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Past Resident Scholars and Artists

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2016/17 Residents

Fall 2016

Vincent Perez Benitez, Jr.
Associate Professor of Music Theory
"The Music of Olivier Messiaen"

This book-length project will offer the first large-scale theoretical-analytical study of the music of Olivier Messiaen (1908–92), one of the twentieth century’s greatest composers. Using both current musical-analytic systems and approaches devised specifically for his musical works, I will focus on Messiaen’s harmonic practice and how it is not only related to that of other twentieth-century composers, but also highly original due to his colored-hearing synesthesia that motivated him to treat chords in a composition like colors on a painter’s canvas. Informing this technical study will be connections I will draw between Messiaen’s harmonic approach and his work with birdsong, improvisational practice with respect to his sixty-year tenure as titular organist at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Paris, and painters such as Robert Delaunay. I will chart Messiaen’s development as a composer, from his early works of the late 1920s and early 1930s through the Turangalîla-Symphonie (a ten-movement work for orchestra composed in 1946–48) that crowns the first half of his career, the birdsong-inspired compositions of the 1950s, the grandiose compositions of the 1960s and 1970s, to the late works of the 1980s and early 1990s. Finally, I will relate my analytical findings to Messiaen’s stated goal of revealing the truths of his Roman Catholic faith.

Pamela Blackmon 
Political Science (Altoona)
“Africa as the 'Dark Continent': Tracing the Narrative of Development in the Transition from Agricultural Based Growth in Ethiopia and Ghana”

The metaphor of Africa as the “Dark Continent” has had numerous implications for how Africa and Africans have been depicted.  If countries in Africa export different types of goods, such as manufactured and services based goods, does the narrative about that country’s socio-economic progress change as well?  What does that tell us about the importance of language, and specifically economic language in framing a narrative of Africa?  In this project, which will comprise part of my book manuscript, I seek to go back to the underlying framework shaping the narrative of economies based on the export of primary agricultural goods.  During my time in residence, I will undertake a textual analysis of academic publications by prominent development economists beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, policies advocated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in the 1980s and 1990s and portrayals in contemporary media in order to explain how this narrative of Africa and economies based on the export of primary agricultural goods developed.  In order to determine if the narrative about countries in Africa changes, I will examine whether the narrative of Ethiopia and Ghana is altered as they begin to export more manufactured goods.  In this project, I want to examine how an economy based on the export of primary agricultural goods contributes to the narrative of those countries, as depicted by development economists and in policy formation of the financial institutions.

Ann Killebrew
Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, Jewish Studies, and Anthropology
“The End of the Bronze Age in the Levant: Crisis, Collapse, and Transformation”

Memorialized in later literature as a golden era, the Late Bronze Age (1550–1200/1150 BCE) witnesses the rise of the Hittite and New Kingdom Egyptian empires and development of an interconnected global economy. The eventual demise of the Bronze Age at the end of the 13th century is marked by decline, crisis and collapse, representing a major turning point in history. It leaves an indelible footprint in the archaeological record as well as unforgettable descriptions in later literature of wandering warriors in the Odyssey and biblical traditions of runaway Semitic slaves from New Kingdom Egypt. My project, The End of the Bronze Age in the Levant: Crisis, Collapse and Transformation, investigates the factors leading to the collapse of this Age of Internationalism and its subsequent consequences in the region. The rich textual and archaeological record, extensive evidence enabling the reconstruction of economic and exchange systems, and newly published archaeometric studies of the Late Bronze Age environment and climate will be examined by means of cross-cultural comparative studies (including contemporary research of modern societies), and theoretical models of societal collapse and renewal.

Courtney Morris
African American Studies and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
“To Defend this Sunrise: Black Women's Community Activism and the Geography of Race in Nicaragua”

To Defend this Sunrise: Black Women’s Community Activism and the Geography of Race in Nicaragua examines Afro-descendant women’s political subjectivity and activist cultures in the Caribbean coastal city of Bluefields. Combining ethnography, archival research, and oral history, this project reveals how the racialization of space through state policy, official narratives of Mestizo nationalism, cultural representations, and popular discourse has marked Black communities on the Caribbean coast as marginal citizens whose racial difference threatens the nation. Thus, Afro-Nicaraguan women’s political activism has historically been enacted in local struggles to redefine the region’s place in the Mestizo nation-state. I argue that Afro-Nicaraguan women have forged a politics of place that challenges broader processes of anti-Black racism, gender subordination, and economic inequality in Nicaragua. This study explores the various cultural and political sites where Afro-Nicaraguan women are producing counter-narratives of regional justice that disrupt exclusionary narratives of citizenship and national belonging.

Sarah Townsend
Spanish and Portuguese
“Opera in the Amazon: Culture, Capital, and the Global Jungle”

This project explores the changing relations of culture and capital by focusing on the Teatro Amazonas, a much mythologized opera house in Manaus, Brazil. Built at the height of the Amazonian rubber boom of the late nineteenth century and designed to host touring companies from Europe, the theater served a variety of non-operatic purposes following the shift in rubber production to Asia and the decline of opera as the favored genre of the elite. As most accounts tell it, Manaus entered a long period of stagnation and cultural isolation that was only exacerbated in the late sixties, during the military dictatorship in Brazil, when the city became the site of a Free Trade Zone. Since 1997, however, a combination of state support and private sponsorship has allowed the Teatro Amazonas to host an annual opera festival, which originally involved importing productions and performers from elsewhere but now relies to a large extent on local labor and talent. Opera in the Amazon illuminates this history by connecting it to an analysis of productions staged at the theater as well as films, novels, and other cultural artifacts in which the building appears. In doing so, the project attempts to draw a more complex geography of cultural creation and circulation while also illuminating the peculiar fascination that opera in the jungle holds for artists from Brazil and elsewhere. 


Spring 2017

Todd Davis 
English and Environmental Studies (Altoona)
“Native Species”

My next book of poems, tentatively titled Native Species, examines human life in relationship to other species as the Anthropocene unfolds and the ways we have radically altered the natural, non-human world become more and more apparent. Using a common mode of categorization in ecological science—native or indigenous and non-native and/or invasive—the poems that comprise this collection have at their root the question of where we fit as a species. Might we be both a native and an invasive species? Or, given our radically destructive behavior and penchant for exponential population growth, at this point in history may we claim any native ground at all? The poems I hope to write will seek to represent the complexity of these questions by offering a series of meditations on a variety of native and non-native species found in the U.S. In addition, I will examine the manner in which we as humans use native and non-native species, how we are often responsible for their intentional and unintentional transport to other regions, and how as a species such alterations may be part of an evolutionary pattern that might be controlled in a more responsible and less fundamentally devastating manner.

Kathryn Gines
African American Studies
“Simone de Beauvoir and the Negro Question: Racism, Sexism, and Colonialism”

Simone de Beauvoir: Racism, Sexism and Colonialism in The Second Sex and Beyond is an interdisciplinary humanities project that engages Simone de Beauvoir philosophically while situating the debates and encounters between Beauvoir and her interlocutors, e.g. Jean-Paul Sartre, Frantz Fanon, and Richard Wright, as well asGunnar and Alva Myrdal in an intellectual historical context. I examine Beauvoir’s (and her interlocutors’) analyses of race/racism, gender/sexism, and colonialism/anti-colonialism as systems of oppression paying particular attention to places where these figures’ analyses, insights, and oversights converge and/or diverge with one another. This book project builds on a few of my earlier publications including “Sartre, Beauvoir, and the Race/Gender Analogy: A Case for Black Feminist Philosophy” in Convergences: Black Feminism and Continental Philosophy (2010), “Comparative and Competing Frameworks of Oppression in Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex” in Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal (2014), and "The Race/Gender Analogy Revisited" in a Blackwell Companion to Beauvoir edited by Nancy Bauer and Laura Hengehold (forthcoming). 

Brian Lennon
English and Comparative Literature
“Early Literary Data Processing: An Institutional History”

This project considers the translation metaphors employed by the first programmers of electronic computers as they borrowed and invented terms for describing the writing and execution of programs. The phrase "higher-level language," now widely used to describe the notation systems that emerged in the mid-1950s combining algebraic expressions with English-language keywords, refers to such systems' design for abstraction of hardware-dependent numeric and alphanumeric operation codes, rather than for "expressivity" as programmers use that term today. Before such technical categorical terms as "higher-level" had settled into common usage, early programmers borrowed liberally from the national- and comparative philological domain of natural or human languages to describe relationships among activities and processes in computing and what would later come to be called computer science. Words like "foreign," "native," "translation," and "translatability" were widely used, during the 1950s, alongside or in combination with new terms from an emerging technical lexicon. Much of this borrowing is at odds with contemporary linguistic and literary translation theory in so far as the most influential forms of the latter have rejected the basis for analogies binding code to language. Where that position has grown most remote from the assumptions of the computer science subdiscipline of programming language theory (PLT), the two domains are for all practical purposes incommensurable, and there is nothing wrong with that. I suggest that their point of divergence is marked by the concept of automation. The history of computing in general and of computer programming in particular is a history of recursive automation: that is, of the addition of successive layers of control through which higher- and lower-level codes are "translated" to each other, and which has as its vanishing point, both by design and by accident, a historical moment when the human knowledge of how to write them recedes. It is the anticipation of such a transition, its representation, and the formation of a discourse representing it, at a moment in the history of computing, that is my topic here.

Maha Marouan
African American Studies and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
“Evoking Memories of Slavery Through Gnawa Women's Religious Ceremonies"

Dr. Maha Marouan is Associate Professor of African American Studies and Women Studies at the Pennsylvania State University.  Her work focuses on the intersection of race, gender and religion in the construction of female subjectivities. Her most recent publications include Witches, Goddesses and Angry Spirits: The Politics of Spiritual Liberation in African Diaspora Women’s Fiction, (Ohio State University Press, 2013), a co-edited volume on Race and Displacement: Nation, Migration and Identity in the Twenty-First Century (University of Alabama Press, 2013), and a documentary entitled "Voices of Muslim Women in the US South." Dr. Marouan teaches undergraduate courses on  "African Diaspora Religions", "Women of Color from a Cross-Cultural Perspective", "Women in the  African Diaspora" and graduate seminars on"Gender, Race and Immigration",  "Transnational Feminisms" and "Third World Feminisms".

Shirley Moody-Turner
English and African American Studies
“'Privately Printed': Anna Julia Cooper and the Gender Politics of Black Publishing"

Shirley Moody-Turner is an associate professor of English and African American Studies. She is the author of Black Folklore and the Politics of Racial Representation, co-editor of Contemporary African American Literature: The Living Canon, and has recently signed on as editor of volume VII (focusing on the years 1900-1910) for the Cambridge University Press multi-volume project, African American Literature in Transition. She is co-founder of the Anna Julia Cooper Society, co-organizer of the Celebrating African American Literature conference, and President of the African American Literature and Culture Society. Her current project, Privately Printing: Anna Julia Cooper and the Gender Politics of Black Publishing, examines Anna Julia Cooper’s innovative engagements with publishing and print culture.


2015/16 Residents

Fall 2015

Jonathan Abel
Comparative Literature
“The New Real: Media, Marketing, and Mimesis Made in Japan"

The New Real examines both the sensational claims that new media deliver more direct access to reality and the continual desire to acquire new technologies for such delivery. There is an often­recurring, well­marketed, mythical “new real” that refers to the users of a new medium as captivated by the medium at least for the short time in which it seems new. There is also a more substantial “new real” that accompanies new cultural products, a discourse which is particularly evident at times when those new media present images of themselves. We can think of these two definitions of “new real” as intersecting in moments when mediated images impact, change, or transform the world in their image. Japanese cultural and technological products provide the ultimate test case for this rhetoric of the “new” not only because the rhetoric of “now on sale” (shinhatsubai, a phenomenon whereby new products enjoy a fantasmagoric sales pitch) pervades all advertising in Japan, but also because the nation has figured so prominently in the arguments that founded new media studies globally. 

Hoda El Shakry
Comparative Literature
“Literary Exegesis: Islam and Textual Genealogies in 20th Century Maghrebi Letters”

This book-length study explores the influence of Islamic thought and philosophy on twentieth century literature of the Maghreb – namely, the former French colonies of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.  It examines how Maghrebi Arabophone and Francophone literature composed between the 1930s and 1980s engages with the Qurʾan and the apostolic tradition of Hadith, in addition to central debates in Islamic exegesis, jurisprudence, and philosophy.  Explicating this confluence between theological and literary discourses, I argue, renders legible the shared formal as well as ethical concerns of both traditions.  To that end, my project reads these literary works into the classical tradition of Adab – a concept popularized in early Islamic and Arab thought to demarcate both the genre of belles lettres, as well as the moral dimensions of personal and social conduct.  Udaba’ or practitioners of Adab covered fields as diverse as poetry, grammar, history, philosophy, oratory and epistolary art, all the while treading the line between entertainment, pedagogy, aesthetics and morality.  In their intertexuality with the material culture and critical scholarship of Islam, the literary works under examination demonstrate the ethical stakes of literature, as well as the rhetorical underpinnings of theological texts and their attendant interpretative practices.  Further, the imperial context of my inquiry situates this investigation within the broader transnational questions of decolonization, postcolonialism and globalization.  My interdisciplinary project thus intervenes into critical debates within the Humanities surrounding secular criticism, literary hermeneutics, postcolonial literature and theory, as well as Arab and Islamic intellectual history.

Mark Ferraguto
School of Music
“Hearing Beethoven Historically: Performers, Patrons, Publics, and the Instrumental Music of 1806-1807”

The period 1806–1807 was a watershed moment in the career of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827), during which he composed some of his most impressive large­scale works. While these works—including the Fourth Symphony, Fourth Piano Concerto, Violin Concerto, and “Razumovsky” String Quartets—have long been part of the standard performance repertory, they have not received the sustained analytical attention they deserve. Interweaving musical analysis, cultural studies, and political history, this project examines the music of this period through the lens of Beethoven’s social relationships with performers, patrons, critics, publishers, and concertgoers. It offers new ways of thinking about both Beethoven’s instrumental music and early nineteenth­century cultural life.

Prakash Kumar
History and Asian Studies
“A History of Hunger in India”

This project argues against the grain of the accepted narrative that the “green revolution” agriculture, with its focus on aggregate yield increase, mitigated the problem of hunger in postcolonial India. The larger project looks at the role of American missions, social scientists, technical experts, extension specialists, university faculty, and USDA agronomists in pushing for “modernization” in India’s agricultural arena, and on the Indian state’s postcolonial projects of citizenship,  development, and equity that intersected with the former. The book manuscript illuminates the politics undergirding this relationship between the United States expertise and Indian agriculture between 1947 and 1971.

Jaime Schultz
Kinesiology, Women’s Studies (BBH)
“Women’s Movement: Sport, Physical Culture, and 1970s Feminisms”

In this project, I explore how varieties of women’s physical culture—including sport, martial arts, dance, fitness activities, and active recreation—effected social change between the years 1963 and 1983. By engaging in physically active pursuits, women challenged conventional beliefs about their capabilities, forged communal bonds, and experienced their bodies in new ways. Yet, while issues relating to the body were central to contemporary feminist agendas, physical activity rarely registered. My goal for Women’s Movement is to add to a growing body of literature that looks beyond explicitly feminist-identified subjects and organizations to consider activisms that did “the work of feminism” in the 1960s and 1970s (Enke, 2007; Gilmore, 2008). Ultimately, I take the tenet “the personal is political” to contend, in the same way, that the physical is political.

Amara Solari
Art History and Anthropology
Idolizing Mary: Maya-Catholic Religious Icons in colonial Yucatán, New Spain

While in residence at Penn State’s IAH, I will continue the research and writing of my next monograph, which investigates the role of art objects during the mass epidemics that swept through the Yucatán Peninsula in the course of the colonial period.  Like my previous research, this book is diachronic in perspective, examining the ideological shifts that occurred from the late Post-Classic period (1250-1521) through the colonial period (1521-1821). I argue that among the indigenous community a fundamentally causal link existed between the process of ideological conquest, its resulting visual culture, and the waves of epidemics that claimed millions of native lives in the first century and a half of colonization. This formed a network of interrelated and multivalent traditions surrounding miraculous images, icons, talismans, and sacred loci; primary among these were numinous statues of the Virgin Mary. This project seeks to understand the nature of this network, using both visual and textual sources, to elucidate the power of images and how they continue to define Yucatec Catholicism today.

Spring 2016

William Cobb
“Into the Invisible World”

This novel-in-progress, tentatively titled Into the Invisible World, is a vision of the American West in turmoil, on both a public and a personal level. Set in a fictitious town that has similarities to Los Alamos, New Mexico, the story unfolds during a drought-plagued autumn, when a wildre breaks out on the nearby mesa, and eventually threatens the town. Climate change lurks in the background, as the American Southwest is an area where the consequences of climate change are already manifesting themselves in dramatic ways, includingy the increase in the yearly wildre outbreaks. In a greater sense, the lives of these small-town Westerners all seem to unfold in an invisible world, in which their landscape’s “yover” status makes them less important than urban locales, and the novel itself will attempt to illuminate their drama and importance.

Alicia Decker
Women’s Studies and African Studies
“Public Secrets: A Gendered History of Enforced Disappearance in Post-Colonial Uganda”

This project examines the gendered history of enforced disappearance in post-colonial Uganda. Using transcripts from two national commissions of inquiry, as well as other types of archival and ethnographic data, I am examining how gender influences patterns and experiences of forcible abduction by the state. I am particularly interested in looking at disappearance, and other forms of political violence, as gendered scripts that are enacted by the state in order to maintain a certain performance of power. I am also considering the ways in which various communities “read” these scripts, and how they engage with such knowledge, across space and time. By calling attention to this troubling form of political violence, by clearly mapping a gendered terrain of visibility, this project initiates a larger public dialogue about the utility (and strategic nature) of state-sanctioned terror in Africa. Only by calling out political leaders for their roles in perpetuating this type of violence, by making the seemingly “invisible” visible, can citizens hold their governments accountable and move toward more peaceful forms of governance.

John Haddad
American Studies and Popular Culture (Harrisburg)
“America’s China Dream: The US Attempt to Remake China 1870-1949”

This book-length study will tell the story of Americans in China from the period after the American Civil War to the Communist takeover of 1949. This was the period in which the United States exerted massive influence in China, eventually rivaling and even surpassing that of Great Britain and the European powers. Though the project will consider official U.S. Foreign Policy in China, I am more interested in studying the experiences of individual Americans (missionaries, educators, philanthropists, journalists, engineers, scientists, physicians, artists, and business people), the institutions they built (hospitals, schools, and colleges), and the lives of the Chinese they affected. Indeed, it was through the collective actions of these people that China, for better or worse, became a zone of influence for various American corporate, religious, educational, medial, and philanthropic entities. Finally, since many of the institutions survive today, I hope to assess the lasting impact of this period.   

Kathryn Salzer
“Guarding Castellan Rights in the Dioceses of Arras and Cambrai: the Castellan Families of Arras, Cambrai, Douai, and Valenciennes”

During the central Middle Ages, castellans were important figures of power and authority in medieval Europe, commanding castles and other fortifications and exerting significant agricultural and economic control in the region surrounding their fortified holdings. Contrary to their contemporary reputation for aggression, castellan families used a variety of methods to keep and enhance their power, including political and social alliances, monastic patronage, and violence. This project examines the castellan families of Arras, Cambrai, Douai, and Valenciennes and demonstrates that when studying those who held power in medieval Europe we must look beyond the traditional sources that are typically either pro-royal or pro-episcopal. When we examine the contemporary economic and monastic documents, as well as the material evidence of fortifications and castles, we find that each castellan family experienced different trajectories in their success at safeguarding and expanding their own power and authority. Whatever their ultimate success, we also see that the methods used by the castellans were similar to those employed by other political leaders, such as royal families and bishops.

2014/15 Residents

Fall 2014

Kathlene Baldanza

Kathlene Baldanza
History and Asian Studies
“Malarial Rain and Barbarian Mist: Mosquito and Miasma in Chinese Imperial History”

In the late imperial period, malaria-like diseases plagued the Lingnan region (southern China and northern Vietnam). These pathogenic miasmas attacked all newcomers alike, whether settlers, merchants, government officials, or soldiers, relenting only during the winter. Disease hampered not only Chinese expansion to its South, but also Vietnamese colonial projects in its North and Northwest. My project analyzes these two countries’ political, cultural, and medical responses to the high miasma-induced fatality rate in the contested Sino-Viet borderlands.

Eric McKee

Eric McKee
"Chopin and the Dance: The Mazurka and the Polonaise"

No other Romantic composer of art music was more devoted to the composition of dance music than Fryderyk Chopin (1810–1849). From the irregular rhythms of the mazurka to the pulsating drive of the waltz, nearly half of Chopin’s works are dances, and a large portion of the remaining works incorporate dance elements within them. Despite the prominence of popular dance music in Chopin’s compositions and within his social world, musicologists and theorists have been reluctant to view his music in light of the urban social dance practices upon which they are based. The devaluation of popular music, the feminine association of the salon, the ideology of autonomy, and, in the case of the mazurka, the “myth of the folk” have all diverted attention from the feet of this well-heeled dancer.

My book-length project will offer fresh analytical insights into the mazurkas and polonaises of Chopin by viewing them in light of early nineteenth-century urban dance practices as found in Europe and, more specifically, in Warsaw, the city where Chopin lived during his youth. An underlying premise guiding this study is that to better understand the musical structure and expressive meaning in Chopin’s dance music, it is crucial to understand the bodily rhythms and social contexts of the dances upon which they are based.

Christopher Reed

Chris Reed
English and Visual Culture
“Bachelor Japanists: Japanese Aesthetics and Western Masculinities”

Reed’s project, titled Bachelor Japanists, investigates the use of Japanese aesthetics to create and express forms of non-normative masculine community in the west. His talk will be drawn from the chapter on the mid-twentieth-century artist Mark Tobey and his “Northwest Mystics” group of painters in Seattle.

Robin Veder

Robin Veder
Humanities, Art History, and Visual Culture
Penn State Harrisburg
“Animating Landscapes: Kinesthetic Empathy in Early-Twentieth-Century Landscape Design and Reception”

I research the history of the body in early twentieth-century transatlantic visual culture. In the 1910s through the 1930s, American landscape writing and landscape architecture instruction were among the areas of artistic production that built upon theories of kinesthetic empathy. These theories –acquired from German experimental (and non-Freudian) physiological psychology – posit the aesthetic experience occurs when a viewer’s neuromuscular system “empathizes” with the physical form of a painting, building, urn, or landscape. The historical premises of kinesthetic empathy, its application in landscape design and reception, its coordination with body cultures of sport and dance, and the implications for social identities are the subject of this book-in-progress.

Spring 2015

Gabeba Baderoon

Gabeba Baderoon
Women’s Studies and African Studies
“Public Privacies: Theorizing Religion, Sexuality, Self and Nation in Post-apartheid Africa”

The social meaning of private life in postcolonial Africa has garnered significant recent critical attention, including in Karin Barber’s Africa’s Hidden Histories: Everyday Literacy and Making the Self (2006), Jennifer Cole’s Love in Africa (2009) and a special issue of Cultural Studies titled “Private Lives and Public Cultures in South Africa” (2013) edited by Kerry Bylstrom and Sarah Nuttall. In “Public Privacies” I advance this theme by focusing on the role of religion and sexuality in crafting new forms of public engagement in post-colonial African national cultures.

In South Africa, privacy is not an innocent concept. In fact, the very word “domestic” connotes a weighted history, serving not only as an adjective, for instance in the phrase “domestic servant”, but as a noun, meaning both “servant” and “Black woman,” as in “she is the domestic.” Apartheid’s separate publics also required separate private lives and leisures in which people could enact apartheid’s ideological differences into reality. Engaging with this history in “Public Privacies,” I examine the use of religious and sexuality rights discourses by queer Muslims and Christians to explore debates about cultural authenticity, national identity and representation in post-colonial Africa. I do so by focusing on the practices of non-elite practitioners, who, I argue, have an idiosyncratic relation to national space, unsettling accepted narratives and countering their silences.

The project draws on comparative pan-African and diasporic scholarship to argue that autobiographical practices linking religion, sexuality and culture hold far-reaching implications for understanding national identity in South Africa and the continent more broadly.

Tobias Brinkmann

Tobias Brinkmann
History and Jewish Studies Program
‘Wandering Jews’: From Immigrants to Displaced Persons, 1860-1960”

“Wandering Jews” examines the history of Jewish migrants between 1860 and 1960 on a global scale. The principal goal of this project is to understand the transition from relatively free migration to severe restrictions on cross-border mobility and forced migration after 1914. Through the transnational lens of the Jewish diaspora I want to examine four themes: the transformation of and relationship between the migration policies in different states before and after 1914; the rise of a transnational Jewish sphere, represented in particular by Jewish humanitarian associations supporting migrants; the business of migration; and the agency of average Jewish migrants.

Madhuri Desai

Madhuri Desai
Art History and Asian Studies
"Temple Architecture and the Sanskrit Treatise in Indo-Islamic South Asia (1450-1600)"

South Asia’s historic architecture is often classified as having been created in either a “Hindu” period, or a distinct “Indo-Islamic” period, with the so-called “classical” age of temple building ending by the late-twelfth century. Temples built in later centuries are often relegated to footnotes within the strict and exclusionary categories of nineteenth-century colonial as well as contemporary Hindu nationalist knowledge. Yet, significant temples were built well beyond the late-twelfth century, even as newer treatises in the Sanskrit language were commissioned by aristocratic patrons with links to Indo-Islamic regimes, cultures and patronage networks. Hindu elites, who inhabited a Persianized world, found new ways to balance changing notions of religious identity with contemporary architectural fashion. Temple designs and building practices were re-shaped as designers and patrons drew on pre-Islamic as well as Indo-Islamic spatial and stylistic vocabularies. My book sheds light on the ways in which inherited and acquired knowledge was reassessed, organized and utilized. I explore relationships between authors of texts who defined architectural styles and categories, and the artisans and masons who implemented and adapted them. In a broader context, my book further elucidates the nature of the Hindu-Muslim cultural encounter in the region.

Charlotte Eubanks

Charlotte Eubanks
Comparative Literature, Japanese and Asian Studies
“From Pacific War to Anti-War: The Marukis and the Politics of Visual Culture in Twentieth Century Japan”

During my semester at IAH, I will complete research for and begin drafting the chapters of a book project on visual culture, literary arts, and politics in twentieth century Japan, with a focus on the artists Maruki Iri (1901-1995) and Maruki Toshi (1912-2000, nee Akamatsu Toshiko). Eyewitnesses to the atomic aftermath in Hiroshima, the Marukis were the first artists to publicly display work depicting the effects of nuclear radiation on the human body, and their extensive oeuvre of literary writing and visual art has long been a cornerstone of peace education and nuclear activism in Japan. In 1995 the couple was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The research and writing will be undertaken largely at Penn State, with brief trips to the Prange Archives in Maryland, the Library of Congress and National Archives, and the Cotsen Library at Princeton.

Anne McCarthy

Anne McCarthy
“Suspension and the Sublime Aesthetics of Contingency in Nineteenth-Century British Poetry”

“The Sublime Aesthetics of Contingency” examines images of suspension—particularly suspended bodies—in the poetry and prose of the Romantic and early Victorian periods. I argue that suspension, as figure and practice, emerges at the point of contact with a contingent, chaotic reality. The rapturous trances of Romantic poetry, as well as the apparently dead bodies of mid-Victorian literary culture are physical embodiments of what are essentially aesthetic problems, pointing to contradictions and gaps that belong to the world itself and not to human finitude. The poets at the center of this study—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, and Christina Rossetti—draw upon the discursive, cognitive, and cultural resources of suspension as they encounter contingency, seeing disaster explicitly as a crisis of signification. The sublime aesthetics of contingency aims to meet the moment of suffering, suspending the upwardly-focused drive towards transcendence and mental escape.In the aesthetics of contingency, transcendence is imagined not as a freedom from external conditions (nor as the mastery of those conditions) but as a freedom within those conditions: a sublime whose telos is not reason but contingency—the undoing or suspension of telos.

2013/14 Residents

Spring 2014

Ariane Cruz

Ariane Cruz

Women’s Studies

“The Colors of Kink: Black Female Sexuality, Pornography, and BDSM”

My project examines Black women's representations and performances within contemporary American pornography and BDSM, evincing how they illustrate a complex and contradictory negotiation of pain, pleasure, and power for the Black female performer. Reading performances of Black female sexual aggression, domination, humiliation, and submission in BDSM as critical modes for and of Black women's pleasure, power, and agency, "The Colors of Kink" explores the multiple and contradictory fantasies that animate Black women’s practice of BDSM and its representation in porn, placing them in the context of longstanding debates and controversies about the representation of race, gender, and sexuality.

Bryan McDonald

pyan McDonald


“Get Big or Get Out: Food, Power, and Nature in America”

My project investigates the widespread sense that the American food system––a complex network that links farm to fork––underwent substantial changes in the latter half of the twentieth century. “Get Big or Get Out: Food, Power, and Nature in America, 1945-1995,” examines not only a cluster of developments in science and technology that affected agriculture and food production, but also unprecedented efforts by American politicians, scientists and philanthropists to shape the politics of peace and security by linking the nations of the world into a global food system. This manuscript explores the key actors and policies in the creation and iteration of the American food system as it developed from its postwar origins to the emergence of a post-Cold War world in the early 1990s.

Daniel Purdy

Daniel Purdy

Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures

“Defending the European City: Public Politics and Private Consumption"

As an IAH Resident Scholar, I will complete a book on contemporary urban culture in northern Europe that shows how architecture and city planning are deployed today to create a unified European identity while fostering consumer demand. The idea of the European city pings with it implicit geographical and historical assumptions. While the ideal European city integrates historic buildings and neighborhoods into pedestrian shopping, it also has become a means of defining European identity.

Janina Safran

Janina Safran


“Symbols and Politics of Almoravid Rule”

I am using my residency fellowship to work on a revisionary history of Almoravid rule (1071-1145). Berber Almoravid rule encompassed the incorporation (after c. 1090) of al-Andalus (Islamic Iberia) into an empire governed from Marrakech that pidged the Straits of Gipaltar. The regime has been typically identified with a turn toward a more strict interpretation of Islam and a more hostile environment for Christians and Jews. The casting of the regime as rigidly dogmatic and narrow minded originates in the narratives of a rival successor regime (the Almohads) and persists in part because modern historians are unfamiliar with the administration of justice under Almoravid rule and the practice and interpretation of Maliki law in this period. My book offers a close analysis of the politics and symbols of rule as played out among the Almoravid amirs and the jurists and judges of the Maliki “school” of law who counseled and served them, drawing on biographical literature as well as histories. The study's integration of literary and legal sources– and long view of Andalusi and Maliki history– will contest a number of interrelated conventions: the significance of Berber-Arab ethnic differences; the importance of jihad ideology; and the harsh treatment of Christians and Jews.

Fall 2013

Hester Blum

Hester Blum


“Polar Imprints: Oceanic Studies and the Print Culture of Arctic and Antarctic Exploration”

Many Anglo-American polar expeditions of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries pought an unusual piece of nautical equipment aboard ship: a printing press. With such presses, polar-voyaging sailors wrote and printed newspapers, poadsides, and other reading matter beyond the Arctic and Antarctic Circles. My book-in-process examines these polar periodicals--and the unexpected role coterie or private publishing played in polar exploration--in order to think more poadly about the emerging field of oceanic studies.

Jeremy Engels

Jeremy Engels

Communication Arts and Sciences

“The Politics of Resentment”

I am interested in how democratic politics prepares (or does not prepare) citizens to deal with negative emotions commonly associated with democracy—emotions including fear, anger, and especially resentment, long recognized to be among the most toxic of emotions. I am using my fall IAH residency to finish my second book, "The Politics of Resentment," which explores the history of resentment and its role in contemporary political discourse. From the early nineteenth century, when Jacksonian democracy drew its power from resentment against established Northeastern and Virginian elites, to the present moment of Tea Party activism, resentment has been mobilized to a wide variety of social agendas. My study will illuminate the rhetorical and political contexts that have made these mobilizations possible.

Julia Spicher Kasdorf

Julia Spicher Kasdorf


“Frackville, PA”

I have been visiting small towns and rural communities not far from State College, where slick water hydraulic fracturing has been most extensive. My projected book-length collection of poems will document linguistic, emotional and environmental effects of fracking in northern and western Pennsylvania.

Sally McMurry


“Pennsylvania Farming: a History in Landscapes”

My project tells the story of Pennsylvania farming through its historic barns, farmhouses, outbuildings, and landscape features. Stately barns contribute to the analysis, but rough and lowly chicken coops, migrant worker quarters, and privies claim their place too. I trace agricultural landscapes throughout the state as they evolved from the colonial period to the present. My goal is to help readers see Pennsylvania’s rural landscapes with a new appreciation.

Kate Merkel-Hess

Kate Merkel-Hess


“The Warlords: The Failed Republic and the Question of China’s Future, 1917-1957"

I am a historian of modern China, with a particular focus on the early 20th century. During my semester at the Institute, I will be working on my second book. The Warlords addresses one of the crucial but understudied phenomena of modern China: the devolution of the new Chinese Republic, founded in 1912, into rule by regional, often partisan “warlords.” The battles between these men became representative of China’s chaotic present during the Republican period (1911-1949) and kept the question of China’s future at the forefront of both domestic and international discussions. By pinging together strands of historical research on modernization, gender, and political ideology not previously considered alongside warlords and warlordism, my study excavates the rich and confusing paths to China’s future that lay before those living in the “failed republic.”

2012/13 Residents

Jonathan Brockopp

Jon pockopp

Religious Studies and History

“The Authority of the Muslim Scholar”

My research has focused on early compendia of Islamic law that appear to summarize the law with little in the way of personal, authorial intent. In fact, however, I have found that these texts do not simply reiterate the law, they adjudicate disputes and present a single solution with the stamp of authority, one that is all the more powerful for the lack of obvious authorial voice. Usually, Muslim scholars argue that they exercise no personal authority whatsoever, relying solely on their use of texts, either the Qur’an or the Sunna of Prophet Muhammad. My argument runs counter to these depictions of the tradition.

I will be spending my semester at the Institute completing a monograph on the early history of Muslim scholarship. My purpose is to account for the rise of scholars to positions of authority in the tradition, applying my theory to primary and secondary materials I have gathered over the past several years. I hope to advance the study of personal authority in Muslim societies while also making a significant contribution to the broader question of authority and meaning in the historical study of religion.

Sophie de Schaepdrijver

Sophie de Schaepdrijver


“Diary of an Occupation:  An English Governess in the Great War”

My main field of research is the First World War. I consider myself to be less a military historian than a historian of war and society; and 1914-1918 offers a striking example of the impact of war on societies and cultures. The First World War, though often remembered as the ultimate “absurd” war, inflicted on peoples from above, was in fact a collective effort, half-coerced, half-consensual, that – for better or worse – mobilized widely held beliefs. My own research focuses on a half-forgotten “front” of this war, viz., the military occupations of 1914-1918 and their impact on both occupied and occupiers. I have paid particular interest to individual experiences of the German occupation of Belgium ever since my third book, We Who Are So Cosmopolitan: the War Diary of Constance Graeffe 1914-1915 (2008), which focused on transnational experiences of invasion and occupation, and, even more so, on how the act of writing allowed women and men to make sense of these baffling events, to chart their allegiances and map out moral judgments. Diary of an Occupation, which analyzes a voluminous wartime diary left by Mary Thorp, an English governess in German-occupied pussels and a privileged cross-class observer, continues this line of enquiry.  

Jonathan Eburne

Jonathan Eburne

Comparative Literature and English

“Outsider Theory”

Jonathan P. Eburne is the author of Surrealism and the Art of Crime (Cornell University Press, 2008) and the co-editor, with Jeremy paddock, of Paris, Modern Fiction, and the Black Atlantic (forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012). He has also co-edited special issues of Modern Fiction Studies, New Literary History, and African American Review. Eburne is Co-President of the Association for the Study of Dada and Surrealism, and is currently working on a book called Outsider Theory.

Eburne's teaching and scholarly interests include international modernism, avant-garde movements, literary and cultural theory, detective fiction, and U.S. Literature after 1865.

Nergis Ertürk

Nergis Ertuk

Comparative Literature

“Modernity, Translation, and the Literatures of Revolution”

I am at work on my second book, to be entitled Modernity, Translation, and the Literatures of Revolution. Building on my first book, Grammatology and Literary Modernity in Turkey (Oxford University Press, 2011), this study is devoted to comparative literary exchange between Ottoman and Russian Muslim intellectuals during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a time of clashing Russian, British, and Ottoman imperial interests in Asia and of regional constitutional and socialist revolutions (1905 and 1917 in Russia, 1906 in Iran, 1908 in the Ottoman Empire). Although scholars in postcolonial studies have long emphasized the importance of comparative scholarship, the lives and works of Russian Muslim intellectuals and writers are still vastly under-studied. Too, the growth of a European world literary market, at the turn of the twentieth century, was supported partly by capital the pothers Nobel extracted from oil in Baku, Azerbaijan — an economic reality that goes unacknowledged in recent Francocentric reimaginations of a world republic of letters. Modernity, Translation, and the Literatures of Revolution aims to supplement existing scholarship in postcolonial and world literature studies through a shift to the comparative literary geography of western Asia. Focused on contact between Ottoman Turkish and the Turkic vernaculars of Russian Muslims, particularly those of Crimea and Azerbaijan, it considers how literary production in these languages frustrates the analytic presumptions of national historiography.

Nicolás Fernández-Medina

Nicolas Fernandez-Medina

Spanish Literature

“The Primal Feeling of Life: Vitalism And the Cultural Debates that Shaped Spanish Modernity, 1769-1936”

I will use my IAH residency to continue progress on a book manuscript on vitalism and the cultural debates that influenced the building of Spanish modernity.  At their core, vitalist theories from the eighteenth century to the early twentieth century sought to define whether the purposiveness of the processes of life, as Hans Driesch referred to it, “is the result of an autonomy peculiar to the processes themselves.”  A great number of vitalist theories during this period were premised on the assumption that life, and the functions of a living organism, cannot be reduced to the confines of physical or chemical laws, and that the very germ of life – what Henri Bergson called the “original impetus of life” – eludes mechanistic understanding, scientific quantification, and in many instances, divine exegesis.  Clearly, the cultural ramifications of such an ideological-scientific stance, particularly in an ardently Catholic country like Spain still burdened by institutions such as the Inquisition until 1834, were remarkable.  The many criticisms and apologies of vitalism that were raised from 1769 to 1936 beg the questions: how does the assumption that life defies scientific/divine reason elucidate, especially as it pertains to the Spanish context, the underlying anxieties of an age with reason, progress, and modernization?  And likewise, why could the temple of science, with all its complexity and grand developments, never fully succeed in doing away with the “occult” fantasies of vitalist doctrines?  Ultimately, in exploring theories of life phenomena in the Spanish context, my aim is to disclose not only the complex character of Spain’s modernity – its ambiguities, dynamism, richness, and many-sidedness –, but also alternative historico-textual articulations of how its cultural forms intersected meaningfully with the broader concepts of the so-called modern project.


Jeff Nealon

Jeffrey T. Nealon

English and Philosophy

“Vegetable Life in Derrida, Deleuze & Guattari, and Foucault”

I work on contemporary literary and cultural theory, and am author of Double Reading:  Postmodernism after Deconstruction (Cornell, 1993), Alterity Politics:  Ethics and Performative Subjectivity (Duke, 1998), and The Theory Toolbox (with Susan Searls Giroux, Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), as well as co-editor of Rethinking the Frankfurt School (SUNY, 2002).  My latest books, both from Stanford University Press, are Foucault Beyond Foucault:  Power and Its Intensifications since 1984 (2008), and Post-Postmodernism; or, the Cultural Logic of Just-In-Time Capitalism (2012).

I'm currently working on a book about biopower and vegetable life in Foucault, Derrida, and Deleuze, called something like Plant Theory.

Helen O’Leary

Helen O'Leary


“Bigness: The Shapes of Disappointment”

Helen O'Leary's artistic work is an effort to find the ‘back story’ of ‘uncertainty’ present in co-existing realities in Ireland. She draws from such epic stories and historical laments such as the Hag of Beara, the current Irish recession, psychics fairs, the egg thrower at Allied Irish banks, and Kerry babies, to name but a few. Through the language of paint, photograph, and text, O'Leary's work offers a glimpse into the irrational resistance and refusal still very present in the Irish psyche, and the ever-present humor necessary to human survival everywhere.

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

English, PS Altoona

“A Place Called Home:  Memoirs of a Poet in the Liberian Civil War”

I will use this 2012-2013 IAH Grant Residency to complete the first and subsequent drafts of my ongoing memoir, tentatively entitled, “A Place Called Home: Memoirs of a Poet in the Liberian Civil War.” The memoir is an account of how my family and I survived the brutal civil war that ravaged Liberia from 1989 to 2003. I will edit and work on the final drafts of the book, which is already at 500 first-draft pages. When completed, the book should be approximately 450-500 pages. The memoir is a compelling account of how my family and I survived two years of bombings from 1989 to 1991, often fleeing under gun battles, living on wild leaves and roots, surviving months of torture from both rebels and government soldiers during the Liberian civil war. Until my family and I immigrated to the United States in the first ceasefire, we lived on the run in the war, often walking over dead bodies as we fled the city into the Charles Taylor held refugee displaced territory of Paynesville near Monrovia, Liberia. It tells of how we finally found sanctuary in our new homeland, the United States. The manuscript also tells of the loss of countless family members, friends, workmates, fellow refugees and neighbors. It is a group of interlocking stories that explore the Liberian civil war through a poet’s eyewitness account, detailing for the reader what newspaper accounts could never capture. My four collections of poetry, Where the Road Turns, The River is Rising, Becoming Ebony and Before the Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa tell my life story as a poet, a contemporary woman, mother and a survivor of one of the world’s bloodiest wars. The story of a poet, told in poetry is interesting, but that same story, told in prose reaches a larger world in ways a book of poetry could never. The memoir, by its narrative, will also ping to the world’s attention, the life of war victims of other wars who were also driven from their homelands, away from their families and possessions, millions, still living in displaced centers and refugee camps, still being tortured at the hands of cruel warlords. This memoir is also a commemoration of the lives of dozens of my own family members, including my birth mother and my stepmother who died as a result of the war. “A Place Called Home: Memoirs of a Poet in the Liberian Civil War” is most importantly, a celepation of the rebirth of the once dead.


Robert Caserio

Robert Caserio


"Modernist Aesthetics and World War II in pitain"

My projected book will argue that modernist aesthetics, which scholars have tended to identify with the period 1900-1930, has a still-vital impact on literary representations of UK and Irish experience during World War II; indeed that literary modernism in World War II writing in pitain contributes to the ascendancy of pitain’s post-War Labour government, the creation of the Welfare State, and the dismantling of the pitish Empire. An example of the literary history that my project aims to restore, and the bearing of the restoration on aesthetics, ethics, and politics, is provided by the fortunes of pacifism before, during, and after World War II. A significant strand of pitish aesthetic modernism is engaged with pacifism, and with the virtue—both the value for art and the value for ethics—of passivity. Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas (1938), for example, after asserting the victorious realization of women’s search for rooms of their own, and the end of feminism, announces a new radicalism: women and men must agree to make a non-aggression pact; they must become outsiders to acts of war, even at the cost of foreswearing national citizenship; and they must make “experiments in passivity.” Such experiments “seem…to show,” Woolf writes, “that to be passive is to be active; those also serve who remain outside”—and by their absent presence outsiders acquire a power, Woolf writes, “to abolish or modify…institutions of which they disapprove.” The idea of passive outsiders unfolds in modernist works produced throughout the conflict. Passive-ism and pacifism are not the only leading threads in the projected volume. There will be chapters on: the fortunes of anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism in pitish fiction immediately after the Spanish Civil War, especially as anarchism is represented in the implicit aesthetics of Orwell’s documentary writing about Spain; the relation between Rebecca West’s Joyce-inspired meditation on cognitive aspects of aesthetics in The Strange Necessity (1926) and her reports (1946-54) on the ethics and politics of the Nuremberg trials; the bearing of J. B. Priestley’s modernist experiments in drama before, during, and after the war to Priestley’s dedication to socialism and the Welfare State. The chapters of the book are also intended to clarify a constellation of terms—action, agency, passion, patience, passivity, pacifism—that might aid general critical understanding of these terms when they appear in aesthetic works that originate in literary modernism and representations of global war; and also when their usage in fiction, or about fiction, might be at odds with a more logically- or rationally-oriented way of knowing the world.

Kum Kum Chatterjee

Kum Kum Chatterjee


"Cultural Cosmopolitanism in Mughal India"

I will use the IAH residency to work on a book project about a mode of cultural cosmopolitanism which held sway over the Indian sub-continent during the early modern period ( 16th to 18th centuries). This period coincided with the existence of the Mughal Empire and the political-cultural ideology of the Mughal polity played a critical role in the emergence of this particular form of cosmopoliotanism. The Mughal aim of not privileging the formal doctrines of any particular religious tradition was linked to their overall aim of securing peaceful co-existence and social harmony in a large and pluralistic territorial empire characterized by a plethora of diversities emanating from different religious and sectarian affiliations, ethnic, linguistic, and other distinctions. In this book, I argue that the Mughal polity complemented its civilian and military institutions by cultivating a political culture which was comprised of two predominant cultural strands, which though distinct, came to be linked together at the core of a secular cosmopolitanism.The first of these strands, deriving from the non-scriptural aspects of Islamic culture and civilization, was comprised of the cultivation of the Persian language and Persianized modes of formal attire, deportment, literary tastes, cuisine, the decorative arts etc. The second element in this cultural formation was comprised of elements drawn from a powerful Hindu devotional and sectarian movement known as Vaishnavism, which swept across large parts of the Indian sub-continent in the late 15th century and produced profound consequences in terms of religious thought and the re-conceptualization of social relations and culture. This movement acquired an enthusiastic following among the lower orders of society because of its potential to afford them social dignity; it also secured a very significant following among the literate gentry and landed elites for whom it removed the religious /sectarian barriers to social, professional, and cultural interactions with the Mughal/Muslim rulers and nobility. The Mughal emperors and the ruling circle around them empaced many features and practices associated with Vaishnavism, especially its musical and other performative traditions, lyric poetry, and artistic and architectural styles. My book argues that this mode of cultural cosmopolitanism served as the cultural foundation of the Mughal polity and performed a critical function in the cultural integration of the empire. One of the challenges of this project is to explore the extent to which this mode of cosmopolitanism may have overridden religious, sectarian, caste, ethnic, linguistic, and regional loyalties.

Richard Doyle

Richard Doyle


"Stairway to Eleusis: The Exegesis Exegesis and the Dharma of Philip K. Dick"

I’ll be spending my release time and residency offered by the Institute for Arts and Humanities in Fall 2011 drafting a scholarly book contextualizing and interpreting writer Philip K. Dick’s mammoth visionary text, The Exegesis, in the light of global literary traditions and directing the cultivation of a distributed scholarly community for working through the massive text. At almost nine thousand pages, this massive, mostly hand written text by America's "home grown Borges" is arguably Philip K. Dick's magnum opus, though there are by now over forty novels in print and over a hundred short stories and philosophical essays. In daily entries, diagrams and visionary sketches, Dick documents his eight year attempt to fathom what he called "2-3-74", a post modern visionary experience of the entire universe "transformed into information" in a burst of pink light. Dick's experiences with what he variously called VALIS (the acronymed deity of "Vast Living Intelligent System" and the eponymous VALIS novels), Firepight, Sophia and Zepa (named for for its capacity to delude the senses ala the stripes of a Zepa) send him on a classic visionary quest through the esoteric literatures and sciences of the planet, as PKD focuses his polymath sensibility, wide ranging erudition, visionary enthusiasm and zen like humor on a cosmic whodunnit: What was Valis? The Dharma of Philip K Dick emerges out of my 20 years of study of PKD’s corpus and a trilogy of books on the sciences of information and living systems . In “Stairway to Eleusis: Philip K. Dick, Perennial Philosopher”, the afterword for Houghton Mifflin’s volume of The Exegesis to be published in November 2011, I argue that Dick’s visionary writings must be understood within the context of what Aldous Huxley called the “Perennial Philosophy”, the global tradition of contemplative practice Huxley saw uniting Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Vedanta, and the contemplative Christianity of Meister Eckhart and Thomas Merton.

Taylor Greer

Taylor Greer


"The Rebirth of Aestheticism in Charles Griffes's Music"

The music of Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1885-1920) represents a unique moment in American musical life. A visionary composer, Griffes drew inspiration from a wide spectrum of sources, ranging from the impressionist harmonies of fin-de-siècle French composers to the ironic decadence of late-Victorian English writers. In a period when most American composers were searching for a national identity, Griffes freely borrowed from other musical traditions while still maintaining a distinct artistic voice. As exotic as he was American, Griffes was an aesthetic polyglot, synthesizing highly diverse elements into a new musical language. In my book I propose a new interpretive framework for understanding Griffes’s artistic achievement that focuses on his sympathies with the nineteenth-century pitish “aestheticism” movement. My aim is to calipate his stylistic eclecticism by identifying specific sources of philosophical, exotic, and literary influence and, in the process, to confer a new unity on the highly diverse works of his late period. My interdisciplinary study will not only enrich our understanding of Griffes’s artistic contribution, it will reveal new intersections and contradictions in European and American culture during the early twentieth century.

Depa Hawhee

Depa Hawhee


"Bestial Rhetoric: Animals, Language, and the Human from Aesop to Erasmus"

This study seeks to ping rhetorical studies—especially the history of rhetoric—into the ongoing and vipant scholarly conversations about animals. The study’s approach is “panhistoriographic”—that is, is sprawls over a long stretch of time (tracking the lifespan of the rhetorical exercises known as the progymnasmata), pausing at significant or curious moments when animals meet rhetoric most noticeably: in the work of Aesop (the important “pre-life” of the progymnasmata’s fable tradition); in rhetorical treatises; in Medieval animal trials; in early modern emblems of persuasion. Such chronological and methodological range allows a focus on the poad cultural and ethical implications of rhetorical theory and training by linking animal-inflected school exercises and declamation assignments (speaking prompts often regarding law) to broader cultural movements and moments (e.g., legal and print culture). When completed, “Bestial Rhetoric” will help to account for the curious role animals play in language theories and language education, and it offers historical bases on which to consider animal rights arguments as part of a long and (literally) storied tradition of human animals speaking for and about nonhuman animals.

Erin Murphy

Erin Murphy

English, PS Altoona


My project is a collection of poems voiced by historical figures who played ancillary roles in the lives of well-known writers, artists, musicians, scientists, and philosophers. The original ancillae were anonymous Pre-Socratic peripatetic philosophers who strolled around helping an otherwise preoccupied polis grasp difficult concepts. When the word was translated into ancient Latin, it became feminized into meaning “female servant.” In our own time "ancilla" means "of secondary importance.” My poems are told from the perspectives of little-known figures who, in various ways, supported and enabled the accomplishments of famous figures. Ultimately, the poems in “Ancilla” address issues fundamental to feminist studies, such as gender roles, subservience, and power.

Sarah Rich

Sarah Rich

Art History

"Dubuffet's Collaborations"

During my time at the Institute I’ll be conducting research for my book, provisionally entitled Dubuffet’s Collaborations. It’s a scholarly volume about the work of French artist Jean Dubuffet (active from the mid 1940s to the mid 1980) and some of his creative partnerships with other artists. The book is therefore a peculiar sort of monograph, which in art history refers to a study of a single artist. It might be better understood as a “duograph,” in that my study never allows Dubuffet to emerge as a single commanding figure, but rather presents him as one member of a larger artistic negotiation. This autumn I will focusing primarily on Dubuffet’s musical collaborations in 1961 with Danish artist and Situationist Asger Jorn--collaborations in which both artists jammed with folk instruments (hurdy-gurdies, Bedouin oboes and castanets among them) on which they had no training. The resulting din, which they recorded on four albums, critiqued nationalist tendencies to fetishize folk cultures, even as it also became a means by which the two artists could camouflage their famous artistic identities through cacophonous sound, as neither painter produced a recognizable style in musical performances. Given that I am an historian of visual material by training, I very much look forward to discussing this interdisciplinary subject with musicologists and other postwar historians at the Institute.

David Witwer

David Witwer

History and American Studies, PS Harrisburg

"Labor Racketeering, the News Media and the Debate Over Union Power in Cold War America"

In 1956, an acid attack on the crusading journalist Victor Riesel left him blind for life and helped spur the creation of the largest ever congressional investigation into union corruption, the McClellan Committee hearings (1957-1959). Riesel had framed labor racketeering as a threat comparable in scale and kind to communist subversion and the response to this attack revealed the potency of this trope in Cold War America. The attack happened just as the U.S. labor movement had reached its all time peak and anti-union groups were eager for an issue that would help them raise concerns about union power. My book will use the dramatic story of Riesel’s attack and its aftermath to tell a larger history that addresses the intersections between the issue of union corruption, the influence of the press, and the political struggle over the appropriate role of organized labor.

Residents 2010/11

Maureen Carr (Music Theory) ~ "Stravinsky's Path to Neoclassicism: 1914-1925"

John Christman (Philosophy, Women's Studies) ~ "Freedom and Representations of Slavery"

pooke Heidenreich Findley (French, Women's Studies) ~ "Imagining Women Writers: Poet Heroines in Medieval French Narrative"

Ronnie Po-chia Hsia (History) ~ "European Expansion, Catholic Missions, and the Early Modern World"

Gary Knoppers (Religious Studies) ~ "Samaritans and Jews: The Origins and History of Their Early Relations"

Jennifer Nesbitt (English) ~ "Rum Histories: Colonial Hangovers in Postcolonial Literature and Culture"

Simone Osthoff (Critical Studies) ~ "As in Art, So in Media: The Suplemento Dominical do Jornal do pasil 1956-1961"

Matthew Restall (History) ~ "The Fight for the Edge of the World: Contradictory Colonialism in Early Modern Belize and Yucatan"

Benjamin Schreier (English, Jewish Studies) ~ "The Impossible Jew: Semitism and the Displacement of Jewish American Literary History"

Residents 2009/10

Vincent Benitez (Music) ~ "Messiaen's 'Saint François d'Assise': Musical Language and Dramatic Design"

Chris Castiglia (English) ~ "The Practices of Hope: Literary Criticism in Disenchanted Times"

pian Curran (Art History) ~ "Past, Present, and Place in Italian Renaissance Art"

Amy Greenberg (History) ~ "War for Empire: The 1846 U.S.-Mexico War and the Transformation of America"

Laura Knoppers (English) ~ "Divulging Household Privacies: The Politics of Domesticity from the Caroline Court to Paradise Lost"

Martina Kolb (German) ~ "Ligurian Lures--Expressionist Cures: On Nietzsche, Freud and Benn's Mediterraneity"

Ute Poerschke (Architecture) ~ "Rediscovering the Concept of Function in Architecture"

Gonzalo Rubio (Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies) ~ "Virgins or Harlots? Cultic Prostitution in the Ancient Near East"

Rebecca Strzelec(Art/Penn State Altoona) ~ "Age of Bears: A series of computer mediated wearable objects inspired by the cementum age analysis process in Pennsylvania black bear"

Residents 2008/09

Top Davis (English/Penn State Altoona) ~ "The Least of These: Poetry Manuscript Exploring the Interplay of Ecology and Theopoetics"

Julia Cuervo Hewitt (Spanish and Portuguese) ~ "Praise to Folly: Mario Vargas Llosa, Reader of Euclides da Cunha (Literary Imagination and Political Fictions in The War of the End of the World)"

Joan Landes (Ferree Professor of History and Women's Studies) ~ "Finding Animals"

Mark Munn (Ancient Greek History and Greek Archaeology) ~ "The Power of Desire and the Desire of Power in Classical Athens"

Willa Silverman (French and Jewish Studies) ~ "Preparation for publication of Henri Vever, Cahiers (1898-1901)"

Elizabeth Smith (Art History) ~ "Santa Maria Novella: Recreating the Process of Design and Construction of a Gothic Church in Trecento Florence"

James West (English) ~ "William Styron Website"

Stephen Wheeler (Classics) ~ "Roma: The Poetics of a Name"

Charles Youmans (Musicology) ~ "'Almost as Between Potentates': The Enigmatic Friendship of Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss"

Residents 2007/08

pian Black (History and Environmental Studies, Altoona) ~ a book project on petroleum and American life

Garrett Fagan (Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies) ~ a book project on spectatorship and the Roman Games

Nancy Locke (Art History) ~ a book project on Paul Cézanne

Tim Murtha (Landscape Architecture) ~ a book project on the landscape of the ancient Maya

Mark Neely (History) ~ a book project on Lincoln and the American Nation

Marcy North (English) ~ a book project on post-print manuscript culture

Richard Page (German) ~ an oral history project on the Anabaptist communities in Mifflin County, PA

Alexandra Staub (Architecture) ~ a project on Soviet urban paradigms

Maria Truglio (Italian) ~ a book project on Italian children’s literature from Unification through Fascism

Residents 2006/07

Micaela Amato (Visual Arts) ~ a new multi-media installation artwork entitled “Lap Swimmer, Crossing”

David Atwill (History) ~ a project on Lin Zexu titled “Through the Eyes of Commissioner Lin: Reframing China’s 19th-Century Vision of Islam, Ethnicity, and the Chinese Borderlands”

Daniel Berman (Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies) ~ a project on the mythical topography of Greek Thebes

Patrick Cheney (English) ~ a monograph titled Shakespeare’s Counter-Laureate Authorship

Julia Kasdorf (English and Women’s Studies) ~ a book-length manuscript of eight to ten conceptually linked personal essays tentatively titled Sacrificial Figures

Eric McKee (Music Theory) ~ a book project on the popular dance music and waltzes of Chopin

Daniel Purdy (German) ~ a book project on architecture and Renaissance cosmology in German aesthetics

Nan Woodruff (History) ~ a book project on violence and African American memory in the 20th century

Residents 2005/06

Dan Beaver (History) ~ an exploration of the concept of “forest” and how it can contribute to our understanding of the English Civil War

Maureen Carr (Music Theory) ~ a study of Stravinsky’s collaboration with Picasso, Massine, and Diaghilev for Pulcinella (1920) as a backdrop for a musical analysis of all existing musical sketches

Cecil Giscombe (English) ~ a prose non-fiction book about trains, train metaphors, and train references in art and in more common usage

John Lipski (Spanish) ~ a study of contemporary Afro-Hispanic language in Latin America and its impact on African-American culture in the Americas

Jeffrey Nealon (English) ~ an interdisciplinary book concerning the changing role(s) of cultural production in the face of the American “new economy”

Mrinalini Sinha (History) ~ a study of the impact of transnational encounters on the racial antinomies of mainstream Indian nationalism

Residents 2004/05

Deborah Clarke (English/Women’s Studies) ~ a book manuscript, Women on Wheels: Literary and Cultural Mobility, which examined the automobile’s relation to female agency, mobility, and domesticity

Clement Hawes (English) ~ a monograph tentatively titled Swift and the Politics of Scale, which examines the works of Swift through the lens of scale, geographical and otherwise

Adam Rome (History) ~ a new book titled Sustaining the Nation, which argues that the history of environmental activism offers rich new insight into the great economic, social, political, and cultural transformations of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

Sherry Roush (Italian) ~ a book manuscript, Ghosts of Poets Past: Political Reincarnations of Dante and Boccaccio in the Italian Renaissance, which exposes the ideological motivations underlying 15th- and 16th-century ghost stories that feature the souls of Dante and Boccaccio

Janina Safran (History) ~ a book manuscript on communal identity and the definition, contestation, and negotiation of communal boundaries in Islamic Iberia

Norman Spivey (Music) ~ a systematic study of belting, a style of vocal production commonly used in music theatre

Residents 2003/04

Kumkum Chatterjee (History) ~ a monograph on how early modern to modern Indian historians came to construct their views of history

Peter Dendle (English/Penn State Mont Alto) ~ a book project about demon possession in Anglo-Saxon England

Christine Gorby (Architecture) ~ four essays for a book about the ways in which women shape the spatial environment

Charlotte Houghton (Art History) ~ a book project on the playful element in early Netherlandish art

Ronnie Hsia (History) ~ a book project that examines the phenomenon of Catholic mission and conversion in late Ming China, between 1583 and 1644, from the perspective of Chinese society

Mark Morrisson (English) ~ a book project about alchemy and atomic theory

Cecilia Novero (German/Comparative Literature/Women’s Studies) ~ a book project about the interrelationship between Avant-garde art, consumption, consumerism, and critical theory in 20th-century Europe

Charles Youmans (Musicology) ~ a book project about the musical style and structure of an entire category of Richard Strauss’s work in light of his intellectual background