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Robert Penn Warren Center

Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities

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Warren Center Seminars


The following is a list of seminars and reading groups that will be hosted by the Warren Center in the fall semester. For more detailed information please contact the seminar coordinators or the Warren Center. For the most up-to-date information on upcoming seminar events, please visit the calendar.

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.

Brazilian Studies Reading Group: In its third edition, the Brazilian Studies Reading Group will focus on two inter-related topics: “Diversity and Development.” Monthly meetings consist of discussions among attendees and invited speakers based upon pre-circulated papers that reflect current research related to the topic. Guests come from a variety of disciplines, including—but not limited to—history, anthropology, political science, literature, Latin American studies, international education policy and management, and African diaspora studies. To be on the mailing list and receive papers, contact one of the co-coordinators: Fernanda Bretones (, Laura Sellers (, or Steve Wenz (

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. Seminar Coordinators: Rachel Teukolsky (English) and Scott Juengel (English)

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. Seminar coordinators: Celso Castilho (history) and Jane Landers (history)

The Contemporary in Theory: Faculty and graduate students from different disciplines and methodological backgrounds will collaborate to foster innovative approaches to the contemporary.  Areas of inquiry include global capitalism, the end of ideology, the development of media and technology, and subsequent questions about the definitions and boundaries of the human.  The seminar will focus on Lydia H. Liu’s The Freudian Robot as well as a number of related works.  In the fall, participants will discuss related readings and in the spring the focus will turn to the work of invited speakers and Vanderbilt participants. Seminar organizers: Ben Tran (Asian Studies) and Haerin Shin (English)

Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign Volumes I & II: This seminar invites scholars from across the university to a reading of Jacques Derrida's final lectures, The Beast and the Sovereign, Vols. I and II.  The seminar will be approaching the concepts of sovereignty and animality through the critical lenses of political theory, law, and posthumanism. The seminar will also invite metadisciplinary reflection as participants attempt to navigate and explore the intersections of philosophy, literary studies, political theory, and the legacies of deconstruction and of Derrida himself. Registered participants will receive a copy of each volume and will be invited to contribute to the seminar by leading a discussion session. Co-coordinators: Shelby Johnson (English), Paulo Martinez (philosophy), and Stephanie Straub (English)

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) on leave, Todd Hughes (CSLS), and Mona Frederick (Warren Center)

Environmental Humanities: This working group brings together faculty and graduate students in the humanities and creative arts, the social sciences, the natural sciences, engineering, and law to study and forge robust interdisciplinary approaches to ecological issues. Through shared readings and research as well as collaborative projects, the group will explore the conjunctions and conflicts between scientific, social, cultural, creative, philosophical, political, and legal understandings of and engagement with the environment. We seek to foster new models for how humanistic inquiry can shape ecological questions, both inside and outside of humanity disciplines, as well as participate in public discourse about urgent environmental problems. The seminar will meet monthly. Seminar Coordinators: Catherine Molineux (history) catherine.a.molineux and Teresa Goddu (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. Seminar coordinators: Jennifer Fay (Film Studies and English), James McFarland (German), and Lutz Koepnick (German, cinema and media arts)

Gender and Sexualities 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. Seminar coordinator: Katherine Crawford (women’s and gender studies)

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. Seminar coordinator: Bill Caferro (history), Samira Sheikh (history), and Deann Armstrong (English)

Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life: This group provides 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) and Joe Bandy (Center for Teaching, sociology)

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 coordinators: Robert Barsky (French and Italian), and Daniel Gervais (law)

Literature, Medicine and Science Seminar: This group will consider how literature mediates narratives of medicine and science. Exploring the intersections of literature, medicine, and science, the seminar will trace the relationships between these intellectual cultures across disciplines. Meeting once a month, the participants will pair non-literary texts with fiction in order to trace dialogues between these traditionally disparate fields, combating the stereotype of a two-culture split between literature and medicine. Topics to be covered include narrative medicine, medicine and visual culture, (bio)ethics, narrative genetics, and speculative fiction and science, among others. Seminar participants will be encouraged to incorporate their own work into the discussion. Co-coordinators: Lauren Mitchell (English) and Wietske Smeele (English)

Material Cultures in Context: This seminar focuses on the dynamics between objects and people.  Because the study of objects is relevant to every discipline and area of study, every medium and historical period –including conceptions of the future –this seminar will appeal to faculty and graduate students across the College of Arts and Science and the University more widely.  Participants will read and discuss key theoretical texts and case studies, and share their own research. Seminar coordinators: Mireille Lee (history of art and classical studies) and Richard McGregor (religion)

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. Seminar coordinators: Helena Simonett (Latin American Studies) and Edward Wright-Rios (history)

Music and Justice Seminar: This seminar examines the intersection of music and justice from both a historical and modern lens. Some key themes of the seminar are music as a source of inspiration and strength for social movements, music as a window into the lives of individuals and groups engaged in political or social struggle, and the production and performance of music as itself a site of labor struggle and contestation. The seminar readings and films will take the participants from the cotton fields of the antebellum South and the docks worked by longshoremen in the Pacific Northwest to Belfast’s punk scene and South Africa’s pirated Americana folk recordings. The group will listen to recordings made in churches and activist spaces across the United States, as well as listen to live music together in Nashville. The seminar will also feature a running playlist created by seminar conveners and will conclude with a collaborative playlist built by seminar participants. Co-coordinators: Rachel Skaggs (sociology) and Anthony C. Siracusa (history)

Science Studies Seminar: This seminar brings together members of the Vanderbilt community with interests in the humanistic and social studies of science and technology. Activities include sharing work-in-progress, reading recent publications in the field, and hosting invited speakers. Faculty members and graduate students from across the university are welcome. Seminar coordinators: Ole Molvig (history), and Alistair Sponsel (history)