Skip to main content

Programs and Events

Fall 2017

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

Speech and Space: Discursive Environments across Non-Arab Islam. September 7-9, Sarratt 216/220. As Islam extended beyond the Arab world, its practitioners found themselves inhabiting new environments and ever-more diverse language communities. These linked activities—the appropriation and domestication of local speech and space—gave rise to new and diverse expressions of Islam. Yet whatever the local variation, these activities conveyed a recognizable sense of what it meant to be a Muslim. A range of speakers, including Shahzad Bashir (Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Humanities, Brown University), Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi (professor of history and near and middle Eastern civilizations, University of Toronto), Faisal Devji (professor of history, University of Oxford), and Vanderbilt professor Emily Greble (German, Russian, and East European studies and history), will explore historical and contemporary facets of being Muslim in locales from twelfth century Central Asia through twentieth century Yugoslavia and contemporary Turkey. All members of the Vanderbilt community are welcome. Presented by the Warren Center 2015–2016 Andrew W. Mellon John E. Sawyer Seminar.

Sebastiaan Faber. Monday, September 18, 3:10 p.m. in Furman Hall, 311. In addition to many articles on topics ranging from the theory of ideology to the Spanish Civil War, Faber is the author of Exile and Cultural Hegemony: Spanish Intellectuals in Mexico, 1939–1975 (Vanderbilt, 2002) and Anglo-American Hispanists and the Spanish Civil War: Hispanophilia, Commitment, and Discipline (Palgrave, 2008). Faber is Chair and Professor of Hispanic Studies at Oberlin College. Presented by the 2016–2017 Warren Center Fellows. 

Alison Piepmeier Memorial Lecture: George Estreich. September 25 at 5 p.m., 206 Alumni Hall. Estreich is the author of Textbook Illustrations of the Human Body, a collection of poetry, and The Shape of the Eye, a memoir about raising his daughter Laura, who has Down syndrome. Co-sponsored by the Warren Center, the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center, the Department of English, and the Program in Women’s and Gender Studies, this lecture will honor Alison Piepmeier, a renowned feminist scholar who died in 2016. Piepmeier completed her Ph.D. in English at Vanderbilt and taught in English and Women’s and Gender Studies before becoming the director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the College of Charleston. She was the author of Out in Public: Configurations of Women’s Bodies in Nineteenth-Century America and Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism, and the co-editor of Catching a Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century (with Rory Dicker). With the help of another scholar, Estreich is completing a manuscript on prenatal testing that Piepmeier had been writing.

2017 Southern Festival of Books. October 13–15. With Humanities Tennessee, the Warren Center is cosponsoring a series of speakers related to the topic of storytelling in conjunction with our current Faculty Fellows theme. This series at the book festival will explore the various media used in storytelling such as film, music, video games, graphic novels, podcasts, and more. Speakers include Jonathan Gottschall (The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human), Andrew Ervin (Bit by Bit: How Video Games Transformed Our World), and Kristen Radtke (Imagine Wanting Only This).

I Am Not Your Negro: Race, Identity, and Baldwin with Raoul Peck. Wednesday, October 18 at 4:10 p.m. in Sarratt Cinema. Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck’s 2016 documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, was based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript “Remember This House” and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. The film examines the lives and deaths of civil rights leaders Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, and Malcolm X, as well as Baldwin’s writings and reflections on the U.S. civil rights movement. The film was nominated for an Academy Award. Peck’s large body of work also includes Lumumba (2000), Sometimes in April (2005), and The Young Karl Marx (2017). His campus visit is cosponsored by several Vanderbilt University departments and programs. Additionally, Peck’s film Lumumba will be presented by Moses Ochonu (history) on October 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Sarratt Cinema. I Am Not Your Negro will be screened on October 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Sarratt Cinema, with a post-screening discussion featuring Hortense Spillers (English) and Jennifer Fay (cinema and media arts). 

Don Quixote Symposium. Saturday, October 21 at 9 a.m. in 126 Wilson Hall. The Warren Center will sponsor a workshop titled “Don Quixote in a Day,” co-directed by Edward Friedman, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Spanish and professor of comparative literature, and Kirsten Mendoza, doctoral candidate in the Department of English. Cory Duclos, a Vanderbilt Ph.D. in Spanish and Portuguese and currently director of the Keck Center for Language Studies at Colgate University, will be the invited lecturer. Friedman will focus on the background, structure, and theoretical premises of Cervantes’s novel. Mendoza will look at comparative approaches to Don Quixote and to early modern literature in general. Duclos will address questions of technology, including ties between Don Quixote and the digital humanities. The workshop will be geared toward both those who have read Don Quixote and those who would like to prepare themselves to read the novel. Pre-registration is required. To do so, please email

John L. Jackson Jr., October 2017. Dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, Jackson’s research examines racial and class-based differences in contemporary urban environments, including a focus on how urbanites themselves theorize and deploy those differences in everyday interactions. His scholarship uses ethnographic research methods to extend and expand critical race theory as an analytical and explanatory framework for understanding contemporary social conflicts. Date and location to be announced. Presented by the 2016–2017 Warren Center Fellows.

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 Susan Zieger (English, University of California, Riverside) on September 15, Nicholas Rogers (history, York University)on October 6, and Devin Griffiths (English, University of Southern California) on November 3, all 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. Meetings to be announced soon. 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. Guest speakers include Yesenia Barragan (history, African and African American studies, Dartmouth) and Marcela Echeverri (history, Yale University) in conversation at noon on September 21 in Buttrick 123. More 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 September 15, October 6, November 10 and December 8, all at noon 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. There will be a meeting on September 14 at 12:15 p.m. in Buttrick 140. Other meetings are set for September 28, October 19, November 9, and November 30, all at 12:15 p.m. at the Warren Center. 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 Michael Gillespie (black studies, City Colleges of New York) on September 22, Rob King (film, Columbia University) on October 20, and Joseph J. Jeon (English, Pomona College) on December 1, all at noon at the Warren Center. Seminar coordinators: Jennifer Fay (cinema & media arts, English) and Lutz Koepnick (German, cinema & media arts)

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 September 25, October 23, and December 4, all 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 Rhiannon Graybill (religious studies, Rhodes College)on October 2 and Richard Eaton (history, University of Arizona) on November 8, both at noon at the Warren Center. Another meeting will be held on September 18 at noon at another location to be announced. 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. Guest speakers include James Hathaway (law, University of Michigan) on October 2 at noon (co-sponsored by Vanderbilt University Law School international legal studies program, location TBA). 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 August 30 and September 27, both at 11:30 a.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. Meetings are set for September 8, October 27, November 17, and December 15, all at noon at the Warren Center. 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. An organizational meeting will be held on September 14 at noon at the Warren Center. Louis Moore, associate professor of history at Grand Valley State University and author of I Fight for a Living: Boxing and the Battle for Black Manhood, 1880-1915, will meet with the seminar on October 16 (time and place TBA). Seminar coordinators: Andrew Maraniss (Visiting Scholar and Writer-in-Residence, The Commons); Candace 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 host two types of events. First, reading groups will discuss four books that draw on media studies, history, psychology, and neuroscience. Second, 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 September 26, October 24, and November 14, 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)