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Programs and Events

Fall 2018

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

2018/2019 Fellows Program. “The World of Print(s): Multiples and Meanings in Early Modern Europe and North America,” co-directed by Mark Hosford (art) and Kevin Murphy (history of art). Participants in the program are José A. Cárdenas Bunsen (Spanish and Portuguese), Patricia Fumerton (English, University of California, Santa Barbara), Jana Harper (art), Paul C. H. Lim (Divinity School and history), and David H. Price (religious studies), and Rebecca K. VanDiver (history of art).

2018/2019 Warren Center Graduate Student Fellows. Seven graduate students are participating in the Warren Center’s 13th dissertation completion fellowship program. They are Amaryah S. Armstrong (graduate department of religion), Emma L. Banks (anthropology), Iyaxel Cojti Ren (anthropology), Sarah M. Gorman (philosophy), Katherine R. McKenna (history), Lauren A. Mitchell (English), and Kadiri J. Vaquer Fernández (Spanish & Portuguese). Amaryah S. Armstrong is theAmerican Studies Fellow, Sarah M. Gormanis theGeorge J. Graham, Jr. Fellow, Lauren A. Mitchell is theElizabeth E. Fleming Fellow, andKadiri J. Vaquer Fernández is theJoe and Mary Harper Fellow.

Special Events

Harry C. Howard Jr. Lecture. Thursday, August 30 2018, 4:10 p.m. In the Vanderbilt Heard Library Community Room, Danielle Allen will discuss her latest book, Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A., a family memoir regarding the life and tragic death of her cousin. Allen, the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, is a political theorist who has published broadly in democratic theory, political sociology, and the history of political thought. Widely known for her work on justice and citizenship in both ancient Athens and modern America, among her many publications are Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown vs. the Board of Education (2004), Why Plato Wrote (2010), Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (2014), and Education and Equality (2016). A reception will follow the lecture.  (Rescheduled from original March 2018 date).

2018 Southern Festival of Books. October 12-14. With Humanities Tennessee, the Warren Center is cosponsoring a dedicated track related to the theme “Democracy and the Informed Citizen.” Programs will examine the relationship between active and productive civic participation and access to information. Confirmed authors include: Loka Ashwood (For-Profit Democracy: Why the Government Is Losing the Trust of Rural America), Ben Fountain, (Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution), and Eric Barnes, president of the Tennessee Press Association Board. All events will take place in downtown Nashville.

Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers Annual Conference November 1-4, 2018. The Warren Center will participate in a plenary panel entitled “Humanities Centers and the Future of Literary Studies.” Speakers in this session include former Warren Center Fellows Deborah N. Cohn, professor of Spanish and associate director of the College Arts and Humanities Institute, Indiana University, Bloomington; Susan Hegeman, professor of English, University of Florida; and Derrick R. Spires, assistant professor of English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Cohn was William S. Vaughn Visiting Fellow at the Warren Center in 2000/2001; Hegeman was William S. Vaughn Visiting Fellow in 1996/97. Spires, who earned his Ph.D. at Vanderbilt, was the American Studies Fellow in the Warren Center’s Graduate Student Fellows Program in 2008/2009. Mona Frederick will chair the plenary panel. Kate Daniels, Edwin Mims Professor of English and director of creative writing at Vanderbilt, is vice president of the ALSCW and a member of the conference planning committee. More information about the program is available here: http://alscw.org/events/annual-conference/alscw-2018-conference.

Harry C. Howard Jr. Lecture. Jon Parrish Peede, April 2, 2019, 4:10 p.m. Vanderbilt Heard Library Community Room. A Vanderbilt University alumnus, Peede is chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. His previous positions include publisher of the Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR) at the University of Virginia, literature grants director at the National Endowment for the Arts, counselor to NEA Chairman Dana Gioia, director of the NEA Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience program, director of the NEA Big Read program, director of communications at Millsaps College, founding editor of Millsaps Magazine, and editor at Mercer University Press with a focus on the humanities. 

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. Meeting are scheduled for September 28, November 2 featuring Mark Schoenfield (English, Vanderbilt University), and November 30 all at 2:00 p.m. Seminar coordinators: Rachel Teukolsky (English) and Scott Juengel (English).

American Studies after the American Century. During most of its eighty-year history, the field of American Studies operated against a backdrop of American global preeminence. From World War II through the Cold War to September 11, Americanists defined themselves and their work in relation to the military might, economic affluence, and cultural reach of the United States. While this relationship was frequently antagonistic and critical, it rarely questioned the status of the U.S. as a global hegemonic power. The presidential election of 2016 has fundamentally called this view into question. The corrosion of political norms, the emergence of new political movements, and the country’s retreat from long-held global commitments seem to indicate that the “American Century” has at least symbolically come to an end. What does this mean for scholars working in American Studies today? This seminar will try to formulate some answers to this question by allowing students to present work in progress, by reading current scholarship in the field, and by inviting faculty to engage in discussions about the field’s history and its possible futures. Meeting are being scheduled soon. Seminar coordinators: Alex Korsunsky (anthropology) and Mario Rewers (history).

Brazilian Studies. In its sixth edition, the Brazilian Studies group will focus on matters of diversity and development, reflecting on issues regarding the socio-political and economic realities of Brazil. The monthly meetings will consist of discussions among both attendees and invited speakers based upon pre-circulated papers concerning their research.  Guests come from a variety of disciplines, such as (but not limited to) history, Latin American studies, sociology, anthropology, and earth and environmental sciences. Meetings are to be scheduled soon. Seminar coordinators: Maria Paula Andrade (history), Alexandre Pelegrino (history), and Jacob C. Brown (Spanish and Portuguese).

Circum-Atlantic Studies Seminar. The Circum-Atlantic Studies Seminar was launched at the Warren Center in 2001. Seminar participants and invited guests discuss work-in-progress that is interdisciplinary and focused on themes related to Atlantic slavery, colonialism, and/or post colonialism. This research links Africa, Europe, the Americas, and the Caribbean and addresses diverse constituencies on campus. In 2007, as an offshoot of the original seminar, the Warren Center also created a Black Atlantic History Lecture that invites major scholars of the Black Atlantic to campus every February to give a public lecture in honor of Black History Month. This years’ speaker is to be Herman Bennett (history, City University of New York) on February 4, 2019 . Meetings are being scheduled soon.Seminar coordinators: Jane Landers (history) and Celso Castilho (history).

Contemporary in Theory. Composed of faculty members and graduate students, the Contemporary in Theory seminar examines contemporary issues that range from global capitalism, critical race theories, climate change, digital media and technology, and the definitions and boundaries of the human. The seminar fosters innovative approaches to the contemporary across diverse disciplines and methodological backgrounds, addressing these pressing topics through our shared intellectual and theoretical concerns, while bringing to bear our disciplines and areas of expertise. Participants collectively select, read, and lead discussions on recent, groundbreaking theoretical texts at monthly meetings. The seminar will also incorporate visiting speakers who will be invited to speak about their published work as well as works-in-progress. Meetings are scheduled for September 14, October 12, and November 30 at noon. Seminar coordinators: Ben Tran (Asian studies), Alex Dubilet (political science), and Haerin Shin (English).

Critical Approaches to African Studies. This seminar brings together faculty and students from diverse fields across the campus to explore cutting-edge topics relating to Africa’s past and present. Reflecting Africa’s long-standing central place in the modern world, the seminar will foreground historical and contemporary experiences of commercial, political, cultural and ecological changes across and beyond the continent. Participants will delve into subthemes such as entrepreneurialism, urban life, religious traditions, violence, and artistic expression. Through engagement with leading scholarship across a range of fields, this workshop invites participants to sharpen their analytical and theoretical approaches to African studies. Meetings are scheduled for September 5, September 19, October 31 featuring Abdulbasit Kassim (religion, Rice University), and November 14 at noon. Seminar coordinators: Moses Ochonu (history), Tasha Rijke-Epstein (history), and Rebecca VanDiver (art history).

Displacement and the Human Condition. This seminar seeks to lay the groundwork for an interdisciplinary approach to topics of oppression, displacement, and statelessness that increasingly dominate certain strands of social and political philosophy, anthropology, economics, and historical analysis. Alongside these more well-trod paths of analysis, we will think through crises of displacement from literary, philosophical, aesthetic, and historical perspectives. Through the incorporation of narratives of exile, prison writings, and journalistic accounts of modern political events, the seminar also—and perhaps most importantly—emphasizes the need to interrogate and challenge our often-rigid division of academic and non-academic writing. Meeting times are  September  18, October 16, November 13, and December 4 at 11:30 a.m. Seminar coordinators: Sabeen Ahmed (philosophy), Jacob Abell (French and Italian), and Kyle Romero (history).  

East Europe: Critical Engagements. This interdisciplinary seminar explores questions of Eastern Europe, Russia, and Eurasia. Bringing together faculty and graduate students from diverse methodological backgrounds, the seminar explores a range of topics, including distinct East European frameworks of culture; the complexities of empire (both past and present); questions of religion, law, and political authority; socialism and post-socialism; minority rights and mass violence; and Russia’s place in defining scholarly conversations and methods of inquiry. Monthly meetings will consist of a combination of pre-circulated papers from within the group, guest speakers, and shared readings for discussion. Guest speakers include James Robertson (Eastern European Studies, University of California, Irvine) on September 21, Kelly Kolar (history, MTSU) on November 2, and Denis Zhernokleyev (Russian, Vanderbilt University) on December 14 all at 1:30 p.m. Seminar coordinators: Bradley Gorski (Russian) and Emily Greble (history and East European Studies).

Film Theory and Visual Culture. This seminar aims to foster dialogue among faculty and graduate students across campus working in film, visual culture, art history, literature, media and cultural studies, as well as anyone interested in theories of the image, philosophies of perception, aesthetics and critical theory, media arts and histories (including sound), and the history of vision. Guest speaker Pooja Rangan (cinema & media arts/English, Amherst College) is scheduled on November 16 at noon. Seminar coordinators: Jen Fay (cinema and media arts/English), Lutz Koepnik (German/cinema and media arts), and James McFarland (German/cinema and media arts).

French and Francophone Cultural Studies. The French and Francophone Studies Group brings together faculty and graduate students from across the College of Arts and Science campus to share research, assess ongoing developments in the field, and engage in cross-disciplinary conversations.  This year, we will gather around the central theme of DEATH. This topic bridges chronological, geographical, and disciplinary divides as we hone our understanding of the ways that culture, genre, and history have shaped representations of death and dying. Meeting times are September 19, October 24, and November 14 at 3:00 p.m. with guest speakers to be announced shortly. Seminar coordinators: Lauren Clay (History) and Holly Tucker (French and Italian).

Group for Pre-modern Cultural Studies. This seminar will foster interdisciplinary and trans-regional conversations on pre-modern topics. Participants generate connections across the humanities by bringing together faculty, graduate students, and external speakers who are ordinarily separated by disciplinary and geographic boundaries. The group meets monthly to discuss ongoing research by a faculty member or graduate student, recent publications in the field, or the work of a visiting scholar. We welcome all those on campus with interests in the history, cultures, languages, and literatures of the pre-modern world. Meeting are scheduled for September 17, October 15 featuring Tanuja Kothiyal (history, Ambedkar University Delhi), and November 9 with Valerio Cappozzo (Italian, University of Mississippi), each at 12:15 p.m. in the Warren Center.  Seminar coordinators: Elsa Filosa (French & Italian), Bryan Lowe (Religious Studies) and Samira Sheikh (history).

Science & Technology Studies Seminar. This interdisciplinary seminar will focus this year on waste in historical and contemporary contexts. Perhaps more than any other category of materials, waste reflects the fraught relationships between humans and the natural world. In this moment of ecological crisis, questions related to waste point to deeper concerns about our collective future, the bounds of human agency, and inequality. Through collective reading, conversations, and on-campus field trips focused on waste as a matter of concern and opportunity, the workshop will bring together theories and methods from science and technology studies, cultural anthropology, history, literature, engineering and environmental management, and historical geography to evaluate how productions and predicaments of waste have shaped everyday life over time. Meeting are scheduled for September 28, October 26, and November 28 at noon in the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Ashley Carse (HOD, Peabody College), Ole Molveg (history), and Tasha Rijke-Epstein (history).

Urban Space: Theory, Practices, Representations. This seminar utilizes tools provided by “spatial thinkers” such as Henri Lefebvre, Edward Soja, Neil Smith, and Katherine McKittrick, among others, to explore the ways in which “space is never empty: it always embodies a meaning.” It traces the “spatial turn” in the humanities and social sciences, the reconstituted emphasis on the spatialized social structures of the quotidian, and applies the ideas and concepts of this interpretive lens to the context of black urban spaces. Focusing on urban representations by poets, novelists, essayists, photographers, filmmakers, and painters, it brings together the disciplines of literature, art history, cultural geography, and cinema to frame for critical discussion interrelated and diverging interpretations of historical and contemporary urban spaces. Meetings are scheduled for September 20, October 11, and November 29 in the Warren Center at noon. Seminar coordinators: Thea Autry (English) and Lucy (Soomin) Kim (English).