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Resident Scholars and Artists

This program, jointly sponsored with the College of Arts and Architecture, the College of the Liberal Arts, and the commonwealth campuses, provides up to nine faculty members per year with one semester of release time from teaching, a $1,000 mini-grant for research expenses and/or materials, and possible use of office space which may or may not be shared.

2016/17 Residents

Fall 2016

Vincent Perez Benitez, Jr.
Associate Professor of Music Theory
"The Music of Olivier Messiaen"

This book-length project will offer the first large-scale theoretical-analytical study of the music of Olivier Messiaen (1908–92), one of the twentieth century’s greatest composers. Using both current musical-analytic systems and approaches devised specifically for his musical works, I will focus on Messiaen’s harmonic practice and how it is not only related to that of other twentieth-century composers, but also highly original due to his colored-hearing synesthesia that motivated him to treat chords in a composition like colors on a painter’s canvas. Informing this technical study will be connections I will draw between Messiaen’s harmonic approach and his work with birdsong, improvisational practice with respect to his sixty-year tenure as titular organist at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Paris, and painters such as Robert Delaunay. I will chart Messiaen’s development as a composer, from his early works of the late 1920s and early 1930s through the Turangalîla-Symphonie (a ten-movement work for orchestra composed in 1946–48) that crowns the first half of his career, the birdsong-inspired compositions of the 1950s, the grandiose compositions of the 1960s and 1970s, to the late works of the 1980s and early 1990s. Finally, I will relate my analytical findings to Messiaen’s stated goal of revealing the truths of his Roman Catholic faith.

Pamela Blackmon
Political Science (Altoona)
“Africa as the 'Dark Continent': Tracing the Narrative of Development in the Transition from Agricultural Based Growth in Ethiopia and Ghana”

The metaphor of Africa as the “Dark Continent” has had numerous implications for how Africa and Africans have been depicted.  If countries in Africa export different types of goods, such as manufactured and services based goods, does the narrative about that country’s socio-economic progress change as well?  What does that tell us about the importance of language, and specifically economic language in framing a narrative of Africa?  In this project, which will comprise part of my book manuscript, I seek to go back to the underlying framework shaping the narrative of economies based on the export of primary agricultural goods.  During my time in residence, I will undertake a textual analysis of academic publications by prominent development economists beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, policies advocated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in the 1980s and 1990s and portrayals in contemporary media in order to explain how this narrative of Africa and economies based on the export of primary agricultural goods developed.  In order to determine if the narrative about countries in Africa changes, I will examine whether the narrative of Ethiopia and Ghana is altered as they begin to export more manufactured goods.  In this project, I want to examine how an economy based on the export of primary agricultural goods contributes to the narrative of those countries, as depicted by development economists and in policy formation of the financial institutions.

Ann Killebrew
Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, Jewish Studies, and Anthropology
“The End of the Bronze Age in the Levant: Crisis, Collapse, and Transformation”

Memorialized in later literature as a golden era, the Late Bronze Age (1550–1200/1150 BCE) witnesses the rise of the Hittite and New Kingdom Egyptian empires and development of an interconnected global economy. The eventual demise of the Bronze Age at the end of the 13th century is marked by decline, crisis and collapse, representing a major turning point in history. It leaves an indelible footprint in the archaeological record as well as unforgettable descriptions in later literature of wandering warriors in the Odyssey and biblical traditions of runaway Semitic slaves from New Kingdom Egypt. My project, The End of the Bronze Age in the Levant: Crisis, Collapse and Transformation, investigates the factors leading to the collapse of this Age of Internationalism and its subsequent consequences in the region. The rich textual and archaeological record, extensive evidence enabling the reconstruction of economic and exchange systems, and newly published archaeometric studies of the Late Bronze Age environment and climate will be examined by means of cross-cultural comparative studies (including contemporary research of modern societies), and theoretical models of societal collapse and renewal.

Courtney Morris
African American Studies and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
“To Defend this Sunrise: Black Women's Community Activism and the Geography of Race in Nicaragua”

To Defend this Sunrise: Black Women’s Community Activism and the Geography of Race in Nicaragua examines Afro-descendant women’s political subjectivity and activist cultures in the Caribbean coastal city of Bluefields. Combining ethnography, archival research, and oral history, this project reveals how the racialization of space through state policy, official narratives of Mestizo nationalism, cultural representations, and popular discourse has marked Black communities on the Caribbean coast as marginal citizens whose racial difference threatens the nation. Thus, Afro-Nicaraguan women’s political activism has historically been enacted in local struggles to redefine the region’s place in the Mestizo nation-state. I argue that Afro-Nicaraguan women have forged a politics of place that challenges broader processes of anti-Black racism, gender subordination, and economic inequality in Nicaragua. This study explores the various cultural and political sites where Afro-Nicaraguan women are producing counter-narratives of regional justice that disrupt exclusionary narratives of citizenship and national belonging.

Sarah Townsend
Spanish and Portuguese
“Opera in the Amazon: Culture, Capital, and the Global Jungle”

This project explores the changing relations of culture and capital by focusing on the Teatro Amazonas, a much mythologized opera house in Manaus, Brazil. Built at the height of the Amazonian rubber boom of the late nineteenth century and designed to host touring companies from Europe, the theater served a variety of non-operatic purposes following the shift in rubber production to Asia and the decline of opera as the favored genre of the elite. As most accounts tell it, Manaus entered a long period of stagnation and cultural isolation that was only exacerbated in the late sixties, during the military dictatorship in Brazil, when the city became the site of a Free Trade Zone. Since 1997, however, a combination of state support and private sponsorship has allowed the Teatro Amazonas to host an annual opera festival, which originally involved importing productions and performers from elsewhere but now relies to a large extent on local labor and talent. Opera in the Amazon illuminates this history by connecting it to an analysis of productions staged at the theater as well as films, novels, and other cultural artifacts in which the building appears. In doing so, the project attempts to draw a more complex geography of cultural creation and circulation while also illuminating the peculiar fascination that opera in the jungle holds for artists from Brazil and elsewhere. 


Spring 2017

Todd Davis
English and Environmental Studies (Altoona)
“Native Species”

My next book of poems, tentatively titled Native Species, examines human life in relationship to other species as the Anthropocene unfolds and the ways we have radically altered the natural, non-human world become more and more apparent. Using a common mode of categorization in ecological science—native or indigenous and non-native and/or invasive—the poems that comprise this collection have at their root the question of where we fit as a species. Might we be both a native and an invasive species? Or, given our radically destructive behavior and penchant for exponential population growth, at this point in history may we claim any native ground at all? The poems I hope to write will seek to represent the complexity of these questions by offering a series of meditations on a variety of native and non-native species found in the U.S. In addition, I will examine the manner in which we as humans use native and non-native species, how we are often responsible for their intentional and unintentional transport to other regions, and how as a species such alterations may be part of an evolutionary pattern that might be controlled in a more responsible and less fundamentally devastating manner.

Kathryn Gines
African American Studies
“Simone de Beauvoir and the Negro Question: Racism, Sexism, and Colonialism”

Simone de Beauvoir: Racism, Sexism and Colonialism in The Second Sex and Beyond is an interdisciplinary humanities project that engages Simone de Beauvoir philosophically while situating the debates and encounters between Beauvoir and her interlocutors, e.g. Jean-Paul Sartre, Frantz Fanon, and Richard Wright, as well asGunnar and Alva Myrdal in an intellectual historical context. I examine Beauvoir’s (and her interlocutors’) analyses of race/racism, gender/sexism, and colonialism/anti-colonialism as systems of oppression paying particular attention to places where these figures’ analyses, insights, and oversights converge and/or diverge with one another. This book project builds on a few of my earlier publications including “Sartre, Beauvoir, and the Race/Gender Analogy: A Case for Black Feminist Philosophy” in Convergences: Black Feminism and Continental Philosophy (2010), “Comparative and Competing Frameworks of Oppression in Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex” in Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal (2014), and "The Race/Gender Analogy Revisited" in a Blackwell Companion to Beauvoir edited by Nancy Bauer and Laura Hengehold (forthcoming). 

Brian Lennon
English and Comparative Literature
“Early Literary Data Processing: An Institutional History”

This project considers the translation metaphors employed by the first programmers of electronic computers as they borrowed and invented terms for describing the writing and execution of programs. The phrase "higher-level language," now widely used to describe the notation systems that emerged in the mid-1950s combining algebraic expressions with English-language keywords, refers to such systems' design for abstraction of hardware-dependent numeric and alphanumeric operation codes, rather than for "expressivity" as programmers use that term today. Before such technical categorical terms as "higher-level" had settled into common usage, early programmers borrowed liberally from the national- and comparative philological domain of natural or human languages to describe relationships among activities and processes in computing and what would later come to be called computer science. Words like "foreign," "native," "translation," and "translatability" were widely used, during the 1950s, alongside or in combination with new terms from an emerging technical lexicon. Much of this borrowing is at odds with contemporary linguistic and literary translation theory in so far as the most influential forms of the latter have rejected the basis for analogies binding code to language. Where that position has grown most remote from the assumptions of the computer science subdiscipline of programming language theory (PLT), the two domains are for all practical purposes incommensurable, and there is nothing wrong with that. I suggest that their point of divergence is marked by the concept of automation. The history of computing in general and of computer programming in particular is a history of recursive automation: that is, of the addition of successive layers of control through which higher- and lower-level codes are "translated" to each other, and which has as its vanishing point, both by design and by accident, a historical moment when the human knowledge of how to write them recedes. It is the anticipation of such a transition, its representation, and the formation of a discourse representing it, at a moment in the history of computing, that is my topic here.

Maha Marouan
African American Studies and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
“Evoking Memories of Slavery Through Gnawa Women's Religious Ceremonies"

Dr. Maha Marouan is Associate Professor of African American Studies and Women Studies at the Pennsylvania State University.  Her work focuses on the intersection of race, gender and religion in the construction of female subjectivities. Her most recent publications include Witches, Goddesses and Angry Spirits: The Politics of Spiritual Liberation in African Diaspora Women’s Fiction, (Ohio State University Press, 2013), a co-edited volume on Race and Displacement: Nation, Migration and Identity in the Twenty-First Century (University of Alabama Press, 2013), and a documentary entitled "Voices of Muslim Women in the US South." Dr. Marouan teaches undergraduate courses on  "African Diaspora Religions", "Women of Color from a Cross-Cultural Perspective", "Women in the  African Diaspora" and graduate seminars on"Gender, Race and Immigration",  "Transnational Feminisms" and "Third World Feminisms".

Shirley Moody-Turner
English and African American Studies
“'Privately Printed': Anna Julia Cooper and the Gender Politics of Black Publishing"

Shirley Moody-Turner is an associate professor of English and African American Studies. She is the author of Black Folklore and the Politics of Racial Representation, co-editor of Contemporary African American Literature: The Living Canon, and has recently signed on as editor of volume VII (focusing on the years 1900-1910) for the Cambridge University Press multi-volume project, African American Literature in Transition. She is co-founder of the Anna Julia Cooper Society, co-organizer of the Celebrating African American Literature conference, and President of the African American Literature and Culture Society. Her current project, Privately Printing: Anna Julia Cooper and the Gender Politics of Black Publishing, examines Anna Julia Cooper’s innovative engagements with publishing and print culture.

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