CLASSICS

Thomas D. Kohn, Ancient theatre, Mythology, Performance Criticism, Roman Poetry

The first-century Roman tragedies of Seneca, like all ancient drama, do not contain the sort of external stage directions that we are accustomed to today; nevertheless, a careful reading of the plays reveals such stage business as entrances, exits, setting, sound effects, emotions of the characters, etc. In The Dramaturgy of Senecan Tragedy (U of Michigan P, 2013), Prof. Kohn teases out these dramaturgical elements in Seneca's work and uses them both to aid in the interpretation of the plays and to show the playwright's artistry. The book lays the groundwork for appreciating Seneca's techniques in the individual dramas. Each chapter explores an individual tragedy in detail, discussing the dramatis personae and examining how the roles would be distributed among a limited number of actors, as well as the identity of the Chorus, while making a compelling argument for Seneca as a dramaturg in the true sense of the word: "a maker of drama." This is the first comprehensive study of all the plays in twenty-five years, and the first ever to consider not just stagecraft, but also metatheatrical issues such as the significant distribution of roles among a limited number of actors, in addition to the emotional states of the characters.

 

GERMAN STUDIES

Anne Rothe, Popular Culture, Cultural Memory, Interview Methodology, Germans in Israel, Holocaust Studies

Transgressing disciplinary boundaries, Anne Rothe argues in Popular Trauma Culture: Selling the Pain of Others in the Mass Media (Rutgers, 2011) that American Holocaust discourse has a particular plot structure – characterized by a melodramatic conflict between good and evil and embodied in the core characters of victim/survivor and perpetrator – and that it provides the paradigm for mass media representations of personal experiences of pain and suffering. After analyzing core Holocaust tropes, including its political appropriation, the notion of vicarious victimhood, so-called victim talk rhetoric, and the infusion of the survivor figure with Social Darwinism, the author explores the embodiment of popular trauma culture in two core mass media genres, daytime TV talk shows and misery memoirs. She argues that the pain of others is represented as trauma kitsch on talk shows like Oprah and as trauma camp on modern-day freak shows like Springer. And although misery memoirs, which depict extreme violence as spectacle and thus often focus on child abuse, constitute the largest growth sector in American book publishing and they have been widely debated in journalism, the book concludes with the first scholarly analysis of this genre.

 

NEAR EASTERN STUDIES

Vanessa DeGifis, Qur'anic and Islamic Studies

Professor De Gifis’ book, Shaping a Qurʾānic Worldview (Routledge, 2014), is the first sustained examination of references to the Qur’an in the rhetoric of the Islamic Caliphate in light of classical Arabic rhetorical and grammatical theories. Through an analysis of texts attributed to the famous Caliph al-Maʾmūn (r. 813-833 C.E.), she draws critical connections between the circumstances and techniques of Qur’anic referencing and illustrates how rhetorical use of the scripture functions as analogical exegesis, whereby verses in the Qur’an are reinterpreted through the lens of subjective experience, and at the same time socio-historical experiences are understood in Qur’anic terms. The book highlights the rhetorical features of the Qur’anic corpus and stimulates broader conversations about the practical impact of Qur’anic themes on the articulation of distinctly Islamic moral values and historical vision.

 

ROMANCE LANGUAGES AND LITERATURES

FRENCH

Kate Paesani, Literacy-Based Curriculum and Instruction, Foreign Language Teacher Development

Professors Kate Paesani, Heather Allen, and Beatrice Dupuy examine the changing landscape of foreign language (FL) education in the U.S. in A Multiliteracies Framework for Collegiate Foreign Language Teaching (Pearson, 2016). The most frequently cited cause of this change has been the well-known bifurcation of FL programs, such that there exist fixed lines of demarcation between lower-level language courses and advanced-level literature and culture courses. An important contributor to departmental bifurcation is the lack of a unified approach to FL curriculum design, instructional approaches, and assessment practices across levels. Paesani, Allen, and Dupuy propose that the multiliteracies approach offers a coherent theoretical and pedagogical framework to bridge the divide between lower- and advanced-level FL courses, facilitating the simultaneous development of learners' language competencies and engagement with authentic texts across the FL curriculum. As such, this book not only serves as a key tool for transforming what is taught in FL courses and how it is taught, but it also provides a crucial link to the overall mission of the humanities in institutions of higher education.

 

ITALIAN

Raffaele DeBenedictis, Dante Studies, Multimodality, Semiotics

In Wordly Wise: The Semiotics of Discourse in Dante’s Commedia (Peter Lang, 2012), Raffaele De Benedictis proposes a new critical method in the study of the Divine Comedy and Dante’s minor works. It systematically and comprehensively addresses the discursive aspect of Dante’s works, and focuses mainly on the reader, who, along with the author and the text, contributes to the making of discursive paths and discourse-generating functions through the act of reading. This work allows the reader to become acquainted with how meaning is generated and whether it is granted legitimacy in the text or not. Also, in a system of signification, sign function and sign production are not limited to the properties of the mind but are the result of working interactively with the properties of discourse which (the latter) provide directionality for the reader’s enunciation(s) in action.

 

SPANISH

Victor Figueroa, Latin American Studies

In Prophetic Visions of the Past: Pan-Caribbean Representations of the Haitian Revolution (Ohio State UP, 2015), Víctor Figueroa examines how the Haitian Revolution has been represented in twentieth-century literary works from across the Caribbean. Building on the scholarship of key thinkers of the Latin American “decolonial turn” such as Enrique Dussel, Aníbal Quijano, Walter Mignolo, and Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Figueroa argues that examining how Haiti’s neighbors tell the story of the Revolution illuminates its role as a fundamental turning point in both the development and radical questioning of the modern/colonial world system. Prophetic Visions of the Past addresses work by Alejo Carpentier (Cuba), C. L. R. James (Trinidad), Luis Palés Matos (Puerto Rico), Aimé Césaire (Martinique), Derek Walcott (Saint Lucia), Edouard Glissant (Martinique), and Manuel Zapata Olivella (Colombia). While underscoring each writer’s unique position, Figueroa also addresses their shared geographical, historical, and sociopolitical preoccupations, which are closely linked to the region’s prolonged experience of colonial interventions.

 

 

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