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Visiting Fellows 2017-18

Sara Grossman


Sara Grossman specializes in the literary and cultural history of climate crisis and weather data in the United States from the early-nineteenth century to the present. She received her PhD in American Studies from Rutgers University in 2016. She is currently working on a book, Measuring the Face of the Sky, which is a cultural history of weather data in the United States. The book charts the evolution of data collection and visualization practices from the 1847 Smithsonian Institution Meteorological Project to NASA’s 2012 GOES-14 satellite. Measuring the Face of the Sky expands understandings of data within the field of the environmental humanities by positioning data as an everyday concept and cultural practice shaped by the people who interface with it. For an updated list of projects and publications, please visit

Alyssa Reichardt

I’m a historian of North America and the Atlantic World, with a focus on the intersections of European and indigenous empires over the long eighteenth century. My more general research interests revolve around communication studies, historical geography, and state formation. I am currently at work on a book manuscript, “War for the Interior,” which examines the contest for the heart of North America between 1727 and 1774. Reconstructing information circuits and their role in strengthening (and weakening) French, British, Iroquois, and Cherokee territorial claims, I combine textual and GIS methods to map the development of continental and transatlantic communications infrastructure over the long Seven Years’ War. I hold a Ph.D. from Yale University, and in Fall 2018 I'll join the Kinder Institute and Department of History at the University of Missouri as an assistant professor of History and Constitutional Democracy.

Jocelyn Rodal

I received my PhD in English from U.C. Berkeley in 2016, and I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Rutgers Center for Cultural Analysis before coming to Penn State in 2017. I’m currently at work on a book manuscript titled Modernism’s Mathematics: From Form to Formalism. That project reads literary modernism alongside a contemporaneous modernist movement in mathematics, because literary modernists at once anticipated and responded to that mathematical modernism. Looking at authors such as T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and Virginia Woolf, I argue that modernists were using mathematics to create and elucidate form—form that, in turn, engendered formalism in literary studies. Modernism’s Mathematics uses modernist mathematical theories of syntax and semantics to understand form, arguing that formalism, as a reading practice, has structural and historical roots in mathematics.

Victoria Salinger

I am currently working on turning my dissertation on German conceptual artist Hanne Darboven into a book manuscript. I discuss Darboven’s calculation-based art in the context of changing perceptions of mathematics and math pedagogy in the United States and Germany in light of the Cold War, as well as the gendered history of computers, computation, and data processing. I argue that Darboven’s choice to eschew discursive language for numerical calculations is not an avoidance of subjectivity or mimicking of a depersonalized aesthetic of administration, but rather a consciously political choice, engaged with questions about the changing nature of labor, authorship, and responsibility in the information age.

Nathan Vedal

Nathan Vedal (PhD, Harvard University) is a scholar of late imperial Chinese cultural and intellectual history, focusing on the history of knowledge production and history of the book. His book project, Scholarly Culture in Late Imperial China, examines broad patterns of intellectual change from the 16th through 19th centuries on the basis of the shifting methods, interactions, and practices of Chinese scholars. As a CHI fellow, he will extend this research into the cultural, material, and epistemological dimensions of knowledge production through projects on the formation of scholarly disciplines in China, as well as on the circulation of censored books in the late imperial period.

Grant Wythoff

Gadgetry: A History of Techniques explores how complex information technologies like the smartphone become legible to us through everyday practice, habit, and belief. I draw on my background in literary studies to trace the many ways that small decisions by individual users add up to critical transitions between paradigms in media history, describing these moments of indeterminacy and possibility as "fictions." Digital media technologies are not a force that comes down from on high to alter patterns in human relations, they are the product of what we imagine to be possible with our tools, from the micro-level of pragmatic functionality to the macro-level of cultural imaginaries and consensus visions of the future in science fiction.