Connections 2009-2010
Furness stairs

Teaching Fellows

bullet Stephen Amico
bullet Eric Knibbs
bullet Mara Mills
bullet Christoper McKnight Nichols
bullet Arman Schwartz

This two-year fellowship is administered through the Office of Dean, School of Arts & Sciences. For information, please click here.

Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellows
in the Humanities and Humanistic Social Sciences*

Stephen Amico, Music and Slavics, 2008–10
Icon, Comrade, Diva: The Female Superstar in Russian Popular Music

The popular diva – from the Soviet-era musical, to the MTV video – has been and continues to be a salient presence in Russian music. In this work, I investigate the ways in which specific performers (including Liudmila Gurchenko and Sofiia Rotaru), in specific historical and geopolitical locations, have negotiated the musical, visual, and discursive presentation of “woman” within the context of an often rigidly patriarchal society, ultimately succeeding in elevating “the feminine” from the near-abject to the near-deified. This elevation, however, is not a static position, and the longevity of the superstar’s career necessitates a changing relationship to and skillful manipulation of numerous technologies (audio, visual and, indeed, surgical), in order to both maintain existing, and engender new connections with fan bases. Technology may also be implicated in relation to musical expression, and a focus on the stylistic choices of the artists – taken together with an understanding of their frequent appeal to both women and homosexual men – offers a productive means of understanding popular cultural production, in Soviet and post-Soviet space, as related to discourses, dynamics, and affects of modernity, Westernization, nationalism, and sexuality.

Eric Knibbs, History, 2009–11
The Manuscript Tradition of Paul the Deacon's "Homiliary"

My work concerns the Carolingian Renaissance, the period of cultural resurgence associated with Charlemagne’s reign around the turn of the ninth century, in particular the widespread ecclesiastical and intellectual reforms accomplished in part by the royal promotion of official texts. The manuscript tradition of one such standard, officially commissioned work is the homily collection compiled by Paul the Deacon at the end of eighth century. Paul was a monk at Montecassino and a teacher at Charlemagne’s palace school, best known for his Historia Langobardorum. Together with Alcuin and Theodulf of Orléans, he was one of the major figures of the Carolingian Renaissance. Commissioned by Charlemagne as part of his effort to standardize liturgical practice, Paul’s homiliary supplied readings for the night office and came to be used throughout Europe and the British Isles, and was variously reworked and expanded throughout the Middle Ages and beyond. Studying the manuscript tradition of this homiliary should yield larger conclusions about liturgical variation in Charlemagne’s empire as well as the development of the office in the Carolingian period.

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Mara Mills, History and Sociology of Science, 2008-10
The Dead Room: Deafness and Communication Engineering

I am interested in the way sounds came to be thought of as "signals,” and the ways these signals have been processed for the sake of efficiency. My current research focuses on the speech and hearing studies conducted by American telephone engineers in the first half of the 20th century, and their significance to information theory, digital coding, and cybernetics. I argue that deafness was central to the emergence of communication engineering. Hearing loss, or deafening, served as a major analogy for signal reception in noise. With hearing loss conceived as “communicable,” through noisy environments or faulty machines, standards for “good communication” became ever more stringent. At the same time, techniques for deaf oral communication—lip-reading, graphic inscription, tactile vibration—indicated ways for speech to be translated, compressed, coded and fed-back.

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Christopher McKnight Nichols, History, 2009-11
From Empire to Isolation: Internationalism and Isolationism in American Thought

In my overall scholarly work I seek to understand how communities of thought develop over time and how ideas, especially those about foreign affairs and progressive reform, have intersected people’s lives and animated their actions. My new book project while at Penn, William James at War: Pragmatism, Empire, and Trans-Atlantic Anti-imperialism, will examine James’s anti-imperialist politics in depth and across borders. James at War centers on his developing political philosophy and explains the generally positive reception of his pragmatic political thought as part of a wider narrative and integral to the trans-Atlantic context of anti-imperialist politics from the 1870s through the 1910s. While previous studies of the movement have focused on individual nations, this paper’s major finding is to examine the wide reach of anti-colonial ideas by documenting how American and British anti-imperialists operated across nations and within a global framework for decolonization activism.

Philip Sapirstein, Classical Studies, 2008-10
The Emergence of Monumental Ceramic Roof Tiles in Archaic Greek Architecture

My research into Greek architecture is framed around two primary problems. The first is architectural: tracing the early development of Greek sacred architecture from crude thatched huts into elaborate, monumental temples built of stone and terracotta. The second is scientific and historical: illuminating the social and economic contexts of the craftsmen and architects who participated in this architectural revolution. The transition occurred over a few generations in the seventh century B.C., yet little is known about this formative period because of the challenges in restoring any of these temples accurately. In particular, I analyze the manufacturing techniques of early roof tiles, which were developed at this time and are the only remains of many early cult buildings. I have approached these problems with methods drawn from a wide variety of disciplines, including replication experiments; scientific tests of clays; ethnographic analogies between modern pottery works and ancient craft systems; and 3-D computer models of complete roofing systems for rendering accurate, informative, and legible reconstructions of lost early temples.

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Arman Schwartz, Music, 2009-11
Puccini’s Soundscapes

My research focuses on Italian opera, and auditory culture more generally, in the period between national unification and the rise of fascism. I’m interested in exploring a widespread fascination with unmediated sound—a fascination that unsettles conventional boundaries between music and literature, popular and avant-garde art, realism and futurism, positivist social science and “irrational” mass politics. Sound, I argue, allowed artists to bring into focus a whole nexus of concerns about Italian modernization; as such, theories of peripheral modernity and “vernacular” modernism are central to my work. As a post-doctoral fellow I will be completing a short monograph entitled Puccini’s Soundscapes, while also researching a larger project, Italy as Opera: Sound and Geography in the Italian Liberal State.

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