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The O'Shea Report: May 2003

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 2003.

Indira Peterson’s book Design and Rhetoric in a Sanskrit Court Epic: The Kiratarjuniya of Bharavi has just appeared with SUNY Press. The title may lead you to think that this is a highly specialized, hyper highbrow manuscript. Don’t be fooled. This beautifully crafted book was clearly written to be read, is completely accessible to non-specialists and would make a lovely gift for anyone, especially yourself. Indira studies a particular poem, Arjuna and the Hunter (the Kiratarjuniya), by the sixth-century poet Bharavi. She studies it first as an exemplar of Sanskrit court poetry, arguing that the classical criticism of such poetry, by focusing on the microstructure of rhyme and stanza, completely misses the context in which such poems were embedded. From the outset, Indira addresses the larger issues the poet faced: how much play to give one element or another, how particular passages might be read within and from outside the traditional discourse, what were the issues of balance and narrative the poet faced, and so on. I particularly recommend the chapter entitled "Landscapes with Women: Bharavi’s Descriptive Art" which analyzes and celebrates the interplay of rather gorgeous landscape imagery with the erotically charged revelry of the asparas, the god Indra’s courtesans. Indira supplies her own verse translations of some of the passages she discusses, including the journey of the asparas. These are lovely, no other word will do, and, even if you didn’t read another word, well worth the price of the book.

Four other books have appeared or are about to appear. Also, a ton of papers. I haven’t had a chance to read the books and one (Martha’s) I haven’t seen. More later.

Martha Ackmann. The Mercury 13: The Untold Story of Thirteen American Women and the Dream of Space Flight will be released on June 3 from Random House.

Chris Benfey. The Great Wave: Gilded Age Misfits, Japanese Eccentrics and the Opening of Old Japan. Random House, New York, 2003.

Larry Fine. Physician of the Soul. Healer of the Cosmos: Isaac Luria and his Kabbalistic Fellowship. Stanford University Press, 2003.

Wen Xing. Translation into Chinese of Robert Henricks' book Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. Academy Press, Beijing, 2003.

Maria Gomez has received a grant of $35,000 from the Petroleum Research Fund for her project Proton Conduction in Perovskite Oxides. Perovskites comprise a diverse class of ceramics which form nice cubic lattices of great interest for both theoretical and practical reasons. In particular, some conduct protons and show great potential for use in developing ever more efficient fuel cells. However, although there are a lot of conjectures, how this proton conduction takes place is poorly understood. Maria plans a systematic study of calcium and barium perovskites with a view to modeling proton transfer, determining whether the size of the lattice contributes to the rate of proton transfer (and conjecturally related phenomena such as transition state energies, vibrational frequencies, and the like), and comparing to experimental data. The computations that she proposes to do, and have her students do, are massive and require a series of ganged-together computers working in parallel. The reviewers' comments are highly laudatory and betray an eagerness to see the results, along with an awareness that these computations push current electronic structure methods to the limit.

--The April 2003 O'Shea Report more>
--The February 2003 O'Shea Report more>
--The December 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The November 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The October 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The September 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The May 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--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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