Faculty

Rushdy to Serve as Wesleyan’s Academic Secretary

Ashraf Rushdy

Professor Ashraf Rushdy will serve as Wesleyan’s academic secretary.  (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Ashraf Rushdy, Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language and professor of African American studies, has agreed to serve as academic secretary for a one-year appointment beginning July 1.

The academic secretary facilitates academic decision-making and supports faculty governance by providing advice and support to the Executive Committee of the Faculty, the Academic Council and its committees, and the standing committees of the faculty. He also provides parliamentary advice, helps to administer faculty elections, and generally informs all of the University community on matters related to the academic program and faculty responsibilities.

Rushdy will be replacing William Johnston, John E. Andrus Professor of History, who is currently completing a three-year term as academic secretary.

Grant, Naegele to Lead Arts and Humanities, Natural Sciences and Mathematics as New Deans

Beginning May 4, 2020, Roger Mathew Grant will succeed Nicole Stanton as Dean of the Arts and Humanities division, and beginning July 1, 2020, Janice Naegele will succeed Joe Knee as Dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics division.

The announcement was made by Rob Rosenthal, interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Roger Mathew Grant

Roger Mathew Grant

Roger Mathew Grant, associate professor of music, received his undergraduate degree from Ithaca College and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. In his recent book, Peculiar Attunements: How Affect Theory Turned Musical (Fordham University Press, 2020), he considers contemporary affect theory in relation to European music theory of the 18th century. He is also the author of Beating Time & Measuring Music in the Early Modern Era (Oxford University Press, 2014), which combines music theory, music analysis, and philosophy to trace the history of meter from the 16th century to the 19th century, and for which he received the Emerging Scholar Award from the Society for Music Theory.

Shusterman Offers Advice for Families on Transitioning to Homeschooling

Anna Shusterman with her sons Max and Reuben

Anna Shusterman with her sons Max and Reuben.

Anna Shusterman, associate professor of psychology and co-coordinator of education studies, studies learning and conceptual development in children. In this Q&A, we asked her for advice for families on transitioning children to distance learning during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Q: How should parents talk to kids about what’s happening in the world and why their daily lives look so different?

A: Full disclosure: I am not a clinician. However, as a parent and a research psychologist, I think it’s important for parents to validate their children’s emotions rather than dismissing them or telling them they are being silly. It’s also important that we’re not running around in a state of panic, as this can be too unsettling for kids. Children feel our stress and they need real social connection, so some time should be made for sitting together, talking, and reading books, when parents put their phones away, too. NPR’s Life Kit has good advice on talking to kids about scary current events.

No matter what else is happening, young children need human connection—board games, talking, working together on a project, cooking, anything together, the more child-led the better. Here’s a good commonsense report on the topic.

Q: What is your advice for parents on helping kids transition to distance learning?

A: Try to set up a gentle routine that involves getting up, getting dressed, chores, exercise, creativity, academics, regular meals, and sleep. By age 5 or 6, children can be a part of the conversation to create this schedule.

Grossman on Mitigating the Economic Fallout from the Coronavirus

Grossman

Richard Grossman

Richard Grossman, professor and chair of economics, is an expert in economic history as well as current policy issues in macroeconomics, banking, and finance. In this Q&A, we asked him about the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, and how the government is responding in efforts to mitigate the damage.

Q: We’ve all seen the headlines about a coronavirus-induced recession. What is the current state of the economy, and what do you predict we’ll see over the coming months?

A: Prior to the virus outbreak, the American economy was doing well by conventional standards. The unemployment rate was 3.5% in March, down from a peak of 10% around a decade ago. According to the government’s most recent estimate (released on Feb. 27), real gross domestic product grew by 2.3% in 2019. Not stellar, but high relative to other developed economies. It is going to get substantially worse quite soon.

Johnston: What History Can Teach Us About the COVID-19 Pandemic

Bill Johnston

Bill Johnston

William Johnston, the John E. Andrus Professor of History, is a historian who studies disease and medicine, with expertise in epidemics of infectious diseases. In this Q&A, Johnston discusses the novel coronavirus outbreak and what can be learned from the past.

Q: How and when did you start studying the history of disease and medicine?

A: About 30 years ago, I wrote my dissertation on the subject, which became my first book, The Modern Epidemic: A History of Tuberculosis in Japan. Around that time, people were starting to consider epidemics of infectious diseases a thing of the past that were no longer of concern to us, but then HIV took off. I’ve continued to study and teach on the history of disease and pandemics ever since.

Q: Please tell us about the course you teach.

A: It’s called Critical Approaches to the History of Disease and Epidemics. Ironically, almost every year I’ve taught it, the world has seen another major epidemic. I’m offering it again this semester, and our first day of class was January 23, just as the novel coronavirus was emerging as a serious threat in China. Seeing that this was coming down the pike, I adjusted the direction of the course to incorporate a combination of historical readings and articles from contemporary medical journals. For example, I gave students one reading on the plague and how it went pandemic in the Middle Ages—what it took for that to happen.

Redfield Receives NASA Grant to Study the Properties of Outer Space

Seth Redfield

Associate Professor of Astronomy Seth Redfield will use the Hubble Space Telescope to measure composition, density, temperature, motion, and the spectroscopic signatures of gas and dust.

If a spacecraft were to quickly travel outside the solar system—potentially en route to a nearby exoplanetary system—it would need to pass through an atmosphere unfamiliar to scientists on Earth.

As a recipient of a $415,000 grant from NASA, Seth Redfield, chair and associate professor of astronomy, hopes to learn more about the mysterious makeup of this “outer space.”

“There are several very early designs for an interstellar probe, but first, we need to understand the properties of the space in between the stars if you are traveling through it, especially at high speed,” Redfield said. “Given the vastness of space, even in our nearest cosmic neighborhood of the closest stars, very high speeds are needed. The designs for an interstellar probe involve speeds that range from 11,000 miles per hour to 6 million miles per hour! These require the biggest rockets that NASA has ever built and new propulsion ideas that are still in very early design phases.”

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. USA Today: “America Has a History of Lynching, but it’s Not a Federal Crime. The House Just Voted to Change That”

Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language Ashraf Rushdy is interviewed on the topic of legislation that would make lynching a federal crime. In the interview he called lynching “the original hate crime.” “Lynching is a blot on the history of America,” he said. “But it’s never too late to do the right thing.”

2. The New York Times: “Starbucks Baristas Accuse Service Company of Abuse and Pay Gaps”

Associate Professor of Sociology Jonathan Cutler is interviewed about transgender issues in labor organizations as immigrant, transgender, and black baristas face discrimination at airport Starbucks. “Organized labor often lives or dies by its ability to tap into broader social movements,” he said. “In this case, you’re seeing the most public effort to organize around transgender issues.”

3. The Washington Post: “Does Money Even Matter? And Other Questions You May Have About Bloomberg’s Half-Billion-Dollar Failed Candidacy”

7 Faculty Conferred Tenure, 1 Promoted

Seven faculty were conferred tenure by the Board of Trustees at its most recent meeting. Their appointments will be effective on July 1. They are:

  • Ren Ellis Neyra, associate professor of English
  • James Greenwood, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences
  • Cameron Donnay Hill, associate professor of mathematics
  • Daniel Licata, associate professor of computer science
  • Rashida Shaw McMahon, associate professor of English
  • Laura Ann Twagira, associate professor of history

In addition, one faculty member was promoted:

  • Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian studies

Brief descriptions of their areas of research and teaching appear below.

Ren Ellis Neyra is a theorist and practitioner of poetics of the Americas, whose work complicates boundaries between critical and creative practices, as well as in modes of public engagement. Their book, The Cry of the Senses: Listening to Latinx and Caribbean Poetics (Duke University Press, forthcoming November 2020), is “a paradigmatic disturbance built around the cry in the Caribbean Americas. The cry’s waywardness with the binary of being/non-being moves in the book’s method of multi-sensorial, poetic listening, which attunes readers of Latinx and Caribbean poetics and aesthetics to how abnormal insurgencies go off.” They offer a wide range of courses, including The Senses and the Subject in Poetry and Cinema; Brown, Black, and Queer Forms and Feelings; and Law, ‘Savage,’ and Citizen in Contemporary Literary and Cinematic Imaginations.

James Greenwood is a planetary geochemist and cosmochemist whose primary research focuses on the origin of the Earth’s water.

Longenecker in The Conversation: A Brief History of Invisibility on Screen

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In this article, Marc Longenecker ’03, MA ’07, assistant professor of the practice in film studies, explains the history of invisible characters in films. Longenecker ’03 majored in film studies and physics for his BA, and film studies for his MA.

Elisabeth Moss stars in the latest adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel. Universal Pictures

Elisabeth Moss stars in the latest adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel. (Photo by Universal Pictures)

A brief history of invisibility on screen

What would you do if you could be invisible? Would this newfound power bring out the best in you, instilling you with the courage to discreetly sabotage the efforts of evildoers? Or would the ability to slip in and out of rooms unnoticed tap into darker impulses?

This alluring fantasy has long been fodder for filmmakers, many of whom have taken cues from the eponymous character in H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel, The Invisible Man.

First adapted to the screen in 1933, the invisible man (and his descendents) appeared in six films from 1933 to 1951. Now, he’ll be making his latest screen (dis)appearance in a film directed by Leigh Whannell. This iteration takes a horror-movie tack: Its protagonist, played by Elisabeth Moss, is harassed by an ex who has faked his own death. But beyond “The Invisible Man” franchise, the concept of invisibility has inspired a raft of movies over the decades.

As a film professor who studies adaptations and series, I’m most interested in the versatility of these invisible characters. They can star in cautionary tales or embody underdog heroes; they can act as vessels for social critique or vehicles for masochistic power fantasies.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News
1. The Open Mind: “Democratizing the Jury”

Associate Professor of Government Sonali Chakravarti is interviewed in connection with her new book, Radical Enfranchisement in the Jury Room and Public Life, in which she offers a “full-throated defense of juries as a democratic institution.” “I am very interested in how ordinary people engage with political institutions, and juries are the place where ordinary people have the most power,” she says. Chakravarti calls for more robust civic education, continuing into adulthood, in order to have a “more effective, modern jury system.”

2. Hartford Courant: “Sen. Murphy, Aiming to Expand Pell Grant Eligibility for Incarcerated Students, Hears from Inmates at York Correctional Institution”

Senator Chris Murphy, who is the co-sponsor of a bill to expand the federal Pell grant program for college students to include inmates, met with 11 inmates who have participated in educational programs at York Correctional Institution through the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education and other college-in-prison programs.“What’s important about the REAL Act is that college affordability should be accessible to all students regardless of where they are,” said CPE program manager Allie Cislo. “It’s one thing rhetorically to commit to reentry,” she said, but resources like educational programs “can make or break it for people.”

3. American Theatre: “Digging for New Roots”

This article on “climate change theatre” features Ocean Filibuster, a play by Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl through her theater company, PearlDamour. Commenting on the play’s premise, in which a new Senate bill proposes sentencing the world’s oceans to death and the ocean stands to speak in its own defense, Pearl said, “We thought, well, what if the ocean finally got fed up with taking all of our crap, and started talking and didn’t stop until we actually shut up and listened?” American Theatre, a leading publication in the theater industry, writes: “Ocean Filibuster recalibrates the human experience by reminding us of the comparatively small scale and depth of our own existence.”

Winston Translates Herzog’s Early Films

winston book Krishna Winston, Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature, Emerita, recently translated four film narratives by German screenwriter and author Werner Herzog.

The collection, titled Scenarios III, was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2019. It presents the shape-shifting scripts for Herzog’s early films: StroszekNosferatu, Phantom of the NightWhere the Green Ants Dream; and Cobra Verde.

Scenarios III completes the picture of Herzog’s earliest work, affording a view of the filmmaker mastering his craft, well on his way to becoming one of the most original, and most celebrated, artists in his field.

Winston also translated Herzog’s Signs of Life, Even Dwarfs Started Small, Fata Morgana, and Heart of Glass for Scenarios II, published in 2018.

Winston Named Honorary Fellow of the American Association of Teachers of German

winston

Krishna Winston retired from Wesleyan in 2019. She taught German studies for 49 years.

The American Association of Teachers of German (AATG) recently named Krishna Winston, Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature, Emerita, an honorary fellow of the association. The fellowship is limited to 25 fellows worldwide.

Founded in 1926, the AATG has nearly 3,500 members and “believes that bringing the language, literature, and cultures of the German speaking-world to all Americans is a vital humanistic endeavor, which serves an essential national interest,” according to its website.

To receive this honor, Winston was nominated by 10 colleagues, with the nomination approved by the Honorary Fellows Committee and voted on by the Association membership at its 2019 annual meeting. According to the AATG, honorary fellows are “men and women of letters of international distinction who have contributed to the advancement of German studies in the fields of literary studies, literary criticism, linguistics, creative writing, translation, and second language acquisition.”

Iris Bork-Goldfield, chair and adjunct professor of German studies, made the initial recommendation. She’s known Winston for more than 20 years.

“Krishna has devoted her life to the German language and literature. With her many celebrated translations of works by Golo Mann, Siegfried Lenz, Peter Handke, and of course Günther Grass, just to name a few, she has enabled millions of English speakers to appreciate German literature,” Bork-Goldfield said in her nomination letter. “Apart from being a brilliant translator, Professor Winston has educated generations of American students as a teacher of German. She is a passionate teacher, deeply committed to her students whom she inspires to enjoy German literature, study abroad in Germany, apply for scholarships to teach and /or do research in German-speaking countries, and become engaged citizens.”

Winston, who retired from Wesleyan in 2019, recently published a volume of four film narratives by Werner Herzog, Scenarios III (University of Minnesota Press, 2019), and has just completed translations of a novel and an essay by Peter Handke. Her translation of the address Handke delivered upon receiving the 2019 Nobel Prize can be found on the Swedish Academy’s Nobel Prize website. She is currently working on another Handke essay.

Winston remains actively engaged in campus life. In the fall of 2019, she taught her First-Year Seminar “The Simple Life?”, and she continues to serve as an advisor to the Community Standards Board, support the University’s sustainability efforts, and participate in the nomination process for Fulbright, Watson, and Udall fellowships.

“Krishna Winston has been a great source of motivation and inspiration for everyone around her, in the US and in Germany,” Bork-Goldfield said. “Her lifelong dedication to promoting German, be it as a teacher or a translator, complemented by her and her social activism, makes her an ideal honorary fellow.”