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Programs and Events

Spring 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

2017/2018 Fellows Program. “Telling Stories: Modes, Media, and Meanings,” co-directed byLaura M. Carpenter (sociology) and Catherine A. Molineux (history). Participants in the program are Ellen Armour (divinity), James F. Brooks (history and anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara), John Janusek (anthropology), Shaul Kelner (sociology and Jewish studies), Stanley Link (Blair), Letizia Modena (French and Italian), Jonathan Rattner (art, cinema and media arts), and Haerin Shin (English).

2017/2018 Warren Center Graduate Student Fellows. Seven graduate students are participating in the Warren Center’s 12th dissertation completion fellowship program.  They are Alexandra Alekseyeva (philosophy), Sarah K. Koellner (German, Russian, and East European studies), James Phelan (English), Danielle R. Picard (history), Rachel E. Skaggs (sociology), Wietske M. Smeele (English), and David Vila Dieguez (Spanish and Portuguese). Rachel E. Skaggs is the American Studies Fellow, Alexandra Alekseyeva is the George J. Graham, Jr. Fellow, David Vila Dieguez is the Joe and Mary Harper Fellow, and Wietske M. Smeele is the Elizabeth E. Fleming Fellow.

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).

Special Events

Black Atlantic History Lecture. Monday, February 5, 4:10 p.m. In the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center auditorium, Madison Smartt Bell (English, Goucher College) will deliver the Warren Center’s annual Black Atlantic History Lecture entitled “White Southern Identity and the Haitian Revolution.” The Black Atlantic History Lecture is hosted by the Warren Center’s Circum-Atlantic Studies Seminar, the Center for Latin American Studies, and the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center in honor of Black History Month.

“Technology and Civil Liberties in the Trump Era.” Thursday, February 8, 4:10 p.m. Buttrick 101. Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst for the Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, American Civil Liberties Union. Respondents: Sarah Igo (history and American studies) and Hedy Weinberg, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee. Sponsored by the ACLU-TN, Program in American Studies, and the Warren Center.

Harry C. Howard Jr. Lecture. Thursday, March 13, 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.

“Between the Law and Action: Citizenship in Mexico and the U.S. in the Nineteenth Century.” Tuesday, March 20, 12:10 p.m., Buttrick 123. Speakers will be Peter Guardino (history, Indiana University Bloomington) and Erika Pani (history, Colegio de México). More detailed information will be circulated later this semester.  Co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies and the Warren Center’s Mexican Studies Seminar. Coordinator: Edward Wright-Rios (history). 

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. Guest speakers include William Galperin (English, Rutgers University)on February 23 and Monique Allawaert (English, University of Wisconsin- Madison) on April 6, both at 2:00 p.m. at the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Rachel Teukolsky (English) and Scott Juengel (English)

Brazilian Studies Reading Group: In its fifth edition, the group will focus on increased political instability and deepening social inequalities in Brazil. 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. Guest speakers include Jeffrey Lesser (history, Emory University)on February 19 and M. Elizabeth Ginway (Spanish and Portuguese, University of Florida)on March 29, both at noon at the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Jacob Brown (Spanish and Portuguese), Tiago Maranhão (history), and Kalliopi Samiotou (Spanish and Portuguese)

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.Meetings to be announced soon.Seminar coordinators: Celso Castilho (history) and Jane Landers (history)

The Contemporary in Theory Seminar: 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. Meetings are set for January 26 at noon, February 22 at 11:30, March 16 at noon, April 20 at noon, and April 25 with Seb Franklin (literature, King’s College London) at noon. All meetings will be held at the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Alex Dubilet (English), Haerin Shin (English), and Ben Tran (Asian studies)

The Erotics of Race: This seminar explores various currents within critical race theory and black studies that have focused upon the relationship between structures of racial identification and desire. Thinkers working through the interactions between race and desire demonstrate that material interests—such as wealth, property, capital, and other tangible metrics—are not the only motivating factors behind racial inequality and violence. These theorists argue that discourses of race also produce associations of “identification,” “belonging,” and “obligation,” which, in turn, create and naturalize a social and cultural mythos based around the fiction of biological race. Readings will include Sharon Holland’s The Erotic Life of Racism, texts by Christina Sharpe, and literary non-fiction from writers such as James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, and Elizabeth Alexander. Meetings to be announced soon. Seminar coordinators: Leonard Curry (graduate department of religion) and Terrell Taylor (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. Guest speakers include Lisa Gitelman (media, culture, and communication, New York University) on January 19 in Buttrick 123, Marco Abel (English, University of Nebraska—Lincoln) on February 2, Haerin Shin (English) on February 16, and Brian Jacobson (cinema studies and history, University of Toronto) on March 23, all at noon at the Warren Center. Erica Carter (German, King’s College London) will also visit the group on April 9 at 4:10 p.m. at the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Jennifer Fay (cinema & media arts, English), Lutz Koepnick (German, cinema & media arts), and James McFarland (German, Russian & East European studies)

French/Francophone Cultural Studies Seminar: In this multi-disciplinary seminar, graduate students and faculty from across the College come together to read and discuss new scholarship on the literature, history, art, and politics of France, the (former) French Empire, and the Francophone world. This group will meet several times a semester to read works-in-progress or recent publications and to host guest speakers. Meetings are set for January 22 and March 12 with Rebecca Spang (history, Indiana University Bloomington), both at noon at the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Lauren Clay (history) and Holly Tucker (French and Italian)

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. Guest speakers include Suzanne Sutherland (history, Middle Tennessee State University)on February 13, Deann Armstrong (English) on March 14, and Torquil Duthie (Asian languages and cultures, UCLA) on April 13, all at noon at the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Bill Caferro (history), Jessie Hock (English), and Bryan D. Lowe (department of religious studies)

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. Deborah Anker (founder and director, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic) will speak with the group on February 12 at 4 p.m. at the Warren Center. Other meetings to be announced soon. Seminar coordinators: Robert Barsky (English, French and Italian, Jewish studies, law) and Daniel Gervais (French and Italian, law)

Making Knowledge in Early Modern Europe : This seminar focuses on 16th and 17th century epistemological changes that enabled the human body to become more than just an object for analysis but an agent through which experiences are registered and knowledge is created. This group will read and discuss recent scholarly work on scientific treatises and legal cases from early modern England, France, and Italy. Specifically, participants will attend to forensic questions involving bodies that preoccupied early modern courts concerning rape, murder, and allegations of impotence. Ultimately, the politics and ethics of knowledge creation will be at the core of this seminar. Participants will have the opportunity to share works-in-progress and to reflect on the stakes that our research raises for scholarly communities and beyond. Meetings are set for January 30 at noon and April 9 with Valerie Traub (English and women’s studies, University of Michigan), at 11:30 a.m. at the Warren Center. The group will also meet with Valeria Finucci (romance studies, Duke University) on March 19 at 4 p.m. at the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Kirsten Mendoza (English) and Anna Young (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 works-in-progress, reading recent publications in the field, and hosting invited speakers. Faculty members and graduate students from across the university are welcome. Guest speakers include Ashley Carse (human and organizational development, Peabody College) on February 1 and Mary Terrall (history, UCLA) on March 1, and April 12, all at 12:10 p.m. at the Warren Center. There will also be a meeting with Matthew Klingle (environmental studies, Bowdoin College) on March 13 at The Wond’ry, Room 202, at 12:10 p.m. Seminar coordinators: Ole Molvig (history), Tasha Rijke-Epstein (history), and Alistair Sponsel (history)

Sports and Civil Rights Reading Group: This seminar will explore the issue of American civil rights through the lens of sports. Seminar participants will read and discuss works examining themes such as pioneering, protest, exploitation, equality, and triumph in the athletic world and will explore how these themes emanating from the world of sports influenced American society as a whole. Meetings are set for January 24 with Keith Cartwright (journalist) and February 15 with Susan Cahn (history, State University of New York at Buffalo), both at noon at the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Andrew Maraniss (Visiting Scholar and Writer-in-Residence, The Commons); Candice Storey Lee (Associate Vice Chancellor for University Affairs and Deputy Athletic Director); and Mona Frederick (Warren Center) 

Taking Play Seriously : This group will focus on two questions: what are games and play, and what makes some forms of games and play good, ethically or politically? The group will discuss books that draw on media studies, history, psychology, and neuroscience. Public talks will focus on specialized themes, twice as digital colloquia (lectures and discussions with experts in the field) and once as a panel on exclusion in gaming communities. Meetings are set for January 23, February 27, March 27, and April 17, all at 11:30 a.m. at the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Derek Price (German, Russian, and East European studies, comparative media analysis and practice) and Boomer Trujillo (philosophy)