Comedy is no laughing matter, or at least, it’s not just a laughing matter. This year scholars and students at URI set out to afford humor the attention and respect it deserves through a series of events that will culminate in an all-day, interdisciplinary symposium on Saturday, March 22nd entitled “Open Mic, Open Minds: An Exploration of Social Issues Through Stand-up.” Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric Dr. Jeremiah Dyehouse is the faculty advisor to the committee, which includes Writing and Rhetoric Ph.D. students Krysten Manke and Jillian Belanger.
On December 12th, 2013, students from Professor Peter Covino’s creative writing class held a public poetry reading at the Wickford Art Association. Students delighted a packed room of listeners as they read from chapbooks they created during the semester. The nine graduate students participating in the reading (calling themselves The Thunder Room Collective) were: Jenna Morton-Aiken, Derick Ariyam, Jessica Brigges, Julie Hassett, Mark Hinkley, Charles Kell, Danielle Sanfilippo, Rhiannon Sorrell, and Hillary Trimbach.
Dr. Carolyn Betensky’s talk based on her recent article “Envying the Poor: Contemporary and Nineteenth-Century Fantasies of Vulnerability” examines the envy of vulnerability as an underlying tension that structures relations between 19th-century bourgeois readers and literary representations of the working poor. What makes Dr. Betensky’s argument especially illuminating is its transhistorical significance; she offers a unique pairing between the nineteenth-century novel and the right-wing rhetoric of the 2012 presidential campaigns, highlighting “resentment from above” and “fantasies of mastery.” The contemporary relevance is grounded in Mitt Romney’s avowal that the discontent of the “99%” with the “1%” betrays “a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach.” At issue in both the nineteenth century and our present moment is the vulnerable poor’s alleged special power, as perceived by the rich, derived from the sympathy aroused by the “precarity” of their situation.
From the natural sciences and the behavioral sciences to communication studies and the arts, scholars across innumerable and sometimes seemingly disparate disciplines turn their attention to transformations, crises, and anxieties crashing at our (real and metaphorical) shores. The urgency propelled by climate science stirs up consciousness, fears, and controversies about the future of our ecosystems, economies, policies, and cultures. The threat of rising tides—whether a shift in our natural environment, technological advancement, or paradigm shifts—increasingly call for collaborations among scholars, professionals, stakeholders, advocates, and citizens.
Our responses invite opportunities for conversations across disciplines that produce value, both for the climate crisis at hand as well as for the re-invention and renewal of scholarship in the twenty-first century. Interdisciplinarity creates a unique opportunity for us to begin to re-imagine the shape and function of collaboration, an opportunity to push the boundaries. Talking Beyond Disciplines: Rising Tides and Sea Changes invites graduate students from all disciplines to share their scholarly research and work that examines literal sea change or figurative sea change.