FSU professors reflect on research from latest publications

Framingham State University offered its fifth annual fall authors event that celebrated two of their own scholarly innovations.

Each year the fall author event reminds colleagues of the bond they have with scholars and writers across the world and throughout history, said Linda Vaden-Goad, vice president of academic affairs.

Kelly Kolodny, associate professor of education, spent ten years researching and writing her novel “Normalites: The First Professionally Prepared Teachers in the United States.”

In an evolving country, three women left their families behind at the ages of 15-17 to partake in a powerful movement for the first state normal school in MA.

It has been 175 years since the school opened.

Kolodny centered her novel around three young women, Lydia Stow, Mary Swift and Louisa Harris, who were pioneers in education.

After having traveled to 20 historical societies, reading diaries, poetry books and a number of other historical records, she researched and wrote her novel. Kolodny said she relished in the connection she had with these three determined students.

“In my research I feel like I came to know them,” Kolodny said with a smile.

The girls strayed from their families to better the learning experience for children despite the war being waged against them and the fierce scrutiny of 19th-century Americans.

In a union of 26 states in 1839, walking this path was “anything but certain” for Stow, Swift and Harris, said Kolodny.

These noteworthy women are “what made” her book. Kolodny explained that reading and writing about these strong women “evoked a sense of mission and sense of duty that shaped their life path.”

This provided a platform to understanding the complexity of the 19th-century educational movements.

Kolodny was able to grasp and picture the transformations these women took upon themselves in their educational experience.

“I needed to examine their experiences holistically in order to understand the essence of them,” said Kolodny. “Examining these women in an open manner allowed me to obtain a clear and more accurate picture regarding what it meant to be a Normalite woman.”

Kolodny, with a calming voice on stage, depicted an image to the audience of the culture-shocking adventures her research led her too.

Married with three children, Kolodny embarked on her expedition with her family in tow, to fully experience Stow’s “Inspiration Rock.”

Expecting to stand on a rock surrounded by a breathtaking scenic view, Kolodny found it now accompanied by a busy street, parked cars and a chain-link fence.

However, Kolodny could quickly see what Stow cherished and beloved while standing on the rock. She saw the Charles River and the Dedham Village, which is roughly 20 miles from Lexington.

Stow, orphaned at the age of 11, was the first woman to serve as a school board member and on the school committee. Her life revolved around teaching and providing social and educational services to women. At one point, Stow worked with Frederick Douglas.

Kolodny described Stow to be quiet and reflective with a strong love for nature.

Like Kolodny, Swift was not only a teacher but a writer as well. Swift worked closely with the deaf and blind. In Kolodny’s eyes, she remained to be a true fighter. Swift, half a century before Hellen Keller, discovered Laura Bridgman, who was the first blind person to learn an early form of sign language. Swift wrote a book about Bridgman, which became widely recognized, said Kolodny.

Harris, a lifelong teacher with a sense of humor, remained single unlike Stow and Swift, said Kolodny. She often taught 60 children in a one-room schoolhouse in poor conditions. Harris embraced her creativity and ambitions to write, eventually writing poetry.

Regarding all three of them as admirable, Kolodny reminded the audience that as great as they were, they were still human.

“Human beings make mistakes. We experience failures. We sometimes regret our actions and hope to do better and move forward,” she said.

Taking center stage with a comfortable presence, as if talking to old friends, Virginia Rutter, professor of sociology and blogger since 2008, presented “Love, Lust and Thinking in Public” at the fifth fall authors event at FSU Wednesday.

She waved a yellow magazine in the air, showing off her article, “Love and Lust” on the front page of Psychology Today. She said the magazine spiced up her article with “really silly, sexed-up pictures.”

“Lust is in our hearts and doing well,” she added with a contagious chuckle.

Her article discussing the way people hide sexual disappointments and keep a physical relationship alive, Rutter’s article developed while on sabbatical, during which she studied couples and their interactions with their partner.

Focusing on their sex lives, Rutter pinned three underlying themes that caused sexual frustrations and decline.

The first was the pressures on couples with children. She said, partners spend more time with their kids rather than each other. Rutter explained that it may have something to do with the way society is cultivating children.

Secondly, she pointed out retrograde imagination, in the sense of gender stereotypical roles. Sex and what people believe is normal, drags our imagination into the past, she said.

“We are living in a world where men and women are doing similar things, are occupying the same roles and occupying powerful and influential positions,” said Rutter. “It may not be as much equality as we like, but perhaps more equality than we’d get when we think about how our sexual imaginations are organized.”

Lastly, ego pressure, which refers to expectations during sex as well as missing out on what else is out there, creates disappointment in relationships. Rutter compared phenomenal sex expectations to pizza, explaining that although it is universally loved, everyone in their lifetime has had at least one dissatisfying slice of pizza.

Rutter explained there is a gap between what pop culture portrays people doing sexually and what they actually do.

Ultimately, Rutter stated, “Respect protects love and love protects lust.”

Respect protecting love connects equality in a marriage to the microinteractions couples have with each other.

Partners who connect with the interactions they have with each other, share responsibility and pay attention to those experiences, are the ones who stay married, said Rutter.

For example, an everyday interaction may be asking how someone’s day is going. A person may have the option of divulging a positive answer, agreeing the day is nice or hint at a bid for attention.

Rutter explained what she meant by “love protects lust” saying, “In long term sexual relationships, our ability to focus attention when things are going well when we are under the condition of respect and equality is something that allows us to focus attention to stay sexually connected.”

Showing empathy in a moment, instead of coldness is what keeps sex alive for couples. It’s the coldness of a response, the detachment, that kills sex drive over time, said Rutter.

In Rutter’s closing statements, she rhetorically asked if we knew what normal sex is – what normal really is.

“We don’t know what normal is […] if there is such a thing. Is it a good thing to keep reaching for?”

Society conditions people think they will have a long blissful connection with someone, however there are “valleys and plateaus” in any relationship, said Rutter.

The magic is when a person opens their heart to let a moment sink in, said Rutter.

“Once in you are in the moment, there is a lot more possibility and distractions of protecting yourself drop away,” said Rutter.

Photo by Kyle Torres

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