Humanities Viewpoints is a podcast featuring short conversations between host and Humanities Institute Assistant Director, Aimee Mepham, and a WFU faculty member working in the humanities. The conversations focus on a timely subject – a current event, holiday, cultural experience – and how this subject connects to the faculty member’s field, teaching, and expertise.
Listen to the episodes below. You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Just search for “Humanities Viewpoints” in the iTunes Podcast Store and click on Subscribe — it’s free!
Faculty who are interested in participating or who would like to submit a topic should contact Aimee Mepham at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Episode 16: Familiar Prejudices from Unexpected Sources
This month’s episode marks the first Roundtables episode of Humanities Viewpoints in which a group of Wake Forest faculty gather to discuss a topic from the lens of their respective fields. Today, our topic is “Familiar Prejudices from Unexpected Sources.” Our conversation includes discussions of anti-Greek sentiments in Roman satire, Ancient Greek and Roman anti-Semitism, women’s involvement in the second era Ku Klux Klan, imagined histories, and the rhetoric of the 2016 Presidential campaign.
My guests are T.H.M Gellar-Goad, Jeffrey D. Lerner, and Lynn S. Neal.
T. H. M. Gellar-Goad is Assistant Professor of Classical Languages at Wake Forest University. He specializes in Latin poetry, especially the funny stuff: Roman comedy, Roman erotic elegy, Roman satire, and — if you believe him — the allegedly philosophical poet Lucretius.
Jeffrey D. Lerner is a Professor of History at Wake Forest University. His research focuses on the Hellenistic Period in the East. He teaches a variety of courses on Ancient History, including History 312: Jews, Greeks, and Romans.
Lynn S. Neal is a scholar of American religious history. She is the co-editor, with John Corrigan, of Religious Intolerance in America, and the author of a number of articles on religious intolerance, including “Christianizing the Klan: Alma White, Branford Clarke, and the Art of Religious Intolerance,” “The Ideal Democratic Apparel: T-shirts, Religious Intolerance, and the Clothing of Democracy,” and “They’re Freaks!: The Cult Stereotype in Fictional Television Shows, 1958-2008.” She is Associate Professor and Associate Chair in the Department for the Study of Religions.
I hope you enjoy our conversation.
Here is a list of the readings and sources my guests draw from during this discussion:
From Dr. Gellar-Goad:
Translation of Juvenal’s Third Satire by A. S. Kline: http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/JuvenalSatires3.htm
Translation of Catullus 63 on Attis by A. S. Kline: http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/Catullus.htm#anchor_Toc531846788
From Dr. Lerner:
Dio Cassius, Roman History, Volume 9: Books 71-80. Translated by Cary, E., Foster, H.B., Loeb Classical Library 177 (Harvard University Press, 1927). See 75.32
Tacitus, Annals, Volume 4: Books 4-6, 11-12. Translated by Jackson, J. Loeb Classical Library 312 (Harvard University Press, 1937). See 12.54.
Tacitus, Histories, Volume 3: Books 4-5. Annals: Books 1-3. Translated by Moore, C.H. Classical Library 249 (Harvard University Press, 1931). See 5.1-13.
For Claudius’ edict concerning the inhabitants of Alexandria, see Select Papyri, Volume 2: Public Documents. Translated by Hunt, A.S. and Edgar, C.C. Classical Library 282 (Harvard University Press, 1934). See Chapter 3 (pp.78-89).
For Manetho, see Josephus, The Life. Against Apion. Translated by Thackery, H.St.J. Classical Library 186 (Harvard University Press, 1926). See 1.26-31 (227-287).
Episode 15: Hamilton: The Man and the Musical
Hamilton: An American Musical tells the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. It was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda who also starred in the title role. It debuted Off-Broadway at the Public Theatre to critical acclaim and transferred to Broadway in August 2015.
Since then it was nominated for a record-setting 16 Tony Awards, winning 11, including Best Musical as well as awards for Best Book and Best Score for its creator, Miranda. It was also the recipient of the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It’s even made its way into Wake Forest University’s undergraduate admissions application as a short-answer question. You can read the full story about that at news.wfu.edu.
Today on Humanities Viewpoints, Jake Ruddiman from the History Department talks with me about the Hamilton phenomenon. We discuss what Hamilton, the musical, gets right, what it leaves out, and what may have captivated Lin Manuel-Miranda’s imagination, inspiring the creation of his version of this “Founding Father without a father.”
Jake Ruddiman is an Associate Professor of History at Wake Forest University. His first book, Becoming Men of Some Consequence, presents the experiences of young men fighting in the Revolutionary War. His next projects explore the Revolution in the southeast.
Dr. Ruddiman was also kind enough to share a link to one of the recorded Hamilton panels from the SHEAR conference he mentions during our talk. Click here to view.
Episode 14: The Enduring Relevance of Thomas More’s Utopia
This month’s guest is Dr. Sarah Hogan. She’ll be talking about utopian literature, specifically Thomas More’s Utopia from 1516. We’ll discuss the etymology of the word utopia, the history of More’s book and its relevance today, as well as the current pervasiveness of dystopias, utopian literature’s sister genre.
Sarah Hogan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Wake Forest University. Her teaching and research interests are in early modern British literature, Utopian Studies, and cultural theory. She is currently at work on a book, Island Worlds and Other Englands: Utopia, Capital, and Empire (1516-1660). Her writing has appeared in The Journal of Early Modern Cultural Studies, The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and Upstart: A Journal of English Renaissance Studies.
To hear about more on the subject of utopias, don’t miss Utopia: Dreaming the Social, a one-day, interdisciplinary symposium. It takes place from 10:00am-4:30pm on Wednesday, March 2nd at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art.
The event is sponsored by the Program in Medieval and Early Modern Studies with additional sponsorship from the WFU Humanities Institute, made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the WFU Department of History, and the WFU Department of Philosophy. Featured speakers include several WFU faculty members, including Dr. Hogan, as well as faculty guests from Indiana University and Loyola University-Chicago.
Episode 13: Art History and the Destruction of Palmyra
This past May, the ancient Roman-era city and UNESCO World Heritage site of Palmyra in Syria was seized by ISIS. Later in the summer, Khaled al-Asaad, an 82-year-old archaeologist and renowned antiquities scholar, was brutally murdered in Palmyra by Islamic State militants when he refused to reveal where valuable artifacts had been moved. Since then, ISIS has set about demolishing the architectural riches of the city. Why is the preservation of these sites and the objects within them so important, a life or death matter for someone like al-Asaad?
Dr. Laura Veneskey joins Humanities Viewpoints this month to discuss this and other questions related to the systematic destruction of one of the world’s most important ancient sites.
Laura Veneskey (Sarah Lawrence College, B.A.; Northwestern University, Ph.D.) teaches courses in ancient, medieval, and Byzantine art. Her research explores the visual culture of the late Roman and early medieval Mediterranean, particularly Syria-Palestine, with special focus on issues of materiality, medieval image theory, pilgrimage, and the cult of relics. She is currently preparing a book manuscript investigating the material aspects of Mediterranean visual culture between the 3rd and 9th centuries. Professor Veneskey has received grants from the Mellon Foundation, the Max-Planck-Institut, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the Graham Foundation, and the Warburg Institute. Before coming to Wake Forest, she was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Columbia University.
Bonus Episode 12: Rising Voices Conference and LGBTQIA Rights
This past June, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can marry nationwide, an historic victory for gay rights. While this landmark decision was cause for much celebration, marriage equality is hardly the end of the struggle for LGBTQ rights. This issue and many others will be discussed at Rising Voices: A Wake Forest Alumni LGBTQIA Conference which will be held on the Wake Forest University campus October 23rd and 24th. You can register for the Rising Voices Conference by visiting lgbtq.wfu.edu/risingvoices.
In this month’s bonus episode of Humanities Viewpoints, Wake Forest LGBTQ Center Director Angela Mazaris and I discuss the upcoming conference, the founding of the LGBTQ Center at Wake Forest, and her own work on queer public histories.
Dr. Angela Mazaris is the founding director of the LGBTQ Center at Wake Forest University, where she also teaches in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program. As LGBTQ Center Director, she provides education, advocacy, and support to the campus community around issues of gender identity and sexual orientation. Dr. Mazaris serves as part of the university’s Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Team, and is committed to creating an institution that welcomes, supports, and engages everyone to his or her fullest potential. Dr. Mazaris has a Ph.D. in American Studies from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where she was honored to hold a Jacob Javits Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education. Her teaching and research focus on LGBTQ history, queer theory, public history, and gender studies. At Brown she served as the first Coordinator of the LGBTQ Resource Center, and as Graduate Proctor at the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center. She was also a member of Brown’s Diversity Advisory Board, where she worked specifically on issues related to first-generation students and social class.
Episode 11: Coptic Christians in Egypt
Last week it was released that work will soon begin on a church planned to honor the deaths of a group of Egyptian Coptic Christians who were killed earlier this year by a Libyan militant group affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). This is just one instance of violence against Coptic Christians in the Middle East, part of a complex history of persecution that goes back hundreds of years and continues today.
On this episode of Humanities Viewpoints, Dr. Nelly van Doorn-Harder talks with me about the history of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt, sectarian violence, and the current state of the church. Nelly van Doorn-Harder is Professor of Islamic Studies in the Department for the Study of Religions at Wake Forest University. Her research straddles issues concerning women and religion, human rights in Muslim countries, and the interreligious encounter between Muslims and Christians. She was born and raised in the Netherlands where she earned her PhD on the topic of women in the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam. Her main books on Egypt are on Coptic nuns and the modern history of the Coptic popes. Before moving to the United States she was director of a refugee program in Cairo, Egypt, and taught Islamic Studies at universities in the Netherlands and Indonesia.
Episode 10: A History of Violence Against African American Churches
Ronald Neal, Assistant Professor in the Wake Forest University Department for the Study of Religions, is our guest today and will talk with me about the tragic shooting in Charleston this summer. Nine people were shot and killed during a Bible study session at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17th. This church is one of the largest and oldest black congregations in the South, and the recent massacre is not the first time it has been the target of a hate crime. Black churches have been the target of violence throughout the history of the United States – one of the most well-known being the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four African American girls. Dr. Neal and I discuss the history of African American churches in the United States, the legacy of the church as a center of political organization, and the history of violence against black churches as political acts of terrorism.
Ronald B. Neal holds a PhD in Religion from Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Democracy in 21st Century America: Race, Class, Religion, and Region (Mercer University Press, 2012). Professor Neal is a theorist of religion and culture whose primary area of teaching and research is African American Religious Studies. He also does teaching and research in other areas including world religions, religion and popular culture, religion and political culture, and gender studies in religion. He is currently writing a book on Black Masculinity, Myth, and the Western Imagination.
Episode 9: Public History
Happy New Year, listeners! This episode of Humanities Viewpoints, our first for 2015, is about Public History. Academics engaging and working with public audiences is getting a good deal of attention. The annual meeting of the American Historical Association earlier this month included a panel session called, “Being a Public Intellectual: Historians and the Public.” Also, just this past December, the National Endowment for the Humanities announced the creation of their new “Public Scholar Grant Program” that encourages the publication of nonfiction books that apply serious humanities scholarship to subjects of general interest and appeal.
Dr. Lisa Blee, Assistant Professor of History at Wake Forest University, joins me today to talk about Public History, the background of the field, as well as her definition and how it applies to her teaching.
Dr. Blee will also talk a bit about the upcoming exhibition, Release: From Stigma to Acceptance. This exhibition features the words and art of formerly incarcerated offenders and was a collaboration between Project Re-entry program graduates, Wake Forest University students in Dr. Blee’s course Issues in Public History (HST 367), and Project Re-entry coordinators during the Fall 2014 semester. The exhibition opens this Saturday, January 17th at the Sawtooth School for Visual Art with an opening reception from 1-3pm. Enjoy refreshments and music while learning about the history of incarceration, stories of re-entry, and the background of the exhibit.
Lisa Blee grew up in Arizona, attended college in Portland, Oregon, and received her PhD at the University of Minnesota. She joined the Wake Forest faculty in 2009 and teaches courses in the U.S. West, Native American history, environmental thought, and public history. Her research interest is in historical memory and late-nineteenth and twentieth century Pacific Northwest Indigenous history. Her first book is Framing Chief Leschi: Narratives and the Politics of Historical Justice (2014, University of North Carolina Press).
I hope you enjoy our conversation.
Episode 8: Christmas Traditions and the Victorian Period
Today on the podcast, we’re taking a look at Christmas traditions. Decorating the Christmas tree, sending cards, and buying presents — some of you may be planning (or fretting over) some of these activities at the moment, but where do these traditions come from? My guest, Dr. Melissa Shields Jenkins, explains that many of the traditions we take for granted during the Christmas season are rooted in the Victorian period. During the 19th Century, a kind of re-creation of Christmas took place, and the texts and images created during this period helped to not only shape the seasonal customs but also to inspire reflection upon the meanings of this holiday.
Melissa Shields Jenkins is an assistant professor in the English department at Wake Forest University. She is also a Wake Forest University alum, receiving her BA in 2001 before receiving her PhD from Harvard University. She specializes in 19th century British literature and culture, the history of the novel, and gender studies. In 2014, she published a book called Fatherhood, Authority, and British Reading Culture, and is currently working on a book-length project called Habits of Sympathy in Victorian Britain. Originally from Charlotte, NC, she now lives in Winston-Salem with her husband Jaime, daughter Jaclyn, and two rescue dogs.
I hope you enjoy our conversation and her readings of some great Victorian literature.
Episode 7: ISIS and the Caliphate
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS, also known as ISIL, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or just the Islamic State, started as an al Qaeda splinter group. Its aim is to create an Islamic state across Sunni areas of Iraq and Syria and is known for killing dozens of people at a time and carrying out public executions. The group currently controls hundreds of square miles in Iraq and Syria. On June 29, 2014, ISIS announced the creation of a caliphate, claiming to erase all state borders and declaring leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the authority over the world’s estimated 1.5 billion Muslims.
While you have likely been following news coverage of ISIS, you may not know the history of the caliphate in the Middle East. Today on Humanities Viewpoints, Dr. Charles Wilkins, Associate Professor of History at Wake Forest University, outlines the history of the caliphate in the Middle East, providing historical and cultural context that illustrates how al-Baghdadi’s claim as caliph is a distorted misrepresentation of this history.
Charles Wilkins joined the Wake Forest faculty in 2006 as Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern history. He is the author of Forging Urban Solidarities: Ottoman Aleppo, 1640-1700. His research is concerned with the social history of the Ottoman Empire in the Early Modern Period (1500-1800). His specific research interests include Ottoman empire-building in the Arab provinces, war and society, the family, and Islamic legal practices. Before coming to Wake Forest in 2006, Wilkins taught Middle Eastern history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Colorado College. He graduated from Duke University in 1988 and, after serving in the US Army, received his masters degree in Islamic History at Ohio State University and doctoral degree in History and Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University (2006). He is currently working on a book project entitled, “Early Modern Empires and the Ottoman Incorporation of Syria, 1516-1760.”
Episode 6: Diwali
Diwali has become a national festival that is celebrated throughout India and other parts of South Asia by many different faiths including Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs. The main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu calendar (between mid-October and mid-November in the Gregorian calendar), and this year the darkest night was October 23rd.
In this episode, Dr. Tanisha Ramachandran, Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Religion at Wake Forest University, talks about the history and cultural significance of the Diwali festival including how the celebration varies by region and religious tradition.
Tanisha Ramachandran earned her Ph.D from Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. She is currently working on a monograph tentatively titled, Idolized Representations which deals with issues of colonialism and the transmission and commoditization of Hindu imagery in the Euro-American world. Prior to joining Wake Forest University, she taught in the Department of Religion and the Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia University. She has published in various journals including The Journal of Religion and Culture and Canadian Women’s Studies/ les cahiers de la Femme and has given numerous talks on issues pertaining to race, sexuality, religion and feminism. Her other areas of interest include the racialization of Islam in the North American media, Hindu Nationalism, Hindu and Buddhist art and Women in South Asian Religions.
During our conversation, Dr. Ramachandran also mentions the Diwali & Eid Celebration that will be held on Wake Forest University’s campus on Saturday, November 8th from 4-6pm on Manchester Plaza (rain location: Benson 401), sponsored by the South Asian Student Association. Come enjoy great food, music, and community!
Episode 5: Gothic Literature
Halloween, thought to be rooted in the Gaelic harvest festival Samhain, is seen as a time for ghosts, ghouls, and all things terrifying. Contemporary celebrations of Halloween often include trick-or-treating, costume parties, visiting haunted houses, watching horror films, and of course, telling scary ghost stories. But some of these activities are not limited to October 31st. Horror movies fill movie theatres all year round, and vampires and zombies are pervasive in popular culture.
Where does this enjoyment in scaring ourselves come from? Dr. Elizabeth Way, Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Wake Forest University, talks with me about Gothic literature and how the elements of this genre have influenced the literature and popular culture of today.
Dr. Way specializes in British Romanticism and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and teaches courses in British and world literature, the Gothic, and science fiction. She holds graduate degrees in English from the University of Georgia and the University of Durham in England, where she spent a year as a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar; she also holds a graduate certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Elizabeth has published on Mary Seacole, contributed book reviews for Gothic Studies and Romanticism, and is serving as the invited editor for the forthcoming entry on Seacole in Nineteenth Century Literature Criticism. Her current book project, Romantic Compositions: A Poetics of Home and Exile in Women’s Writing, 1789-1832, is a formalist and cultural study of how gender and genre inflect portrayals of home and exile in texts by Romantic women writers.
Episode 4: Oktoberfest
When I say the word Oktoberfest, you might immediately think of oompah bands, lederhosen, and, of course, beer. But what is the history of this event, and how might our vision of this celebration be influenced by an American appropriation of the festival?
My guest today, Dr. Grant McAllister, Associate Professor of German and Chair of the German & Russian Department at Wake Forest University, discusses the historical roots of Oktoberfest, the ways in which it has changed and been Americanized and how that may have influenced the way it is celebrated in Germany today.
Dr. McAllister received his PhD in 2001 from the University of Utah and began teaching at Wake Forest shortly thereafter. His primary research interests focus on eighteenth and nineteenth century literature, with specific emphasis on Heinrich von Kleist, early Romantic aesthetic and philosophical theory, and questions of gender and the formation of the subject. He has written and presented papers on Romanticism, Kleist, Lessing and Lola Rennt. He is currently working on an article on Luise Gottsched and has started his next book project on transcribing and analyzing 18th century Moravian odes and birthday poems.
Listen to the episode here or find us on iTunes.
Episode 3: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur begin and conclude the time in the Jewish calendar known as the High Holy Days or Days of Awe. My guest today, Dr. Annalise Glauz-Todrank, talks about the history of these two holidays, the meaning of their connection, as well as her approach to teaching their history in her courses.
Annalise Glauz-Todrank is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion at Wake Forest University. She is a historian of religions and critical race theorist who studies Jews and Judaism in a variety of modern contexts. Currently, she is completing a manuscript entitled Jewish Identity between “Religion” and “Race” in Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, in which she examines the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court case that provided race-based civil rights protection to Jews for the first time. She has recent publications in Critical Research on Religion, Religion Compass, and an edited volume entitled Who Is a Jew?
Listen to the episode here or find us on iTunes.
Episode 2: Scottish Literature and Scottish Independence
My guest is Ryan Shirey, Director of the Writing Center and Assistant Teaching Professor in the Writing Program at Wake Forest University as well as a scholar of Scottish literature. He has written and presented on a number of topics related to Scottish literature, most recently contributing a chapter on John Buchan’s use of dialect Scots in his poetry for the edited collection: John Buchan and the Idea of Modernity. He has another chapter forthcoming for the Association for Scottish Literary Studies companion to the work of Scottish novelist Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
He offers his thoughts on the upcoming referendum for Scottish independence that will take place on Thursday, September 18th. The Scottish Referendum Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament in November 2013, following an agreement between the Scottish and the United Kingdom governments. Voters can answer only Yes or No to the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” The independence proposal requires a simple majority to pass, and all residents in Scotland over the age of 16 can vote.
During our conversation, Dr. Shirey discusses the complex history of the relationship between Scotland and England. He particularly illustrates the interesting perspective that Scottish literature provides for examining the possibility of Scottish independence, with a particular focus on how Scottish writers represent issues of nationalism and of Scottish political and cultural identity in their fiction and poetry.
Listen to the episode here or find us on iTunes.
Episode 1: Labor Day
Michele Gillespie, WFU Presidential Endowed Professor of Southern History, is the author of two prize-winning books, Katharine and R.J. Reynolds, published in 2012, and Free Labor in an Unfree World, published in 2000.
She has co-edited numerous books, including three volumes on southern economic and social history in global perspective for the New Directions in the History of Southern Economy and Society series. She is currently co-editing a two volume anthology, North Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times, and she is also the author of a dozen articles on the gendered politics, changing technologies, and racial realities of artisanal and working-class men and women in the slave South.
She is currently writing an interpretive biography of Mary Musgrove, an 18th c. Creek woman in colonial Georgia. She is also researching the life of twentieth-century torch singer Libby Holman. She is a past President of the Southern Association for Women Historians and past member of the Southern Historical Association’s Executive Council, has served on the editorial board of the North Carolina Historical Review and the Journal of Southern History, and is co-editor of the New Directions in Southern History series at the University Press of Kentucky.
She has won several teaching awards, as well as several community service awards. At Wake Forest University, she serves on the advisory board of the Humanities Institute.
Listen to this first episode below.
You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Just search for Humanities Viewpoints in the iTunes Podcast Store and click on Subscribe — it’s free!
Faculty who are interested in participating or who would like to submit a topic should contact Aimee Mepham at email@example.com.