UB Humanities Institute Announces 2012-13 Faculty Fellows

Graphic artist, philosopher, historians, sociologist among those named

Release Date: April 18, 2012


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo Humanities Institute, which promotes and funds innovative, cross-disciplinary research, teaching and community programs in the humanities, has announced the recipients of its 2012-13 Faculty Fellowships.

The fellowships, which are awarded competitively, provide the fellows' departments with course replacement funds to offer them a semester of course release, which permits them to focus primarily on a major research project and to participate actively in institute programs during the fellowship year.

Erik Seeman, PhD, director of the institute, says, "This year we will partner again with the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR), which will fund fellows whose research is considered especially strong in its promotion of the interdisciplinary mission of the institute and the OVPR."

The fellows and their research projects:

Graham Hammill, PhD, associate professor, Department of English, will investigate historical relationships between natural rights and the ecological contexts within which rights were posited and theorized in 17th-century England. He also will explore continuities between early modern rights talk and contemporary issues like marriage rights, the definition of the human that rights talk assumes and the conflicts between cultural experimentation and normative concepts of justice.

Hammill is the author of "Sexuality and Form" (Chicago 2000), "The Mosaic Constitution: Political Theology and Imagination from Machiavelli to Milton" (Chicago 2012) and co-editor of "Political Theology and Early Modernity" (Chicago 2012). He has published numerous articles on early modern literature, political thought and the history of sexuality

Erin Hatton, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Sociology, will study the nature of work and the struggle for worker rights beyond the boundaries of the law --- an arena of growing importance in a world where, she says, "capital is increasingly mobile and the reach of the New Deal is increasingly limited." She will focus on three of the largest categories of "non-employed" workers in New York State, by which she means workers not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act and other workplace protections: domestic workers (nannies, housecleaners and caretakers for the elderly), workfare workers (welfare recipients required to work in return for welfare benefits) and prisoners who work in publicly or privately run factories while incarcerated.

Hatton's research falls within the sociology of work, but extends into the fields of gender, race, labor, political economy and public policy. These are themes addressed in her first book, "The Temp Economy: From Kelly Girls to Permatemps in Postwar America" (Temple University Press, 2011).

John Jennings, associate professor, Department of Visual Studies, will work on a graphic narrative that investigates the "policy" era in 1930s Chicago. Policy was an illegal but extremely popular gambling game played in urban African-American communities from the late 1800s to the 1970s. Using the graphic novel as a storytelling device, Jennings' tale will fuse the pulp-noir-detective genre with that of the supernatural thriller. His use of the supernatural will explore what he calls the "ethno gothic" -- grotesque, mysterious and desolate tropes that, when viewed from a racial perspective, help to explain and exorcise historical elements that continue to undermine racial equality.

Jennings is a designer, curator, illustrator, cartoonist and award-winning graphic novelist whose work is concerned with representation and authenticity, visual culture and visual literacy, social justice and design pedagogy. He is the author of "The Hole: Consumer Culture and Black Comix," a study of the art and culture of African-American independent comics.

Carolyn Korsmeyer, PhD, professor, Department of Philosophy, argues that genuineness delivers an aesthetic experience of a unique sort -- an encounter that puts us in the presence of the past. She considers our impression of being in touch with "the real thing," particularly when considering old objects. These are least likely to be the "same" as they were at their original making, having been damaged and restored over time. Under these circumstances, is the value accorded genuineness sensible or irrational; the apprehension of something real or a pleasant delusion? This project investigates the nature of such experiences and the conditions of "sameness" that obtain with artifacts that are valued for being genuine.

Korsmeyer's specialties include aesthetics and emotion theory, fields she has combined in several distinguished books, the most recent of which is "Savoring Disgust: The Foul and the Fair in Aesthetics" (2011), a study of disgust as an aesthetic response. She works as well in the area of feminist philosophy and her most recent book on that subject is "Gender in Aesthetics: An Introduction" (2004), recently translated into Polish, Korean and Japanese.

Dalia Muller, PhD, assistant professor, Department of History, is a historian of Latin America and the Caribbean whose work focuses on exile and immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries. Her project, "The Fate of an Island, The Fate of a Continent: Mexicans, Cubans, Spaniards and the Cuban Question," will examine the impact of the Cuban independence movement in Mexico in the 19th century and ways in which Cubans, Mexicans and Spaniards manipulated transnational ideologies to draw equivalences between Cuba's particular situation and that of Latin America as a whole.

Justin Read, PhD, associate professor, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, will conduct a project titled "Alternative Functions," which will critique the urbanization of Latin America through readings of poetry (1900-30) from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Peru. He argues that these writings and poetics itself have been reformulated in Latin America as a critical "representational space" capable of reconfiguring power relations with respect to the spatial practices of everyday life in the city.

Read, who studies Latin American modernism in literature and architecture, is the author of "Modernist Poetry and Hemispheric American Cultural Studies" (2009) and many journal articles on the modernization of the Americas since 1880 and political theory of inter-subjectivity and transculturation. He also co-organized the Humanities Institute's 2011-12 "Fluid Culture" series.

Tamara Thornton, PhD, professor, Department of History, is a cultural historian of the U.S. in the period between the American Revolution and the Civil War. She will conduct a study of Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838), mathematician, astronomer, business executive and the author of the "New American Practical Navigator," whose life illuminates the interlocking development of science and capitalism in 19th-century America.

Thornton is the author of " Cultivating Gentlemen: The Meaning of Country Life Among the Boston Elite, 1785-1860" (Yale University Press, 1989), and "Handwriting in America: A Cultural History" (Yale University Press, 1996). She received the Ralph D. Gray Article Prize from the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic for an essay published in the Journal of the Early Republic in 2007, and her essay on capitalist aesthetics appeared this year in an edited collection, "Capitalism Takes Command" (University of Chicago Press, 2011).

Krzysztof Ziarek, PhD, professor, Department of Comparative Literature, will conduct an interdisciplinary study of Heidegger's idiomatic approach to language that combines literary studies, continental philosophy and linguistics. It will consider how Heidegger's singular and innovative approach permits us to think differently about language.

Ziarek is the author of "Inflected Language: Toward a Hermeneutics of Nearness" (SUNY Press), "The Historicity of Experience: Modernity, the Avant-Garde, and the Event" (Northwestern University Press) and "The Force of Art" (Stanford University Press). In addition, he edited two collections of essays, and is the author of two books of poetry in Polish and many essays on major 20th-century poets and philosophers.

Additional information on the fellows' backgrounds, prior publications and 2012-13 research projects can be found at http://www.humanitiesinstitute.buffalo.edu/fellowshipsresearch/fellows1213.shtml.

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