The Interdisciplinary Faculty Seminars harness the intellectual energies of the Wake Forest faculty to promote and support cross- and interdisciplinary collaboration and research that represents the leading edge of humanities scholarship. The seminars create exciting bridges between different disciplines and units within the University. These groups meet regularly over the course of a semester or academic year and participate in the annual Interdisciplinary Faculty Seminars Symposium that the Humanities Institute hosts every spring.
The Interdisciplinary Faculty Seminars for the 2013-2014 Academic Year are:
In Search of the American / Medieval: Contemplation, Identities, and Environment
Gillian Overing (English, co-convener), Ulrike Wiethaus (Religion; American Ethnic Studies, co-convener), Judith Madera (English), Sol Miguel-Prendes (Romance Languages), Gale Sigal (English), Tina Boyer (German), Roberta Morosini (Romance Languages)
In regard to Euro-American cultural practices in the US that derive from medieval European traditions with or without explicitly naming them as such, American/Medieval denotes a type of cultural transfer that is manifesting itself as both American and contemporary yet also as European and historically specific. By engaging cross-disciplinary examination of American/Medieval scholarship and sites, the seminar aims to enrich participants’ pedagogy and research in their own disciplines, and is particularly interested in deepening participants’ understanding of our collective connections to the past and its survival in multiple cultural contexts and transmutations.
According to co-convener, Gillian Overing, the seminar’s sessions so far have been richly intellectually rewarding. Four members of the group have proposed a session at the International Medieval Congress in the UK next July, on “In Search of the American/Medieval: A Transatlantic Inquiry.”
“In tandem with the Medieval Studies program, we are inviting two speakers next Spring, and we are also planning a speaker series for next year which will intersect with classes we are all teaching,” Overing said.
Ulrike Wiethaus, co-convener, adds that the groups has made plans for a field trip to Valdese, NC in the spring to map cultural memory transfers of a medieval heretical group, the Waldensians. “We have also read far and wide on the constructions of cultural memory, time, performativity, monsters, decolonization, place and geography, women and water, and medieval and contemporary structures of the numinous double. We are also integrating contemplative practices by using ‘memory circles’ at the beginning of a session, and by closing with a meditative time for silence, stillness, and spaciousness.”
Aesthetics and Politics
Omaar Hena (English, convener), John Curley (Art), Bruce Barnhart (English), Jefferson Holdridge (English), Morna O’Neill (Art), Richard Schneider (Law), John Oksanish (Classical Languages), Beth Ann Way (English)
This continuing seminar brings together WFU faculty working in the areas of art, literature and music to examine the relationship between aesthetic forms and and variants of political theory. Specifically the group examines both what links and differentiates artistic forms (the novel, play, opera, painting, etc.), as well as the complex ways in which artistic practices relate to broader political contexts and questions.
During the Fall 2013 semester, the Aesthetics and Politics Faculty Seminar has been delving into Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man (1964). In an argument that could not be more relevant to our current era, Marcuse examines the fate of critical thought and the development of an aesthetic consciousness amidst the rise of advanced, technological society. Previously the group has read Theodor W. Adorno, Frederic Jameson, and Jacques Rancière. “Later this academic year,” says convener Omaar Hena, “we will study the aesthetic theories of Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Schiller, whose eighteenth-century writings lay a historical foundation for the ways in which subsequent philosophers debate the interrelation between art, capitalism, and representative democracy.”
Complexity, Emergence, and Big History
Alan Williams (History, convener), Paul Anderson (Physics), Paul Jones (Chemistry), Clifford Zeyl (Biology), Ellen Miller (Anthropology), E.J. Masicampo (Psychology), Juan-Pedro Garces-Voisenat (Economics), Ralph Kennedy (Philosophy)
What we are after in this seminar is the chance to look at our own disciplines through the common lens of complex systems and the emergent properties that characterize them. What clarity can we bring to our understandings of the variables chemist concerned with molecules must consider that do not enter the ken of a physicist or of the variables a sociologist must treat that are not of concern to a psychologist? To what extent does it make sense to treat atoms and snails and societies as increasingly complex systems? How do we define and measure complexity, and what, if anything, besides the pattern or structure of its component parts might account for the emergent properties a complex system may manifest?
“We anticipate that all of us will emerge with a clearer and enlarged understanding of how our various disciplines are related and, perhaps, a new respect for how they supplement one another in the grand enterprise of trying to make sense of ourselves and the vast stretches of space and time in which we are enfolded,” says convener Alan Williams. “We anticipate that each of us will be better able to communicate such an understanding to our students, helping them see how the courses they take from us fit into the broader program of study required of them. To the extent we can do this, we will help them see their education at Wake Forest and elsewhere as a coherent enterprise, not a set of unrelated intellectual experiences.”
“Whatever else may come from this seminar,” Williams continues, “one consequence will be a course next fall offered in the History Department imitatively entitled ‘Big History.’ This new course will attempt to put together in a single coherent narrative the history of humanity set in the context of the cosmic history out of which we have emerged. It will trace our origins back as far as we can go and, from that point, follow both the course by which hydrogen and the dust of shattered stars became human and the path by which our ancestors built the world in which we live.”
Re-Writing Exile: The Arts and Technologies
Wanda Balzano (Women’s and Gender Studies, co-convener), Lynn Book (Theatre and Dance; Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship program, co-convener), Alessandra Beasley Von Burg (Communication; American Ethnic Studies), Rian Bowie (English), Amy Catanzano (English), Beth Ann Way (English), Angela Kocze (Women’s and Gender Studies; Fulbright Guest Scholar)
This seminar is a continuing exploration of how exiled women find and create privileged spaces for the re/articulation of conditions of displacement, dislocation and diaspora in narration, in the visual mingling of tradition and experimentation, in the fluxes of information that constitute the emergence of new and imagined “communities” through new art and related social change forms. The seminar explores scholarly theories of “exile” and “nomadism,” as well as creative theorizing through arts practices. It places critical focus on language and practices of communication, especially, including creative writing, photography, video art, performance and new media works, and digital platforms.
Human Mobility: The Rights and Practices of Migration
Alessandra Beasley Von Burg (Communication; American Ethnic Studies, co-convener), Margaret Taylor (Law, co-convener), Lisa Kiang (Psychology), Ana Maria Wahl (Sociology; American Ethnic Studies), Betina Wilkinson (Politics and International Affairs)
This seminar brings scholars together from across disciplines to examine the theory, practice, implications, and recent events related to migration and immigration, mostly in the United States, but also in other areas of the world (European Union, Latin America, Asia). The seminar considers political, social, psychological, legal, and philosophical approaches to migration as a human right (Article 13, UN Declaration of Human Rights, 1948) and a human practice, the understanding of which is rooted in the humanities and social sciences.
Co-convener Alessandra Beasley Von Burg says, “Migration and mobility are human topics and as more and more people leave their country of origin in search of opportunities in other parts of the world, we aim to explore and understand the various aspects related to migration. The group hopes to develop community connections to work with local agencies and partners; as well as create a webpage/data repository for information that may benefit faculty, students, and community members.”