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Robert Penn Warren Center

Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities

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Programs and Events

Spring 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

2013/2014 Fellows Program. "Diagnosis in Context: Culture, Politics, and the Construction of Meaning," co-directed by Vanessa Beasley (communication studies) and Arleen Tuchman (history). Participants in the program are Gregory Barz (musicology), Laura Carpenter (sociology), Kenneth MacLeish (Medicine, Health, and Society), and Mark Schoenfield (English). The 2013-2014 William S. Vaughn Visiting Fellow is Susan Cahn (history, State University of New York at Buffalo).

2013/2014 Warren Center Graduate Student Fellows. Eight graduate students are participating in the Warren Center's eighth dissertation completion fellowship program. They are Emily August (English), Whitney Laster (sociology), Aoife Laughlin (history, Queen's University Belfast), John Maddox (Spanish & Portuguese), Paul Morrow (philosophy), Aubrey Porterfield (English), Ansley Quiros (history), and Jamie Shenton (anthropology). Emily August is the American Studies Fellow, Paul Morrow is the George J. Graham Jr. Fellow, Aubrey Porterfield is the Elizabeth E. Fleming Fellow, and John Maddox is the Joe and Mary Harper Fellow.

2014/2015 Fellows Program. "Public Scholarship in the Humanities," co-directed by Joel Harrington (history) and Holly Tucker (French; Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society).

Special Events

Black Atlantic History Lecture
Richard Rabinowitz, President of the American History Workshop, will present the Warren Center's annual Black Atlantic History Lecture on Wednesday, February 12 at 4:10 pm. Professor Rabinowitz's talk, "Curating the Common Wind: Representing the Revolutionary Discourse of the Black Atlantic in a Museum Exhibition," is hosted by the 2012-2013 Warren Center Sawyer Seminar, the Warren Center's Circum-Atlantic Studies Group, and the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center in honor of Black History Month. His talk will take place in the Black Cultural Center, followed by a reception at the Warren Center.

The First Book Panel
The Warren Center and the Program in Career Development are co-sponsoring a panel discussion on book publishing on Thursday, February 13 at 4:10 pm in Buttrick 123. The talk will be geared primarily to junior faculty members and advanced graduate students (though anyone, of course, is welcome to attend). Speakers will be Courtney Berger, editor for the Duke University Press, and Timothy Mennel, editor for the University of Chicago Press. Panelists will address issues related to publishing one's first academic book in the humanities and qualitative social sciences.

Mary Lou Roberts
The Robert Penn Warren Center, the Max Kade Center for European Studies, the Department of History, the Department of Women's and Gender Studies, the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, and the Program in American Studies will present a talk by Mary Lou Roberts, Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, on Thursday, April 10 at 4:10 pm in the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center. The lecture will be titled "Rape Hysteria and the Sexual Economy of Race: French Accusations of Sexual Assault against African-American GIs, 1944-1946."

Warren Center Graduate Student Fellows Lecture Series
This spring, each of the Warren Center's eight graduate students will present a public lecture on his or her research. Most lectures take place in the conference room of the Warren Center at 4:10 pm, unless otherwise noted, and are followed by a reception. The presenters and dates are: Jamie Shenton (anthropology), March 13; Whitney Laster (sociology), March 20; Ansley Quiros (history), March 21; Aubrey Porterfield (English), March 26; John Maddox (Spanish & Portuguese), April 4; Emily August (English), April 9; Aoife Laughlin (history, Queen's University Belfast), 3:10 pm on April 14; Paul Morrow (philosophy), April 29.

Mellon Institute in Digital and Public Humanities for Early-Career Scholars
On May 12–16, 2014, twelve Vanderbilt University graduate students and recent PhDs participated in the first Mellon Institute in Digital and Public Humanities for Early-Career Scholars. Participants had a chance to learn from eminent scholars in the public and digital humanities and to get hands-on experience with a variety of digital tools. Hosted by the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy, and the Center for Second Language Studies, this is part of a three-year program funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  

Warren Center Seminars

The following is a list of seminars and reading groups for the spring 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. The group will hold their first meeting in the Warren Center on Friday, January 31 at 2 pm with guest speaker Daniel Hack (English, University of Michigan). The seminar will also host Elaine Freedgood (English, New York University) on Friday, February 28 at 2 pm in the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Rachel Teukolsky (English), Scott Juengel (English), and Humberto Garcia (English)

Behind Bars: The Complex Politics of Incarceration. In this seminar, participants will seek to have conversations with scholars in a wide range of fields and disciplines about a major social and political concern in the 21st century: the prison industrial complex. Through an examination of critical race and queer theory, transnational feminisms, and the work of grassroots activist organizations, participants will engage discourses of prison reform and prison abolition as two distinct methodologies that attempt to address the same pervasive social problem. Reading scholarly work as well as the work produced by activists, we hope to explore how the academy can engage these issues productively and materially. First spring meeting: TBD. Seminar coordinators: Alex Chambers (religion) and Tatiana McInnis (English)

Brazilian Studies Reading Group. This graduate student led seminar provides a forum for the discussion of contemporary Brazilian topics. Each semester the group will facilitate interdisciplinary dialogues with pre-circulated readings, discuss works-in-progress by graduate students and faculty, and invite recognized scholars to present new work. They will consider issues in the context of the recent protest movements, which began in São Paulo as a response to increased bus fares, before spreading through most urban centers across the country. Topics for discussion may include traditional power structures, social movements, access to equal education, workers' rights, political corruption, race relations, and income disparity. The first spring meeting will be Friday, January 24 at 12:15 pm in the Warren Center with guest speaker Celso Castilho (history). Seminar coordinators: Ashley Larson (Latin American Studies), Max Pendergraph (history), and Guilherme Russo (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 group will host David Wheat (history, Michigan State University) on Monday, February 17 at 4 pm in the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center. Other guests include Richard Rabinowitz (President, American History Workshop) as the Black Atlantic Seminar Lecturer on Wednesday, February 12 at 4 pm in the Black Cultural Center, and Sophie White (American Studies, University of Notre Dame) on Monday, March 24 at 4 pm in the Black Cultural Center. Seminar coordinators: Celso Castilho (history) and Jane Landers (history)

Digital Humanities Discussion Group. Digital humanities projects are rich new additions to the intellectual life of humanities scholars. If you are currently working on a digital humanities project or hope to do so in the near future, please join this discussion group to learn more about resources and innovations in this area. The direction of the group will be determined by the interests of those who participate. The first group meeting will be Monday, January 27 at noon in the Warren Center and the 2012-2013 HASTAC scholars will give their panel presentation from the 2013 HASTAC Conference. The seminar will also host David Fredrick (classical studies, University of Arkansas) on Friday, April 4 at noon at the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Lynn Ramey (French & Italian) and Mona Frederick (Warren Center)

Exploring Boundaries: Race and Ethnicity in the 21st-Century United States. How racial and ethnic boundaries continue to shift and transform is an exciting and important topic of intellectual pursuit for scholars of all disciplines. This year-long seminar is designed to facilitate discussion, debate, and collaboration among individuals across campus who are interested in contemporary issues of race and ethnicity. At each of the monthly meetings, participants will bridge theory with practice, engaging with foundational texts in the field as well as with the work of their peers and that of invited speakers. Thematic topics of discussion will include methodological issues in studying race, heterogeneity within racial and pan-ethnic groups, and contemporary social problems. The first meeting will be Thursday, January 30 at noon in the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Samantha Perez (sociology) and Courtney Thomas (sociology)

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, as well as anyone interested in theories of the image, philosophies of perception, aesthetics and critical theory, media histories, and the history of vision. The first meeting is Friday, January 17 at noon in the Warren Center with guest speaker Hillary Chute (English, University of Chicago). Other scheduled guest speakers include Mark Cooper (film & media studies, University of South Carolina) on Friday, January 31 at noon in the Warren Center, Sally O'Driscoll (English, Fairfield University) and Kevin Murphy (history of art) on Friday, March 28 at noon in the Warren Center, and Shawn Michelle Smith (visual and critical studies, Art Institute of Chicago) on Friday, April 18 at noon in the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Jennifer Fay (Film Studies and English), James McFarland (German), and Paul Young (Film Studies and English)

Gender and Sexuality Seminar. This seminar provides an interdisciplinary forum for the development of critical perspectives on gender and sexuality. The seminar examines how gender and sexuality shape human experience within and across cultures, in different time periods, and as part of social practice. Participants will choose the format with an aim toward balancing new scholarship by graduate students and established scholars, as well as exploring topics of particular interest to the group. First spring meeting will be on Wednesday, January 22 at noon in Buttrick 162. Seminar coordinator: Katherine Crawford (women's & gender studies; history)

Geographic Imaginations and the Spatial Humanities. The spatial humanities, extending from the spatial turn in geographic studies and overlapping with digital humanities, were born of the promise of innovative humanities research that reaches beyond demonstrative mapmaking to spatial analysis of humanities data. Scholars have used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to document historic and literary action through space and time, map linguistic and cultural relationships, and model or predict behavior based on specific parameters. This Robert Penn Warren Center seminar will collaboratively explore the historical contexts and theories of the spatial turn, examine specific case studies of spatially-oriented humanities research, and practice mapping our own data with existing spatial technologies. The first spring meeting will be on Friday, February 7 at noon in the Warren Center. The seminar will host guest speaker May Yuan (atmospheric and geographic sciences, University of Oklahoma) on Friday, February 21 at noon in the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Courtney Campbell (history), Beth Koontz (anthropology), Zoe Leblanc (history), and Scotti Norman (anthropology)

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 also 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. First spring meeting: TBD. Seminar coordinators: Bill Caferro (history) and Leah Marcus (English)

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. The seminar will host Roberto Dainotto (romance studies, Duke University) on Wednesday, March 19 at noon in the Warren Center. Seminar coordinator: Robert Barsky (French & Italian and English),

*NEW SEMINAR* Material Culture in Context. This new 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 special interest to specialists in archaeology, anthropology, sociology, history, and history of art, as well as cultural and media studies, and philosophy. Interested participants can email to be added to the seminar mailing list. The first spring meeting will be on Tuesday, January 28 at noon in the Warren Center. 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 work-in-progress authored by members and invited scholars from beyond Vanderbilt. First meeting will be on Monday, February 10 at 1:30 pm in the Warren Center with a roundtable discussion featuring Rita Plancarte (humanities, University of Sonora) and Alicia Llarena (literature, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria) on "Mexico Now: Approaches to New and Old Identity Processes." Llarena will also be giving a public lecture on Tuesday, February 11 at 5 pm in Furman 209. Other guest speakers include Pablo Piccato (history, Columbia University) on Friday, March 21 at noon in the Warren Center for a meeting with the seminar, and he will also present a public lecture at 3 pm in Buttrick 123. Seminar coordinators: Helena Simonett (Latin American Studies), Edward Wright-Rios (history), and Christina Karageorgou-Bastea (Spanish)