Tag Archive for history

Two Professors Receive Prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships

Magda Teter

Magda Teter, Chair of Medieval Studies, Jeremy Zwelling Professor of Jewish Studies, professor of history, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, and Elizabeth Willis, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, professor of English, have been awarded 2012 fellowships by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

According to the Guggenheim Foundation, the prestigious academic honor is presented to scholars “who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.” This year, the 87th annual competition recognized 180 scholars, artists and scientists from across the U.S. and Canada. They were selected from a pool of almost 3,000 applicants, range in age from 27 to 84, and represent 62 disciplines and 74 different academic institutions. Through their fellowship projects, they will travel to all parts of the globe.

Teter also was recently awarded a Harry Frank Guggenheim fellowship. Both fellowships will allow her to take a full year sabbatical and support her travel and research expenses to the Vatican and Poland as she works on a new book, The Pope’s Dilemma: Blood Libel and the Boundaries of Papal Power.

The Pope’s Dilemma takes the familiar story of blood libel against Jews to tell a much broader story of religion and politics in Europe, demonstrating that the persistence of the ‘blood libel’ illuminates the reach, and also the limits, of papal authority in coping with local powers – a topic of significant interest even today, in light of the sex abuse scandals,” Teter says.

According to her biography on the Foundation web site, Teter specializes in early modern religious and cultural history, with an emphasis on Jewish-Christian relations in Eastern Europe, the politics of religion, and the transmission of culture among Jews and Christians across Europe in the early modern period. She is the author of Jews and Heretics in Catholic Poland (Cambridge University Press, 2006), Sinners on Trial (Harvard University Press, 2011), and a co-editor of and contributor to Social and Cultural Boundaries in Pre-modern Poland (Littman, 2010). She has also published numerous articles in English, Polish and Hebrew. Teter serves on the editorial boards of Polin, the Sixteenth Century Journal, and the AJS Review, and is co-founder and editor of the Early Modern Workshop, an open source site with historical texts and videos of scholars discussing them.

Elizabeth Willis

Willis, who specializes in poetry, is the author of Address (Wesleyan University Press, 2011), which won the PEN New England Winship Award for Poetry. Her other books include Meteoric Flowers (Wesleyan University Press, 2006), Turneresque (Burning Deck, 2003), and The Human Abstract (Penguin, 1995), which won the National Poetry Series. Her biography on the Foundation web site notes: “Her most recent projects are investigative in spirit, shifting increasingly toward hybrid genres and explicitly questioning the boundaries of literary representation.” Willis has been awarded fellowships in poetry from the California Arts Council and the Howard Foundation. She has held residencies at Brown University, University of Denver, Naropa University, the MacDowell Colony, and the Centre International de Poésie, Marseille, and was a Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Mills College.

With her Guggenheim fellowship, Willis will travel to Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Idaho, New York and California to conduct research for a new project. She explains, “I’ll be working on a new project that involves American religious, cultural and political history. It’s a book-length poem, not a history, but along the way it is thinking about theater, film and improvised family structures. I’m interested in what constitutes a sovereign body within America’s evolving concept of itself as a nation. And for me, poetry always brings up interesting questions about representation and voice.”

Willis adds, “I’m thrilled. The fellowship is a once-in-a-lifetime honor, and the timing couldn’t be better for me. The work I’m doing now involves a good deal of research and travel, so I’m immensely grateful that I’ll have the chance to focus on it more completely.”

Pinch Honored by Indian American Organization

Five Indian Americans, including Wesleyan’s William “Vijay” Pinch, will be felicitated by the Connecticut chapter of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) for their achievements and contributions at an awards banquet April 28.

William “Vijay” Pinch will be honored with a Friend of India award at a banquet in Stamford, Conn.

“The award selection is a rigorous process conducted by an independent committee which evaluates all nominations and we are glad we select the best possible candidates every year,” said GOPIO-Connecticut president Shailesh Naik in a Times of India article.

Pinch, professor of history and chair of the History Department, researches and teaches South Asian history, religion and history, and maritime world history.

H.F. Guggenheim Supports Teter’s Research on Blood Libel, Papal Power

Magda Teter, the Jeremy Zwelling Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, received a 2012-13 Harry Frank Guggenheim Fellowship.

As a 2012-13 Harry Frank Guggenheim Fellow, Magda Teter, the Jeremy Zwelling Professor of Jewish Studies, will narrate the cultural, social and political connections between Italy—center of papal power, and Poland—home to the largest Jewish community in the world, in her new book, The Pope’s Dilemma: Blood Libel and the Boundaries of Papal Power.

Teter, who also is chair and professor of medieval studies, professor of history, and professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, will take a full year leave on sabbatical to work on the book. Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation sponsors scholarly research on problems of violence, aggression and dominance. The award will support Teter’s travel and research expenses to the Vatican and Poland.

The Pope’s Dilemma takes the familiar story of blood libel against Jews to tell a much broader story of religion and politics in Europe, demonstrating that the persistence of the ‘blood libel’ illuminates the reach, and also the limits, of papal authority in coping with local powers – a topic of significant interest even today, in light of the sex abuse scandals,” Teter says.

Among the vivid characters in these compelling stories are popes, bishops,

Fullilove Writes about Tombs of the U.S. Post Office

The Dead-Letter Office at Washington, sketched by Theodore R. Davis from Harper's Weekly, Feb. 22, 1868.

Courtney Fullilove, assistant professor of history, wrote an article titled  “Dead Letters—By a Resurrectionist: Liberty and Surveillance in the Tombs of the U.S. Post Office,” published in the January 2012 issue of Common-Place.org.

In the article, Fullilove describes a history of the 19th century Division of Dead Letters. Until World War I, all undeliverable letters were processed through the central office in Washington. By law, unclaimed letters were burned, pulped, or otherwise destroyed. But Fullilove discovered this wasn’t the case.

“Here was a riddle,” she writes. “In a non-existent box were four letters that should have been destroyed. Their presence was evidence that the information system had failed at every point: in the aborted transit of the letters, their survival in the archives of an office committed to their destruction, and the absence of those archives from the public record meant to guarantee their preservation. Why were the letters saved and the archives lost?”

 

 

 

 

5 Questions With . . . Jennifer Tucker on Mars, Victorian England

Jennifer Tucker is co-teaching a course this semester on “Interpreting Life on Mars: Scientific Data and Popular Knowledge.” (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In this issue we ask “5 Questions” of Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, associate professor of science in society, and associate professor feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Q: Professor Tucker, you started off with an undergrad degree in biology but you’re on the History Department’s faculty here and specialize in, among other areas, Victorian London and British cultural history. How did your interest evolve in these directions?

A: I entered college with a strong interest in history, but I also loved science courses. At Stanford I combined a major in the neurosciences of visual perception and memory with coursework in history of science and history of art. After receiving a Marshall Scholarship to study at Cambridge University, I completed graduate work in the history of science, focusing on, among other things, issues of visual representation in scientific and popular culture. The time I spent in the UK made up my mind to continue the study of history; talking with other historians of science sparked my desire to understand the power of visual communication in scientific and technological cultures and to engage the sciences as historically evolving practices – two interests that still invigorate my teaching and research. Most of my scholarship and teaching concentrates on British history during the 19th and early 20th centuries, a time when people around the world were experimenting with new visual technologies, such as photography and cinema. In addition to teaching general courses in British history and history of science, I also direct seminars and thesis research at Wesleyan on various topics in the history of science and visual communication. Some of the courses I teach include “Evolution, Pictures and Publics,” “Scientific Visualization in Western Culture from Leonardo’s Drawings to MRIs,” “10 Photographs That Shook the World,” and “Fact and Artifact: Visual Persuasion, Expert Evidence, and the Law.”

Q: You also have an appointment in Feminist, Gender and Sexuality studies. Is there an overlap with your Science in Society work or is this a separate research and teaching area?

A: Yes, there is an overlap. This semester, for example, I am teaching a course called “Gender and Technology.” The class analyzes the role of gender and other social factors

Tucker Receives Huntington Fellowship in U.K.

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker received a Huntington-British Academy Fellowship for study in Great Britain in summer 2011. Tucker is associate professor of history, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, associate professor of science in society.

In cooperation with the British Academy, the Huntington offers a limited number of one-month exchange fellowships in any of the fields in which the Huntington collections are strong and where the research will be carried out in the United Kingdom. These fellowships are awarded to postdoctoral scholars.

The Huntington is an independent research center with holdings in British and American  history, literature, art history, and the history of science and  medicine. The Library collections range chronologically from the 11th century to the present and include a half-million rare books, nearly six million manuscripts, 800,000 photographs, and a large ephemera collection, supported by a half-million reference works.

Tucker also received a Curran Fellowship for 2011, according to the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals (RSVP).  Tucker is carrying out a study of the British press’s coverage of the Tichborne Claimant trials, 1871-74.

5 Questions With . . . Magda Teter on Jews and Sacrilege after the Reformation

Magda Teter, the Jeremy Zwelling Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, spent the past few years visiting more than 15 archives in Poland, Rome and the Vatican City to find court records, pamphlets, rabbinic writings and secret correspondence between the papal nuncios and Rome.

This issue, we ask “5 Questions” of Magda Teter, the Jeremy Zwelling Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, associate professor of history, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, associate professor of medieval studies. Teter is the author of Sinners on Trial: Jews and Sacrilege after the Reformation, published by Harvard University Press in March 2011.

Q: Professor Teter, you are a scholar of religious and cultural history. What are your research interests, and what courses do you teach at Wesleyan?

A: In my writing I focus on Jewish-Christian relations, particularly in Poland, which was once the one of the largest states in Europe and also home to the largest Jewish community in the world. At Wesleyan I teach a wide range of courses mostly in Jewish history, but I also teach Early Modern European history, covering the period from mid-15th century to the French Revolution, and historiography. Having been trained at Columbia University, my courses always present Jews as actors in larger historical developments. Students taking my classes in Jewish history learn a great deal about general history. Similarly, since Jews were a crucial group in Europe greatly influencing European society, culture, economy, and politics, students taking my European history classes will learn that one cannot fully understand, for example, humanism and the Reformation without taking into account the role Jews played in them. I see both Jewish and non-Jewish history as tightly intertwined with each other. This semester I teach a course on east European Jewish history, with a service-learning component focusing on east European Judaica from the Adath Israel Museum in Middletown.  

Fellowship Supports Tucker’s 19th-Century British Press Research

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, associate professor of science in society, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, is the recipient of the Curran Fellowship for 2011, according to the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals (RSVP).

The Curran Fellowship, made possible through the generosity of Eileen Curran, professor emerita of English at Colby College, and inspired by her pioneering research, provides research and travel grants intended to aid scholars studying 19th-century British magazines and newspapers in making use of primary print and manuscript sources.

Tucker is carrying out a study of the British press’s coverage of the Tichborne Claimant trials, 1871-74.

Teter Publishes Book on Jews, Sacrilege after the Reformation

Book by Magda Teter.

Magda Teter is the author of Sinners Sinners on Trial: Jews and Sacrilege after the Reformation, published by Harvard University Press in March 2011. Teter is the Jeremy Zwelling Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, associate professor of history, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, associate professor of medieval studies.

In post-Reformation Poland—the largest state in Europe and home to the largest Jewish population in the world—the Catholic Church suffered profound anxiety about its power after the Protestant threat.

According to Harvard University Press, Teter reveals how criminal law became a key tool in the manipulation of the meaning of the sacred and in the effort to legitimize Church authority. The mishandling of sacred symbols was transformed from a sin that could be absolved into a crime that resulted in harsh sentences of mutilation, hanging, decapitation, and, principally, burning at the stake.

Teter casts new light on the most infamous type of sacrilege, the accusation against Jews for desecrating the eucharistic wafer. These sacrilege trials were part of a broader struggle over the meaning of the sacred and of sacred space at a time of religious and political uncertainty, with the eucharist at its center. But host desecration—defined in the law as sacrilege—went beyond anti-Jewish hatred to reflect Catholic-Protestant conflict, changing conditions of ecclesiastic authority and jurisdiction, and competition in the economic marketplace.

Recounting dramatic stories of torture, trial, and punishment, this is the first book to consider the sacrilege accusations of the early modern period within the broader context of politics and common crime. Teter draws on previously unexamined trial records to bring out the real-life relationships among Catholics, Jews, and Protestants and challenges the commonly held view that following the Reformation, Poland was a “state without stakes”—uniquely a country without religious persecution.

5 Questions With . . . William Johnston on the History of Disease

William Johnston

This issue, we ask “5 Questions” of  William Johnston, professor of history, professor of science in society, professor of East Asian Studies. One of his areas of specialty is the history of disease and epidemics.

Q: How did you become interested in the history of diseases, and more specifically, flu outbreaks?

A: While in graduate school I examined a number of different fields of history, but was drawn to the history of medicine in Japan because it was in that field that the Japanese first absorbed European scientific ideas and methods.  My advisor suggested that I take courses in the History of Science Department, and one course I took was a history of tuberculosis in the Untied States.  It was an eye-opener because it made me realize the ways in which societies interpret and respond to disease tells us a lot about their most basic values and fundamental structures. Sometimes people get very excited about relatively minor diseases while accepting major causes of illness and death as somehow “normal.”

Q: What are among the more notable outbreaks over the last, say, 100 or so years?

A: The most important outbreak of flu in the past century was, of course, the one that occurred between 1917 and 1920. For that matter it was one of the deadliest pandemics of all time, killing about 2.5 percent of all infected, with a total mortality estimated between 20 and 50 million worldwide. Some estimates go even higher. It possibly was a swine flu, although it could have been an avian strain that infected swine and then mutated to infect people; its exact origins

Kleinberg Lectures at International Conference

During the Fall 2010 semester, Ethan Kleinberg delivered two lectures in France.

Ethan Kleinberg, associate professor of history, associate professor of letters is spending the year as director of the Vassar-Wesleyan Paris Program and an invited scholar at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. During the Fall 2010 semester, Kleinberg delivered two lectures based on his current book project, The Myth of Emmanuel Levinas. Levinas is a French Jewish philosopher who turned to the use of Jewish

Nussdorfer Author of Brokers of Public Trust

Book by Laurie Nussdorfer

Laurie Nussdorfer, professor of history, professor of letters, is the author of Brokers of Public Trust: Notaries in Early Modern Rome, published by The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.

A fast—growing legal system and economy in medieval and early modern Rome saw a rapid increase in the need for written documents. Brokers of Public Trust examines the emergence of the modern notarial profession — free market scribes responsible for producing original legal documents and their copies.