Congratulations to third-year Ph.D. students Evan Chaloupka and Ray Horton and fourth-year Ph.D. student Jess Slentz, who have been selected for Arthur Adrian and Roger B. Salomon fellowships for the 2016-2017 academic year! The awards will enable each to have a service-free period next year to devote to the writing of dissertations.
Chaloupka, Horton, and Slentz will be celebrated at 2016 Adrian-Salomon event on Friday, April 29 at 3:00 p.m. in Bellflower Hall, Room 102. This event will feature lectures by the 2015-2016 fellows, Cara Byrne and Eric Earnhardt. Byrne’s lecture is titled “From The Snowy Day to Goggles!: The Racial Legacy of Ezra Jack Keats’ Picture Books” and Earnhardt’s is “The Modern Lyric Refinery: From John Ruskin’s Iron to T. S. Eliot’s Platinum.”
Chaloupka’s dissertation, Cognitive Disability and Narrative, explores how the rhetorical strategies and narrative techniques that authors use to tell the story of cognitive disability move across and adapt to different genres. Focusing on American literary naturalism, modernism, and post-war fiction, he asks three key questions: How has literature represented cognitive disability in light of historical pathologies, political initiatives, and narratives? How has science capitalized on literary techniques and narrative strategies? What historical processes and ahistorical motifs govern the relationship between cognitive disability and normalcy? Mental difference inaugurated a set of epistemological problems that pushed American readers to not just reconsider specific disabilities, but what it meant to know and perceive in general.
Horton’s dissertation, tentatively titled American Literature’s Secular Faith, pursues a novel approach to interdisciplinary scholarship in literature and religion, using five major twentieth century American writers as its principle examples. For two decades, critics have grown suspicious of the secularization thesis, a narrative best captured in Lukács’s formulation: “The novel is the epic of a world that has been abandoned by God.” The presumed correlation between modernity, secularism, and twentieth century literature now lacks the axiomatic authority it once wielded. In contrast to much postsecular scholarship, however, which focuses on the way religion serves as a determining historical and sociological context for literature, this project explores how writers characterize religious beliefs and practices as models for unique aesthetic effects. Writers such as Mark Twain, Willa Cather, James Baldwin, Don DeLillo, and Marilynne Robinson discover that fusing religious idioms with aesthetic devices opens up unique modes of attention and perception, animating and amplifying the most ordinary dimensions of everyday experience–the quotidian images and ephemeral moments to which we refer when we account for the phenomenology of secular life.
Slentz presented elements of her dissertation at the inaugural Dean’s Fellow lecture in October 2015, titled “Yes, You May Touch the Art: Haptic Technologies and Rhetorical Experience in the Digitally Interactive Museum.” Touch-based technology is dynamically changing the way that museum visitors are able to interact with the images, texts and artifacts in the museum’s collection. In many instances, this change serves to redefine traditional relationships between the “institution” and the “public,” giving museum visitors access to roles and discourses traditionally reserved for a cultural “elite.” The affordances of such technology can invite the visitor to take up actions and attitudes that shift the participation of the visitor from that of a private, solitary practice of interpretation, to the documented, public practices of archiving, curation and critique. Using the ethnographic methods of interview and observation, Slentz interrogates the rhetorical experiences composed through interaction with touch-based technology in the Cleveland Museum of Art and the National Archives in Washington D.C. In a detailed look at two ground-breaking haptic interfaces in these sites, her Dean’s Fellows presentation explored how and why a museum visitor’s participation in previously private, institutional activities has the power to position that visitor in new interpretive and social relationships.