The Vanderbilt McGill-Initiative

The Vanderbilt-McGill Initiative: Projects 2011-2012

Humanities Summit, Vanderbilt University, May 1-3


Michael Holquist, Yale emeritus, Columbia Society of Senior Scholars

Peter Hitchcock, CUNY, Graduate Center

McGill University:

Will Straw, Director, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada

Paul Yachnin, Chair, Department of English

Leigh Yetter, Associate Director, Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas (IPLAI)

Julie Cumming, Julie E. Cumming, Associate Dean, Research and Administration, Schulich School of Music

Michael Jemtrud, Associate Professor, School of Architecture

Vanderbilt Participants

Robert Barsky, French and English Departments, Director of Quebec and Canadian Studies

Bill Ivey, Director, Curb Center

Mark Schoenfield, Chair, English Department

Cecilia Ticchi, English Department

Martin Rapisarda, Associate Dean

Ed Friedman, Department of Spanish and Portuguese; Faculty Director of the Robert Penn Warren Center


Government of Quebec

Joane Boyer, Consular General

Andrée Tremblay, Governmental and Public Affairs Officer/ Attachée aux affaires institutionnelles et publiques, Délégation du Québec, Atlanta


Monday, May 1st

1-3PM Robert Penn Warren Center
Peter Hitchcock (CUNY) will give a talk on “Humanities and the State: A Critique of Crisis”, followed by responses from Michael Holquist and Robert Barsky, at the Robert Penn Warren Center

4:00PM-6:00PM, catered meeting at the Curb Center

May 2nd

coffee and breakfast, 8:30-9:00

1. Introduction to the Curb Center (Bill Ivey), Quebec/Canadian Studies (Robert Barsky), the Robert Penn Warren Center (Ed Friedman) and the Quebec Government Delegation (M. Boyer and Andrée Tremblay)

2. Discussion amongst all participants of possible points of interaction between IPLAI and Vanderbilt’s Curb Center and Robert Penn Warren Center.

3. Roundtable discussion on “Towards a definition of the humanities”, circulated by Paul Yachnin, McGill.

4. Discussions of Quebec’s approach to arts funding and the role that arts play in policy, featuring talks from Ms. Boyer and Andrée Tremblay, Délégation du Québec, Atlanta

noon-1:30 LUNCH at the Curb Center


1. Each participant will give a prepared 8-10 minute or so talk on the current crisis in the Humanities, and/or arts policy and funding from their specific perspective (discipline, province, research). This will be filmed, and put up as a special issue of AmeriQuests ( devoted to these questions. Readers will be able to watch the video of each speaker, as well as reactions from the group. I envision 3-4 of these presentations, followed by comments from the group, several times in the afternoon.

2. Carla Beal, Jody Combs and I will outline our plans to use AmeriQuests to advance the discussion through a “portal” we are building, in collaboration with Duke UP, and we will solicit input about how to advance our respective goals with the aid of a tool for diffusion like this portal.


Company Rose Rehearsal, and outing to the Station Inn
May 3rd, departure

Vanderbilt-McGill Initiative: Recent Funded Projects (fall 2010)

April 22nd, 10AM at the Robert Penn Warren Center, “The Historian in Prosecuting Garb: The Concept of Moral Responsibility in Law and Historiography,” Le Prof. MARC ANGENOT, D. Phil & Lit., M.S.R.C. — CHAIRE JAMES MCGILL D’ÉTUDE DU DISCOURS SOCIAL. MCGILL UNIVERSITY. CHAIRE PERELMAN DE RHÉTORIQUE ET D’HISTOIRE DES IDÉES, ULB.

Friday January 21, 2011, Robert Penn Warren Center Desmond Manderson (McGill Law) and Paul Yachnin (McGill English). The talk will be based on work with the Shakespeare Moot Court, which has a website at That teaching gave rise to a series of co-written presentations and essays and also a book in progress which will serve as the basis for the talk. We will also outline information concerning the new Institute for the Public Life of Art and Ideas, which features interdisciplinary teaching and research on Law. 9:30 a.m. at the Warren Center.
February 25th, Robert Penn Warren Center, 10:00AM: Professor Michel Pierssens, Université de Montréal. «Literary History’s many «Turns»»
Michel Pierssens teaches modern French literature at Université de Montréal. He has taught extensively in French (Aix, Paris 3, Paris 8) and U.S. universities (U. of Wisconsin-Madison, U. of Michigan-Ann Arbor, UC San Diego, Harvard). A proponent of «épistémocritique» (the study of literary consequences of the development of scientific culture from the 19th c.), he founded and edited SubStance (UW Press), co-founded and co-edits Histoires Littéraires (Paris) and the e-journal Épistémocritique ( <> ). The author of numerous articles and several essays (La Tour de Babil, Savoirs à l’Oeuvre, Lautréamont. Éthique à Maldoror, Ducasse et Lautréamont) he also co-edited the 14 volumes of Colloques des Invalides. The proceedings of a recent international colloquium on Scientific Poetry are soon to be published.

Stephen Sansom, PhD student in Classics. Funding for: 1) to collaborate with professor Bill Gladhill of McGill University on a writing project for my Post-Colonialism/Multiculturalism graduate course (administered by professor Bob Barsky); 2) to attend a McGill/Université de Montréal Classics student colloquium on 2/10-11; 3) to attend a McGill Classics’ production of a new translation of Aeschylus’ play “Agamemnon” on 2/9. Professor Gladhill specializes in the representation of Roman imperial treaties and alliances in Latin literature, a focus uniquely pertinent to my graduate seminar project on Ancient Greek imagination under Roman rule. He has agreed to meet and discuss not only his research applicable to my project but also his other projects, including the study and presentation of reception theory and blogging about the ancient world. Additionally, both the student consortium and performance of ‘Agamemnon’ would put me in contact with new and relevant issues, approaches and people in my field of Classical Studies. I hope to utilize these experiences in my career as a graduate student, researcher and future professor of Classics.
Yanqin Fan of Vanderbilt University will collaborate with Prof. Zinde-Walsh of McGill University, from April 10-April 16,  as a CIREQ visitor.
Annette Quarcoopome, a PhD student in the Department of French at Vanderbilt will travel to McGill University to consult archives and meet with faculty in Anthropology, Literature and Political Science regarding her on-going research on Haitian narratives.
Professor Dahlia Porter, of the Department of English at Vanderbilt University, will initiate a collaborative relationship centered on the study of print culture.  This will be the launching of work for future exchanges that are to include visits by postdocs working on print culture (Mark Algee-Hewitt at McGill and Brian Rejack at Vanderbilt) and by faculty working in the German departments of our universities (Andrew Piper at McGill and Meike Werner at Vanderbilt).
Tom Mole will work with Dahlia Porter to initiate a collaborative relationship centered on the study of print culture, with members of the Department of English at McGill University.
Friday September 17th, 2010, Professor Andrea Mirabile (Italian, Vanderbilt) and Matteo Soranzo, (Italian, McGill), discussed justice in the context of Quattrocento Naples. This is part of his visit to Vanderbilt to present some new findings on specific authors ( Giovanni Pontano and Jacopo Sannazaro) and some constant features in the modes of cultural transmission in Renaissance Italy.

Vanderbilt-McGill Initiative: Recent Funded Projects (spring 2010)

A visit by Gérard Bouchard and members of the Quebec delegation, in March of 2010, with a talk at the Vanderbilt University Law School and meetings with students, faculty and administration.

George Szanto, Professor Emeritus, McGill University, spoke to the English and French Department classes, and gave a public talk and book launch at Vanderbilt University, for Never Sleep with the Enemy on Thursday, March 18th and Saturday March 20th.

Professor Matteo Soranzo from McGill University spoke at the Robert Penn Warren Center and the Italian Department in September of 2010, to focus on a case of interaction between Latin and vernacular culture in the context of Quattrocento Naples, present some new findings on specific authors such as Giovanni Pontano (1429- 1503) and Jacopo Sannazaro (1428 – 1530), and discuss some constant features in the modes of cultural transmission in Renaissance Italy.

To combine the internationally recognized expertise of Professor James H. Dickerson (Assistant Professor of Physics, Vanderbilt University) in the fabrication of films and composites of nanostructured materials via electrophoretic deposition with that of Professor Mathieu Brochu (The Canada Research Chair in Processing and Joining of Bulk Nanostructured Materials and The Hydro-Quebec NanoEngineering Chair, McGill University) in the fabrication and welding of bulk nano-metallic, nano-ceramic materials

April Stevens (Graduate Student, Department of French, Vanderbilt). To further research on the colonialism of Eighteenth Century France started in the fall of 2009, by traveling to McGill University to meet with faculty in the Department of French Language and Literature and to work in the McGill Library in the Lawrence Lande Collection of Canadiana, the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Collection, the David Hume Collection, and the Eighteenth Century French Literature Collection.

Amanda Johnson (Graduate Student, English Department, Vanderbilt). To work directly in the McGill Hume-Rousseau Collections and with McGill Professor Ritchie, and to study the connections between Hazlitt’s writings in the 1820s and philosophical thought in the eighteenth century, in particular the idea that the discrete temporal and ideological categories of “Enlightenment” and “Romanticism” are much more complex and tangled with each other than previously appreciated.

Stephanie Higgs (Graduate Student, English Department, Vanderbilt). To travel to Montréal in the summer of 2010 to study the work of Mikhail Bakhtin through conversations with leading Bakhtin scholars at both McGill University and the University of Quebec and through a visit to the Belleau archive at the University of Quebec, for a developing project on Dickens and the literally diseased individual body versus the metaphorically diseased social body.

Lynn Ramey (Professor, French Department, Vanderbilt) Presented a talk and undertook research at McGill regarding “Sheba’s Court in the Middle Ages: An Allegory of Female Rulers,” en route towards a book that examines notions of difference, particularly skin color, in the European Middle Ages and the impact of that discourse on modern constructions of race and concomitant racism.

Chris Pexa (Graduate Student in English, Vanderbilt) Chris undertook work in the spring of 2010 at McGill University, Concordia University, and with the Oka tribal government, foundational to the dissertation project, which deals with issues tribal governance and sovereignty as they intersect issues of linguistic and cultural preservation and revitalization in the Spirit Lake Dakotah. Specifically, the research related to the transcription, translation and interpretation of lifestories and oral histories of tribal elders.

Aubrey Porterfield (graduate student, English, Vanderbilt) travelled to McGill for studies of M.M. Bakhtin’s works through conversations with leading Bakhtin scholars at McGill University and the University of Quebec, including Marc Angenot (French Department, McGill) and consulted Belleau archives.

Vanderbilt-McGill Initiative: Recent Funded Projects (fall 2009)

Prof Julius H. Grey spoke on “The Decline of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:  What it Teaches Us About Our Own Rights and Freedoms in the United States”  on Monday, November 2, 2009 at 4:00 p.m. in the Hyatt Room, 1st Floor of the Law School.  The Program in Jewish Studies featured Julius Grey, Canadian lawyer and professor, and one of Canada’s leading civil rights and minority rights advocates speaking on “George Eliot, Eliza Orzeszkowa: Two Different 19th Century Visions of the Jewish Question”, November 3rd, 2009.

Louis Betty, PhD candidate in the Department of French: funds to travel Montréal and interview Dantec, both about his own work and his understanding of, and reaction to, Houellebecq, and in addition to discuss meet with faculty members in McGill’s Department of French Language and Literature, most notably Marc Angenot and Gillian Lane-Mercier.
Dr. Ellen Clayton: funds to sponsor a 2-1/2 day workshop at Vanderbilt on pediatric biobanking, with McGill University participation.
Professor Lisa Guenther, funding for a workshop to explore the relation between politics, affect and emotion by bringing together professors and graduate students from the Philosophy Departments of McGill University and Vanderbilt University (Professors Hasana Sharp and William Clare Roberts of McGill, and Professor Lisa Guenther of Vanderbilt,  Shiloh Whitney and Nina Valiquette of McGill, and Erin Tarver of Vanderbilt) in May of 2010
Cayla Mackey, B.A student, funding to make a tangible difference in the community and the world through volunteering  time and expertise at the Covered Gardens in Montreal, and to take classes in French at McGill University in order to improve written and spoken French, and to potentially participate as well in the Montreal Maymester.
John Morrell, PhD candidate in English, funds to travel to Montreal and Toronto to interview two Canadian authors whose work on climate change is central to dissertation research – Garry Peterson, Assistant Professor at McGill University and coordinating lead author for the UN’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and Margaret Atwood, preeminent novelist and author of Oryx and Crake (2003), a dystopian tale about a future world devastated by climate change and biotechnology
Professor Jonathan Neufeld, Philosophy, funding for a philosophy department “Politics Criticism and the Arts” conference, to include Eric Lewis, from McGill’s philosophy department and the project on Improvisation, Community and Social Practice, for a roundtable on improvisation
Erin Rehel, PhD candidate in Sociology, funding to work with McGill sociologist and Canada Research Chair in Social Statistics and Family Change Celine Le Bourdais, and to do interviews in Montreal, all relating to family change and fatherhood,
Daniel Ridge, PhD Candidate in French, funds for interviews with Michel Pierssens (Université de Montréal) and Marc Angenot (McGill) and to attend ACFAS conference in Montreal.
To invite Professor François Crépeau, Chair in International Law at McGill University, to Vanderbilt, an integral part of the original application to the Quebec government, offers a very significant opportunity to Vanderbilt.

Recent Quebec and Canadian Studies Projects:

Tobias Hertel, Department of Astronomy, “The fabrication of thin transparent films made of semiconducting or metallic single-wall carbon nanotubes”
The collaborative effort of the Hertel group at Vanderbilt with the Martel group at the University of Montreal aims at the fabrication of thin transparent films made of semiconducting or metallic single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) with enhanced optical and electronic properties. The electronic behavior of SWNTs has captured the imagination of researchers over the last 15 years owing to their potential for a variety of technologies, from the fabrication of molecular field effect transistors and light emitting devices over composite materials with unique mechanical and electrical properties, to host materials for a number of applications such as Li-ion batteries or supercapacitors and fuel cell membranes. Some of the most promising envisioned applications of carbon nanotubes draw on their unique electronic properties inherited from their parent material graphene, making SWNTs either semiconducting or metallic depending on tube chirality and diameter. However, currently available synthesis schemes produce a more or less polydisperse mixture of metallic and semiconducting carbon nanotubes. The separation of such samples into purely semiconducting and purely metallic fractions is thus been one of the grand unresolved challenges in the field of carbon nanotube research. Success in this direction has only been made recently using electrophoresis or ion exchange chromatography. Unfortunately these techniques are either prohibitively expensive or don’t lend themselves to larger scale purification. However, we have recently implemented a new technique for isolation of specific types of semiconducting tubes as well as for the isolation of semiconducting tubes from polydisperse samples in cooperation with collaborators from northwestern University. This technique employs protocols normally used for separation of proteins. More specifically, we use preparative ultra-centrifugation of surfactant stabilized SWNT suspensions in density gradients for the separation of SWNTs by buoyancy. Co-surfactant competition for adsorption sites can also be used to separate highly polarizable metallic tubes from semiconducting ones. Within the planned collaboration we intend to combine our expertise with the fabrication of structurally and metallicity sorted SWNT suspensions with the expertise of the Montreal group in making transparent thin films from such suspensions. The combination of the two is expected to facilitate the fabrication of SWNT based thin film transistors as well as the fabrication of films for transparent conducting substrates with equivalent electro-optical but superior mechanical properties if compared with today’s most frequently used commercial ITO substrates. The proposed collaboration will be carried out in three stages: a) a 2 month visit of a Vanderbilt graduate student with the Martel group in Montreal during which he will transfer know-how on the fabrication of metallic and chirality enriched nanotube suspensions. At the same time he will learn from the Montreal group how to make transparent thin films from these suspensions. b) in the second stage of this collaboration both groups will be in close contact regarding the experimental characterization of the films fabricated during the two month graduate student visit. The optical characterization will be done mostly at Vanderbilt University using CW and time-resolved optical spectroscopy from the UV to NIR range of the spectrum. The electrical properties of these films will be characterized by the Montreal group. The films will also be used for the fabrication of light emitting devices. c) the third stage is dedicated to dissemination of the results. To this end Prof. Hertel will use some of his sabbatical in the spring of 2008 for two or more one week visits to Montreal for final discussions and the writing of joint publication(s).

Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Department of English. “Do visual representations reproduce the problems of written histories? Televisual and filmic representations of black-Canadian history”
This project focuses on black-Canadian heritage and heroes and feeds from my ongoing research of comparative U.S.-Canadian representations of national identity. I began this work in spring of 2006 during an independent study under Paul Young (English and Film Studies) and continued it from 2006-2007 with the assistance of an Arts and Sciences Summer Research Grant that funded my research at National Library and Archives Canada. During my stay in Ottawa, I found, through the archive and quotidian encounters, that Canadian representations of black history essentially reinforce Clarke and Winks’s assessment. Black-Canadian history remains poorly documented and disseminated and, thus, encourages looking “elsewhere— to African-American historical events and figures that hold only a vague significance for black Canadians. This branch of my project will help me develop two papers I wrote on U.S.-Canada relations (both have been accepted to the International American Studies Association’s upcoming conference), one of which explores resistive appropriation of U.S. model blackness in black-Canadian memoirs. I found that black-Canadian authors over-identify with U.S. historical figures because they feel that African-Canadian “struggles” with blackness are not “difficult” enough to constitute “authentic” blackness. In each memoir, the author “finds” his or her black-Canadian self after delving deeper into black-Canadian history and thereby recognizing at-home struggles with racism and oppression. In many cases, the authors do not even seem to know Canada’s history of black chattel slavery and segregation, so they focus on Canada’s “better,” “liberal” race relations and the “multicultural mosaic” that allows minorities to avoid assimilation. Canada becomes the mythical North Star, the locus of “at least it’s better than over there [the U.S.]” sentiments, while the United States becomes the site for authenticity, “real” struggles to overcome. My current research investigates this problem from a media and cultural studies perspective. I would like to study archived televisual and filmic representations of black-Canadian history—through the holdings at the University of Toronto, the Royal Canadian Museum, and the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia—to analyze whether visual representations reproduce the problems of written histories. The project will also explore several Canadian sites—such as the Norval Johnson Heritage Library and Centre—that detail black-Canadian history through oral and literary traditions. The Norval Johnson Centre, located in Niagara (the heart of the Underground Railroad), offers a full-day tour and historical assessment of the Underground Railroad, its various stops, and Little Africa, the location where early black-Canadian emigrants settled. Through the archival and cultural research, I want to determine whether black-Canadian history qua Canadians centers on U.S. figures (reinforcing the problem of model blackness), or if it focuses on homegrown black-Canadian figures.

Harmony Newman, Social Science Dissertation Fellowship, Department of Sociology
“Constructions of Risk: Strategic Framing in Breastfeeding Discourses”
Which frames (and actors) are most influential in shaping women’s understandings of and behaviors toward infant feeding?  Research establishes breastfeeding as the medical gold standard for infant feeding (Knaak 2005).  Yet, even though medical arguments favor breastfeeding for children, its use and duration among U.S. and Canadian mothers is significantly lower than the governments’ goal rates.  To increase breastfeeding initiation and duration rates, medical, state, and other organizational actors have attempted to frame the alternative—formula feeding—as a risky behavior.  Nonetheless, we do not know the impact of this strategic framing on women’s understandings of breastfeeding.  Examining patterns in the use of particular persuasive strategies and the impact they have on women’s understandings and behaviors will illuminate the effectiveness of particular framing characteristics as well as which strategy for framing breastfeeding arguments is most effective on mothers’ understandings of infant feeding. For this dissertation, I am using an exploration of the ways that organizations frame formula feeding as a risky behavior and how individual women interpret these arguments to better understand the relationship between structural arguments and individual agency.  To do this I use a cross-cultural analysis of infant feeding discourses to explore how scientists, government agencies and social activist organizations construct formula feeding as a public health risk.  Secondly, through interviews with mothers in Nashville and Toronto, I examine how mothers challenge or reaffirm these arguments about infant feeding.  Finally, I will interview medical professionals (i.e., doctors, nurses and midwives) in Nashville and Toronto to better understand their roles as mediators, gatekeepers, and shapers of information about infant feeding practices.  Specific research questions address the relationship between the structural-level risk framing and individual responses to these messages, informing debates on the relationship between macro-level discourses and individual agency (e.g., Grant, Hardy, Oswick, and Putnam 2004) as well as which frames (and actors) are most influential in shaping women’s knowledge of breastfeeding and whether the understandings women hold about breastfeeding align with their infant feeding behaviors.  Not only will understanding this relationship between framing and women’s reactions illuminate power dynamics among institutions, discourses, and people’s health beliefs and behaviors, but also it will further our understanding of persuasive framing. This project advances our sociological knowledge in multiple ways.  An examination of the impact of strategic framing on a target audience’s conceptualization of a given phenomenon will advance our knowledge of framing theory in several ways.  First, we will have a better understanding of how risk, authority, and a construction of victimhood affect the relationship between macro-level discourses and the micro-experiences of these arguments.  Secondly, we will have a better understanding of how morality, as a particular type of strategic framing, affects the relationship between discourses and a target population’s reaction.  Furthermore, by examining the ways in which these discourses construct a particular type of femininity and enforce that ideal through moral constructions of risk, this project will advance the sociological understanding of gender in U.S. and Canadian societies. However, the impact of these findings extends beyond sociology to multiple disciplines including cultural studies, political science, and public health.  From a cultural standpoint, this project will provide insight into contemporary conceptualizations of gender. Through a cross-cultural analysis of breastfeeding and formula feeding arguments, I will uncover what kinds of femininity national organizations are constructing. I will address questions regarding whether patterns exist in the constructions of femininity and the strategies used to enforce these femininities. Secondly, this project will speak to the ongoing debate regarding interactions of discourse, power, structure and agency. By exploring how mothers’ conceptions of infant feeding intersect with, challenge or reaffirm these structural-level discourses, we will better understand the contentious relationship between individual agency and structural-level power. Furthermore, since the sample in this study includes women from multiple races and socioeconomic statuses, we will have insight into how these reactions may differ based on the race and/or class of the consumer. Finally, in a very practical sense these findings will advance what public health experts know about the effectiveness and impact of arguments used to convince a population to change its behavior.  These findings can inform the tactics of multiple public health movements.  In relation to breastfeeding specifically, by knowing which arguments have the biggest impact on mothers’ understandings of breastfeeding it is possible public health organizations may use these strategies to raise the breastfeeding initiation and duration rates in the US and Canada.

A proposed new collaboration with the University of Pennsyvlania to bring this Modern Jewish Artists exhibit to the campuses of Vanderbilt and Penn, in 2011.

Christina Dickerson, Graduate Department of History, Vanderbilt University. “The Jumonville Affair”
In 1754, in the contested territory of America’s Ohio Country, British soldiers ambushed Ensign Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville and his military escort. They easily defeated the French and Canadian force. Jumonville survived the initial skirmish, but then Tanaghrisson, an Indian ally of the British, murdered him with a tomahawk. The government of New France immediately responded to the assassination of Jumonville, whom they claimed had been a peace envoy. The Canadian commander at Fort Duquesne, Claude Pécaudy de Contrecoeur, sent Jumonville’s brother, Louis Coulon de Villiers, to avenge the injustice. Villiers trapped and conquered the British, led by George Washington, at Fort Necessity. The French and Indian War had begun. The murder of Jumonville infuriated the residents of New France. Jumonville, after all, came from a distinctive lineage. The Coulon de Villiers and Pécaudy de Contrecoeur families belonged to the elite class. They both possessed La Croix de Saint-Louis, an honor reserved for the oldest and most distinguished military families. Contrecoeur’s decisive response to Jumonville’s death reflected his commitment to military duty as well as his class loyalty. Surprisingly, the Jumonville Affair had an impact on the French public. Generally, the French remained unconcerned with the lives and deaths of Canadian colonials. Jumonville’s death, however, stirred a nationalist fervor that lasted for years. During the war, the French invoked the name of Jumonville to promote public animosity towards the British. The French writer Antoine Leonard Thomas, for example, published the Jumonville Poeme in 1759. In this four-part epic, Thomas portrayed Jumonville as a martyr and the British as villains. That same year the poem won the prize of the Discourses at the Academie Francaise. After the British defeated them in the war, the French clung to the belief that they were at least culturally superior to their vanquishers. They spoke the name Jumonville to remind themselves that they were like the murdered Canadian, virtuous victims of British barbarity. Through his death, Jumonville helped to consolidate French identity. He transcended his colonial status to become a nationalist symbol. My dissertation will address the following questions relating to the Jumonville Affair: How did Canadians identify with Jumonville? How was the military elite formed and how did it function in New France? What led the French to identify with a colonial like Jumonville when they generally excluded Canada from their national consciousness?

Laura Carpenter, “News Media and the Making of Health-Related Public Problems: The Politics of Male Circumcision and Female Genital Cutting in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain.” This project compares the controversies over male circumcision (MC) and female genital cutting (FGC) in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain, from 1985-2007, in order to explicate the means by which grassroots activists, medical professionals, state actors, and especially journalists contribute to the construction of health-related public problems. Canadian funds will be used to hire a French-speaking graduate student assist in the collection, translation, and coding of news coverage of MC and FGC in Quebec.

Shubhra Sharma, Associate Director and Senior Lecturer, Women’s and Gender Studies, Vanderbilt University
“Traveling Discourses of Nation: Production of Cultural Identity Amongst the Indian Diasporas in Dubai and Canada”, research funds provided to offset costs of travel to Toronto, Canada, for archival research.

Daniel Ridge, “Trois jeunes hommes de letters”

This research project relies heavily upon the expertise of leading Montreal-based intellectuals, and to this end the Quebec and Canadian Studies program is financing Daniel Ridge’s voyage to meet (primarily) with Marc Angenot and Michel Pierssens, of McGill and U of Montreal. The project, to result in a PhD thesis and a coffee table book, describes “three young men of letters” in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. By the time Pierre Louÿs met André Gide in 1887 at the Ecole Alsacienne in Paris, the notion of the decadence had already become an integral part of the identity of Paris’ elite literary and artistic circles. Paul Bourget’s Essais de psychologie contemporaine (1883), Huysmans’ A rebours (1884), Verlaine’s Poètes maudits (1886), and Maupassant’s Une Vie (1883) and Bel-Ami (1885) had contributed early on in that decade to shaping the idea of what it meant not only to be a modern artist, but also a poet, intellectual, and dandy. We know from journals and letters that these works, among other nineteenth century classics by Hugo, Baudelaire, and Stendhal, played a key role in the esthetic and literary formation of both Gide and Louÿs, as well as their friend Paul Valéry. For these three young artists arriving on the literary scene at the end of the 1880s, the three of them born between 1869 and 1871, the pessimism, which often defines this period, as well as “la crise des vers” and “la crise du roman” were reaching their ever-suffocating zenith. Early on in his literary formation, Gide was conscious of the need to go beyond the stifling literary conventions that had painted his generation into a corner, while Louÿs was content with making a name for himself in Paris’ elite literary society, even if that meant tempering a desire for artistic innovation. Louÿs’ interest in “la vie mondaine” contrasts sharply with Gide’s distaste for this same world and Valéry’s very real battle, along with Mallarmé, with “la crise des vers.” However, beyond the personal relationship that binds these three young men to one another, is the relationship they had with the literary habitus, to borrow a term of Pierre Bordieu, in which they were formed and helped perpetuate in their divergent ways. The elements that define this habitus and their effects on these writers is the object of the following study which attempts to look at not only the literature which informed their early works, but also those cultural elements (objects, behavior, etc.) which were characteristic of their particular late nineteenth century Parisian society.


About Robert Barsky

Robert Barsky is a Professor at Vanderbilt University, and a Canada Research Chair (2019-20). He is the author of numerous books about the milieus of Noam Chomsky and Zellig Harris, about language theory, and about the application of literary theories to the realms of international law and social justice. He is the founding director of Québec and Canadian Studies, the Faculty Director of the W. T. Bandy Center, and previous Faculty Head of House for West House, on the Vanderbilt Commons. His newest book is 'Clamouring at the Gates: What the Great Books Teach us about the Search for Legal Protection' (Hart Law / Bloomsbury)
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