University News

New U. fund supports interdisciplinary efforts

By
Staff Writer

 

From a class about downtown Providence to a workshop on puppet theater, the Humanities Initiative Collaborative Research and Teaching Fund has allotted over $100,000 in grant money to faculty projects in its first-ever round of funding this year. The initiative launched last year after an anonymous gift of $3 million, said Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin P’12, who currently heads the fund.

“(The) idea is to try to leverage some interesting groups of faculty doing work here who might be in different disciplines (and) might not have the ability to work together because they might not have the resources to have a conference or to invite a guest,” McLaughlin said.  

The initiative is focused on promoting collaboration among the humanities and across disciplines, McLaughlin added. 

In a newsletter to faculty members, McLaughlin wrote that the initiative’s support will take two forms – grants for “projects centered on humanistic interests” and funds to hire six new faculty positions in the humanities. So far, one faculty member has been appointed, and eight projects are in the works.

The first appointee under the initiative, Paul Guyer, the Jonathan Nelson professor of humanities and philosophy, is beginning a series of interdisciplinary courses this semester and will start a collaborative project next semester. Guyer’s humanities department class examines philosophies of art in the 18th century. The class will be the first of a series examining similar subject matter across different centuries, he said.

“The goal is to bring my own approach to these subjects to a wider range of students than might otherwise find out about them and to myself learn from a wider range of students who are working in different disciplines,” Guyer said. “That always makes it interesting.”

In the spring and fall 2013 semesters, Guyer will co-teach a class with Rolf-Peter Horstmann, professor emeritus at Humboldt University in Berlin, about “realism, idealism and alternative responses to reality,” Guyer said. His goal for the project is to unite students from different concentrations and to conduct collaborative teaching that would not be possible without the grant, Guyer added.

The initiative is also funding a class this semester entitled “Reimagining Providence,” which will bring together Dietrich Neumann, professor of history of art and architecture; Friedrich St. Florian, dean and professor emeritus at the Rhode Island School of Design; and Yale Professor of Architecture Ed Mitchell. The fund will allow for the collaboration with Mitchell, who is teaching a similar course about downtown Providence at Yale, according to McLaughlin’s newsletter.

Professor of Theater and Performance Studies Kym Moore received a grant allowing Alejandra Prieto, who manages an internationally renowned Spanish puppet theater company, to come to Brown for a residency this semester. Prieto is teaching a class with Moore this semester and is also collaborating with Erik Ehn, professor of theater arts and performance studies, on his play, “Yermedea RAW,” part of a series of 17 plays titled “Soulographie: Our Genocides,” which opens in New York City in November.

“Puppetry has many artistic forms included – you have painting, you have sculpture, you have video projections, (you) can work with animation puppetry,” Prieto said. “It’s about collaboration.”

This residency is Prieto’s third at Brown. “I think it’s all about the exchange of knowledge,” she said of her experience at the University. “I’m here, and I’m learning, too.”

Two separate grants will fund the visits of two professors this fall, who will each  conduct at least one seminar and one lecture, as well as meet informally with faculty and students, McLaughlin said. The professors – Jennifer Gonzalez, associate professor of history of art and visual culture at University of California at Santa Cruz and Andrew Laird, professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Warwick – could eventually become candidates for the five humanities positions that remain vacant under the initiative, McLaughlin said.

Additional projects being funded this round include a symposium entitled, “The Thought of AIDS: Humanities and the Epidemic,” with Associate Professor of English and Associate Professor of Modern Culture and Media Jacques Khalip, and a multi-year international project called “Habits of Living: Global Networks, Local Effects,” led by Professor of MCM Wendy Chun, among others.

“We have funding and would like to grow and expand over the coming years moving into President (Christina) Paxson’s term,” McLaughlin said. The next round of the bianually awarded grants will be reviewed in October.