We left for Utah at 6 am on Thursday, March 20. After a two-hour van ride to Louisville, we took planes to Chicago and Salt Lake and an airport van to Provo. We arrived at the Provo Park Hotel in time for the opening reception and the keynote address by James Heffernan. This was the first time I had made such a long field trip with seven students, and the first day went well.
We made our presentation to the National Association for Humanities Education at 4 pm on Friday afternoon. We called our session "Pursuing Moby-Dick in the Classroom, in the Museum, back in the Classroom, and Beyond." the weather was so sunny and unseasonably warm that we feared it would affect attendance, but we had a responsive, attentive audience. we began with five-minute opening statements in the order in which we had been listed on the program:
robert k. wallace, "Learning from Books, Pictures, Students"
Aaron Zlatkin, "One Fish, Two Fish, Fast Fish, Loose Fish"
Lindsay Hixson, "The Interdisciplinary Classroom"
Rob Kallmeyer, "Artistic Gestaltism"
Kristen Sekowski, "Creativity and Collaboration"
Gina Brock, "Images from the Page"
Michael Gallagher, "Objectifying the Metaphysical"
Bill Fletcher, "The Chaos of Creativity"
(To see the statements we actually gave, as we wrote them up afterward, visit our group page for the Utah conference.)
After our opening statments, we moved into a panel discussion about the influence of our excursion to the art exhibition Unpainted to the Last on our 1996 course. We also discussed the extent to which our experience in this course might be replicated in other courses, with other authors, or with other kinds of interdisciplinary subject matter.
Our session concluded with a stimulating series of exchanges with members of the audience. The students received a great deal of praise for their presentations, for what they had achieved in the course, and for having come as far as Utah to participate in the conference.
This session was everything that I had hoped it might be when I had proposed it--first to the students, and then to Carolyn Leech, program chair. The NAHE has had a longstanding interest in "the incorporation of the museum in humanities teaching," so our museum experience in our Melville and the Arts course was a natural basis for a session. In presenting that session, we were able to demonstrate the "incorporation of humanities students in a humanities conference." I am very grateful to the NAHE for providing this opportunity.
Immediately after our presentation that evening a bus carried conference participants up the Provo Canyon and behind Mount Timpanogos for a dinner at Robert Redford's Sundance. The drive up the winding road behind the snow-capped mountain was all the more dramatic owing to recent rockslides that had closed the road just above our turn-off. We arrived at Sundance at sunset, just as a full moon was rising in the east. We were in the midst of a fine meal (with vegetarian dinners for the students who had requested them) when someone came in and said, "The comet's out there!" The room immediately emptied. The full, circumscribed moon; the thick, ragged comet; the shadowy loom of the mountain; the sheltering warmth of the lodge with the fine food momentarily forgotten as we moved motionless through high skies--all this made for a pretty wonderful finale to a memorable day.
The rest of our weekend in Utah went quickly. Saturday included more of the conference, a hike into Rock Canyon, and another group dinner, answering the one we had enjoyed upon arriving in Provo on Thursday. On Sunday morning we stopped in Temple Square and attended the broadcast at the Morman Tabernacle Choir on the way to the Salt Lake City Airport. Our layover at the Ohare airport was long enough for another group meal before boarding our plane to Louisville, where our 10:50 pm landing time meant that our van did not get us back on campus until 1:15 am on Monday morning. Our Spring Break, and our first big excursion of the semester, had suddenly ended.
I have included some personal thoughts about the origins of our NAHE presentation in my source notes.
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