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Simpson Center for the Humanities

2014-2015 Society of Scholars


Beatrice Arduini

Assistant Professor, French & Italian Studies

The Conversion of Literary Icons: Dante’s Convivio and Rime

This book project investigates the current developments in textual studies that are changing scholarly editorial practice. The first test case is Dante’s unfinished philosophical and poetic treatise, the Convivio (1304-1307), abandoned by the author in 1307, virtually forgotten in the fourteenth century, rediscovered and edited in the fifteenth century. This project develops analyzing the collection of fifteen Dante’s poems copied by Boccaccio, which starts with the three canzoni of the Convivio, and the practice of copying the poems along with the treatise in the manuscript tradition. This study of the diffusion and reception of the unfinished Convivio intends to trace how the ideological transformation of works is reflected in their material manifestations, in the Convivio’s case in the fifteenth-century manuscript tradition, in which the treatise appears alone or coupled with other texts, in its 1490 first edition, and in its three subsequent sixteenth-century editions.

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Luke Bergmann

Assistant Professor, Geography

Speculative Cartographies

Speculative Cartographies explore ways in which GIS and mapping can be transformed in the service of humanistic approaches to scholarship, and equally, how humanistic approaches to spatiality and relation can be used to enrich the notions of geographic information at the heart of GIS today. Beyond extending the negative critique of the positivist epistemologies and essentialist ontologies of GIS, this project will seek to offer detournings or alternatives, through: theoretical argument building on insights from the arts, literature, and theory; counter-coding prototypes of GIS whose ‘data models’ attempt to approach space, phenomena, and the reader relationally; and exploring the results through a decentering of how we might quantify and visualize the economic in the Anthropocene.

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Habiba Ibrahim

Associate Professor, English

Out of Time: Black Temporality in the Neoliberal Postmodern Age

Out of Time claims that from the 1970s onward, the confluence of “neoliberalism” and “postmodernism”—two late twentieth century discourses about historical emergence—has granted African Americans a contradictory temporal status. Together they foist onto black subjects the status of being both ahistorical, or outside of a national timeline of progress, and overly historical, or concrete expressions of a national past. Out of Time argues that this contradiction has been taken up in contemporary African American literature through the metaphor of age and aging. As a metaphor, age has allowed writers to explore the quotidian effects of what historian Walter Johnson has called “the historical politics of time-making.” In other words, age is the vehicle for an exploration of how an era’s contending politics of temporality are manifested at the level of everyday life and living.

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Justin Jesty

Assistant Professor, Asian Languages & Literature

Art and Engagement in Japan’s Early Postwar

This project argues that at this time of both crisis and promise, culture was invested with particular importance for its ability to express new public values and create new contexts for collectivity. The book centers on four cases, which examine groups of worker-artists and their relations with more established artists, social realists on the radical left who hoped to wed their art with activism, a liberal art education movement whose focus on the child inspired innovation in documentary film, and a regional avant-garde group split between ambition and local loyalty. The project argues that they collectively demonstrate a shared if varied aspiration to create a democratic culture founded in amateur-professional interaction, expanded access to the tools of public authorship, and dispersed and participatory cultural forms that intersected easily with progressive movements

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Symbol Lai

Dissertator, History

Decolonizing Okinawa: Social Science, Agriculture, US Militarism, 1946—1956

This dissertation examines the connection between the US militarization of Okinawa and agricultural and land reform policies instituted during the postwar occupation.  In addition to the relationship between US social and military occupation policies, the dissertation explores the convergence of US and Japanese colonial formations, the problematic of “sub-imperialism,” and question of Okinawan or subaltern agency.

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Charles LaPorte

Associate Professor, English

The Bard, the Bible, and the Victorian Cult of Shakespeare

Today's widespread belief in Shakespeare as the foremost genius of English literature derives largely from nineteenth-century reverence for his work as a veritable "Bible of Humanity."  This study analyses the specific textual environments of Victorian "bardolatry": Shakespearean sermons, devotional books, and literary criticism.  Rather than treating the Victorian cult of Shakespeare in the usual ways as a sign of modern religion's decline, this study treats it as a surprising index of nineteenth-century religion's vitality.  It shows how reconsidering secularization itself as a broadening of modern religious and philosophical positions, as scholars in many disciplines are increasingly doing, helps to make sense of Victorian bardolatry in a way that older versions of the secularization narrative did not permit.

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Leigh Mercer

Associate Professor, Spanish and Portuguese and Adjunct in Comparative Literature

An Incoherent Voyage: Spanish Cinema Pioneers, Between Technophilia and Technophobia

The Spanish Civil War and the ensuing 35-year dictatorship of Francisco Franco had an indelible impact on contemporary understanding of the silent film era in Spain, with almost eighty percent of the films made by Spaniards between 1896 and 1929 lost to the chaos of the war or to the cultural cleansing carried out during the dictatorship.  By linking the earliest transportation and urban actuality films, animated and special effects fantasies, and Spainʼs first pornographic cinema to the futuristic and challenging notions of seeing that are shown and critiqued in the experimental films of 1920s Spain, as well as contrasting them with ideas about sexuality and metropolitan life expressed in the cinema of the Franco era, An Incoherent Voyage charts Spainʼs long and uneven struggle to come to terms with technological advances and other modernizing forces.

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Stefka Mihaylova

Assistant Professor, Drama

Viewers in Distress: Restaging the Socially Marked Body at the Turn of the Century

This book project analyzes how representations of race and gender shifted on 1990s American and British radical stages as artists began revising the concepts of radical performance inherited from the 1960s. The book argues that by abandoning the Marxist models of spectatorship that became normative in the 1960s and drawing instead on early twentieth-century critical-race and feminist texts, the theatre artists the book studies manage to articulate a radical aesthetic specific to raced and gendered bodies.

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Hoang Ngo

Dissertator, History

Building a New House for the Buddha

Building a New House for the Buddha investigates Buddhist social engagement in Vietnam. This study argues that Buddhist social engagement in Vietnam was a product of the Buddhist Revival, which emerged in the 1920s, as Buddhists attempted to remake their religion into a “Buddhism for this world” to effectively deal with the colonization of the country by the French and the challenges posed by modernity. 

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Cabeiri Robinson

Associate Professor, International Studies

Humanitarian Jihad and Humanitarianism, Incorporated: Natural Disaster, Charitable Organizations, and the Making of a Tourist Industry in Northern Pakistan

The book will provide a longitudinal perspective on nearly a decade-long process (2005-2014) of relief provision, social reconstruction, and recreation of political society after the Kashmir earthquake of 2005. The field research for this book was conducted in Pakistan’s Azad Kashmir region, which was the epicenter of a complex humanitarian emergency set within the on-going Kashmir Conflict. In the project, Robinson analyzes the ways that Muslim disaster victims evaluated their interactions with representatives of religious charities and service societies, state institutions, and international aid agencies in order to show that these evaluations produced changes in public ideas about social responsibility and political accountability which have a profound impact on post-disaster political society. This kind of sustained longitudinal examination of changes following a series of critical events is rarely possible in ethnographic studies of political transformation and will provide a unique analysis of how Islamic and international political values are woven into the modern practice of everyday politics in Muslim societies.

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Benjamin Schmidt

Professor, Geography

Space as Thing: How China Became China(ware) and Other Chapters in the History of European Geography and Martial Arts

Geographic nomenclature associated with several of the lately encouraged foreign spaces of the early modern world became appropriated by Europeans as a linguistic means to identify a range of material objects. This project plans to focus specifically on the avid European interest in ceramics, the collection and production of which became enormously popular by the eighteenth century, and will explore the “china craze” (as it was called by contemporaries) and how it shaped aesthetics and global thinking for early modern, empire-minded Europeans. Objects of china were not merely materials of domestic use —chinaware— but also objects of art with narrative meaning. 

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Sue Shon

Dissertator, English

Making Sense: Race and Modern Vision

This research examines how race “makes sense” visually in modernity by examining when and how race becomes understandable as a visual characteristic. While there are rich critiques on the role vision has played in defining race (and justifying racial subjection), they tend to explain vision’s hold on race as misplaced or overdetermined. Instead of seeing the relationship between race and vision as an unfortunate coincidence, my dissertation questions how that relationship presumes vision’s logic as a common sense. Thus this project traces the logic of vision through its historically aesthetic—that is, sensorial—structure.

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Zeynep Seviner

Dissertator, Near & Middle Eastern Studies

Blue Desires and Black Disillusionment: Literary Market and Modern Authorship in the Ottoman Empire

This project focuses on the late-nineteenth century literary field in the Ottoman imperial capital and on the literary career of one of the best known novelists of the time, Halit Ziya. Through a close reading of his novel, Mai ve Siyah, the tragic story of an aspiring poet, the project investigates the impact of expanding printing technologies and the consequent transformation in the methods and venues of literary production on the men of letters, their work and the ways in which they presented themselves as public personas.

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