By Kevin Vogel
The Butler Collegian
This year, Butler University is looking to planet Earth to stimulate academic conversations throughout its colleges.
The Earth Project, run by a committee of faculty and staff through the provost’s office, is designed to support cross-campus collaborative activities and promote collegiality among the faculty, staff and students.
“I think it’s interesting that although the themes have all been planet-related, there has been a wide diversity of interpretations of these themes, some of which are explicitly environmental and some of which are not,” said Timothy Carter, director of the Earth Project and director of the Center for Urban Ecology.
Events this semester have included an author’s presentation, a local food convention, an alternative cooking demonstration, a student photo gallery of land in and around Rome and lectures on biodiversity conservation and environmental justice.
“Yin Yang Ruminations: Mahler’s Song of the Earth,” one of the programs presented as part of the Earth Project, celebrated the centenary of the death of composer Gustav Mahler by investigating his song cycle “Das Lied von der Erde” (“The Song of the Earth”).
Xiaoqing Liu, an assistant professor in the department of modern languages, presented this event with professors from the Jordan College of Fine Arts.
“Yin Yang Ruminations,” according to the proposal submitted by Liu and others, delved into the song cycle to illuminate the relationships between Mahler’s German lyrics and the classical Chinese poems that inspired them.
The translations of these poems from Chinese to French, and then to German, and their adaptation by Mahler have transformed the poems into a complicated picture of Chinese aesthetic.
“Artists communicate with one another across time and space,” Liu said. “That’s one thing that I especially want the Butler students to be aware of. They should open their minds to a much larger world, rather than their immediate lives and environment.”
Over the summer and throughout this semester, the committee members have been accepting proposals from faculty, staff and students for events related to an investigation of the Earth. The committee chooses events to sponsor and offers grants to help offset the costs.
Carter said next semester’s events so far include a lecture by Wes Jackson on the relationship between land and one’s sense of place, an exploration on the history and practice of brewing cider and a presentation on literary and film genres relating to eco-horror and eco-fantasy. The committee is still accepting proposals.
Specific information regarding these events is forthcoming on the Earth Project’s Facebook page, “The Butler University Earth Project,” and on Butler’s website through the provost’s office.