Faculty

Tucker Comments on Victorian Pseudoscience, Romance

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

The pseudoscientific myths about love and sexuality that abounded in the Victorian era, many of which seem “cruel and oppressive” by today’s standards, could also offer women relief from the era’s “rigid gender politics,” according to Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker, who comments on the topic for a Broadly article.

For much of the 19th century, the Western world was fascinated with a variety of pseudosciences, or theories that lack a basis in the scientific method.

“Definitions of science were malleable and hotly contested in the 19th century,” said Tucker, who is also associate professor of science in society, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, and associate professor of environmental studies. “Far from being on the sidelines of intellectual life, spiritualism and other unconventional forms of knowledge often provided a means for Victorians from a variety of different social backgrounds to question scientific authority and to ask what counted as a proper science, or as a ‘scientific practice.'”

“One of the great myths about the Victorian age [was] that it was sexually repressive; on the contrary, Victorian society was obsessed with sexual reform, heterosexual and homosexual love, lust, and sex (as well as of the policing of sexual desires),” added Tucker. “Love and sex were both controversial and politicized.”

Pseudoscientific theories included phrenology (which was used to explain the different propensities of men and women toward love and sexual desire); the use of love potions made of dangerous ingredients such as arsenic and belladonna; beauty face masks made of raw beef; cures for low libido such as bull testicles; and vibrators used to treat “hysteria” in sexually frustrated women.

According to the story, “Victorians were also surprisingly progressive on what would eventually evolve into more enlightened views on gender.

“Theosophists [occult philosophers] believed that life in male and female bodies taught different lessons; for some, this meant that it was necessary for the Ego to incarnate many times as both female and male,” Tucker explains. “Many theosophists believed, for example, that in their evolutionary progress men reincarnated as women, and women as men. Therefore at any given time, as one believer in this theory said in 1892: ‘We have… men in women’s bodies, and women in men’s bodies.'”

Cohan Elected to Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering

Fred Cohan

Fred Cohan

Frederick Cohan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, has recently been elected to the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE). Set to be inducted during the 42nd Annual Meeting and Dinner on May 22, 2017, Cohan will join 23 others as “Connecticut’s leading experts in science, technology, and engineering,” and the academy’s newest members during their ceremony at the University of Connecticut.

In line with CASE’s mission to honor those “on the basis of scientific and engineering distinction, achieved through significant contributions in theory or application,” Cohan’s work has led to the “development of a comprehensive new theory for the origin, maintenance, and evolutionary dynamics of bacterial species diversity that integrates ecological and genetic criteria; and to the initiation and co-development of associated software tools, which allow microbiologists to identify distinct bacterial species from DNA sequence data.”

Cohan is a graduate of Stanford University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences in 1975. He went on to earn his PhD in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University in 1982. His professional work takes him across the biological and environmental world, including, but not limited to topics such as microbial ecology, evolutionary theory, origins of bacterial diversity, molecular systematics and gene cluster analysis, horizontal genetic transfer and bacterial transformation.

Gaudon Remembered for Scholarly Research on Victor Hugo

Sheila Gaudon, professor of romance languages and literatures, emerita, died on Feb. 19 at the age of 83.

Born in Liverpool, England, Gaudon received a BA from Manchester University, and a “Docteur de l’Université des Sciences humaines de Strasbourg.” She joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1970 and taught French literature courses in the Romance Languages and Literatures Department for 23 years. She served as director of the Wesleyan Program in Paris several times and as department chair.

Gaudon was an active scholar whose research focused on Victor Hugo. She worked extensively with the National Scientific Research Centre (CNRS) in Paris over many years. In 1982 she began a three-year appointment as “Chargée de recherches” at the CNRS to prepare the first volumes of Victor Hugo’s family correspondence. After retiring to Paris in 1993, she continued to use an office at the Victor Hugo museum, which houses one of the largest archive collections in Paris. Gaudon spoke at colloquia around Europe throughout her retirement on subjects concerning Hugo.

Gaudon will be remembered by her colleagues for the steady leadership she provided to the department.

“Those who were close to her will remember her as well as a remarkable cook, an unsurpassed lover of the stage, and a caring and loyal friend,” said Antonio Gonzalez, professor of Spanish.

She is survived by her husband, Jean Gaudon, who lives in Paris.

Fowler, Gollust ’01 Author Paper on News Coverage of Obamacare

Erika Franklin Fowler is co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.

Erika Franklin Fowler is co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler and Sarah Gollust ’01, associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, are authors of a new paper published Feb. 16 in the American Journal of Public Health examining local TV news coverage of the Affordable Care Act rollout in 2013 and 2014. Though television news played a key role in providing information about the ACA when Americans were first learning about the details of new insurance options open to them, this is the first analysis of public health-relevant content of this coverage during the ACA’s first open enrollment period.

In an analysis of 1,569 local TV news stories aired between October 1, 2013 and April 19, 2014, the authors found that less than half of the coverage focused on the health insurance products available through the law. They note that key policy aspects of the ACA were surprisingly uncommon even among these stories, with Medicaid mentioned in only 7 percent of them and the availability of subsidies mentioned in only 8 percent. More than a quarter of the stories in the sample focused solely on the politics of the ACA, not mentioning any information about health insurance products.

Fowler and Gollust note that journalistic coverage of the law tended to focus on which side was “winning” and “losing,” with attention to enrollment expectations and achievement, as well as problems with the websites, over policy substance. It also relied heavily on partisan sources, while few news stories included any public health, medical, research, or health advocacy perspectives. They argue that this framing of the law by the local TV media limited citizens’ exposure to the substance of ACA policy content, increasing the likelihood of the public perceiving the law through a politically charged lens.

“Coverage of strategy in news is nothing new, but I was surprised by how little coverage some basic information–such as mentions of subsidies being available–got in local television news,” said Fowler.

The research was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s SHARE program, which is managed by SHADAC (State Health Access Data Assistance Center). The project began in October 2013, and a group of about 25 students with the Wesleyan Media Project worked on coding local TV news stories from March to July 2015. Two students, Alison Mann ’17 and Courtney Laermer ’17, are acknowledged in the paper for their work developing coding protocols and training other students.

“This is certainly an exciting time to be doing research on the ACA and how the media has impacted it over the years,” said Learner. She is currently working on a senior thesis that is also looking at how local broadcast media (advertisements and news coverage) surrounding the ACA during the first open enrollment period influenced viewers’ opinions of the law.

“In my thesis, I am analyzing whether or not specific content within the media has an impact on viewers’ perceptions, so I am definitely looking forward to investigating this topic further and seeing whether or not the results are consistent and where differences are seen,” she said.

Shapiro Receives Grant from Belgian Government

Norman Shapiro, professor of french.

Norman Shapiro.

Norman Shapiro, professor of French, poet in residence and the Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation at Wesleyan, has received a grant from the Belgian government’s Ministère de la Culture for his forthcoming volume Fables of Town and Country, a translation of Fables des villes et des champs of Pierre Coran, an eminent Belgian poet and novelist.

The book will feature illustrations by Olga Pastuchiv, a children’s book author and illustrator, and will be published by Black Widow Press, which specializes in poetry translations. Black Widow Press also published Shapiro’s previous collection of Coran, Fables in a Modern Key, translated from the Belgian author’s Fables à l’air du temps. Early next year, Black Widow intends to publish Shapiro’s Rhymamusings, a translation of the 70 whimsical verse-vignettes of Coran’s Amuserimes.

Shapiro has received praise and numerous awards for his translations. In 1971, his translation of Feydeau’s Four Farces was a finalist for the National Book Award for Translation. His French Women Poets of Nine Centuries: The Distaff and the Pen earned him the 2009 National Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA). Shapiro also is a member of the Academy of American Poets and an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Francaise.

Winston Honored by German Government

Ralf Horleman congratulates Krishna Winston o

Consul General Ralf Horlemann honored Professor Krishna Winston with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Krishna Winston, the Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature, professor of environmental studies, received a lifetime achievement award from the German government on Feb. 13.

Ralf Horlemann, the Consul General of Germany to New England, bestowed the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany on Winston after a ceremony held in Allbritton Hall. The Order of Merit is the highest tribute the Federal Republic of Germany pays to individuals for services to the nation or contributions to enhancing Germany’s standing abroad and its relations with other countries.

Krishna Winston dons the Order of Merit.

Krishna Winston dons the Order of Merit. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Winston received the award for her scholarly and literary translations of more than 35 works of fiction and non-fiction by Werner Herzog, Peter Handke, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Günter Grass, Christoph Hein, Golo Mann, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Hans Jonas and others. Her translations make available to the English-speaking world works originally written in German, and she has received three major literary prizes for her work.

Crosby Authors Essay on Injury and Grief

Christina Crosby, right, pictured with her partner Janet Jakobsen at a March 2015 event at Barnard College focused on Crosby's memoir, "A Body Undone: Living On After Great Pain."

Christina Crosby, right, pictured with her partner Janet Jakobsen at a March 2015 event at Barnard College focused on Crosby’s memoir, A Body Undone: Living On After Great Pain.

Christina Crosby, professor of English, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, is the author of an essay on injury and grief in a special issue of Guernica magazine on “The Future of the Body.”

Titled, “My Lost Body,” Crosby’s essay explores the grief she has experienced since a bicycle accident 13 years ago, just after her 50th birthday, left her paralyzed. The accident was the topic of her memoir, A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain (NYU Press, March 2016).

She writes, “Because of my transformation, I have worked hard to conceptualize how embodied memory works—like the muscle memory that allows you to ride a bike even if you haven’t been on one for years. Some phenomenologists use the neologism ‘bodymind’ and teach us that there is no separating body from mind. I think that’s right. What am I to make, then, of my profoundly altered state? The loss of the body that I was and the life that I had made is affectively as well as physically profound, and the sense of loss can be suddenly piercing when I see a cyclist with good form or ocean kayaks strapped to the roof of a car. For an instant, a vividly embodied memory of riding or paddling will come over me. Then the light will change, making a claim on my attention I can’t ignore, but the preemptory present cannot make me feel less alien to myself in such moments.

I recognize in that alienation the force of grief. Grief is a current running below the surface of my unremarkable days, sometimes drawing me into eddies where I spin round and round, sometimes pulling my mind insistently away from the day’s work and rushing me downward. Stiff-minded resistance is of little avail. We are counseled to surrender ourselves for a time after loss to the sheer force of grief, because only by giving yourself over to it will the pain lessen.”

Wesleyan Editors Call for New Books by Alumni, Faculty, Students, Staff

WES_0411Wesleyan is known for its top-notch writing programs and for the accomplishments of its community of award-winning alumni, faculty, students and staff book authors, editors and translators.

Members of the Wesleyan community—alumni, faculty, students and staff—are invited to submit their latest books, as well as information about forthcoming and recently signed titles, and other literary news, to Laurie Kenney, books editor for Wesleyan magazine. Books and information received will be considered for possible coverage in Wesleyan magazine, on the News @ Wes blog and through Wesleyan’s social media channels, as well as through possible in-store display and event opportunities at Wesleyan’s new bookstore—Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore—which will open on Main Street in Middletown later this spring.

Fill out our simple Author Questionnaire to submit your book information now.

While the editors can’t guarantee coverage for any book, due to the sheer number published each year, they hope that gathering and sharing information about these projects through various university channels will help to better serve and promote Wesleyan authors and their work.

Advance reading copies and finished review copies can be sent to: Laurie Kenney, Books Editor, Wesleyan University, Office of University Communications, 229 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459.

Sawhney Authors Essay in Times Literary Supplement

Writing in The Times Literary SupplementAssistant Professor of English Hirsh Sawhney muses on the recent election of Donald Trump and the cultural divide in America while nursing “the second cheapest single malt Scotch” on the menu at a New Haven bar. He contemplates whiskey’s particular place in contemporary American culture, talks politics with others at the bar, draws from literature, and recalls the personal struggles of his family and friends. At the conclusion, while discussing the election with a neighbor (referred to, in jest, as “Professor Pesci”), Sawhney argues:

My point is that we teach our students to be wary of “othering” people who are different from us, the way Americans and Europeans have done to Asians or Muslims throughout the modern era. We write about the need to empathize with people who are driven to violent ideologies and actions as a consequence of their disenfranchisement. Should we not extend a similar empathy to white Americans who, we think, have committed a reckless and egregious act in voting for Trump? Professor Pesci says, “I just can’t see what end that would serve”. An end is quite clear to me as I sign my credit card receipt. If we don’t begin to understand and empathize with these people – not their mendacious leaders – their anger will grow, and they will do more irrational things that advance an agenda of hate and incompetence. And, in turn, our fear, desperation and anger will grow. Our politics will become further bifurcated, and our country will lie in ruin more quickly than is inevitable. And if this election has taught us liberals anything, it is that we care deeply for our country, despite our intellectual reservations about its ethical and historical record.

Winston Translates Handke’s Moravian Night

9780374212551Krishna Winston, the Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature, translated The Moravian Night: A Story by German novelist Peter Handke. The American translation was published in December 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York.

Reviews of the translation have appeared in The New York Times, the New York Review of Books, and Kirkus.

Winston specializes in literary translation and has translated more than 35 works of fiction and non-fiction from Handke, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Günter Grass, Christoph Hein, Golo Mann, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Hans Jonas. Her translations make available to the entire English-speaking world works originally written in German, and she has received three major literary prizes for her translations. She also was awarded the Bundesverdienstkreuz, the Federal Order of Merit, by the President of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Krishna Winston

Krishna Winston

The Moravian Night, as summarized by the book’s publisher, explores the mind and memory of an aging writer, tracking the anxieties, angers, fears, and pleasures of a life inseparable from the recent history of Central Europe.

Mysteriously summoned to a houseboat on the Morava River, a few friends, associates, and collaborators of an old writer listen as he tells a story that will last until dawn: the tale of the once well-known writer’s recent odyssey across Europe. As his story unfolds, it visits places that represent stages of the narrator’s and the continent’s past, many now lost or irrecoverably changed through war, death and the subtler erosions of time. His story and its telling are haunted by a beautiful stranger, a woman who has a preternatural hold over the writer and appears sometimes as a demon, sometimes as the longed-for destination of his travels.

Grabel Warns of Threat to Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Op-ed

Laura Grabel

Laura Grabel

Laura Grabel, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of biology, warns in a new op-ed that the progress of embryonic stem cell research in this country, always subject to the ups and down of politics, is currently under threat.

Co-authored with Diane Krause of Yale University, the op-ed in The Hartford Courant notes that Tom Price, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services, is on record opposing embryonic stem cell research. They write:

As stem cell researchers, we fear that this appointment would endanger human embryonic stem cell research in the United States and reverse the substantial progress made in recent years. There are promising clinical trials underway for macular degeneration, spinal cord injury and diabetes with more possible, including for Parkinson’s disease.

The authors explain what has made this research so controversial, and argue why it is singularly valuable in its potential to treat life-threatening diseases and injuries.

Grabel also is professor of environmental studies, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Upgren Remembered for Protecting Night Sky from Light Pollution

Arthur Upgren in 1968. (Photo courtesy of Special Collections & Archives)

Arthur Upgren in 1968. (Photo courtesy of Special Collections & Archives)

Arthur Reinhold Upgren, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, Emeritus, died on Jan. 21, a month before his 84th birthday.

Upgren received his PhD from Case Western Reserve University before coming to Wesleyan as an assistant professor in 1966. He was the Director of the Van Vleck Observatory from 1973 to 1993. He held his endowed chair from 1982 until his retirement in 2000.

Upgren was an author or co-author of 285 publications in the astronomical literature, including one that appeared in 2016. His research interests were in the areas of parallax (distance measurement) of stars and galactic structure. For several decades, he directed an NSF-funded study that made use of the 20-inch Clark refractor on the Wesleyan campus to establish the first rung on the ladder of distances in the Universe.

Upgren friend Jim Gutmann, professor of earth and environmental sciences, emeritus, said, “Art was an avid reader, loved classical music and foreign travel, and could be counted on to provide explanations of many matters astrometric and meteorological.”

In addition to his work on galactic astronomy, Upgren had a keen interest in protecting the night sky from light pollution. He wrote a well-reviewed popular book titled The Turtle and the Stars that discussed the influence of light pollution on the breeding habits of leatherback turtles. He was an active member of the International Dark-Sky Association and a tireless advocate for intelligent lighting on the Wesleyan campus.

Arthur Upgren in 1987 at Wesleyan.. (Photo courtesy of Special Collections & Archives)

Arthur Upgren in 1987 at Wesleyan. Upgren was director of the Van Vleck Observatory from 1973 to 1993. (Photo courtesy of Special Collections & Archives)

Upgren is survived by his wife, Joan, his daughter Amy and her husband, and his two grandchildren, Max and Ella.

A memorial event will be planned for the future.