A Note From the Chair

CATEGORIES: October 2015

Dear Friends,

As I have mentioned in the past, one objective of our friendly newsletter is to stay more closely connected to you by informing you of news and updates about the department, its students and faculty.  This month I would like to spend a little time telling you about faculty research. 

We spend so much time and effort engaging with students and alumni that it would be easy to forget that our world-class research motivates us in and out of the classroom.  Indeed, the research WLC faculty undertakes is directly transferable to the classroom where lively discussion then yields a subsequent round of inquiry for faculty scholars.  As such, research and teaching are mutually beneficial—just as it was intended to be. So, every now and then, I will feature some of the WLC faculty who are working on interesting projects like these:

Kevin Amidon, Associate Professor of German, has begun a major new project that combines his longstanding interests in German cultural history and theory with an analysis of contemporary political and economic controversies in Germany, Europe, and the world.  It incorporates insights he has gained from working with his students in courses he has developed including WLC 370A (Making the World Green: Environment, Sustainability, and Culture, Past and Present), and German 476 (Topics in German Cultural Studies: Creativity Destruction ).  This new project has the working title “Freedom, Race, and Risk: Sustaining Political Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century,” and explores how theories of freedom and individual subjectivity that developed out of European cultural traditions are shifting to reflect not only the ways that governments, corporations, and other globalizing institutions must operate in today’s risky world, but also changes in the how concepts like race and the environment help to ground identities and political action. Kevin has been invited to major conferences in L’Aquila, Italy, New York City, and Cambridge, England to present ideas from this project, and has published articles on these ideas in two major international journals of social and political theory, Telos and Critical Sociology . This project will develop into a book that he expects will interest audiences and publishers well beyond those focused only on academia.

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Julia Domínguez, Associate Professor of Spanish, is working on a book, Storying Memories in Don Quixote: Cervantes and the Science of Memory in Early Modern Spain, which examines the importance of memory in Early Modern Spain by analyzing how its meaning and significance was captured in Cervantes’ novel. In a time when our capacity to remember anything is dependent upon the aid of smart phones and computers and other external supports of memory, one finds it hard to understand how memory could have effectively functioned during the Early Modern era with the absence of such aids. As a result, the human everyday capacity for memory in the Renaissance acquired great importance, and Cervantes, whose seminal Don Quixote is a work that all great literary scholars point to for its unusual integration of prior literary works and genres and historical personages and events, is an exceptional case study for how memory played such a pivotal role in literary creation. Domínguez analyzes the status and function of memory, and how it was understood, used, and constructed by means of different theories from Plato and Aristotle in the ancient period, Luis Vives or Juan Huarte de San Juan during Spain’s Renaissance to esteemed neurologists and historians Daniel Schacter and Pierre Nora today. This groundbreaking work is highly interdisciplinary as is intersects the arts and literature with psychology, neurology, and medicine. Domínguez has been an invited speaker on the topic at the University of Kansas and at the Universidad de Extremadura in Spain.In addition to her book, during the past year, she has published three articles in volumes published by Oxford, Toronto, and Routledge.

Our new colleague,Michèle Schaal, Assistant Professor of French, recently finished a book entitled Une Troisième vague littéraire et féministe (A Literary and Feminist Third Wave). In France, the 1990s constituted a crucial era both for feminism and literary history. Indeed, this decade witnessed the emergence of a new generation of women writers, as well as of a new generation of feminist activists. Through an interdisciplinary approach—feminist, cultural, and literary—Schaal demonstrates how these young feminists and writers approached, in similar manners, the identity and sexuality-related debates that occurred during this decade. Through an in-depth analysis of four novels, I bridge sociological studies and literary fiction so as to demonstrate how literature too participates in this emerging feminist movement; a movement that attempts to build on the changes brought upon by the second wave of French feminism (1970-1989), but also to negotiate the contradictions generated by their era. This interdisciplinary study constitutes an original approach since it is the first of its kind to consider these authors through the lens of a third wave of French feminism—an expression thus far solely applied in sociology or history. Schaal’s current work examines the political writings by French third-wave feminists, and she is writing two articles on the topics: one on collective and the other one on individual feminist manifestos.

Fascinating stuff.As you can see from this brief—but broad—description of ongoing research activities, WLC faculty are engaging in some pretty sophisticated research that will shape how we understand our world.

As always, I encourage you to send me a message, call me, or stop by the department whenever you would like.I appreciate hearing from current and former students and I welcome the opportunity to talk with supporters like you about what we are doing in the Department of World Languages and Cultures.