2017-18 Faculty Fellows

Tiffany Beechy, Assistant Professor of English
Flesh of the Word: Materiality, Aesthetics, and the Incarnation In Anglo-Saxon England
My book considers the unique character of the Incarnation of Christ as it was construed in early medieval Britain, and seeks to recover lost or obscure modes of formal experimentation from this period. Where the mainstream orthodox tradition emphasizes Christ’s transcendence and ineffability, Anglo-Saxon writers emphasize the perception of the Word in material forms. My book describes this emphasis in its many manifestations in visual art, literature, and theology, and grounds it in the cultural context of Britain in the early Middle Ages. Many important cultural products that have long been considered almost unreadable take on coherence in light of the logics I uncover in Flesh of the Word.

Loriliai Biernacki, Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Who Says "I"?
My objective with this book project is to highlight and problematize some of our assumptions about subjectivity, what it means to say "I." Drawing from my research in medieval Indian religion and philosophy, I propose to bring Indian phiosophical conceptions of subjectivity into conversation with contemporary perspectives on subjectivity, including philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and related to these two, new humanist understandings drawing from New Materialism and affect theory. I propose that the 11th century Indian philosopher Abhinavagupta's model of subjectivity can help to productively rethink subjectivity. Particularly his cosmology founded on a fundamental theory of "I-ness" (ahanta) offers unexpected avenues for conceiving body and self, expanding a conception of subjectivity beyond our familiar caresian constructions of mind and body.

Scott Bruce, Professor of History
Reinventing the Rule in Medieval Monasticism: The Rule of Benedict in its Manuscript Habitats, ca. 700-1700
This study examines the variety of functions and meanings that the sixth-century Rule of Benedict had for medieval monks through an analysis of manuscript copies of the rule dating from the eighth to the seventeenth centuries. Scholars presume that the Rule of Benedict was such an authoritative text in the monastic tradition that medieval monks must have read it in the same way and for the same purpose throughout the premodern period, namely, as a normative document that provided guidelines for the governance of their cloistered communities. This
project challenges the tendency of historians to essentialize, rather than historicize, the Rule of Benedict. It argues that the reception history of the rule was characterized not by a sense of reverence that rendered its meaning and function static across the centuries, but rather by a creative pragmatism evident in the manuscript tradition that allowed medieval readers to harness the rule to a variety of functions and to inflect its meaning through association with a wide variety of other texts, from monastic legislation to devotional literature to hagiography to texts commemorating the dead.

Arne Hoecker, Assistant Professor of German
The Case of Literature: Literary Case Histories from Goethe to Kafka
Focusing on the genre of the psychological case history, my book project examines the interplay between fictional literature and the emerging human sciences from the end of the 18th to the beginning of the 20th century. Drawing on literary texts from Goethe, Schiller, and Büchner to Döblin, Musil, and Kafka, and analyzing them in the context of contemporary scientific discourses—from 18th century pedagogy and psychology to 19th century criminology and sexology, and 20th century psychoanalysis—the book proposes a new assessment of fictional literary discourse. I argue that fictional literature since the 18th century not only contributed to the differentiation of the human sciences, but that literature established itself in this process as the privileged medium for the modern style of “reasoning in cases”. I will show how in a sequence of narrative forms modern German literature shaped a discourse of the self that straddles the threshold of the individual and the general, the singular and the law, and how it offers itself to institutional applications that base their decisions on an archive of knowledge of the individual

Katie Little, Professor of English
Reading for the Moral in Late Medieval and Sixteenth-Century England
This book traces the history of the familiar idea that reading good books is good for you. This idea emerged at a particular historical moment: in the cultural movement called humanism, which offered a new certainty about the capacity of classical texts to inculcate virtue in readers. English humanism was not entirely successful in its certainty nor in repressing/ revising an earlier (medieval) wariness about the power of texts to lead readers astray. English writers during the rest of the sixteenth-century thus returned to medieval forms to question the morality of the humanist enterprise.

Antje Richter, Associate Professor of Chinese
Illness Narratives in Early Medieval Chinese Literature
Through the exploration of illness narratives in a variety of transmitted literary texts from early medieval China (ca. 200–600 CE) in different genres and registers of style—from literary criticism to autobiographical accounts, letters, poetry, historical narratives, fantastic tales, and religious texts—the book attempts to gather the full range of literati views on illness and healing as they evolved during this period. Situated at the intersection of the individual and the socio-cultural, literary representations of illness and healing are not only read as documents of their authors’ struggle to make sense of their physicality, but also to explore the rhetorical and ideological functions of illness narratives within their surrounding texts. By developing, shaping, and giving visibility to an area of research with great potential within Chinese Studies, the book will also help better to connect Chinese Studies with other disciplines in the humanities, where this topic has received much attention in recent years.