Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Research Seminars
The year long seminars promote research at the highest level of collaboration between faculty and doctoral students. Starting with a core of well-developed research by the seminar leader, students from across the Humanities are invited to become fellow researchers, challenging and redfinig the core project by posing new questions from their own disciplinary perspectives, and expanding the project's horizon into areas so far unexplored.
Skip down for information regarding past Mellon Seminars.
Announcement and Call for the 2007-2008 Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Seminar
Humanities Research Center is pleased to announce the continuation of the Andrew Mellon Graduate Research Seminars into its fourth year, after the successful completion of a pilot project, with a seminar to be led by James Faubion, Professor and Chair of the Anthropology Department, entitled Religious Biopolitics: Transcendental Hygienics Past, Present and Future.
This seminar provides graduate students an opportunity for topping their stipends, competitive summer funding and conference travel funding, and dissertation research and development. For a complete description of the Mellon Seminar Program, the 2007-2008 seminar, and the application process, click here.
Fields of Interest
The seminar aims to draw students from across multiple departments.
In the first volume of his History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault traces the clinical and psychoanalytic pastoralism of what he calls the biopolitical "anatomo-politics of the human body" in large part to a Christian confessional that he characterizes as being then and as still being "the general standard governing the production of true discourse about sex." The concepts, disciplines and domains of intervention that Foucault includes within the broader Western European universe of biopower suggest that it has its most purely extra-ecclesiastic realization in nineteenth-century France. There, the church and its clerics are remarkable for their absence. Across the Atlantic, however, the universe of biopower takes a different turn. Its expansion in Europe and in America has the same impetus--the cholera epidemic of 1832. A good many physicians are among its American executors, but its great popularizers are with few exceptions ardent Christians, though sometimes Christians very much of their own cloth. The focus of the research that I will develop in the Mellon Seminar, what I call "religious biopolitics," thus belongs to the history of the refractions of the modern apparatus of governmentality as they mingle with the voluntarism, sectarianism and pragmatic utopianism of an America that has long interposed between the individual body and the general population its ever fissile array of Protestant congregations--which it has exported and continues to export widely around the world.
Past Andrew W. Mellon Seminars
Monism, Dualism, Pluralism and Absolute Spirit: Debates on the Oneness of Nature from Spinoza, Descartes and Leibniz to the Romantics and Hegel
Faculty Leader: Mark Kulstad (Philosophy)
Student Participants: Jonathan Abdalla, Ryan Foster, Stan Husi, Brandon Mulvey, Brian Prince
This seminar emerges Professor Kulstad's current work on the philosophical controversies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries concerning monism for SPinoza, dualism in Descartes, and pluralism in the work of Leibniz. The course was part of an ongoing collaboration between philosophers and historians. It therefore emphasized the importance of collaboration at every stage of intellectual endeavor, from project conceptualization to writing and revision. A balance of History and Philosophy students, the seminar participants reflected this interdisciplary dialog as they thought through the intersections of the two desciplines that was at the core of the seminar topic.
Doing Things with Emotion
Faculty Leader: Meredith Skura (English)
Student Participants: Jill Delsigne, Kara Marler-Kennedy, Kevin Morrison, Joy Pasini, Teresa Wei
This seminar interrogates the longstanding scientific model that tends to discourage the academic study of emotion. Understood to both elude scientific measurement and to be peripheral to academic inquiry, emotions have only recently begun to be understood as deeply implicated in out sense of "rationality." The seminar began with readings that represented the different ways scholars have explored emotions in such disciplines as History, Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Gender Studies, Linguistics, and Literary Studies. It then proceeded to case studies of how such disciplinary approaches might shape the work of the participants' ongoing research, which theorizes the often surprising relationship between individual and cultural constructions of emotion in early modern England. Because the study of emotion is a field very much still in search of productive methodology and theoretical perspectives, the seminar offers graduate students a rich opportunity to engage in a newly developing interdisciplinary research field.
The Existential Sources of Normativity
Faculty Leader: Steven Crowell (Philosophy)
Student Participants: Matt Burch, Aaron Hinkley, Irene McMullin, Matt Schunke, Will Smith, David Snyder
This seminar explored the conundrum implicit in philosophical appeals to reason - they they presuppose the very reason to which they appeal. Taking Heidegger's existential appriach to human nature as the focus of this seeming tautology, the seminar asked students from Philosophy, English, and Religious Studies to consider how their own projects engage in this interpretive knot and to explore how their own research might benefit from a Heideggerian approach to the problem of reason. Conversely, Professor Crowell opened his own research in this field to the seminar for consideration and critique.
Plato's Phaedrus and Classical Hermeneutics
Faculty Leader: Harvey Yunis (Classics)
Student Participants: Sarah Graham, Brian Prince, Hae Young Seong, Pumsup Shim, Molly Slattery, Ryan White
This seminar is unique in that the first semester was deveoted to analyzing one text, Plato's Phaedrus, in detail. Yet from this careful textual analysis, the seminar considered more generally the art of interpreting texts - a concern central to the textual work of all humanities disciplines. In the second semester, the seminar critiqued modern hermeneutics from the perspective acquired through the first semester's attention to ancient hermeneutics. This course's premise that tis subject is of overarching concern to all humanistic study was borne out by the remarkably diverse group of students who participated, including students from Religious Studies, English, Linguistics, and Philosophy.
Toward a Hemispheric America
Faculty Leader: Caroline Levander (English)
Student Participants: Elizabeth Fenton, Gale Kenny, Cory Ledoux, David Messmer, Molly Robey
This seminar provided a cutting-edge immersion in the field of American studies through adopting a comparative, hemispheric approach that is gradually reorganizing the fields of literature, history, and religious studies, challenging new scholars to both broaden and deepen their analysis of the cultures of the Americas. Through emphasizing a comparativist method that remains attentive to local dinstinctions while bringing a hemispheric approach to bear on the nation-state, this year-long seminar sharpened the writing of the next generation of Americanist scholars and developed a model for the reorganizing of American studies in the 21st century.
Language Policies as Markers of National and Cultural Identity
Faculty Leader: Rafael Salaberry (Hispanic Studies)
Student Participants: David Katten, Natalya Stepanova, Martin Hilpert, Viktoria Papp, Natli Leduc
This seminar is based on the analysis of case studies on the topic of language as a marker of national and cularual/ethnic identity, with a particular emphasis on language planning, language policies, and political debates on language use. Language planning refers to the ways in which organized communities united by religious, ethnic, poltical, or social factors attempt to influence language use. Concrete manifestations of such politices are obvious in the case of bilingual education, the establishment of an official national language, the control over gender-biased language, etc. Some of the topics that students investigated in the seminar include: "Framing Language Policy and Language Identity: The Case of the Saami of Northern Europe," "Language Use and Linguistic Evidence in Conflict Resolution and Interethnic Conflict," "Language as Property and Identity in Canada and France in the Context of 'Divagation'," "Language Variation and Language Prestige in Legal and Political Debates with Emphasis on Hungary," and "Bilingual and Bicultural Identities in Russian-French Writers."