Making Maestre

Here is the slide presentation I gave with my partner this week at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. It is based upon our primary research on the Elm City Girls’ Choir of New Haven. Photographs are my own; audio and video is not included here, but recordings of this group can be purchased through the United Choir School office. One hope I have is that the choir will continue to reach a wider audience despite the fact that the organization is unable to dedicate many funds to advertising concerts. The text that goes with the slide presentation will come along shortly.

Stacie Vos

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Buck Gems: The American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY

Girl at natural history

I took this photograph because it would record for me of the power of these dioramas, for young and old. I saw the girl stop in her tracks, something that made the educator in me snap to. Then I realized that I paused because seeing her was like watching myself look at these recreated gemsbok, their horns like tree-spears puncturing an artificial sky, their eyes piercing, the feet all planted.

SNV 2013

with thanks to Armand Morgan

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Chaucer’s Treatise on the Astrolabe

“I nam but a lewd compilatour of the labour of olde Astrologiens, and haue hit translated in myn englissh only for thi doctrine.”

(to his son “Lowys,” on why he wrote in English)



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Samuel Clarke’s Didactic Compilations

I am working on a paper for Harvard Divinity School’s 2013 graduate conference on religion. My paper is called “Examples in Mirrors: Samuel Clarke’s Mirror or Looking-Glasse both for Saints and Sinners and Early Modern Cosmography.” Clarke’s vast book exists in four volumes and includes citations from innumerable sources (or what Clarke deems “the most approved authors”), including his own Lives and martyrologies. The book is similar in format to John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, a book to which Clarke refers in his own A General Martyrologie. The last two volumes of Clarke’s Mirror include a geography “of all the knowne world.” The colocation of geography with biographies of the virtuous makes this text an example of many such early modern collections, collections that, as Constance Caroline Relihan has noted, provide “mutually didactic” material.

The cover pages to Clarke’s book illustrates this dual purpose, as he states that in half of the book he puts forth “remarkable examples” to both avoid and follow, while in the second half of the book, he has added the most remarkable features of all the world’s countries. The title pages for each part of the book are similar in structure, so that the first one has noteworthy people (including Wyclif and Luther) in the same place that the second title page places a small emblem for each geographical region discussed. (See partial transcription here: Title Pages for Mirror and Geography.)

1671 title page Mirror

Clarke Title Page Geo British Library

Both images from British Museum Online Collection 

The promises of Clarke’s editions resemble those of William Cuningham’s Cosmographical Glasse, printed in 1559 by John Day. In his preface, Cuningham says he will “resight” the benefits received “of Cosmographie,” “… in that she deliueraeth us from greate and continuall travails. For in a pleasaunte house, or warme study, she sheweth us the hole face of all the Earthe, withal the corners of the same… In trauailing, thou shalt not be molested with the inclemencye of th’ Aere, boysterous windes, stormy shourse, haile, Ise, & Snow.”

Furthermore, he adds, one who travels in books need not worry of “lowsy beddes, or filthy sheets.”

Clarke suggests that he will offer the same safe “travels” to his own readers. Clarke offers to guide the reader not only in his exploration of the world, but also in the navigation of his particular life. Through the examples of “sundry” individuals, the reader learns what to do and what will lead to God’s punishment. Is this moral guidance more connected to the geographical and scientific than we might otherwise assume, or does Clarke’s text feature an odd pairing? What does this text tell us about authority and the organization of knowledge in the 16th and 17th centuries? Does the proliferation of scientific texts at this time (sometimes published specifically for men who couldn’t go to university*) suggest a democratization of specialized knowledge, or a clever attempt to spread Christian doctrine under the guise of learning, self-sufficiency, and wondrous travel?

*See, for instance, Thomas Blundeville’s Art of Logike.

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Sexual Equality Means Zero Tolerance: On Yale’s Sex Crimes Report

It’s so, so frustrating to have

reported to the school, been let down

by the school, brought it to the

federal government and then get let

down by the federal government.

Alexandra Brodsky, to Huffington Post

In some cases, rapists receive no more than a “written reprimand” about their behavior. Yale University’s recent report on sexual violence might suggest that petty theft is a greater crime than violence against women.

I recently received a very neutral e-mail from the University Title IX Coordinator, in which she included a link to the fourth semi-annual Report of Complaints of Sexual Misconduct. Because I have concerned myself with women’s safety and equality since these terms became available to me, I was not entirely surprised by the lack of seriousness evident in the descriptions of the many complaints listed in the “report.”

Both The Huffington Post and The New Haven Register precede me in presenting articles that criticize the diplomatic and ineffective term “nonconsensual sex,” repeated throughout the document. This term symbolizes what appears to be an attempt to make vague and illegitimate the complaints of the few women who have spoken up about sexual violence. Anyone who has ever considered the problem knows that the vast majority of women who experience sexual harassment and assault do not report it. This is often due to a combination of self-blaming and active hostility on the part of the authorities who are responsible for investigating and prosecuting sex crimes (For instance, I once spoke to a Philadelphia police officer who said he liked to “get to the women before the rape advocates did,” suggesting that women fabricated rape complaints, especially after talking with one another).

If we take for granted that most sexual violence goes unreported, we should be even more alarmed by the acts reported below, and the fact that they are met with disciplinary actions so slight as to be laughable to both the respondents and to outside parties like myself.

Here are a few highlights from the report: (And below I list articles detailing the 2011 Title IX complaint)

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It is clear that fines will not deter Yale from sustaining itself despite this utter lack of concern for half of the student body (See Huffington Post link above regarding the fines of $155,000 this year). It should also be clear that a man who rapes and harasses women commits a crime that is neither tolerable nor forgivable. He does not deserve to keep a position at an ivy league university, a position that could instead go to any number of capable, non-violent, respectful individuals. The priority in addressing his behavior must not be (as it often is, even in the recent national harassment cases we have seen involving mayors and potential mayors) “counseling” or “gender sensitivity training.”* This is not a “sensitivity” issue. This is about violent crimes against women that are directly related to both their ability to obtain a quality education and their human rights in general.

In the meantime, I can attest to the fact that concerned female students will feel it is their duty to write articles such as this one, putting aside for at least a period of time their own academic interests and writing (or, perhaps their grocery shopping at the very least). It is unthinkable that women who endure sexual violence must continue to attend classes and frequent the same libraries and dining halls as their assailants. That these women manage to succeed, as they must, is to no credit to the university.

Stacie Vos

*On the issue of seeing the rapist as the victim, I suggest Barbara Johnson’s essay “Muteness Envy.” In it she combines an exploration of the trope of women’s silence throughout the English poetic tradition. Beginning with Keats, Johnson moves into an analysis of Jane Campion’s film The Piano and public reactions to it. She ends with a discussion of “Take Back the Night” ceremonies and our culture’s general ability to conflate women’s pain and pleasure, men’s aggression with their victimhood. The concluding paragraph can give you a sense:

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See also: 

Alexandra Brodsky’s Protests and Efforts After Being Asked by Yale Authorities to Cover Up an Attempted Rape by Another Yale Student

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Teenage Writers on Creativity in Schools

Prompted by Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on this subject, from a group of international students, New Haven 2013

Ken Robinson writing

Guest Post: “Dreams” by Langston Hughes

The following is a brief reflection from a student I recently worked with at the Mercy Learning Center in Bridgeport. She chose the following poem as her source:


by Langston Hughes
Hold fast to dreams 
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
Kalala Mangabu
I just want to focus on the part “barren field frozen with snow.” First of all, dreams are like a mirror image of  their dreamer and are symbolic, they contain information about the unconscious mind. so when dreams die, it’s like there is nothing to life. I mean life becomes meaningless just like a barren field. What’s a field? A field is an open area, where you can plant something and expect it to grow. It’s always somewhere productive, and what happens if it becomes barren? It then becomes useless and loses its purpose.
Dreams in the author’s opinion, provide us with something to look out for and if one doesn’t hold fast to them, life will never reach its potential of becoming fruitful or turn into a beautiful thing just like a field. Its purpose is to be fruitful and produce something but when it is frozen with snow, it loses its value and purpose. I guess what the author is trying to say is that we are nothing without dreams and that is why he uses metaphors to show how serious his statement is.
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