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From the Director:

21 January 2014

Dear Humanities and Arts Faculty,

It gives me great pleasure to announce the winners of the 2014-15 faculty fellowship competition. Awardees were selected by a panel of external reviewers from 34 applicants. The reviewers were unanimous in their praise for the high quality of applications. I very much hope that those of you who were not successful this year will consider applying again next year.

2014-15 Faculty Fellowships:

Katherine Eggert, Associate Professor, Department of English
Renaissance Happiness investigates how happiness as we now understand it—that is, conscious contentment with one’s life in the here and now—was a sixteenth- and seventeenth-century invention. The Renaissance conceives of happiness in two important ways.  First, happiness is self-reflective: it is an intellectual process of both knowing oneself to be happy right now, and planning to be happy later on.  Second, happiness is social. Happiness entails the difficult act of acknowledging and giving full credence to the voices, wills, and desires of others in the context of reciprocal relationships, sometimes even relationships with a material universe that is imagined as having an intelligence and will of its own.  All of these tasks are quite daunting, and this new emotion quite challenging to understand. I argue in this bookthat, in wrestling with these issues, authors such as William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, John Milton, Thomas Hobbes, Lucy Hutchinson, and Margaret Cavendish taught us to know how happiness feels.

Holly Gayley, Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies
Why are ordinary Tibetans taking vows to stop selling yaks for slaughter, to not fight with knives or guns, and to no longer wear fur trim on their clothing? This project investigates the ideological underpinnings of an ethical reform movement, underway on the Tibetan plateau over the past five years. This movement is based on a new set of ten Buddhist virtues formulated by cleric-scholars at Larung Buddhist Academy, one of the largest and most influential Buddhist institutions in Tibetan areas of the PRC. In this book, tentatively titled Heart Advice for the 21st Century: Buddhist Modernism and Ethical Reform on the Tibetan Plateau, I translate and analyze texts of advice to the laity by leading cleric-scholars at Larung Buddhist Academy including Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, its founder and a towering figure in the revitalization of Tibetan Buddhism since the 1980s. In examining writings by these figures, I explore how Larung cleric-scholars employ a subaltern strategy of appropriating the key terms of state discourse and turning them on their head to serve Tibetan agendas and interests. In interdisciplinary terms, my project intersects with scholarship on religion and modernity in Himalaya, Buddhist modernism across Asia, and issues of identity and agency among minorities in China.

Nan Goodman, Professor, Department of English
My project, The Puritan Cosmopolis: The Law of Nations in Early Modern New England, departs from conventional readings of the Puritans as politically insular and religiously parochial to put forward a radically new view of them as centrally concerned with world affairs and—this is key--as players in a world (from about the mid seventeenth through the early eighteenth centuries) in which such concerns were transforming politics, law, and religion.  Not necessarily cosmopolitan in the sense in which many now understand the term--as a linchpin of human rights and democracy—the Puritans, I argue, were cosmopolitan in a more fundamental sense, adhering to a principle that “guides the individual outwards from obvious local obligations,” as one political philosopher has put it.  In presenting the Puritans as people who had these larger obligations in mind, my book is invested in remapping the Puritans’ contribution to and participation in the early Enlightenment as well as in rereading our early American past as a whole.  In particular, my argument has implications for the nation story—the narrative of how America grew from insular and homogeneous colony to disgruntled province to independent nation—which despite decades of revisionist history still has us in its grip. 

Peter Hunt, Professor, Department of Classics and (courtesy) History
Athens in Thrace/Thrace in Athens will examine the full span of interactions between Athens at the cultural center of the Greek world and the non-Greek monarchies and borderlands of Thrace to the north.  Athens’ relationship with Thrace was intense and continuous on many levels and is crucial to an understanding of the whole trajectory of Athens’ social, economic, and cultural history from the sixth through fourth centuries BC.  The Athenian democracy’s exploitation of its frontier in Thrace contributed to Athens’ general prosperity and allowed an avenue of social mobility for Athenians that most other Greeks did not possess.  The overall tenor of Athens and Thrace’s cultural relationship was asymmetrical.  This was especially the point of view of the Athenians, to whom Thracians could appear outlandish savages. Nevertheless, that this attitude coexisted with the Athenian attraction to and adoption of many aspects of Thracian culture will require going beyond seeing Thrace as simply the “other.”

Suzanne Magnanini, Associate Professor, Department of French and Italian
Love on Trial in Renaissance Venice: For this book-length study, I examine the rich array of sixteenth-century dialogues on love and fictional tales of men and women put on trial for their amorous choices produced by the Venetian presses, the most prolific in Europe­­­­ in this period.  I read these literary texts alongside actual Venetian trial records of “love crimes” (e.g. infidelity; using love magic) from the same period. Two questions regarding the interrelationship of affect, information technology, and the law drive this project: How does a new information technology (printing) transform the definitions, perceptions and expression of emotions?  How do the fictions disseminated by these technologies shape the truths told about emotions in legal contexts?  In Love on Trial, I seek answers to these questions by using affect and information theories to examine how the interplay between theoretical discussions of love (dialogues) and stories of love on trial articulated new sets of rules of desire that accounted for gender and class. Furthermore, I explore how the ideas contained in fictional texts were confirmed or contested in actual Venetian courtrooms.  In part, then, this project is reconsideration of New Historicist claims regarding the relationship between fiction and testimony (e.g. Natalie Zemon Davis’s Fiction in the Archives) in light of recent literary studies that stress Boccaccio’s preoccupation with the law and legal issues (Does this concern carry over to his disciples writing tales in sixteenth-century Venice?) as well as recent legal studies regarding how forensic fictions are shaping courtroom behavior (If there is a “CSI effect” in American courtrooms today, was there a Parabosco or Straparola effect at work in sixteenth-century Venetian trials?).

Laura Michaelis, Associate Professor, Department of Linguistics
As a 2014-15 CHA fellow, I plan to complete major work on a book about linguistic innovation in English. This book, Construction Grammar and Linguistic Innovation, is currently under contract to Oxford University Press. This book links the study of social performance and narrative practice to the study of grammar. Rather than viewing grammatical patterns as the products of a symbol-manipulating algorithm (as in classic generative grammar), this work treats grammatical patterns as symbols themselves: culturally significant routines that we use both to meet critical communicative needs (e.g., changing the topic) and to change the ordinary affordances of words in displays of wit and linguistic dexterity. In this work, couched in the syntactic framework of Construction Grammar (Kay and Fillmore 1999, Goldberg 2006, Michaelis 2004), I argue that the primary agents of grammatical change are not children but adults (Slobin 1992). As skilled users of the grammar, adults know best how to extend its potential. This is not to say that adults’ solutions will be either perfect or elegant: as I argue in the work, linguistic innovators are like Lévi-Strauss’s (1966) bricoleur: they make do with the materials at hand. Grammatical innovations under study range from Jane Austin’s neologistic contributions to English (e.g., itty, coze and sprawly) to President Obama’s nonstandard use of relative clauses containing resumptive pronouns during his 2011 debate performances, e.g., We have these things call aircraft carriers where planes land on them. I see this research program as a first payment on a historical debt: generative grammarians promised to explain how the human creative capacity is manifested in linguistic behavior. What they delivered instead was a sentence-generating device (’the generative engine’). I hope to put humans back into the picture by focusing on what they do best: exploiting the expressive potentials of form.

David Shneer, Professor, Department of History, Jewish Studies Program
Redeeming Germany tells the story of one woman and her husband’s attempt to redeem postwar Germany with their Yiddish music and socialist politics. In 1952, Lin Jaldati, a Dutch Jewish cabaret performer and Holocaust survivor from Amsterdam, moved to the GDR with Eberhard Rebling, a non-Jewish pianist and musicologist, who had left Germany under Hitler for Holland where he survived the war.  After their move, the couple helped build the socialist phoenix rising from fascism’s ashes through Yiddish music. Redeeming Germany shows the central role Yiddish music played in mediating the memory of World War II and the Holocaust and simultaneously envisioning a more peaceful (socialist) future in Germany, Europe, and around the world

John Willis, Assistant Professor, Department of History
After the Caliphate: Mecca and the Geography of Crisis and Hope. This project examines how Muslim scholars and activists in the Middle East and India invoked the holy city of Mecca in their efforts to reimagine the geography of the Islamic community after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1924 and how this geographical imagination informed concrete political and cultural practices. It argues that Mecca, as the site of both immanent political practices and cosmopolitan futures, sat at the center of a number of projects for Islamic unity proffered by a network of trans-regional activists, intellectuals, and religious scholars who sought an alternative to empire and the nation form.  Looking at a diverse set of texts, including Hajj narratives, political treatises, memoirs, prayer manuals, and poetry, I examine how these universalist visions were rooted in a complex political terrain which connected the urban devotional politics of Mecca with the regional politics of the Saudi state, the reassertion of European power in the Middle East and South Asia, and the rise of internationalist and anti-imperial politics following the First World War.

We will celebrate these announcements and other news at our year-end party on Wednesday, April 23 from 3:30-5:00 in Macky 201. Please stop by!

Helmut Muller-Sievers
Director, Center for Humanities and the Arts
Eaton Professor of Humanities and Arts
Professor of German, Courtesy Professor of English