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The O'Shea Report: November 2001

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 based on his report for November 2001.

Carole Straw, professor of history, has just come out with two papers. The first, a transcript of a talk she gave at the American Historical Association, is entitled "Jerome's Heroic Christianity: The Virgin as Martyr." How can you resist a paper that begins: "Alone in the desert, a friend of scorpions, Jerome marshals every weapon in his battle against sin: fasting, vigils, sackcloth, and tears. Still visions of dancing girls burn his mind with lust."? Especially when the second sentence is footnoted. You can't, and you shouldn't. The second, entitled "Gregory, Cassian, and the Cardinal Vices" is on sins: the seven deadly ones. It is a dazzling comparison of how the two church fathers, Cassian and Gregory I, viewed sin and the human condition. Cassian listed eight vices in order of combat: gluttony, fornication, avarice, anger, sadness, acedia, vainglory, and pride. Gregory elevates pride to the queen of the vices and lists seven vices in reverse order to Cassian's--pride, vainglory, envy, anger, sadness, avarice, gluttony, and lust--each giving birth to the succeeding, each generating subsidiary sins, and each being capable of being rationalized as virtuous by the hypocrite.

A review article by Aaron Ellison, Marjorie Fisher Professor of Environmental Studies, and his colleague, Nick Gotelli, has just appeared in Trends in Ecology & Evolution. They review recent work on carnivorous plants. One learns that there are more than 600 species, that flypaper (sticky) traps have separately evolved in more than five different plant families, and that a number of interesting mathematical models have been proposed to model population growth of carnivorous plants.

Another interesting review article that has just appeared is by Lynn Morgan, professor of anthropology: "Community Participation in Health: Perpetual Allure, Persistent Challenge" in Health Policy and Planning. She reviews the debates about community participation among anthropologists, epidemiologists and other health care professionals, and examines what constitutes participation and why one might want it. There are lots of examples drawn from Latin America. A Portuguese translation of the paper will appear shortly.

Indira Peterson, professor of Asian studies, is one of the editors for the Norton Anthology of World Literature, Second Edition. Part I has just appeared and Part II is due out soon. Peterson has added new and more translations in the Indian epic selections and has rewritten headnotes for most everything else. Part I also includes poems from Peterson's own 1989 work, Poems to Siva, in the section on the mystical poetry of India. In Part II of the Norton Anthology, Peterson adds a whole new section on Rabindranath Tagore's poetry, with a new intro, and Anita Desai's wonderful short story "The Rooftop Dwellers." (Desai has taught at Mount Holyoke.)

I have just received new papers from Tom Wartenberg, professor of philosophy: "Humanizing the Beast: King Kong and the Representation of Black Male Sexuality," and Karen Remmler, associate professor of German studies and codirector of the Weissman Center for Leadership: "Teaching the Shoah in Context: A Course on Jewish German Relations."

Sharon Stranford, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, has received a grant of $153,332 from the National Institutes of Health AREA program for her project CD+8 Cell Antiviral Response vs. Murine Leukemia Virus. The project will allow her to work with a number of students over the next few summers.

Chris Benfey, professor of English and codirector of the Weissman Center for Leadership, has contributed an introduction and one of three essays to a sumptuous book of Jerry Liebling's photographs of the places of Emily Dickinson's life: the Homestead, and her brother's place, the Evergreens. The book is entitled The Dickinsons of Amherst. Benfey also has a superb essay entitled "Flawed Perfection" in the November 5 New Republic. It examines two recent biographies of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

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