The University Record, February 27, 1996
Nine receive awards in arts, humanities
Nine faculty in the arts and humanities will receive support through two programs designed to increase opportunities fro scholarly and creative work for tenured faculty in these ares.
Eight faculty members will be supported by Michigan Humanities Awards and be released from teaching duties to devote their full efforts to scholarship. The award is funded by LSA and the Office of the Vice President for research (OVPR).
The Michigan Arts Award, sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts and OVPR, provides similar support for faculty in the Schools of Music and Art.
Dwayne Overmyer, associate professor of art, has received the arts award. Humanities awards have been given to: Frances Aparicio, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and associate professor of Spanish and American culture; Stephen Darwall, professor of phil osophy; Nicolas Delbanco, professor of English;
Ken Ito, associate professor of Japanese language and literature; Piotr Michalowski, George G. Cameron Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Civilization and Languages; Rudolf Mrazek, associate professor of history; William Paulson, professor of French and chair of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures; and James Winn, director of the Institiute for the Humanities.
"I am delighted that OVPR is again joining LSA and the vice provost for the Arts in offering the Michigan Humanities and Arts Awards," says Homer A. Neal, vice president for research. "The individuals who are receiving the awards this year are among the University's leading scholars in the arts and humanities diciplines, and I am pleased that we will be able to provide them with time to make progress on the range of extremely interesting projects that they have proposed."
"Language," Aparicio syas, "is a site of social contestation where struggles for hegemony and the conflicts being fought out in the wider society are articulated." She proposes to study the dynmaics for power behind the social construction of bilinguali sm in the United States by examining the personal narratives of 60 bilingual Michigan students.
"By integrating ethnography, sociolinguistics, literature, pedagogocal theories and postcolonial discourse, I hope to problematize traditional assumptions about bilingualism that render the United States a diverse and democraic socioety while ultimate ly erasing the conflictive nature of the (dis)possession of languages," Aparicio wrote in her application."
"A careful analysis of the narratives will shed light on the heterogenous linguistic experiences within each of the cultural communities," she says, citing differing linguistic experiences between Latino/a students and those of European descent.
"Among Latino/as, class and racial differences clearly mark access to Language as power. Gender dynmacis also come into play among interracial Latinas who express vexed feelings toward their Anglo (or even Latina) mothers for failing to transmit thei r linguistic heritage to their daughters. Among students of European descent, one discerns the vestiges and dynmaics of a cultural sector whos ethnicity and multiple linguistic identies have been erased throughout history," she writes.
Aparicio hopes to complete a book on her analyses.
Darwall will write a book as part of the Evolution of Modern Philosophy series on how ethics has developed to its present state. Specifically, the award will support his work on three central chapters on 19th century ethics: one on critiques of Kantian universalist rationalism in Schiller, Hegel and the British idealists; a second on the emergence of social science, evolutionary theory and "scientific" ethics in Bentham, Marx, Mill, Darwin and Spencer; and a third on Nietzsche and teh radical cr itique of morality. All three chapters, he says, will concern developments with special significance for contemporary ethics.
"Such a book," Darwall says, "would be particularly welcome in ethics. The field is currently in ferment with little common ground." Darwall will use the historical perspective to assess the contemporary critique that the ideas of moral theory, mora l obligation and morality itself are radically defective and deserving of elimination in favor of some neoclassical, Neitzschean or other postmodern ethical conception.
Darwall suggests a number of pedagogical benefits to be gained from this project. "The most obvious benefits will be to the course I teach in the history of ethics, which concentrates on the 17th through the 19th centuries. But, actually, every ethi cs course I do will benefit. Even now, the debate between modernist and post-modernist conceptions of ethics makes more than a comeo appearance in my ethics course for philosophy concentrators. I expect that role to grow so that students will be enabled to engage the historical and cultural context of their ethical and philosophical thinking more thoughtfully and self-consciously."
Delbanco proposes the completion of three semi-finished projects. First, he intends to complete Speaking of Writing, Volume II, a selection of Hopwood Lectures. Delbanco says that he needs only to compose an introductory essay and select the ess ays and lectures to be included, adding that the U-M Press has made a verbal commitment to the project.
The second project is Old Scores, a novel that has been contracted for by Warner Books. "The novel is a love story, contemporary, yet loosely based on the story of Abelard and Heloise," whose lustful affair in the 12th century turned to love, he says. "Old Scores won't be a full-dress medieval re-enactment of the tale nor require knowledge on a reader's part...Yet the themes generatd are very much in force today, as is the problem these particular lovers so famously long ago posed. T he book begins in distrust and ends in shared devotion-a movement as possible, though rare, in the 20th century as in the 12th."
Rumford: His Book will recount the life of Count Rumford, born Benjamin Thompson. "As Sir Benjamin Thompson of London, he was famous for his stoves and experiments in heat and light and coffee pots and mistresses and soups," Delbanco says. "World-famous in his lifetime, he has been almost wholly forgotten. He was vainglorious in the extreme yet took out no patents and wanted no payment for his inventions. He loved to live near royalty and gloried in their favor, yet his labors were uncea sing for 'improvement' of the poor." Several excerpts from the novel already have been published.
Ken K. Ito
Ito will explore the literary representations of family in Japanese novels in 1880-1945. "I will delineate the varying degrees of accommodation, resistance and subversion present in fiction about the family," for the book he is writing, Ito says.
Ito will analyze Shimazaki Toson' sHakai, Natsume Soseki'sKokoro, and Shiga Naoya's Anya Koro. "As these novels suggest," Ito says, "modern Japanese fiction does not exhibit a bland acceptance of the hegemonic ideology of family. Whether it explores the intersection of paternity and class identity, the movement from filiation to affiliation that Edward Said has more recently identified as a key feature of modernity, or the dark sexual longings within a Japanese version of the fa mily romance, modern Japanese fiction provides a more complex, vital and anguished vision of the family than anything present within the official ideology."
Ito will determine "what sites of resistance were possible within the ideology of family, and to see how these sites are defined by and in turn redefined the dominating discourse."
Ito currently has completed two chapters of the book and hopes to complete two more during the term of the award.
"The investigation of a literary universe that has been dead for two thousand years involves completely new methodological problems," says Michalowski of the study of Sumerian literature. He intends to author a new work that "will address certain basic issues of Mesopotamian literary history from a new set of perspectives."
Writing in ancient Mesopotamia, where Iraq is today, can be traced back to the end of the fourth millennium BCE, Michalowski says. But it was not until 2700 BCE that Mesopotamians wrote works of fiction, in a writing system called cuneiform.
Raher than examining Sumerian writings as an extension of oral tradtions, Michalowski proposes that Sumerian writing invented an entirely new form of narrative. "The similarities and differences between oral poetry and the new written discourse were not simply a function of the medium of transmission," he says, "but of a new communicative mode." He aims to discover how written literature functioned in a world of restricted literacy.
Michalowski also will explore why people continued to read and write Sumerian texts long after the language ceased being spoken.
Mrazek will explore technology and nationalism in the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia). He says he is convinced that "the world views and motivations of Indonesian "modern men" and "modern women" could not be fully explained without taking their noti ons of technology into account.
"In contrast to the accounts by scholars, technology appears profusely in primary sourced," he adds. "Descriptions, illustrations and exhortations of machines fill the pages of Netherlands, East Indies newpapers and magazines, police reports, travelo gues and personal correspondences. Nationalists and colonialists fought passionately over issues of technology, in and outside of their respective camps."
Mrazek's research focuses on the relation between technology and nationalism in the 1930's, the last seven years of Dutch rule over the Netherlands East Indies.
Overmyer will analyze typographic documents as both objects of design and examples of language in use. "I maintain," he says, "that typography is a distinct aspect of language-in the same sense that speech and writing are-and, therefore, it is possible to identify and describe typographic competence as demonstrably different than (not to suggest unrelated to) competencies in speech and writing."
He believes that our culture has entered a period where we will see "the transference of mainstream typographic practive from the professional domain to the public domain."
The project on which he is working will be geared to readers with varying levels of typography. "At the most basic level," he notes, "the text will establish first principles of typographic analysis and design. However, this narrative will be heavil y supported and augmented by two levels of elaboration: one expanding directly upon underlying theoretical rationales, the other presenting examples of relevant historical precedent."
Overmyer says his intent is to create a more "inclusive range of evaluative criteria that might better serve the ever-expanding general, pre-professional and professional audiences" doing textual analysis.
Paulson will use the award to complete a book on the contemporary situation of the literary humaities titled Literary Culture and the Life of the World. The project, he says, began as a book length essay "arguing that the literary humanities, whi ch have moved decisively away from formalism by attending to such social issues as the identity and empowerment of minorities, should also consider how their practices and interpretations might be informed by references to environmental and ecological iss ues."
His research has two postulates, he notes. First, "the changing nature of literary communication is paralleled by broader changes in cultural political communciation and, second, that it has become a matter for debate and reflection whether technolog ical and economic development in anything like its current form is advantageous or disadvantagous to humanity."
In general, he says, the book will focus on the limits of and resistances to the cultural politics and practices that have dominated the literary field.
"The book I am writing, while hairraisingly general on some levels, is intended to be a situated contribution addressing questions that arise in the professional and intellectual context in which I and scholars like me work.
"From the Iliad to the World War I poets, the larger histories of peotry and war in Western culture have been inextricably entwined. Yet writers and readers are now more comfortable with novelistic accounts of war than with poetic ones," s ays Winn. "I hope to make a forthright argument for poetry's central importance, using the intertwinded histories of poetry and war to provide some particularly trenchant examples."
Winn is writing a "highly selective" account of Western poems on war. "I shall be concerned," he says, "with celebration and mourning, romantic self-praise and worldly cynicism, and all the many combinations of these responses. My chief heroes will be those poets most aware that the celebration of heroism doesnot preclude the lamentation of war's cruel devastation.
"My current plan calls for chapters on Homor, Virgil, medieval and Renaissance chivalric poetry, the poetry of the English Civil War (including Kipling), the world War I poets, and a closing chapter on our contemporary situation, with some attention t o poets as recent as James Fention," he adds.