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Robert Penn Warren Center

Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities

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Programs and Events

Fall 2014

The Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities promotes interdisciplinary research and study in the humanities and social sciences and, when appropriate, the natural sciences. Members of the Vanderbilt community representing a wide variety of specializations take part in the Center’s programs, which are designed to intensify and increase interdisciplinary discussion of academic, social, and cultural issues.

Fellows Programs

2014/2015 Fellows Program. "Public Scholarship in the Humanities," co-directed by Joel Harrington (history) and Holly Tucker (French & Italian, Biomedical Ethics & Society). Participants in the program are Marshall Eakin (history), Lisa Guenther (philosophy), Aimi Hamraie (medicine, health, and society), Ifeoma Nwankwo (English), Lynn Ramey (French), Daniel Sharfstein (law), and Paul Stob (communication studies). The 2014-2015 William S. Vaughn Visiting Fellow is Lara Stein Pardo (anthropology).

2014/2015 Warren Center Graduate Student Fellows. Eight graduate students are participating in the Warren Center's ninth dissertation completion fellowship program. They are Jessica Burch (history), Adam Burgos (philosophy), Kathleen DeGuzman (English), Daniel McAuley (French, Queen's University Belfast), Luis Menéndez-Antuña (religion), Carly Rush (sociology), Any Tan (history), and Brendan Weaver (anthropology). Jessica Burch is the American Studies Fellow, Adam Burgos is the George J. Graham Jr. Fellow, and Kathleen DeGuzman is the Elizabeth E. Fleming Fellow.

2015/2016 Fellows Program. "When the Fringe Dwarfs the Center: Vernacular Islam beyond the Arab World," co-directed by Tony Stewart (religious studies), David Wasserstein (Jewish Studies, history), and Samira Sheikh (history).

Special Events

To Sing a Troubled Song: Music, conflict and reconstruction in Northern Ireland will be presented by Stuart Bailie, Industry Fellow at The Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities, Queen's University Belfast. Monday, September 22, 2014 at 4:30 p.m. at the First Amendment Center, 1801 Edgehill Avenue. Reception to follow. CEO and founder of OH YEAH music centre in Belfast, music industry veteran Stuart Bailie has been a press officer for Warner Records and a talent scout for Sony Records and written on music for The Times, The Irish Independent, Uncut, and Hot Press. Bailie presents a weekly BBC Radio Ulster music show and also narrates the walking tour on the iPhone app, Belfast Music. His current work tells the story of music's impact on the Troubles in Northern Ireland, covering events from the Miami Showband Massacres to the "Yes" concert at the Waterfront with U2 and Ash in 1998. Co-sponsored by the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise & Public Policy and the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities.

Meet the Faculty Fellows: Wine & Cheese Lightning Talks with Queen's University Belfast Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities. Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. at the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center. Fellows from the Institute will be presenting seven-minute lightning talks about their current research projects followed by a Q&A period. Speakers include: Stefano Baschiera, “Film Industry in Northern Ireland after the 2008 Financial Crisis: Game of Thrones and National Cinema”; Manu Braganca, “Remembering WWII Tomorrow”; Isabel Hollis, “Exhibiting Colonialism in a Postcolonial Age”; Dominique Jeannerod, “Visualizing International Crime Fiction”; Federico Pagello, “In Search of the Origins of European Popular Culture: Film, Comics, and Serial Literature (1880-1920)”; Michael Pierse, “Writing Working-Class Life: Building the Archive, Working with the Community”; Linda Price, “Blood in the Soil: Belonging, Suicide, and Representation of Family Farming”; and Fabian Schuppert, “The Ethics of Carbon Sink Preservation.” Co-sponsored by Program in American Studies, Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, and the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities. 

Harry C. Howard Jr. Lecture. The 2014 Harry Howard Lecture, "The Good Lord Bird: Faith and American Slavery," will be presented by author, musician, and screenwriter James McBride on Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 4:10 p.m. in the Sarratt Cinema. McBride received the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction for The Good Lord Bird, a fictionalized account of a young boy born a slave who becomes involved with John Brown's anti-slavery crusade. In addition to his lecture, McBride's Good Lord Bird Band will perform nineteenth-century U.S. gospel music. A reception and book signing will follow the event.

"Standing Together: The Humanities and the Experience of War." As part of its continuing partnership with Humanities Tennessee, the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities is co-sponsoring a series of speakers related to this theme at the 2014 Southern Festival of Book on October 10-12 in downtown Nashville. To date, speakers include Phil Klay (Redeployment: Short Stories) and Kevin Powers (The Yellow Birds and the forthcoming book of poetry, "Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting").

The Humanities and Technology Camp (THATCamp). THATCamp 2014 will be held October 24-25 at the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise & Public Policy. THATCamp is an international program designed to promote interest in and to develop skills related to digital humanities. Examples of sessions might include: TEI (Text Encoding Initiative), digital archiving, video games, 3D modeling, Twitter, tools for beginners, securing funding for digital humanities projects, Omeka, and Neatline. One of the speakers will be Alex Gil, digital scholarship coordinator for the Humanities and History Division at Columbia University Libraries. THATCamp is hosted by the Warren Center, the Center for Second Language Studies, the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning, the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise & Public Policy, and the Jean & Alexander Heard Library. For more information, or to register, visit or the Warren Center website.

Fall Symposium to Celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Part Two of Don Quixote. In 1605, at the age of fifty-eight, Miguel de Cervantes published Don Quixote. He would earn critical and popular recognition for his writing skills for the first time in his career. The misadventures of an anachronistic knight errant and his genial squire struck a chord with readers. The enormous success of the novel led Cervantes, ten years later, to publish a long-awaited sequel. The Warren Center will commemorate the anniversary of Part Two with a symposium on Don Quixote on Thursday - Saturday, November 6-8, 2014. The invited speakers are Professors J. A. G. Ardila (University of Edinburgh), Chad Gasta (Iowa State University), and Hilaire Kallendorf (Texas A&M University). Please see the Warren Center website for more details.

Warren Center Seminars

The following is a list of seminars and reading groups for the fall semester. For more detailed information please contact the seminar coordinators or the Warren Center.

18th-/19th-Century Colloquium: The colloquium brings together faculty, graduate students, and visiting scholars to explore ground-breaking scholarship on the arts, cultures, and histories of the 18th- and 19th-centuries. While loosely focused around British culture, the group also invites scholars from other linguistic and geographic fields to share work and join in the discussion. Guest speakers for the semester include Timothy Campbell (English, University of Chicago) on Friday, October 3 at 2 p.m. at the Warren Center, and Eugenia Zuroski Jenkins (English & cultural studies, McMaster University) on Friday, November 14 at 2 p.m. in Buttrick 202. Seminar coordinators: Rachel Teukolsky (English), Scott Juengel (English), and Humberto Garcia (English)

A People's History of Nashville: How have social movements created the Nashville that we live in today? This seminar invites those engaged in current social movements to gather and learn the history of the working and dispossessed classes of the city, and to reflect on how recovering the memory of past social struggle might inform future strategies. The seminar will host monthly meetings and visits to neighborhoods and landmarks, seeking respectful collaborations with scholars and organizations across the city that are pursuing similar projects. Seminar coordinators: Tristan Call (anthropology) and Austin Sauerbrei (community development and action)

Brazilian Studies Reading Group: This seminar provides a forum for topics related to contemporary Brazil. Discussion will center on the broad theme of "Citizenship and the Nation." The group will facilitate interdisciplinary dialogues based on pre-circulated readings, consider works-in-progress by graduate students and faculty, and invite recognized scholars to present new work. Topics will include traditional power structures and the political system, social movements, income inequity and "social apartheid," race, and access to education and healthcare. The first meeting will be on Friday, August 29 at 12 p.m. at the Warren Center, and the first guest speaker will be Dain Borges (history, University of Chicago) on Tuesday, September 16 at 12 p.m. in Buttrick 123. Seminar coordinators: Fernanda Bretones Lane (history), Daniel O'Maley (anthropology), and Laura Sellers (political science)

Circum-Atlantic Studies Seminar: This group reads and treats scholarship that is interdisciplinary in nature, focuses on at least two of the following regions – Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, and North America – and treats some aspect of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, colonialism, and/or postcolonialism. The first meeting will be on Wednesday, September 24 at 4 p.m. in Buttrick 123. Guest speakers this fall include Philip Kaisary (law, University of Warwick) on Wednesday, November 12 at 4 p.m. in Buttrick 123. Seminar coordinators: Celso Castilho (history) and Jane Landers (history)

Digital Humanities Discussion Group: The Digital Humanities seminar brings together colleagues from across the university who are interested in issues related to this area of study. The seminar participants will explore theories, practices, and methodologies of DH and explore ways to best support this type of work on our campus. Seminar coordinators: Lynn Ramey (French) and Mona Frederick (Warren Center)

Early Modern Enlightenment: This seminar will examine the period of intellectual history designated as the Enlightenment. The multidisciplinary seminar isolates three categories for investigation: law, violence, and epistemology. These areas of inquiry demonstrate that the so-called Enlightenment was sufficiently multifarious to provide legitimate grounds for isolating rival, competing, and incompatible Enlightenments. Meetings will place visiting scholars with Vanderbilt faculty and graduate students, and they will center on the question of how the Enlightenment has been subjected to repeated celebration, vilification, and contestation in academic circles. The first meeting will be on Wednesday, September 10 at 1 p.m. at the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: León Guerrero (Spanish and Portuguese) leon.guerrero.ayala@Vanderbilt.Edu, Drew Martin (religion), and Chance Woods (English)

Film Theory & Visual Culture Seminar: This seminar aims to foster dialogue among faculty and graduate students across campus working in film, visual culture, art history, literature, and cultural studies interested in theories of the image, philosophies of perception, aesthetic and critical theory, media histories, and the history of vision. The group will meet monthly to discuss readings, share work, and engage the research of invited scholars. The first meeting will be on Friday, September 12 at 12 p.m. with guest speaker Daniel Morgan (cinema and media studies, University of Chicago). Other guest speakers for the semester include Andrew Uroskie (Stony Brook University – SUNY) on Friday, October 10 at 12 p.m. at the Warren Center, James McFarland (German, cinema & media arts) on Friday, November 11 at 12 p.m. at the Warren Center, and Nora Alter (Temple University) on Friday, December 5 at 12 p.m. at the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Jennifer Fay (cinema & media arts, English), Lutz Koepnick (German, cinema & media arts), and James McFarland (German, cinema & media arts)

Group for Pre-modern Cultural Studies: The purpose of the group is to serve as a forum for those with interests in pre-modern studies, including not only history but language and literature, chiefly, though not exclusively, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, as well as music, art, and culture. The group meets monthly to discuss ongoing research by a faculty member, recent publications in the field, or the work of a visiting scholar. The first meeting will be on Wednesday, September 17 at noon in Sarratt 189. The first guest speaker for the semester will be Giuseppe Mazzotta (Italian, Yale University) on Friday, September 26 at 12 p.m. with location tbd. Seminar coordinators: Deann Armstrong (English), Bill Caferro (history), and Leah Marcus (English)

Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life: The Warren Center and the American Studies Program are co-sponsoring this group to provide opportunities for exchange among faculty members and graduate students who are interested in or who are currently involved in projects that engage public scholarship. Vanderbilt is a member of the national organization, "Imagining America," a consortium of colleges and universities committed to public scholarship in the arts, humanities, and design. Seminar coordinator: Mona Frederick (Warren Center)
Literature and Law Seminar: This reading group will meet to discuss current approaches, new challenges, and new possibilities that are offered to legal and literary scholars when they use insights from both fields to illuminate their work. The seminar welcomes anyone interested in the many topics now addressed in this field, including the use of obscenity laws to regulate creative work, the representation of law in literature, law as literature, the application of literary methods to legal texts, the challenges of constructing "characters" appropriate to literary and legal settings, and the revitalization of law through reference to humanistic texts and approaches. Seminar coordinator: Robert Barsky (French and Italian)

Material Culture in Context: This seminar explores objects and materiality from multiple perspectives. It will examine the meaning attached to objects by the people who made and used them, partially through looking at the contexts (cultural, social, historical, spatial) in which objects appear. Participants will also explore how objects are transferred through space and time. This seminar should be of particular interest to specialists in archaeology, anthropology, sociology, history, and history of art, as well as cultural and media studies, and philosophy. Seminar coordinators: Beth Conklin (anthropology) and Mireille Lee (history of art)

Mexican Studies Seminar: The goal of this group is to raise the profile of research related to Mexico on the Vanderbilt campus and support members' individual scholarly endeavors regarding this important nation bordering the United States. The group brings together faculty and graduate students from history, political science, literature, sociology, art, anthropology, music, and Latin American studies. At monthly meetings the group will discuss works-in-progress authored by members and invited scholars from beyond Vanderbilt. Seminar coordinators: Helena Simonett (Latin American Studies) and Edward Wright-Rios (history)

Race, Gender and Kinship: An Exploration of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century: Over six meetings during the fall semester, this seminar will read and discuss Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty. This seminar will analyze the relation of economic factors to the formation of self-identity and will look at ways in which human capital, colonization, and traditional norms of family and marriage contribute to the concentration of wealth and to vast economic disparity. This interdisciplinary conversation will focus on intersections of economic narratives of personal liberty with critical race, feminist, and queer theories. The first meeting will be held on Thursday, August 28 at 1 p.m. at the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Darla Migan (philosophy) and Kirsten Mendoza (English)

Religion and Culture in Late Antiquity: Late Antiquity is a term used by scholars to describe a historical period which includes both the end of classical civilizations and the first centuries of medieval societies in the Mediterranean, Africa, Europe and the Near East. The seminar's geographic definition of "Late Antiquity" will focus primarily on the cultures and societies of the Mediterranean world, but can also be broadly construed. Participation from ancient historians, medievalists, and scholars of Asia or other areas of research that may have overlapping interests is welcomed. The seminar will meet once per month for a discussion of current research by Vanderbilt faculty or Ph.D. students. Readings will be pre-circulated. The first meeting will be held on Tuesday, August 26 at 12 p.m. at the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Mark Ellison (religion), Robin Jensen (history of art), and David Michelson (divinity)