The University Record, April 12, 1999

Humanities Institute names 12 fellows

From the Institute for the Humanities

The Institute for the Humanities has awarded fellowships to seven faculty and five graduate students to support research projects they will pursue during 1999-2000.

Institute Director Tom Trautmann, who chaired both selection meetings, reports that reviewers of the applications were impressed by the unusually strong field of applicants. "We are indebted to the outside reviewers who helped the Institute's Executive Committee in the difficult faculty fellowship selection process-Mark Slobin (music, Wesleyan University Center for the Arts), Rosanna Warren (English, Boston University) and James Wright (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Bryn Mawr). Our thanks, too, to the graduate student fellowship selection committee-Anne Ruggles Gere (English and education), Helmut Puff (German and history) and Michael Schoenfeldt (English)."

The Institute's resident fellows will include the following faculty members:

Kathryn Babayan, assistant professor of Iranian history and culture, will work on "Muslim Millenarian 'Heresies': Memory of a 'Past' in Cyclical Time." This ambitious study aims to capture pre-modern ways of conceiving time and experiencing being that animated eastern Mediterranean landscapes as Islam was entering its second millennium (1591). For the ghulƒt (exaggerators), one heretical group of that era, the cosmos held neither Judgment Day nor hell. For them, heaven was a potential paradise on earth and history was the unfolding story of mankind's successive struggles to attain it by extending the dominion of truth and justice.

George Bornstein, professor of English, argues that reading literary works in their early incarnations in magazines and first editions raises the grain of their historical and political contexts. For "Material Modernisms: The Politics of the Page," Bornstein examines the physical texts of such authors as W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, James Joyce and Gwendolyn Brooks to buttress that view. Far from being "transparent lenses offering us unproblematic access to authors or works," Bornstein says, the material presentation of texts in various editions, from binding to page layout, encodes layers of meaning that careful analysis can reveal. Bornstein will hold the John Rich Professorship.

Edwin Curley, professor of philosophy and a specialist in 17th-century philosophy, has published books on Descartes and Spinoza, edited Hobbes's Leviathan, and written numerous articles on those and other 17th-century figures. For many years, his major research project has been a translation of the Collected Works of Spinoza, the first volume of which was published by Princeton in 1985. Curley, who will be the A. Bartlett Giamatti Faculty Fellow, hopes to finish the second, and final, volume of this translation during his year at the Institute. He also will work on an anthology of the history of philosophy, from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, to be published by Norton.

James Dapogny, professor of music, will work on restoring to performable condition De Organizer, an opera by two highly regarded African American artists-jazz composer/pianist James P. Johnson and poet Langston Hughes. Their collaboration in the late 1930s yielded a single performance in 1940 for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Long sought, but lost since its premiere, the piece has been rediscovered in a partial score, with all sung music represented but totally lacking instrumental accompaniment. As the Hunting Family Faculty Fellow, Dapogny also will set in motion plans for a performance of the restored opera on campus.

Aamir Mufti, assistant professor of English, is revising a book manuscript that is a comparative study of secularization and the fate of minority cultures in the modern world. The book seeks to make available the cultural history of the Jewish Question in European modernity for an examination of the crisis of Muslim identity in colonial and post-colonial India. His project, "Genealogies of the Secular: The Jewish Question and Dilemmas in Postcolonial Modernity," argues that these apparently disparate histories are instances of the crisis of minority, one of the recurring problematics of post-Enlightenment liberal culture and society. Mufti will hold the Steelcase Research Professorship.

Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen, associate professor of Asian languages and cultures, will write a book on Emptiness and Temporality: Medieval Japanese Aesthetics and the Philosophy of a Symbolist Poetry. She will explore the "uncanny affinities between renga (the medieval Japanese linked poetry sequence), Zen Buddhist notions of mind and reality, and the Derridean thought of deconstruction." Her involvement with this project grew out of an initial fascination with the uniqueness of renga as a verse form. This is a product of two factors-one, the standard 100-verse renga sequence is composed not by an individual but by a group of poets, and two, its structure negates the traditional Western concept of an integral teleological unity in a literary work.

Evelyn Velez-Aguayo, assistant professor of dance, is a Puerto Rican choreographer and performer. She strives to create dance that explores "the rhythm and warmth of the inner self and transcends the traditional roles ascribed to people of Caribbean origins." Her project, "The Geographical Landscape of Dance: An Interactive Journey with Music and Installation," will be a collaborative performance work, with V‚lez-Aguayo choreographing dance for music composed by Bright Sheng, associate professor of music, against a backdrop of installations by visual artist James Cogswell, associate professor of art. V‚lez-Aguayo will be the Helmut S. Stern Faculty Fellow.Graduate student fellows represent several departments and interdisciplinary programs.

Jin Feng, Asian languages and cultures, will scrutinize the treatment of the "stray" woman in Chinese fiction of the early 20th century. Female students, prostitutes, writers and revolutionaries stood outside the boundaries of orthodox, patriarchal Chinese conventions, and Feng believes that examining their depiction in fiction will shed new light on the transition from tradition to modernity. She hopes her project, "The (Con)Textualization of the Deracinated Woman: Women Outside the Family in the May Fourth Chinese Fiction," will contribute to research on post-colonialism, nationalism, feminism and narrative theories.

Elise Frasier, English, examines early modern rhetoric manuals and rhetorical practice from the vantage point of modern theories of gender and sexuality, and recent work in cultural, feminist, and new-historical studies in her dissertation, "Erotic Attachments: Affect and the Ends of Rhetoric in Early Modern England." Her approaches, both historical and aesthetic, lead her to trace the interplay between rhetorical and poetic discourse between 1530 and 1630. Frasier believes that analyzing the tactics of persuasion and seduction may disclose how norms are established discursively within a culture. She will hold the James A. Winn Graduate Student Fellowship.

W. Flagg Miller, anthropology, notes that folk-poetry in Yemen has traditionally figured prominently in the articulation of social and cultural identity. Today, the audiocassette has become increasingly important as the transmitter of this ancient oral tradition. Miller is analyzing 220 "cassette-texts" of a genre called bid`-wa-jawab (challenge-and-riposte), in which one poet sends a traditional Arabic poem to another poet, and the other poet responds in identical rhyme and meter. Miller takes a linguistically sophisticated perspective on Arabic poetry in "The Inscribing Muse: Locating Discourse in Yemeni Cassette-Poetry." His goal is to analyze not only the text, but also how the cassette medium affects identity formation.

Jennifer Sinor, English and education, is interested in composition studies, autobiography and feminist theory. Sinor, who will be the Hunting Family Graduate Student Fellow, has tentatively titled her dissertation "Putting the Daily Back into Diary." She will revalue the ordinary diary and the ordinary writing such a diary represents. She also is intrigued by the ways reading ordinary diaries allows us to question our pedagogical assumptions about the kind of writing that "matters" in the composition classroom. For an example of such a diary, Sinor relies on that of her great-great-great-Aunt Annie, a homesteader in the Dakotas in the late 1800s.

Jocelyn Stitt, women's studies and English, is examining the use of Romantic era discourses in the works of several 20th-century English speaking Caribbean novelists for her dissertation, "'We are of the past here': Romantic Ideologies and Caribbean Fictions." Such novelists as Michelle Cliff, Jamaica Kincaid, Caryl Phillips and Jean Rhys have rewritten or reinterpreted a variety of British works such as Wordsworth's "Daffodils," Austen's Mansfield Park, Bronte's Jane Eyre, as well as horticultural writings and travel journals. Stitt's work will contribute to current post-colonial and feminist research about the relationship between European nations and their colonial "others."