The Secret Life of Magnum Photographs: American Studies Professor Offers an Inside Look at Some of the World’s Most Iconic Images

High above a blur of cars on a congested street in Lower Manhattan, a Chinese man sits atop a tiny fire escape sipping a bowl of noodles.

Surrounded by a concrete jungle of asphalt and high-rise buildings, the man is far from isolation. Yet somehow he appears to be very much alone and out of place.


This powerful portrayal of modern immigrant life —the cramped living space, the alienation, the absence of color and wide-open spaces – exquisitely captures the parallels between inward struggles and the outside world.

This 1996 photograph from Chien-Chi Chang’s China Town project is one of many iconic photographs in the massive Magnum Photos archive that evoke a sense of wonder and mystery about the world around us. While many of these prints are now valuable art commodities, they were originally intended for reproduction in publications around the world, says Steven Hoelscher, professor of American studies and geography at UT Austin. Continue reading

Poetry on the Plaza: Winter Landscapes

The Harry Ransom Center presents the free Poetry on the Plaza event “Winter Landscapes” this Wednesday, Dec. 3, at noon.

Find relief from an unseasonably warm December with poetry that evokes winter weather.

Hear poetry by E. E. Cummings, Robert Lowell and Anne Sexton from the center’s manuscript collections, and winter classics by Emily Dickinson, James Russell Lowell, John Greenleaf Wittier and Robert Frost from the center’s rare book collection.

Readers include Brian Cassidy, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist for Okkervil River and graduate of the Butler School of Music (’04), and Steven Hoelscher, chair of the Department of American Studies at the university.

What poems make you think of a winter landscape?

Books Offer New Perspectives on American Indian Identity

November is a time of year when popular culture often revisits stereotypes about American Indians via mythologized depictions of the first thanksgiving in the New World. However, the historical facts don’t always match the picture painted in elementary school celebrations.

Scholars at The University of Texas at Austin whose research overturns these stereotypes include Steven Hoelscher, chair of the Department of American Studies, and Erika Bsumek, assistant professor of history.

Both of these faculty members have new books out this fall that examine issues of Native American identity and culture.

Hoelscher’s “Picturing Indians: Photographic Encounters and Tourist Fantasies in H.H. Bennett’s Wisconsin Dells” (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008) traces the many-layered relationship between white photographer H.H. Bennett and the Ho-Chunk Nation. Learn more about the Ho-Chunk people.

While Bsumek’s “Indian-Made: Navajo Culture in the Marketplace, 1868-1940” (University Press of Kansas, 2008) explores the complex links between Indian identity, the emergence of tourism in the Southwest, and the meanings behind the brand “Indian-made.”

Hoelscher and Bsumerk will discuss their work and sign copies of their books at Follett’s Intellectual Property this Thursday, Nov. 20 at 5:30 p.m.

Still want to learn more current American Indian cultural issues? Delve into other recent faculty books on this topic, such as:

• “Muting White Noise: Native American and European Novel Traditions” (University of Oklahoma Press, 2006) by James Cox, assistant professor of English;
• “New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations” (University of Nebraska Press, 2006) by Pauline Turner Strong, associate professor of anthropology; and
• “Captive Selves, Captivating Others: The Politics and Poetics of Colonial American Captivity Narratives” (Westview Press, 2000) also by Turner Strong.

For more background on Thanksgiving myths, check out “The Top 10 Myths About Thanksgiving” published by the History News Network at George Mason University.