Lasansky, D. Medina (Medina Lasansky)

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Lasansky, D. Medina (Medina Lasansky)

PERSONAL:

Education: Amherst College, M.A.; University of Minnesota, M.A.; Brown University, Ph.D., 1999.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art & Planning, 129 Sibley Dome, Ithaca, NY 1485. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Historian, educator, writer, and editor. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, associate professor in the department of architecture.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Henry Paolucci/Walter Bagehot Book Award, 2005, for The Renaissance Perfected; Martin Dominguez Distinguished Teaching Award, College of Architecture, Art & Planning, Cornell University. Recipient of grants and fellowships including those from the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Society for the Humanities, Cornell, the Wolfsonian-FIU in Miami, the Fulbright Foundation, and the Architectural League of New York.

WRITINGS:

(Editor, with Brian McLaren) Architecture and Tourism: Perception, Performance, and Place, Berg (New York, NY), 2004.

The Renaissance Perfected: Architecture, Spectacle, and Tourism in Fascist Italy, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 2004.

Contributor to books, including The Renaissance in the Nineteenth Century/Le 19e siècle renaissant, edited by Yannick Portebois and Nicholas Terpstra, Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2003; Donatello among the Blackshirts: History and Modernity in the Visual Culture of Fascist Italy, edited by Claudia Lazzaro and Roger Crum, Cornell University Press, 2005; The Federal Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, edited by Lois Huffines, Union County Historical Society, 2005; Architourism: Authentic, Exotic, Escapist, Spectacular, edited by Joan Ockman and Salomon Frausto, Prestel, 2005; Travel Reports from the Deborah J. Norden Fund, Architectural League of New York, 2006; and Early Modern Visual Allegory: Embodying Meaning, edited by Cristelle Baskins and Lisa Rosenthal, Ashgate, 2007. Contributor to periodicals, including Critical Journal of the Department of Architecture at MIT, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, and European Legacy. Architecture and Tourism has been translated into Spanish.

SIDELIGHTS:

D. Medina Lasansky is a historian whose research focuses on the intersection of politics, popular culture, and the human-built environment in both Renaissance and twentieth-century Italy. She has contributed essays and articles to periodicals, on such diverse topics as pink plastic lawn flamingos to the Venetian in Las Vegas. Lasansky is particularly interested in how popular conceptions of the Renaissance resonate with scholarly constructions of the period.

Lasansky is the editor, with Brian McLaren, of Architecture and Tourism: Perception, Performance, and Place. Published in 2004, this book presents a series of essays that examine the relationship between tourism and the built environment, showing how photography, film, and souvenirs have been used to help mediate and mythologize specific sites. Contributors also explore how tourist itineraries, behavior, and literature support larger cultural objectives in countries such as the United States, Cuba, Greece, France, Italy, Libya, and Spain. Lasansky is also author of the book's introduction, in which she notes that "this book examines the reciprocal relationship between the modern practice of tourism and the built environment," adding: "The two have been inseparable since the first pilgrims descended on Rome." The author goes on to write in the introduction: "From the former sites of the slave trade on the Ghanaian coast to the urban renewal of old Havana, from the honeymoon resorts in the Poconos to the postmodern spectacle of Bilbao, from the world's fairs of the 1930s to the colonialist encounters in Italian Libya, the essays provide provocative insights into the practice of tourism and the conception of place."

According to History Today contributor Miri Rubin, "Lasansky's The Renaissance Perfected … displays the rich possibilities of cultural history." In her book, Lasansky looks at how the Italian Fascists appropriated and used the Italian medieval and Renaissance heritage for their own political purposes. In the process, the author examines the functioning and politics of Fascist mass and high culture, architecture, urban design, and tourism. Rubin noted that the book "interestingly analyses the juxtaposition between tradition and modernity, charisma and bureaucracy in fascist political culture."

In addition, in The Renaissance Perfected, Lasansky examines a relatively unfamiliar side of the cultural politics of Italian Fascism as she traces its wide-ranging efforts to adapt the nation's medieval and Renaissance heritage to satisfy the regime's programs of national regeneration. For example, she points out that the supposedly historic architectural beauties of Tuscany, from public squares to town halls that many tourists believe to be authentic Renaissance works, were actually fabricated by architects, planners, and administrators working with Fascist programs. Their goal was to restore these sites to align with a vision of the past shaped by Fascist ideals of virile power, social order, and achievement in the arts.

Writing in the book's preface, the author notes: "Inherent to the premise of this book is the belief that there exists a relationship between political ideology, urban space, and history. I am interested in how the urban is reworked to define a ‘collective’ memory, or shared understanding of the past, intended to serve political legitimization and economic development."

In the book, the author asks new questions and provides a new perspective of the place of antiquity versus the medieval and Renaissance periods in the consciousness of Fascists. In the process, she focuses on everything from architectural design and city planning to the elaboration of civic rituals that were designed as pseudomedieval festivals. The author bases her theories on new archival evidence and further supports them with a large collection of illustrations, from photographs and architectural drawings to tourist posters and film stills.

"The Renaissance Perfected is a supremely well-researched book, drawing upon a wide variety of primary sources and incorporating an extensive and relevant secondary literature," wrote Kristin Semmens on H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online. "It thus makes a contribution to a number of different academic fields, from architectural history to modern tourism." A Reference & Research Book News contributor noted: "The book will challenge readers' assumptions and provoke new insights."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Lasansky, D. Medina, and Brian McLaren, editors, Architecture and Tourism: Perception, Performance, and Place, Berg (New York, NY), 2004.

Lasansky, D. Medina, The Renaissance Perfected: Architecture, Spectacle, and Tourism in Fascist Italy, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 2004.

PERIODICALS

Choice, July, 2005, J. Quinan, review of The Renaissance Perfected, p. 1979.

European History Quarterly, July, 2007, R.J.B. Bosworth, review of The Renaissance Perfected, p. 479.

History Today, March, 2006, Miri Rubin, review of The Renaissance Perfected, p. 63.

Journal of Modern History, June, 2007, Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi, review of The Renaissance Perfected, p. 451.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 2005, review of The Renaissance Perfected, p. 225.

Renaissance Quarterly, March 22, 2006, David E. Baum, review of The Renaissance Perfected, p. 156.

ONLINE

Cornell University Department of Architecture Web site,http://www.aap.cornell.edu/arch/ (May 16, 2008), faculty profile.

Cornell University Romance Studies Web site,http://www.arts.cornell.edu/romance/ (May 16, 2008), faculty profile of author.

H-Net Reviews,http://www.h-net.msu.edu/reviews/ (May 16, 2008), Kristin Semmens, review of The Renaissance Perfected.