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The Next Best Thing

Reading for Refaat

- By Shailja Patel

Today, January 15, 2024, marks forty days since Israel assassinated Refaat Alareer, internationally renowned and beloved Palestinian poet, scholar, and professor of English literature at the Islamic University in Gaza. Refaat taught and mentored a generation of young Palestinians in Gaza to tell their stories to the world in English. Publishers for Palestine has declared this day a...

The Next Best Thing

The New Bicycle

- By Darcy Day Zoells

Excerpt from The New Bicycle. Forthcoming from Clavis Publishing, 24 pp., November 2023.

Recently Daniel Barenboim, the Israeli conductor, stated that, “Music is one way to bring people together—we are all equal human beings who deserve peace, freedom, and happiness.” Of course, we could say not only music, but all of the arts. Dialectically we read the Palestinian American scholar, Edward Said, “Where cruelty and injustice are concerned, hopelessness is submission, which I believe is immoral.” Does art stop the hopelessness? The act of creating or encountering something beautiful?

During these times of war and uncertainty, what is the role of the artist and the arts? Judith Butler asks to realize a world of freedom and equality,...

The Next Best Thing

Avast Ye Hearties!

- By Ruth Ozeki

On Carole DeSanti’s work-in-progress: Plunder, The Exploits & Adventures of the Notorious Pyrates Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

It is my great pleasure to introduce our Elizabeth Drew Professor of English Language and Literature, Carole DeSanti, who will be talking to us today about pirates.

Now, I have known Carole for a very long time. Currently she is my colleague here at Smith. Before that, she was my editor at Viking Penguin, where she acquired my first novel when I was just starting out, and then over the next several decades patiently taught me how to be an author and build a literary career.

But before that, Carole was my classmate here at Smith. Now this was back in the late 20th century, when the mountains were still cooling. We were taking a...

The Next Best Thing

Zen and the Art of Actualizing Fiction

- By Ruth Ozeki and Michael Thurston

Editor’s note: On Wednesday, December 7, in the Paradise Room of the Smith College Conference Center, Ruth Ozeki gave a lecture titled “The Book of Form and Emptiness: Zen and the Art of Actualizing Fiction.” Provost Michael Thurston introduced the speaker, and his remarks follow here, as does Ruth Ozeki’s sabbatical report, mentioned in the intro.

Good afternoon.

For the last few years, I’ve begun introductions of speakers by introducing myself as “Michael Thurston, Provost and Dean of Faculty at Smith.” I am still provost and dean of faculty, but today I think it’s important that I introduce myself as a faculty member in the Department of English. This is because it is my great honor to introduce my...

After Us

Westerners Have a Way. . .

- By Noy Holland

Editor’s note: On March 28, 2022, in Bowker Auditorium at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the UMass School of Earth & Sustainability, in partnership with the Fine Arts Center and the MFA Program for Poets and Writers convened a unique meeting of artists, climate and social scientists, and activists working at the intersection of climate change, literature, and social justice. Noy Holland, from the MFA Program introduced and moderated this discussion.

Westerners have a way of talking about climate, nature, the environment as though it is over there. Something apart, something other. But we are nature and nature is us and we are making a mess of ourselves and everything that lives. Nature is storm surge and dengue, beetle-kill and Lyme. It is...

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