Friday, August 3, 2018

The Great Day

Women students disembarking from bus on the GreenIn 1967, the student-run Committee on Freshman Reading organized a day-long event to bring women from nearby colleges to Dartmouth for a series of book discussions. Based on a small exchange of students from Colby the past December, the event was far grander, bringing nearly 400 women to campus for the day. 72 books were chosen ahead of time, and small groups coalesced over each title in "an informal and relaxed atmosphere." All were invited to dinner, then an evening of events that included a free movie, a hockey game, and a variety show in the Studio Theater. The point was to socialize with members of the opposite sex, but in an environment where intellectual engagement superseded the usual partying of the big date weekends like Winter Carnival or Green Key.

Discussion group in Dartmouth classroom
Despite the alarming headline in The D, "Four Hundred Girls Invade College," the students seemed to approach the day with maturity--reading their Ibsen and Agee and participating in the discussions. The Alumni Magazine was a little less respectful, focusing on the novelty of women on campus and describing the visitors as being "as attractive as they were intelligent." The photographs from the day are a treat, showing an early co-education moment in Dartmouth's history.

Dartmouth student giving directions to a visiting student
The images are all digitized and you can find them in the Photo Files.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Legendary Hero of the Battle of Yashima

A painting of Japanese samura on foot and horseback from within the Nara Ehon
Nara was the first permanent capital of Japan and an important site of cultural development for the Japanese people. The Nara Period, lasting from 710 to 794 CE, saw numerous advancements: the first minting of coins, the establishment of Buddhism as a permanent and state-encouraged religion, and the creation of the first written Japanese literary and historical texts. Subsequent generations of Japanese people looked back on the Nara period as a cultural touchstone and a defining moment in the history of their country. As a result, numerous legends and heroes from that period became enshrined in Japanese literature, and one popular genre was the Nara Ehon, or the Nara picture books. These hand-painted manuscript codices traditionally told the tale of a hero or event from the Nara period or some other legendary moment from Japan's past. Their creators used gold and silver lavishly, as well as a stunning palette of beautiful and bright colors that make the scenes and characters come alive on the page.

Here at Rauner, we have a sumptuous example of a Nara Ehon that is titled Yashima. Our manuscript
A painting of Japanese samura on foot and horseback from within the Nara Ehon, including a decapitated warrior.
was made in the 17th century and tells the story of Sato Tsuginobu. Tsuginobu was a soldier who served in the army of Minamoto no Yoshitsune, himself one of the most famous samurai warriors in the history of Japan. During the naval Battle of Yashima on March 22, 1185, Tusginobu leapt in front of his master, Yoshitsune, and was killed by an arrow meant for the samurai leader. The two-volume story is a masterpiece of Japanese artwork and calligraphic skill that manages to impress even if the language is foreign to its reader.

To see this lovely book, come to Rauner and ask for Codex 002093.