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Spring 2005 Faculty Research Award Program Awards
The following faculty members received funding awards in April 2005 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.
Professor Anston Bosman, Department of English
Research Project: Intertheatre in Renaissance Europe
Professor Bosman’s project examines Renaissance theatre and its legacy in a transnational perspective, with special interest in the migration of players and dissemination of printed books across linguistic and cultural territories. Focusing on itinerant players in Northern Europe between 1590 and 1690, the project takes as its central example the English comedians who left Shakespeare's Britain for Holland and Germany, in their travels changing those cultures and being changed by them, creating a new form of intercultural literacy for Renaissance Europe. Professor Bosman will spend this summer working with the English and Continental collections at the Huntington Library in California and will follow this up with a research trip to rare book archives and theatre sites in the Netherlands and Germany.
Professor Katia Dianina, Department of Russian
Research Project: The Rise of a National Culture: The Visual Arts and the Press in Imperial Russia
Professor Dianina will use her FRAP award to prepare for publication her monograph, “The Rise of a National Culture: The Visual Arts and the Press in Imperial Russia.” This study examines the development of a public discourse on national self-representation in nineteenth-century Russia as it was fashioned by museum culture and the press. Dianina argues that Russian national culture was first and foremost a discursive construct. Be it a world’s fair, a traveling exhibition, or a permanent museum display, Russian cultural identity was for the most part written: the main corpus of public culture took shape in the pages of contemporary newspapers and journals. The mass-circulation newspapers of the 1850s-1880s upon which this monograph is based are largely untapped primary sources that help uncover an important mechanism for shaping a common cultural experience.
Professor Lawrence Douglas, Department of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought
Research Project: Reflections on the Glass Booth: The Cultural Afterlife of Perpetrator Trials
Professor Douglas will use his FRAP award to fund continuing research on his present book project. With the working title Reflections on the Glass Booth: the Cultural Afterlife of Perpetrator Trials, the book stems directly from his first book, The Memory of Judgment: Making Law and History in the Trials of the Holocaust (Yale University Press, 2001). That book was about what law does to history; it examined how collective understandings of the Holocaust were shaped and misshaped by criminal trials. The focus of his present book is exactly the obverse: it explores the perpetrator trial’s relationship to the future, to the legacy it delivers to posterity. The book is under contract with Princeton University Press.
Professor Heidi Gilpin, Department of German
Research Project: Architectures of Disappearance: Performance, New Media, Architecture
Professor Gilpin’s FRAP award will support her study of compositional strategies used in making and interpreting work in the fields of Performance, Architecture, and New Media art. Professor Gilpin’s work draws on material and approaches from philosophy, cultural theory, and European movement performance to explore contexts in which movement is difficult to enact. Her research on the body in performance suggests that people generally feel comfortable representing dynamism, but they feel very uncomfortable enacting dynamism, or generating movement. Her research on recent forms of digital technology and architectural design, which employ tools of animation, motion capture, isomorphic and parametric strategies, as well as notions of emergence and indetermination, force, and dynamics, suggests that they too do not, in the end, enact dynamism. If anything, they seem to enact the disappearance of movement in the final work. Professor Gilpin addresses the work of a number of German, European, and North American choreographers, architects, and new media artists, and proposes a model for the development of a discourse to address the genre of movement performance and its multidisciplinary function in architecture and new media.
Professor David Hansen, Department of Chemistry
Research Project: A Catalytic Molecular Imprint for a Lactonization Reaction
Professor Hansen’s FRAP award will be used to study new strategies for the generation of organic, polymeric “molecular imprints” with improved—and novel—catalytic activities. While molecular imprints with exquisite binding specificities can now be routinely prepared, those with catalytic activity have typically displayed only modest rate accelerations. In an effort to generate more efficient imprints, a novel system is proposed: the use of a bisboronate-mannopyranoside template to generate imprints for the catalysis of a corresponding lactonization reaction. If the approach outlined does yield molecular-imprint catalysts with enhanced activity, then a general, inexpensive, and straightforward method for the creation of active catalysts will be at hand.
Professor Maria Heim, Department of Religion
Research Project: The Springs of Action: Moral Agency in Buddhist Thought
Professor Heim’s next book project involves the study of Buddhist philosophical treatments of moral intentions, using Pali and Sanskrit textual sources in the Buddhist literatures of South Asia. For Buddhist thinkers, the element of action that bears moral responsibility and culpability is intention; neither the mere performance of the act nor the consequences of it are as morally relevant as the intention motivating it. But what precisely are intentions, and how does one generate the right sorts of intentions? Using a range of different genres of Buddhist texts, including monastic codes, moral psychology, narrative literatures, and commentarial sources, Professor Heim will explore ethical questions about moral agency. The FRAP award will support archival and textual work in Sri Lanka for this project.
Senior Artist in Residence Peter Lobdell, Department of Theater and Dance
Research Project: Him ‘n’ Me
Mr. Lobdell will use his FRAP award to develop the textual and physical script of a new play to be titled Him ‘n’ Me. He will collaborate with Richard Clairmont and Thom Haxo to develop the piece over the next year. Him ‘n’ Me will take a comic view of aging in the twenty-first century and of dying in any century. Alphonse and Gaston, two grave diggers in their 60s, live together in a furnished corner of a mausoleum in a cemetery that is booming as a rural area becomes suburban. Alphonse and Gaston are as inseparable as Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, or Frick and Frack. The aggressive Alphonse and the passive-aggressive Gaston debate life and death as they dig. But above and beyond all else, they are grave diggers, consummate professionals, and they take the greatest meaning in their lives from knowing that somebody’s got to do the job.
Professor Paul Rockwell, Department of French
Research Project: Paper for International Arthurian Conference, Utrecht
Professsor Rockwell will be presenting a paper titled “The Espee Brisee and the Question of Referentiality” at the twenty-first Triennial Congress of the International Arthurian Society held at the University of Utrecht. His paper traces the evolution of the motif of the broken sword in Old French romance as it is recycled in several romances from the Arthurian tradition. The motif first appears as a mis-translation in a twelfth-century Old French adaptation of Virgil's “Aeneid” and is associated with issues concerning the historical veracity and referentiality of historical narrative. Later manifestations of the motif are shown by Rockwell to serve as a kind of literary commentary on the political ideology that the Plantagenet dynasty was attempting to disseminate in the mid-twelfth century through its adaptation of Virgil.
Professor David Schneider, Department of Music
Research Project: A Feminine Image of the Hungarian Nation: Ferenc Erkel’s Operatic Heroines
Professor Schneider’s FRAP grant will fund research at the Music Division of the Hungarian National Library on the Hungarian opera composer Ferenc Erkel (1810-1893). Specifically, the study will explore the changing role of the vulnerable woman as a symbol of the Hungarian nation as reflected by the tragic heroines of Erkel’s operas Bátori Mária (1840), Hunyadi László (1846), Bánk bán (1861), and Dózsa György (1867). Erkel, little-known outside of Hungary, was the composer of the Hungarian national anthem and the most important force in Hungarian musical life for the better part of the nineteenth century.
Professor John Servos, Department of History
Research Project: History of Antibiotics: Travel to Collections
Professor Servos is writing a history of antibiotics directed at the broad audience interested in these ubiquitous medicines and the scientific, economic, and political issues that have been associated with them. Much of the pioneering work on the most famous of these drugs, penicillin, was conducted in England in the laboratories of Alexander Fleming and of Howard Florey. While Fleming and Florey have received ample attention from biographers, much less work has been done on the transfer of knowledge of penicillin from their laboratories to pharmaceutical firms and from England to other parts of the world. Two of Florey’s collaborators were crucial to these transfers, Norman Heatley and Ernst Chain. Heatley was critical to conveying the results of British research to America during World War II; Chain was later instrumental in stimulating antibiotic research and production in Europe, Israel, and other parts of the globe. Professor Servos will use his grant to study the unpublished papers of Heatley and Chain at London’s Wellcome Library. His book is under contract to Harvard University Press.
Professor Nishiten Shah, Department of Philosophy
Research Project: Misunderstanding Metaethics
When we judge, for example, that murder is wrong, are we making an objective, factual claim capable of truth or falsity, or are we merely expressing a subjective sentiment of disapproval? Do our moral judgments commit us to a universe populated with moral facts, in addition to the physical facts discovered by the natural sciences? And if so, how are we able to detect the presence of these moral facts? By way of the senses? Or do we need special moral antennae? These are the questions that are the concern of the branch of philosophy called metaethics. Christine Korsgaard’s (Harvard University) oeuvre is thought by many to present a revolution in metaethics. In collaboration with Nadeem Hussain (Stanford University), Professor Shah will assess how Korsgaard’s work fits into, or fundamentally reshapes, metaethics.
Professor Wako Tawa, Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations
Research Project: Interactive Tools for Japanese Grammar Acquisition
This project, supported by FRAP (July 2005-December 2006), “Interactive tools for Japanese grammar acquisition,” stems from the project of writing a comprehensive Japanese grammar reference/textbook. This project has been supported by outside and internal grants the past several years. As learning tools to accompany this book, some interactive grammar acquisition tools have been developed to assist the learners of Japanese. Because of the difficulty level of Japanese grammar, it has been shown that the students of Japanese do not learn this grammar in a uniform way. Yet the solid learning of every aspect of grammar is the chief prerequisite for learning this language successfully. Such interactive tools thus facilitate the learning of any aspect of Japanese grammar that individual students may find difficult. The grant from the current FRAP will make it possible to complete this task of developing such interactive tools for learning Japanese grammar.
Professor John-Paul Baird, Department of Psychology
Research Project: Nutrient Coding in the Caudal Brainstem
Obesity is a rising problem in our society. Any understanding of the neural underpinnings of food intake control requires a detailed characterization of the brain areas that monitor and control food intake and digestion. We lack knowledge of many aspects of such brain functions. For example, it is not completely known which areas of the brain are stimulated when nutrients are present in the gastrointestinal system, and, moreover, whether or how these brain responses vary by the types of nutrients ingested. Professor Baird’s study will therefore use functional neuroanatomical techniques to detail the responses of brainstem neurons after gastrointestinal infusions of foods of varied caloric and nutrient composition. The results should help to clarify how and where neural information related to satiety and the cessation of feeding is processed in the brain, and they could potentially inform ongoing research targeted to the treatment of obesity and other eating and metabolic disorders.
Professor Deborah Gewertz, Department of Anthropology and Sociology
Research Project: Trade Made Flesh: The Flow of Fatty Meats in the Pacific
Professor Gewertz will use her FRAP grant to investigate ethnographically the complex articulations necessary to move cheap, fatty meats from first-world pastures and pens to third-world pots and plates. In particular, she is interested in the controversial flow of lamb or mutton flaps (sheep bellies) from New Zealand and Australia to Papua New Guinea (where they are still consumed to the satisfaction of many) and Fiji (where they have been recently banned to the regret of many). She sees this trade as an embodiment of first- and third-world differences. After all, it is in the third-world contexts of poor Melanesian countries that many citizens/consumers are the often willing recipients of what the first world views as inferior. Moreover, in proposing an ethnographically grounded study of fatty meat—a sort of gastrology—she wants to trace a commodity chain so as to address one of the more significant contemporary problems in social theory, namely the linkage of transnational studies with studies of local places.
Professor Margaret Hunt, Department of History and Women’s and Gender Studies
Research Project: Women in Eighteenth-Century Europe
Professor Hunt's FRAP grant will support her travel to London in the summer of 2005 to research and complete the writing of a book on women in eighteenth-century Europe. The book is the eighteenth-century volume of the Longman History of European Women. The first chapter, on which she will be working this summer, focuses on gender and high and low culture, and includes quite a lot on the history of the theater. The second, women and work, deals with the diversity of work and wage arrangement in the eighteenth century.
Professor Jenny Kallick, Department of Music
Research Project: Composing a Space: An Original Music Drama Based on the Life and Architecture of Louis Kahn
Louis Kahn, foremost twentieth-century American architect, perceived that buildings express a kind of music. This guiding precept underscored the spiritual connection in his creative world between space and sound. In his words: “To hear a sound is to see its space. Space has tonality, and I imagine myself composing a space lofty, vaulted, or under a dome, attributing to it a sound character alternating with the tones of a space, narrow and high, with graduating silver, light to darkness.” (“Space and Inspirations,” 1967) The Kahn Project, a collaboration led by Professor Jenny Kallick, proposes to capture this sound-space connection and recreate Kahn’s perceptual world in a musical drama. Kahn’s sites will be visited to compile a source book of sounds and images. Concurrently, properties of these sounds will be explored, and they will be enhanced through electronic means. Finally, in a fully staged narrative, this musical drama will be realized in collaboration with theatrical and musical performers. A sampling of project field work is available at www.amherst.edu/~kahn/
Professor Uday Mehta, Department of Political Science
Research Project: How Countries Relate to their Past: A Study of India, Israel, South Africa, and the USA
Information to come
Professor Dominic Poccia, Department of Biology
Research Project: Role of PtdIns and DAG in Cortical Granule Membrane Fusion
Cortical granules lie underneath the plasma membrane of egg cells and secrete their contents at fertilization by fusing with the membrane, helping ensure that only one sperm fertilizes an egg. Since they can be isolated in a very pure form capable of fusion with only an increase of calcium ions, these granules can be used as a model system for how membranes fuse, as seen for example in granules secreting neurotranmittors in nerve cells. Professor Poccia wishes to establish in this pilot study a role for a special membrane lipid created by the action of an enzyme called PI-PLC which he previously established as an important regulator of fusion of the membranes forming the nuclear envelope.
Professor Ronald Rosbottom, Department of French
Research Project: Paris ne sera jamais Paris: Prospects for a Mythical City
This project comprises a suite of essays on different prospects from which citizens, monarchs, historians, capitalists, planners, adolescents, and artists have gauged, changed, and adapted to Paris. The subjects of these essays will include the Nazi occupation of 1940-44, the nineteen to twenty-first century bourgeois view of Paris, the merchant’s view, and the view of the adolescent coming of age in that city. Using archival work, films (both fictional and documentary), memoirs, novels, paintings, Professor Rosbottom will try to “prove a negative,” namely, that a city can never be fully comprehended, that its very nature is defined by the interaction of the built environment with the prospects—physical and imaginary—from which that city has been viewed. Paris serves as an ideal model because of its semi-mythical reputation, and because it was essentially re-built in the late nineteenth century. To read and understand “Paris” will, he hopes, bring us to an understanding of how cities are man’s largest and most imaginative artifacts.
Professor Ilan Stavans, Department of Spanish
Research Project: Documentary on Spanglish
Professor Stavans’s FRAP grant will be used for Spic-n-Spanglish, a feature documentary film about the vitality of this hybrid vehicle of communication, part English and part Spanish, used by millions of people in the United States today. Structured as a road movie with Professor Stavans as host, the viewer will follow the adventures of a handful of Spanglish users of different age, racial, and national backgrounds as they go about their daily business at home and in the office, in classrooms and sports arenas, in restaurants, barber shops, dance balls, etc. In the process, highly-charged political issues such as immigrant, language acquisition, and cultural assimilation will be pondered. To what extent are Latinos entering the Melting Pot? Is Spanglish a middle-step as Spanish disappears and English takes hold among south-of-the-border speakers? How are politicians, media pundits, and corporations looking at Spanglish? Is this vehicle of communication becoming a full-fledge language? In the end, though, Spic-n-Spanglish will allow audiences to identify with a small number of affecting individuals whose existential dilemmas are highlighted by the verbal challenges they face.