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Parisian Views of New York City Revisited

Last December, students in Dr. Rachel Mesch’s course Parisian Views learned about new approaches to art and literature that came about in 19th-century Paris, when artists began to see the everyday life of their rapidly changing city as fodder for artistic creation. They created an exhibition of their work, “Parisian Views: Instagram Discoveries by Yeshiva College Students,” which had its showcase in the second-floor Pollack Library gallery.

However, now that the libraries are closed and everything for the moment is moving onto digital platforms, Parisian Views has followed suit. As Dr. Mesch notes, “This semester started like countless others: with students posting on the class Instagram account, heading into subways to consider the crowds, trekking to the Met to observe Impressionist paintings. But then, COVID-19 hit. Plans for further excursions were halted. Baudelaire’s once charming notion of entering a crowd to ‘take a bath of multitude’ now filled us with dread. There would be no final trip to the High Line Park to explore new ways of looking at our own city spaces.”

But the students continued to take pictures of their surroundings as they reflected on the dramatic shifts in their relationships to urban spaces. The result is an online gallery created by Baruch Lerman and Tzvi Gettenberg, also titled “Parisian Views,” which showcases the work of the class and stands in for usual Pollack Library exhibition.

Each student chose a photograph from the semester and wrote about it through the lens of the class. Many of them also reflected on the pandemic and how it shaped their perspective of the world around them. “I think it captures so much of their spirit this semester,” said Dr. Mesch. “After all, there’s no better time than social isolation to learn to become a poet of everyday life, which these students have certainly become.”

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