Month: March 2019

Four Questions with Lani Watson

  1. Tell us a bit about the project you are working on at UCHI.
    This project has allowed me to learn a great deal about Asian maritime history and has taught me how little I know. My initial interest in Asian sailors who came to the U.S. but did not become immigrants has opened up a broad inquiry across the Indian Ocean, the archipelagos of southeast Asia and the coastal regions of the South China Sea going back to the seventeenth century.
  2. What drew you to this topic and what exciting developments are you anticipating?
    I was very much seduced by the concept of sailors as being estranged from the national and international order, but sailors are difficult to study because they do not leave many records. More importantly, I have found sailors and the maritime world not all together separate from terrestrial and continental histories, but deeply intertwined but often shadowed from each other.
  3. What are you looking forward to in regard to this year at UCHI?
    I’m looking forward to finding out how wrong I was about my maritime subject. With a great deal of new research from India, UK, China, Singapore, New Zealand, and the Middle East, I know my earlier conceptions will be altered and that is exciting.
  4. Many people wonder what value the humanities and humanities research has in today’s world. What are your thoughts on what humanities scholarship “brings to table?”
    One thing this project has taught me is how regionally diverse, complex, and interlinked seemingly mundane lives can be when put together comparatively. This realization underscores, for me, the enormous value of exploring subjectivity, cultural production, and epistemology in power relations. Not only because it is important to understand the dynamics between the hegemon and subaltern but also to account for, acknowledge, and ward against the erasure of ways of being, ways of signifying, and ways of knowing by those who struggle to be recognized.

You SHOULD…Listen: “Your Art Sucks” Podcast

 

“You should be listening to the podcast “Your Art Sucks”: http://yourartsuckspodcast.com/

 

The podcast is meant to encourage artists to just keep creating art for the love of art; each episode delves deep into a topic, challenge or roadblock that artists of all types (visual, performance and written) encounter with concrete examples of an artist that failed and one that triumphed. I listen to this podcast, not as an artist, but as a museum registrar and curator who strives to understand the process behind creation.

 

My absolute favorite episode is the first one exploring self-criticism as a healthy, necessary tool in not just the artist’s, but everyone’s life. Encouragement that all should take the middle path as self-doubt can cripple you if you succumb to it, but also can also create empty pointless art if you are too full of confidence.  Jackson Pollock is juxtaposed with Connecticut’s own Sol LeWitt (of which two of his works on are currently on display in the Benton).  LeWitt wrote the impassioned letter to his friend and fellow artist, Eva Hesse, that serves as a manifesto for rising above the self-criticism to just do.

 

Excerpt Letter from Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse (April 14, 1965)

 

… Learn to say “Fuck You” to the world once in a while. You have every right to. Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder, wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, numbling, rambling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse-shitting, hair-splitting, nit-picking, piss-trickling, nose sticking, ass-gouging, eyeball-poking, finger-pointing, alleyway-sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil-eyeing, back-scratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding, grinding, grinding away at yourself. Stop it and just DO…”

 

-Rachel Zilinski
Registrar and Assistant Curator
William Benton Museum of Art
University of Connecticut

You SHOULD…Read The Sand Queen

“Ok readers: the “bad” and the truly bad humanities. The queen of “bad” is Lady Gaga The Brilliant. Am already standing in line for tickets to A Star is Born coming out in October. Am already planning to see it numerous times. If “bad” is good, she’s one of the best –the Super Bowl of 2017 proved that. Just try to deny her.

The truly bad? War. Wanna go there? Read a slew of novels and memoirs out these days or zero in on the best one in the bunch. Helen Benedict’s The Sand Queen is a multivoiced novel of the early American war in Iraq. In one corner is a young American army woman, Kate, continuously tormented by her male comrades-in-arms as they guard an infamous prison camp (Bucca, it actually existed) and continuously tormented as well by the “enemy” male prisoners she oversees. In another corner is an Iraqi woman near Kate’s age, Naema, whose male relatives get brutally seized by American troops, leaving the family to stand at the prison camp gates with others to plead for news of all the innocent mistreated male family members held there. Be prepared: there is no redemption in this novel for either character or for the reader, no nicey-nice friendship between Kate and Naema that soothes the pain on both sides. No. it’s war, baby. Wanna go now?

See Gaga after reading Queen and imagine the anger she would unleash at those gates.”

 
Christine Sylvester, Professor of Political Science
 

Sharon Harris Book Award 2019 Winners

UCHI is honored to announce the winners of the Sharon Harris Book Award for 2019:

Daniel Hershenzon

Daniel Hershenzon

The Captive Sea: Slavery, Communication, and Commerce in Early Modern Spain and the Mediterranean (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018)

The Captive Sea Slavery, Communication, and Commerce in Early Modern Spain and the Mediterranean by Daniel HershenzonThe Harris Book Award Committee notes, “Prof. Hershenzon’s book is an illuminating study of the redemption of captives in the early modern Mediterranean. The Captive Sea traces the seizure of Christians and Muslims by pirates, their enslavement in hostile lands, and their occasional return through complicated systems of ransom. Deeply researched in Spanish archives, the book examines the flourishing of a slave system that differs from the Atlantic slave trade, and it shows the ways in which the trade in captives encouraged intercultural communication between Southern Europe and North Africa.”

Helen M. Rozwadowski

Helen M. Rozwadowski

Vast Expanses: A History of the Oceans (London: Reaktion Books, 2018)

Vast Expanses, A History Of The Oceans  By  Helen M. Rozwadowski“Prof. Rozwadowski’s book is an engaging overview of the oceans from deep prehistory to the present. It focuses on the relationship between people and an environment that once seemed beyond human influence. The idea of the ocean as a limitless frontier flourished but eventually withered in the late twentieth century, as people began to confront the damage they had done through pollution and overfishing. In order for us now to produce positive environmental change, Rozwadowski concludes, “We must jettison our perception of the ocean as a timeless place, apart from humans.” This concise and readable book demonstrates the value of the humanities in addressing the planet’s looming environmental crisis.”

We thank the award committee for their service. The Sharon Harris Book Award recognizes scholarly depth and intellectual acuity and highlights the importance of humanities scholarship.

Four Questions with Stuart S. Miller

Stuart S. Miller
  1. Tell us a bit about the project you are working on at UCHI.
    This project has allowed me to learn a great deal about Asian maritime history and has taught me how little I know. My initial interest in Asian sailors who came to the U.S. but did not become immigrants has opened up a broad inquiry across the Indian Ocean, the archipelagos of southeast Asia and the coastal regions of the South China Sea going back to the seventeenth century.
  2. What drew you to this topic and what exciting developments are you anticipating?
    I was very much seduced by the concept of sailors as being estranged from the national and international order, but sailors are difficult to study because they do not leave many records. More importantly, I have found sailors and the maritime world not all together separate from terrestrial and continental histories, but deeply intertwined but often shadowed from each other.
  3. What are you looking forward to in regard to this year at UCHI?
    I’m looking forward to finding out how wrong I was about my maritime subject. With a great deal of new research from India, UK, China, Singapore, New Zealand, and the Middle East, I know my earlier conceptions will be altered and that is exciting.
  4. Many people wonder what value the humanities and humanities research has in today’s world. What are your thoughts on what humanities scholarship “brings to table?”
    One thing this project has taught me is how regionally diverse, complex, and interlinked seemingly mundane lives can be when put together comparatively. This realization underscores, for me, the enormous value of exploring subjectivity, cultural production, and epistemology in power relations. Not only because it is important to understand the dynamics between the hegemon and subaltern but also to account for, acknowledge, and ward against the erasure of ways of being, ways of signifying, and ways of knowing by those who struggle to be recognized.

You SHOULD…Read: Free Culture

 

“According to the U.S. Constitution, the purpose of the copyright law is “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” To achieve this purpose, the Constitution balances two forces against one another. On one side, it harnesses the profit motive, giving creators an “exclusive Right” to sell or license “their respective Writings and Discoveries.” On the other side, it secures this right for “a limited term” so that others might build upon and reinterpret those writings and discoveries.

Over the last century, this balance has gotten out of whack in favor of longer and longer copyright terms and stricter and stricter enforcement of intellectual property rights. In Free Culture: how big media uses technology and the law to lock down culture and control creativity, legal scholar Lawrence Lessig details the history of this unbalancing and shows how the emergence of Internet culture exacerbates it. Lessig argues that the ease with which we can share and remix digital content demands a new balance, one with stronger protections for the public domain. Lessig reminds us that protecting copyright holders and their profits is not the purpose of copyright law, but merely a means of fostering creativity in the body politic. To understand the ways our digital culture changes our thinking about copyright, you should read Free Culture.”

 

-Tom Scheinfeldt
Associate Professor,
Digital, Media & Design Department
Director of Greenhouse Studios

Sharon Harris Book Award 2019 Winners

UCHI is honored to announce the winners of the Sharon Harris Book Award for 2019:

 

 

Daniel Hershenzon, The Captive Sea: Slavery, Communication, and Commerce in Early Modern Spain and the Mediterranean (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018)

 

AND

 

Helen M. Rozwadowski, Vast Expanses: A History of the Oceans (London: Reaktion Books, 2018)

 

 

The Harris Book Award Committee notes, “Prof. Hershenzon’s book is an illuminating study of the redemption of captives in the early modern Mediterranean. The Captive Sea traces the seizure of Christians and Muslims by pirates, their enslavement in hostile lands, and their occasional return through complicated systems of ransom. Deeply researched in Spanish archives, the book examines the flourishing of a slave system that differs from the Atlantic slave trade, and it shows the ways in which the trade in captives encouraged intercultural communication between Southern Europe and North Africa.”

 

“Prof. Rozwadowski’s book is an engaging overview of the oceans from deep prehistory to the present. It focuses on the relationship between people and an environment that once seemed beyond human influence. The idea of the ocean as a limitless frontier flourished but eventually withered in the late twentieth century, as people began to confront the damage they had done through pollution and overfishing. In order for us now to produce positive environmental change, Rozwadowski concludes, “We must jettison our perception of the ocean as a timeless place, apart from humans.” This concise and readable book demonstrates the value of the humanities in addressing the planet’s looming environmental crisis.”

 

We thank the award committee for their service. The Sharon Harris Book Award recognizes “scholarly depth and intellectual acuity and highlights the importance of humanities scholarship.”

Scandal and Murder in the Folger Archives

This post comes from the Early Modern Studies Working Group’s Co-Coordinator, Melissa Rohrer. Melissa is a PhD Candidate in the English Department.

 

In October of 2018, I visited the Folger Shakespeare Library with generous funding from the UConn Early Modern Studies Working Group and the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute. My dissertation investigates how playwrights of the early modern period adapted notorious true events for the stage—events such as true crimes and scandals. I already had access to the plays which adapted these events, so I my trip to the Folger was centered largely on learning more about how these events were understood, circulated, and commented upon, both at the time of their unfolding and in the centuries after they transpired.

Figure 1: This portrait may be of Sir Thomas Overbury. It is currently hanging in the reading room at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
Figure 1: This portrait may be of Sir Thomas Overbury. It is currently hanging in the reading room at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

The archival materials I investigated during this trip centered on a scandal known as the Overbury Affair, a bizarre murder conspiracy that unfolded between 1613 and 1616 and which implicated one of the most powerful royal couples in King James I’s court. Sir Thomas Overbury died in 1613 while imprisoned in the Tower of London, and two years later it came to light that he had been murdered at the behest of the Countess of Somerset. Enraged that Overbury had tried to thwart her marriage, the Countess (Lady Frances Carr née Howard) enlisted several co-conspirators of lower birth to poison him during his imprisonment; though poison was slipped into several tarts and jellies sent to Overbury, a poison-laced enema is what eventually killed him. The revelation that Overbury had been murdered caused an uproar in both in the royal court and in larger society; Robert Carr, the Earl of Somerset, was James I’s great favorite, and it was unclear to what extent Carr—or even the King himself—were complicit in the murder. Large crowds turned up to attend the trials of all who were associated with the conspiracy, and transcripts of these proceedings were circulated contemporaneously in manuscript.

The first part of my research was examining some of these manuscript copies, particularly those which transcribed the arraignments of Frances Howard’s co-conspirators: Richard Weston (an assistant jailor), Anne Turner (Howard’s confidante), and Gervase Helwys (Lord Lieutenant of the Tower). These manuscripts demonstrate contemporary interest in the court proceedings, which could not be published and so were circulated via manuscript. Whoever transcribed these documents took great care to recreate these arraignments as closely as possible. For example, the manuscript of Anne Turner’s arraignment includes a word-for-word copy of a letter Frances Howard sent to Turner, including the instructions “Burne this.” Transcripts such as these acted as a kind of news report about the trial, and for those who could read or copy them, it was the best way access the real accusations against and confessions of those who were involved in the Overbury Affair.

Figure 2: Manuscript transcription of the arraignment of Anne Turner, including Frances Howard’s letter to Turner.
Figure 2: Manuscript transcription of the arraignment of Anne Turner, including Frances Howard’s letter to Turner.

During my time at the Folger, I also examined the 1651 quarto, A True and Historical Relation of the Poysoning of Sir Thomas Overbury, With the Severall Arraingments and Speeches of those that were executed thereupon. This tract was published at the close of the English Civil War, when it was no longer prohibited to publish content that presented a critical view of the monarchy and aristocracy. Without these restrictions, the pamphlet gathered together a multitude of official and legal documents—such as arraignments, confessions, and royal speeches—concerning both Overbury’s murder and the divorce Frances Howard orchestrated in order to marry Robert Carr. While the materials included in this pamphlet include no commentary by the compiler, the original owner of the Folger’s copy made several comments and corrections in the margins. These marginal comments are what make this pamphlet useful to my project, as they demonstrate how ordinary citizens engaged with the scandal of Overbury’s murder. The owner’s careful correction of errors suggest that the scandal was still well-known nearly 40 years after it occurred, and his comment of “preposterous” alongside an opinion given by King James in Frances Howard’s divorce trial suggests that ill feeling about the scandal and its participants still lingered in the public consciousness.

Figure 3:Page from A True and Historical Relation of the Poysoning of Sir Thomas Overbury (B4) with marginal commentary.
Figure 3:Page from A True and Historical Relation of the Poysoning of Sir Thomas Overbury (B4) with marginal commentary.

I spent the rest of my research time looking at various other materials related to the Overbury Affair, including responses to the scandal written centuries after Overbury was murdered. I transcribed a handwritten theater review, supposedly written by David Garrick, for the 1777 production of Sir Thomas Overbury: A Tragedy by Richard Savage. My dissertation is largely concerned with scandals that were adapted for dramatization in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but Savage’s play and Garrick’s review of it indicate that these scandals remained relevant and of interest to theater audiences over a hundred years after they occurred. A similar interest inspired Andrew Amos to write his 1846 book, The Great Oyer of Poisoning: The Trial of the Earl of Somerset for the Poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury. Amos is one of the first writers to treat the Overbury Affair as a subject of significant legal and scholarly inquiry, and his book remains an important source on the trials for historians and legal scholars.

In their own way, all these materials hint at the lingering impact scandals can have on a society and its culture. We may think of scandals as phenomena of the moment, events which inspire outrage while current, but which fade from importance once resolved. My study of the Folger’s holdings which relate to the Overbury Affair suggest that this is not the case; scandals can linger in a society’s collective memory for many years, serving as cultural touchstones and points of societal self-reflection. As our own society looks back on the scandalous crimes of the 1990s and adapts these events into movies and television dramas (American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson, Casting JonBenet, Lorena, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders), we can look back on the Overbury Affair and its legacy in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century culture for an important precursor.

You Should… Read: Aftermath

Susan Brison’s Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of the Self (Princeton University Press, 2002)

You really should read Susan Brison’s Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of the Self (Princeton University Press, 2002). In this era of random terrorist violence, in the age of #MeToo and those who systematically doubt reports of rape, Brison’s insightful analysis of the process of rebuilding a life after cataclysmic violence is more timely than ever. The book combines first person narrative with careful consideration of survivor testimonies, and weaves these together with philosophical and psychological theories about the nature of the self and the effects of trauma. It is a rich and powerful book. The issues are fraught but the writing is not– it is lucid, engaging, and powerful.

(This book is also available through JStor)

-Lynne Tirrell
Associate Professor of Philosophy
UCHI Fellow in Residence 2018-2019
Department of Philosophy

Announcing the 2019 Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Competition

The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) is pleased to announce the ninth annual competition of the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Program. This initiative places humanities PhDs in substantive roles in diverse nonprofit and government organizations, demonstrating that the capacities developed in the course of earning a doctoral degree in the humanities have wide application beyond the academy. The two-year fellowships carry an annual stipend of $68,000, health insurance, a relocation allowance, and up to $3,000 in professional development funds for the fellow.

In 2019, ACLS will place up to 21 PhDs as Public Fellows in the following organizations and roles:

 Alliance Theatre (Atlanta, GA) – Community Engagement & Audience Development Manager

 American Public Media (St. Paul, MN) – Senior Research Analyst

 Center for Court Innovation (New York, NY) – Communications Project Manager

 Chicago Humanities Festival (Chicago, IL) – Program Manager

 Citizens’ Committee for the Children of New York (New York, NY) – Policy & Budget Analyst

 Committee to Protect Journalists (New York, NY) – Research Manager

 Community Change (Washington, DC) – Policy Advisor

 Data & Society Research Institute (New York, NY) – Editor

 The German Marshall Fund of the United States (Washington, DC) – Program Officer

 Harriet Beecher Stowe Center (Hartford, CT) – Grants Manager

 Library of America (New York, NY) – Outreach Programs Manager

 National Conference of State Legislatures (Denver, CO) – Legislative Policy Specialist

 National Low Income Housing Coalition (Washington, DC) – Research Analyst

 Natural Resources Defense Council (Washington, DC) – Campaign Advocate, Latin America Project

 PEN America (New York, NY) – Festival Programs Manager

 Public Books (New York, NY) – Associate Editor

 Rare (Arlington, VA) – Community Engagement Manager

 Reinvestment Fund (Philadelphia, PA) – Policy Analyst

 San Francisco Arts Commission (San Francisco, CA) – Community Impact Analyst

 Seattle Office for Civil Rights (Seattle, WA) – Senior Researcher

 World Justice Project (Washington, DC) – Program Manager

Applicants must have a PhD in the humanities or humanistic social sciences conferred between September 1, 2015, and June 21, 2019, and must have defended and deposited their dissertations no later than April 5, 2019. US citizenship or permanent resident status is required. The deadline is March 13, 2019, 9 pm EDT.

Applications will be accepted only through the ACLS online application system.

Applicants should not contact any of the organizations directly. Visit ACLS Public Fellowship Competition for complete position descriptions, eligibility criteria, and application information. This program is supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

www.acls.org