Amherst Magazine

Faculty Awards and Activities

by Katherine Duke '05

Martha Saxton
Martha Saxton, associate professor of history and
women's and gender studies, was named to the
Elizabeth W. Bruss Readership.

 

In April 2007, Ute Brandes, professor of German, published the first volume of a two-volume edition of short stories by Anna Seghers as part of a 25-volume Werkausgabe of Seghers’s literary works. Born in Germany but exiled to France and then Mexico, Seghers became a prominent voice among leftists and modernists after World War II; she wrote these stories between 1958 and 1966. Brandes’s edition also includes critical essays.

Visiting writer Alexander Chee read from his forthcoming novel in Pruyne Lecture Hall in October 2006. Queen of the Night portrays a 19th-century opera singer who communicates only through song.

In April 2007, Fredric Cheyette, professor emeritus of history, was inducted as a fellow of the Mediaeval Academy of America, the world’s largest organization devoted to scholarship on the Middle Ages.

Professor of Russian Catherine Ciepiela ’83 read from her book The Same Solitude at Amherst Books in November 2006. The book traces the decade-long epistolary romance between Russian modernist poets Marina Tsvetaeva and Boris Pasternak. Over the past year, Ciepiela also co-edited Paul Schmidt’s The Stray Dog Cabaret: A Book of Russian Poems (2006).

Rhonda Cobham-Sander, Professor of English and Black Studies, was named to the William R. Kenan Jr. Professorship. Her three-year term began in July 2007. The professorship recognizes and underwrites the work of a senior faculty member who demonstrates great competence in his or her field as well as leadership and a strong interest in either an interdisciplinary or developing field or in undergraduate education in general.

Playwright-in-Residence Constance Congdon recently presented three new plays. Her adaptation of Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid was commissioned and performed by the American Conservatory Theatre at the Geary Theatre in San Francisco in June 2007. Later that month, So Far: The Children of the Elvi had its Northwest premiere at Key City Players in Port Townsend, Wash. Another adapt­ation, Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters, originally commissioned by the Hartford Stage Company, opened at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in July.

Javier Corrales, associate professor of political science, wrote an article for the November/December 2006 issue of Foreign Policy magazine. In “The Many Lefts of Latin America,” Corrales predicted coming shifts in the economic policies of Brazil’s president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The Latin American political left, Corrales argued, “actually comprises a wide range of movements with often conflicting goals.” Corrales also collaborated with Professor of Economics Frank Westhoff on a study of the relationship between political liberties and rates of Internet use in various nations. The article appeared in the December 2006 issue of International Studies Quarterly.

In July 2006, Professor of Mathematics David Cox was named to the William J. Walker Professorship in Mathematics and Astronomy, established in 1863 by Dr. William Johnson Walker.

In July 2007, Lawrence Douglas was named to the James J. Grosfeld ’59 Pro­fessorship. (Grosfeld established the professorship in 2002.) The previous month, Douglas won a silver medal in the general fiction category of the Independent Publisher Book Awards for his novel, The Catastrophist. In addition, Douglas contributed to The Jurist, the journal of legal news and research for the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, in November 2006. He wrote about the value, goals and failures of the trial of Saddam Hussein.

Professor of English Judith Frank read from her forthcoming novel in Pruyne Lecture Hall in October 2006. Noah’s Ark follows a gay American couple who take in two young children orphaned by a café bombing in Israel.

In August 2007, Professor of Philoso­phy Alexander George published What Would Socrates Say?: Philosophers Answer Your Questions About Love, Nothingness, and Everything Else. (See “What’s the opposite of a banana?” Amherst Creates, page 46.) The book is a compilation of questions and answers from AskPhilosophers.org,
a Website he created two years ago.

Deborah Gewertz, the G. Henry Whitcomb 1874 Professor of Anthropology, gave the eighth annual George and Mary Foster Lecture in Cultural Anthropology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas in April 2007. In “Excusing the Haves and Blaming the Have-Nots in Jared Diamond’s Histories,” she presented criticisms of the arguments in two books by Diamond: Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse.

Assistant Professor of Geology Whitey Hagadorn was the lead author of a paper published in Science magazine in October 2006. The article presents evidence that the earliest animal fossil imprints came from simple sponge-like creatures. It also documents the first direct fossil evidence that animals 550 million years ago underwent cellular division during embryonic development, and that the cells of these animals contained nuclei and other specialized structures. Hagadorn also received a $20,000 grant from the National Geographic Society to fund student research on fossil evidence of early land-dwelling animals.

Writer-in-Residence Daniel Hall read from his new collection of poems, Under Sleep, in Alumni House in April 2007.

Professor of Chemistry David Hansen was named in July 2007 to the Rachel and Michael Deutch Professorship, a newly endowed professorship for a faculty member in chemistry, economics, French, history, mathematics or philosophy.

Also in July 2007, Professor of Sociology Jerome Himmelstein began a three-year term in the Andrew W. Mellon Professorship, established in 1974 by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the “continuing process of curriculum revision and revitalization.”

Nasser Hussain, assistant professor of law, jurisprudence and social thought, brought together members of the Amherst community for a nationwide teach-in at Merrill Science Center in October 2006. The purpose of the teach-in was to study the legal, political and moral implications of the detention of hundreds of people at the U.S. Navy base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. “Guantánamo: How Should We Respond?” featured panel discussions with lawyers, law professors, physicians, journalists and military officers simulcast from Seton Hall University in New Jersey to hundreds of colleges nationwide.

Scott F. Kaplan ’95, associate professor of computer science, conducted research as a Fulbright Scholar at the Federico Santa Maria Technical University and Adolfo Ibanez University in Valparaiso, Chile, from January through June 2007.

Laure Katsaros, assistant professor of French, gave the annual Max and Etta Lazerowitz Lecture on the topic of “Men of Leisure, Women of Pleasure: Bachelors and Prostitutes in 19th-Century France” at Alumni House in April 2007. The lecture reflected Katsaros’s research on her current book-in-progress. In addition, she recently completed another book manuscript, New York-Paris: Whitman, Baudelaire and the Hybrid City.

Peter Lobdell ’68, senior resident artist in the department of theater and dance, was director of movement for a new production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town with the Hartford (Conn.) Stage Company. The play, directed by Gregory Boyd and starring Hal Holbrook, ran in August and September 2007.

Samuel Morse, professor of fine arts and Asian languages and civilizations, was a guest curator of the exhibition Gifts from the Ebb Tide and the World of Kitagawa Utamaro, featured at the Mead Art Museum from September through December 2006. Morse also gave a gallery talk on Utamaro in October 2006. The exhibition featured the title work as well as other 18th-century prints by Utamaro.

July 2007 marked the beginning of a two-year term in the James E. Ostendarp Professorship for Professor of English Barry O’Connell. Friends, colleagues and former students of Ostendarp established the professorship upon the coach’s retirement in 1989.

Also in July 2007, Professor of Chemistry Patricia O’Hara received the Amanda and Lisa Cross Professorship, established in 1982 by Theodore L. Cross ’46, a life trustee of the college. O’Hara was also named a senior adviser to the dean of the faculty for academic life; she will begin her one-year term in July 2008.

Dominic L. Poccia, the Rufus Tyler Lincoln Professor of Biology, joined the advisory board of Signal Transduction: Receptors, Mediators and Genes, the journal of the Signal Transduction Society, in October 2006. The journal is devoted to the exchange of ideas among researchers of intra- and intercellular signaling mechanisms. Poccia also became associate editor of The Biological Bulletin, which publishes experimental research in biology and related fields. The professor, who also is a jazz saxophonist and clarinetist, visited the University of Michigan in December 2006 to present a paper titled “Improvisational Thinking in the Liberal Arts Curriculum” at the inaugural conference of the International Society for Improvised Music. The paper was based on his experience teaching a First-Year Seminar on improvisational thinking.

William H. Pritchard ’53, the Henry Clay Folger Professor of English, contributed to the Fiction Chronicle section of the Winter 2007 issue of The Hudson Review. He presented criticism of works by Katherine Min ’80, Professor Lawrence Douglas and former visiting writer Claire Messud, as well as by Phillip Roth, Anne Tyler, Brian Morton, Steve Yarbrough and Bobbie Ann Mason.

Associate Professor of Psychology Catherine Sanderson published Slow and Steady Parenting: Active Childraising for the Long Haul, from Birth to Age 3 in February 2007. The book advises against “quick fixes” regarding bedtime, mealtime, television-watching and more. Sanderson speaks from experience; she is the mother of three children.

In January 2007, the Rockefeller Foundation chose Martha Sandweiss, professor of American studies and history, for a four-week residency in the social sciences at its Bellagio Study and Conference Center in Italy. Sandweiss used the time to work on her forthcoming book, Passing Strange:
The Secret Life of Clarence King
, on a 19th-century American geologist and explorer.

Austin Sarat, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science and Five College Fortieth Anniversary Professor, was named a senior adviser to the dean of the faculty for academic life. He began his one-year term in the fall.

Martha Saxton, associate professor of history and women’s and gender studies, was named to the Elizabeth W. Bruss Readership for a term of three years, starting in July 2007. The readership is in memory of a scholar and professor who came to Amherst in 1972 and died in 1981. Professors who receive the readership work to incorporate scholarly or creative work on women into departmental or
interdepartmental courses.

October 2006 saw the publication of Bartók, Hungary and the Renewal of Tradition: Case Studies in the Intersection of Modernity and Nationality, by Associate Professor of Music David Schneider. Drawing from a range of primary sources, Schneider clarifies how renowned modernist composer Béla Bartók was influenced by Hungarian and other Central European composers, contrary to his public rejection of the national traditions of his native Hungary.

Morirse está en Hebreo, a novella by Ilán Stavans, the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture and Five College Fortieth Anniversary Professor, was adapted for the screen. The Mexican film, directed by Alejandro Springall and given the English title My Mexican Shivah, premiered in the United States in January 2007 at the 16th Annual New York Jewish Film Festival. (The novella was published in 2006 in The Disappearance: A Novella and Stories.) In addition, Stavans spoke at the third annual Symposium on Transatlantic Visions at Alumni House in April 2007.

Robert T. Sweeney, the William R. Mead Professor of Art and Art History, presented a solo exhibition of paintings at William Baczek Fine Arts, a gallery in Northampton, Mass., in October and November 2006. The exhibit included Sweeney’s Spring Light (2006), a view of the Amherst College landscape.

In July 2007, Professor of Mathematics Daniel Velleman received the Julian H. Gibbs 1946 Professorship, established in memory of the college’s 15th president.

In August 2007, a research team including Patrick Williamson, the Edward S. Harkness Professor of Biology, published a paper in the online journal PLoS One. The report casts serious doubt on the dominant hypothesis of how the body rids its cells of “bad” LDL cholesterol, high levels of which put millions at risk of heart disease, and increases “good” HDL cholesterol, which helps protect against heart disease.

Photo: Samuel Masinter '04