English majors enjoyed a day of art and literature in Chicago
On Oct. 14, English majors boarded the Metra train to Chicago for a day of cultural exploration, sponsored by the Division of Arts and Humanities and the English Department. After meeting Professor Maria Carrig at the Art Institute, the group took a tour of the newly opened Deering Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, guided by Dr. Sarah Bond, an expert in Medieval art. The students are studying Edmund Spenser’s romantic epic “The Faerie Queene” which was published in 1590. During the tour, they discussed connections between the literature, painting, and other visual arts of the period.
The Medieval art included magnificent samples of armor and weapons, as well as paintings, sculpture, and altarpieces. A highlight was a dramatic scene of St. George slaying the Dragon by the Spanish painter Bernardo Martorell, a legend that Spenser used as the foundation for the adventures of his hero, the Redcrosse Knight. Rich with symbolism, the Medieval works showed the ways in which human life is constantly overlaid with temptations — two lovers in a garden, for example, seem to be about to consummate their relationship, while a dragon, symbolizing sin, watches them. Many of the artworks featured motifs from classical literature, such as a Renaissance wedding chest depicting the adventures of Odysseus. Students noted that while the work showed the happy ending of the story (Odysseus reunited with his wife), it only hinted at some of Odysseus’s extramarital adventures which might not be appealing to a new bride.
After lunch in the Art Institute cafeteria, and a stroll through Millenium Park, the group visited the new American Writers Museum on Michigan Avenue, which features interactive exhibits, audio, and video of writers reading their work. One of the highlights was the original manuscript of Jack Kerouac’s classic novel “On the Road.” The visit concluded with students typing their own poems at a station for American writers-in-the-making.