Today provided an amazing introduction to the life, culture and history of New York. Our students had 2 guest speakers for their early morning tutorial: Eric Chase (from New York Literary Pub Crawls) (CLICK) and Nick Birns from New York University (CLICK). Eric gave a wonderful thumbnail sketch of what literary tours he is going to provide us with this week. Nick gave an awesome 1 hour 10 minute off the cuff talk about the history, culture- especially the literature and drama- of his home town. Nick made some wonderful comments about the huge cultural diversity in New York and the fact that Times Square has become transformed into a tourist mecca leaving something of its history behind. The word that Eric used about the “gentrification” of New York, touched off a strong line of thought in Eric’s overview: he saw New York as suffering a process of having cultural minorities being pushed out by this process. Indeed Eric went so far as to say that the Civil War had not really ended, was still ongoing. The images above are of Times Square and one of the many adjacent churches, this one St Patrick’s Catholic Church- such strident contrasts to the rampant materialism that fills the city through its huge digital technologies.
We are very very grateful to both Nick and Eric for the wonderful contribution they have made/ are making to our students’ experience of this beating, creative heart of the New World. And Dvorak’s New World Symphony (CLICK) certainly does have a place in this panorama. Go and listen to it while you are in New York while you can. And thank you very much to all our students who sat totally spell bound by all that was offered this morning and who had heaps of relevant questions at the end of the talk. Here is the talk- raw and unedited…. but please listen right to the end:
After the talks we stepped out into the snow-filled air of the city and went on several independent walks: to the drama bookshop, to Barnes and Noble, to the Rockefeller Centre, to Central Park. It has been a wonderful day in which we all, staff and students have been able to get to know parts of New York more intimately – and also a day where we have been able to wear off our jet-lag in preparation for our second big day tomorrow: visiting the MET, (CLICK) one of the worlds biggest and most impressive galleries of history and the fine arts. Our plan is to connect what we see there to all the literature and drama that we are studying. Here is a collection of shots of New York on this wonderfully cold, snow-bound day. The architecture new and old towering above the streets speaks of all that New York was and is. Those who have been reading Henry James’ Washington Square of F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby will relate immediately to what these icons are saying about this city. You will also see here the temperature gauge at -1C (or 29F) and shots of Central Park still covered in the snow from last week and the fine dusting being produced today:
To finish as we left the corner of Central Park we came upon this amazing image of bare winter trees filled with thousands of chattering starlings: nothing stops life here! This reminded me of the trees filled with chattering lorikeets back home in sunny, hot Australia!….. Sleep well, tomorrow is another big day!