Thanksgiving Closings

Please be advised that Mullen Library will close at 5pm today, Tuesday, November 21, and will remain closed through Friday, November 24. Mullen will be open Saturday, November 25, from 9am to 5pm and resume regular hours on Sunday, November 26. For a complete listing of the library’s hours, including upcoming holidays closings, please visit http://libraries.cua.edu/about/hours.cfm.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Break Recreational Reading

Before you head off for the Thanksgiving break, take some recreational reading with you. Our autumn collection of popular books continue to roll in. You can find them on the first floor of Mullen Library in the Reference Reading Room.


Minion Turkey (via Giphy)

Hold your cursor over the Title to see a short description of the book, or click to view the catalog record. The status of the book is shown beside the call number.

Title Author Status
Bad Food Bible: how and why to eat sinfully Aaron Carroll
Guts: The Anatomy of The Walking Dead Paul Vigna
The Keto Reset Diet: Reboot Your Metabolism in 21 Days and Burn Fat Forever Marc Sisson
Sourdough: a novel SRobin Sloan
The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun J. R. R. Tolkien, Edited by Verlyn Flieger
The Quantum Spy: a thriller David Ignatius
Bonfire: a novel / Krysten Ritter
8 Seconds of Courage: A Soldier’s Story from Immigrant to the Medal of Honor Flo Groberg and Tom Sileo
Waiting for the Punch: words to live by from the WTF podcast Marc Maron
Leonardo da Vinci Walter Isaacson
The Rules of Magic Alice Hoffman
I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street Matt Taibbi

Looking for more options? You can always see a full list of our Popular Reading books in the catalog, by searching under keyword, “CUA Popular Reading.”
For more great information from CUA Libraries, follow us on Facebook and Twitter:

Mullen Library Facebook; @CUAlibraries
Religious Studies, Philosophy, and Canon Law Collections Facebook; @CUATheoPhilLib
CUA Sciences Facebook; @CUAScienceLib
CUA Architecture & Planning Librarian Facebook; @CUArchLib
CUA Music Collections Facebook; @CUAMusicLib

The Archivist’s Nook: Taking Measure – Psychology at Catholic University Turns 125

Monsignor Edward Pace outside McMahon Hall when both were relatively young, ca. 1900.

It’s Paris in 1889. A 26-year old priest with a doctoral degree in sacred theology named Father Edward Pace is readying himself for a faculty position in philosophy at the newly established Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.  He happens to come across a secondhand copy of Wilhelm Wundt’s 1874 Principles of Physiological Psychology and is so inspired by this pioneer thinker’s presentation of ideas that he resolves to study with the author himself at the University of Leipzig.

In fact, Pace was the first Catholic priest and one of only six Americans to have studied with Wundt, the founder of experimental psychology. Of one course, he wrote, “For us Americans, the exercises of this seminar have been a revelation of German slowness and German patience. The very men who are preparing to measure sensations by the thousandth part of a second seem quite oblivious to the flight of days and hours.”¹

Shortly after receiving his doctoral degree from the University of Leipzig in 1891, Pace began teaching what he’d learned in Europe as a professor at Catholic University, where he also introduced the earliest psychology laboratory of its kind in any Catholic institution.² In doing so, he was following the advisement of the future Cardinal Desire Mercier, who founded the psychology department at the University of Louvain in Belgium in 1891; as Cardinal Mercier put it: “Psychology is undergoing a transformation from which we would be blameworthy to remain aloof… here is a young, contemporary science, which in itself is neither spiritualistic nor materialistic. If we do not take part in it, the psychology of the future will develop without us, and there is every reason to believe, against us.”³

Pace remembers his time with the pioneering psychologist Wilhelm Wundt in this undated piece from the Archives.

The first psychology courses offered in 1892 were taught in theology, and later under the discipline of philosophy. In 1905 the Department of Psychology was set up within the School of Philosophy. As onetime department chair Bruce M. Ross noted, the early study of academic psychology was “largely confined to the description and measurement of sensation and perception.” Hence Pace’s work focused on pain and fluctuations of attention. ⁴

Pace soon went on to greater administrative duties, which drew him into the field of education at the University, but psychology’s career at CUA continued with one of Pace’s students, Thomas Verner Moore. Moore, a Paulist father, then a Benedictine, and finally a Carthusian monk at the time of his passing, eventually chaired the expanding department, served as a psychiatrist with the Armed Forces during the First World War, became Superintendent of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., and established a school for mentally challenged children, St. Gertrude’s School of Arts and Crafts. Moore’s clinic became a model after which other Catholic clinics were patterned.⁵

By 1960, the Department of Psychology was well established, and housed in the third floor of McMahon Hall. James Youniss, who arrived that year to study in the doctoral program, describes the offices as follows: “At the top of the two stairwells in the center were large mahogany-paneled doors that opened into a vast space with 20-foot ceilings, large glass museum cases containing laboratory instruments going back to Wundt, and book cases with volumes in English, German, and French.”⁶

Hans Furth served on the faculty of the Catholic University Department of Psychology from 1960-1990.  Furth was an influential interpreter of the work of Jean Piaget.

Aside from the interesting details, the description underscores the department’s cosmopolitan roots in experimental psychology. By this time, moreover, the program offered the doctoral degree. The department elected to appoint Hans Furth as department chair and hire faculty for several new programs, including social psychology, personality, counseling and human development. Furth, whose extraordinary background included escape from his Nazi-besieged Austrian homeland, training as a concert pianist at the Royal Academy of Music in London and, coincidentally given his predecessor Thomas Verner Moore’s experience, 10 years in a Carthusian monastery, brought a unique interest to the department: study of the deaf with a deep interest in the work Jean Piaget, whose works were not yet widely accepted in the U.S. Furth’s publications made accessible Piaget’s largely abstract ideas, including the notion that children left to their own devices continually rethink their understanding of the world and are not empty vessels waiting for educators to fill them with knowledge. He found that far from impeding their development, deaf peoples’ use of sign language, highly discouraged in deaf education at the time, actually spurred healthier development among them. His work underscored the need for sign-language education among the death, today commonly accepted. 

Furth, Youniss, and Bruce Ross (both Ross and Youniss later went on to chair the department), made Piaget’s theory the centerpiece of the Ph.D. program in developmental psychology, which graduated many influential students, many of whom went on to academic careers. They also established the Center for Thinking and Language, for which they were awarded an NIH grant for a conference on cognition and language in the 1960s. In 1970 the University awarded Piaget an honorary doctorate for his work, a fitting tribute to a scholar whose influence ran so deeply through the department.

Faculty from the Department of Psychology established the Center for Thinking and Language in the early 1960s to study language, thinking and cognition. A National Institute for Health grant enabled them to hold a conference gathering hosting scholars with a variety of approaches to cognition at Mount Airly, Warrenton, Virginia in 1965, as pictured here. Hans Furth is second from right in the top row, James Youniss is on the bottom left. Third row, second from the left is the linguist Noam Chomsky.

The Department of Psychology graduated dozens of students who went on to careers in places like the National Institute of Mental Health, various state mental health institutions, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Covenant House, the Veterans Administration, and in the faculty at universities across the country.

At the 125th Anniversary celebration of the Department of Psychology in October, 2017, James Youniss referred to remarks made by Cardinal James Gibbons during the department’s 25th anniversary celebration a century earlier. Gibbons spoke of the turmoil of the times, the poverty of the immigrants who had recently arrived from Europe, the world war then engulfing Europe and involving America, and the many social issues that needed addressing. He noted that “from the very nature of our condition upon this earth, from our progress in knowledge, our political organization and our economic condition…” the human state has “made possible and necessary the social sciences” and “demanded a more systematic inquiry than ever before into our human relations… the structure of society, the origin and history of institutions, the cases of decline, and the possibility of betterment…” Youniss noted that Cardinal Gibbons’ insightful comments applied then and still do, a century later.

Edward Aloysius Pace Papers finding aid:  http://archives.lib.cua.edu/findingaid/pace.cfm


¹Virginia Staudt Sexton, “Edward Aloysius Pace,” Psychological Research, 42 (1980), 39-47, 40.

²Helen Peixotto, “A History of Psychology at Catholic University,” Catholic Educational Review , April, 1969, 844-849, 844; Bruce M. Ross, “Development of Psychology at The Catholic University of America,” Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, (September 1994), 141

³Henry Misiak and Virginia Staudt, Catholics in Psychology, A Historical Survey (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1954), 34-35.

⁴Peixotto, 846-847, Ross, 135.

⁵Peixotto, 846-847, Ross, 148-149, 155.

⁶James Youniss, “CUA, Psychology, and the Last Half of the Twentieth Century,” delivered on 125th anniversary celebration of the Department of Psychology, The Catholic University of America, October 14, 2017, in author’s possession.

The Archivist’s Nook: Heroes for More than One Day

Logo, Catholic Heroes of the World War Collection, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

In his 1977 hit single ‘Heroes,’ David Bowie sang “We can be heroes, just for one day…We can be heroes, forever and ever.” He may just as well have been referring to the ‘Catholic Heroes of the World War‘, whose valor was chronicled in the American Catholic press, 1929-1933. This now obscure paean to Catholic veterans and war workers, decorated by their then grateful country, was rediscovered in 2015 by Catholic University archivists working to identify and digitize materials documenting American Catholic efforts for the 2017 centenary of the United States entry into the so-called War to End All Wars. Perhaps via digitization these “heroes, just for one day” can begin again to be recognized as “heroes, forever and ever.”

As a minority, American Catholic population percentages increased mostly through immigration, from one percent during the American Revolution, to seventeen percent in World War I, and twenty-two percent in the twenty-first century. Supporting America’s World War I effort was a watershed for Catholics, long viewed as having questionable patriotism. They responded under the motto “For God and Country” to create the National Catholic War Council (NCWC), forerunner of today’s United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), representing Catholic interests in Congress and addressing the needs of soldiers and war workers. After the war, Catholics were confronted with the Oregon School Bill, supported by the Ku Klux Klan, declaring school age children could only attend public schools. The NCWC mobilized public opposition and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Oregon School Bill in 1925.

Colonel William J. ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan (1883-1959). Decorated World War I veteran, he was the only one to win all four of the United States’ highest awards: Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Medal, and National Security Medal. He was also head of the World War II era Office of Strategic Services (OSS), precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Image from Homeofheroes.com.

The 1928 American presidential election witnessed the first Catholic to head a major party ticket with Al Smith of New York as the Democratic Party nominee. He lost to Republican Herbert Hoover and it would not be until 1960 with John Fitzgerald Kennedy, that another Catholic would run, and this time win the presidency. Smith and Catholics were subjected to such vitriolic abuse that for Daniel J. Ryan, who headed the NCWC Bureau of Historical Records, it appeared work over the past decade to document American Catholic patriotism via war activities had been for naught. Never faint hearted and with records of over 800,000 Catholic veterans available, Ryan began in December 1928 to write a weekly column on outstanding ‘Catholic Heroes of the World War‘ for the Catholic press.

Ryan chose to profile men, and some women, who had won the Congressional Medal of Honor (CMH), the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), and the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM). Included were Colonel William ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, later the famed spymaster of World War II; nurse Beatrice Mary MacDonald, the first woman to win a DSC and Purple Heart; Daniel Daly of both the Knights of Columbus and U. S. Marines; Michigan chaplain Patrick R. Dunigan; El Paso native Marcus Armijo; and Italian immigrant Michael Vigliotti. Ryan kept a record of the stories with clippings in a scrapbook organized alphabetically by surname. The scrapbook itself was unremarkable, hard cover with yellow onionskin paper. The cover was acidic and falling apart, and many of the pages torn or disintegrating. The clippings were digitized and photocopied onto acid free paper, with the originals and copies individually housed in acid free folders.  

The feature was well received by former servicemen, their families, and others, who noted the accuracy of the articles. It continued until 1933, ending perhaps not coincidentally, in the same year Franklin Delano Roosevelt, relatively friendly to Catholics, assumed the Office of the President, though it should be noted the NCWC decided to close the Bureau of Historical Records in 1934 citing lack of funds. Ryan had explained the series hoped to deal with Catholic heroes from every state and diocese, and by 1931 there were 141 stories covering the then 48 states and all but 7 Catholic dioceses. By the time the column ended in 1933 there were about 250 stories in all.¹ For more on American Catholics in World War I see the Catholic University online exhibit.

Beatrice Mary MacDonald (1881-1969). Canadian born, New York resident, U.S. Army nurse seriously injured, losing an eye while caring for wounded soldiers. First woman to win the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) and the Purple Heart. Also awarded the British Military Medal and French Croix de Guerre. Image from Purpleheart.com.

On occasion a ‘Heroes’ column was also published in the NCWC Bulletin magazine, as with the June 1929 story of Slovak immigrant, Matej Kocak, who won two Medals of Honor before making the ultimate sacrifice for his new country. USCCB records, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

¹NCWC Bureau of Historical Records, Annual Reports, 1929-1933.

ICYMI: Webinar on Author Rights and Predatory Journals

As a graduate student or new faculty member seeking an academic position, acquiring tenure, or being promoted, you will need to establish a scholarly presence and build your curriculum vitae. A building block in this process is publishing in quality academic journals (subscription-based or open access). Once your article has been accepted (oh joy!) for publication, publishers will require that you sign an author’s agreement. Do you know what it is you are signing? Navigating the scholarly journal terrain can be daunting task in finding the right journals for your article, neogtiating your rights with the publisher, identifying (and avoiding!) predatory journals, and determining if an open access journal meets your needs. This webinar will offer a general overview of each topic with useful hints and suggestions on navigating this complicated process.

This webinar was originally held on October 25th, 2017. Here is the recording:

 

If you have any questions or would like a research consultation, please contact:

Kevin Gunn
Coordinator of Digital Scholarship
314B Mullen Library
gunn@cua.edu
202-319-5504

Our Autumn Collection of Popular Reading Books have arrived!

Our autumn collection of popular books has arrived! You can find them on the first floor of Mullen Library in the Reference Reading Room.

sponge bob

Sponge Bob working (via Giphy)

Hold your cursor over the Title to see a short description of the book, or click to view the catalog record. The status of the book is shown beside the call number.

Title Author Status
The Lying Game Ruth Ware
Hunger: a Memoir of (my) Body Roxanne Gay
Jane Austen at Home: A Biography Lucy Worsley
Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived Scalia, Antonin. Foreword by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ed by Christopher J. Scalia & Edward Whelan
Guts: The Anatomy of The Walking Dead Paul Vigna
Stephen Colbert’s Midnight Confessions Stephen Colbert
The Great Shift: Encountering God in Biblical Times Kugel, James L. & Geiger, Ellen
Sleeping Beauties King, Stephen & King, Owen
Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence Max Tegmark
The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt Robert Sutton
Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments: A Stone Reader
Catapano, Peter & Critchley, Simon; eds
The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies Jason Fagone
Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment Robert Wright

Looking for more options? You can always see a full list of our Popular Reading books in the catalog, by searching under keyword, “CUA Popular Reading.”
For more great information from CUA Libraries, follow us on Facebook and Twitter:

Mullen Library Facebook; @CUAlibraries
Religious Studies, Philosophy, and Canon Law Collections Facebook; @CUATheoPhilLib
CUA Sciences Facebook; @CUAScienceLib
CUA Architecture & Planning Librarian Facebook; @CUArchLib
CUA Music Collections Facebook; @CUAMusicLib

The Archivist’s Nook: Scaring the Craps Out of Campus

Kopmeier, Class of 1906

Imagine Catholic University in 1905, surrounded by unpaved roads, with no streetlights. Most of the structures commonly associated with campus are not present. Even the iconic power plant won’t be built for another 5 years. Electricity is sourced from a dynamo located in the basement of McMahon Hall, with power cut off at 10pm every night. The campus – and dorms – are left in darkness throughout the evening, with late-studying students permitted to keep reading by gas light (for a charge billed to their specific room). The perfect setting for a spooky scene…

Keane Hall, later renamed Albert Hall, was one of the earliest dorms on campus. As the third major structure on campus, built in 1896, it served as the residence hall for lay students. With the admission of undergraduates beginning in 1904, the Hall became the center of student life on campus. Demolished in 1970, it was located along Michigan Avenue. As is the case for dormitory life regardless of the period, tensions could mount over noise or light disturbances in its early years. Among such disturbances was a game of craps played by staff members outside the dorm’s windows. The students, not wishing to report it and risk the employees losing their jobs, came up with an unorthodox solution. As reported by Frank Luntz (class of 1907), in his book Undergraduate Days, 1904-1908:   

Keane Hall, ca. 1913 – Haunted Manor?

“In the biological laboratory in McMahon Hall there was a human skeleton which we rubbed all over with wet phosphorous so it could be seen in the dark. After dinner one dark night we wrapped it in a blanket, and, stretcher fashion, we sneaked it to a fourth-floor window directly over the spot where we were sure the game would be played. Except for the profs, everyone in Keane Hall, plus visiting day hops, crammed the windows on the rear side of the building. We waited until the crap game was at its height of excitement and then gently lowered the skeleton right in to the middle of it. Every spectator had been cautioned not to laugh or make any sound. Everyone had to gag himself with his hands at this moment in order to comply with this silence mandate. The crap shooters darted in all directions. Two went screaming against the building. It was quite a scene!”¹

Griffin served CUA as a Chemistry professor, administrator, and guardian against ghouls until 1922

Kuntz continues with the aftermath of the skeletal surprise:

“The two waiters involved refused to work for the University any more. However, when the joke was explained to them two days later, they returned to their jobs. But that was the end of the crap games. Meanwhile, the skeleton was sneaked back to the glass case in the laboratory. We Expected Dr. Griffin to scold us for taking the skeleton, but during class next day he went to the case, opened the door, and said to the skeleton, “If you don’t stop prowling around the campus during the dead of night, I shall have to put a padlock on this case and lock you in!” He closed the case and resumed his work with his students. The consensus of the boys that evening was, ‘Good old Doc Griffin! He’s a regular guy!’”²

While most campus legends center on Caldwell Hall, the University’s true tale of terror was located in the now-vanished Keane (Albert) Hall. Letting this skeleton out of the closet highlights the early character of the campus, including the landscape and the personalities that shaped it.

For more information on Keane (Albert) Hall, see the “Vanished Buildings” online exhibit: http://cuexhibits.wrlc.org/exhibits/show/vanished-buildings/buildings/albert–hall


¹ Frank Kuntz, Undergraduate Days, 1904-1908 (Catholic University of America Press), 68-69.

² Kuntz, Undergraduate Days, 69.

Open Access Week Events (October 23rd – 29th)

Open Access Week is October 23 – 29, 2017. Open Access “is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment. Open Access ensures that anyone can access and use these results—to turn ideas into industries and breakthroughs into better lives.” (SPARC*). As part of Open Access Week, CUA Libraries is offering a number of intiatives.

What is ORCID? As a faculty member or a graduate student, you should be establishing a scholarly presence and managing your scholarly reputation. Have you ever wondered:

  • if you have a common name or publish under various aliases (e.g. John Smith and J. Smith) whether you are getting credit for your research?
  • how to save time by integrating your manuscript and grant submission workflows (that is, by not having to enter your same information over and over again)?
  • how you can keep track of your scholarly output?

The solution is having a persistent digital identifier such an ORCID iD. Acquiring an ORCID account is necessary for professional advancement. In fact, many journals require that authors have ORCID accounts for manuscript submissions.  Watch this video for a quick overview.

What is ORCID? from ORCID on Vimeo.

ORCID stands for the Open Researcher and Contributor ID.  With an ORCID iD, you can integrate your research over various platforms such as Kudos, Mendeley, Scopus, Web of Science, and Humanities Commons. For example, ScienceOpen uses ORCID iD with “enabling verified users to integrate their published content, build collections, and perform post-publication peer review across publishers and journals for free.”

Furthermore, funding organizations like the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health: SciENcv: Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae are requiring ORCID iD.

Publishers are collecting ORCID iDs during manuscript submission (e.g. Taylor and Francis), scholars are using it in Open Access platforms like PLOS (Public Library of Open Science), and even subscription databases like the Modern Language Association International Bibliography use ORCID iDs to distinguish scholars.

As part of Open Access Week (October 23-29th, 2017), CUA Libraries will have tables set up in various buildings on campus for students and faculty to sign up for an ORCID account.

  • MONDAY October 23rd
    Pangborn Portico
  • TUESDAY October 24th
    Hannan Foyer
  • WEDNESDAY October 25th
    Caldwell Lobby
  • THURSDAY October 26th
    McMahon Foyer
  • FRIDAY October 27th
    Mullen Library

 

All times are 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM. Drop by for 30 seconds and we will sign you up!

Your ORCID iD will belong to you throughout your scholarly career so acquire this unique identifier to showcase your research and ensure proper attribution of your work. If you cannot make the table sessions, follow these instructions in getting started:

1. Claim your free ORCID iD at http://orcid.org/register

2. Import your research outputs and add biographical information using our automated import wizards

3. Use your ORCID when you apply for grants, submit publications, or share your CV. Learn more at http://orcid.org

 

Need help or have questions? Please contact Kevin Gunn, Coordinator of Digital Scholarship (gunn@cua.edu).


As a graduate student or new faculty member seeking an academic position, acquiring tenure, or being promoted, you will need to establish a scholarly presence and build your curriculum vitae. A building block in this process is publishing in quality academic journals (subscription-based or open access). Once your article has been accepted (oh joy!) for publication, publishers will require that you sign an author’s agreement. Do you know what it is you are signing? Navigating the scholarly journal terrain can be daunting task in finding the right journals for your article, neogtiating your rights with the publisher, identifying (and avoiding!) predatory journals, and determining if an open access journal meets your needs. This webinar will offer a general overview of each topic with useful hints and suggestions on navigating this complicated process.

author rights addendum

When: Wednesday, October 25th, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EST

Where: Online (https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/110395189)

Presenter: Kevin Gunn, Coordinator of Digital Scholarship, The Catholic University of America Libraries

Questions: Contact Kevin Gunn, 202-319-5504 or gunn@cua.edu

 

Connection details:

Please join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone. https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/110395189

You can also dial in using your phone. United States: +1 (872) 240-3212

Access Code: 110-395-189

First GoToMeeting? Try a test session: http://link.gotomeeting.com/email-welcome

Attendance is limited to 26 people.

 

The Archivist’s Nook: Embodiment – Becoming the Spectacle of the Opera

Sample of Novak’s North African/Moorish/Al-Andalus image study for Lakmé

Joseph Novak was The Chief Scenic Artist of The Metropolitan Opera Company in New York City, from 1910 to 1952—an approximately 40-year tenure. His archival papers consist of a collection of artistic works and associated documents that were originally donated to The Catholic University of America’s School of Music to become a part of the Luce Library in 1976; however, the collection was housed, processed, and exhibited at the Mullen Library. The collection consists of approximately 500 sets of opera models, 100 photographs, 600 drawings, uncounted numbers of clippings, and associated documents produced by Novak. Among the many intriguing projects undertaken by Novak was his set and costume design for the 1932 revival of Lakmé —a tale of the Orient…

Embodiment: Becoming the Spectacle of the Opera.

In 2013, Gerard-Georges Lemaire wrote a compendium titled Orientalism: The Orient in Western Art. He opens the monograph with a meditative preface by Genevieve Lacambre who ponders: “Where exactly was the Orient that was so vividly depicted by the Orientalists?…we ought more accurately speak of the Orients”—a place of multiple iterations. The Orient is difficult to define because of the supernumerary of cultures that were swept up by Europe’s non-stop quest to capture the ontological essence of The East and to become the author of its authenticity. The Orient was an imaginative state, channeled by nearly the whole of Western society, across an astonishing temporal reach, in which “For over two thousand years the Orient has exercised an irresistible fascination over Western minds…” The Orient meant different things to different Western cultures and within each respective culture there was a great deal of intra-cultural variegation as to who and what were referred to as Oriental.

Orientalist art was the materialization of the push and pull between a Europe that was arrested by its profound fascination with the other and a Europe whose cultural mythos had set it diametric to the vast array of cultures that comprised world around it. These opposing energies engendered the desire to recreate other cultures through the visual arts and imposed a layer of cultural semantics through the establishment of a visual vernacular that was steeped in decadence and violence.

Orientalism penetrated the visual realm from fine art to advertising. This advertisement blends the emerging trendiness of art deco with the continuing rage for all things Oriental.

The orient was conjured by those who had visited the regions that unwillingly carried the pseudonymous “Orient” moniker and was remixed by those who had never visited beyond the borders of Europe. By the 19th century, Orientalist art entered a grotesque stage—a semiotic shift that arose in response to new geopolitical occurrences. European’s Colonial expansion had created a new impetus through which “Some of the first nineteenth-century Orientalist paintings were intended as propaganda in support of French imperialism, depicting the East as a place of backwardness, lawlessness, or barbarism enlightened and tamed by French rule.” The striking paradox of the French artist’s use of the Orientalist genre to create sociological delimitation, was that Europe’s obsession with the Orient had driven its artists into a memetic state, wherein Europe began to see itself as the embodiment of The East: the owner of its peoples, its lands, and its luxuries.  

The Metropolitan Museum of Art notes that “Male artists relied largely on hearsay and imagination, populating opulently decorated interiors with luxuriant odalisques, or female slaves or concubines (many with Western features)…” It was quite a twist, as Europeanized women began to appear as subjects in Orientalist works that were less about the patriarchal exercise of choreographing women’s sexuality and more about the prismatic renderings of whiteness and the subjugation of dark skinned persons. Whiteness had become an actor on the Orientalist stage, signifying a shift in the political attitude towards The East—from one of fascination, to one of possession and control. Darker skinned women began to be depicted as naturally born to please the European subjects in such works as the blandly titled Works Odalisque and Slave.

The desire to subvert other cultures while simultaneously consuming their artistic, intellectual, and cultural capital, in what The Metropolitan Art Museum notes as “…architectural motifs, furniture, decorative arts, and textiles, which were increasingly sought after by a European elite”, is the precarious intersection at which Joseph Novak undertook the task of creating the world of Lakmé —an operatic revival of the story of an Indian woman who viciously gives her life—and by extension her nation—in the name of Britain, embodied as a solider. According to Lakmé ’s father, the British solder is an oppressor who must be expelled from the native lands; however, the fantasy transfigures British oppression by dressing it in drag and having it masquerade as a mechanism that can grant Lakmé  love, freedom, and power.  

How did Novak imagine an Orient that would match the gravity of the vocal, symphonic, and narrative spectacles of the operatic stage? Not only would Novak need to imagine an already imaginary world, he would have to play upon these contortions to manufacture the woman who would inhabit it—the singer Lilly Pons, a European woman, would have to become the fantasy, of the fantasy, of the fantasy– a perpetual, indefatigable figure who was without a past and without a future. A mythical other—embedded in a tortuous hierarchy of somatic servitude but blissfully trapped in her prison of sensuality, luxury, and the desires of Western men for her.

Enter the World of Lakmé…

One of hundreds of photos used by Novak to develop costuming for Lilly Pons (right) as Lakmé circa 1932..

The final 1931 Lakmé set featuring the cast with Pons seated center. Bottom from the left to right: Shwe Dagon in Burma; Ruins of the Al-Hakeem Masque in Egypt; The Moorish Architecture of the Great Mosque in Cordoba; Unlabeled. The final set for Lakmé is a fusion of Moorish and South East Asian architectures.

Click here to see a Pons performing The Bell Song from Lakmé, as was featured in the 1935 movie “I dream too much.” Apart from Pon’s brilliant Coloratura performance, in which she gave the audience everlasting life, the finalized Lakmé set can be seen, as well as, extras donning clothing that appears to be a fusion of Moorish and South Asian, as is consistent with Novak’s visual studies of North Africa, Moorish, South Asian, and South East Asian peoples’ textiles.