of Faculty's Report, April 2006
every monthly faculty meeting during the school year, the Dean
of Faculty presents brief overviews of recent publications
and other achievements by the Mount Holyoke faculty. Here are excerpts
from the April 2006 report of Donal O'Shea, Dean of Faculty.
of Russian studies and chair of Russian and Eurasian studies Stephen
Jones's book Socialism in Georgian Colors: The European
Road to Social Democracy, 1883--1917, which has appeared
with Harvard University Press, traces the evolution of socialism
in Georgia almost year by year from the formation of the first
Marxist group in 1883 to the election of Social Democrats a third
of a century later at the time of the Russian Revolution. It
is a spectacular piece of scholarship: Stephen seems to have
read every socialist newspaper and publication of the time, and
to have exhaustively combed five archives spread over three countries.
Located between the Black Sea and the Caspian sea just to the
north of Turkey (then the Ottoman Empire) and Iran, Georgia is
perhaps the most culturally and ethnically diverse area in the
former Soviet Union. The evolution of socialism in Georgia took
a distinctively different path than in other regions, helping
it throw off colonial influence and develop a distinctive national
identity while at the same time allowing it to comfortably be
a part of a larger empire. Stephen's wholly satisfying narrative
navigates a complex stew of different ethnicities, different
social classes, border crossing, empire, nationalism, and colonialism.
As ambitious as it is spectacular, it is the first of a projected
three volumes that take us to Georgia of today, which is surely
a moving target. The whole project deals with a story that has
not been told, one that is of great importance for our understanding
of socialism in this century, and one of great salience today
given the successfully contested elections the year before last
that brought Saakashvili and the National Movement Party into
power. Stephen is nearly finished with the second volume.
At the end
of last semester, professor of geology and director of the Center
for the Environment Lauret Savoy's book Living
with the Changing California Coast appeared with the University
of California Press. Coedited (and mostly cowritten) with G.
Griggs and K. Patsch, it is a far more impressive achievement
than Lauret claims ("Oh that," she says, "that
was just my master's thesis."). Moving over different time
and spatial scales, the book presents a wonderful, and highly
readable, account of the changing nature of the California coastline.
You can learn about El Niño and coastal storms, about
emergency response and building permits, about highways, airports,
sewage treatment facilities, and residential communities. Different
chapters cover each region of the coast, ranging from the Oregon
coast to the Mexican border in the south. Other chapters handle
more macroscopic concerns such as evolution and coastline, policy,
and erosion. Ostensibly about California, the book is an evenhanded
and sympathetic account of the issues that those who wish to
live and work near any coast need to consider. The book will
interest far more than geologists, geographers, and ecologists:
policy makers, government officials, developers, home buyers
(or renters), and snowbirds will find it invaluable.
another book of Lauret's, this one coedited with E. and J. Moores
and entitled Bedrock: Writers on the Wonders of Geology,
has just appeared with Trinity University Press. This book reflects
Lauret's love of language, of land, and of the interaction of
time and timelessness. It contains over 70 extracts of writing
from different times and cultures loosely arranged in nine chapters
with titles such as "Deep Time," "The Work of
Ice," "Volcanoes and Eruptions," and "Wind
and Desert," each introduced by a poem and a short essay.
The poems are striking ("Dark as if cloven from darkness
/ were those mountains// Night-angled fold on fold / they rose
in mist and sunlight//"), the essays succinct summaries
of the geology and writings that follow, and the writings are … glorious.
No other word will do. They range from the letter Pliny's nephew
sent to the historian Tacitus about the loss of his uncle in
the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 C.E. that buried Pompeii, to echoes
of Diné and Lakota voices, to an early poem of Langston
Hughes, to Darwin, Gould, Ondaatje, and LeGuin. The whole effect,
the gestalt, is one of balance and wonder and is deeply satisfying.
has been instrumental in reissuing her father Willard's Savoy's
novel Alien Land. This latter appeared in 1949 and is
an incredibly moving and heartbreaking tale of a biracial man's
coming of age in prewar America. The writing is beautiful, and
the complexities of race, family, and location are haunting.
Part of the dedication reads: "To the child which my wife
and I may someday have -- and to the children of each American
-- in the fervent hope that at least one shall be brought to
see more clearly the need for simple humanity; that at least
one shall because of its pages meet his fellows free of jaundice
which hardens the heart against the importunities of the soul." It
is difficult to resist the temptation to read autobiography into
the novel, and to see origins of the child in the father. But
it is clear that her father would have understood that the love
of language and humanity that echoes through in Bedrock realizes
his hope and continues in a profound way his work.
Luce Assistant Professor of Mathematics Jessica Sidman and
associate professor of chemistry Wei Chen both
received the NSF grants I in described last month's report. Sidman's
is entitled Computational and Commutative Algebra; Chen's
is entitled Impregnation of Nanoparticles in a Biocompatible
Hydrogel Matrix. Both involve cutting-edge science and mathematics.
of Faculty's Report Index