Meet the Author | Archived Events

PENELOPE ANDERSON

Friendship’s Shadows: Women’s Friendship and the Politics of Betrayal in England, 1640-1705

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

The first sustained investigation of early modern women’s friendship, Friendship’s Shadows changes our understanding both of the masculine Renaissance friendship tradition and of the private forms of women’s friendship of the eighteenth century and after. It uncovers the latent threat of betrayal lurking within politicized classical and humanist friendship, showing its surprising resilience as a model for political obligation undone and remade. Incorporating authors from Cicero to Abraham Cowley and Margaret Cavendish to Mary Astell, the book focuses on two extraordinary women writers, the royalist Katherine Philips and the republican Lucy Hutchinson. Anderson also explores the ways in which they appropriate the friendship tradition in order to address problems of conflicting allegiances in the English Civil Wars and Restoration, suggesting that their writings on friendship provide a new account of women’s relation to public life, organized through textual exchange rather than bodily reproduction.

Anderson focuses on early modern British literature, especially that of the English Civil Wars, with particular interest in the ways in which individuals and communities respond to the pressures of incommensurable ethical obligations, and the literary strategies that turn those conflicts into resources.

Penelope Anderson is an Assistant Professor of English.

Presented by the College Arts & Humanities Institute and the Renaissance Studies Program.

RANDY LONG

Heart, Hands, Mind and Soul Thirty Years of Creative Work and Living a Good Life

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Long has devoted her life to making work with her hands in art jewelry and metalsmithing, ceramics, enameling, and mixed media. Long will discuss the resources, influences, and the development of her work, aesthetic and her art philosophy. Long's work has been inspired by her travels, viewing and collecting objects and art, and her love of nature, her desire to create finely crafted works of beauty, with a sense of magic and poetry.

Long is the recipient of two NEA Visual Artists Fellowships, three Indiana Arts Commission Master's Fellowships, an Outstanding Young Faculty Award from Indiana University, and an IU President's Arts and Humanities Initiative Grant. Long has exhibited her work nationally and internationally in over three hundred exhibitions and her work is represented in many private and public collections. Long's work has been published in twenty- three books and is also published in over twenty catalogues and periodicals.

ELLEN MACKAY

Persecution, Plague and Fire: Fugitive Histories of the Stage in Early Modern England

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The theater of early modern England was a disastrous affair. The scant record of its performance demonstrates as much, for what we tend to remember today of the Shakespearean stage and its history are landmark moments of dissolution: the burning down of the Globe, the forced closure of playhouses during outbreaks of the plague, and the abolition of the theater by its Cromwellian opponents. Persecution, Plague, and Fire is a study of these catastrophes and the theory of performance they convey. MacKay argues that the various disasters that afflicted the English theater during its golden age were no accident but the promised end of a practice built on disappearance and erasure—a kind of fatal performance that left nothing behind but its self-effacing poetics. Bringing together dramatic theory, performance studies, and theatrical, religious, and cultural history, MacKay reveals the period’s radical take on the history and the future of the stage to show just how critical the relation was between early modern English theater and its public.

Ellen MacKay is an Associate Professor of English.

Henry glassie

Prince Twins Seven-Seven: His Art, His Life in Nigeria, His Exile in America

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Prince Twins Seven-Seven rose from an impoverished childhood to become the leading artist in Nigeria’s time of independence. From the moment he drew his first picture, in 1964, to the present, his works have been shown in international exhibitions at the rate of better than two a year. Prior to the artist’s death on June 16, 2011, Henry Glassie interviewed the artist at length, travelling with him through Nigeria, writing the first full monographic treatment of a modern African artist. This lavishly illustrated book, part biography and part artist's catalog, addresses tradition and innovation in Prince's art, the development of his personal style, the force of the supernatural in Nigerian life, and the hard times of the immigrant artist in the United States.

Henry Glassie has won many awards for his work, including the Chicago Folklore Prize, the Haney Prize in the Social Sciences, the Cummings award of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, the Kniffen and Douglas awards of the Pioneer America Society, the award for a lifetime of scholarly achievement from the American Folklore Society, and formal recognition for his contributions from the ministries of culture of Turkey and Bangladesh. Three of his works have been named among the notable books of the year by the New York Times. In May of this year Glassie gave the American Council of Learned Societies Charles Homer Haskins Prize lecture at the Library of Congress.

Henry Glassie is a College Professor Emeritus of Folklore.

tony ardizzone

The Whale Chaser

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Whale Chaser is the story of Vince Sansone, the son of an embittered fishmonger, who abruptly flees Chicago for Tofino, a picturesque fishing town on the rugged West coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, and who is invited to come to terms with the consequences of his actions as well as his family’s version of la storia segreta, the unspoken story of how his grandfather, like thousands of other Italians and Italian-Americans, was evacuated from prohibited zones on the West coast and, along with hundreds of others, interned in a prison camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Set in the turbulent decades of the Vietnam War and the drug and hippie counterculture, The Whale Chaser is a powerful story about the possibility of redemption.

A native of Chicago, Tony Ardizzone is the author of seven books of fiction, including In the Garden of Papa Santuzzu, and Taking It Home: Stories from the Neighborhood. His writing has received the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the Pushcart Prize, the Chicago Foundation for Literature Award for Fiction, and the Milkweed Editions National Fiction Prize, among others.

Tony Adrizzone is a Chancellor’s Professor of English.

Yvette M. alex-assensoh

Newcomers, Outsiders, and Insiders: Immigrants and American Racial Politics in the Early Twenty-first Century

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Over the past four decades, the United States has experienced the largest influx of immigrants in its history. Not only has the ratio of European to non-European newcomers changed, but recent arrivals are coming from the Asian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, South America, and other regions which have not previously supplied many immigrants to the United States. Along with her co-authors, Alex-Assensoh examines how the arrival of these newcomers has affected the efforts of long-standing minority groups—Blacks, Latinos, and Asian Pacific Americans—to gain equality through greater political representation and power. The authors predict that, for some time to come, the United States will function as a complex multiracial hierarchy, rather than as a genuine democracy.

Professor Alex-Assensoh’s research examines the impact of social and economic contexts on political behavior. Her published books and edited volumes include Neighborhoods, Family and Political Behavior (1998), Black and Multiracial Politics in America (2000) and African Military History and Politics (2001). Over the years, her research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Spencer Foundation, National Academy of Education, and the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars (CIE/Fulbright).

Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh is a Professor of Political Science and Dean of the Office for Women’s Affairs (OWA).

Samrat Upadhyay

Buddha's Orphans

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Upadhyay's new novel, Buddha's Orphans, uses Nepal's political upheavals of the past century as a backdrop to the story of an orphan boy, Raja, and the girl he is fated to love, Nilu, a daughter of privilege. Their love story scandalizes both families and takes readers through time and across the globe, through the loss of and search for children, and through several generations, hinting that perhaps old bends can, in fact, be righted in future branches of a family tree. Buddha's Orphans is a novel permeated with the sense of how we are irreparably connected to the way events of the past, even those we are ignorant of, inevitably haunt the present. But most of all it is an engrossing, unconventional love story and a seductive and transporting read.

Upadhyay’s short story collection Arresting God in Kathmandu (Houghton Mifflin, 2001) was the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award as well as a pick for the 2001 Barnes & Noble Discover Great Writers Program. His stories have been translated into several languages and read live on National Public Radio. The Guru of Love (Houghton Mifflin, 2003) was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year 2003, a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2003, and a BookSense 76 collection. The novel was also a finalist for the 2004 Kiriyama Prize, and has been translated into several European languages. The Royal Ghosts(Houghton Mifflin, 2006), won the 2007 Asian American Literary Award, the Society of Midland Authors Book Award, and was declared a Best of Fiction in 2006 by the Washington Post. The book was also a finalist for the Frank O’Connor Int’l Short Story Award from Ireland and for the Ohioana Book Award.

Samrat Upadhyay is a Professor of English and Creative Writing.

Alyce Miller

My Animal Life: A Collection of Essays on the Animal Question

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Interest in non-human animals and our treatment of them is at an all-time high, as evidenced by the plethora of books published in the last decade, from rights-based thinkers like Jeffrey Masson, Jonathan Balcombe, and Carol Adams to welfarists like Jonathan Safer Foer, whose Eating Animals is a recent bestseller. My Animal Life springs from a wide variety of sources: Miller’s ongoing legal work in animal rights law, the multidisciplinary class Animals and Ethics that she teaches, the 2006 international Kindred Spirits Conference she chaired and organized, and her own personal explorations into questions about what moral status we should accord animals and what it means to use and consume them. The essays cover a variety of topics such as pitbulls rescued from a dog fighting ring, the role of the "sacrificed" animal in young adult fiction, and the mainstreaming of veganism.

Alyce Miller is the award-winning author of three books of fiction, and more than 200 published essays, articles, short stories, and poems. She has published and presented on animals, and is a pro bono attorney with particular interests in animal law and family law.

Alyce Miller is a Professor of English and Creative Writing.

christoph irmscher

A Keener Perception, edited by Alan C. Braddock and Christoph Irmscher

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Keener Perception offers a series of case studies on topics ranging from John White's watercolors of the Carolina landscape executed during Sir Walter Raleigh's 1585 Roanoke expedition to photographs by environmental activist Subhankar Banerjee. Rather than merely resurrect past instances of ecologically attuned art, this volume also features essays that resituate many canonical figures, such as Thomas Eakins, Aaron Douglas, and Thomas Cole, in an ecocritical light.

Viewing artists like Cole and Banerjee through an ecocritical lens not only provides a better understanding of these works and the American landscape, but also brings a new interpretive paradigm to the field of art history—a field that the authors assembled here believe would do well to embrace environmental concerns as a vital area of research.

Christoph Irmscher is a Professor of English.

Alvin Rosenfeld

Is It Possible to Understand the Germans? Reflections on the Life and Writings of Primo Levi. From his forthcoming book, The End of the Holocaust

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

In 4 decades of thinking and writing about the Holocaust following his liberation from Auschwitz, the Italian-Jewish writer Primo Levi carried on an intense moral and intellectual engagement with Germany and the Germans. His greatest wish was to understand the people who had been his persecutors, to judge them, and, if possible, even to forgive them. But despite many years of probing reflection on the Nazi crimes and those who had perpetrated them, Levi came to the conclusion that he was a failure. Why? Rosenfeld examines Levi's sustained confrontation with these issues in the post-Holocaust period and offers insights into why an impassioned need to come to clarity about the Germans was both so critical and so frustrating to this important author.

The End of the Holocaust studies changing perceptions of the Holocaust within contemporary Western culture and the impact of certain cultural pressures on our sense of this particular past. As the mass murder of millions of innocent people is popularized, trivialized, and vulgarized, a less taxing version of a tragic history begins to emerge—still full of suffering, but a suffering relieved of many of its weightiest moral and intellectual demands. In observing Hitler's war against the Jews undergo such transformations, one can be properly skeptical and begin to see something like the approaching “end of the Holocaust.”

Alvin H. Rosenfeld is a Professor of English and Jewish Studies, and Director of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism.

Jeffrey Isaac

America through European Eyes: British and French Reflections on the New World from the Eighteenth Century to the Present

Thursday, February 11, 2010

George W. Bush’s foreign policy touted America as the model of democracy worth exporting to the four corners of the globe. Osama bin Laden has painted a picture of our society as soulless and materialistic, representing values that are the antithesis of his version of Islam. Such starkly contrasting images of America fuel much heated debate today and drive conflicts around the world. But foreigners have long had a love/hate relationship with the United States, as this book reveals.

Contributors from comparative literature, history, philosophy, and political science combine their talents here to trace the changing visions of America that foreign travelers to our shores from England and France brought back to their contemporaries over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Novels and letters, political analysis, and philosophy are mined for perceptions of what America meant for these European visitors and how idealistic or realistic their observations were. Major writers like Tocqueville play an important role in this dialogue, but so do lesser-known thinkers like Gustave de Beaumont, Michel Chevalier, and Victor Jacquemont, whose importance this volume will help resurrect.

Craiutu's interests include French political and social thought (Montesquieu, Tocqueville, Constant, Madame de Staël, Guizot, Raymond Aron), varieties of liberalism and conservatism. Craiutu is the author of Liberalism under Siege: The Political Thought of the French Doctrinaires (2003).

Professor Isaac's research focuses on democratic theory, Marxism, and twentieth century political thought. He has published a number of books, and currently serves as Editor in Chief of the journal Perspectives on Politics, a scholarly periodical published by the American Political Science Association.

Jeffrey Isaac is a Rudy Professor of Political Science.

Mary L. Gray

Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

From Wal-Mart drag parties to renegade Homemaker’s Clubs, Out in the Country offers an unprecedented contemporary account of the lives of today’s rural queer youth. Mary L. Gray maps out the experiences of young people living in small towns across rural Kentucky and along its desolate Appalachian borders, providing a fascinating and often surprising look at the contours of gay life beyond the big city. Gray illustrates that, against a backdrop of an increasingly impoverished and privatized rural America, LGBT youth and their allies visibly—and often vibrantly—work the boundaries of the public spaces available to them, whether in their high schools, public libraries, town hall meetings, churches, or through websites.

Recently awarded the Ruth Benedict Prize from the American Anthropological Association's Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists, this important book shows that, in addition to the spaces of Main Street, rural LGBT youth explore and carve out online spaces to fashion their emerging queer identities. Their triumphs and travails defy clear distinctions often drawn between online and offline experiences of identity, fundamentally redefining our understanding of the term queer visibility’ and its political stakes. Gray combines ethnographic insight with incisive cultural critique, engaging with some of the biggest issues facing both queer studies and media scholarship. Out in the Country is a timely and groundbreaking study of sexuality and gender, new media, youth culture, and the meaning of identity and social movements in a digital age.

Mary L. Gray is an Assistant Professor of Communication and Culture.

Ron Osgood

My Vietnam Your Iraq

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Vietnam Your Iraq is a feature length documentary that tells the stories of Vietnam veterans whose own children have served in Iraq. The stories look at the pride, challenges, fears, prejudices and bitterness that parents and children are faced with.

My Vietnam Your Iraq focuses on the human side of the military and looks at the lineage within military families. The stories describe how common themes resonate as older servicemen and woman reflect on their own service and the thoughts they have about their children's service. Vietnam veteran participants may agree or disagree with current policy; yet they all support their child's decision to enlist. Some interviewees discuss the myriad of emotions they have gone through while separated from their family.

Osgood specializes in documentary storytelling and production. His first long form documentary Trouble No More: The Making of a John Mellencamp Album won a regional Emmy in 2004 and is still available through Blockbuster and Netflix.

Ron Osgood is a Professor of Telecommunications.

Sarah Knott

Sensibility and the American Revolution

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In the wake of American independence, it was clear that the new United States required novel political forms. Less obvious but no less revolutionary was the idea that the American people needed a new understanding of the self. Sensibility was a cultural movement that celebrated the human capacity for sympathy and sensitivity to the world. For individuals, it offered a means of self-transformation. For a nation lacking a monarch, state religion, or standing army, sensibility provided a means of cohesion. National independence and social interdependence facilitated one another. What Sarah Knott calls "the sentimental project" helped a new kind of citizen create a new kind of government.

Knott paints sensibility as a political project whose fortunes rose and fell with the broader tides of the Revolutionary Atlantic world. Moving beyond traditional accounts of social unrest, republican and liberal ideology, and the rise of the autonomous individual, she offers an original interpretation of the American Revolution as a transformation of self and society.

Knott is a British-born scholar of early America and the revolutionary Atlantic world. Her research focuses on the intricate meeting-ground of politics, culture and society and remains intimately concerned with questions of women, gender and feminism. The fruit of her involvement in the “Feminism and Enlightenment” project was Women, Gender and Enlightenment (2007), co-edited with Barbara Taylor. Currently, she is expanding her research to include the connected and comparative revolutionary histories of France and of Haiti.

Sarah Knott is an Associate Professor of History and Adjunct Associate Professor of the American Studies Program.

Stephen Watt

Beckett and Contemporary Irish Writing

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Samuel Beckett is one of the most important figures in the history of Irish literature, and he continues to influence successive generations of writers. In Beckett and Contemporary Irish Writing, Stephen Watt searches for the ‘Beckettian’ impulse in Irish literature by tracing the Nobel Prize winner’s legacy through a rich selection of contemporary novelists, poets and dramatists. Watt examines leading figures such as Paul Muldoon, Brian Friel, Marina Carr and Bernard MacLaverty, and shows how Beckett’s presence, whether openly acknowledged or unstated, is always thoroughly pervasive. Moving on to an exploration of Beckett’s role in the twenty-first century, the study discusses ways in which this legacy can be reshaped to deal with current concerns that extend beyond literature. Encouraging us to think about Beckett’s work and status in new ways, this landmark study will be required reading for scholars and students of Beckett and Irish studies.

Watt’s major research interests include drama and theatre of the 19th and 20th centuries, Irish Studies, and the contemporary university. While doing research for those sections of Beckett and Contemporary Irish Writing that deal specifically with Northern Ireland, he became intrigued by the internment of political prisoners, not only the specific histories and effects of internment during the “Troubles,” but also their representation in film and on stage.

Stephen Watt is a Professor of English and an Adjunct Professor of Theatre and Drama.

Abdulkader H. Sinno

Muslims in Western Politics

Thursday April 9, 2009

Looking closely at relations between Muslim minorities and their own Western countries, Abdulkader H. Sinno and an international group of scholars examine questions of political representation, identity politics, civil liberties, immigration, and security issues. Squarely political and transatlantic in scope, the essays in this collected work focus on Islam and Muslim citizens in Europe and the Americas since 9/11, the European bombings, and the recent riots in France. Main topics include Muslim political participation and activism, perceptions about Islam and politics, Western attitudes about Muslim visibility in the political arena, radicalization of Muslims in an age of apparent shrinking of civil liberties, and personal security in politically uneasy times.

Abdulkader H. Sinno is also the author of Organizations at War in Afghanistan and Beyond (Cornell University Press, 2008).

Timothy O'Connor

Theism and Ultimate Explanation: The Necessary Shape of Contingency

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Theism and Ultimate Explanation uses the tools of modern philosophical analysis to engage with the traditional metaphysician’s quest for a true ultimate explanation of the most general features of the world we inhabit.

Organized into two sections, the text develops an original view of how we may justifiably come to believe claims concerning what is possible or necessary. These chapters lay the foundation for the book’s second part – the search for one or more metaphysical frameworks that permit the possibility of an ultimate explanation that is correct and complete. O’Connor defends a novel version of Leibniz's famous argument that the best form of ultimate explanation for contingent beings and their interconnected histories will posit the existence and activity of a transcendent and purposive necessary being.

Timothy O'Connor has published widely in the areas of metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of religion. He is the author of Persons and Causes (2000), and the editor ofAgents, Causes and Events (1995), Philosophy of Mind: Contemporary Readings (2003).

Timothy O'Connor is Chair of the Department of Philosophy, a Professor of Philosophy, and Member of the Cognitive Sciences Program.

Darlene Sadlier

Brazil Imagined: 1500 to the Present

Monday, February 9, 2009

The first comprehensive cultural history of Brazil to be written in English, Brazil Imagined: 1500 to the Present captures the role of the artistic imaginary in shaping Brazil's national identity. Analyzing representations of Brazil throughout the world, this ambitious survey demonstrates the ways in which life in one of the world's largest nations has been conceived and revised in visual arts, literature, film, and a variety of other media.

Beginning with the first explorations of Brazil by the Portuguese, Darlene J. Sadlier incorporates extensive source material, including paintings, historiographies, letters, poetry, novels, architecture, and mass media to trace the nation's shifting sense of its own history. Topics include the oscillating themes of Edenic and cannibal encounters, Dutch representations of Brazil, regal constructs, the literary imaginary, Modernist utopias, "good neighbor" protocols, and filmmakers' revolutionary and dystopian images of Brazil. A magnificent panoramic study of race, imperialism, natural resources, and other themes in the Brazilian experience, this landmark work is a boon to the field.

Darlene Sadlier is a Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and Director of the Portuguese Program.

Werner Sollors

Ethnic Modernism

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In the first half of the twentieth century, the United States moved from the periphery to the center of global cultural production. At the same time, technologies of dissemination evolved rapidly, and versions of modernism emerged as dominant art forms. How did African American, European immigrant, and other minority writers take part in these developments that also transformed the United States, giving it an increasingly multicultural self-awareness? This book attempts to address this question in a series of innovative and engaging close readings of major texts by Gertrude Stein, Mary Antin, Jean Toomer, O. E. Rölvaag, Nathan Asch, Henry Roth, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Pietro di Donato, Jerre Mangione, John Hersey, and Leo Szilard, as well as briefer examinations of many other authors and works, against the background of international political developments, the rise of modernism in the visual arts, and the ascendancy of Ernest Hemingway as a model for prose writers.

One of the world's foremost Americanist literary critics today, a former Guggenheim and NEH Fellow, and founder of the Longfellow Institute, Professor Sollors is the author of ground-breaking and prolific work in race studies, multilingualism in American culture, post-war America and Germany, and ethnic modernism that continues to shape and revise contemporary debates about race, language, and ethnic literature.

Werner Sollors is the Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English, Harvard University.

Matthew Guterl

American Mediterranean:Southern Slaveholders in the Age of Emancipation

Thursday, October 30, 2008

How did slave-owning Southern planters make sense of the transformation of their world in the Civil War era? Matthew Pratt Guterl shows that they looked beyond their borders for answers. He traces the links that bound them to the wider fraternity of slaveholders in Cuba, Brazil, and elsewhere, and charts their changing political place in the hemisphere.

Through such figures as the West Indian Confederate Judah Benjamin, Cuban expatriate Ambrosio Gonzales, and the exile Eliza McHatton, Guterl examines how the Southern elite connected by travel, print culture, even the prospect of future conquest with the communities of New World slaveholders as they redefined their world. He analyzes why they invested in a vision of the circum-Caribbean, and how their commitment to this broader slave-owning community fared. From Rebel exiles in Cuba to West Indian apprenticeship and the Black Codes to the "labor problem" of the postwar South, this beautifully written book recasts the nineteenth-century South as a complicated borderland in a pan-American vision.

In an ambitious and compelling book, Matthew Pratt Guterl asks us to rethink accounts of race, slavery, and national identity within a framework of the Americas. In revealing the hemispheric underpinnings of the South's master class of slaveholders, he sheds important new light on American history. This is also a wonderful book to read. Guterl is a remarkably elegant, at times virtuosic, writer.

Matthew Guterl
 is an Associate Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies and Director of the American Studies Program.

Colleen Ryan-Scheutz

Sex, the Self, and the Sacred:Women in the Cinema of Pier Paolo Pasolini

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Born in Bologna in 1922, filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini was one of the most controversial European intellectuals of his time. Pasolini believed the 'authentic' Italy - with its many languages and subcultures, its ancient roots and idiosyncrasies - to be disappearing before his eyes, and he used his films to denounce the social and ideological forces he felt were responsible for this detrimental change. Rather than campaign with overtly political films, however, Pasolini vested ideological impetus in key film characters, many of whom were women.

Drawing upon Italy's distinct socio-cultural history as well as feminist and psychoanalytic approaches to film, Colleen Ryan-Scheutz explores the ways in which Pasolini's representations of women reveal his concerns about purity in modern Italian society. Ryan-Scheutz demonstrates how Pasolini used his female figures onscreen to critique the ruling class from a decisively different perspective and propose a range of alternatives to the increasingly sterile and capitalistic world of Italy and the West. Providing a new critical approach to Pasolini studies, Sex, the Self, and the Sacred brings psychoanalytic and feminist theories to bear on the auteur's lifelong poetics and theoretical writings on cinema.

Colleen Ryan-Scheutz
 is an Associate Professor of Italian.

Andrew H. Miller

The Burdens of Perfection:On Ethics and Reading in Nineteenth-century British Literature

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"In some moods, or for some people, the desire to improve can seem so natural as to be banal. The impulse drives forward so much in our culture that it can color our thoughts and shape our actions without being much noticed. But in other moods, or for other people, this strenuous desire becomes all too noticeable, and its demands crushing. It can then drive a sleepless attention to ourselves, a desolate evaluation of what we have been and what we are."

— The Burdens of Perfection

Literary criticism has, in recent decades, rather fled from discussions of moral psychology, and for good reasons, too. Who would not want to flee the hectoring moralism with which it is so easily associated-portentous, pious, humorless? But in protecting us from such fates, our flight has had its costs, as we have lost the concepts needed to recognize and assess much of what distinguished nineteenth-century British literature. That literature was inescapably ethical in orientation, and to proceed as if it were not ignores a large part of what these texts have to offer, and to that degree makes less reasonable the desire to study them, rather than other documents from the period, or from other periods.

Such are the intuitions that drive The Burdens of Perfection, a study of moral perfectionism in nineteenth-century British culture. Reading the period's essayists (Mill, Arnold, Carlyle), poets (Browning and Tennyson), and especially its novelists (Austen, Dickens, Eliot, and James), Andrew H. Miller provides an extensive response to Stanley Cavell's contribution to ethics and philosophy of mind. In the process, Miller offers a fresh way to perceive the Victorians and the lingering traces their quests for improvement have left on readers.

"The Burdens of Perfection is one of those very rare books that stimulates me to rethink almost everything I know about Victorian literature, and a good deal beyond. In analyzing the nineteenth-century preoccupation with perfectionism, Andrew H. Miller offers a rich, compelling study of the ethical allure of narration--our appeal to narrative as a means of understanding ourselves, our relations to other people, and what we might become. As he explores the burdens of perfection, Miller offers compelling insights into a broad range of contemporary literary and philosophical reflection, and develops a remarkable and distinctive critical voice of his own."

— James Eli Adams, Cornell University

"Andrew H. Miller's book can't help but seem path-clearing. The Burdens of Perfection is as fresh as it is learned; original in its conception, structure, and emphasis; and notable for the gait and responsiveness of its lucid, meditative prose. Miller's scholarship is seasoned and searching, both assured and bravely speculative, with the readings of fiction often elating in the compressed rightness of their surprise and the exemplarity of their selection."

— Garrett Stewart, James O. Freedman Professor of Letters, University of Iowa

Andrew H. Miller is 
a Professor of English.

Michael Morgan

Shame and Responsibility: Living in an Age of Genocide

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Michael L.Morgan is a historian of philosophy whose research ranges from Ancient Greek Philosophy to religious thought and political theory in the twentieth century. He also has interests in literature and film, as well as in ethics, political theory, and the philosophy of religion. He has published widely in modern Jewish philosophy, from Spinoza and Mendelssohn to Buber and Rosenzweig, and he has worked widely on intellectual responses to the Nazi Holocaust and contemporary Jewish philosophy.

Dr. Morgan’s book Discovering Levinas (Cambridge University Press, 2007), places the work of Emmanuel Levinas within the philosophical world of Anglo-American philosophy. In Discovering Levinas, he shows how this thinker faces in novel and provocative ways central philosophical problems of twentieth-century philosophy and religious thought.

His most recent book, On Shame (Routledge, 2008), deals with shame as a response to genocide and the implications of such shame for moral and political conduct. On Shame points to ways in which we can and should use this powerful emotion to address and act against atrocities in the modern world, from the Holocaust to Darfur.

Michael Morgan
 is a Chancellor's Professor of Philosophy and Jewish Studies.