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Thoughtful Reflection

Gregor Kalas

This is Apocalypse Semester on campus and contemplating the end often spurs thoughtful reflection. I’m glad to report that there is no end in sight to the impressive contributions of faculty, staff, students, and everyone else in our cohort. As an interdisciplinary unit, the Marco Institute has always drawn its strength from the different academic disciplines. The Visions of the End exhibition initiated by former Riggsby Director Jay Rubenstein is the result of a very happy collaboration between Marco and McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture, following upon a tradition started by Bob Bast, Amy Neff, and other colleagues with their exhibition Sacred Beauty in 2007. Visions of the End attests to the Marco Institute translating scholarship in the humanities into a publicly accessible format and calls attention to the importance of pre-modern studies. There are some spectacular artworks on view, too.

During his tenure at UT, Jay Rubenstein was characteristically modest about transforming Marco into a place for cutting-edge research disseminated to the public. His book, Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream: The Crusades, Apocalyptic Prophecy, and the End of History, was finalized while at Marco during a period when he hatched the idea of an exhibition about how the Book of Revelation shaped medieval culture. Jay announced his appointment as the new director of the Center for the Premodern World at the University of Southern California last May. To be sure, Jay is sorely missed; yet he left our institute in such good shape with so many wonderful projects on track that we remain truly indebted to his vision.  

Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471 - 1528), The Four Horsemen, 1498, woodcut on laid paper, Patrons' Permanent Fund and Print Purchase Fund (Horace Gallatin and Lessing J. Rosenwald) 2008.109.5
Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471 – 1528), The Four Horsemen, 1498, woodcut on laid paper, Patrons’ Permanent Fund and Print Purchase Fund (Horace Gallatin and Lessing J. Rosenwald) 2008.109.5

Now we’re looking beyond Apocalypse Semester, which thankfully brings ample signs of new beginnings. Visions of the End has instigated new projects for the graduate students who contributed to the labels and didactic texts, including two Haslam Public Humanities fellows, Kelsey Blake and Katie Kleinkopf. A new format for Medieval Day, our outreach event for students in Knox County schools, took place on campus for the first time on March 8, 2020, at the McClung Museum in the hopes that partnerships with cultural institutions can yield interesting programs about the Middle Ages in the future. We’re also looking to consolidate our scholarly partnership with the University of Poitiers.

Our increasingly active programming might foretell the end were it not for superhuman abilities of some who deserve heartfelt thanks. Special appreciation goes to program coordinator Katie Hodges-Kluck for adding graphic design to her already impressive list of talents. The dynamic teaching of Marco’s lecturer Lauren Whitnah is sparking a dramatic uptick in majors and minors in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Laura Howes stepped in to become interim associate director when that position was left vacant last fall. Each of you as a member of the Marco community has fostered this success, for which we extend our appreciation.  We all hope to see you at an upcoming event.

Gregor Kalas
Interim Riggsby Director