Center forHumanities and Information

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Pamela VanHaitsma
Interim Director

VanHaitsma is Sherwin Early Career Professor in the Rock Ethics Institute and Assistant Professor in Communication Arts and Sciences and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her research bridges rhetoric, archives and information, and gender and sexuality studies. She is the author of Queering Romantic Engagement in the Postal Age: A Rhetorical Education (U of South Carolina P, 2019). Her work has appeared in Advances in the History of RhetoricCollege Composition and CommunicationPeitho,QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking,Quarterly Journal of SpeechRhetoric & Public AffairsRhetoric Review, and Rhetoric Society Quarterly, among others. 

Eric Hayot
Director | Sabbatical 2020-21

A scholar of comparative literature, modernism, and East Asia, Hayot is the author of four books, including Chinese Dreams (2004), The Hypothetical Mandarin (2009), On Literary Worlds (2012), and The Elements of Academic Style (2014); he is also a co-editor of Sinographies: Writing China (2007) and, most recently, of A New Vocabulary for Global Modernism (2016, with Rebecca Walkowitz). He has written about modernism, poetry, video games, the history of modernity, Asian American literature, and other topics. His current projects include a translation of Peter Janich’s Was ist Information? (with Lea Pao) and a monograph on the philosophy of literature.

John Russell
Associate Director

Russell is an Assistant Professor in the University Libraries responsible for supporting digital scholarship. Prior to coming to Penn State, John was the Scholarly Communication Librarian at the University of Oregon, where he supported open access, digital initiatives, and regularly taught a graduate course on digital scholarship methods. John teaches the online course “Introduction to Digital Humanities for Librarians” for Library Juice Academy, and is also a Contributing Editor for the dh+lib website.

Alysa Hickey
Administrative Support Assistant 3

Alysa helps to coordinate events and visitors, manages all social media aspects of the center, maintains the website and provides administrative support to CHI.

Advisory Board

Jonathan Abel, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Asian Studies

Richard Doyle, Liberal Arts Research Professor of English

Greg Eghigian, Associate Professor of History

Samuel Frederick, Assistant Professor of German

Matthew Jordan, Associate Professor of Film & Video Studies

Michele Kennerly, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences

Daniel Purdy, Professor of German

Christopher Reed, Professor of English and Visual Culture

Mark Sentesy, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Current Fellows

2020-2021 Predoctoral Fellows

Richard Daily

I am a dual-title PhD Candidate in the History and African American Studies departments, with a minor in Womens, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. My research focuses on the race, sexuality, incarceration, and cultural production in the twentieth century. My dissertation project focuses on lived experience, incarceration, and the networks of information and care developed during the Black Gay Cultural Renaissance. I focus on the body of published and private work of Black gay men, exploring the role of information and how their work illuminated carceral ontologies. I also work with the Center for Black Digital Research on the Social Media and Communications team.

Katherine Ellis

In my project, “Decoding Masculinities, Traumatic Violation, and the Legacy of French Medical Literature (1914 – 1939),” I employ critical discourse analysis of key French medical journals’ written and visual publications during World War I. At the heart of the modern trend of medicalizing trauma, these scientific documents have for some time been objects of academic study; however, we often foreground our fascination with French doctors’ personae without asking how contemporary masculinities, as well as their own experiences of psychological upheaval, could have fundamentally shaped their conceptualization of what trauma is. In conversation with masculinities studies like the seminal works of Robert A. Nye, Cynthia Enloe, and Iris Marion Young, I therefore interrogate the nature of WWI French medical masculinities while asking if and how masculinist discourse allowed for French doctors to express their personal trauma without exacerbating the country’s perceived crisis of masculinity.

Kira Homo

I’m broadly interested archives as a locus for the conscious construction of early modern institutional identities. My current research involves the Society of Jesus, a Catholic religious order founded in the mid-sixteenth century. By the seventeenth century, the Society had created and instituted both detailed collection plans for their institutional archives and a robust publishing network dedicated to disseminating favorable reports of Jesuit activities around the globe. My dissertation project, currently titled “Monks, Mariners, Merchants, Murderers: The Jesuits in Seventeenth-Century Goa,” examines the suspicious death of a Jesuit priest and administrator named Antonio de Andrade and the tensions between the various public and private accounts of his life and his death. 

Nikki Orth

My dissertation project investigates a series of recent and popular commemorations of the transatlantic slave trade that frame themselves as the first of their kind. These commemorations share a commonality as texts where discourses of race, inequality, and justice are written and rewritten. Alongside their commonalities, these sites are also quite different in terms of scope and function. This dissertation will pursue answers to a series of questions concerning public memory contestation. The primary question that guides my project is, how do commemorations of the transatlantic slave trade and its legacy in the United States function in this contemporary moment of heightened, even lethal, memory dissensus?

Ashley Rea

Computer programming literacy is increasingly understood as vital for participation in today’s global economy, but faces significant issues of access, representation, and equity. In response to information technologies that exacerbate existing disparities of gender, race, and class, the industry of coding education designed for women and underrepresented communities is growing rapidly. My dissertation, “Programming Women: Rhetorical Education, Literacy, and Coding,” analyzes contemporary programming literacy education for women and underrepresented groups through a rhetorical study deploying a mixed-methods approach. Grounded in an intersectional feminist theoretical framework, my research seeks to understand how coding literacy is understood, taught, and practiced in these contexts. In doing so, my research has the potential to enrich the already provocative theories of the rhetoricity of code through its focus on the material, social, and digital contexts where programming is taught and made. 

Aaron Witcher

Though its primary sense refers to the flight of slaves from plantation spaces to forested and/or mountainous regions, marronage has grown in significance and meaning since the era of slavery and colonialism in Martinique. The term marronage, then, refers to a large gamut of resistance (political, cultural, memorial, or otherwise) whose dynamism renews its relevance and purchase even into the eras beyond slavery and indentured servitude. Drawing on the theoretical and poetical works of poet-philosopher Édouard Glissant, my dissertation, entitled “Tourner autour du Mahagony: Marooning poetics of Martinican literature,” explores how the dynamics of marronnage—notably flight, fugitivity, and re-membering—are taken up by a number of Martinican authors and translated into poetics that propose new, more marron articulations of Martinican (indeed, Caribbean) identity and history. The latter, like the acts of marronage that inform and inspire them, draw a portion of their animus from their relations to what Glissant calls entour, namely their natural and cultural “surroundings.” The work performed by these poetics points therefore to relational and ecological modes of being and re-membering.  

2020-2021 Faculty Fellows

Sabine Doran

In the wake of “color revolutions” (e.g., the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the Purple Revolution in Iraq) as they unfolded in the streets, squares, and media platforms of the 21st century, my project, entitled Stigmaesthetics: Blood and Pixels in Multi-Media Art, endeavors to theorize the racially and politically charged topoi of the color red, specifically in the topoi of “open wounds,” “pure blood,” “contagious” or “mixed blood.”  Stigmaesthetics explores, primarily in multi-media installations, artistic engagements with stigmatic wounds of racial and social and injustice from the end of the twentieth century to the present, as they perform the mixing of the technological and the corporeal both formally and aesthetically. In short, this project explores an aesthetics of rupture: the ruptures that punctuate relational networks of circulation through virtual corporealities of blood. 

Emmanuel Bruno Jean-Francois

Emmanuel Bruno Jean-François is Assistant Professor of French & Francophone Studies, and Comparative Literature at The Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of Poétiques de la violence et récits francophones contemporains (Brill, 2017) and has published numerous articles in scholarly journals such as the PMLA, the International Journal of Francophone StudiesNouvelles études francophones, and Lettres romanes. Jean-François has recently co-edited a special issue of Cultural Dynamics on“The Minor in Question.” He is currently working on a second monograph, titled Indian Ocean Creolization: Empires and Insular Cultures. The project is an interdisciplinary study of creolization and networks of solidarities in the southwestern Indian Ocean; it examines how “insular” histories and cultures are contact zones that can have a direct bearing on our apprehension of larger processes within imperial dynamics.

Maha Marouan

Maha Marouan is an African feminist scholar, writer and documentarian. She is associate professor of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and African Studies. Her publications include Witches, Goddesses and Angry Spirits: The Politics of Spiritual Liberation in African Diaspora Women’s Fiction, (Ohio State University Press, 2013), a co-edited volume on Race and Displacement: Nation, Migration and Identity in the Twenty-First Century (University of Alabama Press, 2013) and a documentary entitled Voices of Muslim Women in the US South (Women Make Movies, New York, 2015). Her academic and creative works appeared in The Boston Review, Transition Magazine of Africa and the African Diaspora and Journal of Islamic Africa. Her research and teaching interests include, Religions and Literatures of Africa and the African Diaspora, Comparative Literature, Transnational Feminisms and Women and Immigration. 

Christopher Reed

Christopher Reed is Distinguished Professor of English and Visual Culture. His twelve books treat various aspects of the social significance of art and design, often in relation to literature. At the CHI, he will explore the implications of Vilém Flusser’s theories of visuality to the development of modern art and literature, starting with Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Jooyeon Rhee

Jooyeon Rhee is assistant professor of Asian Studies and Comparative Literature. Empire of Crime: Cultural Topography of Japanese Imperialism in Detective Fiction is her second book project that investigates detective fiction works that were produced mainly in colonial Korea (1910-1945). It considers detective fiction as a colonial archive since it encapsulates the paradox of colonial modernity in which the confrontation between rational and irrational, social and anti-social, order and disorder, reality and fantasy of modernity manifests in such intensity in the forms of murder, deviant sexuality, transnational economic/social mobility, etc. During her residency, Jooyeon will examine fiction penned by Japanese residents in colonial Korea by focusing on the spatial significance of crime narratives as a way to see how the writers perceived their positions and formed their identities away from the center of the empire.  

Anna Ziajka Stanton

Anna is Caroline D. Eckhardt Early Career Professor and Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature. She is a scholar of Arabic literature and culture, world literature, and translation theory, as well as an active translator of Arabic texts in multiple genres. Her current book project examines the ethics of literariness in English translations of Arabic literature as a matter of literary and linguistic forms, and the embodied and affective encounters that such forms invite from a translator, reader, or critic. She is also interested in the question of how 21st-century Arabic literary prizes are reshaping the ways that the modern Arabic novel circulates in today’s world literary field. Her scholarship has appeared in Philological Encounters and the Journal of Arabic Literature, and is forthcoming from the Journal of World Literature. Her translation of Hilal Chouman’s novel Limbo Beirut was longlisted for the 2017 PEN Translation Prize and shortlisted for the 2017 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation.

2020-2021 Visiting Fellows

Jeffrey Binder

Jeffrey M. Binder specializes in humanistic perspectives on computation, especially in relation to issues of language. He has written on topics ranging from the history of the back-of-the-book index to the use of technical terms in Walt Whitman’s poetry; he has also developed numerous software experiments in computational text analysis and artistic uses of artificial intelligence. His work has been published in such journals as ELH, American Literature, and Media Culture and Society; his most recent article, “Romantic Disciplinarity and the Rise of the Algorithm,” appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Critical Inquiry. He is currently working on a book about the history of algorithmic thinking from the sixteenth century to the present.

Georgia Ennis

Georgia Ennis is a linguistic anthropologist specializing in media and the environment. Utilizing community-engaged and collaborative methods, her research explores Indigenous media production, language revitalization, and environmental knowledge in a changing climate. Her book-in-progress, Mothering Earth: Women, Media, and Cultural Reclamation in the Western Amazon, follows Amazonian Kichwa (Quichua) women as they mobilize media to strengthen relationships and knowledge key to environmental reclamation and food sovereignty.  At the CHI, she is also developing Voices of the Amazon, a digital archive of Amazonian Kichwa media. 

Jennifer Shook

Jen Shook is a digital and performance dramaturg whose research and practice live at the intersection of literature, performance, media and digital humanities, Indigenous and critical race and gender studies, and cultural memory. Her book project Unghosting Tribalographies: Oklahoma-as-Indian-Territory in Performance, Print, and Digital Culture follows ritual and virtual reenactments and memorial performances in and out of the transcultural space of Indian Territory, connecting politics and policy with the print public sphere as well as to plays, poetry, and multimedia performances that borrow and revise early archives. In addition, she’s developing Instead of Redface, a digital resource amplifying contemporary Indigenous playwrights. More at 

Christopher Willoughby

In my book project Masters of Health: Racial Science and Slavery in American Medical Schools (under advance contract with the University of North Carolina Press), I relate the untold history of how teaching racial differences and the abuse of enslaved people’s bodies became standard practices in U.S. medical education. Through an analysis of schools across the United States before the Civil War, my project argues that white, male students were indoctrinated to imagine African descended patients as suited for hard labor in the tropics, immune to the worst illnesses of slavery, and anatomically distinct from whites. This story also unfolded on a global scale, with students comparing non-white bodies from around the world in service of a global system of white supremacy. Masters of Health alsorelates select stories of those objectified by medical educators, like an enslaved rebel from Bahia, Brazil whose skulls ended up in Harvard’s anatomy museum.

Past Fellows

Visiting Fellows 2018-2019

Jeffrey Binder

Jeffrey M. Binder specializes in humanistic perspectives on computation, especially in relation to issues of language. He has written on topics ranging from the history of the back-of-the-book index to the use of technical terms in Walt Whitman’s poetry; he has also developed numerous software experiments in computational text analysis and artistic uses of artificial intelligence. His work has been published in such journals as ELH, American Literature, and Media Culture and Society; his most recent article, “Romantic Disciplinarity and the Rise of the Algorithm,” appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Critical Inquiry. He is currently working on a book about the history of algorithmic thinking from the sixteenth century to the present.

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. 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 mathematical theories of syntax and semantics to understand form, arguing that formalism, as a reading practice, has structural and historical roots in mathematics.

Josh Shepperd

Josh Shepperd is an Assistant Professor at Catholic University and the Sound Fellow of the Library of Congress NRPB. He works on the history of emergent media industries, public humanities, sound studies, and the political economy of data and information. Josh is Director of the Library of Congress’s Radio Preservation Task Force, a digital humanities consortium of 225 professors and 40 federal and public sector partnerships. His book Shadow of the New Deal: The Victory of Public Broadcasting is under contract in the University of Illinois Press History of Communication Series. It examines the institutional origins of public broadcasting and communications research in advocacy work conducted by the media reform movement. Josh is additionally under contract to co-author the official History of Public Broadcasting for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Current. His research has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, Rockefeller Archive, LBJ Presidential Library, Library of Congress, CLIR, NRPF, and NEH.

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.

Predoctoral Fellows 2018-2019

Miaosi Zhang
Graduate Assistant in History

My dissertation, currently titled “Materiality of the Myriad Things (wanwu): Commerce, Natural history, and Diplomacy in Britain and China in the eighteenth century,” focuses on the cultural and intellectual encounters through natural history, commerce and diplomacy between Britain and China in the eighteenth century. My project examines the transmission of medicinal plants, spices, and tea from China to England in the late eighteenth- to early nineteenth century, along with the cultural influence of these natural products in English society. I intend to situate the Sino-Anglo cultural and commercial exchange in a global network of knowledge circulation during this period.

Anna Torres Cacoullos
Graduate Assistant in Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese

My dissertation, “Writing with Cinema: Facing the Screen and Page in Modernist Spain,” interrogates how early film technology, before the advent of sound in 1927, called into question the age-old dialogue between image and text. Specifically, my project explores how the cinematic medium altered the written word in the prose fiction of modernist and avant-garde writers in Spain, inspiring a reconsideration of the form, method, and function of the literary. Cinema and the paraphernalia it generated—posters, film reviews, pamphlets, periodicals, and magazines—problematized the status of the written text and its mode of conveying meaning. I read this paraphernalia as “texts,” or rather, paratexts, to understand how the “moving picture” was mediated by a synthesis of word and image.

John Rountree
Graduate Assistant in Communication Arts and Sciences

My dissertation project, currently titled “Congressional Town Hall Meetings: Rhetoric, Citizenship, and Participatory Democracy,” examines the history and rhetorical functions of town hall meetings with congressional representatives. Using rhetorical fieldwork, I analyze town meeting practices in four different districts—OH-3, (former) PA-5, NY-19, and NH-1. Through textual analysis and interviews, I show that town meetings are a nexus point within a political community. They enable participants to contest the boundaries of that community, to reconstitute who is a legitimate part of that district, who deserves to speak, and whose stories demand recognition in larger policy narratives.

Johann Le Guelte
Graduate Assistant in French

My research examines the visual politics of interwar French colonial propaganda, and the ways authorities used photography as a central tool for the attempted formation of a visual empire. I focus on the production and reception of colonial photographic propaganda to determine how state-sponsored photographs became official colonial information in the minds of many French citizens and irrefutable evidence of the civilizing mission. In my dissertation, I also examine transnational instances of photographic resistance to the French Empire in both Senegal and metropolitan France; where various photographic realities of empire coexisted.

Maxwell Larson
Graduate Assistant in English

My dissertation is about two distinct methods of textual analysis: critical and computational. Although current debates surrounding Digital Humanities and “distant reading” might lead literary scholars to believe that any relationship between computational methods and critical methods is relatively new, I trace their interpenetration back to the origins of electronic computing in the 1940s. By pairing four early computational methods of textual analysis—generative grammar, stylostatistics, content analysis, and cliometrics—with four literary intellectuals who engaged with them—Christine Brooke-Rose, J.M. Coetzee, Clarence Major, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.—my dissertation attempts not to combine computation with critique, but to understand why we imagine them as divided in the first place.

Bethany Doane
English Graduate Assistant

My dissertation project draws on critical theory, feminist studies, and genre literature in order to posit the aesthetic and conceptual significance of “weird fiction,” and its legacies in the horror genre. This interstitial and speculative mode attempts to think toward the unthinkable by imagining what lies beyond human perceptual, epistemic, and phenomenological limits. It therefore engages directly with the conceptual framework of the contemporary nonhuman turn. Following the weird’s fascination with the “outside” as one of interpretive ambivalence, the project also maps the political contexts of how various media, from pulp magazines to blogs, has enabled certain gendered and racially configured reading communities and practices.

Patrick Allen
Graduate Assistant in English

How does reading printed texts by and about Black doctors transform our understanding of American medical history, scientific racism, and the push for professionalization? So asks my dissertation, A Practice of Print: Race, Doctoring, and Medicine in Post-Bellum, Pre-Harlem Black Print Culture. Black medical professionalism was never merely about physical treatment but was instead always entangled in projects of racial uplift and the critique and reform of (extra-) medical structures. Performing what I call a Black critical medical humanism, the doctors I write about—both real and fictional—challenged prevailing discourses of African American inhumanity and ungrievability in order to promote a new kind of medicine—one that might indeed do no harm.

Faculty Fellows 2018-2019

Ran Zwigenberg
Assistant Professor of Asian Studies, History and Jewish Studies

This project examines the way mental health professionals in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, as well as those who studied hibakusha in the West tackled the long term psychological consequences of the bomb. It places the various responses and clinical approaches taken in the stricken cities within the context of the larger history of trauma in Japan and elsewhere as well as the bigger historical responses of medicine to the threat and reality of nuclear weapons, tests and accidents. The project is focused on Japan but examine it within the larger context of Cold War psychiatry and research on the medical aspects of the bomb.

Hoda El Shakry
Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature

Printed Matter(s): Critical Histories and Perspectives on Maghrebi Cultural Journals investigates the cultural history of Arabic, Francophone, as well as bilingual journals from the region of the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia). The book aggregates and theorizes the periodicals that shaped the Maghreb’s cultural formations across the twentieth century. I theorize the cultural journal as a mode of knowledge production that centers on the serialized and shared dissemination of information. The book highlights not only the publications, but also the concepts, intellectuals, as well as networks of production, circulation, distribution, and readership that operated both intra- and inter-regionally. Methodologically, the interdisciplinary project weaves together media studies, cultural history, and periodical studies.

Rosa Eberly
Associate Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences and English

A CHI Fellowship will support my next monograph, Harry Shearer’s Character Machine, a study of actor, satirist, and transmedia artist Harry Shearer’s weekly one-hour radio program-cum-podcast, Le Show, now in its thirty-fifth year. A CHI fellowship will provide a collaborative setting for investigating the Le Show archive in the contexts of information, topic modeling, information architecture, and corpus studies as well as transcription theory and practice. The polyphony, longevity, and relative complexity of the Le Show archive make it of significant potential interest not only for scholars developing new methods of analyzing sound as information but also digital humanists working on tools for distant listening.

Christopher Castiglia
Distinguished Professor of English

My project addresses nineteenth-century Spiritualism as an early information technology that combined belief, affect, psychology, and media in ways that made new forms of information acceptable to a mass audience.  My particular focus is on how Spiritualism retained the affective trace of interpersonal relations in the emergence of decorporealized information, ensuring that disembodied information remained experientially human.  At the same time, Spiritualism naturalized the relation of information and materiality, using conventional objects to deliver information while rendering them uncanny and therefore detaching affective attachment to the materiality of information. Spiritualism intensified the authority of information, reflecting emerging informational institutions like the US Census and the Federal Postal Service, while demonstrating how, once gathered, information from the beyond was open to organization and interpretation in new modes of speculative.

Claire Bourne
Assistant Professor of English

Accidental Shakespeare asks what kind of information the early texts of Shakespeare’s plays preserve and transmit. TheNew Bibliographic orthodoxy of distinguishing “substantive” featuresof early editions(words) from “accidental” features(punctuation, spelling, and anything else affecting the “formal presentation” of the text) has long shaped the editing, teaching, and study of Shakespeare. By examiningthe fact and concept of textual “accident” in a variety ofpre-modern and modern contexts, this project aims to show that notionsof “Shakespeare” have always been contingent on the unintentional and extra-lexical attributes of hisplays in print.

Jennifer Boittin
Associate Professor of French, Francophone Studies, and History

The French colonial state’s vested interest in personhood and identity, i.e. in gender, race, nationality or class, served to control how bodies moved and people lived within French Indochina and French West Africa. In turn, aware that they were persons of interest and that their private lives were being investigated, French women pushed back against officials via letters in which they contested, rebutted or even roundly rejected data meant to force or restrict their mobility. This project looks at how women resisted the imperial regime of information, for example by setting up alternative communication flows and therefore redefining the boundaries of the data itself, reshaping points such as race and gender to wrest back from the administration control over information and therefore their own bodies.