WLC Faculty Featured In the CEAH Research Summit

CATEGORIES: February 2016

The Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities at ISU hosted a Research Summit on January 21, 2016 on campus with twenty-four ISU faculty members participating. After brief opening remarks by the Director of the CEAH, Christopher Hopkins, and the Vice President for Research at Iowa State, Sarah Nusser, ten professors presented their current research projects in four-minute “lightning” talks. The research areas ranged from ceramics and photography to ancient and modern history and historical preservation. Michael Bugeja, Professor and Director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, then introduced the panel “Art, Design, and Humanities Perspectives in Big Data and Data Science. Su Jung Kim (Journalism), Kimberly Moss (Art and Visual Culture), Nadia Anderson (Architecture), and Linda Shenk (English) each discussed how their humanities-based research intersects with Big Data. Big Data is one of the President Leath’s High Impact Hires Initiative, which has brought several researchers to campus positions in the last two years. One of the motifs underlying these presentations was the necessity for a humanities element when processing huge amounts of data because raw data is open to bias and misinterpretation when used on its own. Another session of nine lightning talks followed the panel discussion. Faculty from Art History, Philosophy, World Languages and Cultures, and Architecture participated.

Rachel Meyers, Assistant Professor of Classical Studies, presented her current research in a four-minute “lightning” talk during the first session of the CEAH Research Summit. She is undertaking a book project, broadly on ancient Roman portraiture and the practice of benefaction in the Spanish provinces of the Roman Empire. Specifically, she is bringing together a body of portrait statues of the imperial family and of the local elite from the 2nd century CE and analyzing those finds within the contexts of the towns in which they were found. Meyers is particularly interested in the parallel concepts of self-presentation and representation. She is exploring how the wealthy citizens portrayed themselves in statues and in their public activities (such as sponsoring building projects or financing entertainment), and she is examining how others portrayed these same individuals and the ruling imperial family in various towns in the Spanish provinces. Each region that became part of the Roman Empire had its own pre-Roman history, culture, and traditions that influenced it during Roman times. Meyers’ research is designed to expose trends in Roman cultural identity in Spain compared with Rome and other cities across the broad expanse of the Roman Empire.

Aili Mu, Associate Professor of Chinese, has titled her 2015 CEAH project is Cultural Literacy through Chinese Short-short Stories. China is changing the world we live in. But the focus of attention on its rise as an economic power has eclipsed the role that Chinese culture and tradition have played in the transformation. A more fundamental change—from a student of Western success and values to a country that aggressively asserts its own identities and values—has occurred in the past three decades. The impact of this change has been felt—in his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama called attention to the fact that China “wants to write the rules” in parts of the world today. Yet knowledge deficiency about China has led to many misunderstanding and misjudgments. General US audiences concerned about their own future and that of the world are wondering what to make of China’s rise. This volume is conceptualized and organized to bridge cultural gaps and help the US public understand China and where it is headed. An introduction to the formative thoughts of Chinese civilization through literary representations in the short-short genre, Cultural Literacy through Chinese Short-short Stories proposes an understanding of contemporary China from its cultural roots embedded in everyday life. It is structured around nine formative concepts—li (礼 ritual or propriety); ren (仁 humanity or benevolence); filial duty (孝); the concept of yin and yang (阴阳); the perception of governance (统治); the importance of face (面子); the difference/unity of feeling/reason (情理); the notion of identity (特征、身份、认同); and the idea of changes (易)—that permeate contemporary Chinese lives and behaviors. A culturally pervasive national phenomenon, the short-short genre rose with China’s rise in 1980s. Averaging 1,500 characters per story or 2 pages in length, “short-shorts,” as they are called, offer great access to Chinese cultural traditions in contemporary everyday life. They also present a bottom-up view of China’s diverse values, methods of reasoning, rhetorical tendencies, views of government, and ways of life. The introduction of intimate grassroots viewpoints will help sensitize Western readers to differences through experiencing the source cultures in specific social and cultural contexts.

Michèle A. Schaal, Assistant Professor of French and Women’s and Gender Studies, was awarded a CEAH grant in 2014, a grant that she used in Fall 2014 towards a course release to work on a book manuscript Une troisième vague féministe et littéraire (A third feminist and literary 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—this manuscript 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, Dr. Schall bridges 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. Her 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. Dr. Schaal completed the book manuscript in Summer 2015 and it is currently under peer-review.