Vol. 11 No. 4
February/March 2009

Return to Contents

Lessons from Liberia
Reconsidering international development, scholarship, and engagement

“The theoretical frameworks and principles of practice that have guided development activities for the past fifty years have not yielded the intended outcomes.”

To go into a post-conflict state that is wrestling with all of this in real time with real-world consequences, was a compelling opportunity. . . . I didn’t have to change who I was to be relevant.”

Anchoring Equality in the Human Condition
The Concept of Vulnerability

Dhondup’s Wisdom
Teaching and learning from Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns

Emory University Strategic Plan Update
What is happening and why we should care


The curative arts
The philosophy behind these [nineteenth-century American mental] institutions really stressed providing a kind of total sanitive environment for the patients, and they placed a great emphasis on patients’ cultural lives and their creative expression. Things like writing poetry and acting in stage plays were not just diversions or amusements to the patients; they were actually part of the treatment. The doctors had no real medical training in diseases of the brain but were often kind of upstanding gentlemen of their society. One reason they were chosen to lead an asylum was for their moral values and the cultural bearing that they themselves could model, with the proper deportment and modes of expression that patients were supposed to aspire to. As a person with literary training, I found a fascinating deployment of literature and culture in these institutions. Some of my remarks may seem as if I feel nostalgic for this, or that these were happy places. Let me assure you there were all kinds of terrible things that happened in these buildings. . . . There’s a certain kind of utopian belief that mental illness is the responsibility of the entire society that I think to some degree we’ve lost, and it’s worth recapturing.

—Benjamin Reiss, Associate Professor of English, Emory, commenting on his book Theaters of Madness: Insane Asylums and Nineteenth-Century American Culture, November 11, 2008, sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the Academic Exchange


Michelangelo’s theory of art
Three fifths of Michelangelo’s works were left unfinished, and people have debated this to a great extent. Michelangelo found time and time again that the sublimity of his ideas lay beyond what he was really trying to say and that the concepts in the brain are so rich that it is really not possible for an artist to concentrate it all on a single work of art. So he brings it to a certain point of finish and leaves it to the spectator, the viewer, to project its content. Why do I say that? Let me quote to you one of the last lost sonnets of Michelangelo . . . : “I now know how fraught with peril was that vivid imagination that made art my idol and my king. No brush, no chisel can quieten the soul once it turns to contemplation of divine love of He who from the cross outstretched his arms to take us unto Himself.”

—Semir Zeki, professor of neurobiology, University College, London, from his talk “Ambiguity in Art and in the Brain,” October 21, 2008, sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the Emory Creative Arts Strategic Initiative