Center Hosts Annual Humanities Book Publication Celebration

Conversation abounded in CAS on March 23, 2023, as scholars and staff from across humanities and adjacent departments gathered to celebrate humanistic publications by BU faculty published within the last twelve months. The event highlighted 17 humanities publications ranging from monographs to anthologies to two thousand-page volumes.These publications evidenced the importance of the spirit of collaboration and community. After an introduction by Center director Susan Mizruchi, the contributors expressed their gratitude for all the support they received during the writing and editing process. In addition to thanking the Boston University community and the Center for the Humanities for support, scholars also sent thanks out to their many collaborators and the new communities they engaged with during the writing and editing process.  What follows are highlights from each faculty member’s writing or editing experience:

Stephanie Nelson (CL) found herself dropped into an entirely new community of scholars when she decided to explore the stability of identity in James Joyce’s Ulysses and the Odyssey, an obvious comparison that she noted had not been explored much before, to the surprise of everyone present. She found—to her delight—that “Joyce people are just more fun than classicists.” Nelson hopes that Time and Identity in Ulysses and the Odyssey might bring new scholarly conversations to light and encourage more interdisciplinary exchange.

Petrus Liu (WLL) also engaged with a new community while writing The Specter of Materialism: Queer Theory and Marxism in the Age of the Beijing Consensus, communicating with the scholars he encountered upon his arrival at BU in 2017. The book provides a transnational framework that explores how US-Asian economic relations shape the emergence of new queer identities and theories.

As with Liu’s book, Takeo Rivera’s (EN) first book, Model Minority Masochism: Performing the Cultural Politics of Asian American Masculinity, also drew on queer and materialist theory. Model Minority Masochism examines Asian American attachment to the model minority stereotype, diving into history, literature, theatre, video games, and music to explore the various reactions the myth of the model minority has provoked.

Rodrigo Lopes de Barros (CIMS, LAS, RS) also took a multimedia approach to his research, listening to punk music and browsing forgotten online forums to investigate the protests for free public transit in Brazil around the turn of the second millennium. Distortion and Subversion: Punk Rock Music and the Protests for Free Public Transportation in Brazil (1996-2011) depends on a technique Lopes de Barros referred to as “cyber-archaeology,” which involved collecting hundreds of thousands of news articles and forum posts from now-defunct websites. Click here to read more about this project.

After Liu, Rivera, and Lopes de Barros proudly presented their first books written at BU to the crowd, James Iffland (Romance Studies) presented his latest BU book. Iffland, who will retire at the end of this academic year, has been researching his two-volume work on Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton since shortly after his arrival at BU forty-nine years ago. Iffland’s book, Para llegar a Roque Dalton (Arriving at Roque Dalton), portrays Dalton role as a political figure who was also a poet, rather than a poet who happened to involve himself in politics. The poet’s political activity eventually led to his execution, and Iffland was confident in his assertion that he was the only one in the room who had unwittingly shaken the hand of “the guy who killed my guy” at a BU event years before.

Christopher Maurer (Romance Studies) also engaged with a Latin American poet, translating the work of Peruvian poet Carlos Germán Belli alongside his brother, the now deceased classicist Karl Maurer. The collection of translated poems, The Azure Cloister, came together through the correspondence of the two brothers over nearly twenty years. Maurer reflected that this collaboration felt particularly meaningful since Belli himself thought through the idea of kinship in his works, with several poems dedicated to the poet’s brother. 

Another volume brought together multiple editors, including Joseph Rezek (AMNESP, EN), who had the pleasure of working with nine other scholars as part of the editorial board for the new Broadview Anthology of American Literature, which he says “will expand the canon more than anyone has ever before.”

Joannna Davidson (AN) also spoke about the joys of co-editing and international collaboration, thanking co-editor Dinah Hannahford and the many ethnographers working around the globe who contributed chapters to her book Opting Out. This collection of essays explores how women outside of the Global North are moving the needle on marital norms and practices, forgoing marriage in cultures where it has long been obligatory. Davidson also thanked former Center dissertation fellow Emily Williamson-Ibrahim for contributing the beautiful original cover art.

Another book also benefited from the work of a number of scholars affiliated with the Center. Incoming Director and former Senior Fellow Juliet Floyd (PH) made sure to thank former graduate Dissertation Fellow Gregory Chase (Holy Cross) for his assistance in editing her book Cavell’s Must We Mean What We Say? at 50, a volume exploring Stanley Cavell’s seminal work that revolutionized ordinary language philosophy when it was published in 1969. The editors were so taken with this project that the book will now be the first in a series from Cambridge University Press dedicated to philosophical anniversaries.

Deanna Klepper (RN) credited her own Senior Research Fellowship at the Center and a subvention from BUCH with allowing her to publish Pastoral Care and Community in Late Medieval Germany. The book emerged from the extraordinary accident of finding hand-written manuscripts on how to organize local church life. In her examination of these manuscripts, Klepper uncovered a somewhat kinder and more complicated version of Medieval Christianity that also existed during the violence of the Crusades, the Inquisition, and religious fanaticism., Click here to read a review by current graduate Dissertation Fellow Elisheva Ash. 

It was religious fanaticism and its consequences that first drew the attention of Paul Katsafanas (PH), but upon further exploration, he came to the conclusion that fanaticism was but one aspect of the larger idea of devotion. In Philosophy of Devotion, which Katsafanas began as an investigation of fanaticism during his fellowship at the Center, he explores alternative ways in which we can express non-pathological forms of devotion.

Yair Lior (RN) called for alternative ways of approaching the study of religion, presenting the interdisciplinary Routledge Handbook of Evolutionary Approaches to Religion. Co-edited with Justin Lane of Oxford and with contributions from over two dozen international scholars, the handbook is a testament to the power of collaboration between the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields. Read more about the Handbook here.

The group warmly received each project, and scholars swapped stories and ideas throughout the evening. Drawing from both personal interests and experiences as well as the contributions of their communities, these scholars displayed their devotion to advancing their fields and pushing the boundaries of the humanities. The Center looks forward to celebrating more innovative humanities faculty publications in the coming academic year.