Monday, September 12, 2016

NAI Begins Middlemarch 2016-2017 with newest blog: Follow us now!

Track our progress through George Eliot's masterpiece by following our Blog!
Middlemarch Calendar of Activities!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Magic of Bringing Dickens to His Newest Readers

The USC NAI team at the 2016 Dickens Universe at UCSC with Dr. Jon Varese

A memoir of images in our Flickr album! 

The NAI-Foshay contingency, NAI educators Jacqueline Barrios and Paul David Story, with Kenia Coyoy (NAI Alumni), Kimberly Mejia and Mauricio Garcia (NAI Alumni and winners of this year's NAI-DP Scholarship Contest) just returned from the Dickens Universe 2016,  a week long conference at UC Santa Cruz.  Needless to say, the students were riveting and  team was well received by the scholars, university faculty and general public—over 200 participants— in one of the largest, and oldest, humanities multi-campus research consortiums in the world.  

Focusing on Dombey & Son,  this year's program featured printed excerpts of only 4 individuals’ papers on the novel. These individuals were the NAI scholars and Foshay HS winners of the DP-NAI HS scholarship competition. Student papers incited conversations, found their way among possible topics for seminars, had organic tie-ins to conference talks. 

The titles of this year's winning papers are as follows:

Mauricio Garcia  
Ebb and Flow: Water, Loss and the Human in Dickens' Dombey and Son
focusing on the motif of water in the novel as a critique of modernity by foregrounding human loss 
(Will be attending Harvard University)

 Kimberly Mejia 
(Un)Happy Homes: Disrupting the Domestic in Dickens’ Dombey and Son
examining the possibilities of change presented in the unstable home space
(Will be attending USC)

Amber Johnston 
Mobile Properties: Feminizing Movement in Dombey and Son
examining how reversals in mobility reflect changing gender norms
(Will be attending USC)

Georgia Delgado 
Saving the Father:  Empathy, Critique and the Victorian Patriarchy in Dickens’ Dombey and Son
examining the ways Dombey’s characterization invites readerly sympathy and institutional critique
(Will be attending USC)

Some stories and the beginnings of a manifesto?

A graduate student expressed how the quality and clarity of each sentence of student writing impressed her and in some ways, exceeded the quality of the writing produced by the scholars of the university. 

A faculty member expressed how she uses the NAI documentary to motivate her own college students to tackle lengthy novels, citing how the video silenced any complaints and thus supported her in cultivating rigorous aims for her students. 

Participants gave feedback about NAI scholars’ performance discussion, reporting that NAI scholars’ level of engagement and receptivity to study exceeded the typical undergraduate performance

The NAI presentation/conversations uniquely brought “magic” to the Dickens Universe participants’ experience of the conference, as emotional connection to the NAI scholar’s learning brings immediate relevant, authentic and affective engagement for all participants at all levels of scholarship. 

The DP-NAI partnership is a fruitful “staging ground” for conversations around, and a “laboratory” for actions to address, the shrinking “pipeline” of young people interested in  and passionate about the humanities. Many scholars are in fact already thinking about that pipeline, and are imagining ways  their scholarship engages, directly or not, the need to more make "openings" in the field.   NAI scholars burgeoning interest in, and growing exposure to the humanities directly confronts the conflict between scholarship and  public engagement, and serves as a unique, unprecedented model for how the object of study, be it the Victorian novel or any other focus of academic research,  can reach the underrepresented student that NAI’s work daily touches.  

In other words, the NAI scholar not only heightens the rigor of the academic discourse, but imparts singularity and deepens implications for learning.  Their presence in spaces of higher education not only literalizes the possibilities of college access (their very attendance symbolizes the reality of first generation achievement) but renders the abstract values of diversity, inclusion and humanism tangible, embodied, relational, and thus, inspirational. 

Notable Buzz

“When I once thought of literary analysis as something that could only be achieved through one medium, I now realize that literature can be studied through a variety of formats—by focusing on the novel’s contextual history, by using code to find patterns and repetitions in a novel or among novels, or by attempting to replicate the serialization gap in Dickens’ novels, etc. Despite being confident in my interest to study Molecular and Cellular Biology, this is my first experience that made me much more open to a career in English. There exists no one-size-fit-all method to analyzing literature and that personally makes the English field much more attractive to me.” From Mauricio’s post-DU blog entry.

“It was great to meet [the NAI-DP group]this past Dickens Universe. DU felt more than usually magical to me this time around, and I think knowing more about this program was a part of that. " From DU faculty member.
"Thanks for sending me your essay on Dombey, which I read with pleasure and found very interesting. I asked to be your mentor because, after seeing the title of your paper, I thought that you would be addressing some issues that are important for me and that I will discuss in my Dickens Universe lecture on Monday morning I was correct. We are thinking along similar lines.” From DU faculty mentor feedback letter to NAI student.

“In the end I think the most important thing we can do as English teachers is to show students why literature continues to matter. It's less and less clear to me that that's something that can be accomplished entirely within the space of the modern, private university." -From English professor, a partner faculty from a  previous humanities collaborative project with NAI

A Brief History with Links

NAI’s partnership with the Dickens Project was launched three years ago after the unprecedented win of two students of the then nation-wide essay contest. The press and the mini-documentary of their unique study of nineteenth century novels highlighted NAI and Foshay and earned NAI students a tailor-made partnership with the Dickens Project through the NAI program.  The writing of these essays is only one part of the innovative multi-modal, interdisciplinary approach to the teaching of literature that NAI spearheads through collaboration with various partners in universities and the public humanities, as exemplified by the founding of the USC NAI Theater Workshop, where students deepen their academic study by producing full-scale performing arts adaptations  of canonical works of literature (now in its 6th year). Their most recent work, Twelfth Night, was featured at the USC press. These fruitful endeavors  are the context for this year’s campaign to  prepare NAI seniors to study George Eliot’s Middlemarch, the novel of study for the upcoming Dickens Universe. Their unit will form the crux of exciting new collaborations with university faculty and professional artists, with an eye towards a culminating production featuring live theatrical adaptations of the novel for the community. 

Now...Middlemarch 2017!

Our team is grateful for your interest in our work connecting the Dickens Universe and the first generation scholars in the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative program (NAI), and the wider implications of our partnership for diversity, inclusion and the future of the humanities as a whole.

In light of the this year’s book announcement , we are gearing up to take action for Middlemarch in 2017!  Please contact the USC NAI or the Dickens Project to get involved as we imagine and energize the ways this outreach can impact more of at the Dickens Universe and beyond.  

Friday, August 12, 2016

Kenia's Reflection

Watching Monterey Bay waves
Two years ago, when I first attended the Dickens Universe, I found it to be a pleasant sort of culture shock. I had never encountered so many people who loved literature - Dickens in particular - and who were also friendly and approachable. So it was with excitement and anticipation that I arrived once again to the sprawling campus of UC Santa Cruz for another week of laughter, learning, and literature. This year's week has been hectic, there's no denying that, but it's the best kind of hectic. From attending lectures, to analyzing the text in our undergraduate seminar, to wandering the woods (trying not to get lost), to taking the bus downtown and getting ice cream (my new favorite flavor is Peach)- it has been a busy, but well spent week.

It's hard to choose a highlight because every part of the week was a highlight in it's own. So instead of a highlight, I instead choose a cluster of experiences that resonated with me. They all concerned the merging of different subjects: literature, psychology, and programming. Literature and psychology could be second cousins but programming and literature don't seem to have anything in common. At this year's Dickens' Universe, however, two lectures showed me a new way to look at literature from a programming perspective.

The first was a lecture entitled "Digital Dombey" given by Professor Pete Capuano that demonstrated how programming can open up new avenues for literary analysis. This lecture made me very excited because I myself have coded using R, a well known statistic programming language. What further fascinated me was the way he took a quantitative method and used it to support a qualitative analysis. As a person who likes data (and the oftentimes tedious ways of mining it) the lecture left me bursting with new ideas about how to apply other programming languages to literature.

The second lecture almost (almost!) topped "Digital Dombey" and that's because it was based on something I personally love to do- code websites. The lecture, "Synchronic Serial Reading", was not really a lecture but more of a demonstration about a different way to read Dickens (and other Victorian novels). Professor Robyn Warhol displayed a website that had been made to keep track of other novels being published at the same time as, say, Dombey and Son. Aside from the fact that they were using a different platform to analyze Dickens (the web! the internet! code!), what really stuck with me was how even the act of curating such a website allowed them to experience the book in a new way.

In an attempt to keep this reflection from veering into a jumbled mess I'll move on to my third experience. During one of the many moments of mingling, I met Alethia, a graduate student from UCLA, who studies children's literature. As soon as she mentioned that fact, I remembered the classes I've taken in developmental psychology and how play is something essential to development. Alethia and I discussed how literature is a form of play and what implications being exposed to literature at a young age might have on development. In essence, we talked about something any lover of literature can attest to- how literature can change us, make us think critically, allow us to see from a different perspective. And in the case of the USC NAI Theater Workshop, how literature can offer an outlet for the students and their community.

I can't help but already be excited for the next Dickens Universe. This was only my second year, but I already feel invested. The friendships I've made, the new ideas I've encountered, and the general happiness I've felt encourage me to not think of this trip as a one time thing. I hope to be back again in Santa Cruz- not only because the weather is amazing and there are cute deer around, but also because I don't want my experience at the Dickens Universe to be finite. Books inevitably end but there will always be another book, another story, ready to be opened and experienced. Here's to next year's story!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Kenia's Top 10 Moments

  1. Deer- very cute, very graceful, kind of intimidating.
  2. Weather- cold but better than the L.A. heat. I learned to love the fog.
  3. People- everyone at the Universe was friendly and unique.
  4. Lectures- got a taste of new perspectives and the different ways the book could be read.
  5. Roller Coaster- gave me a headache but the adrenaline rush was worth it. 
  6. Hiking- we found a cave but were to scared to explore it. 
  7. Tea- the unique Earl Grey blend was so lovely and paired nicely with the lemon tea cookies.
  8. Ground squirrels - also cute, though a bit shameless in the way they fearlessly crossed people's paths.
  9. The Grand Party - so much food, so little time.
  10. The Victorian Ball- a magical night of dancing (read: trying) to Victorian music. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Kim's Top Ten Moments at Dickens Universe!

Treating my taste buds to Hawaiian Ceviche, my first brussel sprout, a Crispy Coconut Shrimp Roll, and a Mango Chicken Caesar Salad.

Facing my fear of roller coasters by riding the notoriously shaky and rickety 1920 Big Dipper- TWICE!

Meeting my writing mentor, The Master of the Universe, John Jordan.

Deer! Fearlessly approaching a deer family on their lunch break- bravery.

Being an active participant in my undergraduate seminar- bravery.

Exploring the woods surrounding UCSC and the hidden beaches of Santa Cruz!

Connecting with the passionate dickensian public through lecture topics and personal experiences.

Living with Ms. Barrios, Mr. Story, Mauricio, and Kenia for a week of literature- a true theater outing!

Singing to an adapted Lady Gaga song at this year's farce- "dove, glove, shove!"

Mistreating my taste buds with blue cheese- a delicacy best enjoyed with a sweet strawberry.

Exactly 14 days ago, I took a plane to Santa Cruz carrying a suitcase of sweaters, the novel, and a nervous Kim not knowing what to expect from a literature trip. Exactly 7 days ago, I took a plane back to Los Angeles carrying a collection of irreplaceable experiences and an admiration for the people who continue to attend the 19th century universe. 

The Dickens Universe gave us a warm welcome and a big surprise upon seeing our essays published in their booklet for all of the universe to read! Soon everyone who was present was not only invested in exploring Dombey and Son, but in meeting the young undergraduate essay winners, too. I admit that I was nervous in meeting the passionate Dickensian fans who have read many, if not all, of Charles Dickens’ works, several times. Those nerves settled down after the first two days of talking to the DU public who just wanted to check in and get to know me and not question me about the different methods of analyzing text. The lectures were a hot topic in the seminars and out of class discussions, revealing the multiple ways one can study the novel. So, I did have conversations about the novel and the various approaches of examining and interpreting a piece of work with my trip buddies and during lunch dates with the sweet elders.

Although I was not the most active participant in my graduate seminars, the space was fun and allowed me to interact with the Dickensian public who touched many of the topics that were presented in my class months earlier. I did, however, contribute a lot more in my undergraduate seminar class. During that hour of the day the undergraduates, all six of us, led text based discussions and, encouraged by our seminar instructors, examined our wild interpretations. My biggest treat was being able to lunch with a crowd who allowed me to present to them what we as high school students did back at our school with literature and performance. I will be studying theater and although my studies will not focus directly on 19th century British work, it is crucial that I become familiar with the vast collection of text that exists. 

The Dickens Universe has exposed me to a number of analysis techniques and introduced me to a pool of people who marvel at textual patterns and the different ways a character can be perceived. The Universe is intense, but aware that the students they welcome are eager to learn and very capable of following the concepts presented to them every day of that week. I was blown away by the heavy syntactical study we were presented on our first day, but re-grounded after my teacher broke the lecture down and other people made helpful comments. The Universe was fun, to say the least, and I cannot wait to go back- I am coming back!

Middlemarch here I come!

Mauricio's Top Ten Moments

Panorama of Professor's Ryan Fong's lecture, Dombey & the Sea

Top 10 Moments

   1.       Getting a relief from the hot Los Angeles weather
   2.       Learning about the diverse styles of analyzing Dickensian literature
   3.       Finishing my first cup of tea
   4.      Watching my first Dickensian farce
   5.       Getting better from my infection
   6.       Performing close readings of the novel in the intimate setting of the undergraduate seminar
   7.       Watching the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
   8.       Hiking through UCSC’s beautiful campus
   9.       Running into UCSC’s fauna
   10.   Eating a strawberry after my first encounter with blue cheese 

   As I prepare to embark on my journey to college, attending the Dickens Universe Conference contributed to both my analytical and social skills as a scholar. When I once thought of literary analysis as something that could only be achieved through one medium, I now realize that literature can be studied through a variety of formats—by focusing on the novel’s contextual history, by using code to find patterns and repetitions in a novel or among novels, or by attempting to replicate the serialization gap in Dickens’ novels, etc. Despite being confident in my interest to study Molecular and Cellular Biology, this is my first experience that made me much more open to a career in English. There exists no one-size-fit-all method to analyzing literature and that personally makes the English field much more attractive to me. Aside from giving insightful interpretations of the text, the lectures truly served to widen my perception of the field of literary analysis. I also appreciated the seminars as spaces where I personally felt engaged in the analysis of the text. It was amazing to be in an environment where everyone had so much to discuss about the novel! I especially enjoyed the Undergraduate Seminar because of its unique intimacy. With only six students in the seminar, I felt much more involved in the conversation and that ultimately resulted in a deeper understanding of the novel. In retrospect, I wish I would have engaged myself more in the Graduate Student-led Seminars. I suppose that being surrounded by older people who were much more knowledgeable about the text than me intimidated me. At the same time, these very people were very invested in making sure that we enjoyed their time—we were repeatedly being asked whether we were enjoying our time at the conference. Aside from the conference itself, I enjoyed our party’s trips to downtown Santa Cruz and especially our trip to the Boardwalk. These hours of relaxation provided a nice balance the intense content of the Conference itself. I will be sure to save money throughout the coming year to ensure that I can attend the Conference next year!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

NAI Does Dombey With Style! Our Year of Study!

Media Advisory: 
Bringing Down the House (of Dombey)!: Dickens Day & Night Comes to South LA!

Los Angeles, May 31, 2016
Photos by Belinda Coronado & Jaileane Aguilar
More Photos at House of Dombey Photo Album or see our slideshow!  
Mauricio as Dombey, Kimberly as Edith. Center, Angela as Mrs. Skewton and Antonio as "Withers"

Victoria as "Angel of the House" Bride in
 "Here Comes the Bride" Fashion Show

Fashion Show Models of House of Dombey (in the "Manager" outfits) 

Mauricio Garcia (17) wed Kimberly Mejia (17) for their AP English Literature final.  The nuptials (theatrical) cinched their A, given their leading roles in House of Dombey, a performance-art showcase based on Charles Dickens’s novel, Dombey and Son.  As Mr. Dombey and Edith Granger, Garcia, Mejia and their peers told the novel’s story (the doomed marriage of a Victorian patriarch and his redemption  through the love of his daughter) in an evening of scenes, literary themed fashion shows and art projects. The showcase culminated Foshay’s annual Dickens Day & Night where seniors invited their campus and community to their “final examination”: teaching eight graders about the notion of the domestic sphere  with origami art, asking eleventh graders to create a chalk “track” to symbolize mobility-themed quotes, inciting multiple guests to challenge gender norms for ideal “husbands and wives” by proposing the qualities of an ideal “partner.”  Seniors also served cups of Earl Grey and English Breakfast to over two hundred visitors at a Grand Victorian Tea, where guests’ service included personalized doilies inscribed with Victorian slang (Skilamalink – shady or dubious; “Sling a slobber” – “To kiss) and excerpts from Victorian etiquette books (“Ladies do not expect visitors before two, nor after five”).  A glittering collaborative mural invited visitors to respond  one of the novel’s resonant questions: What is money? A live twitter feed brought brought Dickensian learning to the world wide web, while a roving podcast-er recorded as many Foshay students and staff reading sentences from the first chapter of the novel for their blog.  All seniors also created mixed-media sculptures, reassembling miniature chairs to represent characters, quotes or themes, and some of the most creative ones (artfully distressed, a seat of thumbtacks, a hybrid train-chair) were snapped up guest bidders. Student projects continually referenced chairs and doilies to highlight the novel’s genre. As an example of domestic fiction, these reconstructed symbols  provoked guests to think through simple household objects and reimagine the messages encoded within them.  The evening showcase featured four fashion shows which incorporated student stilters and “bricolage” outfits, students satirizing the concept of  “marriage market” by staging an auction of vibrantly imagined “animals” in original face paint and formal wear; dramatized materialism in frozen tableaus of moneyed and disaffected aristocracy, contrasted competing models of femininity: “angel of the house” brides facing off with their creatively-shod  and black bouquet wielding “new woman”counterparts.  An army of “managers” representing the novel’s villain, James Carker (played by Jose Sandoval, 17), alternately marched and convulsed while sporting elaborate hyperbolized boutinooers representing his repressed ambitions.  A cast of students brought Dickens’ famously eccentric characters to life, from the conniving Major Bagstock (played by Ashley Navarro, 16) to the aging but determined flirt, Cleopatra Skewton (played by Angela Juarez, 17).  Student musicians composed music and arranged versions of eclectic songs from Mendelssohn’s Wedding March to Pink Floyd’s Money.   It was a remixed, recycled and revolutionary twenty-first century take on, well, reading a novel.  As a senior said, I never thought a final, well, learning, could be this much fun.”
Adrian and Georgia at the "Domesticity" station: The Chair Exhibit and Origami!
Angela breaking down gender expectations according to the
Victorian patriarchy to incoming juniors.
Tea Servers! "Earl Grey is a light afternoon tea scented bergamot,  a fragrant citrus..."

“I wonder what Dickens would make of your clever 21st century take on his story if he was sitting in the Foshay Grand Theatre as I was on the night of May 24th 2016? I think he would wowed as I was by the weaving in and out of dance, costume, music, and selections of dialogue that brought essence of his novel to life. I found the whole production thrilling. It went by so fast and I didn’t want it to end. Choreography…drove the point home of how wealth and power can corrupt human beings. The vacuous and mean expressions….the carnival-like way they pranced pathetically…I couldn’t resist bidding and winning two fantastically decorated chairs!” Read this wonderfully detailed review from one of our honored guests….Your production will live on in my memory for a long time. It left much to ponder about the universal implications of the story….so true today as it was when Dickens wrote it.”  Read the rest of the wonderfully detailed review about the show and individual actors by one of our lovely guests. 
Anika as the Peacock in the "Marriage Market" 

“….After all this I now see a different side of things and the real message Dickens was trying to get across. Initially I had thought the novel was a conservative, but now I see the radical side of it, whether it’s from the scenes performed for the show or the different takes my classmates used to design their chairs….I enjoyed the experience…I never thought a final, well, learning, could be this much fun.” Student Reflection 

View footage of the show!

Jacqueline Jean Barrios

This project was supported by an Exploring the Arts grant. 
Previous media on our work on Dickens and the  Dickens ProjectLos Angeles TimesNPR , Dickens Project-NAI Mini Documentary 

Publicity Collateral/ Dickens Day and Night 2016

Flyer Design by Belinda Coronado, Senior, AP English 

"Papa, what is money?” 
Foshay Learning Center AP English seniors, in collaboration with the USC NAI Theater Workshop, invite you to the House of Dombey on May 24 2016: a night of theater, fashion & art based on Charles Dickens’s novel, Dombey and Son and directed by Jacqueline Jean Barrios and Paul David Story.  The show will culminate our annual Dickens Day to be held at Foshay’s campus. 

Dombey and Son:
Charles Dickens’ 1848 novel presents the story of Mr. Paul Dombey, Sr., a wealthy Victorian patriarch whose only son and heir, Paul Jr., dies in early childhood. The novel condemns Mr. Dombey for his active hatred and rejection of his daughter, Florence, whose survival he bitterly resents. His journey of deterioration and ultimate redemption enables the work to comment on the rise of industry, the changing roles of women and the profound importance of the domestic space. 

Dickens Day and Night:
Join us for tea! Meet the scholars and discuss the novel’s topic and characters: mobility, gender and domesticity through student designed interactive talks. View our “Chair Project” Art Exhibit and contribute to our blog launch: 830-1130AM at the Miami Room, Foshay Learning Center.
House of Dombey, our evening showcase, will feature live theatrical performances of scenes from the novel, live music and fashion shows inspired by the novel. 

Exploring the Arts A 501c3 nonprofit founded in 1999 by American singer Tony Bennett and his wife Susan Benedetto, a former public school teacher, the mission of Exploring the Arts (ETA) is to transform the lives of young people through arts education.  Through the ETA Arts Access Grant, students received arts education from our teaching artists: Paul David Story and Naom Barrett. 
USC NAI Theater Workshop  under the direction of Jacqueline Barrios and Paul David Story, aims to grow south LA students’ study of literature through the performing arts.  The workshop seeks to go beyond the limits of a traditional classroom to inspire a love of literature and learning.  
Dickens Project Founded in 1981 and headquartered at UC Santa Cruz, the Dickens Project is a research consortium of faculty and graduate students from major American and international universities. Member institutions include the University of Southern California, all the UC campuses, Stanford, Princeton, Yale, and NYU, among others. 
Read about our Dombey and Son intensive in partnership with the Dickens Project.
Students during the Dombey and Son Intensive in LA!