Experiencing tragedy in King Lear and Luther's writings

            "The play [King Lear]," writes philosopher Stanley Cavell in his essay on the play, 'The Avoidance of Love', "can be said to be Christian--not because it shows us redemption--it does not; but because it throws our redemption into question, and leaves it up to us." What is Cavell referring to, exactly? We see Lear take the Gods' names in vain, to no avail; it is Lear, not the Gods, that is responsible for throwing his world into chaos through his cruelty to his subjects and the rejection of his daughter Cordelia, who ultimately is killed as a result. Placing ownership of wrongdoing in Lear's hands, and giving Lear the opportunity, if he so chooses, to be redeemed from this, is what one might view as a Christian setup.

            I said one might; but another might find the label Christian here quite problematic. If it was truly in Lear's hands to choose, one way or the other, to redeem his kingdom or to perish, we must essentially 'blame' Lear for having chosen the former. Cavell asks: "And what room is there for blame? Is he to blame for being human? For being subject to a cosmic anxiety and to fantasies which enclose him from prefect compassion? Certainly blame is inappropriate, for certainly I do not claim to know what else Lear might do." Which is to say that it is rather difficult to look at this play, and its characterization of Lear's suffering, and say that it was his 'fault' he acted in this way, or that audience members would have acted differently. (As Cavell notes, we are confident that we know what Lear should have done when Cordelia did not 'heave her heart into her mouth.' But that does not mean that we would have acted more prudently than he.)

            "And yet," Cavell writes, I cannot deny that my pain at Lear's actions is not overcome by my knowledge of suffering." The inability to hold Lear accountable coupled with the "pain at Lear's actions" leads to what Cavell calls "unplaceable blame...like blaming heaven."

            What I would like to do is play around with this in theological terms. If we were to view Lear's failure as a theological illustration (which Cavell believes it ultimately is not, despite the above discussion of redemption), what would we see? If we agree that it is difficult to really blame Lear for his actions in light of his suffering, but he nonetheless suffers for them greatly, we can view Lear's suffering as parallel to an important theological concept of the time, the draconian determinism of Martin Luther's writings. In 1525, Luther wrote The Bondage of the Will, in response to criticism from Desiderius Erasmus: "with regard to things pertaining to salvation and damnation, man has no free will, but is a captive, a bond-slave, either to the will of God, or to the will of Satan." I think here, too, our reaction might be a feeling of "unplaceable blame." Erasmus asked in 1524: "What will be the origin of merits where there is perpetual necessity and where there never was free will?" And without a method for assessing 'merit,' how can God justly damn his subjects eternally? And in the same vein, how can we (or the universe) damn Lear for actions that seem beyond his power to avoid?

            Cavell writes of this dilemma in Lear that the feeling of "unplaceable blame" is "not inappropriate as an experience of tragedy, of what it is for which tragedy provides catharsis." I think we could say the same of the story Luther writes for mankind; God and demons damning or saving people, outside their own control, sounds indeed a bit like dramatic tragedy.

            As noted in Cavell's essay, some have conceived of Lear, when he is cast out from his daughter's house and faces the storm, has arrived at "the naked human condition." Cavell wants to say that he is something different--he is not "simply a man," but is in fact a scapegoat for viewers. And as Lear tells us the world is a "stage of fools," Cavell says Lear insists that it is routinely human to make scapegoats of one another, to throw around blame (as one might do to Lear). Perhaps it is precisely when we don't do this, when blame is put aside, that we see tragedy--in Lear or in Luther's vision of predestined salvation.

Queen Mab Intervenes/How Much Artistic Liberty is Too Much?

I was browsing special collections two days ago and I found Romeo and Juliet Travestie: or, The Cup of Cold Poison, an 1873 version of the play with a surprising adaptation; this version is a burlesque, in one act. There are books that tell the stories of Shakespeare's plays in condensed form, with modern language, and I have heard of plays (particularly Nahum Tate's King Lear) that replace the ends of the plays with happier versions, or more family-friendly words and ideas (Thomas Bowdler's The Family Shakespeare). 

This strange copy did both: the play wrapped up in only six scenes, with Paris and Romeo laughing and singing as Paris dumps Romeo into the crypt, only for Romeo to jump out again seconds later. Of course, all the dead characters, including Shakespeare himself, come back to life, love, and music thanks to the magic of Queen Mab, who takes a star turn. This classic Shakespeare tragedy ends with a nice group song.

At first, I found myself spluttering mentally, astounded at the liberties people will take. The nerve! To write such a short irreverent version of such a classic play! Romeo and Juliet is far from my favorite Shakespeare - I tend to think it is overrated - but I think a burlesque version of the play is completely at odds with the original, and I don't think I'm alone in that. This reaction got me thinking about how important the purity of "original" Shakespeare is. I am far from a Shakespeare purist; although I would love to see the plays in the way he wrote them, I have thoroughly enjoyed many adaptations that are liberal with the ideas or words. Obviously, this interpretation is not meant to replace the original, unlike Tate's Lear, which presumably replaced Shakespeare's for 150 years. The burlesque is a comic addition to the long tradition of adapting Shakespeare to modern ideas, times, or interpretations.

Even though this adaptation inspired disdain (in me), I think its existence is symptomatic of the fact that, at least as I see it, Shakespeare is no longer "just a playwright," and hasn't been "just a playwright" for a long time. The plays no longer mean the same thing they may have at the time of their creation; thinking about any of his works comes with the baggage of his name, what it means as a student or an actor to read/perform, any adaptations or even pop references one may have heard, and even the difficulty that can arise in trying to read such old English, His work is more of a jumping-off point than the end of the road It inspires people, either to push harder with research, thought, or creative outpourings. Setting aside this burlesque, which still inspires in me a bit of hoity-toity attitude, I think this sort of movement is impossible to avoid, and, in many ways, is a really important piece of change and growth. 

In the thick of it

Greetings!
This week contained a lot of repetition in the re-foldering process.
It has been really interesting to see from afar, so to speak, the various projects and writings Professor Char Miller has undertaken throughout his (ongoing) scholarly career. I am not able to deeply examine some of these works for myself, because it is my job to process the collection and make sure it is done in an organized and timely fashion, not to necessarily analyze what he has written or accomplished. However, I still get an idea of the materials within certain folders, since often I must create the new folder title based on what is inside the folder.
Sometimes the title originally given by Char works just fine, but more often than not I have to get a grasp of the folder's contents and try to come up with a clear and simple folder title that is representative of the work but will also make a potential researcher's life easier. 
This is especially fun for his articles written for the Spanish-language newspaper Que Pasa, which often appear in a folder with similar articles written on the same topic but in English and meant for other publications. These articles, although generally the same as that in Que Pasa, almost always contain a different title. Therefore I try to find the most relevant and significant theme of the writings and create the folder title accordingly. For these types of folders, this includes translating the titles of the Que Pasa articles. Since I don't know Spanish, google translate has been a big help! (if only the articles were in French, I could simultaneously be improving my preparation for the language exam i need to take for my MA in the Fall! Oh well...)
Once I translate the title, with google's help, I compare it to the English article's title and then find the common theme throughout. In addition to the thinking required to devise an appropriate folder title, as necessary for many folders, the folders with the Que Pasa articles take the thinking a step further due to the translations. 
It's the little things that make the repetition not so... repetitive.

Here's an example of a clipping from Que Pasa:
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Who knows, maybe I will be speaking Spanish in no time!

Next week, the foldering continues... 

Chan Doo Sung's Prescription

View imageHaving Chinese as my first language and my mom, who studies and practices Chinese medicine, as a helper, I never thought that there would be any difficulties in working on Chan's collection, especially not in understanding Chinese. However, I was TOO YOUNG, TOO SIMPLE, SOMETIMES NAIVE (Chinese internet slang). Chan's prescription taught me: just because I am Chinese and I know a little about Chinese medicine doesn't mean I could understand everything Chan wrote.

One difficulty was traditional Chinese VS simplified Chinese. Most materials in Chan's collection are from late 1920s to later 1930s. Although the simplified Chinese was first mentioned in 1920 and was legitimated in 1934 in China, it did not gain widely support; traditional Chinese still dominated. Besides, Chan was born in 1898 and moved to the US in 1916. There was no way that he would know simplified Chinese. In contrast, I was born in 1990s and I have never leaned traditional Chinese in school at all. Even though I have learned traditional Chinese by myself, I still had some problems of understanding many characters : ( The other difficulty was hand writing VS print. Most of Chan's prescriptions were hand written with ink brush. Therefore, the characters could be different than when they were printed. In addition, Chan as a doctor may have some special marks and ways to record that only for people in the professional field to read. As a result, I did have difficulties in understanding some of Chan's prescriptions.

Luckily, internet and tools online are very helpful and powerful in high-tech era. I was able to use internet to translate the traditional Chinese and confirm the prescriptions that I am not sure about :) Although I had some difficulties in understanding the prescription, I still enjoyed working on it. I love the way it is because hand written traditional Chinese add more tastes of history and feeling of Chinese tradition in it, just like the rich history and wisdom in Chinese medicine. 

Now the real fun begins!

So, it has been a couple of weeks now and the work has really "picked up!" 
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Some excitement, some frustration, some fascination... all in a week's work.
The first major accomplishment following the completion of the excel spreadsheet (which on its own I think I can consider an accomplishment as well!) was to propose my arrangement scheme for the collection. This was done once I was able to take a step back and examine all that the collection entails and how its specific organization may prove most useful.
Following my initial proposal, Lisa looked it over and helped explain why some were good as is and others were necessary to change. 
Just like I had to learn the first week, again, the key to processing a collection is making it as simple and easy to navigate for the researcher as possible. Therefore, some of the subseries I proposed were deemed unnecessary, since it would simply create more work for me as well as a potential researcher. Also, I now understand that even if a subseries is not made, certain folders can be organized together online in the Finding Aid once all the physical processing is complete. The majority of the collection consists of Char Miller's writings. And he ha certainly written a lot! For one frame of reference, his CV (up until 2012) was 56 pages! Maybe this is more common than I think for a scholar of similar pedigree, but I still found it extremely impressive! 
Some of the other Series' we came up with include personal materials, audio/visual materials, Pomona College, artifacts and awards, and correspondence. 
Once the arrangement plan was in order and all of his original folders were placed into archival boxes, I began the process of re-foldering everything into our own archival folders, while trying to create folder titles for each. For some of the folders I kept the same title as that created by Char (as we are told to try to keep the original order as much as possible) but for the majority of them, I had to come up with a title on my own. The purpose of the title needs to not only provide a good and clear indication of the folder's contents but it also must maintain a certain type of "standardization" for the entire collection. 
Additionally, including a date or date range for each folder could be really tricky if the folder has a bunch of random materials, some dated, some undated, and others containing certain dates that may or may not be too relevant.
This proved most challenging for the folders of his personal materials, especially those containing materials he gathered from his family. A lot of these folders included random materials that was difficult to "place" in order to create one title that could explain all that is enclosed. 
But, I've been told to try and make it as simple as I can and not worry too much about these types of details - something not too easy for me, especially when working on something in which I have little prior experience! But, I will keep plugging away...
One of the more interesting things I've gone through so far while re-foldering was a scrapbook Char created for his mother in the early 1990s about a hurricane they experienced together. The old photographs, newspaper clippings, and primary sources of what was being written at the time proved fascinating. Plus, because the scrapbook was very old and was deteriorating in some ways, I had to replace the actual scrapbook by placing each page's contents into a new sleeve. Overall, this part of the process was really fun!
The main focus right now for my work is to make sure all the folders are created accordingly and all of the boxes will be arranged, by series, with proper folders and folder titles, and with all of the contents either preserved correctly or separated to ensure its preservation, including older artifacts and oversized items that could be damaged in the regular folders and boxes (or could damage the folders and other materials within the box).
Hopefully the next week will bring improvement in devising folder title and date entries!
For now, here is one box that is now complete with new folders!
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First week at CCEPS

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Greetings! My name is Gary Stein and I am a 2nd year M.A. student in History at CGU. 

My first week working for the CCEPS Fellowship served as a great introductory week to the type of work I will be doing over the course of the summer. As seen in the picture above, Professor Char Miller from Pomona College donated a number of boxes - of materials spanning throughout his life and career - to Special Collections in order to be processed and catalogued. (and apparently there is still more to be donated!) I welcomed the opportunity to go through this collection and process it according to archival standards. 
After hauling these boxes up to the CCEPS room, I began reading through the CCEPS documents provided to understand what Archival Processing entails and began to become acclimated with the type of work I will be doing. 
As an aspiring historian, I've become fascinated with archives - not only archival materials, which I have fortunately incorporated throughout a lot of my work at CGU, but also the process involved in obtaining the materials and creating a collection that researchers will be able to use in the future. In creating the collection Char Miller Papers, I hope to become familiar with exactly what that process entails. I think it will not only prove enlightening but could also provide a greater sense of appreciation for archivists and those who work in Special Collections that continue to preserve important historical materials for future generations. 
Dr. Char Miller is an historian who is currently Professor of Environmental Analysis at Pomona, where he first acted as visiting professor from 2007-2009. He is also a proud alum of Pitzer College. Within this collection are his various writings including his Senior Thesis, Dissertation, numerous published books and articles, and weekly newspaper and blog entries, among others. It also contains video publications and personal materials from his family.

Well, it did not take me long to begin to appreciate the work that goes into Archival Processing! 
After getting to know the type of work I will be doing this summer, I conducted an initial collection survey of each of the (12) boxes, going through the materials in each box and beginning to get a sense what type of materials are in the collection and how it will be organized, or arranged.
Because this was just the initial survey, I did not examine each folder in each box thoroughly; rather, I took some initial notes regarding each box's contents and began proposing potential series or groupings based on some initial reactions. 
I then transferred the titles of each box's folders into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, consisting of a brief description of the box's contents and all folder titles, as they were created by Char himself, along with any dates he may have included in the folder titles. I also made sure to take relevant notes regarding certain folders and included them in the spreadsheet. For example, I had to take note of any newspaper clippings within a folder, because I will then need to photocopy them onto acid-free paper (once I go through each folder in greater detail later) in order to prevent any future damage to the other materials in the folder.

An important lesson I learned from my introduction to processing a collection is that it is recommended to try and keep any original titles or order that the creator of the collection (in this case Char Miller) provided. For this collection, Char in fact organized the different materials to a certain extent, which means I will have to try and keep it "as is" as much as possible, as long as it fits accordingly within the processing and arrangement plan I devise. 
At first, I was a little disappointed with this, only because I thought it would make the work simpler and perhaps not include many of the steps necessary while processing a more "haphazard" collection of materials.
But, these fears quickly went away once I really got started! I understand now that the key job of the processor is to arrange the collection in the most clear and simple way possible, so that it will be easier for researches to navigate through the materials and find exactly what they are looking for. I know as a researcher I would greatly appreciate this as well! 
Also, as I have gone through the collection initially and worked on the spreadsheet, I am gaining an invaluable knowledge of the work - even if I won't necessarily have to complete each and every task imaginable! 
I've created my initial arrangement scheme based on the initial survey, organizing the collection through different series, and some subseries, and I am very excited to see if these series will in fact remain or how they will change once I begin to go through the entire collection more thoroughly. 
As a distinguished academic scholar, both in history and environmental analysis, and a contemporary writer, Professor Miller stands as a significant originator of the collection. His weekly columns mostly focus on environmental concerns, including Climate Change, and the relationship of the environment with other "hot topics" such as Presidential elections, immigration reform, and the drought in California. Additionally, the collection contains materials from Pomona college including correspondence regarding the hiring process, previous syllabi, and documents related to the development of the Environmental Analysis program at Pomona, a major he helped initiate. 
The box of family materials he has donated also seem to be extremely interesting, filled with photos and artifacts!
It has been an amazing first week getting acclimated with the process, and has only heightened my excitement for what more is in store the rest of the summer!

Welcome, Emma/Faces of Shakespeare

Hello, all.

My name is Emma and I am a brand new SURP-CCEPS researcher. I am a rising junior at Pomona, studying English with a possible double major in French. 

My job this summer is multi-pronged. For part of each day, I scan and process letters from the Philbrick letter collection, mostly written (up to this point/as far as I can tell) by Dion Boucicault, an important man in entertainment in the 19th century. The rest of the day is focused on self-driven research about Shakespeare, completely freeform, with the end goal of curating three exhibits using the materials in Special Collections (one in Honnold/Mudd, one in Denison, and one online).

I just started on Wednesday, so the bulk of my time has been getting oriented: learning how to use the different computer systems, choosing books that could potentially be interesting, running back to my room for a sweater (it is SO COLD in the Reading Room). However, on Wednesday, Gale and I found a beautiful book of illustrations of scenes, actors,Shakespeare himself, and other Shakespeareana that brought up some questions for me.
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Although I haven't had the chance to explore all those questions, I have a nice long list of things to research. The subject that I am researching right now was inspired by those faces of Shakespeare; although of course portraits of Shakespeare naturally vary - he did live an awfully long time ago - the collection of pictures got me thinking about the various ways people perceive Shakespeare - a genius, an idol, or even a fraud.

The research I started is related to the fact that people have long disputed whether or not Shakespeare is the real author of all of his works; some people, like William Henry Ireland, wrote plays and pretended they were original works by Shakespeare. In the past, scholars have also suggested that Shakespeare is not the real author of his plays - they dispute how much Latin and Greek he knew, if he was literate, and even how much the plays we have resemble the originals, as they may be facsimiles created by editors, actors, or members of the audience writing in shorthand. I haven't made a huge amount of headway yet but I'm excited to keep looking into this and other avenues of research. 

An introduction and some thoughts on "Measure for Measure"

Hello!

My name is Pieter, and I'm part of this summer's CCEPS-SURP program. (SURP stands for Summer Undergraduate Research Program, which is Pomona College's primary summer research program for students). A little about me--I came to Claremont from the East Coast, and I'm a Religious Studies major with a particular interest in intersections of Christianity and political theory (and politics in general), out of which I will likely form a concentration.

I am one of three students spending the majority of our summers working in Special Collections' vast expanse of Shakespeare materials, particularly in the Philbrick Collection. We could post about anything from major Shakespearean directors' handwritten letters to curiously censored 19th-century editions of Shakespeare's plays. 

I spent most of last week studying Measure for Measure and searching for any interesting materials housed in Special Collections that might shed some light on this play and its history. Today I want to share with you to some of the work of John Philip Kemble, an important 18th-century actor and manager. I found my way to Kemble's work through an edition of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure that Kemble published in 1803. Kemble's edition has his own cuts and changes for stage, as it was performed at Drury Lane in London in the 1790s. It allows a unique opportunity, then, to see just how this production handled what can be a rather opaque character, the Duke of Vienna. 

Measure for Measure centers on the impending execution of Claudio, who is guilty of fornication on something of a technicality. He has been condemned by Angelo, the Duke of Vienna's deputy, as the Duke has supposedly left town. Claudio's sister Isabella goes to Angelo to plead for Claudio's life; he tells her that she can have her wish if she will give him her virginity. Isabella, a nun-to-be, decides to let her brother die rather than sacrifice her chastity. Angelo's power over the situation, however, is a farce, as the Duke never left Vienna to begin with, and instead disguises as a friar and plays a few tricks to make sure the story comes to a happy end. 

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Through the Duke's machinations we learn that Angelo is even more a villain than we thought, and when the Duke returns in the final act and pretends to hear of the situation for the first time, he deigns it best that Angelo be executed for his wrongdoing. But Isabella and Angelo's betrothed Mariana (to whom Angelo has done much wrong) plead for his life, and the Duke instead decides that Angelo will simply marry Mariana.

This easy way out for Angelo is surprising given the nature of Angelo's offenses and the rather brief development of his repentance, and gives the play what some describe as a "disturbing effect." Moreover, it is unclear at first glance why the Duke didn't simply exert his powers as Duke from the start rather than using subterfuge.

How does this involve Kemble? I spent some time looking at a facsimile of Kemble's own promptbook, which was a printing of his edition with handwritten notes giving stage directions and diagrams. Here, I found some stage directions that may have attempted to explain the Duke's motives.  The Duke, in both the original text and Kemble's, asks for Isabella's hand in marriage at the end of the play, after Claudio is revealed alive and Angelo and Mariana renew their betrothal. But in Kemble's edition, an early scene between the Duke (disguised as a friar) and Isabella are made to foreshadow this event. Kemble writes that the Duke is "much struck at the sight of Isabella" from the moment he first sees her. 

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In this production, then, it is established from the beginning that the Duke is interested in Isabella. Perhaps the heightened drama that the Duke's slow manipulation of events provides is not only to increase audience tension, but serves to swoon Isabella. This fits well with the Duke's strategy in Shakespeare's text: 
                              "I will keep her ignorant of her good [Claudio's survival],
                               To make her heavenly comforts of despair
                               When it is least expected." (Act IV Scene 3)
This plan has no romantic connotation, but if one wants to interpret the Duke as Isabella's suitor all along, it would serve as an effective guiding principal for the Duke's actions. The Duke's advice to Isabella that she not "stain [her] gracious person" when Angelo makes his offer takes on a perhaps more selfish tone (though I would not suspect that is what Kemble intended), as the Duke is essentially asking Isabella to preserve her chastity for himself at Claudio's mortal expense. Indeed when Isabella chastises Claudio for asking her to give herself up to Angelo, Kemble's stage directions have the duke enter between them, as if shielding Isabella from her brother's crude plea.

That's all for this week! I leave you with the gorgeous 1889 cover of The Henry Irving Shakespeare, vol. V from which the above illustration was taken:

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Starting a new collection! Chan Doo Sung papers

Chan Doo Sung's materials are finally going to be archived in summer of 2015, after waiting for more than a year at Special Collections!All the materials were donated to Special Collections by Chan's daughter in 2013. She hopes that the materials will help scholars in academic field. The box contains advertisements on newspaper, testimonials from patient, correspondences, prescriptions, receipts, print model, and biography by Chan's daughter.

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Chan Doo Sung was a Chinese herbalist who was born in Canton, China in 1898 and moved to the US at age of 18 as a student. In the US, Chan interned with his cousin, who had managed several successful herbal practice offices, to learn English and take over some offices. Later, Chan had his own offices at several states but mainly based in California, where he first arrived in 1916. 

 

I am totally into this collection because of my cultural background and interest in history as well as early experiences of Chinese Americans. As an international student from China, my understanding of Chinese culture and fluency in Chinese language will help me with contents of the project in general. Furthermore, due to influence from my mother, who studies and practices Chinese medicine, I may have certain knowledge that associate with prescriptions of the Chinese herbalist, which hopefully could help more people to understand the prescriptions better during and after my work. 

 

Nearing the end

Well, my time here as a CCEPS Fellow is nearing its end. Last week all three of us CCEPS Fellows had the pleasure of giving a presentation on what we have been doing the past semester. Giving a presentation is a fantastic way to punctuate our time at CCEPS. It allowed us to give our own insight into the work we have been doing behind the "glass wall" and what it has meant to us individually.

For me, this was a way to gain the crucial skills and experience necessary to make it to the next level in my academic and professional endeavors. My presentation centered on that Nag Hammadi portion of the IAC Collection and what I have learned from it. Going through this collection gave me the chance to learn about a religion I had no understanding of but faced it with an unbridled enthusiasm that I made a point to mention in the presentation. The eagerness I had at the beginning of the semester never waned as the end approached. 

Not only was I able to learn about a subject I know nothing about but I was able to learn more about myself as a historian and archivist. I was able to test my knowledge gained in the classroom in a real setting. The setup of the program forces you to think about your next move and to not be afraid to reach out to peers or superiors when things become overwhelming. I was also able to learn and expand on my own capabilities as a student and professional. 

Despite my time at CCEPS coming to an end, there is still much to be done. Not in the sense of moving boxes and organizing a collection but in the small details that remain. One thing to keep in mind is that there is always work to be done that can improve a collection and its finding aid. This improving extends beyond the collection and to an archives as a whole. An archive is more than just a storage room for history. It gives life back to forgotten histories and shows that the value of archival collections can go beyond that of the researcher and can reach the public in new ways. 

Here, I have attached a direct link to my presentation should you want a brief glimpse at what I discusses: