Daring to Challenge

The work of three artists visiting the Writers Institute, left to right, Joseph LeDoux's Anxious: Using the Brain to Understand and Treat Fear and Anxiety, Stephen Burt's The Poem is You, and filmmaker Joseph Tovares' documentary Zoot Suit Riots.

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 21, 2016) — The coming week for the New York State Writers Institute on campus reflects what the Institute has always been in its 33-year history — a consummate presenter of literary talent that one can never pigeonhole.

“We always say at the Writers Institute that if you see a theme in our programming, we’re not doing our jobs,” said Suzanne Lance, the Institute’s associate director.

And so, the Institute will welcome experts in science, poetry and film next Tuesday through Friday to exhibit and discuss their latest work to campus and community members, with all events free of charge.

Joseph LeDoux, an expert on the neurobiology of fear and anxiety, will be discussing his new book Anxious: Using the Brain to Understand and Treat Fear and Anxiety, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, in the Recital Hall of the Performing Arts Center.

On Thursday, Sept. 29, acclaimed poet and critic Stephen Burt will discuss his new book, The Poem is You: 60 Contemporary American Poems and How to Read Them. Published last month, The Poem is You “creates a coherent body of work out of the vast landscape of recent American poetry,” according to Publishers Weekly.

On Friday, Sept. 30, filmmaker Joseph Tovares hosts a screening of his PBS Documentary, Zoot Suit Riots, at 7 p.m. at Page Hall on the Downtown Campus, followed by commentary and a question-and-answer session.

Published last year, LeDoux’s Anxious is an accessible guide to the origins, nature and impact of fear and anxiety disorders. “This marvelous book is science at its best,” said Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel.

"His work is challenging, his work is science," said Mark Koplik, program fellow for the Writers Institute. "His greatest challenge is explaining his work of science to the average readers who are not scientists."

Earlier in the day, LeDoux will hold an informal seminar at 4:15 p.m. in the Standish Room of the Science Library. His appearance is jointly sponsored by the Writers Institute and the Science Library.

LeDoux received his Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, is director of the Emotional Brain Institute at New York University, and now serves as the Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science at NYU’s Center for Neural Science and Department of Psychology.

The son of a traveling rodeo bull rider, LeDoux was born and raised in Louisiana. Steeped in the Cajun musical traditions of his youth, he is also cofounder, guitarist, and lyricist for the band, The Amygdaloids, which explores neuroscientific subjects through music. The band’s latest CD, Anxious, is a companion to his book.

Burt is a professor of English at Harvard University and considered a literary tastemaker whose discoveries of unknown and underappreciated poets have frequently rescued them from obscurity. An unabashed cross-dresser, he often writes about the significance and complexities of gender identity.

Burt will hold an informal seminar at 4:15 p.m. in the Standish Room of the Science Library and a reading and discussion at 8 p.m. in the New York State Museum’s Huxley Theatre. His visit is sponsored by the Writers Institute and the Friends of the New York State Library.

The film examines race riots in Los Angeles in 1943, when American sailors armed with makeshift weapons cruised Mexican-American neighborhoods in search of “zoot-suiters” — hip, young Mexican teens dressed in baggy pants and long-tailed coats. The sailors dragged kids — some as young as 12 — out of movie theaters and diners and beat them, tearing off the suits and burning them in bonfires.

Tovares, an Emmy-winning filmmaker and long-time leader in American public television, became chief content officer of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) in February 2016. In his new role, he is responsible for overseeing CPB’s content creation, the largest source of funding for public radio, television and related online content.

Born and raised in San Antonio, Tovares traces his Texas ancestry back to the late 1600s. His earlier films as producer include the Emmy-winning TV documentary, Luis Tiant, A Baseball Story.

"Tovares introduces aspects of Latino history that may not have been known about," said Koplik. "He challenges television viewers to understand the enormous importance of Latinos in American history in ways that they haven't heard of."

The screening and discussion is sponsored by the Writers Institute in conjunction with the School of Criminal Justice’s Crime, Justice, and Public Memory Film Series.

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