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PUBLICATIONS Inside Illinois Vol. 21, No. 14, Feb. 21, 2002

Meet Suvir Kaul

By Andrea Lynn, News Bureau Staff Writer
(217) 333-2177; a-lynn@illinois.edu

Photo by Bill Wiegand
IPRH director English professor Suvir Kaul is the new director of IPRH, the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities.

English professor Suvir Kaul is the new director of IPRH, the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities. He started his new post in August, succeeding the program’s first director, Michael Bérubé, who left the UI.

Before coming to the UI in 1999, Kaul taught in the department of English at Jamia Milia Islamia University in New Delhi for a year while he was on leave from Stanford University. He taught for many years at the Khalsa College, Delhi University, before joining Stanford.

Research interests: 18th century British literature, literary and cultural theory, colonial and post-colonial discourse studies and modern Indian writing, including the works of V.S. Naipaul.

Recent Books: "Poems of Nation, Anthems of Empire: English Verse in the Long Eighteenth Century" (University Press of Virginia, 2000; Oxford University Press, 2001), winner of the Walker Cowen Prize, awarded biennially to a scholarly manuscript in 18th century studies in history, literature, philosophy or the arts.
"Thomas Gray and Literary Authority: A Study in Ideology and Poetics" (Oxford, 1992; Stanford, 1992).

Education: Delhi University (B.A., M.A. and M.Phil.) and Cornell (Ph.D.)

Professional Service: Currently a member of the advisory committee of Publications of the Modern Language Association of America.

How will your research fold into your new role as director of IPRH?
This is my third year at the UI, and I have found it a wonderful place for academic work and intellectual exchange. There is an enormous cohort of new faculty hires who are energetic and skilled, and their presence is revitalizing the humanities on the campus.

I am at the beginning of a new project on literary and non-literary representations of cultural trauma. This will lead to a book in which I will concentrate on 18th century British culture, but I am also writing on South Asian materials, in particular, those that deal with the 1947 partition of colonial India into Pakistan and India.

While the IPRH does involve administrative and other functions that might make it harder to do my research, the IPRH is fortunate to have a wonderful staff, including the associate director, Christine Catanzarite, who runs the program with great efficiency and makes it possible for me to be an administrator and to teach (a reduced load) and pursue my own scholarship.

What do you consider your main priorities at IPRH, both short- and long-term?
To make certain that my faculty colleagues and graduate students recognize the extraordinary expertise and talent available on our campus in departments and programs with which they might ordinarily not be in touch. The IPRH is committed to showcasing the best academic work on our campus – to ourselves as much as to other academics across the nation.

We are building a program in external postdoctoral fellowships that will bring outstanding younger scholars to campus for a year in which they will teach a course and interact with our internal fellows and with their ‘home’ departments. We hope to expand this program to bring to the UI, for one semester at a time, senior scholars with international reputations whose extended presence here will be valuable for the campus as a whole.

Any new trends in the humanities that you are tapping into?
The idea, in place for a while now, that new ways of thinking are often developed in the friction between different academic disciplines and in the many ways that methodologies developed in one area of scholarly inquiry question the assumptions enshrined in others. The IPRH is set up to enable and to benefit from this kind of ‘friction.’

What is the status of the humanities at the UI and in American academe?

As the events of Sept. 11 have proven in the most unfortunate way, U.S. academic and cultural institutions have to take leadership roles in enabling U.S. citizens to understand the world in which they live, and in making sure that key values – democracy and the rule of law, religious and cultural plurality, egalitarian social and gender values – are reaffirmed, at home and overseas.

The next big event for IPRH will be April 4-7, the IPRH Fourth Annual Conference, "The Means of Reproduction," at the Levis Faculty Center. It is free and open to the public. The conference will feature Robert Rosen, dean of the School of Theater, Film, and Television at UCLA and noted expert on film preservation; Dorothy Roberts, professor of law at Northwestern University; Martin Pernick, professor of history at the University of Michigan; and other invited guests; as well as presentations by the IPRH faculty and graduate student fellows for 2001-02. More information is available at www.iprh.uiuc.edu.


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