Friday, November 7, 2014

Mao Zedong's Calligraphic Art

A book of printed characters with some handwritten notes.Although everyone knows that Mao Zedong was the founder of the People's Republic of China, few people in the Western world are aware that he was also a great poet and calligrapher. Throughout his life, Mao used brush and ink to draft the majority of his letters, party documents and to compose his famous poems. His calligraphy, characterized by its uniqueness, versatility and broadness of mind, has been established as "Mao style" (毛体) and is highly regarded by the Chinese people and especially by professional artists in China.

Over many decades of his life, Mao studied a variety of classical calligraphy styles, and constantly explored, experimented and perfected his technique, establishing his distinctive cursive style.

A book of printed characters with some handwritten notes.Rauner Library recently purchased a rare edition of The Twenty-Four Histories with Mao Zedong’s annotation毛泽东评点二十四史. During the last twenty years of his life, Mao read the 850 volumes of Twenty-Four Histories several times and made extensive commentaries with his stylish calligraphy in the margins. On October 23rd, the Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures Department at Dartmouth hosted a public event on Mao’s calligraphy and manuscript art. The guest speaker, Professor Chen Chuanxi, a chair professor at Renmin University of China and a well-known art critic and art historian, shared his insights on the subject. In Professor Chan's opinion, Mao was the greatest cursive style calligrapher during the last three hundred years. Chan also said that Mao's commentaries on the Twenty-Four Histories reflected his in-depth understanding of Chinese history and exemplified his long term strategy of making the past serve the present.

To see it ask for Mao's Twenty-Four Histories DS735.A2 E65 1996.

Posted for Nien Lin Xie

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

On the Waterfront: A Mission, Not a Movie Assignment

A black and white poster for "On the Waterfront," prominently featuring a photograph of Marlon Brando with other actors in the background.For Budd Schulberg, On the Waterfront was not a conventional movie assignment. It was a mission to make the voices of protesting longshoremen heard by bringing their struggles against organized crime on New York and New Jersey’s docks to the silver screen.

After reading a series of Pulitzer Prize winning articles by investigative journalist Malcolm Johnson, Schulberg found himself drawn to the longshoremen’s fight against corruption on the docks. Schulberg met with Johnson who cited Father John Corridan, a crusading labor priest from the St. Francis Xavier Labor School, as a prime source for his exposé of the brutal exploitation and cold-blooded murders of workers.

A black and white photograph of a man in a priest's collar speaking into a microphone in front of a crowd of seated men in suits.When Schulberg met Father Corridan, the priest was in the midst of guiding a group of rebel longshoremen in a protest movement to build a harbor-wide reform labor union and challenge the mob-infiltrated International Longshoremen’s Association. While Schulberg was conducting research about life on the waterfront, Father Corridan encouraged him to use his prestige as a nationally renowned novelist to bring the plight of the longshoremen to the attention of the wider American public. Despite Johnson’s original breakthrough series, the city’s main media outlets, from the New York Times to the lurid tabloids, completely ignored the rampant crimes on the docks.

It thus became Schulberg’s mission to make the voices of the protesting longshoremen heard by bringing their struggles to the silver screen. Working closely with producer Elia Kazan, Schulberg finished writing the screenplay for On the Waterfront in 1954. The film scored at the box office, won eight Academy Awards, and has been hailed as one of the top ten films of all time. More important for Schulberg than all the accolades and awards, however, was that the film achieved Father Corridan’s simple hope: to make the American people aware of the dire need for advancing labor reforms on the waterfront.

A copy of The Dartmouth, featuring an article by Budd Schulberg.Schulberg’s interest in labor issues did not begin while writing the screenplay for On the Waterfront. As editor-in-chief of The Dartmouth in 1935, Schulberg reported on a series of marble quarry workers’ strikes. Schulberg’s accounts of these strikes foreshadow the investigative reporting he would carry out about waterfront crime over a decade later in New York.

To learn more about On the Waterfront and Schulberg’s involvement in labor reform, come and see the exhibit currently on display at Rauner. The exhibit, “Budd Schulberg and the Scripting of Social Change,” will be on display from November 6th through January 30th. A symposium celebrating Schulberg’s centennial will also be held at Dartmouth November 6th and 7th which is free and open to the public.