Saturday, May 26, 2007

Marcus Aurelius by moonlight

Here's a photograph from last week. I recommend an evening walk to the Campidoglio when the moon is up.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Where's Donatello?

On Saturday morning, May 19, 2007, the CAS Rome group met at the Campidoglio. Our agenda was to browse the two museums at the top of the Capitoline, where Hawthorne sets the first chapter of THE MARBLE FAUN and the later chapter where the pivotal crime takes place as the Model is thrown from the Tarpeian Rock.

Saturday was still part of "culture week" in Rome, and so admission to the museums was free. We were surprised to discover, one after another, that the Marble Faun was not on his pedestal in the salon at the head of the stairway in the Museo Capitoline, the room of the dying Gaul. Instead, there was a sign on the pedestal, informing Hawthorne pilgrims that the Praxiteles faun is on loan at the Louvre until June 19.

But we were in luck. There is a copy of the Marble Faun in the tunnel connecting the two museums, near the stairway leading up to the other museum. We passed the word among the groups and all had a chance to see the figure that started Hawthorne's speculation about Donatello. If you look closely, you can even see the statue's pointed ears. You can see his amiability--which Hawthorne ascribes not only to a semi-magical faun ancestor, but seems to identify in part with the remoteness to which he assigns virtually all other Italians in his book. Hawthorne mostly ignores the contemporary Italy of 1860 (not to mention ignoring the contemporary United States of 1860). when he does describe Italians, they are given minor roles, or sometimes treated with a kind of Protestant distaste of their Catholicism. So, the faun is, for readers who have been exposed to contemporary cultural studies, a somewhat uncomfortable figure. And yet the romance beckons us into its own concerns, depicting a self-enclosed world of American artists, living among other artists in Rome, just before the beginning of tourism. Just as Rome gives them freedom of artistic action, it gives Hawthorne, and the willing reader, a freedom of the imagination and speculation, and a genuine exploration of the risks and opportunities of identity that can come with the displacements of travel, the discovery of a place with a different relation to the past than is typical in American culture, and a necessary re-invention of the obligations of community and conscience.

We have placed ourselves, if we are willing, to experience in our own ways the challenges that Hawthorne engaged in his way.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Classes begin

On Wednesday morning, May 17, the CAS group met for our first class. Professor Benson described the program's focus on the rhetorics of film and travel/tourism.

We discussed Nathaniel Hawthorne's THE MARBLE FAUN (1860), which appeared just at the beginning of mass middle class travel to Europe from the United States and became a popular guide to Rome for travelers. The novel is a richly textured reflection on sin -- its persistence, its denial, its redemption. The paradox of the "fortunate fall" describes how the experience of sin can contribute to the growth of a richer human capacity to act in the world. At the same time, the experience of travel, as expemplified and described by Hawthorne, can set loose the imagination and the curiosity, liberating artistic genius in ways not easily achieved in the routines of home. This is a Puritan novel of forgiveness.

After our discussion we took a long walk before lunch, stopping at sights mentioned by Hawthorne -- the Trevi Fountain, dominated by the figure of Neptune, and then by way of the Pantheon and the Piazza Rotonda to via Portoghese and Hilda's Tower.

We broke for lunch, then met again at 3:00 in the seminar room, where we saw two films - ROME, OPEN CITY and THE BATTLE OF SAN PIETRO.


On Tuesday, May 15, the students in the four Penn State summer programs met with Romolo Martemucci, director of the Penn State Sede di Roma for a general orientation. We are

- Communication Arts & Sciences
- Human Development and Family Studies
- Nutrition
- Architectural Engineering

Romolo, who is also an associate professor of architecture at Penn State, urged the students to get the most they could out of the program by being aware of the differences between cultures, and by taking advantage of the unique design of these programs, which are faculty led and focused primarily on academics.

Professor Martemucci also offered a few warnings -- he said that the number one problem for the program was student drinking, which led to other problems. He warned of the danger of date rape drugs and certain bars, of the differences between Italian and American law and attitudes, and told of two drunk American students he had pulled off a windowsill four stories above a cobblestone courtyard the night before.

Professor Martemucci reminded students that NO GUESTS are permitted in the apartments who are not part of the program, and NO OVERNIGHT GUESTS are permitted, ever. The program can sometimes find space for out of town visitors.

Be careful of the 220 volt electricity.

Keep your apartment clean.

Take out the garbage late every night or early every morning.

Appreciate the hard working staff.

After Romolo's orientation, the CAS group met in our classroom - the seminar room off via Lata.

And so, we have begun.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Welcome to Rome! . . . take a number

Our students started arriving in Rome this morning.

Mike Tumolo and Jenny Biedendorf came by our apartment to pick up the keys to their apartment in Testaccio. Our undergraduates have been coming in all morning, along with students from the programs in Nutrition and Human Development and Family Studies.

The office is fairly small, so students are asked to take a number, and then go to the office in small groups to sign in and get keys to their apartments.

Here are some students waiting their turn in Piazza Collegio Romano, by the door to the Penn State Sede di Roma.

What to do the first day?

To get over jet lag, try starting today to adopt the Italian schedule rather than clinging to the American one. Drink plenty of water, get out and walk in the sunshine, have a light lunch at about 1:00 p.m., expect to be able to get dinner any time after about 7:00 p.m. -- most Italians won't start dinner until 8:00 at the earliest, and 9:00 or 10:00 is normal. But they will have some downtime, perhaps a nap, after lunch, and before businesses re-open at 3:00 or 4:00. DON'T go out drinking tonight (and certainly not any class night). It will tire you out, de-hydrate you, put you at risk in various ways, and make it harder to get over jet lag.

But do take your map and guidebook and start going out and about to learn something of Rome. You are close to wonders.

See the Campidoglio, the Forum, the Tiber, Piazza Navona, the Corso, the Spanish Steps, and get it all down in your journal.

And call me if you have a problem.

See you tomorrow, early, for orientation.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

buon viaggio!


You are off today. Be patient with the newly complex airport security regulations, drink plenty of water, try to get a little sleep on the plane, and always be alert about your belongings.

Two of Margaret's students arrived last evening, and another this morning, and we met them to give them a key so they could get into their apartment. They told us that they had followed the directions about how to take the tram and train and that it had all worked very clearly, though it was a little bit of a struggle to get their heavy bags onto the tram. But on entering the tram you will not need to climb any steps, so that will make it easier.

When you leave the train at Stazione Trastevere and come out the front doors, you will see a small parking area in front of the station. Here if you wish you can usually find a taxi lurking, or you can easily find the tram by walking just past the parking lot and going left to the tram stop on the corner.

Here's the parking lot --

If you look back you'll see the Trastevere train station you have just left --

Walk around the left side of the parking lot, and you will find a shaded street going uphill to the left; there are tracks. The track nearest you is the one you want . Tram 8, marked for ARGENTINA, will approach from your left. Get on and punch your bus/metro ticket in the cancellation machine.

Get off at the last stop, LARGO ARGENTINA --->

Go over to the sidewalk that runs up the left side of the square and cross to the top of the square using the crosswalk and pedestrian lights.

After you cross the street, and find yourself at the top of the square, walk towards the right along the head of the Largo Argentina and turn left past this building at the first street -- this is via dei Cestari (the street of the basket makers). Following the map on the directions I posted on the web, you will walk up via dei Cestari -- Tom and Margaret Benson are in the apartment above the barber pole on the right. In the shop on the left is the tailor that makes the robes for the Pope and other church officials.

Friday, May 11, 2007

phone numbers

Once we are all in Rome, we'll make a project of getting together and distributing a phone and address directory for everyone in our program, and we'll also put together a photo directory to help us learn everyone's name.

For now, make a note of these numbers:

Margaret Benson 334 781 3628

Tom Benson 334 781 3657

It would probably be a good idea for you to share my number with your parents and emergency contact person.

In Rome

Margaret and I arrived in Rome on Wednesday morning, May 9. We have been setting up housekeeping in our Penn State apartment on via dei Cestari and working with the Penn State Sede di Roma.

It is now Friday morning. Margaret is out with Linda Usai to check on two of the apartments where her HDFS students will be staying.

I am at the Sede in what I think will be our CAS classroom for most of the summer. Just an hour or so ago, Scott Simpson and Raena Quinlivan arrived from Penn State.

Raena taught with us in the CAS program last summer as one of our four graduate students; this summer Scott will be one of the four. Scott and Raena are off to Bologna and Venice today and will come back to Rome on Monday.

Cell phones -- Linda Usai tells me that she has found a place where it is possible to buy a cell phone for just 20 Euro -- this is a very good bargain, and will make communicating with each other and with home a lot simpler. More details next Monday and Tuesday.

See you all soon.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Off to Rome

Margaret and I are off to Rome in just a few minutes. Here we are in 2002 in the courtyard at San Clemente, one of Rome's oldest churches.

Margaret is leading again this year the summer program in Human Development and Family Studies, which she founded in 2002 and has taught every year since.

We have been visiting Rome every year for a long time now, and we are looking forward to renewing our friendship with the city, meeting old friends, and making new friends.

Did we bring everything? Probably not. Did we pack too much? Probably did.

Welcome to CAS Rome 2007

Welcome to CAS Rome 2007 -- here we will describe the progress of a study abroad program in the summer of 2007.

CAS Rome 2007 is a program of the Department of Communication Arts & Sciences at Penn State University, sponsored by the Office of Education Abroad and hosted by the Penn State Sede di Roma.

Program director: Professor Thomas W. Benson

Program Faculty: Professor Thomas W. Benson, Professor Stephen H. Browne

Graduate Assistants: Jennifer Biedendorf, Scott Simpson, Michael Tumolo, Jill Weber

Program brochure

This blog is an experiment for the participants, family, and friends of the CAS summer program in Rome. Participation is by invitation only -- please let Professor Benson know if you would like to join, or to have an invitation sent to a family member. Invitations are also being sent to some faculty and staff members at Penn State. Although membership will be somewhat restricted by registration, please note that privacy cannot be entirely guaranteed, so use good judgment about what you post in your comments. Comments are moderated. Irrelevant or offensive comments will be removed.

This blog is not meant to be a substitute for the formal academic information posted on ANGEL and the program site at Penn State. It is, instead, a place where we can share and publish informal accounts of the ongoing program, post some photographs, and share useful links.