Under Dark Skies: A Review Essay

By Michaela Keck

The End of the Night

On Friday, October 16, our group of five – two master students, three bachelor students, and I – set out from the Institute of English and American Studies at the University of Oldenburg for a four-day excursion to the ecological field station of the University of Potsdam in Gülpe. This small village is located approximately 70 kilometers northwest of Potsdam, or circa 85 kilometers northwest of Berlin, along the eastern border of the Nature Park and Dark Sky Preserve Westhavelland. Here, we wanted to study, debate, and directly experience darkness in an area that still afforded a phenomenon that is increasingly lost to our brightly illuminated European continent: dark night skies. The plan for this long weekend was to have the afternoons set aside for text discussions and to venture out into the dark after the moon had set. The mornings were free to either recover from our nocturnal activities or to explore the wetlands of our immediate surroundings.

Included in our considerable amount of luggage – the ecological field station requires self-catering – were three seminal texts for our ecocritical studies of darkness: Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder (2005); Paul Bogard’s The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light (2013); and the chapter entitled “Ridge” from Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places (2007). Although the titles of the first two books express a sense of loss and therefore suggest a yearning for an earlier, better, more “natural” life, Louv and Bogard both investigate the Anthropocene with an attitude that combines curiosity, fascination, and pragmatism rather than regression, nostalgia, and moralizing. Read more »

Star Wars – The Last Jedi: No Light without Darkness?

By Kai-Arne Zimny

Photo Credit: NEPA Scene

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

The bright blue letters appear on the big black screen. Reverent silence fills the movie theater. Maybe you’ll hear the sound of cheering somewhere in the back, but mostly you can feel the tense thrill of anticipation. After two years of waiting, STAR WARS – THE LAST JEDI, the eighth episode of the most beloved sci-fi fairy tale of all time and the second movie of the new trilogy, is only seconds away … Read more »

A New Public Hanging? Sam Durant’s Scaffold

By Roger Nichols

Photo Credit: Lorie Shaull

In 2017, just five years after a Minnesota art exhibition marked the 150th anniversary of the 1862 hanging of 38 Dakota Sioux men at Mankato, that grisly event drew new public attention. Well-known multi-media artist Sam Durant – whose installations often focus on events from American history – erected his latest work, a two-story wood-and-metal sculpture entitled Scaffold, in the garden of the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis.

Read more »

The Most Romantic Night of the Year?

By Evangelia Kindinger

Photo credit: Tom Rickhuss on Unsplash

On October 28, the Hallmark Channel launched its annual “Countdown to Christmas.” During the eight weeks before Christmas, the channel will broadcast 21 original movies that are all about Christmas and the spirit of the holidays. Established in 2001, the Hallmark Channel is a subsidiary of the company that has provided many Americans with sappy greeting cards for all occasions. The Christmas movies continue with the company’s tradition of kitsch, especially romantic kitsch, as shown in not-so-subtle titles, such as A December Bride (2016), My Christmas Love (2016), or Marry Me at Christmas (2017). Christmas, it seems, is not primarily about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ – or, like in my family, food – but about finding love in the midst of snowy landscapes, hot cocoa, and conveniently hung mistletoes.

Read more »

Tweet Me a Story:
Twiction – The Perfect Stocking Stuffer

By Maryann Henck

One week before Christmas and no gift in sight?
Allow me to assist you out of your plight
For who really wants one more thoughtless gift?
Doomed to be piled on the re-gifting snowdrift
So why not create a story to tweet
In 140 characters – short and sweet

Stocking

Well, actually in 280 characters or less as Twitter has recently doubled its tweet length. No Twitter account or money is required – just a bit of time. There’s no reason to fall under the glamour of the pre-holiday commercialization craze. All you need is a seed for a story that you can let grow and trim back into shape. You can do the old-school thing and write or type it on a decorative piece of paper. Then just stuff it into a little stocking. Of course, you can text or WhatsApp your gift of twiction as well. In search of ideas? Then take a peek at some of the twiction from my creative writing students.

Read more »