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Dean of Faculty’s Report, October 2005

At 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 October 2005 report of Donal O'Shea, Dean of Faculty

BOOKS

Eva Paus, professor of economics and director of the Center for Global Initiatives, has published a wonderful book with Macmillan Palgrave entitled Foreign Investment, Development, and Globalization: Can Costa Rica Become Ireland? Fascinating for me, at least, is the account of the interplay among economic and governmental policies that have so transformed Ireland’s economy and standard of living over the last two decades. The book contains tons of interesting data as well as gentle definitions of words that one hears a lot, but seldom sees defined (e.g., “development,” “foreign direct investment,” “value chain”). In investigating the question asked by the title, the book takes a comparative approach, stressing not only the results of different strategies, but how the same strategy can play out differently as global dynamics shift.

Assistant professor of religion Michael Penn’s book Kissing Christians: Ritual and Community in the Late Ancient Church has just appeared with the University of Pennsylvania Press and was already featured in the October 8 edition of the Boston Globe. Michael recounts the phenomenon of kissing in the Church from the second to fifth centuries (apparently there was lots!) and explores the roots of kissing practices in Roman and Greek times. The book uses an impressive range of inter- and cross-disciplinary techniques to explore the ritual, community-binding, and cultural significance of the ritual kiss and the cultural, social, and religious roles it played. The chapter headings are great (some examples: “Kissing Basics,” “Difference and Distinction: The Exclusive Kiss,” and, my favorite, “Boundary Violations: Purity, Promiscuity, and Betrayal”).

The books of Constantine Pleshakov, visiting assistant professor of Russian and Eurasian studies, keep getting better. There was the Russian-language potboiler that included a gruesome torture scene in Chicopee and language that surpassed the limits of my battered Schoenhof’s samizdat Russian-English dictionary of colloquialisms; a gripping account of the Romanovs; and an enthralling, sardonic account of the Tsar’s first and last armada. Stalin’s Folly: The Tragic First Ten Days of WWII on the Eastern Front appeared this summer and is the best yet. Read it and weep. Compulsively quotable and full of short memorable sentences, the book is a devastating portrayal of the Soviet response to the German invasion of 1942. It tells the story of Stalin, the fear he inspired among his own generals, and the staggering incompetence that he elicited as a result. Underscoring the horror is the account of the suffering visited on the Russian people.

Duke University Press has just published associate professor of English Michelle Stephens’s new book Black Empire: The Masculine Global Imaginary of Caribbean Intellectuals in the United States, 1914-1962. It defies easy characterization and shows just how complicated and rich the discipline of English has become. Ostensibly, Michelle studies the writings of three Caribbean intellectuals, Marcus Garvey, Claude McKay, and C. L. R. James, two from Jamaica and one from Trinidad. However, the book is a sympathetic and critical portrayal of the construction of black identity in an age of world war, of revolutionary internationalism, and of mass black migration. It studies how the discourses of the New Negro out of the Harlem Renaissance and the inter-, intra-, and transnational sensibilities of Caribbean intellectuals blended into an imagined transnational black empire. Her canvas is enormous. She studies the authors and their public personae, the interaction of the characters in their fiction, and how notions of nation, identity, race, gender, and agency play out in relation to this “black empire.” She draws on a huge range of scholarship and critical techniques from gender studies, from American studies, and from classical literary analysis. In studying race and empire, her book resonates strikingly with current times: “Close to the turn of a new millennium,” she writes, “what were once colonial ventures are now war games where citizens and foreigners are held hostage by imperial fictions. . . . What kind of space is Guantanamo Bay, Cuba?”

Read the latest by Donald Weber, Lucia, Ruth and Elizabeth MacGregor Professor of English and chair of English and cochair of American studies, Haunted in the New World: Jewish American Culture from Cahan to The Goldbergs, from Indiana University Press, 2005. Part personal memoir, part account of Jewish immigrant life, part account of the entertainment industry from the viewpoint of the entertained, the book is at once a scholarly analysis of low- and highbrow fiction, of film, of television, and of stand-up comedy, and a highly sympathetic, highly critical, and highly personal re-creation of the immigrant and new world experience captured by those artifacts. It deals with memory, with nostalgia, with the relation between creator/artist, his or her work, and the time and place to which he or she belongs (or does not). It teaches us broadly about identity by focusing on one small series of interlocking identities: Jewish, American, New Yorker, Yiddish. It is beautifully, almost lovingly, written. Open it anywhere. Each paragraph is a miniature essay. Each sentence, it seems, stands alone and contains several striking thoughts. Many are minor masterpieces. The book is a tour de force.

GRANTS AND AWARDS

Professor of English Corinne Demas’s book Saying Goodbye to Lulu received the 2004 Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The award is presented annually to recognize books based on their exemplary handling of subject matter pertaining to animals and the environment. The winning authors will be honored at a ceremony at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Chicago this June.

Karen Jacobus, coordinator of health education services, will coordinate Mount Holyoke’s portion of the $399,521 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Program to Reduce Violent Crimes against Women on Campus awarded to the University of Massachusetts and four partners (Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges).

Don O’Shea
10-12-05

Dean of Faculty's Reports Index

Copyright © 2006 Mount Holyoke College. This page created and maintained by Office of Communications. Last modified on June 13, 2006.