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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Scholars at Work

Frances McCueFrances McCue (English) has a new book of poetry, Timber Curtain, that collects poems written during the filming of the forthcoming documentary Where the House Was, a film project supported by the Simpson Center.

Both the film and the book memorialize the demolition of the building in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood that long housed the literary institution Richard Hugo House. McCue had helped found the house in 1996, itself named after the venerated Northwest poet and UW creative writing alumnus.

The poems in Timber Curtain (Chin Music Press) meditate on the demolition, considering the effect of gentrification in Capitol Hill both as threat and opportunity to artists (Hugo House is relocating to a new building on the same site).

Timber Curtain book cover

The term timber curtain is a coinage of McCue’s for the facades of trees that loggers sometimes leave along roadways to hide the clearcuts behind. She extends the metaphor to the streetfront facades of old buildings that are sometimes preserved when everything behind them is replaced.

McCue is also hosting a conversation on “Turning Archives into Films through Community Engagement” on Tuesday, January 16, 2018, at the Simpson Center. It’s geared toward graduate students and others working with archival research. She’s joined by Where the House Was co-writer Cali Kopczick and by Sarah Salcedo, the producer and co-director of Promised Land, a documentary following the Duwamish and Chinook tribes' history in the Northwest and their ongoing fight for federal recognition.

See the Where the House Was film trailer and read more about Timber Curtain from the English Department and UW News.

Congratulations, Frances!

People raising wooden lighthouseThe most recent two issues of the art-criticism journal FIELD draw extensively on Socially Engaged Art in Japan, a November 2015 conference supported by the Simpson Center and organized by Justin Jesty (Asian Languages & Literatures).

FIELD, with the subtitle “A Journal of Socially-Engaged Art Criticism,” devotes its spring 2017 and fall 2017 issues to essays emerging from the UW conference, which gathered international artists, curators, and scholars to examine the worldwide surge of art crossing boundaries between art and social activism. Participants used Japan's robust activity as a lens into broader questions of art and politics. (Read more in “The Show Goes On: Examining Socially Engaged Art with a Banned Guest”) 

Jesty provides introductory essays to the spring and fall issues of FIELD, which are available online.

Congratulations, Justin!

MercerLeigh Mercer (Spanish & Portuguese Studies) has developed a new graduate seminar based on her work as a 2016 Mellon Summer Fellow for New Graduate Seminars in the Humanities. The fellowship, part of the Simpson Center’s Reimagining the Humanities PhD and Reaching New Publics program, gathers a cohort of UW faculty to develop new courses with significant public scholarship components. 

The course, Hispanic Film Programming and the Film Festival Phenomenon, offered in winter 2018, arises from Leigh’s conviction that organizing film festivals can be a valuable form of cultural production. Faculty in area studies and literature and language departments are increasingly asked to organize film series, Leigh says.


Film festivals in particular offer scholars a unique opportunity to connect with broader audiences, and this course trains students in the critical implications of festival organization. Students develop both practical curatorial experience and a greater historical understanding of the film festival as a phenomenon, while also examining what it means to translate their area studies expertise for new publics.        

The cinema of the Hispanic World will be our case study. Students gain a foundation in Spanish and Latin American film history from 1896 to the present, while also connecting with local and international experts in film programming, including personnel at the Guanajuato Film Festival, SIFF, the Seattle Latino Film Festival, the Cervantes Institute, and the Sitges Film Festival. Most importantly, students work throughout our quarter of study in small curatorial groups to prepare a small-scale film festival for Latino high school students in Washington State, with all of the relevant accompanying documentation.

Learn more about the course

The course joins Feminist New Media Studies from Regina Yung Lee (Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies) as new seminars arising from the Reimagining program.

Leigh also serves on the Simpson Center Executive Board and was a member of the 2014-15 Society of Scholars, where she worked on her book project on Spanish cinema.

Congratulations, Leigh! 

RamamurthyPriti Ramamurthy (Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies) has received a Fulbright-Nehru Academic & Professional Excellence Award to conduct research in India for nine months beginning this winter, in partnership with Ambedkar University in New Delhi. The award, from the United States-India Educational Foundation, supports her ongoing ethnography into the complex interplay of rural and urban economies in contemporary India. From the foundation:  

Her research focuses on the politics of social reproduction and cultural production in rural and urban India. An ethnographer, she has spent over three decades in villages in South India mapping lives and livelihoods in smallholder, especially Dalit, households as they embrace green revolution, hybridization, and GMO technologies and aspire for dignity. A recurrent thematic, pursued through her analytic of feminist commodity chains, and the method of connective comparison, has been how global political-economic conjunctures manifest in local, familial, and intimate relationships. She teaches courses in feminist political economy, gender and development, globalization, and social movements in India.

The informal sector in India, which was supposed to disappear with development, still employs over 90 percent of workers in uncertain rural and urban livelihoods. In 2015–16, Dr. Ramamurthy and her collaborators conducted oral histories with over a hundred rural migrants to Delhi and Hyderabad on their life experiences and desires. With her Fulbright-Nehru grant, Dr. Ramamurthy is returning to follow eight migrants back to their villages to understand urban transformations from the vantage point of the rural, recognizing that the urban and the rural are inextricably interlinked. She is also holding two workshops that theorize rural-urban dynamics in India.

Priti is organizing, with Vinay Gidwani (University of Minnesota), a December 1-2 symposium at the Simpson Center, Poetics of Subaltern Life-Worlds: New Research, New Imaginaries of Informal Economies in Contemporary India. The symposium builds on her extended research into informal economies and includes with a session on public scholarship and technologies of communication.

Congratulations, Priti!

James TweedieJames Tweedie (Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media) has been named one of two Academy Film Scholars by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for 2017. He receives a $25,000 grant to work on his book project, a history and theory of Hollywood production design. 

The academy program supports significant new works on film scholarship. According to the academy, James’s project “foregrounds the contributions of designers to the look of studio films and explains why that contribution matters, and why design should be placed at the center of the creative process when we consider the classical studio system and its contemporary successors.”

James is an organizer of the Moving Images Research Group (MIRG), a former member of the Simpson Center Executive Board, and a 2011-2012 fellow of the Society of Scholars. More from Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media.

Congratulations, James!

Yung LeeRegina Yung Lee (Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies) has developed a new graduate seminar based on her work as a 2017 Mellon Summer Fellow for New Graduate Seminars in the Humanities. The fellowship, part of the Simpson Center’s Reimagining the Humanities PhD and Reaching New Publics program, gathers a cohort of UW faculty to develop new courses with significant public scholarship components. 

Faculty not only present scholarship differently in the classroom, they also create coursework that asks students to learn methods and approaches in public scholarship. Other fellows in the program will offer new courses in winter and spring 2018.

Regina’s course, Feminist New Media Studies (GWSS 590B), offered this fall, asks students to consider what’s at stake in the illusion or fantasy of online disembodiment.

From the course description:

By examining varying forms of media production, and the spread and mediation of voluntary production, we bring into focus the hidden body of online work. Throughout the course we think through the insistence on a default whiteness implicit in the silencing of the body online, coming to grips with the persistent meaning-making of race as well as gender in the context of online environments. This course includes specific tools for digital object creation and analysis, and a discussion of practical cybersecurity protocols, as well as professionalization through the development of a new-media proposal from concept through implementation and first draft.

Congratulations, Regina!

Liina-Ly RoosLiina-Ly Roos, a doctoral student in Scandinavian Studies, has received the Alvord Fellowship in the Humanities for her teaching and her research in Estonian literature and film, Baltic cinema, and Nordic cinema and culture. She will join the Society of Scholars at the Simpson Center for 2017-2018.

The Alvord Fellowship is the College of Arts & Science’s most prestigious graduate student award in the humanities, providing a stipend of $16,000 provided by private donors, and a waiver of tuition provided by the Graduate School. Liina-Ly was also awarded a scholarship from the Frank L. and Catherine D. Doleshy Endowed Fund.

Her dissertation, “The Child in Contemporary Baltic and Scandinavian Literature and Cinema,” uses the figure of the child to analyze questions of traumatic experience and traumatic witnessing.

“Drawing on trauma theory and affect theory, Liina-Ly’s project has the potential to make a fundamental contribution to our understanding of the way traumatic experience has been handled culturally in the Baltic,” said Andy Nestingen, Professor and Chair of Scandinavian Studies and Liina-Ly’s dissertation advisor. “This is a salient topic of research, for trauma is integral to memory of the World-War-II experience, the Soviet period, and continues to resonate in the post-Soviet transition to capitalism ... Her dissertation has much to offer to a number of audiences. I expect it to become a fine book in the coming years.”

Congratulations, Liina-Ly!

Jesse Oak TaylorJesse Oak Taylor (English) has won the 2017 Ecocriticism Book Award from the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment for his book The Sky of Our Manufacture: The London Fog in British Fiction from Dickens to Woolf (University of Virginia Press, 2016). 

The judges describe The Sky of Our Manufacture as a richly layered analysis of the atmosphere of toxicity beginning in nineteenth century England and shadowing our own contemporary world" that is "elegantly written, admirably focused, and highly original." They praise Jesse’s "grasp of environmental history [and] material and economic theory," which enable him to undertake "illuminating textual readings."

More from the Department of English.

Jesse is co-organizer, with Jason Groves (Germanics), of the Simpson Center’s Anthropocene crossdisciplinary research cluster, which continues in 2017-2018. He also a member of the 2017-2018 Society of Scholars for his project Becoming Species: Literature, Science, and the Emergence of the Anthropocene.

Congratulations, Jesse!

Haicheng WangHaicheng Wang (Art History) has received a New Directions Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to study Chinese bells found at archaeological sites and how ancient Chinese musical culture made an abrupt shift from the dominance of bells to stringed instruments.

More from the School of Art + Art History + Design:

Wang will use his fellowship to pursue further study in ethnomusicology, psychoacoustics, music theory, bell founding, and bell acoustics. He will take classes in the UW School of Music and Department of Psychology; visit bell foundries in London, England, and The Netherlands; do research on ancient Chinese music at Kyoto City University of Arts and the University of Arkansas; and, hopefully, experience in person the music of southern India, which has some parallels with Chinese music.

New Directions Fellowships support faculty members who seek systematic training outside their own areas of expertise. Fellows receive the equivalent of one academic year's salary and two summers of additional support. Three University of Washington faculty have received New Directions Fellowships in the past: Danny Hoffman (Anthropology), Benjamin Schmidt (History), and James Tweedie (Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media).

Haicheng was a member of the 2010-2011 Society of Scholars at the Simpson Center. His project used archaeological remains from ancient China to cast light on performative aspects of Bronze Age kingship.

Congratulations, Haicheng!

Reiko YamanakaReiko Yamanaka, Professor and Director of the Noh Theatre Research Institute of Hosei University in Tokyo, joins the Simpson Center as a visiting scholar in April and May 2017. Reiko is an accomplished scholar of noh drama and performance and the recipient of several grants from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. At the UW, she is co-teaching a graduate seminar on noh with Paul Atkins, Professor and Chair of Asian Languages & Literature and a member of the Simpson Center Executive Board.

“Reiko knows everyone in the world of noh, performers as well as scholars,” said Atkins. “She is directing an ambitious, interdisciplinary multinational project to create an encyclopedia of noh in English.”

Welcome, Reiko!