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Spring 2004 Faculty Fellows

Spring Seminar: Modernity: Contexts and Contests, Forms and Future

Judith Coffin, a Professor of History, is the author of the Norton textbook, Western Civilizations, and of The Politics of Women's Work: The Paris Garment Trades, 1750-1915.  Trained in French social and cultural history, Judith has been working for the last three years on the history of modernity and mass culture. Her area of expertise is the "infrastructure of modernity" and its history, or "modernism in the social sciences."  Judith's work in progress, "Desire and Modernity in Post-War France," broaches "the relationship between mass culture, sexuality, and the public in 1950s and 60s" by tracing the emergence of opinion polling.  This history, which opens up interdisciplinary questions about modern forms of knowledge and mass culture, provides Judith's particular point of entry into the HI's seminar; she will explore "the genuinely emancipatory potential of new knowledge, the challenge to power of older elites, the forging of new publics on the one hand and the imposition of new norms and the 'decline' of the public sphere on the other." 


Elizabeth Crist is Assistant Professor of Musicology in the School of Music and Associate Chair of the Center for American Music.  She teaches courses on the “Music of Black Americans,” “History of American Music,” and “Race and Class in American Music,” and researches and publishes on the music of composer Aaron Copland.  Elizabeth is currently working on a book entitled, Music for the Common Man: Aaron Copland during the Depression and War and is co-editing the forthcoming Selected Correspondences of Aaron Copland. Her work on Copland engages with questions of musical modernism as both style and ideology; she examines “Copland’s music between 1932 and 1946 in relation to the cultural politics and aesthetic ideologies of the Popular Front as a radical social movement.”  Throughout the HI seminar Elizabeth will explore further Copland’s accessible musical style of “imposed simplicity” as a “refunctioning of modernism to the social and political circumstances of the Great Depression” and modernism as the aesthetic mode most conducive to the problem of integrating concert music and lived experience. 


Elizabeth Cullingford holds the Jane and Roland Blumberg Centennial Professorship in the Department of English, where her many courses include "Backgrounds to Modernism," "Reactions to Modernism: Postwar British Literature," and "Plays and Politics: Modern Irish Drama and Film."  Her primary research area is modern Irish literature and culture, especially the work of W.B. Yeats.  Liz's authored books include Yeats, Ireland and Fascism; Gender and History in Yeat's Love Poetry; and, most recently, Ireland's Others: Ethnicity and Gender in Irish Literature and Popular Culture, which received the American Conference for Irish Studies Robert Rhodes Prize for Books on Literature award.  As a feminist and Yeats scholar, Liz will bring to the seminar "an expertise in the aesthetics and politics of Anglo-Irish-American modernism," providing an "oblique" view of modernism's central issues—the period's ambivalent gender relations and the relationship between modernity and Empire for Ireland and other postcolonial countries. 


Diana Davis is an Assistant Professor of Geography and a veterinarian, whose interdisciplinary research interests include environmental history, political ecology, medicine, medical geography and public health.  Diana is an expert in “environmental change and resource use during the 19th and 20thcenturies” in the regional areas of French colonial North Africa and the British colonies of Asia and Africa.  Her book in progress is entitled, Desert Wastes of the Maghreb:  (Re)Writing French Colonial Environmental History in North Africa.  For the HI seminar Diana had proposed the topic, “Modernist Environmental Narratives: Degenerate Native Landscapes and Colonial Consolidation During the Inter-War Years,” arguing that geographers have failed to consider “the reciprocal implications of modernism/modernity in relation to environmental change or management.”  Moreover, she suggests that modernist studies must take globalization seriously, especially in the contexts of environmental experience and change, and environmental science and technology.
Diana Davis is currently teaching at UC Davis.


William Forbath holds the Lloyd Bentson Chair in the School of Law and is a Professor of History. A scholar of legal and constitutional history, constitutional law, and civil procedure, Willy is the author of Law and the Shaping of the American Labor Movement and numerous essays on matters of labor, class, citizenship, and legal and political theory. A current inquiry, in which he hopes to engage the “Modernity” seminar, concerns the formation of ‘modern’ constitutionalism in the U. S. during the first decades of the 20th century. Contemporary efforts to respond to the challenges of constitutional democracy would benefit, Willy argues, by the retrieval of a “richer and more complex picture of the American constitutional imagination’s encounter with modernity”—such a picture as emerges from a re-reading of “the constitutional writings of famous and forgotten figures of the Progressive Era . . . (and their conservative interlocutors)” and from “situating their words and deeds in the context of recent work on the Pragmatists.”


Barbara Harlow, who holds the Louann and Larry Temple Centennial Professorship in the Department of English, teaches and publishes widely on prison and resistance writings and postcolonial studies (particularly Anglophone African and modern Arabic literatures and cultures). Barbara’s authored books include Barred: Women, Writing, and Political Detention and After Lives: Legacies of Revolutionary Writing. She has also edited a documentary sourcebook, Imperialism and Orientalism, along with collections of essays on contemporary African and Arabic writings, and has published translations of books by Jacques Derrida and Ghassan Kanafani. Barbara will bring to the “Modernity” seminar current work exploring the literary expression of three African national histories—Sierra Leonean, Nigerian, and South African—and of some of the “recent continental shifts [and] other crises that characterize current African affairs and disturb its stories: HIV/Aids, debt, democracy and development, truth commissions, and the contested articulation of a ‘sustainable’ post-independence narrative.”


Linda Henderson, David Bruton Jr. Professor and Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Art History, teaches and writes on twentieth century European and American art, with a special emphasis in the interdisciplinary study of modernism, including such areas as the history of geometry, science and technology, philosophy, mysticism, occultism, music, and literature. Her books include The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art and Duchamp in Context: Science and Technology in the Large Glass and Related Works. Recently, Linda has begun to explore—and looks forward to engaging the “Modernity” seminar in the consideration of--“modernism’s position in the later 20th century . . . and the issue of its supposed demise.”


Charles Ramirez Berg, Associate Professor and University Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Radio-Television-Film, specializes in U. S. and Mexican film history and media representations of Latinos. His most recent book, Latino Images in Film: Stereotypes, Subversion, and Resistance, follows two earlier studies of Mexican cinema from the 1930s to the 1980s. Charles will bring to the “Modernity” seminar current work on the stylistic history of the movies and particular interest in how storytelling paradigms in film shift along a realist-modernist-postmodernist trajectory and how filmmakers deploy such shifts in their efforts to avoid stereotyping minority groups.


Martha Ann Selby, an Associate Professor of Asian Studies, is a classicist and philologist whose research is grounded in the languages of classical India, and who publishes on Old Tamil, Prakrit, and Sanskrit poetry and poetics.  Martha's translations of classical Indian poetry have been widely anthologized and her forthcoming book, A Circle of Six Season: A Selection from Old Tamil, Prakrit, and Sanskrit Verse, contains translations of poems related to time and seasonal cycles in early Indic poetry.  Her current work, Sanskrit Gynecologies: The Semiotics of Gender and Femininity in Sanskrit Medical Texts, explores the "medical constructions of sexuality, gender, and women's health in classical South Asia."  Out of this project grew Martha's most recent research on the cultural and textual translation of classical Indian medical knowledge from Sanskrit to English, East to West, classical to modern.  Martha will bring to the "Modernity" seminar current work exploring the "medical dialogues between the 'classical' and the 'modern' and between pre-colonial and post-colonial notions of science and medicine, as well as eastern understandings and western interpretations of such issues as gender and the body and disease and wellness."   


John Stanton, a Professor in the Chemistry Department, works in the area of theoretical chemistry developing new theoretical methods and computationally efficient computer programs to apply to the solution of chemical and spectroscopic problems. John’s interests include not only the study of “so called interstellar molecules—those which have been observed or are thought to exist in the interstellar medium,” but also that of the interdisciplinary space between the humanities and the sciences, as that space is informed, for example, by shared debates between relativism and objectivism. He will bring to the seminar a strong interest in the history of science, particularly that associated with the development of modern physics in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, general scientific understanding of quantum mechanics, relativity theory, and thermodynamics, a working knowledge of organic chemistry, geology and certain branches of higher mathematics, and a keen interest in discussing with colleagues from the humanities and social sciences such cross-disciplinary encounters and (mis)understandings as are represented by books like Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and its Quarrels with Science and The Science Wars.


Qing Zhang is an Assistant Professor of Linguistics, lately arrived at the University after completing her Ph.D. at Stanford. A sociolinguist, Qing has co-edited a recent volume, Gendered Practices in Language, and has published articles on aspects of her principal research topic: the use of language as a symbolic resource in the construction of new social identities and distinctions in China as the country makes the transition from a state-controlled to a market economy. Qing will bring to the seminar an interest in the linguistic correlates of modernity and globalization and particular research on “the role of language in the articulations and contestations of Chinese modernity”—as instanced, for example, by China’s language standardization debates in the face of the new linguistic resources that “imaginaries and practices of modernity characterized by deterritoriality, hybridity, and fluidity” have recently made available to ordinary Chinese.
Qing Zhang is now at ICES.