Arrival Syndrome: What to Make of this Place

I’ll go ahead and say it: I like to analyze anything–any subject–that lends itself to analysis, typically through the lens of “themes” or “categories” or some focus that lets me organize my analysis. It’s an annoying and unbreakable habit. For my blog posts, the subject of analysis is New York City and my perceptions of the place. I’m a scholar of southern literature, so we talk about place A LOT. So now, I want to talk about what this “place” means to me while I’m visiting. I’m also here with a group of students taking photography and writing courses, so I’m trying my hand at photography—trying to un-adeptly snap pictures of interesting subjects—and sharing in their experiences since I’m forcing them to blog, too.

My students are supposed to post their pics and thoughts to this blog, while also reading Sherill Tippins’ book, February House, about a group of artists (including Carson McCullers) living together in early 1940s New York. In that book, poet W.H. Auden and composer Benjamin Britten are working on an operetta/libretto about Paul Bunyan. Because they are writing during war time (and maybe because Auden refuses to go back to England and serve), Auden centers the piece on the identity of America: what will this country become? How will this country avoid great wars? What does it mean to be a modern, progressive, industrial America? With what responsibilities does that present us? Essentially, what is our moral code or role—more importantly, do we have one?

Over 70 years later, I’m going to get serious and use Auden and the other great artists living in the house on 7 Middagh Street as inspiration. Through my posts, I’m going to try and understand what New York can tell me about American identity—just as I’ve so often tried to understand what the South can tell me about it. I’m hoping to offer a way of looking at the city through my (amateur) photographs and analyzing place through my writing. I’ll take it a day at a time, with a new theme/category/focus for each post. I hope you’ll all indulge me, forgive me if I get too formal and academic (dare I say it: boring), and definitely forgive the poor photography from the bad camera. I’ll try to keep it brief and light…most days 🙂

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Filed under History, Literature, Music, Photography

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