Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory beyond Green


by Jeffrey J. Cohen F’11, F’03, ACLS Fellowship Program, now available University of Minnesota Press.

Traces the impress and agency of ecologies that cannot be reduced to the bucolic expanses of green readings

Prismatic Ecology moves beyond the accustomed green readings of ecotheory and maps a colorful world of ecological possibility. By way of color, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen guides readers through a reflection of an essentially complex and disordered universe and demonstrates the spectrum as an unfinishable totality, always in excess of what a human perceives.

ACLS Awards 2014 Collaborative Research Fellowships to Eight Teams of Scholars

The American Council of Learned Societies is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2014 Collaborative Research Fellowships. The eight teams of scholars that were selected for funding cross boundaries of discipline, methodology, and geography to undertake new research projects that will result in joint publications. The program, which is made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, aims to demonstrate the creative potential of collaborative research in the humanities and related social sciences.

“The 2014 ACLS Collaborative Research Fellows put on display the wide range of collaborative projects that scholars pursue in the humanities and related social sciences today,” said ACLS Program Officer Matthew Goldfeder. “The program will support some joint projects that are possible only due to the different specializations each collaborator brings to the project, and others where team members will work to synthesize viewpoints and explanations across disparate fields.”

The diversity of this year’s collaborations includes projects that combine deep expertise in fields such as linguistics, geography, history, literature, and visual studies. That diversity also extends to modes of dissemination, with several of this year’s collaborations foreseeing both print and digital outcomes.

Historian Marina A. Rustow (Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins University) and Judaic studies scholar Eve Krakowski (Postdoctoral Fellow, Yale University) are devising new methods to analyze a trove of medieval Jewish and Islamic government and administrative texts preserved in the Cairo Geniza, to produce a co-authored print handbook that will help spur a new approach to Islamic institutional history and serve as a resource for future scholars.

Investigating how the aesthetic representation and politics of resource governance combined to shape potable water and drainage projects in early twentieth-century Mexico City, geographer Jeffrey M. Banister (Assistant Research Social Scientist, University of Arizona) and art historian Stacie G. Widdifield (Professor, University of Arizona) will co-author a monograph and also develop a website for further interdisciplinary exchanges on water and its representation.

English literature scholar George Edmondson (Associate Professor, Dartmouth College) and German studies scholar Klaus Mladek (Associate Professor, Dartmouth College) will track and revitalize a tradition of melancholic thinking—one both mournful and jubilant, attuned to grief but at the same time an engine of political transformation—from its origin in Greek philosophy through its resurgence in medieval and early modern writers to twentieth-century thinkers in their proposed monograph, A Politics of Melancholia.

Linguist Lisi Oliver (Professor, Louisiana State University) and English literature scholar Stefan Jurasinski (Associate Professor, State University of New York, College at Brockport) will publish an accessible, critical edition of the numerous laws issued by King Alfred the Great in ninth-century England, and show how and where they were indebted to and diverged from prior legal and ecclesiastical traditions.

In Serving the Nation, Safeguarding the Home: Civil Defense, Citizenship, and Gender in Twentieth-Century Britain, historians Susan R. Grayzel (Professor, University of Mississippi) and Lucy Noakes (Senior Lecturer, University of Brighton) explore how a modern, imperial state came to terms with modern total warfare, and how the changing impact of warfare shaped gendered notions of citizenship.

Literature scholar Allison Renée Busch (Associate Professor, Columbia University) and art historian Molly Emma Aitken (Associate Professor, City University of New York, City College) will combine insights from literary and visual depictions of ideal women to shed new light on the overlapping Muslim and Hindu cultural realms in sixteenth- through nineteenth-century India in their co-authored monograph, Aesthetic Worlds of the Indian Heroine.

Historians Rebecca Jo Plant (Associate Professor, University of California, San Diego) and Frances M. Clarke (Senior Lecturer, University of Sydney) plan to reveal how the participation of child soldiers in U.S. wars from the American Revolution to WWII reflected and redefined understandings of childhood itself in a co-authored series of articles and monograph.

Focusing on place-based struggles in British Columbia, New Zealand, and Kansas, geographers Jay T. Johnson (Associate Professor, University of Kansas) and Soren C. Larsen (Associate Professor, University of Missouri) will co-author a book exploring how the ongoing tensions between Indigenous groups and non-Indigenous communities and governments are transforming the places and politics of settler states in the twenty-first century.

Further information about this year’s eight funded projects can be found here. An overview of ACLS fellowship programs, which will award more than $15 million to nearly 400 scholars this year, can be found here.

A Burnable Book

by Bruce Holsinger F’04, Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars, now available by Harper Collins.

In Chaucer’s London, betrayal, murder, and intrigue swirl around the existence of a prophetic book that foretells the deaths of England’s kings

London, 1385. Surrounded by ruthless courtiers—including his powerful uncle,  John of Gaunt, and Gaunt’s artful mistress, Katherine Swynford—England’s  young, still untested king, Richard II, is in mortal peril, and the danger is only beginning. Songs are heard across London—catchy verses said to originate from an ancient book that prophesies the end of England’s kings—and among the book’s predictions is Richard’s assassination. Only a few powerful men know that the cryptic lines derive from a “burnable book,” a seditious work that threatens the stability of the realm. To find the manuscript, wily bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer turns to fellow poet John Gower, a professional trader in information with connections high and low.

Gower discovers that the book and incriminating evidence about its author have fallen  into the unwitting hands of innocents, who will be drawn into a labyrinthine conspiracy that reaches from the king’s court to London’s slums and stews—and potentially implicates his own son. As the intrigue deepens, it becomes clear that Gower, a man with secrets of his own, may be the last hope to save a king from a terrible fate.

Medieval scholar Bruce Holsinger draws on his vast knowledge of the period to add colorful, authentic detail—on everything from poetry and bookbinding to court intrigues and brothels—to this highly entertaining and brilliantly constructed epic literary mystery that brings medieval England gloriously to life.

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What Was Contemporary Art?


by Richard Meyer F’94, Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art awardee, now available by MIT Press.

Contemporary art in the early twenty-first century is often discussed as though it were a radically new phenomenon unmoored from history. Yet all works of art were once contemporary to the artist and culture that produced them. In What Was Contemporary Art? Richard Meyer reclaims the contemporary from historical amnesia, exploring episodes in the study, exhibition, and reception of early twentieth-century art and visual culture.

For more information about the Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art, click here.

Filmed by Stephen Pagano and Tom Salvaggio. Edited by Tom Salvaggi for MOCA.

Storytelling and the Sciences of Mind


by David Herman F’08, ACLS Fellowship awardee, now available by MIT Press.

With Storytelling and the Science of Mind, David Herman proposes a cross-fertilization between the study of narrative and research on intelligent behavior. This cross-fertilization goes beyond the simple importing of ideas from the sciences of mind into scholarship on narrative and instead aims for convergence between work in narrative studies and research in the cognitive sciences. The book as a whole centers on two questions: How do people make sense of stories? And: How do people use stories to make sense of the world? Examining narratives from different periods and across multiple media and genres, Herman shows how traditions of narrative research can help shape ways of formulating and addressing questions about intelligent activity, and vice versa.