Fellows 2017-18




Jill Lepore (American History at Harvard University)

Distinguished Visiting Scholars at the Humanities Institute are chosen because of their outstanding accomplishments, contributions to the global community, and/or their exceptional research profile. While at UConn, they participate in the life of the Institute, collaborate with faculty and student scholars, and contribute to the Institute’s research mission. Distinguished Visiting Scholars underscore the University’s intellectual life and provide unique inspiration for impassioned scholars.

Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University. She is also a staff writer at The New Yorker. A prize-winning professor, she teaches classes in evidence, historical methods, humanistic inquiry, and American history. Much of her scholarship explores absences and asymmetries in the historical record, with a particular emphasis on the histories and technologies of evidence and of privacy. As a wide-ranging and prolific essayist, Lepore writes about American history, law, literature, and politics. A recent series of essays examines the Election of 2016, considering, for instance, the role of polls, fact, parties and the conventions. She is the author of many award-winning books and is currently writing a history of the United States.

While at UConn, Professor LePore will deliver a public lecture and engage with UCHI director Michael Lynch in a discussion of what it means to be a public intellectual in our present moment.


Deirdre Bair

Deirdre Bair (English & Comparative Literature)

“Bio/Memoir: The Accidental Biographer”

Deirdre Bair is author of six award winning biographies; Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir, Anaïs Nin, C. G. Jung, Saul Steinberg and Al Capone and the cultural study, Calling it Quits: Late-Life Divorce and Starting Over. Bair received the National Book Award for Samuel Beckett, and Simone de Beauvoir and C. G. Jung were finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her biographies of Beauvoir, Nin, and Steinberg were chosen by The New York Times as “Best Books of the Year,” and Jung won the Gradiva Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis as the best biography of the year. Bair received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and was a tenured professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. She has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations and the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College. She is also a literary journalist who writes and reviews frequently for magazines and newspapers about travel, feminist issues, and cultural life.

While at the Humanities Institute, her research project is titled Bio/Memoir: an Accidental Biographer, an account of the seven years when she worked closely with Samuel Beckett and Simone de Beauvoir to write their biographies.


Rebecca Gould (Comparative Literature & Interdisciplinary Islamic Studies)

“Narrating Catastrophe: Forced Migration from Colonialism to Postcoloniality in the Caucasus”

Rebecca Gould is Reader in Translation Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Bristol. She has published widely on Islam in the Caucasus and throughout the Middle East. She is the author of Writers and Rebels: The Literature of Insurgency in the Caucasus (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2016), which was awarded an honorable mention for the Joseph Rothschild Prize in Nationalism and Ethnic Studies by the Association for the Study of Nationalities. She is also the translator of After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Ghazals and Other Poems of Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press, 2016) and The Prose of the Mountains: Tales of the Caucasus (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2015). Her writings for the general public have appeared in World Policy Journal, The Globe and Mail, and The Progressive.

While at the Humanities Institute, her research project is titled Narrating Catastrophe: Forced Migration from Colonialism to Postcoloniality in the Caucasus, and examines the many meanings of forced migrations across the Islamic world, with a particular focus on the Caucasus.



Eleni Coundouriotis (English)

“The Hospital and the State: Readings in Anglophone Fiction”

Eleni Coundouriotis is Professor in the Department of English at UConn. Her scholarship focuses on the engagement of literature with history in the postcolonial novel and human rights narratives. Her first monograph, Claiming History: Colonialism, Ethnography and the Novel (Columbia University Press 1999), traces the emergence of the realist novel at the time of decolonization in Africa. The People’s Right to the Novel: War Fiction in the Postcolony (Fordham University Press 2014) offers a literary history of the war novel in sub-Saharan Africa. In other work, she has addressed how literary texts complicate philosophical definitions of human dignity, and explored the testimony of rape victims, the figure of the child soldier, and the narrative contours of histories of the human rights movement.

Her current research extends her focus on war torn societies by looking at the hospital as a metaphor for the state, especially in post-conflict societies. Furthermore, the texts examined in this study undercut the presumption of an inevitable centrifugal pull of literatures in English into a global, homogeneous sphere, and focus on what it means to lead and act without the safeguards of distance presumed in the established model of humanitarian narratives of war.


Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar (History)

“Becoming Atlanta: Political Power, Progress in the Capital of the New South”

Jeffrey Ogbonna Green Ogbar  is a Professor in the Department of History and Director of the Center for the Study of Popular Music at UConn. Raised in Los Angeles, Jeffrey Ogbonna Green Ogbar received his B.A. in History from Morehouse College and Ph.D. in U.S. History from Indiana University. Since 1997 he has taught at the University of Connecticut’s Department of History. From 2003-2009 he served as the Director of the Africana Studies Institute. He served as Associate Dean for the Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences from 2009-2012. In June 2012 he was named the University’s Vice Provost for Diversity. In 2014 he became founding director of the Center for the Study of Popular Music. Ogbar’s research interests include the 20th century United States with a focus in African American history. He has held fellowships at Harvard University’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research, where he completed work on his book, Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity. He also held fellowships at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, and the Africana studies program at the University of Miami where he conducted research for his book Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap.
While at the Humanities Institute, he will research and write a book tentatively titled, Becoming Atlanta; Political Power, Progress in the Capital of the New South.


Ruth Glasser (Urban Studies/History)

“Brass City, Grass Roots: The Persistence of Farming in Industrial Waterbury, CT, 1870-1980”

Ruth Glasser is Assistant Professor in Residence in the Departments of History, and Urban and Community Studies at UConn. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University in 1991. She is the author of My Music is My Flag: Puerto Rican Musicians and Their New York Communities, 1917-1940 (University of California, 1995), Aquí Me Quedo: Puerto Ricans in Connecticut (Connecticut Humanities Council, 1997), the co-author of We Are the Roots: The Organizational Culture of a Home Care Cooperative (Center for Cooperatives, University of California, 2002), the co-editor of Caribbean Connections: Dominican Republic (Teaching for Change, 2006), and the author of a variety of other chapters and articles on Latino migration and immigration. Since 1991 she has worked on a variety of public history projects including oral history projects, exhibits, curriculum materials, and video documentaries. She was an inaugural Service Learning Fellow at UConn, and frequently incorporates public history and other community projects into classroom teaching.

Her current book project, tentatively titled Brass City, Grass Roots: The Persistence of Agriculture in Industrial Waterbury, CT, 1870-1980, is the outgrowth of Glasser’s volunteer work for a local organization, Brass City Harvest, which focuses on healthy food cultivation and food distribution/ justice issues in the city. Materials for the book project have been gathered and created by herself, current and former students, and community members, and were first presented in a traveling exhibit that toured various Waterbury libraries and community centers as well as the UConn/Waterbury and Torrington campus libraries and the Dodd Center. The current project will include a digital component based on the exhibit and additional materials to be gathered during Glasser’s year of residence at UCHI.


Nancy Shoemaker (History)

“A History of Soap: Oils, Chemistry, and the Rise of the Global Composite”

Nancy Shoemaker is Professor in the Department of His- tory at UConn, teaches courses in Native American history, U.S. and the world in the nineteenth century, environmental history, and historical methods. She is the author of three monographs—Indian Population Recovery in the Twentieth Century (1999), A Strange Likeness: Becoming Red and White in Eighteenth-Century North America (2004), and Native American Whale- men and the World: Indigenous Encounters and the Contingency of Race (2015). In addition, she has another book completed but not yet out in print on Americans in nineteenth-century Fiji, a project that developed out of her earlier interests in American whaling and maritime history.

While at the Humanities Institute she will be embarking on a new book project with an even greater global emphasis and chronological scope, an environmental history of soap tentatively titled A History of Soap: Oils, Chemistry, and the Rise of the Global Composite. The UConn Humanities Institute supported her whaling history research with a fellowship in 2008-09 as did the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2002-03 and the American Antiquarian Society in 2006-07. She has also received fellowships from the Huntington Library (for A Strange Likeness) and the Massachusetts Historical Society (for the book on Fiji).


Kenneth Gouwens (History)

“A Translation of Paolo Giovio’s Elogia of Literati”

Kenneth Gouwens is Associate Professor in the Department of History at UConn, where he has taught since 1998. A specialist in the history of Early Modern Europe, he has published on subjects including the intellectual and cultural life of Renaissance Rome, the pontificate of Clement VII (Giulio de’ Medici), definitions of “Humanism,” conceptions of female beauty and of masculinity, and beliefs about how humans differ from simians. His books include Remembering the Renaissance: Humanist Narratives of the Sack of Rome (a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Book of 1998); two co-edited collections of essays; an annotated primary-source reader; and a Latin critical edition and English translation of a dialogue by the Renaissance humanist and historian Paolo Giovio, Notable Men and Women of Our Time (Harvard University Press, 2013). His articles have appeared in leading historical and interdisciplinary journals including the American Historical Review, I Tatti Studies in the Renaissance, the Journal of the History of Ideas, and Renaissance Quarterly.

While at the Humanities Institute he will complete a translation of Volume One of Giovio’s Sketches of Illustrious Men (Elogia virorum illustrium). In gathering these capsule biographies of 146 literati for publication in a single volume, Giovio exemplifies how the learned in the Renaissance conceived of themselves as engaged in a collective scholarly enterprise of lasting importance.

Harry van der Hulst

Harry van der Hulst (Linguistics)

“It Means What you See (But You Have to Look for It)”

Harry van der Hulst is a Professor in the Department of linguistics at UConn. He has edited over 30 books, published two monographs and over 170 articles on various aspects of languages, including sign languages. His focus is on the perceptible side of language (audible speech, visible sign), but he has also dealt with broader issues that concern the organization of language as a cognitive system more generally, including its evolution. Most recently, he had two books accepted for publication, ‘Asymmetries in Vowel Harmony’ (Oxford University Press), and ‘The Nature and Nurture of Language’ (Cambridge university Press). He has been Editor-in-Chief of the international linguistic journal The Linguistic Review since 1990 and he is co-editor of the book series Studies in generative grammar.

While at the Humanities Institute, he will write a book about the relationship between the form and meaning of words in both spoken and signed languages, which will detail the role of arbitrariness and convention (often held typical of spoken languages) and iconicity (often held typical of sign languages and other visual communication systems such as sequential graphic narratives, popularly known as comics or graphic novels).

DRAPER Dissertation Fellows

UCHI Dissertation Fellows

Sarah Berry  English

Sarah Berry (English)

“The Politics of Voice in Twentieth-Century Poetic Drama”

Major Adviser: Mary M. Burke

Sarah Berry is a Ph.D. candidate in the English Department at UConn. She holds a B.A. from Baylor University and M.A. from Boston College. Her field is twentieth-century literature, especially poetry and drama, with special attention to the ways that these two genres interact with one another. She has writ- ten articles in Literature Film Quarterly (2014) and Journal of Modern Literature (forthcoming), as well as book reviews for the Irish Literary Supplement (2013, 2015) and Modern Drama (forthcoming).

While at the Humanities Institute she will complete her dissertation, “The Politics of Voice in Twentieth-Century Verse Drama,” which explores the generic and political implications of twentieth-century verse drama, a highly experimental hybrid of poetry and drama. Based on readings of verse plays from England, Ireland, the United States, and the Anglophone Caribbean, she argues that verse drama, given its unique position between two genres with different (sometimes opposing) conceptions of voice, allows writers to experiment with voice as a formal and political phenomenon. This experimental potential allows writers to respond creatively and subtly to contemporary political events and crises, including fascism, imperialism, class conflict, sectarian violence, and the struggle for civil rights. These hybrid texts also present an opportunity to reconsider the relationship between poetry and drama and, more broadly, the way that genres are created and reinforced.


Laura Wright (English)

“Prizing Difference: PEN Awards and Multiculturalist Politics in American Fiction”

Major Adviser: Cathy Schlund-Vials

Laura Wright is a Ph.D. candidate in the English Department at UConn specializing in 20th- and 21st- century American literature, particularly multiethnic American literature and book prizes. Her current project, “Prizing Difference: PEN Awards and Multiculturalist Politics in American Fiction,” examines the intersection of the Nobel Prize, the Faulkner Foundation Prize, the PEN/Faulkner and the PEN/Oakland with discourses surrounding multiculturalism from the 1930s to the present. “Prizing Difference” uses an interdisciplinary methodology in African American, Asian American, and Latin Studies to argue for changing relationships between multiculturalism and American identity. In 2016, she was a Lillian Gary Taylor Fellow at the University of Virginia where she looked at the corporate records of the Faulkner Foundation. She has presented her work at multiple conferences, including the Association for Asian American Studies, the Society for the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literature of the US, and the American Literature Association. Her other research interests include representations of race through mixed media in the graphic novel.

While at the Humanities Institute she will complete her dissertation, “Prizing Difference: PEN Awards and Multiculturalist Politics in American Fiction”.



Jorell Meléndez-Badillo (History)

“The Lettered Barriada: Puerto Rican Workers’ Intellectual Community, 1897-1933”

Major Adviser: Blanca G. Silvestrini

Jorell Meléndez-Badillo is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at the UConn. He is the author of Voces libertarias: Los orígenes del anarquismo en Puerto Rico (Secret Sail- or Books, 2013; Fundación Anselmo Lorenzo-CNT, 2014; Editorial Akelarre/CEISO, 2015) and co-editor of Without Borders or Limits: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Anarchist Studies (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013). He has published book chapters, as well as journal and newspaper articles on the histories of anarchism, labor, and radical politics in Puerto Rico and Latin America. His work has appeared in Caribbean Studies Journal, Latin American Perspectives, Theory in Ac- tion, Kalathos, La brecha, among others. He has also been a recipient of the University of Connecticut’s Candrall Cordero Fellowship and the Ford Foundation’s Dissertation Fellowship.

While at the Humanities Institute he will be working toward the completion of his dissertation. His dissertation explores how Puerto Rican workers navigated the mazes of colonization and the polity that resulted from the 1898 US occupation. In the first decades of the 20th century, a cluster of urban, skilled Puerto Rican workers created an intellectual community, which he calls the lettered barriada. Anchored in print media, specifically newspapers and books, it served as a space to produce knowledge and create new identities. Participating in the international circulation of print media, workers projected themselves as part of the global labor community, while locally excluding women, unskilled workers, and blackness from their intellectual projects.


LaGuardia-LoBianco (Philosophy)

“Action-Guidance in Complicated Cases of Suffering”

Major Advisers: Paul Bloomfield and Daniel Silvermint

Alycia LaGuardia-LoBianco is a Ph.D. candidate in the Philosophy Department at UConn. Her research focuses on ethics, moral psychology, feminist ethics, and existentialism.

While at the Humanities Institute, she will be completing a dissertation on suffering and action guidance, addressing questions such as what a sufferer ought to do to help herself and what we owe to someone who makes themselves suffer. She has presented her work at conferences in Oregon, Wisconsin, Georgia, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.



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