Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows in the
Music (Ph.D. Duke University)
Restless Passions: The Nervous Body, Sensitive Soul, and Musical Experience in the Age of Sensibility
Restless Passions aims to provide a cultural framework for the instrumental music of Haydn, Mozart, and other composers active during the Age of Sensibility (ca. 1750–1800). During this period in European culture the sensations of the body became the source of intense debate, spurred by scientific inquires into the function of the nervous system. At the same time, the elevated status of the senses challenged traditional conceptions of the soul and its location within the body. The highly charged meeting point between the “nervous” body and the “sensitive” soul gave new meaning to instrumental sound, a medium of sonic changeability requiring extreme sensitivity in acts of performance and reception. As a result, eighteenth-century genres such as fantasias, sonatas, string quartets, and symphonies provide a fascinating window into the way that “change” at the most nuanced level of musical expression reveals broader concerns in 18th-century Europe about the nature of human perception, pleasure, morality, health, identity, and emotion.
Paroma Chatterjee, Art History (Ph.D. University of Chicago) Shifting Images: A Novel Byzantine Aesthetic
I explore the significance of visual change in the formation of a novel aesthetic for images in twelfth-century Byzantium. Accounts of miracles, rituals, and the trials of icons reveal that ‘change’ in this period was a much debated, often vaguely defined, but unanimously accepted component of the most charismatic images in Byzantium. Sometimes, visual change was manifested as physical movement on the part of the icon’ at other time, change was experiences as a purely subjective phenomenon on the part of the viewer, leading to much controversy over the definition of a ‘true’ religious image. This project requires the study of Byzantine images and documents, as well as an understanding of theories of motion, stillness, word and image, concealment and revelation, and narrative. The ultimate goal is to explore the ways in which Byzantine icons – were regarded as shifting, moving entities in Byzantine image theory and viewing practices.
Christina Cogdell, Art History (Ph.D. Texas at Austin)
Emergent Genetic Architecture: How Recent Scientific Theories Are Shaping Contemporary Architecture
This research for an interdisciplinary monograph investigates the ways in which contemporary architectural theory and practice derive from recent scientific theories of emergence, self-organization, and complex evolutionary systems. Leading architects now design using computational software that integrates genetic algorithms into the core of their process. Their aim is to incorporate into architecture the sustainable features of self-organizing natural systems, using processes that ultimately may be compatible with genetic engineering. My research critically examines this movement through comparison and contrast with theories of evolution and eugenics within modernist design. It thereby situates emergent genetic architecture within architectural history and raises new questions about its social, cultural, and ethical implications.
Kathleen Lubey, English (Ph.D. Rutgers University) Excitable Imaginations: Aesthetics and Eroticism in British Literature of the Eighteenth Century
Excitable Imaginations reveals a durable and instrumental connection between aesthetics and sexuality in eighteenth-century British literature, specifically that theories of aesthetic experience are forged through erotic writing. Because images of sexuality invite unusually strong affective and visceral reactions, they provide authors with an evocative means for testing the fragile boundary between virtue and vice. In this site of experimentation, I argue, authors most clearly delineate how readers can use their imagination, a faculty celebrated in this period for its capacity to convert bodily pleasure into intellectual labor, to unite the prurient curiosities raised by literature with the moral instruction it so often promotes. As eroticism heightens imaginative excitability, authors from the Eliza Haywood to Edmund Burke call readers’ attention to their own bodily sensations so that they might celebrate the passions aroused by texts and yet resist lewd desires. “Reader, if thou art of an amorous Hue,” writes Henry Fielding in Joseph Andrews, “I advise thee to skip over the next Paragraph,” which contains the portrait of a young heroine “bursting through her tight Stays, especially in the Part which confined her swelling Breasts.” Rather than censor erotic images, Fielding and his contemporaries structure such descriptions to emphasize their mischievous content and the self-evaluation it occasions in readers. As I show chronologically in five chapters, the aesthetic acquires form as authors variously exploit sexuality for its unique potential to animate the imagination and to prompt inward reflection.
Jason Sokol, History (Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley) The Northern Mystique: Race and Politics from Boston to Brooklyn, 1947–2007
The Northern Mystique probes race relations and politics in three areas – Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York City – during the second half of the twentieth century. It alternately explores the white exodus from Brooklyn during Jackie Robinson’s decade there, the election of Ed Brooke in Massachusetts, Shirley Chisholm’s victorious bid for Congress in 1968, the region’s diverse response to school busing, and the demise of the Northeast’s small cities. It concludes with an epilogue on Deval Patrick’s recent victory. Throughout, The Northern Mystique grapples with the tension between images of racial and political progressivism – dogged at times – and more sobering historical realities.