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From the Director:

22 January 2015

Dear Humanities and Arts Faculty,

It gives me great pleasure to announce the winners of the 2015-16 faculty fellowship competition. Awardees were selected by a panel of external reviewers from 35 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.

2015-16 Faculty Fellowships:

David Atherton, Assistant Professor, Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations
Writing Violence in an Age of Peace: Breaking Bodies and Provoking Passions in Early Modern Japanese Literature
My project explores the ways representations of violence in popular literature and theater opened up a critical space for the imagination of alternate forms of community and for political critique within the tightly regulated social order of Tokugawa Japan (1603-1868). This order, which had brought an end to the tumultuous warfare of Japan’s medieval centuries, was forged in part through the idealization of certain “moral” emotions and through the strict regulation of the human body as a locus of social identity and integrity. On the stage and page, however, representations of negative emotions—rancor, rage, resentment—and graphic depictions of the body in states of violent destruction—through love suicides, honor killings, duels, torture, revenges, hauntings, murders, and natural disasters—thrived as staple elements of the burgeoning world of popular arts. Departing from a common scholarly view of these violent tropes as simple appeals to the base desires of popular audiences, I trace the representational logic of these tropes to argue that they offered confrontation with the social order’s greatest contradictions, rendering them legible on the canvas of the body and suggesting critical, alternative models of human relationship through the bonds of affective response. Through the lens of violence, I tell an alternative narrative of Tokugawa literary history that demonstrates the powerful role popular literature played in the critical imagination of such vital issues as the place of the sacred, the boundaries of the family, the moral relations of gender difference, the social role of the author, and the integrity of the body politic.

Christopher Braider, Professor, Department of French and Italian
Persons and Portraits: Experimental Selves in Early Modern Europe
Based on read­ings of the great portraitists of the Renaissance and baroque eras, conduct manuals by Castiglione, Faret, and the chevalier de Méré, the political writings of Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Locke, plays by Shakespeare, Jonson, and Molière, Hobbes, and Locke, and the at once theological and philosophical problem of will Erasmus, Luther, Descartes, Spinoza, and Pascal, the book proposes a new assessment of early modern portrayals of self.  I argue that early modern self or person was essentially “experimental.”  By this I mean, profiting from period usage, that it was an immediate (if puzzling) deliverance of experience, whether in the carefully methodized form of what we now call “experiment” or not.  But I also use the term to indicate how self was experienced as open to the test or trial not only of everything we think, feel, or discover about ourselves in the spontaneous flow of everyday life but above all of what happens to us as an expression of the world we find we live in embraced in its ineradicable historical, cultural, and psychological contingency.

Matthew Gerber, Associate Professor, Department of History
Colonizing Law: Property, Kinship, and Race in the Early Modern French Atlantic
This project traces the influence of colonialism and imperialism on the development of French jurisprudence in the century and a half preceding the French Revolution. Drawing on hundreds of hitherto overlooked cases preserved in the Archives Nationales de France, I will focus on litigation rather than legislation as the central site of legal change in the early modern French Atlantic. Analyzing concrete disputes over power, property, and rights, I will show how the formation of distinctive legal traditions in early modern French colonies ultimately posed a challenge to metropolitan jurisprudence as eighteenth-century colonists increasingly brought their legal business back to France. This story of transatlantic legal circulation will shed new light on the early modern process of Creolization while also determining whether early modern colonialism and imperialism ultimately undermined traditional European conceptions of property, kinship, and identity.

Sungyun Lim, Assistant Professor, Department of History
My book, Rule of Custom: Colonial Law and Women’s Inheritance Rights in Modern Korea examines the legal struggles between women and their family over property rights in Korea during the Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945). Utilizing civil case records from the High Court of Colonial Korea (Chōsen Kōtō Hōin) as the main source,I argue in this book that the Japanese transformed Korean women’s inheritance rights as part of a larger colonial project that reconfigured Korean family system at large. Through the colonial legal system the Japanese disintegrated the traditional lineages into smaller nuclear households, the administrative parameter of which the colonial state could perceive and control. It was over the issues of women’s property rights struggled over in the colonial courts that these changes became most visible. Rule of Custom closely follows the legal discourses developed in this process, and examines how the contours of this discourse continued to inform the reform procedures into the post-colonial period. 

Sasha Senderovich, Assistant Professor, Department Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures/ Jewish Studies Program
Seekers of Happiness: Mobility, Culture, and the Making of the Soviet Jew examines the tension in Soviet Jewish culture between presumed rootedness and the presence of its opposite, mobility. Drawing on and analyzing fiction, cinema, travel sketches, and journalistic essays produced in Russian and in Yiddish—two co-territorial languages of Soviet Jewish culture—it argues that the early Soviet period saw the emergence of a literary tradition of covert critique within apparently orthodox ideological texts—critique accomplished primarily through tropes about mobility. In the aftermath of the 1917 revolution, though Soviet policies promoted the physical and ideological settlement of perennially itinerant Jews within the socialist collective, Jews continued to be and be represented as mobile. Jews were often physically on the move: from one region of the new USSR to another; out of the Pale of Settlement where they had been restricted prior to 1917, and into cities; across borders away from the USSR and then back; and, in the case of a few, to the newly established Jewish Autonomous Region (Birobidzhan) in the Far East. Having long been confined to Russia’s western borderlands, Jews were now propelled into a more existential border region as they negotiated their place and status in the new society. Assessing Jewish culture in the early Soviet period through the lens of mobility, this book project uses the term to refer both to physical movement and to a state of ambivalence, of being unsettled both physically and ideologically. Jews negotiated the border regions between an ideological rejection of the past and a persistent tendency to observe and reintegrate some of the features of that past, sometimes ironically or critically, in the present. Seekers of Happiness examines texts, films, and other cultural artifacts dealing with these issues that expressed enthusiasm about the promise of Jewish integration as well as about utopian Soviet ideals more generally, but saw this promise tempered by observed tensions between discourse and lived experience. 

Núria Silleras-Fernández, Assistant Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Three Mad Queens: Gender and the Politics of Court Culture in Late Medieval and Early Modern Iberia explores the intersection of madness, hysterical mourning, the feminine, and political power in the Iberian Peninsula in the transition from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern period. Although the study will approach these themes broadly, I will focus on three individuals perceived and presented as “mad" by their contemporaries: Isabel of Portugal (1428–96), queen-consort of Castile, Isabel of Aragon (1470–98) queen-consort of Portugal, and Juana of Castile (1479–1555) queen in-her-own-right of Castile and its empire. The experiences of these women, and their peers' reactions to them, opens a window into the development of the notion on sanity, in an age that pre-dates Foucault’s 17th century Age of Confinement.

John Willis, Associate 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. 

Masano Yamashita, Assistant Professor, Department of French and Italian
My book-length manuscript, Static: Rousseau and Public Culture in the Age of Enlightenment, examines Rousseau’s unique understanding of the new role played by public address systems in both the consolidation and the veritable breakdown of community during the Enlightenment in Europe. In an historical period vaunted for the growth of its print culture, readership and civic debate, I argue that for Rousseau, public participation in the commonweal requires alternative ways of imagining and inhabiting the public sphere that are neglected by his fellow Philosophes, who, according to Rousseau, are more concerned with the protection of their private interests than enlightening the masses. These include a renewed focus on the ancient ideal of philosophy as a way of living, a critical assessment of the uses and misuses of celebrity and social visibility to provide living as well as discursive exemplars, and a countervailing response to the increased theatricalization of social relationships. I demonstrate that public engagement, for Rousseau, involves alerting the general public and his peers to the fundamental precarity and fluidity of social life. In Rousseau’s self-writings, fiction and social criticism, the protection of free speech and free living relies on cultivating a tolerance for contingent solutions, on avowing that the philosopher does not necessarily yet know the best way of communicating his ideas and principles to a growing public, whose own indeterminacy and often irrational nature figure as an object of apprehension for Rousseau and many of his contemporaries (Voltaire, Diderot and d’Holbach, to name a few). Rousseau is the first amongst his peers to diagnose and warn against the dialectical nature of the Enlightenment, its propensity for shading into irrationalism, new forms of “enthusiasm” (atheistic materialism, for example) and group-think. 

With my best wishes and congratulations,

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