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Visiting Fellows 2015-16

Anatoly Detwyler

I recently completed my dissertation, "The Aesthetics of Information in Modern Chinese Literary Culture, 1919-1949," at Columbia University's East Asian Languages and Cultures Department.  My research focuses on the historical and creative interconnections between the modern global communications revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries, on the one hand, and the rise of modern literature and art during China's dynamic "New Culture" period, on the other.  I argue that in a variety of foreign and nativized forms, the entity of information provided China's writers critical leverage for engaging with the changing epistemology of the modern subject.  Through a variety of formal experimentation and topical engagement with information, writers innovated important new modes of writing and reading, in the process aligning Chinese literature with a nascent information age.  As a Fellow at the CHI, I will expand my dissertation into a book manuscript.  I will concurrently pursue several ongoing "digital humanities" projects that use the quantitative analysis of textual corpora to rethink the history of literary form and the sociology of production in modern China.

Laura Helton

Laura Helton is a historian of American and African American literature and memory from the nineteenth century to the present.  Her research interests include social histories of the archive, gender and knowledge production, collections and collecting practices, print cultures of the long civil rights movement, and the making of historical narratives.  She holds a PhD in history from New York University and was most recently a fellow at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African and African American Studies at the University of Virginia.  She is currently working on a book manuscript,Collecting and Collectivity: Black Archival Publics, 1900-1950, which examines the emergence of African American archives to understand how historical recuperation shaped forms of racial imagination in the early twentieth century. She is co-editor of a forthcoming issue of Social Text, “The Question of Recovery: Slavery, Freedom, and the Archive.” Her recent public humanities work includes a partnership between NYU and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture that seeks to increase access to “hidden” collections.  She will join the Department of English at the University of Delaware as an assistant professor of print and material culture studies in 2017.

Bonnie Mak

Bonnie Mak is an associate professor at the University of Illinois, jointly appointed in the Graduate School for Library and Information Science and the Program in Medieval Studies. At the Center for Humanities and Information, she will develop her book-length project, Confessions of a 21st-Century Memsahib, a critique of the digital materials with which scholarship is increasingly conducted. She will also continue her collaboration with graphic designers and librarians on a project, Designing an Argument: A Collaboration in Scholarly Publication, that tests the boundaries of scholarly publication by articulating a complex humanistic argument in the language of scientific diagrams. Mak’s research interests include manuscript, print, and digital cultures; the cultural production and circulation of knowledge; manuscript studies; book history; medieval and early modern collecting; and the history of archives and libraries. Her first book, How the Page Matters (2011), examines the interface of the page as it is developed across time, geographies, and technologies. She has been the recipient of grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Newberry Consortium for Renaissance Studies, and the Huntington Library.

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Predoctoral Fellows 2015-16

Joshua DiCaglio

  • Ph.D. Candidate
  • College of English

My project explores the rhetorical and philosophical problems related to scale, both in the humanities and in the sciences.   The aim is to address the phenomenological and hermeneutic struggles that occur when we encounter much larger or much smaller views of reality. One aspect of this encounter is the discerning of meaning on multiple scales, which first becomes apparent through information theory and biosemiotics. Scaling these kinds of informatic loops allows a reconceptualizing of the meaning of meaning and the scope of and relationship between what different kinds of discourse describe. 

Abram Foley

  • Ph.D. Candidate
  • College of English

During my CHI Predoctoral Fellowship, I will be completing my dissertation, Assembling Contemporary Literature: On the Critical Work of Literary Art.  The dissertation examines the relationship between literary practices – such as editing and publishing – and experimental aesthetics in post-WWII writing in America. Considering aesthetic positions in light of the literary practices which advocate and undermine them, and vice versa, I argue that presses and little magazines form critical assemblages that offer unusual avenues for approaching the history of contemporary literature. 

V. Jo Hsu

  • Ph.D. Candidate
  • Department of English

The focus of my dissertation makes me very conscious, even here, of the word “I.” My research emerges from that discomfort, probing the conventions that have shaped the ways we write and read about the self in academic discourse. Beginning in the field of English studies, my self-conscious “I” investigates the different ways scholars in Rhetoric and Composition have celebrated or censured personal writing. I ask how the “personal” is defined on each occasion and what forms of speech and silence these practices create. Then drawing from other disciplines (including psychology, autobiography studies, sociology), I search for an approach to writing and critiquing autobiography that accounts for the “self” growing and changing over time, and that uses that dynamism to challenge reductive tendencies in identity-based discourse.

Lea Pao

  • Ph.D. Candidate
  • Department of Comparative Literature and Asian Studies

My dissertation project, “The Informatics of Poetry,” examines the relation between poetry and information and suggests a method of reading poetry that evolves with a consideration of how the conceptualization of information and its defining forces have shaped and continue to shape poetry, our idea of poetics, and our methods of reading. By laying out a typology of informational practices in poetry, this project aims to renew and re-engage the discourse of information and poetics. It will show, for example, how poetic form manages these practices of information (via representation, organization, transmission, and storage), and how various methods of reading and literary criticism—from formalism and structuralism to Digital Humanities approaches—have developed alongside something like “information” as literary quality. 

Kaitlyn Patia

  • Ph.D. Candidate
  • Department of Communication Arts and Sciences

Title: Democratic Vistas: The Rhetorical Expression and Promise of Democratic Faith

My dissertation engages the messiness of information in the face of seemingly intractable difference and the unknown: why might individuals marginalized by difference – based on race, gender, or class – have faith in a more equitable or just future despite circumstances that might suggest otherwise? I analyze how marginalized collectivities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries expressed a faith in the power of discourse to challenge and eventually change social injustices, a faith in agitation, and a faith in democracy itself. In particular, I examine the rhetoric and activism of Anna Julia Cooper, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Jane Addams in order to better understand the operation of “democratic faith” within marginalized collectivities in relation to traditional notions of certainty, knowledge, and evidence.

Matthew Price

  • Ph.D. Candidate
  • College of English

Of Minor Spaces presents a new description of the structures and dynamics of narrative geography in British fiction. Drawing on both older and newer methods of analysis, it demonstrates that spaces can be read using narratological methods commonly reserved for literary characters—that is, as oscillating hybrids of real and fictional, structural and referential significance, in a differential system of major and minor nodes. As a whole, the work shows how novelistic spaces signify in diverse, dynamic, but nevertheless mappable ways; how these geographies refract and reflect the production of socio-historical space; and how we might use these tools and the information they yield to better understand the un-typologized terrains in which we read (and live) as sites with specific latent associations yet to be named.

T. Franklin Waddell

  • Ph.D. Candidate
  • College of Communications

As television programming is increasingly accompanied by interface cues related to the collective opinion of other viewers, there is a corresponding interest regarding how such cues affect the assumptions of traditional media effects theory. The proposed dissertation will examine how social media comments that supplement television programming affects viewers’ perceptions of social reality, with a focus on how construct accessibility and bandwagon perceptions interact to affect first order and second order cultivation judgments, as informed by cultivation theory and the MAIN model.

Faculty Fellows 2015-16

Jessamyn Abel

  • Assistant Professor of Asian Studies and History
  • Department of Asian Studies

Title: From Communication Line to Data Point: The Bullet Train as Information

As the most important highway maintained by the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Tōkaidō connecting the political capital in Edo with the Imperial capital in Kyoto was a central means of information flow for centuries, even providing the foundational route for Japan’s earliest trains and wired networks. The high tech bullet train, which opened in 1964, carried mid-century information from Tokyo to Osaka along this path, but also provided a new data point by which to compare Japan to other countries and re-imagine its cities and people. This project seeks to explain the bullet train’s symbolic importance, by examining how information prompted a rewriting of identity on the level of nation, locality, and individual in a changing Japan.

Richard Doyle

  • Liberal Arts Research Professor of English
  • Department of English

Title: Radio Free Valis and Phytopsyche: Two Books on the Discursive Effectives of the Concepts and Practices of Information

During my fellowship, I will be composing two books on the discursive effects of the concepts and practices of information. Radio Free Valis: The Informatic Visions of Philip K. Dick explores writer Philip K. Dick's The Exegesis, a nearly 9000 page, mostly handwritten text inquiring into PKD's experience of being “nailed by information” now hosted on a Penn State server The book excavates and explicates PKD's informatic interpretation of “nonduality” - a mode of awareness dubbed by Dick “ultra metacognition” wherein the subject perceives themselves as essentially and not accidentally as a being composed not of matter but of pure consciousness capable of being modeled by and as information. The second, Phytopsyche: Close Encounters with the Science of Plant Intelligence,explores the effects of informatic techniques and paradigms on the science of botany, where researchers have turned to the language of “plant intelligence” to articulate the networks of informational complexity they have observed using the tools of genomics and molecular biology.

Samuel Frederick

  • Assistant Professor of German
  • Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures

Title: A Poetics of Collecting: The Redemption of Things in German Realism and Modernism

I will be using the CHI fellowship to make headway on my second monograph, which looks to the discourses and practices of collecting to understand the precarious place of things in literary and cinematic works. I focus in particular on realist and modernist aesthetics in the German tradition and the problem of making visible or legible what is so small, fleeting, trivial, or devoid of use value that it falls below the threshold of representability. Drawing on thing theory, information theory, and ecocriticism this book thus turns from subjects to objects, from people to things, from human experience to inanimate matter in order to replace the traditional model of mimesis (imitation, reproduction of reality) with a model of collecting (accumulation, sorting and classifying of reality) as an alternative critical paradigm that is better able to come to terms with the neglected, contingent, and discarded things of the world.

Kathryn Gines

  • Assistant Professor of Philosophy
  • Department of Philosophy

Title: Collegium of Black Women Philosophers in a Digital Age

As the founding director of the Collegium of Black Women Philosophers I am committed to recruiting and retaining Black women into philosophy, archiving our significant contributions to the field, and making this ever-expanding archive available to the widest possible audience.  My project, Collegium of Black Women Philosophers in a Digital Age, has three main components: 1) an enhanced interactive Collegium of Black Women Philosophers website; 2) collaboration with online encyclopedias of philosophy to feature scholarly entries on Black women philosophers; and 3) collaboration with online comprehensive bibliographies and electronic journal collections to feature the publications of Black women philosophers.

Michael Legaspi

  • Associate Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Jewish Studies
  • Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies

Title: Information, Knowledge, and the Pursuit of Wisdom

In studying wisdom-seeking as a cultural endeavor, I seek to describe the development of influential ‘wisdom frameworks’ over time. This study begins with a formal definition of wisdom as a holistic, transmittable program for human flourishing that derives authoritative prescriptions from a shared understanding of what is real, ultimate, and good: a program, in other words, that unites the metaphysical, the intellectual, and the ethical. I aim to see how wisdom programs were construed and enacted in Western thought and to learn, specifically, how concepts of data, information, and knowledge function within these programs.

Stuart Selber

  • Associate Professor of English
  • Department of English

Title: Institutions, Literacies, Technologies

My CHI project is a rhetorical study of the ways in which academic computing units mediate the teaching and learning of writing and communication in American higher education. More specifically, I conceptualize how colleges and universities structure and manage the complex universe of information technologies (IT) and provide heuristic strategies teachers can use to involve themselves in the constitution of this universe. Although academic computing units have a rich tradition of running faculty engagement programs, my argument is that humanities teachers need to contribute more directly to the technological agendas of colleges and universities, developing IT engagement programs that can have a positive bearing on students and teachers and academic institutions. There is simply too much at stake in this universe for humanities teachers not to have a voice in decision-making processes.