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The O'Shea Report: May 2002

At every monthly faculty meeting during the school year, Dean of Faculty Donal O'Shea presents brief overviews of recent publications and other achievements by the Mount Holyoke faculty. Here are excerpts from his report for May 2002.

Assistant Professor of Music David Sanford has won the Samuel Barber Rome Prize Fellowship, one of the two Rome Prizes awarded to musical composers. This award will allow him to stay at the American Academy in Rome for eleven months with a group of twenty-five to thirty scholars in other areas of the humanities. These hyper-prestigious fellowships cover travel and lodging, and provide a stipend. The list of composers (Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, John Eaton, Lukas Foss, John Harbison, Roger Sessions, Ellen Taafe Zwilich, to name a few) who have won the Rome Prize reads like an outline of twentieth-century American music. David plans to compose seven to ten contemporary works for large jazz orchestra. The works will be concerned with the jazz orchestra as a palette, not a tradition, and will explore contemporary musical directions largely untouched by composers associated with jazz modernism. As one of the referees for his work wrote: "David Sanford is the real thing, a composer in the American tradition of brash, open-eared exploration: no material is too exalted or too debased for him to transform into his living art."

Darlington’s Fall, the novel-in-verse by Emily Dickinson Lecturer in the Humanities Brad Leithauser, has just appeared with Knopf. It is utterly absorbing and impossible to put down. Part love story, part rueful reflection on the single-mindedness that makes a great scholar, it tells the story of a gifted lepidopterist whose career is abruptly foreshortened by a great tragedy. I succumbed to the temptation to race through to see what happens, returning to read it a second time at a more leisurely pace. In a way that is difficult to describe, the verse works with the subject matter to make the book more legible. Loads of insect lore seem somehow lighter when rendered in verse, and transitions that would be impossible in prose seem natural. My favorite is the one that skips from piano lessons to a few stanzas on parasites beginning with the line "… If your gut hosts a two-foot guinea worm …" No biologist will be able to resist this book. Each chapter begins with a lovely sketch, twelve in all, by Brad’s brother, Mark.

Wei Chen, Mary E. Woolley Assistant Professor of Chemistry, has hit the jackpot. In addition to the NSF grant that she received last month, she has been awarded a grant of $35,000 by the Petroleum Research Fund for her project "Probing the fundamentals of wetting."

The Smith Richardson Foundation has awarded $103,290 to Associate Professor of Russian Studies Stephen Jones for his project "U. S. Policy in Georgia and the Caucasus: Four Case Studies" to begin July 1, 2002. The grant will allow Stephen to research and write a book that will evaluate U.S. national interests in Georgia and Georgia’s role in U.S. policies toward Iran, Turkey, and Russia. The book will assess the history of U.S. policy in Georgia since 1991 and analyze the arguments for more or less U.S. commitment. It will focus on four vital areas of U.S. interest: oil and gas development, ethnic conflict resolution, Russian interference in Georgian sovereignty, and South Caucasian regional cooperation.

Just this morning, I received a copy of Judaism in Practice: From the Middle Ages through the Early Modern Period, the new book by Lawrence Fine, Irene Kaplan Leiwant Professor of Jewish Studies. It appeared last fall with Princeton University Press. It looks great. More next September …

Associate Professor of Art Anthony Lee has been awarded one of three Millicent C. McIntosh Fellowships for recently tenured faculty in the humanities by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. This is the first year that these fellowships have been offered. They are underwritten by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. Tony’s award is for two years and his project is entitled When the Cobbling Began: Photography, Visual Culture, and Chinese Shoemakers in a Nineteenth-Century New England Factory Town.

Taking Haiti by Assistant Professor of History Mary Renda has won the Stuart L. Bernath Prize of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations for the best first book on the history of American foreign relations. The purpose of the award is to recognize and encourage distinguished research and writing by scholars of American foreign relations. The citation for the award lauds Mary’s use of diaries, letters, memoirs, poems, field campaign reports, congressional testimony, military recruitment materials, and photographs to examine the emerging culture of U.S. imperialism and to deconstruct the then prevailing discourse of paternalism.

Karen Remmler, associate professor of German and codirector of the Weissman Center for Leadership, and her collaborator A. Eshel of Stanford have edited a special issue of the German Quarterly entitled Sites of Memory. Karen has contributed an introductory essay laying out the issues and locating them within current German studies. She explains that the volume deals with the interplay between place and memory, exploring "not only specific sites of memory, but the process by which sites become memorable." She goes on to raise issues such as divergent memories and the pitfalls of applying discourses associated with spatial phenomena to forms of cultural memory that are conveyed through spatial metaphors. With another collaborator (Leslie Morris of the University of Minnesota) she has edited another book, Contemporary Jewish Writing in Germany: An Anthology (University of Nebraska Press, 2002). I have not yet had a chance to read it, but it looks terrific. Karen and her coworker have focused on four current

authors: Katja Behrens, Maxim Biller, Esther Dischereit, and Barbara Honigmann, translating several substantial pieces of each into English and contributing a long introductory essay. More later. Finally, Karen has contributed the lead article, "Encounters across the Void: Rethinking Approaches to German-Jewish Symbioses," to a collection on German-Jewish symbiosis (L. Morris, J. Zipes, eds. Unlikely History: The Changing German-Jewish Symbiosis. 1945-2000, Palgrave, 2000). More on this, too, later.

Michelle Stephens, assistant professor of English, has been awarded a summer stipend of $5,000 by the National Endowment for the Humanities for her project, Transnational Sensibility and Caribbean Intellectuals in the Early Twentieth Century.

Professor of English Corinne Demas has continued to maintain her extraordinary output with two new children’s books. The first, The Magic Apple, is a retelling of an old Jewish folktale in which a dying princess is rescued by three brothers. In Corinne’s account, a dying prince is rescued by three sisters (Ella, Bella, and Stella). The second, The Boy Who Was Generous with Salt, tells the story of a nine-year-old boy who was hired on as a cook on a fishing vessel out of Wellfleet. The prose is spare, the story is based on a real one, and the illustrations by Michael Hays are gorgeous. Highly recommended!

Professor of Art Marion Miller has a show entitled "Horses Indoors, Part II" at the First Street Gallery in New York (526 West 26th Street, New York, New York, 10001) May 7–25. It’s going to be fabulous.

Alycia Smith-Howard, visiting assistant professor of theatre arts, and a group of four MHC theatre students have been selected to participate in the Festivale Internazionale del Teatro Corto in Arezzo, Italy, in May. They will present Strindberg’s one-act play The Mother and premier Ophelia Machine by Rebecca Short ’02. They join a number of Italian schools, Trinity College (Dublin), and three other American institutions.

Associate Professor of History Lynda Morgan was accepted into a hugely competitive seminar on slavery debates at Columbia University.

Assistant Professor of Spanish Kristin Pesola was accepted into the NEH Summer Institute for college and university teachers at Arizona State University entitled, "Hispanic Gendering of the Americas: Beyond Cultural and Geographical Boundaries."

Assistant Professor of Japanese Naoko Nemoto was accepted into the National Foreign Language Resource Center’s summer institute "Pragmatics in the Japanese as a Foreign Language Classroom."

Michigan State University has selected Associate Professor of Art Nancy Campbell and her course for its program in Hikone, Japan. She will teach it there in spring 2003.

--The April 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The March 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The February 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The December 2001 O'Shea Report more>
--The November 2001 O'Shea Report more>

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