July Wrap-Up: Teaching, Public Humanities, and Public Scholarship

“I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

In just a few days, the Ivory Tower Boiler Room will be closing the book on our first year of podcasting (and three months of blogging, too)! Over the past year, we’ve gradually come together as a team and created a vision for a community where ideas are exchanged, where support is given, and where we work to ensure that voices are heard. We hope you’ll join us, in person or virtually, on Tuesday to celebrate our anniversary. Before we reflect on a whole year, let’s take a minute and look back on our July highlights. 

Natalie Morse, Ph.D.

With so many things going on here in the Boiler Room, our combined theme of teaching, public humanities, and public scholarship, stretches over two months. The team kicked off the theme with a round table, in which we told some stories about our teachers and some stories we’ve experienced as teachers. We continued our Big Think series with Adam’s entry about what teaching is. It was appropriate that our guest on the podcast that week, to kick off the month, was Dr. Natalie Morse. Andrew and Adam talked with her about whether you should go to grad school. Although our vision has expanded, our roots still keep us tied to helping people navigate the world of academia.

Andrew’s Big Think featured a discussion of public scholarship, of the ways he has stayed inside the traditional boundaries of the academy, while also stretching beyond it. It was an enlightening look into how one early-career academic is dealing with the changes (especially budgetary) the university has been experiencing in the last few decades. On the other side, Erika’s Big Think came from her experiences teaching outside of traditional classrooms, and led to a meditation on how we value educational credentials–M.D., Ph.D., M.S.W., M.A., M.T.A.–do any of these really make you a teacher? And Mary highlighted the humanities this month (the second part of our two-part theme)–what the humanities are, and how they seep into every part of life.

Mary also kept us riveted with the latest installments in her True Crime in Academia, featuring a three part series about the Gainsville Ripper. The abuse Danny Rolling suffered as a child is hard to read about, and we can learn a lot about the impact of trauma from these stories.

Terri Muuss

How we use the humanities to deal with trauma was an important sub-theme this month. Poet Terri Muuss helped us inaugurate our guest-author feature when she shared some of her poetry with us, including a video performance of one of her poems. Take a look at Muuss’s work to see how one poet uses her art to heal from the trauma of sexual assault.

Part of the function of teaching, and, in particular, of teaching the humanities, is that we are giving our students and ourselves the tools to speak out. One of the things we are most proud of doing is giving a platform to voices that are often unheard or silenced. Adam did that for us when he covered the coal miner’s strike in Alabama and the multiple instances of striking workers and their families getting hit by cars.

We are also incredibly proud and grateful to have been able to bring you a two part interview with Dr Helana Darwin about her #MeTooPhD experience. Dr Darwin is a passionate advocate, author and eloquent speaker, and we are honored to help bring her story to the world. In case you missed it, you can hear part 1 of her interview here, and part 2 here.

Erika also led by example when she wrote her essay “The View from the Wheelchair,” about living with disability (and how more-mobile people try to dehumanize people with disabilities).


Jesse Green

We took advantage of all the joys and pleasures associated with relaxation and summer to let you peek a little more into who makes up the Boiler Room. Mary shared with us her experience running a (virtual) 5k. Adam reviewed the Netflix TV show Never Have I Ever. And Andrew talked about the Tony Awards and highlighted his own bookshelf with a post about Jesse Green’s work. Nor were Adam’s and Andrew’s articles the only pieces we released that concerned the theater. Jesse Green, chief theater critic of the New York Times, was a guest on an episode of our podcast this month, in which he talked not only about theater but also about his writing process–something the Boiler Room residents always seem interested in.

On a lighter note, Andrew brought us a story about how Edith Wharton’s ghost meddled with his presentation about her unpublished erotica. Edith Wharton and the academic life were again part of the conversation when Andrew and Erika had a chance to talk with author Lev Raphael, and again when Adam and Andrew interviewed Dr. Sheila Liming, Wharton scholar, digital humanities expert, and folk music aficionado.

As always, some of our pieces had no other purpose than to share our love of books and literature with you. Erika helped by carrying over some Pride-themes, and talked about how the library helped her safely find her queer identity. It’s a shock that Erika gets any reading or writing done with monster like this lying in wait to steal her productivity:

Description: Very cute and innocent looking grey cat. Caption: “The moment I want tummy skritchins… you’re done writing for the day.” Photo by Erika Grumet; Text by Adam Katz. The roles of Big Cat and Little Cat are played by Frob and Widget respectively. Frob did not be in this episode because he had an appointment at the vet.

Join us on Tuesday for our birthday celebration, but for today, we’re wrapping up July, and gearing up for our party by putting on our poetry-recitation-shoes. In August, look for us to continue our conversations about public humanities and scholarship, and to bring you more incredible interviews and other features.

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