Wednesday, February 29, 2012

We haven't had a political cartoon here for a while...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

1927, 1929

at The New School (Kallen!)

Picturing The New School

I opened today's session of New School Century with a 1931 snibbet from a newspaper in Danish (or is it Norwegian?). (See leaf 19 of scrapbook 4.) On my first skim of the scrapbooks I exulted in our being important enough to be written about in Europe, but attention to the ads makes clear that this is a New York newspaper (the name is lost), a reminder of what a polyglot city this has always been. It confirms also that The New School was of interest not just to one or two communities in the City.
The list of classes being offered at The New School is pretty awesome too - and this snibbet includes only Torsdag and Fredag! Robert Frost on poetry, Frank Lloyd Wright on architecture, Sidney Hook and Horace Kallen on philosophy, Doris Humphrey and John Martin on dance, among others, and one Thomas H. Benton on "Craftsmanship and Art." That Benton is, of course, the muralist of my favorite lost New School space. Here's the Benton muraled conference room on the 5th floor in 1931.

You've seen the colors of the murals, but I've learned that the overall effect was brighter still, with a varnished walnut floor, black-lacquer furniture and walls, a russet-red ceiling surrounded by subtle lights, and curtains in cerulian blue. In any case, I argued, along with a few other spaces like the Orozco Room two floors up, this room was the most distinctive of The New School and its engaged worldly ethos, and so came to represent the distinctiveness of The New School experience.
It certainly will have produced an enveloping experience whether for discussions or lectures (more so than the Orozco-muraled cafeteria, whose figures are not life-size and in your space, but abstracted and located at eye level and above). It was the ideal setting for showing that the refugee intellectuals of the University in Exile were indeed in America. And in promotional materials for the BA program and the Institute of Retired Professionals from the early 1960s, the Benton Room showed that this was no ordinary school, with ordinary rooms. Later, in the Seminar College and early Eugene Lang College, the Benton Room was where the life- and community-defining orientation (later called "tally") happened - here copies of catalogs from each of them.
When the murals were sold (mainly to raise money, but also for conservationist reasons, as they were suffering from scuffing as people leaned chairs back against them, and suffused with cigarette smoke), part of New School identity went with it.

One of the readings for class was from Berenice Abbott's A Guide to Better Photography, yet another important popularizing book which grew out of a course at The New School. Abbott is, indeed, credited with creating the country's first photography program at The New School, starting in 1935. Abbott is encouraging to her readers - anyone can be a photographer - but doesn't downplay the hard work of taking better photographs. A good photographer works with what she knows, and composes her shot to let the truth of the object show. Abbott illustrated this with two pictures she took of the NY Stock Exchange.
The first was taken on a weekend, since traffic made setting up a tripod hard on a weekday, but the building was in shadow and the street deserted. She returned and returned to the spot until she found out when the light was on the facade just right - just twenty minutes each day! - and when the flag was hoisted - only holidays. In the end she persuaded the president of the Stock Exchange to have it hoisted just for her, since on holidays the street is deserted, too. For the bigger problem was people: when there was too much traffic she couldn't take a picture, but an empty street won't work, for two reasons.

Human activity, flow of crowds in the narrow street, was needed to offset that static neoclassic facade ... Most of all, of course, the Stock Market without feverish human movement is totally uncharacteristic. (25)

The characteristic feverish movement takes place inside the building, but a photo even of the outside has to convey it somehow if it is to be an effective portrait of the Stock Exchange! The resulting image shows a concatenation of light, people, cars, flag which, in fact, never happens, but it became iconic because it shows the true life of the building.

We asked the students what picture they would take to show what's characteristic of The New School... You can see why the Benton Room was so much photographed to represent us: it brought the busy world into the classroom - sort of the obverse of what Abbott did in her Stock Market portrait. I'll let you know what they come up with!

Monday, February 27, 2012

A clean well-lighted place

In the New School scrapbooks there's an article from Lighting Magazine in 1931, featuring the advanced lighting of the new building. Included are pictures not only of my crush, the Benton Room (above) but the lecture hall where The New School Century is happening 81 years later!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Scientific credo

In an article I was reading for the New School History course, I found a reference to a novel of Sinclair Lewis' called Arrowsmith, which apparently perfectly exemplifies the philosemitism of mid-20th century understandings of the purity of the scientific project. One can't trust film adaptations, I know, but it's a long novel and the 1931 film is directed by John Ford. Here's the protagonist (played by Ronald Colman), who at one point offers a scientific prayer:

God give me unclouded eyes and freedom from haste.
God give me a quiet and relentless anger against all pretence and all pretentious work and all work left slack and unfinished.
God give me a restlessness whereby I may neither sleep nor accept praise till my observed results equal my calculated results or in pious glee I discover and assault my error.
God give me strength not to trust to God!

I don't know if Arrowsmith learned this from his tall gaunt Jewish mentor Dr. Gottlieb, nor am I competent to judge its relation to philosemitism. In any case, the secular but not Jewish Arrowsmith fails to live up to the creed, at least in the part of his life narrated in the film. One's wife's' death of a disease one had a serum to cure would addle most minds, surely. But there is hope yet. At the novel's end Arrowsmith leaves his cushy Bell Labs-like set-up in New York City for the woods of Vermont, where a manly fellow researcher invites him to a life of boy scout-like adventure and research.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A usable past

The "new historian" founders of The New School James Harvey Robinson and Charles Beard were opponents of antiquarian, institutional and nostalgic histories. The encounter with the past should be helpful to the present, not in justifying it but in letting us understand how we got this far and how much farther we might yet be able to go; it might well also show where we have lost our way. Here's a good recent illustration:

As you know, we were able to digitize a number of scrapbooks The New School maintained in its first decades, and then left to moulder in boxes in a back room. Students in our class were each given a 12-page section of the scrapbooks to explore. We haven't had a chance to work through all the scrapbooks ourselves, so students have encountered primary material it's possible nobody has read in the better part of a century! We didn't know what students would find, or think of what else they might do with it besides write it up for us.

Well, several members of the staff of the New School Free Press are in the class, and, through one of them the editorial above got its most compelling argument for the inclusion of students in the university's Board of Trustees: we did it once before, indeed, in the glory of our founding moments. We've "tragically fallen to a state unrecognizable to those who created it"! Scrapbook evidence follows:

In 1921, the Evening Post reported that two members of [The New School's] Student Council were elected as representatives to the trustees’ meetings, where faculty members also had representation. The meetings “[were] far from the cut-and-dried performance, being rather a clearing house for ideas from the three points of view,” wrote the Post.

Before concluding that we have broken faith with our founders, the editorial makes some other pretty convincing arguments. The founders (even those who left before students like Clara Mayer were given positions on the Board of Trustees) would be proud!

Nationwide, many public and private universities elect student representatives to the board of trustees. In New York State, all boards in the SUNY system have at least one student with full voting privileges, Bard College has two, and Rockland Community College’s tenth board member is always a voting student.

The New School should act swiftly to do the same and enact the recommendation brought forth to the board three years ago. Student tuition and housing fees accounted for roughly 90 percent of The New School’s operating budget in 2010, according to the most recent figures provided by the university’s website. The student body of The New School does their part for this university by almost single-handedly supporting it financially, and it’s about time the university gives something back: fair representation at the highest level of the decision-making process.

Friday, February 24, 2012

It's still winter at farmer's markets, but that doesn't mean there aren't
lovely surprises, like these side-splittingly gorgeous German kohlrabi.

God in the details

Went with my Japanese friend H to see the revival of Margaret Edson's sublime play "Wit" on Broadway last night. I was lucky enough to see the original production with Kathleen Chalfant, its final scene indelible in my memory, her character too, and it's a different story with the younger-seeming Cynthia Nixon (I'm also closer than I was then to the age of the protagonist, who's forty-seven). It's none the less amazing as a piece of theater, as my friend's profoundly appreciative reaction attests. (She's a theater person but her English is shaky; what compelled her wasn't verbal ingenuity but the show's theatricality.) If you've seen the play - and if you haven't, you should - you might know what The Runaway Bunny is doing here. Amazingly, I'd forgotten the scene, and was tearfully grateful to be reminded of it. Awash in tears.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Live action

Today's round table discussion of lived religion was a blast! We had promised discussion of "Buddhist environ- mentalism, Jewish humor and queer Christians," and delivered on every front. B, a Canadian scholar I heard at a conference last year, spoke about her research with Wind Horse Farm, a Shambhala forest village. J, a colleague who teaches Jewish history spoke about how "A priest, a minister and a rabbi ..." jokes record a subtle refusal of Jews to be classed as a religious group. And I spoke about the icons of Brother Robert Lentz, OFM, reproductions of some of which are important parts of American queer Christianity.

The unifying theme was "lived religion," and we explored its methodology and fruits in different and complementary ways. B's work is ethnographic, J is working with materials from folklorists, and I was engaging with material culture. In another way we generated a cohesive discussion as all of us are trained as text people, philosophers and ethicists, and have come to the study of lived experience for many of the same reasons. I don't have time to summarize all our arguments, but I'll give you one of the takeaways of B's talk, one of the jokes from J's, and the itinerary of my talk.

B's work is in what has sometimes been called "empirical ethics," and as a result of five years' regular visits to Wind Horse Farm she has been able to document how the intentionally Buddhist community has worked through a number of different understandings of their life sustaining community and working the forest. Some of the Buddhist concepts which Buddhist ecology scholars say should be important are - especially interdependence and ahimsa. But you can't understand their role in the life of the WHF community without also grasping the Shambhala understanding of Buddha nature ("basic goodnesss," "nothing missing"), and the importance of meditation in the forest ("forest mind"). Attention to the lived experience of life with the forest can "complement, challenge and transform" philosophical understandings of the meaning of Buddhism, she concluded.

J used collections of jokes to suggest that the promotion of Judaism as part of the "Judeo-Christian tradition" underlying American values, promoted by the National Conference of Christians and Jews in the 1930s (they sent "tolerance trios" of Protestants, Catholics and Jews across the land, the airwaves and newsreels) and given official presidential imprimatur by Eisenhower in 1952, was not unproblematically accepted by Jews, who started telling jokes like this (I paraphrase, except for the punchline):

A priest, a minister and a rabbi are asked what they hope people will say of them after they die. "I hope people say I faithfully presented the mysteries of the Trinity," said the priest. "I hope people say I saved many souls for Christ," said the minister. And you, the rabbi was asked, what do you hope people say after you die? "Look, he's breathing!"

J suggested that in this and kindred jokes the Jewish voice, presented as down to earth and a bit crass, conveys a "deep ambivalence," an angry refusal even, of Christian understandings of religion, a rejection under the surface acceptance of the idea that Protestant, Catholic and Jew are in fact the same kind of thing. The jokes also represent a vindication of the everyday, making them doubly interesting as an object of reflection in "lived religion."

My remarks, finally, were an extended infomercial for the Queer Christianities conference, which is exactly one month away! I drew on William James and Robert Orsi to suggest that lived experience is the most creative part of religious life (systems, etc., are what James calls "second-hand religion"), and that the discovery and veneration of saints is a good example. I proposed that every age or group finds the saints it needs, including queer Christians today, and worked my way through six icons by Brother Robert, allowing them to accumulate in the screen above our heads like an ikonostasis. Icons are figures that you don't so much look at as looked at by, doing a little more than just representing a Christianity in which you can live. Behold (and be held):
St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes (and also, Orsi argued, of a generic American Catholicism); Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker and not a canonized saint (and someone whose most devoted followers would hate to see her coopted by the church); Mychal Judge, the gay Franciscan FDNY Chaplain who died on 9/11 (also not likely to be canonized, although a campaign is underway and miracles claimed); two icons of early Christian martyrs, Polyeuct and Nearchus, and Perpetua and Felicity, both presented as couples; and as a final provocation, since he wasn't any kind of Christin, Harvey Milk. Images of these and other icons of Brother Robert circulate widely. A lived religion study of them would look at who uses them and how, and what they think they are doing, both to understand this particular community now, but also to understand better what must have been happening for all Christian communities at all times.

Together the three presentations, with the rather exciting discussion which followed, made for a very satisfying afternoon, with lots of interesting new perspectives on various religions, and useful methodological and ethical reflection, too. In particular, do we think that "lived religion" can escape being a corrective, a reaction to older tradition-based understandings of religion? (Yes, for various reasons, hopefully... but it's a good question!) Thanks, everyone!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Today's session of New School Century was about the arts and/as social research. We started class in the Orozco Room, and, back in our classroom, did a little dancing. The arts have arrived in our class!

The Orozco Room was originally a public cafeteria but is now used only for special events (ostensibly for preservation reasons). Created by José Clemente Orozco for the New School's first building in 1931, it plays an important and distorting role in our collective memory. Most people know that a yellow curtain was drawn across the Lenin-Stalin mural in 1953 to student protest, but not that the internationalist peasant-revolutionary Orozco murals had from the start a pendant in the American modernist and industrialization-high murals by Thomas Hart Benton two floors below: sold in the 1980s, they've vanished from collective memory. You've heard me natter on about this before.
But it's time to face the music: what were the arts doing at The New School? The original proposal for a "New School of Social Science for Men and Women" makes no mention of the arts in discussing its mission and intended curriculum. Horace Kallen started lecturing on aesthetics already in 1920, it's true, but there was no indication that by the later 1920s The New School would mainly be offering courses in arts and psychology. This was as or after most of its founders had drifted away, too. What happened? How to tell the story?
One version of the story is that after the seven-semester itch The New School lost focus, and offered lectures in whatever students would pay for just to keep from going under. Had students wanted courses in craniology or motorcycle repair we would have offered that. Only with the University in Exile a decade later could it return to itself, a research institute in social sciences. This brutal form of the story appears only by implication, but you hear it a lot. The arts at The New School were an accident, a distraction, if not an embarrassment. Who takes the arts as seriously as social sciences, after all?

A slightly nicer version of the story is that offering courses students would pay for was consistent with at least part of the school's mission, educating adults in new fields, student demand confirming relevance - even if James Harvey Robinson et al didn't imagine that what students would demand would be literature and psychoanalysis and the modern dance. This fits with the Clara Mayer story, too, since it was apparently at her suggestion that courses in psychology and the arts were first introduced.

There's some truth to this "in the meantime we'll offer courses in the arts" story, probably more than I'd like to concede. But the story I'd like to be able to tell (you've heard it already) denies there's any mission drift at all. Surely "social research," what the school was named after, was a broader and more pliable category than "social science," and included in its scope efforts by artists to grapple with the challenge and promise of modern life! Dewey and Kallen were talking about art all the time (Kallen even at The New School!). In support or corroboration of this view one might also consider the way modernists in the arts took on the spirit and terminology of the sciences (laboratory, experimental, method, etc.).
I say I'd like to be able to tell this story because it feels, still, sadly, like a a bit of a stretch. But slightly less stretchy and in its way at least as satisfying would be to say that, whatever the reason for the move to arts lectures, the result of offering courses in social sciences and arts together at The New School, especially in the close quarters of the original site in Chelsea, was the discovery of affinities. If the writers of the "Proposal..." didn't see the arts as social research, that's because there wasn't a New School around yet to show them! As you know I sought support for my view in the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, which included the arts among the areas it covered (admittedly mentioned last among a dozen areas), but that's 1930. I'm willing to consider that the arts wouldn't have been mentioned in 1920, but had demonstrated their relevance by 1930 - especially if the place where that relevance was demonstrated was The New School!

But I'm sure you want to hear about the dancing. One of the new arts introduced at The New School was modern dance, on which the New York Times' John Martin, the first dedicated dance critic in the country, gave "lecture demonstrations" at The New School. He was a critic, not a dancer, so he did the lecturing while dancers (including Martha Graham) did the demonstrating. But my co-teacher J is a dancer as well as a historian, and we're all a little high on Dewey, so we let the students do the demonstrating!
Asking half of the class to line up along each of the walls flanking the lecture hall, J told students they were to notice their bodies as they moved, as well as those of the students facing them across the room. First we all spread our feet (first position), arched our hands over our heads, and rose to our toes. This was the feel of ballet, dignified, straight, solid-torso, elevated. Then we placed our feet parallel, bent our knees and contracted as if someone had hit us in the stomach. The modern dance, grounded, rounded, twisting the torso, expressive...
Martin's lectures-demonstrations were both an explanation of the modern dance and advocacy for it. Many thought it ugly and too serious - wasn't dance supposed to be beautiful and lighthearted? - but in his lectures (and the book which grew out of them (The Modern Dance, 1933) he suggested that dance expresses things we cannot put in words, some of them among the most important things. In modern life dance has become a mere pastime, and we have forgotten its true significance.
In his lectures as also in his article on Dance for the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (...yes of course!) Martin discussed the role of dance in "savage" societies, and suggested that, in the face of the discoveries of modern time (think Robinson's Mind in the Making, etc.), serious dance was becoming necessary again.

Whenever the primitive mind came into contact with something that happened without his having had anything to do with it, something with the element of mystery and supernaturalism, he danced. ... As time went on these dances in many cases became traditional, and if we were astute enough and perceptive enough (which we are not) we could find in these rituals an incomparable treasure, for they are really the record of man's discovery of nature. Few of them survive to-day, however, and those that do have become too stereotyped to offer us sufficient clue to work upon. ... Nevertheless, this spirit is the animating spirit of the modern dance. ... Civilisation has taken the mystery out of ordinary life to a great extent and consequently has mitigated the necessity for expressing, as the primitive dancer did, the things one's understanding cannot grasp. But to-day we are reaching farther and farther ahead into uncharted regions of thought, which, though not alarming to us as nature was to the savage, are just as far from being reducible to rational terms. And it is these grasped but intangible emotional and mental experiences that the dancer of to-day finds himself forced to express through the irrational medium of bodily movement. (The Modern Dance, 9-10)

One of the legends of The New School is that Martha Graham was important here, indeed that she and Aaron Copland developed "Appalachian Spring" here. Not true - they'd both moved on from The New School by that time. But another modern dancer was much more important to the New School's experiments in art as social research: Doris Humphrey, whose work J introduced us to (and whose pictures I've posting here, including her Shaker-inspired piece). There are interesting tie-ins to social questions, too, as, J suggested, Graham's work is about the individual vs. society, but Humphrey's is always about relating to others; even where there is a leader she emerges from and returns to the group. The body expresses itself but seeks harmony with others.

Movement research as social research! If the social scientists didn't experience the importance of this, I say so much the worse for them!

Monday, February 20, 2012


Can you believe it? This is my two-thousandth blog post! Wow!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ask not for whom the bell tolls

In preparation for our conference upcoming next month - more urgently, for the teaser for the conference I'm giving in five days - I've been reading up on "queer theology." It's a pretty heady thing, especially if you pass from the genial digest in Patrick Cheng's Radical Love (2011) to the brain-zapping anthology edited by Gerald Loughlin, Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body (2007). Loughlin starts his introduction with the image above, from the 15th-century Upper-Rhine Libellus for John the Evangelist now in the university library in Basel. It's the wedding at Cana. But who's getting married? The gospel doesn't say, and after rehearsing some suggestions interpreters have made over the years, Loughlin finds that here it is John, and he's marrying - Jesus!

Loughlin's point in starting here is that non-heteronormative thinking isn't something new (let alone modern or postmodern!), but something close to the heart of traditional Christianity. And should you think "marriage equality" is the issue of the day, that's not the half of it! Loughlin wants to show that once you start looking, you'll see nuptial imagery all over the early and medieval church - but not much of it is about marriages between human women and men. As Loughlin tells the story, heterosexual unions are belatedly granted a sacramental status in the Church only by a kind of courtesy, by a metaphorical extension from spiritual bonds which are rarely between one man and one woman.

Loughlin and many of his co-writers are working from the theological movement called "radical orthodoxy," and in its challenge to modernity and secular thought "radical orthodoxy" doesn't do retail; it's a wholesale turning of the tables they're after. Everything you thought you knew about Christianity and sexuality is false, they insist, everything! They want your soul, and your body too. Cheng's "radical love" is a teddybear's picnic by comparison.

Happily I don't have to discuss this on Thursday - it's a round-table on "lived religion," and I'll focus on the lives of queer icons by Franciscan Robert Lentz - but chances are good issues like those raised by Loughlin et al will come up in the conference in March. Excitement ahead!

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Although the Grand Army Plaza Farmer's Market still has only last year's apples and most of the other visitors to the Met were still in dark wintry colors, my visiting friend H and I distinctly felt today that Spring is near.

Friday, February 17, 2012

À la recherche des écrans perdus

I'm moving to a new computer - a MacBook Air that's so light it sometimes seems like it's not really there. The trusty MacBook which has been my companion for the last four years is exhausted and ready to move to the happy hunting grounds. I don't even know how many computers I've been through since my first, a hand-me-down Apple desktop in 1987, but I have kept a file of all the desktop images I've used - and here they all are! They're all photos I took, all Del Mar except a Fontgombault glade, a Paris arcade, and a riverscape in Orchha.

This image has made the move to the new computer with me.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Salvation army

We had the first of our four meetings of the "Religion-Fashion Seminars" at Parsons yesterday evening. The religious studies contingent was small compared to the exploratory meeting last December, but that made room for a squad of bona fide pilgrims, fashion students from Belgium in NYC because of Fashion Week. (I suggested they were pilgrims in jest, but they took on the moniker immediately and even gratefully.) I'd brought along books to spark discussion - you may be able to guess what I was thinking in assembling this set - but they were hardly needed.We discussed cult followings, Sunday best, brand revivals and resurrections, the congregations sitting on pews along runways at fashion shows, the monk-like life of Bill Cunningham, mortification and rebirth through fashion, Karl Lagerfeld as a kind of exorcist, the kind of fashion penance demanded by wardrobe consultants. All very playful, in one way. But in another, it was exciting - and they were really in earnest. One of the Belgian pilgrims said that fashion needed new ways of thinking and religion seemed really helpful because it's "something real." It's not often a religious studies scholar hears something like that!

(The picture above's from a little pamphlet my co-facilitator O designed two years ago in Istanbul.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Editor in chief

In New School Century, we have entered the Johnson years - the years after the jouissance of an administration-less school collapsed in acrimony in 1922 (I call it the "seven semester itch"), and the school was saved by the expert diplomacy, administrative skill and vision of an agrarian economist from the Midwest named Alvin Johnson. Well, not directly from the Midwest; he'd done doctoral work at Columbia and was working as an associate editor at The New Republic, in many ways the matrix of The New School.

(The picture above is from one of the scrapbooks, all our digitizations of which are now up on a web page hosted by the Parsons Kellen Archive, and, best of all, are accessible to anyone anywhere with an internet connection: check it out! This is on leaf 13 of the first scrapbook.)

My co-teacher J told the class about Johnson, framing it as an example of what historians call the "great man" approach to history. In the last weeks we've been reflecting on various ways to telling the story of the origin of The New School, and Johnson offers a great example of the genre. Like Solomon building the temple, or Francis Bacon initiating the scientific revolution, a good protagonist makes for a good story, even as everything else becomes background or, perhaps, chaotic forces the hero struggles against. Johnson plays a role rather like this in our spotty collective memory.

And then J complicated the story by introducing Clara Mayer: "Behind every great man," she said, "there is a great woman." (You got a promise of Mayer's story a while back which I haven't kept; sorry! Daughter of a wealthy German Jewish family, she studied with James Harvey Robinson at Barnard/Columbia and followed him to The New School. He left but she stayed, instrumental in a student group which helped the school survive in 1922, and the indispensable working partner of Johnson on everything from expanding the curriculum to include the arts to arranging logistics for the refugee scholars of the University in Exile, as well as an increasingly important figure in New School administration until 1962, when a new president fired her, only to be himself fired by a Board of Trustees which knew how vital she was to the school's life. Once you know to look for her, you find Clara everywhere in The New School (including the account of the New School years in Johnson's memoir Pioneer's Progress), but she's fallen out of all the school's narratives. Were it not for the efforts of stalwart librarian-archivist C, her memory would have disappeared completely.)

But my task yesterday was to talk about the Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, a monumental fifteen-volume work which came out of The New School in 1930-35. (The image above is from the first volume, albeit an eighth reprint in 1949. Look: Clara's there, too!) This first ever encyclopedia of social sciences was proposed by New School anthropologist Alexander Goldenweiser in the early 1920s, and, while the eminent man he persuaded to be Editor in Chief (and fundraiser in chief) Edwin Seligman was at Columbia, the actual work of planning, commissioning and editing the thousands of entries was directed by Alvin Johnson. Until the complementary International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences appeared in 1968 (with a preface by Johnson), the ESS was indispensable.

I wanted students to think about how the ESS defined the project and scope of the social sciences, and to understand that this definition was consonant with if not indeed an expression of the ongoing experiment of The New School, even in the supposedly lean years between the 1919-22 honeymoon and the arrival of the University in Exile in 1933. Goldenweiser had had in mind not an alphabetical encyclopedia with a myriad entries, but a German-style handbook with book-length introductions to the various social sciences, each by a single distinguished author; these could even be published and sold separately.

Seligman and Johnson came up with something entirely different. They wanted to show the connections between the various social sciences - and, relatedly, to show that an understanding of the social dimensions of human life illuminated and required awareness of many other sciences too (including even the arts!). To encourage ease of use but also serendipitous discovery, articles are alphabetical. The editors also wanted to make manifest in this single work the vast community of researchers in social questions, and so there are articles by every scholar they could contact (articles are signed) and cross-referenced. To make the range, antecedents and variety of social research clear, fully a fifth of the ESS was given over to biographies.

But it wasn't only intended for scholars. It hoped also to reach the "intelligentsia," and to contribute to an educated public opinion around the world. Copies of the Encyclopaedia appeared in every public library and most high school libraries across the United States; I imagine many copies were sold internationally, too, as Seligman and Johnson had forged alliances not only with professional societies but with European universities and research institutes "from Florence to Oslo." (Japanese scholarship is represented, too.) The social sciences were not yet a monopoly of university researchers; written (or edited) in a deliberately jargon-free style, the ESS was conceived to make social research accessible for anyone - and not just as something scholars do.

Still, this is an encyclopedia we're talking about. How to make it engaging to students, especially in the age of Wikipedia? I think I found a way. Imagine you're a high school student in Fresno in 1949, I told the class, and stumble on the Encyclopaedia in your school or public library. What world does it open up for you? You won't be interested in the editor's programmatic introductions, but will dive right into the work.

Perhaps you'll start by looking up Francis Bacon, often cited as the father of the scientific revolution and the modern technical world. (In our class we've seen Bacon invoked in the founding "Proposal for a New School of Social Science for Men and Women," in Dewey's Democracy and Education and in Robinson's Mind in the Making.) This writer, one Roland G. Usher, thinks Bacon's influence exaggerated. Bacon's preeminence in natural science and philosophy has always raised the presumption that he had ideas of equal value upon the the social sciences, if only they could be found. Usher finds that Bacon's influence, while great, has been only indirect, in emphasizing the importance of experience. His actual, and limited, contributions to economics and political theory are more problematic than helpful.

Well!, you might think, having perhaps expected a great man account of Bacon's eternal legacies; these people are serious, and honest. And the author's name is right there, taking responsibility for his view, not like anonymous encyclopedias where peons speak like oracles.

After this article comes a shorter biography of one Roger Bacon, whom you may never have heard of or, perhaps, have (Mind in the Making's chapter on the scientific revolution starts with a Latin epigraph from him) but thought must be the same person.

Or maybe your eye will have been caught by the list of words a few lines above the start of the Bacon article. CIVILIZATION, COLONIES, IMPERIALISM, RAW MATERIALS, CONCESSIONS, SPHERES OF INFLUENCE, PROTECTORATE, MANDATE, FORCED LABOR, INVESTMENT, MISSIONS, INTERVENTION, DIPLOMATIC PROTECTION. What could this be about? You go back a page; it's "Backward Countries." What's that? You read it (the article doesn't endorse the term), you read the recommended articles, and before you know it you're getting an education. The article before this one, in turn, "Back to the Land Movement" opens new worlds, too...

Or perhaps you flick through that first volume and come on this.

Art? In an encyclopedia of social science? You start reading, and before you know it you're thinking about art in a whole new way, but also civilization, and intelligence. And science. Perhaps this inspires you to look at that long disquisition on the social sciences at the start of the volume. Sure enough, at the very end of his account of "social sciences" (political science, economics, sociology, etc.) "semi-social sciences" (ethics, education) and "sciences with social implications" (philosophy, geography, medicine, linguistics, etc.), an Edwin R. A. Seligman mentions art. It goes without saying that art as a creative activity stands in contrast with science, he writes, whose objective is analysis and understanding. But artistic creation is dominated by values and these are, at least in part, of social origin. Indeed, he concludes No one who wishes to understand the operation of social laws in the modern world can afford to overlook the evidence offered by the arts. (I.7)

This is surprising, and intriguing! After digesting the proffered mini-course in world art history (had you even heard of Primitive, Chinese, Medieval Art before, let alone thought about them socially?), you check the index to see what other articles in art are included.
Not so many, but still. "Dance," for instance, will no longer get an entry in the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences thirty-three years later (though it returns in the 2008 second edition: topic for a term paper on the changing nature of the social sciences!). Our encyclopedia preserves a moment when the social sciences had different, perhaps greater, ambitions than in later years - and perhaps more interesting ones. Read more! (My colleague J, a former dancer, was disappointed by the "Dance" article, by John Martin, the dance critic whose lectures at The New School became the much more interesting and field-grounding text The Modern Dance in 1933. But perhaps you'll follow up his name, and find his book...)

And maybe, finally, as you're looking for the author or topic indices at the end of volume XV (where you might discover that Erwin Edman, the author of the lead article on "Art," was also charged with the article "Naturalism" - gotta check that out!), you'll happen on this spread:

A fifteenth-century Spanish ecclesiastic, a an early-twentieth century Japanese statesman, a fourth-century Chinese philosopher, a nineteenth-century Russian statistician? This is getting very interesting, and nothing like what you thought you were getting into... And if these people were leading lives of social relevance and interest, why not you, whether you ever set foot in a university or not?

Having played out this serendipitous way one proceeds through an encyclopedia (I used overhead slides of the page spreads above), I hope the students realized that it's not by accident that someone might discover a world in the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. That's precisely what Seligman, Johnson, Mayer and the several dozen assistant editors wanted to happen. Alphabetization, signed articles, cross-references and indices, a generous understanding of socially relevant sciences, and attention through biography to the individual human lives which generate social knowledge and practice: it couldn't be more different from an authoritative handbook from on high, and couldn't be more inviting.

Closing question: If you were to put the world of the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences in a building, what would it look like? Stay tuned!