The University Record, March 12, 1996

Humanities Institute fellowships go to 8 faculty, 5 students

From the Institute for the Humanities

The Institute for the Humanities has awarded fellowships to eight faculty and five graduate students for work they will pursue while in residence at the Institute during 1996­97. All of the projects are connected to the Institute's theme for the year, "Images and the Imaginary."

"This was one of the strongest applicant pools I can remember," says James Winn, director of the Institute, "and I am delighted that we were able to find the resources to recognize the excellence of the pool by offering more fellowships than ever before. The presence of a poet, a choreographer and a composer among the faculty Fellows should ensure a wide-ranging discussion, bringing makers of images into dialogue with historians and analysts of images. The graduate student Fellows, chosen in an equally stringent competition, add significantly to the range of fields and interests repre sented. The Institute looks forward to a wonderful year."

The Fellows and their areas of interest:

Matthew Biro (assistant professor, history of art, Residential College) is working on The New Man as Cyborg: Figures of Technology in Weimar Visual Culture . Biro, the Helmut Stern Faculty Fellow, is looking at the ways artists, filmmakers and photographers gave visual form to the processes of modernization that they saw transforming their bodies, their minds and their society (Germany between 1918 and 1933). Central to Biro's project is the cyborg, for such creatures half organic, half mechanicalwere among the primary figures through which Weimar cultural practitioners imagined their rapidly approaching future.

 

Suzanne Black (comparative literature) is intrigued by the similarities and d istinctions between poetic and scientific ways of expressing and transmitting knowledge. Readings in philosophy of science have led her to ask where aesthetic con siderations impinge on the scientific enterprise and how science uses images and imaging. Black, who will be the Hunting Family Graduate Student Fellow, plans to analyze scientifically informed observations of the natural world in such modern poets as Paul Valery, William Carlos Williams and W. H. Auden for her dissertation, "A Voice Sought in Disorder: Poetry's Science, Poetry's Knowledge."

 

Coralynn Davis (anthropology) recently returned from a 15­month sojourn in the Maithili cultural area of Nepal, where she studied the Janakpur Women's Art Project. In this project, women deploy skills traditionally used for deco rations connected with Hindu religious and ritual occasions in fabricating craft items for the tourist trade and export markets. The interplay between global markets, women's empowerment, ethnic identity and artistic imagery provides rich material for Davis's dissertation, "Painting Shifts in the Construction of Gender: Women's Development in Ne pal."

 

Nancy Florida (associate professor, Asian languages and cultures) is study ing how the literary works of Java's most famous traditional poet, Ronggawarsita, participated in "Mapping the Cultural Imaginary in Colonial Java." She will pay especially close attention toand produce a poetic translation ofa work composed in the war-torn Java of 1829, a work she says "shattered the conventional image of Java that was just then emerging under the conditions of Dutch colonialism."

 

Simon Gikandi (associate professor, English language and literature) will be writing The Colonial Library: Reading, Textuality, and the Making of Modern Subjects . Gikandi is interested in how colonized peoples imagined the modern life that the culture of colonialism promised themand in how they represented their imaginary notions of Europe and its cultural institutions. What books did the colonized read? What perceptions of culture and society emerged from such reading? Such questions lie at the heart of Gikandi's project.

 

Linda Gregerson (associate professor, English) will elucidate "Poetic Image and Poetic Argument" in two book manuscripts: the first, a new collection of poems; the other, a collection of essays on contemporary American poetry. Gregerson wants to explore the ways in which the image intersects with other semantic and formal resources of the lyr ic poem to constitute poetic "argument" and the ways in which argument (and the argument-inflected gestures of syn tax) can perform the purely musical and sensuous functions we more often associate with poetic "figure." Gregerson will be the A. Bartlett Giamatti Faculty Fellow.

 

Andrew Mead (associate professor and chair, music theory) will study "Image, Memory, and the Musical Imagina tion." Memory plays a significant part both in musical understanding and enjoyment; Mead asks what kinds of images enable us to "capture" attributes of musical passages we wish to compare. That these images are not dependent on mu sical notation is evident from the range of complex musical traditions without notational systems. Mead examines some of the possible ways music is remembered, with an emphasis on music that challenges memory.

 

Kristina Milnor will be the Mary Fair Croushore Graduate Student Fellow. In her dissertation, "Women, Space, and Displacement in the Early Roman Empire," she explores the relationship between two contemporaneous cultural movements in ancient Rome: the use of the new science of geography to articulate sociopolitical concerns and the renewed politi cal interest in the inscription of gender ideologies. Using both textual and material evidence, she will consider how authors, artists and architects under the emperor Augustus imagined the structure of the world around them, and how images of wom en fitor don't fitinto these constructed landscapes.

 

Juan Javier Pescador (history) describes his project, "Gone for the Indies: The New World in a Basque Village, Oiartzun, 1550­1800," as a history of cultural exchange. In it, he will analyze the impact on a specific Basque village of European expansion to Mexico. What he calls "silent travelers" from the Americas (crops, money, images, saints, virgins, letters and books) profoundly altered the lives, ideas, and feelings of ordinary men and women to a surprising ment, history and memory).

 

Brian B. Schmidt (assistant professor, Near Eastern studies) will research "The Image in Ancient Israelite Ritual." Over the centuries, the Bible's second commandment against the making of graven images has been read by Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities as an iconoclastic treatise. Schmidt aims to investigate the more ancient textual and artifactual data pertaining to the divine image, its use in religious ritual, as well as those aniconic tendencies reflective of the wider ancient west Asian world out of which emerged the wide variety of early Israelite perspectives on the same. Schmidt will be the Hunting Family Faculty Fellow.

 

Tobin Siebers (professor, English) will elaborate "The Psychology of the Image." More often than not, the psychology of images has defined aesthetic pleasure as based on sexual symbolism. Siebers aims to develop an aesthetic psychology based rather on the pleasures of identity, which might help to explain why our age increasingly thinks about "image" as a synonym for personal identity and style. He will hold the Steelcase Research Professorship.

 

Peter Sparling (professor, dance) will be the John Rich Faculty Fellow. He will explore meaning and the enigmatic in contemporary dance, a series of seven solo dances set to a musical score composed by Daniel Roumain, a doctoral student in the School of Music. Sparling's concern, both as dancer and choreographer, is to let the "movement images unfold to create an imaginary landscape that is viscerally and visually 'hy per-real' in its living presence, yet illusive in terms of literal or narrative meaning."

 

Erika Wolf (history of art) turns a trained eye on issues of USSR in Construction, a propaganda magazine published in many languages from 1930 to 1941. Her penetrating analysis of a photojournalistic venture that was undertaken to garner enthusiasm and support for the first five-year plan for industrial development, traces both continuities and transitions from Sovi et avant-garde to Stalinist socialist-realist aesthetics. Wolf's balanced study of this transition to Socialist Realism pays attention to the broad range of artistic, photographic, literary, and political currents that shaped the magazine.

Faculty Fellows were chosen by the Institute Executive Committee, aided by three consultants: Margaret Ferguson (English, University of Colorado), Herman Lebovics (history, State University of New York-Stony Brook), and Evan Maurer (director, Minn eapolis Institute of Arts and former director of the U-M Musem of Art).

Graduate Student Fellows were chosen by a committee of Institute Associates and alumni: Sue Alcock (classics), Elizabeth Barnes (English), and Martin Powers (history of art).