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Predoctoral Fellows 2019-20

Adam Cody

axc1069@psu.edu

A CHI Fellowship will support my dissertation, “Athenaeus’s Deipnosophistae and the Grounds of Public Discourse,” a study of the second-century CE miscellaneous reference book Deipnosophistae in its capacity to organize and circulate quotations of ancient Greek literature. Much of the information attested to in Deipnosophistae is found in no other source, making the text a valuable resource for insight into public discursive culture during the early Roman empire. The text’s complicated style and structure invites critical engagement with the content presented and stimulates the creative repurposing of that content for future discursive activity.

Brandon Erby

bue114@psu.edu

While many are familiar with the 1955 death of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till and his mother’s decision to publicly display his brutalized body, what is often neglected in scholarship on Till’s murder is his mother’s activism post-1955. My dissertation focuses on Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, and attempts to provide an in-depth rhetorical analysis of her public engagement by answering the following two questions: 1) How has Till’s death influenced American culture? 2) In what ways is Till-Mobley responsible for this influence? I rely on a range of methods and methodologies to argue that Till-Mobley’s intentional labor as a mother, activist, teacher, and dramatist is central for how we remember Emmett Till.

Justin Griffin

jrg366@psu.edu

Despite a contemporary outpouring of popular and scholarly discourse on “the attention economy” and its discontents, cultural critics have scarcely considered the role of listening attention in this time of technological, economic, and social change.   My project, Ambient Technologies, aims to register how collective listening practices change in tandem with shifting techno-economic conditions, from Muzak Inc.’s subtle colonization of 20th century background sound to the 21st century explosion of mobile listening devices and digital music streaming.  Drawing on experimental and ambient composers like Pauline Oliveros, John Cage, and Brian Eno, I theorize a concept and practice of ambient listening.  While critics of attention capitalism strive to preserve a largely visualist, individualist form of “deep attention,” I argue that ambient listening offers an alternate way forward, opening toward a diffuse, collective field of aesthetic attention.

Kellie Marin

kxm627@psu.edu

My dissertation, “The Rhetoric of Anonymity: Secrecy, Exposure, and the Circulation of Affect within the Neoliberal Security State,” examines the possibilities and perils of anonymous speech in the contemporary networked world. Anonymity creates the possibility for people to speak out without being subject to personal recrimination or bodily harm, which is beneficial in situations including secret sharing, whistleblowing, coming out, and forming political groups (e.g. Anonymous). Yet, there are potential perils of anonymous speech, especially in how anonymity allows for the circulation of hate and resentment. Despite this, by examining how anonymity circulates affects—both positive and negative—there is a potential rhetorical resource for fostering political action within a neoliberal security state. I argue anonymity challenges us to rethink the practice of rhetoric in a networked age in order to foster better, more informed, more effective democratic participation. 

Megan Poole

mup84@psu.edu

While traditional rhetorics of science—a subfield within rhetoric and composition—unravel the logic and argumentation of scientific discourse, this project confronts the non-rational, aesthetic elements of scientific inventional practices and prose that have been ushered in by women artist-scientists to expand what can be considered rhetorical about scientific knowledge making. At stake in studying these aesthetic elements of science is a reevaluation of the limits of science and art through the inclusion of previously discounted perspectives as well as a diversification in what can be considered the elements of scientific argument. If, as has been suggested, art is a tool of science, this project argues that aesthetics is an epistemological cornerstone of scientific invention, one integral to its logic, its data, its “objectivity.”

Janet Purdy

jvp5685@psu.edu

My dissertation, Carved Swahili Doors: Gateways of Status, Trade, and Transaction in East Africa, examines the fluid characteristics of regional vocabularies and networks that have existed for millennia along the eastern coast of Africa. I focus on elaborately carved doors commissioned in the nineteenth century to adorn and define exterior spaces. When analyzed by style, location, patron, and audience, the corpus functions as a form of historical documentation to elucidate symbolic and social connections across Indian Ocean and African trade routes. I aim to recover the information long held in these distinctive Swahili architectural and art forms that evolved at the center of global and cultural convergences.