O'Shea Report: October 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 October 2003.
codirector of SummerMath and lecturer in mathematics, and
Charlene Morrow, codirector of SummerMath and lecturer in
psychology and education, have received a $9,500 Educational Opportunity
Grant (McNair Grant) from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to
provide full and partial scholarships to students in SummerMath.
Dyar, associate professor of astronomy and geology, has
received unofficial word that her collaborative
proposal "Taking Apart the Rocks of Mars" has been funded
by NASA. The award will go to Brown University, with a subcontract
to MHC for curricular development over a three-year period. More
details will follow when the award becomes official.
A new book by Anthony
Lee, associate professor of art and chair of American studies,
and his colleague, John Pulz of the University of Kansas, entitled
"Diane Arbus: Family Albums," appeared last month from
Yale University Press. As the preface by Mount Holyoke College
Art Museum Director Marianne Doezema explains, the book
was produced in conjunction with a major exhibit of Diane Arbus
photographs at Mount Holyoke. As Tony points out, the circumstances
of Arbuss life and death tend to color interpretations of
her work. Pulz and he, however, very convincingly frame Arbus
and her work in relation both to the changing market for photographs
and to the development of Arbuss own style. Tony does not
mince words in describing what he thinks of the main extant biography
of Arbus (not much) and the reticence of the Arbus estate in displaying
her work. His far-ranging discussion examines, among other things,
the influence of the photographers Walker Evans and August Sander
on Arbus, what Arbus thought of families and the mythologizing
of the Jewish American family, and the actual details of how she
photographed one specific family (the Matthaei family). This is
a really fine book and it is clear, even to a non-expert such
as myself, that it will be essential for future scholars who are
working on Arbus or on the photography of the 1960s and 1970s.
The authors had to overcome a number of setbacks that would have
defeated a less determined pair. The Arbus estate would not let
them publish photographs held by the Spencer Museum of Art, and
one of the Matthaei daughters would not allow her picture to be
reproduced. However, as readers of Tonys previous book "Picturing
Chinatown" know, he is a master at exploiting absence and
the book does not suffer, but in some weird way actually gains.
William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Latin American and Caribbean
Studies, is arguably the leading authority in the world on the
thought and work of the Cuban journalist, intellectual, and poet
Nicolas Guillen. Enormously influential and well-known in Cuba
and the Caribbean, Guillen is not as well-known within this country
and the UK. None have done more than Roberto to rectify this.
In a prolific burst timed to celebrate the centennial of Guillens
birth last year, Roberto has given us not one but three books.
The first, "El Appelido: My Last Name and Other Poems,"
which appeared with Mango Publishing, is an anthology of Guillens
work, ranging over all periods of his life, from youth, through
the revolution, into old age. Roberto edits, introduces, and largely
translates the material. The work is stunning, especially to one
such as myself, who does not read Spanish, and who is therefore
encountering Guillens poetry for the first time. Robertos
translations are often amazing. Consider, for example, his translation
of the last stanza of the poem "Epigramas:" "The dancer
that here you see / has rare ineptness as his mete: / he ever
destroys with his head / all that he does with his feet." A second
book, "The Great Zoo," is an edited translation of Guillens
1967 postrevolutionary bestiary. Deeply satiric, it has some of
the most ironic last lines that I have ever encountered. Finally,
the second edition of "Man-Making Words: Selected Poems of
Nicolas Guillen," translated and edited by Roberto and D.
A. McMurray, appeared in mid-September. This collection contains
a very useful introduction to Guillens work by Roberto and
a number of striking longer poems, many written in exile. In particular,
it includes a set of beautiful elegies originally published in
Argentina just before Batista fled Cuba. Roberto remarks that
some readers will find them too heavy, too concentrated, and too
lacking in subtlety. Not this one. They come straight from the
heart and they are gorgeous. To read these collections is to understand
Guillens appeal and his influence on Robertos thoughts
on how race, racism, and history have shaped, and continue to
shape, Afro-Latino identity and perspective in the Americas.
A book by Keti
Kintsirashvili, visiting Fulbright scholar in Russian and
Eurasian studies this spring, entitled "David Kakabadze"
has just appeared with Arbat Press. The book is about the life
and work of David Kakabadze, the early twentieth-century Georgian
artist. More about this later.
A ton of papers appeared
over the summer, most of which I have yet to read (and have no
hope of understanding).
George Cobb, Robert
L. Rooke Professor of Mathematics and Statistics, has a paper
in the American Mathematical Monthly with Yung-Pin Chen
entitled "An Application of Markov Chain Monte Carlo to Community
Ecology." This is notable not just because the AMM is the
most widely read mathematics journal in the world (and therefore
one of the hardest in which to place a paper), but because the
paper is wonderful. It recounts the application of a new area
of mathematics to a hotly contested problem that arose as a result
of some of Jared Diamonds (of "Guns, Gems, and Steel"
fame) work on bird species in the New Hebrides (now Vanuata).
It contains a number of new results obtained jointly with REU
students from Amherst, Lewis and Clark, Mount Holyoke, and New
professor of geology and chair of earth and environment, has published
papers on the following subjects: ediacaran fossils (in Southeastern
Geology); trilobites (in Northeastern Geology and Environmental
Science); the appearance of complex life (in Earth System
Science); the evolution of large predators (in the collection
Kelley et al (eds), Predator-Prey Interations in the Fossil
Record, Kluwer); and Teilhard de Chardins notion of
the noosphere (Teilhard Studies).
assistant professor of environmental studies, has had a number
of papers appear on various aspects of the ecology of peat bogs.
In one (in Hydrological Processes), she studies the effect
of snow on the emission of carbon dioxide, a topic of obvious
importance as global warming reduces snow cover in the temperate
professor of Latin American studies and history, had two articles
appear this summer. One (in The Americas) presents an instance
in which a group of slaves negotiated better conditions with their
Dominican masters and the very curious legal document that resulted.
The other (in Clarence Smith and Topik, eds, "The Global Coffee
Economy in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, 1500 - 1989,"
Cambridge University Press) is a cautionary analysis of an instance
in Costa Rica in which small coffee growers were able to garner
a large share of coffee production in an area in which any rational
person would have predicted they would fail. Lowells analysis
shows that the commonly received wisdom about the dynamics involved
is false in this instance and, he maintains, in many other twentieth-century
Gary Gillis, assistant
professor of biological sciences, and two colleagues published
a really neat paper (in Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology,
Part A) exemplifying the interplay between the construction
of mathematical/physical models of muscular systems and the understanding
of muscular action. Another paper of Garys (with A. Biewener
in Bels et al (eds), "Vertebrate Biomechanics and Evolution,"
Oxford) explores the range of activities that a single muscle
can perform in the same animal. The understanding that this is
so has only recently emerged and become generally acknowledged
and represents a mini-paradigm shift in the field.
assistant professor of psychology and education, and Janice
Hudgings, Clare Booth Luce Assistant Professor of Physics,
recount their experiences (in Journal of College Science Teaching)
constructing and using a Web site as an experimental supplement
to a physics class. The site allowed students to explore the careers
of women in physics-related fields. They hoped use of the site
would make students more reflective about their own career aspirations
and more critical of the stereotype of physicist as nerdy white
male. Their findings are quite hopeful.
Geoff Sumi, associate
professor of classics, has a great paper (in American Journal
of Philology) on the theatrical elements of Roman funerals
of the rich and famous. Actors impersonated the deceased, imitating
and even mocking him or her. (This sounds better than Irish wakes.)
He argues, intriguingly, that the purpose of such displays was
apotropaic (and if, as was the case for me, you dont know
what this word means, you will have to read the article).
Scott Brown, director,
Career Development Center, has published a number of articles
in professional journals devoted to student affairs. He has an
article on a particular research method for understanding student
experience and an article on class rings (thats right, rings).
professor of Russian and chair of Russian and Eurasian studies,
writes about women, sexuality, and family in Tolstoy (in Orwin,
ed, "The Cambridge Companion to Tolstoy," Cambridge), with
particular emphasis on the complexities of Anna Kareninas
Anna. Among other things, Edwina notes that Anna is the pinnacle
of Tolstoys writing about human desire and sexuality, and
that he subsequently avoids serious engagement with these issues.
professor and chair of economics and chair of European studies,
and his collaborator, Bob Buchele, contribute the lead article
to the IEBM Handbook of Economics. They provide an overview
of employment relations, pointing out the shortcomings of neoclassical
economics, and giving an overview of worker representation in
North America, western Europe, and Japan.
associate director, Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal
Arts, has a couple of short articles on women with disabilities
(in Women in Higher Education: An Encyclopedia) and disability
access (in Higher Education in the United States: An Encyclopedia).
Mary E. Woolley Assistant Professor of Chemistry, has published
two papers with some colleagues and his students reporting on
investigations of some molecular building blocks (certain diimides
and triimides) that they prepared before Carr went off-line. One
paper (in Organic Letters) reports on the electrochemical
properties of these blocks (they are pretty amazing) and the other
(in Journal of the American Chemical Society) on some new,
and very promising, liquid crystal phases in molecules made of
Two articles by Bob
Schwartz, professor of history, have just appeared. One uses
GIS (geographical information systems), a technology combining
computerized mapping and data analysis, to study the role that
railways played in rural development in Victorian England. Some
of the results that he obtains are rather different from what
one would naively expect. Another paper, written for a Festschrift
to honor a colleagues retirement, combines a literary analysis
of a curious eighteenth-century novel, dismissed by critics as
not worth the effort it took to read it, with Bobs own work
on rural France to draw conclusions about eighteenth-century attitudes.
It is impossible to read the paper and not become very curious
about the author of the novel, Nicolas Restif de la Bretonne,
who seems to have been quite a character.
visiting associate professor of Italian, has won a Fellows
Fellowship (in addition to the fellowship from the Bogliasco Foundation)
for the spring 2004 semester to support her work on film studies.
--The September 2003
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--The February 2002 O'Shea Report more>
--The December 2001 O'Shea Report more>
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