Peeping In On Satire

The Friends of the Sojourner Truth Library will be sponsoring a peepshow on the New Paltz campus—in the form of a lecture.

Art History Professor Dr. Reva Wolf will deliver the sixth annual Dennis O’Keefe Memorial Lecture, “Seeing Satire in the Peepshow,” on Thursday, Sept. 13, at 5 p.m. in Lecture Center 104. The lecture will examine peepshows during the 18th century and how they were interpreted by artists of the time.

“This lecture will open students’ minds to the way we have thought about how words and images operate together,” Wolf said. “Some of the cruder aspects of pop culture were actually present back then.”

The Friends of the Sojourner Truth Library is an organization made up of faculty and community members working to improve the college library through fundraisers. They are responsible for choosing lecture topics and lecturers to lead the discussions. The topics are chosen based on what O’Keefe was passionate about, which Morgan Gwenwald, outreach librarian and member of the Friends of the Library, said covers wide ground.

“Dennis had so many interests, there is hardly a topic you could pick that was not appropriate,” Gwenwald said.

A member of the New Paltz community, library staff and alumni, O’Keefe died in 2006 and is remembered annually through these educational events.

Prior to the event, Thomas Olsen, English professor and member of the Friends of the Library Committee, will speak briefly about the background of the annual lecture.

“I’m just going to remind audiences of the purpose of the lecture series and about Dennis and his commitment to education,” Olsen said.

Wolf said O’Keefe collected postcards from the 18th century, the same time period her lecture covers.

“[Postcards] are a form of popular imagery not unlike the prints within the peepshows of the 18th century that the satires I will talk about use as central images and motifs,” she said.

Wolf’s lecture will discuss the use of peepshows as a central motif in visual satire. Her presentation will also include the work of Spanish artist Francisco de Goya, works by British and Italian artists, as well as the parallels between satirical images and 18th and 19th century literature.

Gwenwald said having professionals lecture on topics they’re well-versed in is what makes the series so interesting.

“This is a chance for the faculty to share what they’re working on,” she said. “We have a creative, productive faculty and it’s great to listen to them. They aren’t just good lecturers, they’re good performers.”