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Twelve win U. of I. fellowships from research program in the humanities

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Six professors and six graduate students have won fellowships for the academic year 2006-2007 from the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The newly elected Fellows will spend the year on research projects that consider “Beauty,” IPRH’s theme through 2007.

Fellows also will participate in the yearlong Fellows’ Seminar and will present their research at IPRH’s annual conference in late spring 2007.

A postdoctoral scholar from another university has received IRPH’s Illinois Humanities Post-Doctoral Fellowship. She will spend the year in residence at the Urbana campus also engaged in a research project related to the new theme and will teach a course.

The IPRH Faculty Fellows, their departments and projects:

Brett Kaplan, comparative and world literature, “Landscape and Holocaust Postmemory.”

Richard Mohr, philosophy, ”Beauty, Goodness, Love, and Sexuality in Plato’s ‘Symposium’ and ‘Phaedrus.’ ”

Isabel Molina, Institute of Communications Research, “Consuming Latina Bodies and the Racialized Politics of Beauty.”

Ned O’Gorman, speech communication, “Catastrophic Vistas: Discourses About Disaster in Cold War America and the American Sublime.”

Deke Weaver, narrative media, School of Art and Design, ”The Palimpsest Project.”

Yutian Wong, dance and Asian American Studies, ”Choreographing Asian America: Club O’Noodles and Other Mis-Acts.”

IPRH Graduate Student Fellows, their departments and projects:

Sarah Dennis, English, ”Prose for Art’s Sake: Creating and Documenting an American Aesthetic, 1820-1900.”

Aisha Durham, Institute of Communications Research, ”Beauty as the Beast: Un/Desirable Iconic Black Female Bodies in Popular Culture.”

Danielle Kinsey, history, “Modern Imperial Beauty: Diamonds and the Production of Taste in Nineteenth-Century Britain.”

Anthony Perman, musicology, School of Music, “Hearing an Ndau Past: The Semiotics of Music, History, and Affect in Ndau Drumming Styles in Zimbabwe.”

Julia Sienkewicz, art history, ”Planting Ancient Mores on an ‘Untouched’ Land: Charles Willson Peale’s Citizen-Building Project at Belfield.”

Polyxeni Strolonga, classics, “The Perils of Beauty and the Aesthetics of Exchange in Greek Poetry.”

The Illinois Humanities Post-Doctoral Fellow is Elizabeth B. Boyd, a senior lecturer in the American and Southern Studies Program at Vanderbilt University. Boyd, who earned her doctorate in American Studies at the University of Texas in 2000, will spend the year at Illinois doing research on a project titled “Southern Beauty: Performing Region on the Feminine Body”; she also will teach a course in the history department.

Matti Bunzl, IPRH director, said that the “Beauty” theme should allow the scholars to consider the ways in which beauty has been “a mainstay of humanistic thought across space and time.”

Beauty features prominently in Plato’s theory of mimesis and in Confucius’ teachings on enjoyment in moral and political education, Bunzl said. It became “systematized” in western thought with the formal development of aesthetics.

“To this tradition, we owe an ongoing preoccupation with judgment and criticism, the sublime and the ugly, imagination and pleasure,” he said.

Kant and Schiller emphasized the “unencumbered play of the imagination,” Bunzl said, while those from Hegel to Bourdieu stressed “historical and cultural specificity.”

Much 20th-century art, music and literature “actively defied the beautiful.” Marxist critics regarded certain forms of beauty with political and aesthetic suspicion, and feminist and anti-colonial thinkers “expanded on this critique of kitsch, identifying ideologies of beauty as central sites of systemic oppression.”

“While the pursuit of beauty was antithetical to serious creative work for much of the 20th century, it seems to be making something of a comeback in the 21st century,” Bunzl said.

“In a postmodern world where composers return to tonality and artists rediscover painting, the distinction between high and popular culture has effectively evaporated. Whether the attendant retreat into aesthetics should be critiqued as a reactionary move or celebrated as a strategic response to the geopolitical transformations of the post-9/11 order is just one of the many questions beauty continues to pose today.”

Faculty Fellows are released from one semester of teaching. They also are asked to teach one course during their award year or the year immediately following it on a topic related to their fellowship.

Graduate Student Fellows receive a stipend and a tuition and fee waiver from IPRH.

All IPRH Fellows, including the post-doctoral Fellows, are expected to remain in residence on the U. of I. campus during their award year.

Applications for IPRH Fellowships are typically distributed in the early fall for the following academic year, and U. of I. faculty and graduate students are invited to apply for the awards.

For more information about the IPRH Fellowship Programs, contact IPRH associate director Christine Catanzarite at 217-244-7913.