Copeland Fellows for 2011-2012


Jennifer Cayer, who earned her Ph.D. from New York University in 2008, taught at Amherst as a Visiting Assistant Professor of English from 2008 to 2011. Her scholarship joins literary, visual, and performance studies to explore fundamental humanistic questions of how meaning is made, conveyed, and imagined in and across artistic media. Her research interests include drama, performance, and installation art of the Americas; gender and performance; intersections between literary and visual cultures; and theories of spectatorship and the body. As a Copeland Fellow, Jennifer will spend the year finalizing her book manuscript (titled "Embodied Ethnographies: Feminist Theater Encounters Anthropology"); begin work on a second project about theatrical responses to new and digital media; and reflect more broadly on the changing value and role of interdisciplinary work in the humanities.  For her new project, she will explore ways in which contemporary literature, theater, and film are registering changing paradigms of human nature and communication in both form and content. During the fellowship year, Jennifer is excited for the opportunity to explore the professional challenges and opportunities of interdisciplinary research and teaching. Jennifer is being sponsored by Professor Lucia Suárez, of the Department of Spanish.


Anne-Lise François is an Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, where she teaches courses in British, European and transcontinental Romanticism, and literary and environmental studies.  Her first book, Open Secrets: The Literature of Uncounted Experience (Stanford University Press, December 2007), was awarded the 2010 René Wellek Prize by the American Comparative Literature Association. It traces alternatives to modernity’s rush to produce and demand to develop in examples of recessive fulfillment and satisfied or contented non-development in the fiction of Mme de Lafayette and Jane Austen, and the poetry of William Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson and Thomas Hardy.  Questions of how to value dormant, unused powers also inform her essay on Wordsworthian natural piety and genetically engineered foods (Diacritics, Summer 2003 [published 2005]), a revised version of which will be the basis of the first chapter of her current book project “Provident Improvisers: Parables of Subsistence from Wordsworth to Benjamin.” While in Amherst, she will continue work on this book. A study of figures of pastoral worldliness, provisionality, and commonness (with “common” understood in the double sense of the political antithesis to enclosure and of the ordinary, vernacular, or profane), covering areas as diverse as contemporary food and farming politics and debates on climate change and the temporality of environmental violence, “Provident Improvisers” seeks alternatives to late capitalism’s logic of limitless growth and disposable consumerism, while also hoping to mitigate the totalitarian dimensions of crisis-type responses to environmental problems, by looking to literary works for a less terrorized, more joyful sense of finitude. Anne-Lise is being sponsored by Professor Tom Dumm of the Department of Political Science.


Claire Katz is an Associate Profess of Philosophy and Women’s and Gender Studies and the Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies at Texas A&M University, where she is also a Cornerstone Faculty Fellow (2011-2015).  As a Copeland Fellow, she will be completing her manuscript, “Levinas and the Crisis of Humanism.” This interdisciplinary work draws on philosophy, political theory, Jewish studies, and themes in gender in order to explore the relationship Emmanuel Levinas’s writings on Jewish education have to his larger philosophical project redefining ethics. Levinas argues that we have a crisis of humanism signified by the atrocities of the twentieth century, the origins of which can be traced to a subjectivity that is egocentric and valorizes self-sufficiency. His philosophical work describes a new subjectivity that holds dependence, vulnerability, and responsibility for another as its signature.  In her book, Claire argues that Levinas offers Jewish education—in particular, Talmudic education—as the means to develop this new ethical subjectivity. Her time as a Copeland Fellow will allow her engage in sustained discussions about the role and limits of the humanities and humanities education in the cultivation of ethical subjectivity and political citizenship.  She is the author of Levinas, Judaism, and the Feminine: the Silent Footsteps of Rebecca (Indiana 2003) and the editor of Emmanuel Levinas: Critical Assessments  (Routledge 2005).  She has published journal articles and book chapters on a variety of philosophical themes including, philosophy of education, philosophy of religion, Jewish philosophy, feminist theory, and phenomenology. Claire is being sponsored by Professor Maria Heim, Religion Department.


Premesh Lalu is Director of the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) and Adjunct Professor of History at the University of the Western Cape. His book, The deaths of Hintsa: Postapartheid South Africa and Shape of the Recurring Pasts, was published by the HSRC press in 2009. He completed his Ph.D. in 2003 as a MacArthur Fellow at the University of Minnesota and has published in History and Theory, the South African Historical Journal, Current Writing, Africa Today, the Journal of Higher Education in Africa, Kronos:Southern African Histories, and Innovation. Premesh Lalu’s major research interests are in postcolonial studies, subaltern studies, and critical theory. More recently, his research has focused on the question of aesthetics and politics and the question of the postcolonial university in Africa. In 2007, Premesh was selected for the prestigious fellowship in the Institutions of Public Scholarship Programme at Emory University in the USA. UWC awarded Lalu the Vice- Chancellor's Award for teaching excellence, the Vice-Chancellor’s Young Researcher Award, and three Faculty of Arts Research Incentives Award. The Deaths of Hintsa was nominated for the Alan Paton Longlist in 2010. Premesh is being sponsored by Professor Adam Sitze, Department of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought.


Ruth Miller is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.  She received her Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University in 2003, after which she began teaching and publishing in the fields of Ottoman and Islamic law, the philosophy of law, and feminist legal theory.  Her research draws on jurisprudential literature in a number of European and West Asian languages, and her writing addresses legal issues that transcend conventional geographical, chronological, and methodological boundaries.  Among her five books are The Limits of Bodily Integrity: Abortion, Adultery, and Rape Legislation in Comparative Perspective and Law in Crisis: The Ecstatic Subject of Natural Disaster.  The overreaching aim of Ruth’s work, especially in recent years, has been to propose a new starting point for legal analysis—a starting point that sidelines human subjects in order to question the centrality that agency, identity, and embodiment have taken in law scholarship. Her forthcoming book, Seven Stories of Threatening Speech: Women’s Suffrage Meets Machine Code, for example, demonstrates via a re-reading of the speech surrounding the nineteenth century women’s suffrage movement the methodological benefits of understanding harmful language as a variation on nonhuman computational or machine code.  As a Copeland Fellow, Ruth will be developing this work on comparative nonhuman legal and linguistic existence.  In her proposed book project, “Snarl: In Defense of Stalled Traffic and Faulty Networks,” she asks whether it is possible to envision a mode of humanistic legal inquiry in the absence of humans.  To get at this question, she plans to write a history of traffic congestion and constitutionalism in Turkey, France, and the United States that will illuminate the potential political and philosophical benefits of taking cars, rather than people, as a central category of legal and humanistic analysis. As a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Ruth is delighted to be returning to the Five College area. Ruth is being sponsored by Professor Austin Sarat of the Departments of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought and Political Science.