SMC Bookshelf

Memory and Community in Medieval Southern Italy

By Brother Charles Hilken
Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies 2008

Brother Charles Hilken, an SMC history professor with an interest in southern Italian medieval monastic culture, details the history and necrology of the monastery of Santa Maria del Gualdo Mazzocca in a remote part of the Apennine foothills and neighboring Tavoliere of Puglia.

Santa Maria del Gualdo Mazzocca was founded as a community of hermits and secular priests gathered around John of Tufara, an elderly hermit who was its first prior from 1156 to 1170. He led a solitary, itinerant life until he committed to the Rule of St. Benedict and the supervision of disciples.

Very little remains of the monastery, and it has been little studied because there are few documentary sources, as most were destroyed in World War II. Brother Charles used the chapter book (housed in the Vatican Library), which includes the necrology with names from the monastic community's beginnings in 1156 to its last days of existence as a Benedictine house in 1497. He admits that it was a challenge to draw out the character of the monastic community from almost 350 years of records. “What did the monks of the 15th century have in common with the founding community?” Brother Charles writes. “Even so, the monks aspired to be faithful to their history. The maintenance of the necrology was their tie to tradition. … The necrology perpetuated a myth of identity and continuity within the chapter room. It still perpetuates such a myth for the historian.”

The Artistic Legacy of Le Corbusier's Machine à Habiter

Edited by Anna Novakov and Elisabeth Schmidle
The Edwin Mellen Press 2008

Anna Novakov, an SMC associate professor of art history and chair of the Art and Art History Department, co-edited this anthology that explores Swiss architect Le Corbusier's machine à habiter, or “machine for living.” The famed architect described the concept in a 1923 treatise: “The house is a machine for living in …”

In this book, eight international architectural historians look at modernist buildings and streamlined interior design, drawing analogies “between the machine à habiter and twentieth-century political and social movements such as Italian and German Fascism and the multi-national New Woman movement.”

In her essay, Novakov writes of architect Eileen Gray (1878–1976), an independent “New Woman” and one of the few women architects in the period between World War I and II. Novakov looks at how Gray “tried to reconcile the metropolis, the home, and gender in her 1929 en Bord de Mer. … The house's design repositioned the woman, as a liberated, mobile, and efficient force within the modern home.”

Novakov notes that Gray essentially used text messages throughout the home. The home's entrance was marked by red paint, Novakov writes, “a visual strategy designed to entice the visitor into the house” and the words entrez lentement or “enter slowly.” Other messages throughout the house include defense de rire (“no laughing”), and object names over storage areas including “pajamas, overcoats, little things and pillows.” “Teeth” was inscribed in the bathroom and “cushions” by the night table.

Gold Stripe on a Jackass

By Stephen B. Sloane
University Press of America, Inc. 2008

Gold Stripe on a Jackass is a description of one naval officer's career journey. SMC political science professor Stephen B. Sloane began his 30-year naval career in Annapolis, where the commandment of obedience holds sway. He finished it in Berkeley, where questioning authority is deeply ingrained in the culture.

Sloane rejects conventional corporate, government and military ideals by arguing that efficiency can be attained without sacrificing morality. He maintains that the person who dons the “gold stripe” of authority (which admirals have on their uniforms) should regard human lives and efforts as costs rather than resources to be utilized. Inspired by Admiral James Bond Stockdale's experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, Sloane asserts that a man's ethical posture and philosophical outlook can enable him to survive the most dire conditions with honor.

Gold Stripe on a Jackass provides readers with a guide to evaluating responsibility for decision-making that emphasizes questioning authority and speaking truth to power.