Fall 2013 FRAP Awards

The following faculty members received funding awards in fall 2013 through the College’s Faculty Research Award Program (FRAP), which supports the research activities of all regular full- and part-time tenured and tenure-track Amherst College faculty members. Since 2000, FRAP has been endowed by the H. Axel Schupf ’57 Fund for Intellectual Life.

SMALL GRANT AWARDS                                                                                                                        Small grants are for $6,000 or less.

Professor Ronald Bashford
Department of Theater and Dance

Title: Jeanne des Anges Project

The Jeanne des Anges Project is an original collaboration between actor Carine Montbertrand and director Ron Bashford.  Conceived as a one-woman show, the project will derive material from the life of Soeur Jeanne des Anges, the Ursuline nun at the heart of the so-called Loudon Possessions, along with other sources. The project will be created using techniques associated with the Buffon clown, or “natural fool,” a physical performance tradition of creating original clown characters who stand on the margins of society.  Professor Bashford and Ms. Montbertrand will conduct workshop rehearsals in stages in 2013 and 2014, with the goal of mounting a production in the spring of 2015.  The project is part of Professor Bashford’s larger investigation into the process of physically created theatrical narrative and the actor-director process relationship.  Concurrent projects include the Pericles Project, a small ensemble adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, and Burden, a rehearsal-created piece based on an original character's relationship to the novel, All The King’s Men.  Professor Bashford is undertaking several projects in order to cross-apply discovered rehearsal techniques and to extend the rehearsal and research periods of each, in staged workshop formats.

Professor Anston Bosman
Department of English

Title: Global Shakespeare in Performance: Translation and Remediation

Professor Bosman will spend some of summer 2014 working in Shakespeare archives in London, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Washington, D.C.  His research will center on the new archive at the Shakespeare’s Globe Library that documents the 2012 World Shakespeare Festival, which formed part of that year’s Cultural Olympiad and staged productions of Shakespeare’s plays from thirty-eight countries in as many languages, leaving behind what may be the richest multimedia legacy of international Shakespeare.  This is not merely Shakespeare in translation, but also in remediation—the refashioning of earlier languages and media to create a fresh experience for live audiences as well as subsequent viewers of the digitized vestiges of performance. Professor Bosman’s guiding interest will be the artistic and technological means by which these stagings have been and continue to be rendered comprehensible to audiences across linguistic and cultural divides. How were these Shakespeare productions in languages other than English first prepared, then performed, and finally preserved? The work should contribute to the study of Shakespearean literature and performance in the twenty-first century, bringing the cognitive processes of reading and spectatorship in transnational environments under scrutiny. But it is also likely to force rethinking of artistic conservation in the digital age, asking how technology can preserve not simply the artifacts but the experience of intercultural encounter.

Professor Larry Hunter
Department of Physics

Title: Searching for Cyclic Variations in the Decay Rate of Radioactive 54Mn

The half-lives of radioactive elements are generally believed to be constant.  However, in the past few years there have been a number of papers that report cyclic variations in the decay rate of 54Mn and several other radioactive isotopes. These variations appear to correlate with the cyclic variation in distance between the earth and sun.  More recently, smaller variations in decay rates have been correlated with the appearance of solar flares. The goal of Professor Hunter’s research project is to measure continually the decay rate of a 54Mn sample for a period of at least two years.  Systematic errors in the measurements will be minimized by constructing a temperature-controlled chamber that is isolated from background radiation. The chamber will contain the 54Mn sample, the entire nuclear counting system, including all the requisite electronics, and meters to monitor continually the pressure, temperature, and humidity inside the chamber.  It is hoped that systematic errors in the measurements will be sufficiently small to guarantee that any observed variations in the decay rate are real and to be taken seriously by scientists studying the physics of nuclear decay.

Professor Nasser Hussain
Department of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought

Title:  Colonial War and Modernity

While the term “colonial war” is more readily associated with archaic “bush wars,” the category, in fact, entails some of the signal strategies of modern conflict and violence: racialized surveillance, concentration camps, winning hearts and minds, strategic aerial bombing, and the daily policing techniques associated with the rise of the surveillance state.  In the politically charged space of the colonies, there was an implicit recognition that simmering unrest and periodic rebellion produced a state somewhere between war and peace, which called for a distinct blend of policing and combat known as imperial policing.  In the space opened up by this confusion, there existed no clear demarcations between wartime and peacetime, between military necessity, humanitarianism, and policing, between the control of populations and the destruction of enemies. Professor Hussain will examine colonial war as a whole and explore its constitutive blurring of war, policing and population control, which make the category so valuable in developing a fresh perspective on contemporary conflicts and modern forms of surveillance and control.

Professor Justin Kimball
Department of Art and the History of Art

Title: Large Format Printer: Exhibition Projects

Professor Kimball will use his grant to purchase a new Epson Stylus Pro 9900 large format color printer and a copy of Image Print version 9, Color Byte software printer RIP.  This new printer will allow Professor Kimball to print images up to 44” wide with greater color rendition, image quality, and permanence. He will use this printer to do his everyday photographic work and also to make exhibition prints for three upcoming shows of his photographs.

Professor Jason Robinson
Department of Music

Title: Janus Ensemble Northeast Tour Winter 2014, Debut of Three New Compositions

This grant will provide critical support for a five-concert tour of the Northeast by the Janus Ensemble, a group dedicated to performing Professor Robinson’s original compositions.  The tour serves two strategic purposes: to present his music in new, noteworthy contexts for discerning audiences, and to utilize the burst of activity to debut and workshop three new compositions, which will become the basis for his next studio album featuring the group. In addition, each concert will feature compositions from the Janus Ensemble’s latest album, Tiresian Symmetry (Cuneiform Records, September 25, 2012), specially rearranged for the tour. The three debut compositions conceptually draw upon the geographies of western Massachusetts and northern California, two regions that factor prominently in his personal history.  A critically acclaimed group (“rugged and scintillating,” Nate Chinen, the New York Times), the Janus Ensemble is noted for its unusual instrumentation, modern yet tradition-evoking compositions, and virtuosic improvisation. A nine-piece group composed of innovative, well-known figures of New York’s jazz and experimental music communities, the ensemble features JD Parran (alto and contra bass clarinets, tenor saxophone), Jason Robinson (tenor and soprano saxophones, alto flute), Marty Ehrlich (bass clarinet, alto saxophone, c flute), Marcus Rojas (tuba), Bill Lowe (tuba, bass trombone), Liberty Ellman (guitar), Drew Gress (bass), George Schuller (drums), and Ches Smith (drums, glockenspiel). The tour will include performances at major venues and concert series dedicated to modern jazz and will serve to elevate the group’s public profile.

Professor Christian Rogowski
Department of German

Title:  Ludwig Berger: The Prospero of Weimar German Cinema

No major account of Weimar Cinema has thus far paid much attention to the particular artistic genius of Ludwig Berger, whose lightness of touch (a rare quality in German film of any period) garnered him the moniker of the “Prospero” of Weimar German Cinema. Born Ludwig Bamberger into a prominent Jewish banker family in the south German city of Mainz, Berger was steeped in the classical-humanist German tradition of Bildung. After obtaining a doctorate in art history, Berger adopted a less conspicuously “Jewish” last name and became a director of operas (especially Mozart), before shifting his attention to the theater. The primary focus of Professor Rogowski’s research project is the controversy surrounding Berger’s little known historical comedy, Der Meister von Nürnberg (The Master of Nuremberg, 1927), which loosely draws on motifs from Richard Wagner's famous opera, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1868). Berger’s film transforms Wagner’s sometimes heavy-handed paean to the supremacy of Teutonic art (“die heil’ge deutsche Kunst”) into a light-hearted comedy of social acceptance and forgiveness. Even before the film came out, right-wing media launched a virulent attack, accusing the director of defiling Wagner and his artistic legacy by turning a national classic into the subject of trivial comedy. The controversy offers a test case concerning the limits of acceptance in Weimar German culture, and a manifestation of an increasingly exclusionary, racialized politics of belonging in the period.

Professor Adam Sitze         
Department of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought

Title: Index for “The Gaze of Janus”

Carlo Galli’s 2008 book, Lo sguardo di Giano (“The Gaze of Janus”), is a provocative and original study of the thought of Carl Schmitt authored by one of the world’s leading scholars on the topic.  Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) is a controversial and influential German jurist. For about a decade, his thought has undergone a troublingly uncritical revival in the Anglophone academe. Carlo Galli, who teaches the history of political thought at The University of Bologna, is one of his most forceful and comprehensive critics. Galli’s Lo sguardo di Giano is the sequel to Galli’s monumental (936 page) 1996 work, Genealogia della politica. Carl Schmitt e la crisi del pensiero politico moderno (“Genealogy of the Political: Carl Schmitt and the Crisis of Modern Political Thought”), which accurately has been called “the most complete, comprehensive, and insightful account of Schmitt’s thought ever published.”  In Lo sguardo, Galli presents five essays on key aspects of Schmitt’s thought: Schmitt’s fundamental attitude toward the state; the real significance of Schmitt’s (oft-misunderstood) concept of political theology; Schmitt’s readings of Machiavelli and Spinoza; Schmitt’s relation to Leo Strauss; and Schmitt’s relevance for contemporary political thought. As editor of the English translation of Lo sguardo, Professor Sitze will ensure that the book has a detailed index.

Professor Martha Umphrey
Department of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought

Title: Trial Films on Trial

With support from the FRAP, scholars of film and law will convene at Amherst in the fall of 2014 on the subject of “Trial Films on Trial.” Writing about trial films more than a decade ago, Carol Clover pointed out what she called “the fantastic generativity of the form in Anglo-American popular narrative….” and argued that “trials are already movielike to begin with and movies are already trial-like to begin with.” This conference will explore Clover’s claims about trial films and especially the movielike quality of trials and the trial-like quality of movies. It will examine the epistemology of the trial film, the way trial films situate themselves within narrative and visual conventions, and the ways they position their viewers as well as the work they ask of their viewers. In addition, the conference will view trial films within film history in order to understand how each has shaped the other, and what film does to/for trials and what trials do to/for film. The goal of conference organizers is to bring together people who have long engaged in thinking about trials and/or trial films with people who will be new to the subject.

Professor Christopher van den Berg
Department of Classics

Title:  The Critical Turn:  Literary Criticism, History, and Theory in the Roman World

Professor van den Berg’s project entails the completion of the first five chapters of a book, The Critical Turn: Literary Criticism, History, and Theory in the Roman World. This book offers an interpretive survey of Roman (Greek and Latin) discussions of literary criticism and history. It argues for a close and essential interrelationship of “primary” and “secondary” poetics in the Roman tradition, that is, that an author’s explicit discussion of how to judge and categorize literature (secondary poetics) can only be understood in light of the employment and manipulation of literary values within that same author’s text (primary poetics). It covers the major figures in Greek and Latin from the 2nd century BCE to the 2nd century CE, as well as the central themes (decline, Atticism/Asianism, evolution and the plastic arts) and main vocabulary of criticism (nature, artistry, talent, judgment, labor, and intention). The study is not only interested in cross-generic influence, such as that of the orator Cicero on the poet Horace, but also in the chain of cross-cultural transfers, such as that from the quintessential Roman, Cicero, to a Greek writing at Rome, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, back to Quintilian, Tacitus, and Pliny a century later at Rome and then on to later Greek authors of the second sophistic, Dio Chrysostom, Aelius Aristides, and Lucian. The aim is not merely to suggest plausible currents of critical fashion, but rather to see the interfaces between Greco-Roman authors as part of mutual cultural engagement. To appreciate Rome’s critical spirit is to grapple with the complex interactions and divergences of authors split across cultural traditions and bridging the divides by every means available.

LARGE GRANT AWARDS                                                                                                                        Large grants are for more than $6,000 and up to 30,000.

Professor Patricia O’Hara 
Department of Chemistry

Title:  Structural Dynamics at the Single Molecule Level

Structural dynamics lies at the heart of molecular communication. Hormones trigger conformational changes that cause receptors to form dimers. Calcium induced changes in regulatory proteins expose sticky patches on the protein’s surface that initiate binding to target proteins and regulate their function. Chaperone proteins protect other proteins from aggregating, a constant threat to the transparency of the human eye. Each of these structure-function relationships relates back to biological systems studied in our lab. Professor O’Hara and her group have constructed a single molecule microscope to explore these transient structures molecule by molecule by a combination of powerful spectroscopic techniques: single molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer from which intermolecular distances can be determined and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, which measures how the fluorescence from a particle at one point in time is similar to its fluorescence at a secondary point in time. For both techniques, the signals improve when the number of particles studied in any one experiment is one: one particle, not one mole or one gram, but one particle. The FRAP grant will support the fuller utilization of the microscope, built in-house in 2003 as a then-exotic addition to Professor O’Hara’s core research. Because the technology and computational support is now more sophisticated, the group’s biological and molecular biological experience more tested, and its skill in the optical and electronic setup more developed, the group finds the single molecule microscope moving to the center of its research efforts.  The grant will support the replacement of a critical detector and upgrading of several other electronic devices and will provide for the materials that Professor O’Hara and her group hope to study.

Professor Robert T. Sweeney
Department of Art and the History of Art

Title:  Abstraction in the Landscape: Boston and Tuscany

Professor Sweeney’s grant will support the development of a related series of  paintings of Boston and the Tuscan hill towns.  During this academic year, he will create a series of large paintings, abstracted from the on-site painting series of Boston completed under an Amherst College Faculty Research Award Program grant in 2011-2013, titled “Gesture and Animation in the Boston Landscape.”  The next stage will be a  return to Tuscany in May to paint directly from the city-scapes of Cortona, Montepulciano, San Gimignano, Arezzo, Monterchi, and Siena.  Back in Amherst, as with the large Boston paintings, work will begin on attempting to synthesize the qualities of space, form, light and color abstracted from the on-site Tuscan paintings into large studio paintings. The development of these two motifs into a single body of work offers an exciting opportunity to dramatize their shared abstract qualities. This body of work of Tuscan and Boston city-scapes will be exhibited at the Rolly¬Michaux Gallery in Boston in the fall of 2015.