Friday, November 9, 2012

Mission Accomplished: Veterans/Lawrence of Arabia Event -- Nov. 8, 2012

On November 8, 2012, thanks to help from the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation, the Witherspoon Institute, Chuck Stetson, and the CSUN Distinguished Visiting Speaker Series, we were able to host the second event in the Myth Goes to the Movies sequence: a 50th anniversary retrospective of Lawrence of Arabia. On October 4, a limited cinematic re-release of Lawrence unveiled the digitally remastered print of the film (only in select theaters). For the November 8 event at CSU Northridge, we could not screen the film because of its length (four hours), but we had a gallery walk of student research exhibits for a half hour, followed by a panel discussion/debate that lasted about two hours.

Roughly 90-100 people came to the Linda Nichols Joseph Reading Room to see student research exhibits on Lawrence of Arabia and hear from five veteran panelists. This write-up was published by the Daily Sundial a few days later:

Photos and video below:

In the video above, Iraq War veteran Pierre Marcos discusses his own experience and links it to the film's themes of honor, gallantry, and cultural conflict.

Jason Freudenrich emphasized the idea of war as a form of education.

Melissa Filbeck explained Lawrence's role in the film as the "sympathetic oppressor" who could not avoid being part of the machine that destroyed the objects of his compassion.

Joe Lonergan talked about the passage from idealism to cynicism that occurs among prison guards during war. He related the character "arc" of Lawrence to the psychological metamorphosis often seen in guards over time.

Valvincent Reyes spoke about the differences between Occupational Combat Stress and PTSD. It was an intense but fertile series of reflections, and I am thankful that so many in the audience were attentive.

Sara Dean's promotional poster of the event, including photos and bios of the five guest speakers
(Valvincent Reyes, Joseph Lonergan, Melissa Filbeck, Jason Freudenrich, Pierre Marcos)

1. This Exhibit compares the Athens/Sparta conflict to Arabia/Turkey

2. This exhibit uses the artistic language of Edgar Allan Poe, a West Point veteran, to understand the tempo of Lawrence

3. Here students contrast the conflicts in Lawrence with Poe's, Whitman's, and Thoreau's wrestlings with violence.

4. Students dissect Lawrence as a modern myth analogous to ancient myths like Achilles and Patroclus.

5. A film analysis of Lawrence's mythologizing of the real-life T.E. Lawrence.

6. This exhibit uses facsimiles of torn, fragmented letters between T.E. Lawrence and an unidentified Arab man to imagine whom Omar Sherif's fictionalized character might symbolize.

7. These students find timeless intersections of civic power and war in Thucydides and the 1962 epic.

8. This student uses literature, ranging from Homer to Poe, to understand the psychological arc of the main character in Lawrence.

9. Here a student group has collected various forms of propaganda that naturalize war.

10. Some students amassed excerpts of interviews with warriors from different modern conflicts, ranging from World War II to the recent War on Terror.

11. Here, atop an American flag and juxtaposed against the real-life war artifacts of boots and canteens attached to pistol belts, a flat exhibit links the Prometheus myth and others to the tale of hubris and Lawrence's downfall.

12. This exhibit looks at the erotic ties between males in wars ancient and present, drawing from pornographic re-imaginings of Achilles and Patroclus as well as the subtle arousal in the director's choices filming Omar Sherif and Peter O'Toole.

13. This student parallels Pericles' precarious fall from popularity to disgrace and the tragic arc of Lawrence.

14. This exhibit also links Lawrence to Pericles.

15. Students here examined the Sherif/O'Toole chemistry in the light of different era's views on love between men.

16. This exhibit also examines the visual imagery of Lawrence through the linguistic aesthetics of Edgar Allan Poe.

17. Here students explain the link between World War I and the present-day wars in the Middle East.

18. The students in this research cluster worked extremely hard to form an exhibit out of grout and sand. The members came also dressed in authentic Saudi garb.