Ramayana Translation Project
How long will it take you to accomplish your dream?
For Robert Goldman, distinguished professor in South and Southeast Asian Studies UC Berkeley and Dr. Sally Sutherland Goldman, senior lecturer in South and Southeast Asian Studies at UC Berkeley, the answer is “about 40 years.”
That is how long the Goldman’s toiled at the painstaking research required to complete the Ramayana Translation Project. The Ramayana is a Sanskrit epic, written nearly 3000 years ago, in which Prince Rama attempts to capture his wife. Of course, a one-sentence summary can not do justice to a 50,000 line epic, that professor Goldman states, “Think the Illiad and the Odyssey and the Bible in one package, and you might get the sense of it.”
One of the main messages we can give our students is that accomplishments require tremendous effort-sustained, patient, effort. And that, as we learned from the great work of Walter Mischel and others through the Marshmallow Test- this habit of delaying our gratification for a greater reward is a skill that can be learned.
As the Wide Open Research community knows, I am striving to help educators share the great work of brilliant researchers like the Goldman’s, but also to help students learn how researchers chose the path they chose. Many students do not have access to individuals in their circle of family and friends who pursue advanced degrees. This lack of a robust network of highly educated individuals limits their access to those careers.
It helps to know that professor Goldman achieved his success not only through his intellect but through hard work and by following his passion through choices he made along the way.
I am very grateful, for Dr. Robert Goldman for taking the time to answer a few questions about his “career” path.
Dr. Goldman shares how he started off in one direction, but like so many of us, changed paths to truly follow something that inspired him, “As a pre-med student in college I had a desire to learn as much about things of which I was utterly ignorant as I could. Since I was at a university (Columbia) that offered a wide range of subjects, I took a course on Asian (the called “Oriental”) civilizations. I became fascinated with the culture and history of India and changed my major to Sanskrit Studies.”
What are some skills that he learned that he believes teachers could help their students with?
Goldman states, “ The skills that this discipline taught me and should be taught as widely as possible are those connected with philology, that is to say, in essence, with learning how to read carefully and critically.”
It should be noted that professor Goldman did not really have a sense of pursuing his love of languages until sophomore year in college at Columbia.
I asked him if he would have done anything differently that might have benefited him and he noted,” Probably I would have taken the Latin course that was offered. But that might have set me on a different track than the one I took.
So, how do we as educators, help our students develop their intellect, and help them develop to their potential?
“Teachers need to excite students and inspire them with a love of learning. But to do so they themselves need to have it,“ according to Dr. Robert Goldman.
Here is hoping that we all have the energy to re-kindle that inspiration that brought us to the education profession in the first place- to put aside the data analysis, lesson plan curriculum cross-walks, the incessant standardized test preparation and love learning again.
For then, we will be able to help our students love learning as well.
Thanks to Dr. Goldman for his time to share his thoughts with our small blog and to the work of Robert and Sally Goldman for inspiring us through their 40-year journey in completing the Ramayana Translation Project.
In a perfect world, their accomplishment would be celebrated throughout the cities and villages, and their work would be given to every graduating senior in America with the admonition, “Learn, Read, Persist.”
But for now, we will simply say thanks. (And read the Ramayana Translation Project!)
Questions for Discussion
- Why does the Ramayana story still resonate today?
- How do we develop patience and perseverance as skills with our students?
- What about the work of Dr. Robert and Dr. Sally Goldman is inspirational to you?
- How do you develop the skills of philology as Dr. Goldman notes, “learning how to read carefully and critically?”
- What are you passionately learning “to excite students and inspire them with a love of learning?” as Dr. Goldman encourages?
- What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”
For a link to more info about the Ramayana Translation Project, please click here.
The Poetry of Robert Fanning
Of so many things.
A litany of images cascades from Central Michigan University professor and poet, Robert Fanning, in his mesmerizing poem, What is Written on the Leaves.
In the world of algorithms and big data, in which we are reduced to nothing more than our assemblages of profiles, browsing history, and followers, we are reminded once again of the very difficult task of being human. Poetry does this for us. And nothing humanizes us more richly than luminous poetry.
The poem, taken from his most recent collection of poems, Our Sudden Museum, published by Ireland’s Salmon Press (salmonpoetry.com), could be the voice of our wiser self, putting us on notice, that of all our accumulated sufferings and possessions, we are to “let go.”
Is it a command, a suggestion, or something else-maybe a refrain from the deepest blues song, that we are to lay down our weariness, our baggage, we are to “let go.”
But, what would we be without it?
Any reader who is looking for solace and inspiration today should definitely check out Robert Fanning’s work.
I do believe teachers of creative writing and English teachers would find much to appreciate in this poem. Experience for yourself but I believe Robert Fanning’s accessible poem, What is Written on the Leaves, rich in imagery, rhythm, and repetition would be suitable for older students.
An interesting thematic lesson might be to read Robert Fanning’s poem after reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. How do these two works complement each other?
Additionally, parents will find his poem, Watching My Daughter Through the One Way Mirror of a Preschool Observation Room especially poignant.
Questions for Discussion
- What is your first reaction to his poem, What is Written on the Leaves?
- What images connect with you?
- What are 3 poetic devices that Robert Fanning uses in the poem?
- How does the use of repetition of the phrase “let go” add to the poem’s meaning?
- Who is the speaker in the poem?
- Why is it essential to hear poetry spoken aloud, or to speak it aloud ourselves?
- What does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”
One of the best dispositions a researcher can practice is curiosity.
Opening one’s mind to the world around you by a process of exploring, reflecting, reading and asking questions.
While you don’t always need to travel the world to do this, sometimes it can make all the difference.
Fifteen students from Northern Michigan University’s Theatre and Dance program recently embarked on a journey to London and Paris to immerse themselves in the performing arts at two of the world’s cultural capitals.
The students saw Shakespeare’s birthplace as well as a performance at the historic Globe Theatre. They danced the can-can and visited the Palace of Versailles.
While the impact that this experience had on students and faculty may take years to unfold, it is clear that this was an important journey for some of the students-including those that had never traveled abroad.
NMU student Liz Caputo said it best, “I wanted to learn how similar and how different we are. The main thing that I noticed was everyone we talked to is just as passionate about the arts in both London and Paris as we are in the United States.”
To read Charlie Edwards article, please click here.
Question for Discussion:
- How can travel change your perspective on the world?
- What are some ways these NMU students could use this experience in their future work?
- Describe how recent trips you’ve taken have impacted you?
Michigan based poet Keith Taylor has been an astute and sympathetic observer of nature and the human condition for decades.
His dedication to teaching, writing, reading, and commenting on life and nature through his work has had a profound impact on me, for sure, but I believe for all of us dedicated to the mission of understanding this world in which we live.
I came across this wonderful post from naturechange.org featuring a brief interview with Keith Taylor by Anne-Marie Oomen, also a writer. Keith talks about his work at the University of Michigan Biological Station in Pellston, Michigan, and reads a bit of his work.
Why exactly does poetry enrich us so? Yet, why do so many find it inaccessible, alien, unwelcoming? Boring? Why do we so easily accept the fragmentation of society and of our own selves? Fostering dialogue with those outside our areas of interest, our areas of study, our cultural moorings-why has this become so difficult, or was it always this difficult?
Keith’s work, especially, the work highlighted here at the U-M Biological Station in which he spends summers, writing as well as teaching a literature course to science students and researchers, is an effort to bridge the chasm of confusion and apathy, intolerance and exhaustion. Quite simply, to become a bit more integrated and wholly human.
Nature allows us to slow down, to pause, to contemplate, to heal- at its best poetry does that as well.
It allows us to access that deeper part of our psyches that contains wisdom, perhaps an attribute all too often not appreciated in our age of hyper-connectivity and instantaneous, yet superficial gratification.
Science, at its best, too requires a deep concentration, a sense of observation and curiosity about the natural order of things, used to help solve the world’s most pressing problems.
For those of you seeking a bit of the healing power of nature, poetry, and how poetry and science can engage in a nuanced and beneficial dialogue, please check out this wonderful post and video.
For more information about Keith Taylor, please check out his website.
For more poetry, consider the work of Robert Fanning, click here please.
Questions for Discussion
- How has poetry, or a specific poem impacted you?
- What does Keith Taylor say about the interaction of poetry, nature and science?
- What does he mention about the presence of wolves in Michigan’s lower peninsula?
- How does Keith Taylor integrate the work of mammalogist, Dr. Phil Myers into his work?
- What do you think of the specificity of images in Taylor’s brief, powerful poem, “Not the Northwest Passage?”
- What does Keith Taylor say about optimism, especially related to E.O. Wilson’s work?
- Have a poem to share?
Educators wishing to enrich their senior high school social studies or college curriculum or to help commemorate African American History Month should check out the Lowentheil Collection of African-American Photographs, available through Cornell University.
This rich collection of historical photographs from the time of slavery to the modern era is an incredible research and educational opportunity. These digitized photos are a compelling look at “how black people in American saw themselves and were seen by others,” according to Cheryl Finley, associate professor of art.
It took several years of painstaking work to digitize and organize these photographs to be made available to the wider public.
There are so many ways an educator could use these photographs from the Lowentheil Collection of African-American photographs. For sure, to glimpse the attire, hairstyles, and posing of the time period. But also, to understand the essential humanity captured in the photos.
For sure, an American History teacher could find these valuable artifacts to deepen the understanding of the time period. Students can scan the gallery and answer questions about what is observed. They can begin getting an understanding of how a historian would use primary source material for research. Additionally, you can help them develop an appreciation of the great role that media specialists and archivists play in recording the history of our culture.
I can also imagine using these photographs in a creative writing context. The clothes, the facial expressions, the poses of these African-American subjects could be used as a “prompt” for a creative writing, free write. Simply look at the picture and imagine the story of the person in the photo. Imagine what was happening in their lives during the time of the photographs. What was important to them? What were they thinking and feeling and dreaming?
What genre would best fit the image titled, “Portrait of a Man?” A poem, an essay, a short story? For some reason, I see him possibly giving a speech, what about you?
I believe our colleagues in the Fine Arts classes would find much to commend about the photographer’s effort in “Men and children dancing” from 1886. What do you think of the staging and the intensity in which the boy in the foreground stares at the camera? How has the camera and film technology changed since the era of these older photographs? Stylistically rich and visually appealing, these photographs would enliven any photography classroom discussion.
Any educator with a passion for celebrating the difficult work of curatorial research and of experiencing a profound glimpse into the power of the humanities to close the gap of time would find spending time with this digital collection gratifying.
Questions for Discussion
- How can this digital collection help us better understand this time period?
- How has the photographic technology changed?
- What is the importance of primary source material in historical research?
- What can we learn about the subjects in this collection- are there generalizable characteristics or is it best to understand the subjects individually?
- Why do you think Cornell believed it was important to share this resource?
- How else could you use this collection in your own class or professional development setting?
For a link to an article in the Cornell Chronicle by Melanie Lefkowitz, please click here.
For a link to the Lowentheil Collection of African American Photographs, please click here.