Thursday Afternoon Breakouts and Experiential Sessions - Humanities

Breakout sessions in the Humanities
3:15 – 4:15 pm

When you register for the Assembly, please indicate which one of the following  breakout sessions in the humanities you are likely to attend.


Literary Labs and Modernist Maps
Anthony Domestico, PhD '12

Room B-11, Hall of Graduate Studies, 320 York Street

“Then you make a map of the book, and everything changes.” This is how the literary critic Franco Moretti describes his experience using modern technology to map the movement of characters in Our Village, a series of literary sketches of rural life by the Victorian writer Mary Mitford. Once he had abstracted the “narrative flow” of the stories into spatial terms — that is, once he had turned the book into a map — Moretti realized that almost all the characters in Our Village moved along circular paths.

This session will consider two ways of using technology to help us examine literary texts. First, we will be walked through a demonstration of the Yale Modernism Lab, a virtual space for collaborative study created by Yale Professor of English and Comparative Literature Pericles Lewis. Then we will examine how Professor Lewis and others used mapping to better understand one of the great novels of the 20th century, James Joyce’s Ulysses.


Why Do We Feel Sorry for Beowulf’s Monster? And Should We?
Nienke Christine Venderbosch, PhD '13

Room L72, Bass Library, 130 Wall Street

Yale’s own Harold Bloom has argued that the human was invented in the Renaissance — that one cannot really speak of individuals with distinct attitudes to life, personalities, and beliefs until the 14th century. The 20th century, in turn, has often been characterized as “the age of psychology,” where we analyze how past emotional experiences and relationships affect one’s sense of self.

This presentation, which will include video clips from films and stage productions, asks how our awareness of these developments can help us make sense of a character like the monster Grendel in the great early-medieval poem Beowulf. Since the first publication of Beowulf in 1815, Grendel has been interpreted in a great many ways, but it was not until the 1950s that readers started to pity and sympathize with the monster. How can we explain this change? And how would an Anglo-Saxon audience in the 10th century have made sense of this character?


Disaster and Recovery on the Gulf Coast
Andy Horowitz, PhD '14

Lecture Hall, Sterling Memorial Library, 120 High Street

In 1957, Hurricane Audrey slammed into the Louisiana coast, washing the entire town of Cameron into the Gulf of Mexico. Events like this are all too familiar in Louisiana, where disasters — from the great flood of 1927 to Hurricane Katrina to the BP Oil Spill — seem to define history. Yet the surviving citizens of Cameron were able to rebuild the town in less than a year after Audrey struck; by contrast, when Cameron was again devastated by Hurricane Rita in 2005, recovery took years and ultimately stalled. What had changed?

This presentation will explore the history of disaster and recovery in Louisiana, showing how shifting ideas about what government can and should do for citizens have altered what rebuilders find possible to do over time. Through seeing images of the storms’ aftermath and hearing audio clips from survivor interviews, we will discover that, while the great storms are inevitable, what happens because of them is not.


Memory Struggles in the Cuban Revolution, Exile, and Diaspora
Michael Bustamante, PhD '15

Room 102, 493 College Street (across from Woolsey Hall)

Cuban politics have never mapped neatly across a polarized Havana-Miami divide between revolutionaries and exiles. Individuals on and off the island have regularly engaged, adapted, or even defied dominant public narratives in their own lives. “Official” versions of revolutionary and exile historical memory, meanwhile, have long implicitly drawn on one another.

Through images, film clips and discussion, this presentation will explore Cuba's collective memory as a central battleground on which the revolutionary government and its opponents sought to legitimize opposing political visions after 1959. Using a variety of visual and written sources, and focusing on the Bay of Pigs invasion and several other seminal events in Cuba’s post-1959 history, this Yale researcher will strive to clarify what continues to be at stake in Cubans’ multiple narrations, commemorations, and erasures of their past.


The War of Souvenirs from the First World War
Jennifer Wellington, PhD '12

Room 207, Phelps Hall (Old Campus), 344 College Street

How do soldiers and those left behind at home make sense of the experience of war? How do governments seek to influence this understanding? In this session we’ll hear from a Yale researcher who seeks to answer these questions by analyzing the collection and exhibition of World War I memorabilia during and after the war in Britain, Canada and Australia. We will see how she has studied exhibitions that acted as both propaganda and recruitment tools, shaping the popular memory and understanding of what the war meant.

This illustrated presentation will examine collections that began with soldiers gathering battlefield souvenirs, moving on to the commissioning of government war art and the display of “war trophies.” We’ll also discover how officially sponsored exhibitions provided the foundation of permanent museums such as the Imperial War Museum in London.


History of Art:
An Archive of the British in India, 1770–1830
Holly Shaffer, PhD '14

Yale Center for British Art, 1080 Chapel Street (meet in main entrance lobby)

In this session, we will tour the exhibition Adapting the Eye: An Archive of the British in India, 1770–1830 that the presenter curated as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Yale Center for British Art. Organized to complement the BAC’s major exhibition on Johan Zoffany, who spent six productive years in India, the exhibition explores the complex networks of British and Indian professional and amateur artists, patrons, and scholars in British India in the later 18th and early 19th centuries and their drive to create and organize knowledge for both aesthetic and political purposes.

Selected from the Center’s rich holdings, with two key loans from Tate Britain and the British Library, the exhibition will include a diverse range of objects from both high art and popular culture, many of which are being exhibited for the first time.


History of Art:
Modernism Revisited and the Russian 19th Century
Maria Taroutina, PhD '12

Room 351, Loria Center, 190 York Street

Historians who call the 19th century Russia’s “Golden Age” are generally referring to literature, music and theater, rather than the fine arts. Russia’s entry onto the artistic world stage is traditionally dated from the early 20th century, through avant-garde movements such as Neo-primitivism, Cubo-Futurism and Suprematism. In art, by contrast, the Russian 19th-century school is viewed as backward and provincial.

Research by one Yale doctoral candidate challenges this view. In her illustrated presentation, she will show how her study of the artist Mikhail Vrubel has uncovered evidence that seeds of Russian Modernism were already sown in the 19th century. Vrubel’s revolutionary appropriation of the medieval iconic tradition became a model for avant-garde practice in the early 20th century. Indeed, his Modernist breakthroughs often occurred at the same time as — or even earlier than — those of his more prominent European contemporaries such as Klimt, Gauguin and Cézanne.


The Myths Behind Oklahoma!
Jamie O'Leary, PhD '11

Lecture Hall, Golden Center (St. Thomas More), 268 Park Street

The story is well known: that when Oklahoma! opened on Broadway in 1943, it heralded a new era of the “integrated” musical in which all aspects of a production — score, script, costume, set, choreography — arose from the drama alone. Gone were the interpolated showstoppers, gags, and stunts that merely delighted crowds; this show single-handedly transformed lowbrow musical comedy into highbrow “folk opera.”

Alas, the story simply isn’t true, as music historians have long pointed out. Yet in most histories of Broadway, the presumed “invention” of the integrated musical has come to be regarded as an important watershed moment. How did this story become so widely accepted? What is at stake in holding onto it? In this session, illustrated by slides of rare archival items housed in the Beinecke Library, a Yale researcher will help us explore the origins of the myths behind Oklahoma!, and why they endure today.


Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations:
An Introduction to Egyptology at Yale
Marina Brown, PhD '13, John Darnell, Professor of Egyptology; Alicia Cunningham-Bryant, PhD '12; Julia Hsieh, PhD '13; David Klotz, Postdoctoral Associate; Colleen Manassa, Simpson Assistant Professor of Egyptology

Anthropology Collections, Building A21, West Campus
Bus leaves at 1:20 p.m. from High Street next to Old Campus (near Harkness Tower)

Note: Because of the time required to bus delegates to and from the West Campus, those who wish to attend this session will also need to attend “Cellular Biology: Engineering Better Drugs," also held on the West Campus starting at 1:45 p.m. Round-trip bus transport will be provided only once, prior to and following the combined time for both sessions.

In the past year, Yale archaeological expeditions have again made news headlines. From the lost city of Umm Mawagir in North Africa’s Western Desert, to one of the first depictions of a ruler wearing one of the crowns of pharaonic Egypt, Yale Egyptologists are essentially rewriting the history of Egypt. The extensive collections of the Peabody Museum of Natural History enable Yale’s Egyptologists and students to continue their fieldwork on campus.

In this presentation, we will learn how students participate in the desert fieldwork of Yale expeditions, and how that participation informs and aids their own research. At the West Campus storage facility we will be able to view objects that exist in no other American collection, including a bread-baking form 3,500 years old that is identical to those discovered at the Umm Mawagir settlement.


Teaching Philosophy in Public High Schools
Gaurav Vazirani, PhD '12

Room 211, Hall of Graduate Studies, 320 York Street

Philosophy, long thought to be one of the cornerstones of education, is rarely if ever a part of any high-school curriculum today. In this session, a Yale graduate student will explain how he and some fellow students addressed this glaring gap in New Haven high schools by creating the Yale Philosophy Outreach Program, which offers a full-year “Critical Thinking and Value Education” course.

Yale’s hope is that students will leave the program with stronger intellectual curiosity and a greater capacity to engage with issues that confront them every day. To understand how this course is presented, we will work through some exercises in critical thinking, and hold an interactive discussion on some of the topics the students themselves are challenged to debate.