This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Cultural, literary scholarship called "robust"

White paper urges financial support, administrative vision

Published: April 13, 2013

Contributing Editor

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go to the UB2020 website

Noting that scholarship at UB in the many fields encompassed by the label of cultural, historical and literary/textual studies "has never been more robust," faculty members representing those disciplines have called on the university administration to provide "the fiscal leadership and administrative vision that will empower us to sustain and extend these strengths."


"So much promise can only be realized...with the confidence, financial support and vision of the university's leadership," they state in the white paper prepared for the UB 2020 strategic strength "Cultural, Historical and Literary/Textual Studies."

The authors note: "Ours are already well-established and robust disciplines, so further investment in new faculty and their attendant resources will quickly enable us to enhance our strengths and elicit new syntheses across our disciplines."

The report's list of "investment targets" necessary for UB to realize its potential in the areas covered by the report is headed by faculty hiring.

"This includes hiring at the junior level and specially targeted senior hires," the report notes. "Some hiring can be accomplished by CAS (College of Arts and Sciences) funding released by retirements, while additional hiring will involve centralized university funding."

Also included on the list are creation of a new signature center, the Institute for European and Mediterranean Archaeology, and further investment in the newly established Humanities Institute, including investment in humanities-related research through faculty and graduate research fellowships and paying for faculty travel to research collections and faculty research leaves.

Other investment targets include funding of expanded print and digital library collections; funding of and administrative support for campus scholarly activities, such as speakers and conferences and interdisciplinary reading groups; funding of dedicated doctoral fellowships to recruit doctoral students who intend to work in areas of cultural, historical and literary/textual strengths; support for such internationalization initiatives as an expanded language curriculum, study abroad and an international program on campus; and funding of Poetry and Rare Books Library Fellowships for visiting scholars.

The white paper, which built on faculty input during an envisioning retreat last May, was presented in December to the UB 2020 Academic Planning Committee and the deans.

It says that the areas of study cited in the name of the strategic strength have developed at UB through productive interdisciplinary ties, as well as within specific disciplinary frameworks. They also are shared by, and cut across the boundaries of, the "core" departments involved in such studies: history, classics, anthropology, romance languages and literatures, comparative literature, philosophy, linguistics, English, American studies, African American studies, Asian studies and women's studies.

It notes that despite the different "velocities of change" experienced by humanities and social science disciplines over the past two decades, "enormous vigor" continues to mark their development at UB.

The report points out that "a strong, internationally known faculty in core departments have made notable contributions to the study of human culture," that historical studies "has been experiencing a revitalization in the last decade or so" and that "the elements are in place for UB to be a national center for literary/textual studies."

The field of cultural studies, it says, has emerged over the past few decades as academic departments broadened the range of materials and topics they regard as appropriate for study. While retaining their disciplines' distinct focus, methods and theoretical apparatus, there are significant and growing areas of overlap and cross-fertilization among these fields to form UB's strong cognate areas cited above. Virtually all the departments described in this report are engaged in cultural studies.

Historical studies at UB have been revitalized over the past decade, the report says, as indicated by a marked increase in scholarly energy and excellence among the university's historically oriented faculty, and a "thickening" across departments of the intellectual environment for historical inquiry.

This has occurred, it adds, "not only in departments whose bailiwick clearly includes the study of history, but among many faculty members officially labeled anthropologists or architects, legal or literary scholars, musicologists or linguists who increasingly are pursuing historical work."

This cross-fertilization also marks the fields of cultural, literary and textual studies at UB.

Literary and textual studies, note the authors, are found in several departments that "share a basic investment in scholarly research, textual exegesis, historical awareness and critical theory." These include classics, English, romance languages and literatures, history, comparative studies, linguistics and women's studies, whose faculties have produced a distinguished body of work in these areas.

The report was written by Shaun A. Irlam, associate professor and chair, Department of Comparative Literatures; Maureen Jameson, associate professor and chair, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures; Mark Shechner, professor, Department of English; Tamara Thornton, professor, Department of History; and J. Theodore Pena, associate professor and chair, Department of Classics.

Significant contributions were made the following collaborators: Thomas W. Burkman, director, Asian Studies Program; Donald Grinde, professor and chair, Department of American Studies; Donald K. Pollock, associate professor and chair, Department of Anthropology; Royal Roussel, professor and interim chair, Department of Media Study; Barbara Wejnert, associate professor and chair, Department of Women's Studies; Karin E. Michelson, professor and chair, Department of Linguistics; and Lillian S. Williams, associate professor and chair, Department of African American Studies.