O'Shea Report: December 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 from his report
for December 2001.
a CD directed and produced by Charles Flachs, associate
professor of dance, has just appeared. It consists of music for
the intermediate and advanced ballet lesson. Susanne Anderson
is the pianist. It was recorded in Pratt Hall and is quite lovely.
Incidentally, Charles and associate professor of dance Rose Flachs
are founding members of the Council of Organized Researchers and
Pedagogical Studies (CORPS) de Ballet International, Inc., an
organization devoted to the development of ballet in higher education.
Island by English professor Corinne Demas has been
selected as a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award. This
is the first time that these awards have been offered (by the
Massachusetts Center for the Book, which is affiliated with the
Center for the Book in the Library of Congress); they go to authors
who live in Massachusetts or who write a book about a subject
and Paintings, a collection of writings by Robert Herbert,
professor emeritus of humanities, has been published by Yale University
Press. In his review of Herbert's book in the New York
Review of Books (Oct. 4, 2001), John Russell writes, "Almost
anyone who thinks about, let alone writes about, the drawings
and paintings of Seurat, is subject from time to time to a hallucination.
Somewhere in the next room---or so it seems---there can be heard
the tap, tap, tap of Robert L. Herbert getting down to bedrock
Earlier this year,
I promised a fuller account of Ecrits sous le voile; romancieres
Algeriennes francophones, ecriture et identite (Writing under
the Veil: Women Algerian Francophone Novelists, Their Writing
and Identity) by Laurence Huughe, visiting assistant professor
of French. Huughe studies the works of a number of Mahgrebi novelists:
Assia Djebar, Leila Sebbar, Nina Bouraoui, whom I never read before,
but who seem wonderful. Reading the chapter on Leila Sebbar suggests
lots of parallels between the issues of eroticism, gaze, orientalism,
and the dominant culture in Leila Sebbar's Sherazade trilogy and
the last chapter ("The Forbidden City") of associate professor
of art Tony Lee's book Picturing Chinatown. Huughe is interested
in the interplay, sometimes unconscious, between gaze and veil,
being seen and seeing, in the works of the novelists she studies.
What she is writing about is especially timely today---the interaction
between a Muslim society and a dominant Christian one.
The Flight of the
Romanovs: A Family Saga by John Perry and Constantine Pleshakov,
visiting assistant professor of Russian and Eurasian studies,
was named an alternate selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club.
Sandy Postel, visiting
senior lecturer in environmental studies, has a piece in
the September-October issue of Foreign Policy entitled
"Dehydrating Conflict," about water and security issues. Another
of her articles,"Troubled Waters," was selected for inclusion
in the 2001 edition of Best American Science and Nature Writing
(Houghton-Mifflin, 2001), which has just come out.
Theory, by Kenneth Tucker, associate professor of sociology,
has just appeared with Blackwell Publishers. Tucker begins with
a description of the world in which the classical sociological
theorists worked: the long nineteenth century (1789-1917), with
attention not only to industrialization and urbanization, but
also to colonization, gender, science, identity, and the like.
He then summarizes and sympathetically assesses the work of the
big three: Marx, Weber, and Durkheim and argues that the classical
canon must also take account of the work of Freud, Simmel, Mead,
DuBois, and Gilman, using modern examples (the fascination with
the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, the demonstrations against the WTO)
to illustrate what the big three cannot explain. Tucker argues
one must assess this more broadly understood canon within the
context in which it was developed and contends that the best theory
in this canon illuminates the context in a new way and points
to themes that transcend context. It's a lovely argument. Moreover,
if you have ever been brutalized by sociological prose, this book
is for you. It reads as if it were meant to be understood.
"Women in Troubadour
Song: Of the Comtessa and the Vilana" (on the Comtessa de Dia
and Marcabru) in Women & Music 1998 by Margaret
Switten, Class of 1926 Professor of Medieval and Eighteenth-Century
French Language and Literature, and Fredric Cheyette, a professor
of history at Amherst, has been selected as the October article
of the month for the medieval Feminist Index site. The article
examines two famous Occitan songs, "A chantar m'er," by the Comtessa
de Dia (fl. late 12th century), and "L'autrier jost'una sebissa,"
by Marcabru (fl. 1127-1150) with a view to addressing the question
of what "feminine" voices we hear when we listen to a trobairitz
song, or a song by a male troubadour with a prominent female speaker.
Recent criticism has tended to limit women's activity, arguing
that troubadour song belongs to a society where women are subordinate
and without any political role of their own. The article shows
why this historical assumption is false and, by analyzing the
songs in the light of historical evidence, reintegrates them into
a social setting where the language of power relations and the
language of love are fused into a discourse used on equal footing
by both women and men. This grants to women their own voices and
allows them to make music. Check out the listing at http://www.haverford.edu/library/reference/mschaus/mfi/month.html.
visiting assistant professor in the art department, received an
NEH Fellowship for her proposal The Hôtel de Soubise:
Art and Ambition in Eighteenth-Century France. Her proposal
starts by recounting a visit (in 1741) by King Louis XV's Swedish
ambassador to the princess and prince de Rohan at the de Rohan's
residence the Hôtel de Soubise in the Marais in Paris. The
prince received the ambassador in his bedchamber and the two started
to talk. The princess was in the adjoining bath chamber and called
out to the ambassador, summoning him to the door. Before the princess's
maid closed the door, the ambassador was transfixed by a glimpse
of a body so lovely that it "could have purified the water, for
never have I seen anything more limpid." The hostess and visitor
continued to chat through the door for a half an hour. The ambassador
reported with pride on this incident in a letter to his wife.
Hellman writes that this whole episode "begs numerous questions
about the confluence of spatial and visual experience, social
codes and aristocratic self-presentation." She hypothesizes that
this is one incident that illustrates the way in which the Rohan-Soubise
family used the hotel to social climb: to attain a rare, highly
privileged form of noble status known as prince étranger
(nobles who used to rule something) -- subjects and dynasties
understood to have a capacity for independent rulership. She proposes
a highly interdisciplinary approach to establish this.
I received a copy
of a Farsi language journal Negah (which means "perspective")
that has a Farsi translation of an article by professor of economics
Fred Moseley ("The Rate of Profit and Economic Stagnation
in the United States Economy"). About all that I can make out
is the bibliography, two photos, and the graph of the rate of
profit on the first page. This brings to eight the number of languages
into which Moseley's work has been translated. (Including English,
his work has also appeared in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German,
Swedish, and Greek). I'm not sure if this is a record for most
languages in which one's work appears. (Other contenders would
be Mary Kay Campbell, Class of 1929 Virginia Apgar Professor
of Chemistry, and Indira Peterson, professor of Asian studies).