The University Record, March 28, 1994

Humanities Institute fellowships go to 7 faculty, 5 grad students

The Institute for the Humanities has awarded fellowships to seven faculty and five graduate students for work they will pursue while in residence at the Institute during 1994-95. The projects are connected to the Institute’s theme for the year, “Work and Play.”

Institute Director James Winn, who chaired both selection committees, emphasizes the excellence of those applying: “Each year,” says Winn, “these choices seem more difficult, with wonderfully creative and original proposals from faculty and students in a great variety of fields. I always wish we had more fellowships to give, and presiding over the difficult selection process spurs me on to seek increased endowment that will allow us to support more of these projects.”

Faculty Fellows

Gregory Wadim Dobrov (assistant professor, classical studies) will work on “Tropics of Play: Reflexivity in Greek Tragedy and Comedy.” Dobrov, who will be the John Rich Faculty Fellow, asserts that the “profound kinship of political and dramatic agons, ‘contests,’ is rich with implications about the nature of the first democracy” in fifth-century Greece, a period when plays become “competitive appeals through argumentation to the Athenian body-politic in its double capacity as spectator and judge.”

Elliot K. Ginsburg (associate professor, Near Eastern studies) will explore “The Dialectics of the Sacred in Sabbath-Celebration.” Ginsburg sees a tension between two models of the sacred, “a binary model in which the holiness of Sabbath is utterly distinct from the six profane days, and a more gradualist model which holds that the holiness of the Sabbath is available in varying degrees during the week.”

Susan L. Johnson (assistant professor, history and women’s studies) will be the Helmut Stern Faculty Fellow.

“For a good many men who joined the rush to California for gold after 1848, the notion of a ‘social’ history of the Gold Rush would have been a contradiction in terms," says Johnson. “‘Society’ was what the diggings lacked,” not least because of the scarcity of women. Her project, “Work, Play and the Making of ‘Society’ in California’s Southern Mines, 1848–1858,” takes on this challenge.

Robin D. G. Kelley (associate professor, African American studies and history) says that in the past 40 years “massive job loss, the shrinking of city services, the rising number of abandoned buildings, the militarization of inner city streets, fear of crime, the decline of parks, youth programs, and public schools have altered the terrain of play and creative expression for Black youth.” Kelley will study “Pleasure and Profit on the Playground: Black Youth and the Transformation of Work and Play in Late Twentieth-Century Urban America.”

Sabine MacCormack (professor, classical studies and history) notes that the Romans “thought of learning as having something in common with play, with theatrical and other public displays, with merriment, sport and performance; for all these activities could be described by the same term, ludus.” Her project, “Work, Irony, and Play: How Augustine Read Vergil,” examines the persistence of this approach in Augustine who, in his explanations of holy writ, adopted the very “exegetical complexity” he had rejected as a valid method of explaining Vergil. MacCormack will be the A. Bartlett Giamatti Faculty Fellow.

David Scobey (assistant professor, American culture and history) will explore “The Work of Culture: Legitimation Crisis in Victorian America.” He will write a “connected series of ‘close readings’ of the public sphere and the culture industry in Victorian America,” analyzing a cultural crisis that paradoxically accompanied “the great triumphs of American nation-building in the last half of the 19th century.” Scobey will be the Hunting Family Faculty Fellow.

Kendall Lewis Walton (professor, philosophy) asks: “Do the ‘Representational’ Arts include Music?” Among the questions Walton will consider: “While explicit program music may be representational, what about so-called absolute music? Are there different ways of being representational?” In pursuing this inquiry, he will draw on literature that explores the relation between music and the emotions, as well as on a growing literature connecting children’s play at make-believe and the arts. Walton will hold the Steelcase Research Professorship.

Graduate Student Fellows

Natasha B. Barnes (English) describes her project, “Representing the Nation: Race, Gender, Culture and State Formation in Anglophone Caribbean Society,” as “decidedly unliterary.” She draws upon history, politics, anthropology, sociology, and popular culture studies in an attempt to situate the “extraordinary outpouring of Anglophone Caribbean literature within the last 30 years with the equally astonishing richness in regional popular culture.”

Wesley R. Janz (architecture and urban planning) argues that Lincoln Center is a rich site of postwar American culture. It can be seen as a “historical marker, built at a time when silent designers were beginning to realize the connection between the deconstruction of space and construction of social, cultural, economic, and political agendas.” Janz will explore “Our All-Consuming Culture: The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts as a Case Study of Architectural Production and Consumption in Postwar America.”

Peter Laipson (history) will trace changing attitudes toward American bachelorhood in the belief that a history of this important cultural category will contribute to the emergent historiography of masculinity. His title is “‘I Have No Genius for Marriage’: Bachelorhood in America, 1870-1930.”

William N. West (comparative literature) will be the Hunting Family Graduate Student Fellow. His project, “The Theater of Orpheus: Theater, Encyclopedia, and the Knowledge of the World in Renaissance England,” originates with his insight that, dissimilar though they seem to us, “theater and encyclopedias were seen as closely related in the 16th and 17th centuries. Both were thought of in humanist circles as tools for carrying on the work of education.”

Wendy Wiener (psychology) will inquire into “Technical Discourse and the Theorizing of a New Professional Culture in American Psychoanalysis.” As she explains, “The goal of this project is to question the new ideas in American psychoanalytic practice in order to discover what they tell us about this culture with its new emphasis on freedom and equality for practitioners and patients.”

Faculty Fellows were chosen by the Institute Executive Committee, aided by consultants: Barbara Maria Stafford (art history, Chicago), Thomas Laqueur (history, Berkeley), and Kathleen Woodward (literature, Wisconsin-Milwaukee). Graduate Student Fellows were chosen by a committee of Institute associates, including Benjamin Stolz (Slavic), Janet Hart (sociology), and Fred Bookstein (Institute of Gerontology).