20 Years of Fellows

20 Years of Fellows: Anke Finger

As part of our 20th anniversary celebrations, we've checked in with former fellows to gather reflections on their fellowship years, to get an update on their fellowship projects, and to see what they are working on next. Read them all here.

Headshot of Anke Finger2006–2007 faculty fellow Anke Finger is professor of German, Media Studies, and Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies in the department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages at UConn. A co-founder and co-editor (2005–2015) of the multilingual, peer reviewed, open access journal Flusser Studies, Anke Finger’s closely related scholarship in media studies originates from her work on the Czech-Brazilian philosopher Vilém Flusser. She co-authored the 2011 Introduction to Vilém Flusser, and she is a member of the Flusser project team at Greenhouse Studios. She edited Flusser’s The Freedom of the Migrant and co-edited the collection KulturConfusão: On German-Brazilian Interculturalities (2015). From 2016 to 2019 Anke Finger served as the inaugural director of the Digital Humanities and Media Studies Initiative at the Humanities Institute; she also co-founded the CTDH network. Together with Christoph Ernst (University of Bonn), she organized a symposium on “Radical Futures” in March 20–21, 2021. All presentations are available on youtube.


What was your fellowship project about?

Initially, my fellowship project was to be a book about my own family, a case study of former East Germany from an everyday perspective that included education, family dynamics, and politics, focused on my father’s escape via the Baltic Sea in 1974. Turns out that family dynamics were ongoing. It was difficult gathering data and materials, and it became this rather endless tunnel of new discoveries that required constant re-evaluation. To not lose sight of my time at the UCHI, I worked on two other books, The Aesthetics of the Total Artwork (The Johns Hopkins University Press) and the co-authored introduction to Vilém Flusser (University of Minnesota Press) that came out at the same time. The first is a collection of essays about the idea of intersecting art disciplines within modernism and moving well into contemporary art; the second is the first guide to the multilingual, multidisciplinary work of the communication philosopher Vilém Flusser (1920–1991) that has generated a great many studies on his international oeuvre.

Would you give us an update on the project?

The research about my family, including interviews and archival work, is only now finished so that I can write Memoryland during my sabbatical. Frankly, the timing, 60 years after the building of the Berlin Wall, 30 years after reunification, is better today for a number of reasons. The other books have been followed by another Flusser project that is just coming out with the University of Minnesota Press, What If? Twenty-Two Scenarios in Search of Images (2022), and I continue to publish on the idea of the total artwork—I guess the topic just keeps holding my passions and interest.

How did your fellowship year shape your project, or shape your scholarship in general?

It was the very first occasion I ever had this much time to dedicate to my work. At first, I was a bit paralyzed, I suppose: what to do? A plethora of options. But once I realized I was not able to produce what I had planned I fell into a rhythm and went with the flow. The year certainly shaped my scholarship in that I learned to take a phenomenological approach to my projects and have worked like that ever since: always have several projects in different stages of production since they all need their own time, perspective, and attention.

Would you share a favorite memory from your time as a UCHI fellow?

One of the delights of being an early UCHI fellow was the relatively tight quarters in Austin that just made you hang out quite a bit. I remember conversations standing in door frames with my fellow fellows, Michael Lynch and Mark Overmeyer-Velasquez or Robin Greeley, just shooting the breeze and enjoying a cup of coffee we brewed at the end of the hallway. It was intimate and relaxed at the same time.

What are you working on now (or next)?

I am currently promoting or publishing four books, the aforementioned What If? by Vilém Flusser (I introduced, edited and translated the work); a just-out collection on The Digital Dissertation: Knowledge Production in the Arts and Humanities (Open Book Publishers, 2021), with Virginia Kuhn; a collection on Women in German Expressionism: Gender, Sexuality, Activism (University of Michigan Press, 2022), with Julie Shoults; and a collection on Bias, Belief, and Conviction in an Age of Fake Facts (Routledge, 2022), with Manuela Wagner, that is still part of the “Humility and Conviction in Public Life” initiative. I want to focus next on Memoryland, finally, and a monograph on German Expressionism and Colonialism.

Our theme for UCHI’s 20th anniversary year is “The Future of Knowledge.” What would you say are some of the challenges facing the future of knowledge? And what do you think is most exciting or promising about the future of knowledge?

Interesting question! UCHI just supported a symposium I organized with a colleague from the University of Bonn that was focused around Flusser’s What If? with the title “Radical Futures: Imagining the Media of Tomorrow.” To me, the future of knowledge has a lot to do with media and mediation, a vantage point that holds both challenges and promises. Who will create, hold, disseminate and dialogue about knowledge? Which media will create pathways and bridges, which mediation structures will withhold and divide knowledge pools? Today, if you create knowledge without communicating with a variety of audiences it will remain silenced. The biggest challenge is the definition of knowledge, I think, given that humans can know in numerous ways; the biggest promise is acknowledging the continuous balancing act between bias, fake facts, and knowledge diversity. Media has a lot to do with this. . .

Tell us a little about your experience as inaugural director of the DHMS initiative at UCHI.

The Humanities Institute, and especially Michael P. Lynch, awarded me the rare opportunity to develop two deep interests of mine, digital scholarship and humanities outreach and advocacy. I was able to build, structure, and inaugurate the new Digital Humanities and Media Studies Initiative, merging two fields that still have some difficulty talking to each other. My colleague Yohei Igarashi is now continuing the programming, for graduate students and interested faculty who are pursuing research methods with qualitative and quantitative computing.

20 Years of Fellows: V. Penelope Pelizzon

As part of our 20th anniversary celebrations, we've checked in with former fellows to gather reflections on their fellowship years, to get an update on their fellowship projects, and to see what they are working on next. Read them all here.

V. Penelope Pelizzon headshot2004–2005 faculty fellow V. Penelope Pelizzon’s last poetry collection, Whose Flesh Is Flame, Whose Bone Is Time, was published in 2014 (Waywiser Press). Pelizzon’s awards include a 2020 Quarterly West editor’s choice award for her chapbook Of Vinegar Of Pearl, a 2019 Hawthornden Fellowship, an Amy Lowell Traveling Scholarship, and the Center for Book Arts chapbook award for her collection Human Field. New poems from her next book appear or are forthcoming in Tin House online, Ecotone, 32 Poems, The Bennington Review, The Gettysburg Review, The New England Review, The Harvard Review, Plume, and Orion.


What was your fellowship project about?

My fellowship project in 2004–5 was a long poem in segments, “The Monongahela Book of Hours,” which developed into a central section of my third book. I believe that this was the first creative writing project to be supported by the still-young UCHI, so it was exciting to represent the poetry end of the humanities among my scholarly peers.

Would you give us an update on the project?

“The Monongahela Book of Hours” appeared in my book Whose Flesh Is Flame Whose Bone Is Time (Waywiser, 2014), which was a finalist for the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. Before appearing in the book, the long poem was published in the American literary journal At Length.

How did your fellowship year shape your project, or shape your scholarship in general?

The time to slow down and feel and think, allowing new poems to evolve, was crucial to the book’s development. The interactive elements of the fellowship year were sustaining, too—it’s always invigorating to feel part of a thinking community! But perhaps most importantly for a poet, the year allowed me the hours of psychic and emotional privacy my real creative work feeds on. It’s unusual to find that sweet spot, that right measure of community with enough productive solitude for new work to emerge in all its tender / brash / ugly / coltish / uncanny ways.

Would you share a favorite memory from your time as a UCHI fellow?

I remember a lot of snowy mornings and late afternoons with the blue light slanting though my UCHI window on the upper floor of the Austin Building, and the nice smells of coffee being brewed by fellows down in the common area...the perfect sensory image of privacy within community.

What are you working on now (or next)?

This spring Quarterly West published my long poem Of Vinegar Of Pearl as the editor’s choice in their annual chapbook series, and I’ve just finished revising another full-length book of poems, Animals & Instruments. Various poems from that collection have come out in print in journals this year. Meanwhile, I have three new poems just started in July that might be disasters or might be the kernel of the next thing—too early yet to tell.

Our theme for UCHI’s 20th anniversary year is “The Future of Knowledge.” What would you say are some of the challenges facing the future of knowledge? And what do you think is most exciting or promising about the future of knowledge?

I could say poetry’s best knowledge—and that of the humanities at large—is embodied in discomfort. It’s the knowledge that we don’t yet have language for our full reality, and that, as our realities change, we need more expansive and penetrating language. I could say that it’s hard to empathize with what others are experiencing when we don’t even have rich imaginative language for some of our own most trivial experiences. And by “trivial”—well, here I mean experiences that have been overlooked or scorned by the Adults In Charge. So, one exciting thing is that a lot of long-overlooked stories are now being written. But it also feels a bit disingenuous of me, wearing my poet hat, to speak about “knowledge.” When I’m writing well, what I’m trying to shed are assumptions of authority or the idea that I have anything, even my native language, already figured out.

20 Years of Fellows: Paul Bloomfield

As part of our 20th anniversary celebrations, we've checked in with former fellows to gather reflections on their fellowship years, to get an update on their fellowship projects, and to see what they are working on next. Read them all here.

Paul Bloomfield headshotPaul Bloomfield was a 2007–2008 UCHI faculty fellow and is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of Moral Reality (2001) and The Virtues of Happiness (2014), the editor of Morality and Self-Interest (2008) and the co-editor of Oxford Handbook for Moral Realism (forthcoming), all on Oxford University Press.


What was your fellowship project about?

I work in moral philosophy, broadly construed, and the subject of my UCHI project was the relation of being morally good to living well and being happy. This is, perhaps, the single guiding question of moral philosophy. I argue that all forms of immorality are inherently self-disrespecting, and that self-disrespect and happiness are mutually exclusive. So, the stripped-down argument goes like this:

  1. Morality is necessary for self-respect
  2. Self-respect is necessary for happiness
  3. Therefore, morality is necessary for happiness

What is it to be morally good? I answer this in terms of “the cardinal virtues”: courage, justice, temperance, and wisdom. I defend the view that becoming virtuous gives us everything we need to be as happy as is possible for us, given who we are and the circumstances into which we are born.

Would you give us an update on the project?

The project yielded a number of papers but, as a whole, was published as a monograph in 2014 entitled The Virtues of Happiness: A Theory of the Good Life by Oxford University Press. It has been reviewed in numerous journals and was the subject of an “Author Meets Critics” session at the 2016 American Philosophical Association, Pacific Division Meeting.

How did your fellowship year shape your project, or shape your scholarship in general?

I think what was most useful for me was the way that interacting with my fellow UCHI fellows forced me out of simply speaking to other philosophers and made me develop my views and arguments in ways that are more easily comprehensible to non-specialists. So, the book ended up having less jargon and a slower pace than it would otherwise have had.

Would you share a favorite memory from your time as a UCHI fellow?

I have always tried to keep my writing gender neutral and to avoid gendered pronouns. This is easier in philosophy than one might think, if one sticks to plural subjects (“they” or “people”), and impersonal singular pronouns when needed (“one”). When I presented my work to my fellow fellows, I was very pleased when two of them, Sharon Harris (who subsequently became the second director of UCHI) and Brenda Murphy—both of whom are Professors of English—noticed what I was up to and complimented me on my approach and my writing.

What are you working on now (or next)?

I have two major projects going right now. The first is that I am co-editing with Professor David Copp (UC Davis) The Oxford Handbook of Moral Realism. This will be a start of the art collection of views surrounding the idea that there are metaphysical facts about morality—facts about what is good and bad and right and wrong—and that morality is neither to be “eliminated” or “reduced” to emotions or attitudes or some other non-factual basis.

The other project is a monograph focusing on the cardinal virtues, which I mentioned above.

Our theme for UCHI’s 20th anniversary year is “The Future of Knowledge.” What would you say are some of the challenges facing the future of knowledge? And what do you think is most exciting or promising about the future of knowledge?

I think there are deep and important moral, social, and political implications to how “knowledge” is understood in the future. As we know, currently information and knowledge is being swamped by misinformation and conspiracy theories and, it now seems, the old idea that in the “marketplace of ideas, truth will win out” has been called into question. Unfortunately, I do not think the most promising ideas are terribly exciting. I think the solution begins with a patient search for common dialectical ground with those with whom we disagree, at least those who are open to reason. Then we will need humility to be open-minded with them and we’ll have to be mature enough to compromise in the name of peace and democratic prosperity. The frightening part is how to handle those who will not listen to reason, and there, I’m afraid, I’ve nothing close to a helpful solution: currently, I see no way to reason with people who are unreasonable.

20 Years of Fellows: Alea Henle

As part of our 20th anniversary celebrations, we’ve checked in with former fellows to gather reflections on their fellowship years, to get an update on their fellowship projects, and to see what they are working on next.

Alea Henle headshotAlea Henle was a 2011–12 dissertation research scholar. A librarian and historian, she is now is Head of Access & Borrow at Miami University. She has a Masters in Library Science from Simmons College and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Connecticut. Over the past years, she’s worked in libraries from Washington, D.C. to Colorado to New Mexico and taught classes in history, librarianship, archives, and records management. Her research interests center on how decisions in libraries, archives, research centers, and commercial database providers increasingly shape the resources available–making materials paradoxically both easier and more difficult to locate.


What was your fellowship project about?
My fellowship project was my dissertation—on historical societies and historical cultures in the early United States and the ways efforts to collect and preserve materials for the writing of American history shape moden practices.

Would you give us an update on the project?
To my very great delight, the book based on the dissertation came out last year! Rescued from Oblivion: Historical Cultures in the Early United States is available from the University of Massachusetts Press, as part of the Public History in Historical Perspective series.

How did your fellowship year shape your project, or shape your scholarship in general?
The fellowship gave me time and space to think through how to organize the immense wealth of research I’d already accumulated—and the additional material that I kept coming across. I also appreciate the interactions with other fellows and their comments and suggestions—and, of course, the opportunity to learn about the wonderful projects they were working on!

Would you share a favorite memory from your time as a UCHI fellow?
I think it was at our original go-around where we discussed our research projects (or perhaps it was when a particular scholar presented) but one of the key phrases that remains with me came from another fellow’s project: a worm in a box is never just a worm in a box.

What are you working on now (or next)?
Oh, I’m working on multiple fronts at the moment. As a historian, I’ve slid into the early 20th century and am currently exploring early postcards—specifically batches of postcards that were sent to one person or individual (where possible, from the same person). I blog about this at aleahenle.com about once a week. Then I’m also working on library scholarship (since I have a Ph.D. in history but my day-to-day job is as a librarian), with a current project focusing on valuations of library collections for insurance purposes. And in my personal time (not spare time—that’s something I don’t really have) I’ve started writing (and indie publishing) contemporary and historical fantasy. Whew!

Our theme for UCHI’s 20th anniversary year is “The Future of Knowledge.” What would you say are some of the challenges facing the future of knowledge? And what do you think is most exciting or promising about the future of knowledge? The challenges facing the future of knowledge?
Here I’m going to put on both my historian and librarian hats—these include the pervasive multiplicity of information and the fragility of many of the ever-increasing formats. Ironically, paper is much more robust a medium for historical purposes than many digital formats as the latter often require specialized software and/or technology. My original research as a fellow, after all, was about early efforts to deal with preserving information/knowledge! Then there are also the witting and unwitting discussions about sources of knowledge versus sources of information—who’s an expert and/or trustworthy and who isn’t (and what criteria is used to decide). It’s all very new—and very old.