On February 12th, faculty and students were treated to an eloquent and thought-provoking talk from Ph.D. candidate, Kim Evelyn, at an event hosted by the English Graduate Colloquium. Kim’s presentation, titled “Speaking Home and History: Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and Narratives of National Belonging,” highlighted a paradox central to British colonial identity– the incongruity between a British Caribbean individual’s sense of national belonging and the feeling of exclusion. The multigenerational Caribbean characters of Smith’s White Teeth struggle with the difficult idea of “home,” recounting family histories in order to create a narrative of identity foundational to their experiences of diaspora.
Following her talk, I asked Kim to elaborate on what it was like to participate in the Graduate Colloquium.
Q: Can you briefly tell us how your talk fits into your larger project?
On Tuesday, January 28th, the English department, Gender and Women’s Studies and the URI LGBTQ Center kicked off our spring speaking series with a presentation by Dr. Laura Doan. Doan is professor of cultural history and sexuality studies, focusing on modernism World War I and queer historiography at the University of Manchester in England; she is also co-director for the center of sexuality and culture. Her publications include The Lesbian Postmodern, Sexology Uncensored: the Documents of Sexual Science, Sexology and Culture: Labelling Bodies and Desires, Palatable Poison: Critical Perspectives on the Well of Loneliness, Fashioning Sapphism: the Origins of a Modern English Lesbian Culture, Disturbing Practices: History, Sexuality and Women’s Experience of Modern War.
Professor Doan was introduced by University of Rhode Island’s Jean Walton, Professor of English, Women’s Studies, Film Media and Comparative Literature. Doan’s visit was a key event for Professor Walton’s course in Feminism, Gender and the Body. After the talk, Professor Doan visited with the students of ENG 560 to discuss her work and answer questions regarding her most recent book, Disturbing Practices.
On December 6th, Tim Amidon (PhD candidate, Rhetoric and Composition) gave a Brown Bag talk in which he presented work from his dissertation, “‘You Can’t Just Learn That Knowledge—That Unspoken Knowledge’: Firefighters’ Multi-modal Literacies.”
Tim, who has been a firefighter for fifteen years, began his talk by explaining that firefighters are too often considered to be “people who do, not people who think.” The research he conducted—which included interviews and field observations—challenges that assumption, and it also challenges our understanding of literacy practices and knowledge work.
What is cool? Used so frequently in everyday vernacular, the “cool” has acquired various ambiguous shades of meaning. In a talk on December 4, Beazley Kanost (PhD candidate, English) challenged our ordinary notions of the cool, taking up and carefully theorizing both the idea of the “cool” in 60s counter culture and the implications of the political stance that lies behind our assumptions about the “cool.” Kanost’s “Whose Cool? The Direction Truth Takes in Portrait of Jason” draws from her work on experimental film of the 60s, particularly material from her visit to the Shirley Clarke Papers archive at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research in Madison, Wisconsin, funded by a graduate research grant from the University of Rhode Island Center for the Humanities. Central to Kanost’s argument is the way in which the subject of Clarke’s film projects is often the “cool man.”
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.