Faculty Summer Research Fellows

Summer 2006

Full grants of $4,000 each were awarded to each of the following faculty members for summer research projects:

Mark Blitz (Department of Government), to complete the manuscript of a book on Plato’s Political Philosophy. Professor Blitz writes:

Although several fine works have been written on individual Platonic dialogues, surprisingly little exists that discusses Plato’s political philosophy generally. That is a gap I am hoping to fill … [I discuss] Plato under six headings … practical knowledge and the arts; virtue; forms of government; education; what philosophy seeks; what philosophy discovers. … I will conclude with a chapter in which I explore some of the objects and discoveries of philosophical examination—nature, ideas, causality, the good, the fitting and so on. I will then complete my study by connecting these general issues to the more immediate and practical beginning of Plato’s dialogues.

Robert Faggen (Department of Literature), to prepare a Gould Center undergraduate seminar, to be taught in Academic Year 2007-08, on “Truth and Beauty in Literature and Science.” Professor Faggen writes:

What we will explore in this course is the way in which literary and scientific culture have long been intertwined, making the simple separation or conflation of “truth and beauty” in both realms impossible. Moving beyond contemporary debates about religion and science, I would like to show the ways in which both scientists and artists over several centuries considered both truth and beauty in various ways in the development of their work. … The focus of my research this summer will be first to trace the deep history of natural theology arguments from philosophy—from the pre-Socratics to Aristotle—up through current vestiges in contemporary physics that continue to use “anthropics” to suggest that the laws of physics may indicate some teleology in our ability to perceive them.

Arash Khazeni (Department of History), to complete a book manuscript on the transformation and modernization of pastoral nomadic tribes in Iran. Professor Khazeni writes:

Opening the Land: Ethnicity and Empire on the Margins of Iran, 1800-1911 presents an account of the modern development and transformation of a tribal periphery. Based on four years of archival research and fieldwork, and drawing extensively on tribal histories, Persian chronicles, British ethnographies and archival records, it recounts the modern transformation that interrupted long-standing policies of indirect rule between the state and the tribes, the center and the periphery, in Iran.

Cintia Santana (Department of Modern Languages), for preparation of a course that will examine the influence of Jewish, Arabic, and Roma (Gypsy) cultures upon Spain and its literatures. Professor Santa writes:

In the 1990s, Spain witnessed a dramatic rise in the number of immigrants arriving from North Africa and Latin America. Given that these groups in particular share linguistic and cultural ties to Spain, the “return of the re(op)pressed” once again stirred up Spain’s never very secure sense of nation. Such tensions are represented in its recent cultural and literary production. … Next fall I will offer a course, Sp. 118, “Representations of Race and Religion in Spanish Literature” in which students will undertake close readings of literary texts, essays and films in light of their representations of Spain and its constituents. As a specialist in contemporary Spanish literature, I will focus the course largely on recent cultural production.

Nicholas Warner (Department of Literature), to prepare the Fall 2006 Gould Center Seminar and complementary Athenaeum speakers series, “Labor and Leisure in Modern Western Literature.” The course description:

This course examines changing ethics of labor and leisure from the industrial revolution to the 20th century. What the value of work is, what work means, what the rights of workers are, how leisure time should be spent, how much of it there should be, who should have it—such questions possess profound cultural, religious, and political significance. We will explore these questions in a variety of literary works, with background readings in history and other pertinent disciplines, and with an eye toward comparing American and European perspectives. Authors to be studied include, among others, Defoe, Rousseau, Franklin, Thoreau, Carlyle, Dickens, Tolstoy, Hauptmann, Hurston, Fitzgerald, and Kerouac. Assignments include three essays ranging in length from 5 to 10 pages, an oral presentation, and a final project.

Grants of $3000 each were awarded to:

Adam Bradley (Department of Literature), for a book-length study of poetic forms in rap, tentatively titled Book of Rhymes: The Poetic Language of Hip Hop.

While dozens of books on hip hop are published each year, and hip hop studies continues to gain currency in the academy, curiously no scholars have published book-length studies of poetic form in rap. Book of Rhymes shall fill this gap by providing tools for analyzing rhythm, rhyme, figurative language, voice, and tone in hip hop lyricism. It shall include, for the first time, both critical analysis of hip hop craft and artist reflections on the formal discipline of writing rhymes. While the subject matter is drawn from pop culture, the scholarly methods I shall employ place my work in a tradition with poetic formalists like Helen Vendler and Frank Lentricchia—critics who study the formal qualities of literary poetry with rigor and sophistication.

Andrew Busch (Department of Government), for a book project called In Defense of Kansas: Explaining Social Conservatism in America. Professor Busch writes:

The project would not consist of a point-by-point survey or rebuttal of [journalist Thomas] Frank’s thesis [advanced in that author’s widely acclaimed What’s the Matter With Kansas?], but rather would … seek dto illuminate the “red-blue” divide, as well as offering ways of bridging it, by calmly, sympathetically, but fairly exploring the intellectual case for social conservatism.

John Farrell (Department of Literature), for a book project, Cheating the Minotaur: The Vocabulary of Literary Theory. Professor Farrell writes:

My project begins with the observation that, because imaginative literature takes for its concern just about everything human beings think about, and puts into play so many of our human capacities, literary critics are constantly tempted to borrow the conceptual tools of other disciplines—tempted to do, in other words, what I call “Cheating the Minotaur.” … My book … will be an attempt to reconstruct some of the basic vocabulary of literary theory (terms like meaning, story, plot, ideology, metaphor, character, etc.) on a firmer and less antiquated interdisciplinary basis than they have hitherto been given. I am engaged with, but critical of, the tendency of literary critics, especially in the last five years, to make cognitive science into a new key to all mythologies.

Nita Kumar (Department of History), for a book project entitled English in India: Its Failures and Possible Futures. Professor Kumar writes:

The language and literature of English has a presence in India that is full of paradoxes. My research project looks at the span of English teaching in India for 150 years, from the second half of the nineteenth century … and forward into the future. My project focuses particularly on one paradox: the continuing inequality in English language teaching in India over a century and a half. I suggest that the internalization of English as a first language by a limited elite produces such inequality … [A] mass education in another language is inherently a tremendous challenge that an elite is not competent or willing to meet.

James Morrison (Department of Literature: Film Studies), to complete his book, Rosebud in Xanadu: Hollywood, Mass Culture and the Sublime, 1920-1960. Professor Morrison writes:

As early as the 1910s, in books like Vachel Lindsay’s The Art of Moving Pictures (1914) or Hugo Munsterberg’s The Photoplay (1916), partisans of cinema consciously appropriated the concept of the “sublime” from the vocabulary of high art to describe the new medium. … From these origins, the notion of the cinematic sublime persisted as one of the most influential frameworks for understanding film for decades to come … In Rosebud in Xanadu, I pursue this argument through an analysis of American films produced from 1920 to 1960.

Grants of $1000 each were awarded to:

Tobias Gregory (Department of Literature), to carry out work on a second book, Epic Past and Historical Present. Professor Gregory’s book will explore how epic poets of the Renaissance reworked one of the Aeneid’s most significant innovations: the connection between the legendary past in which the epic poem is set, and the historical present from which it is told.

Ann Meyer (Department of Literature), to continue work on a second book project, Dante’s Mary: Cornerstone of Incarnational Art and Medieval Platonism. Professor Meyer’s book will not only explore how Dante’s Commedia serves as a culmination of ancient and medieval intellectual and theological traditions, but, more specifically, Mary’s central role in the poet’s ambitions in these areas.

Alex Rajczi (Department of Philosophy/Religious Studies), for support of two major projects he planned to undertake in the summer of 2006. Professor Rajczi writes:

Both are in my fields of specialization, ethics and political philosophy, and both are outgrowths of my overall scholarly project of investigating and exploring the assumptions of Enlightenment philosophy. One project asks whether a major ethical theory, consequentialism, can be reconciled with the Enlightenment view that individuals must freely choose how to live their lives in order for those lives to be fully meaningful. Another project asks whether Enlightment thinkers were right to believe that we can make ethical progress through armchair speculation.