Workers Unite, Workers Create: Coal Miners, Cultural Workers, and Radical Unions in 1930s Appalachia, South Wales, and the American Southwest
This seminar focuses on part of a larger project that explores the production of social space in coal mining communities in three regions, the Appalachian South and the American Southwest in the U.S., and South Wales in the U.K. In the first decades of the twentieth century, an international working-class identity—“proletarian internationalism”—emerged and capitalist-state alliances coalesced to counter working-class solidarity. Those alliances faced off not only against miners, but also against creative workers and intellectuals who identified with and joined the struggles of radical unions on behalf of coal communities.
Women’s Hospital Work in Renaissance Italy: Reassessing Knowledge and Practice
This presentation examines women’s nursing activities in the hospitals of sixteenth-century Italy in light of changing disease environments and new charitable initiatives associated with the Catholic Reformation. The appearance of syphilis after 1500 posed a massive public health challenge to Renaissance cities, prompting the creation of new, specialized hospitals and new kinds of female caregivers who tended those afflicted with “pox.” Tapping unexplored archival sources, I analyze the hands-on work women performed in pox hospitals and assess how nursing practices generated new forms of artisanal knowledge.
Mormons or Muslims, They're Not Us. But Who are We? Religious Difference as a Prism for Cultural Identity in Denmark
In the aftermath of the Mohammed cartoon crisis of 2005, Danish society was often painted as intolerant and racist. A closer look at the cartoons in question, however, reveals that their depiction of Mohammed is incidental; their real focus is questioning Danish cultural identity. This talk traces the way in which religious difference has been used as a prism for examining Danishness since the early 19th century. The popular uprisings that shook Europe in 1848 resulted in few lasting governmental changes except in Denmark, where absolutism gave way to a constitutional monarchy. The June 1849 Danish Constitution established religious freedom, but, after more than a thousand years of complete unity between church and state, the largely homogenous Danish society was unprepared to deal with the cultural difference attendant upon the exercise of this right. The arrival of Mormon missionaries in Denmark in 1850 and subsequent conversions of tens of thousands of Danes to Mormonism brought the issue of religious difference to the forefront of Danish society. This situation inspired a range of Danish literary, artistic, musical, and cinematic depictions of Mormons, each of which has as much or more to do with Danish cultural identity as with Mormonism itself.
Voice and Presence: Performance Aspects of Turkic Oral Epics.
Based on my field-work in the Turkic-speaking areas of Central Asia, I will explore and illustrate some of the elements that characterize the live performance of an oral epic. The singer is present as narrator, musician, actor, entertainer, tribal historian, and the voice of authority. Interpretations and discussions of these epics generally focus only on their textual structure. This is also true of the study of other oral traditions, as well as (by necessity) of medieval oral-derived epics. The questions with which I am concerned in my paper are how to incorporate these extra-textual aspects (in particular music) into our interpretations and how essential they are for our understanding of oral (and oral-derived) epic poetry.
Margins of belief: renegades as frontier protagonists in the early modern Mediterranean
Corsair activity, i.e., state-sponsored piracy carried out in the name of both Christian and Muslim lands, was largely responsible for the presence of millions of captives/slaves in the early modern Mediterranean. During this period some three hundred thousand men, women and children, most of them captives, converted to Islam in quite diverse circumstances, while only a tiny fraction of this number converted to Christianity. These converts to Islam, vilified as renegades in the European languages, significantly altered their new societies and, in a number of cases, rose to very high positions within them. They also figured importantly, even obsessively, in treatises and imaginative literature of Christian countries, yet they rarely spoke or wrote about themselves except when forced to do so. This talk will raise questions such as the following: Who "were" the renegades, and what can they tell us about the early modern Mediterranean? How can we get to know them through the distorting and often falsifying genres of texts available to us? What did their crossing over to Islam and Muslim lands mean for them and for everyone else? What were their strategies and capabilities, and how can their "duplicity" (doubleness) be best understood?
The Global Renaissance: Some New Interdisciplinary Perspectives
This conference will explore the “Global Renaissance” from a variety of perspectives and will address the following topics: the exchange of commodities and goods; imperial encounters with distant cultures; European intellectual encounters with non-European cultures; and literary representations of non-European cultures. The conference will highlight the work of three keynote speakers who have done or are doing significant work on some area of the “Global Renaissance.” The conference will conclude with a discussion panel on “The Global Renaissance: New Perspectives and New Directions for Interdisciplinary Work.”
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Proust’s Calculus of Personality
Calculus, invented in the seventeenth century by Leibniz and Newton and perfected over the next two hundred years, is not only the foundation of higher mathematics but also an indispensable tool for a broad spectrum of intellectual and practical endeavors that entail quantification of various sorts, both in the physical sciences and in the social sciences, including psychology. Although it allows for the measurement of phenomena ranging from the area and volume of non-linear figures to demographic changes in large populations, the broad philosophical and literary question it circumvents on a purely practical level—what are the implications of quantifying phenomena that are not, in some sense, quantifiable?—has continued to haunt philosophers and literary figures to this day. This seminar will suggest that the development of calculus has important implications for the humanities as well as the physical and social sciences, focusing on evolving conceptions of personality in literature and psychology. Particular attention will be paid to the works of the French literary giant of the early twentieth century, Marcel Proust (1871-1922), whose monumental cycle of novels, In Search of Lost Time (aka Remembrance of Things Past), presents a particularly intriguing illustration of the calculus of personality.
Notes Toward a Theory of Resistance
Weimar's weak liberal state folded into Fascism. In the US since the 1970's critics have warned about "fascism with a friendly face" and more recently a US form of fascism (Hedges) or Inverted Fascism (Wolin). What do these dire prediction represent? What lessons from Weimar thinkers, Schmitt, Arendt, Strauss on the "political"? More particularly, what did and does psychoanalysis from Fromm to recent theorists (Badiou, Summers) add to any conjectural therory of political resistence and where is law in this set of issues.
Beasts and Monsters
This seminar will focus on the animality of the monsters that appear in late-Victorian gothic fiction. It will explore how evolutionary dynamics inform the narrative representation of figures such as Dracula, Jekyll-and-Hyde, and Dorian Gray and consider the extent to which these rhetorical effects help install a new biopolitical order in post-Darwinian Britain.
Composing Music for the Feast of Fools: The Case of the Kyrie Asini
Over the past thirty years, the Kyrie Asini (Kyrie of the Ass) has become an established part of the repertoire of medieval music supposedly having its origins in the Feast of Fools. Musicologists and historians now confidently describe it as “traditional,” “thirteenth century,” and “French.” I will argue that it is a much more recent composition, inspired by the longstanding myth of a disorderly Feast of Fools.