical and psychic gulfs between both beholders. As Zoe Leonard’s latest exhibit shows, these photographs can bear witnesses to — and perform in — the mysterious drama that is memory. Continue reading


A Vision of San Francisco: SFMOMA Expansion and the Rise of a City

By Mimi Zeiger

In 1990, several years before the San Francisco Museum of Art (SFMOMA) would move into its new building on Third Street, William Gibson wrote the short story “Skinner’s Room” for the architecture exhibition Visionary San Francisco. Commissioned by the museum’s first architecture and design curator Paolo Polledri, Gibson’s sci-fi dystopia depicted the city’s homeless population squatting on a defunct Bay Bridge while wealthy urbanites made their homes in 60-storey solar-powered towers. Continue reading

Untitled (1923) by Lino António

A Convergence of Rad Women at Skylight Books

By Tori Gesualdo

This moment in human history has the word gender turning over and over in its mouth, the sandstone of the modern tongue stripping away the callouses on the word “woman.” On October 3rd at Skylight Books, author Kate Schatz and illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl heralded the word “woman” in the presentation of their new book Rad Women Worldwide. The book is a celebration of amazing women throughout human history, like activist Malala Yousafzai, novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and British punk rocker Poly Styrene. It is sequel to the duo’s first work, Rad Women of America, and a very considerate and artful archive of global femininity. The widened scope of subject matter was approached with great attention to diversity; of skill, of global recognition, of race, and of creed. By acknowledging each rad woman’s unique tribulations on her way to triumph, they have created not only an artifact of female excellence, but of female strength and tenacity in the face of patriarchy, racial oppression, and war. Continue reading


The Elenic Question

By Merve Emre and Len Gutkin

The revelation of Elena Ferrante’s real identity — she is, allegedly, the Italian translator Anita Raja — by the Italian investigative reporter Claudio Gatti has provoked outrage and dismay from journalists and literary critics. Many feel that Gatti’s violation of Raja’s pseudonymity is an unethical attack on her privacy. We agree. Whatever Raja’s reasons for desiring to remain pseudonymous, her wishes should have been respected, at least during her lifetime. The “exposure” of Raja as Ferrante did not serve the sort of compelling public interests that might have justified the invasion of her privacy. Continue reading