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Qais Akbar Omar (GRS’16), a graduate student in the Creative Writing Program, has published a much-praised memoir, A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story. He recalls how the violence and tumult of civil war jolted his family, who, despite losing relatives, their home, and possessions, continued to nurture his wish to attend a university.

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Faculty Accolades: June 2010

Professor of English AMY APPLEFORD has been awarded a year-long research fellowship at the Humanities Center, Stanford University, where she will continue work on a book entitled Learning to Die in London, 1350-1530 – the first full-length study of death in English, and specifically London, literary, religious, and civic culture in the late medieval and early Reformation period. Using a range of pastoral, visionary, poetic, bureaucratic, and dramatic texts, she argues that death provided poets and other cultural makers in late-medieval London with an imaginative tool for artistic, psychological or political analysis and expression.

Chair of Romance Studies JAMES IFFLAND and Professor of Spanish CHRISTOPHER MAURER were recently chosen for induction into the “Orden de Isabel la Catolica” (“Order of Isabella the Catholic”). The Spanish civil order is granted in recognition of services benefiting Spain. The order is not exclusive to Spaniards, and many foreigners have been awarded it. Professors Iffland and Maurer join former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and many others inducted this year. The Spanish ambassador will present the awards on Friday, June 18, from 4-6:00 p.m. in the Kenmore Conference Room at One Silber Way.

Associate Professor of English GENE JARRETT has been awarded a yearlong research fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University for 2010-11, where he will work on a definitive biography of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906). Born in Dayton, Ohio, Dunbar was the first African American writer to earn a living from his craft. Yet, privately, Dunbar’s stature made him miserable. Publishers pigeonholed him as merely a Negro who penned verse in Negro dialect. Each month, financial trouble forced him to publish and perform so many poems that he could not help but sacrifice their literary quality. Personal misfortune worsened Dunbar’s commercial challenges. Alcoholism, violent behavior, mood swings, and recurring sickness strained his marriage and his relationships with family and friends. The biography, tentatively titled Paul Laurence Dunbar: The First African American Poet Laureate, reflects the broader concentration of Jarrett’s scholarship on the longstanding struggles of African American writers with racial representation, or the responsibility of portraying race in culturally and politically progressive ways.

Assistant Professor of Political Science DOUGLAS KINER recently completed a study of the socioeconomic inequalities apparent in U.S. casualties of war. He co-authored the study with Francis Shen, a fellow in the MacArthur Foundation Law & Neuroscience Project. Over the last six years, they studied this inequality by collecting and analyzing data on the hometowns of more than 400,000 members of the armed forces who died in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. By integrating these records with census data, they demonstrated unambiguously that, beginning with the Korean War, disadvantaged communities have suffered a disproportionate share of the nation’s wartime casualties, while richer communities have been more insulated from the costs of war. Read the L.A. Times article.

Professor of English JOHN MATTHEWS has been awarded a yearlong Fulbright Fellowship to teach American literature in the Department of Anglophone Literatures and Culture at the Charles University in Prague – the most distinguished university in the Czech Republic. His scholarship and teaching has focused on Faulkner, Southern literature, and U.S. fiction, but he looks forward to the opportunity to study European literature of the corresponding periods in greater depth.

Assistant Professor of Chemistry BJOERN REINHARD recently received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early CAREER award. The awards are presented to teacher-scholars who are “most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.” Reinhard received the award for his proposed research on “Frequency Domain Plasmon Fluctuation Spectroscopy For Single Biopolymer Mechanical Sensing.” In this work, he plans to develop novel plasmon fluctuation spectroscopy with which to characterize the mechanical properties of individual biopolymers with unlimited observation time. By transitioning from a time to a frequency domain analysis, his plasmon fluctuation spectroscopy will provide insight into the structural properties of short DNAs, RNAs, and their protein complexes on the single molecule level.