Faculty Head of House, West House (2012-2016)

West’s Guests! Hosted by Professor Robert Barsky, Faculty Head of House 2012-2016.

In addition to our other programming (literary and creative events, somatic practices and house-wide monthly Sunday brunches) it has been my chosen task, since taking on this role as FHOH, to invite 10-20 students from West house for intellectual engagement, debate and home-made (organic, sustainable ingredients-based) supper in the FHOH apartment, with luminaries from a range of fields from around the world. We always welcome visits from other FHOHs or Commons Associates who might be interested in topics being presented. The culinary side is not a supplement, but is rather designed to raise awareness of the crucial environmental issues we face today, issues that at this rate will surely lead to the Sixth Extinction, described in the recent book by Elizabeth Kolbert. West House’s suppers are therefore part of an initiative to reduce waste, improve the environment, raise nutrition awareness and support sustainability in Commons residences is moving forward. For example, after 2 years of composting West house waste, Professor Barsky will work with students to nourish two gardens, the beginning of a West House urban food project. Read about it at: http://admissions.vanderbilt.edu/insidedores/2015/01/urban-gardening.

The larger intellectual model I’m working to develop West House as a kind of intellectual center that has a unique identity, associated with a series of major themes (comparative literature; international migration, health and human rights; incarceration issues). It’s a daunting task, to organize these events at West (and to buy for, cook and then clean up after the meal!), but it has been a rich and rewarding experience from which the students have benefitted enormously. The goal as stated resembles the objectives of the Society of Fellows at Harvard, described in a recent book called The Open Mind; Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature, by Jamie Cohen-Cole:

“The model of intellectual society they [like us at West House!] sought to emulate was Cambridge University’s Trinity College, its system of Junior Prize Fellowships, and the pattern of social and intellectual life at Cambridge High Table. Alfred North Whitehead contended that he had always learned most from cross-disciplinary conversation with people he knew well. And so the Harvard Society of Fellows established a pattern of encouraging such conversations with required dinners and lunches at which the right kind of interchange would occur.”

The theory behind it, described as the open mind was as follows: “Psychologists saw it in terms of a recurrent constellation of features: the open mind was tolerant, broad, flexible, realistic, unprejudiced. To sharpen its definition, psychologists also developed the tools to detect its antithesis: the closed mind was rigid, narrow, conformist, intolerant, ideological, and prejudiced. A closed-minded person rejected new ideas and people, and, because of compulsive adherence to ideology, lacked his or her own thoughts. Thus the closed mind characterized the subjects of totalitarian states, but it posed nearer threats as well. As Cold War intellectuals and policy makers saw it, in America the closed-minded citizen was responsible for two of the leading domestic concerns of the day, bigotry and mass society. It was imperative that the open mind be enlisted, on the one hand, to help keep the Communists without, and on the other, to eradicate the racists and conformist robots of the crowd within.”

Furthermore, the framers of the Society of Fellows also inspired the idea of the “Houses” at Harvard, and the activities fostered therein in regards to an interesting comment by Raphael Demos that relates to what we at West do in order to create a comfortable and stimulating environment: “Since it is so concrete itself, conversation thrives when aided by concrete physical things: good food, drink, and smoke, pleasant rooms and comfortable chairs. Surely the opportunity of the Harvard houses, in providing the setting for education conversation, needs no stressing; I have in mind especially the dining rooms (and the common rooms).”

Cohen-Cole adds that “Demos’s argument about the centrality of common rooms to the community at Harvard played a critical role in the development of the committee’s general education proposal not just because it was compelling to the other member of the committee. This argument was also important because it occurred at a critical juncture in the committee’s deliberations. Demos suggested the common rooms as a way of thinking about America just as the committee was developing its account of the nation as a collection of experts. Thus American democracy could be a plurality of experts that was unified by emulating Harvard’s Shop Club, the Society of Fellows, or the common rooms, each a place that encouraged cross-disciplinary intellectual banter. Although deeply rooted in Harvard’s own culture, this perspective on the good society as arising from a learning environment with “pleasant rooms” and “comfortable chairs” was far from idiosyncratic. It also appeared in, for instance, the Educational Policies Commission’s Education for All American Youth . This book pictured communities all across the country centered not just on schools, but on schools equipped with rooms designed to increase education though specific creature comforts.”

I would add that these comforts would be made available to the ENTIRE population, consistent with this notion of inclusion designed to foster a “good society”. Far from elitism, then, it implies that public spaces (like public schools, centers, meeting spaces, transportation hubs, museums, parks) should be comfortable, even luxurious, and filled with art and salutary creature comforts (organic ingredients in homemade food, for example). In other words, rather than starving the public sector, we need to cherish, support and foster it, as we do Vanderbilt (for example). I love this approach as a model for what I am aiming to accomplish, and to this end, here is a partial list of recent guests and topics designed to foster this “open mind” amongst West students in the FHOH apartment.

I begin with presentations of my own work, including my new book called Undocumented Immigrants in an Era of Arbitrary Law: the Flight and Plight of People Deemed Illegal, written during my tenure as Faculty Head of House, and presented at the Commons on Wednesday, September 16th from 8:00-9:30pm (Commons Center 237), and again at the Vanderbilt University School of Law, October 8th (Renaissance Room), with West House students and Commons students and faculty cordially invited.

As Director of the Robert Penn Warren Center, Professor Barsky is inviting a host of renowned Japanese scholars who will discuss the reception of French Modernism in Japan. They will be speaking at the W. T. Bandy Center, 8th floor of the Library, November 5th and 6th, and will be joined by the renowned scholar Marc Angenot, the James McGill Chair of Social Discourse and Text Sociocriticism and McGill University. This is an event not to be missed, and Professor Barsky will host a reception for the entire group of scholars at the FHOH residence on the evening of November 5th, from 5-7PM. Guests for the event include: M. Ryûsuké Ebiné (Professeur adjoint, Université Shirayuri, Tokyo) : « Andô Tsuguo et la littérature française »;  M. Daichi Hirota (Lecturer, Université de Kobe) : «Les Fleurs du mal (Aku no Hana, 2009-2014), manga japonais par Shuzo Oshimi»; M. Takashi Kitamura (Professeur, Université d’Osaka) : «Perspective de la réception de Baudelaire au Japon de l’ère Meiji jusqu’à nos jours»;  M. Shoichiro Iwakiri (International Christian University, Tokyo) : «l’Idée du mal et l’influence de Baudelaire sur Kunio Tsukamoto»;  M. Kazuhiko Suzuki (Doctorant, Université Paris X) : «Les Fleurs du mal en prose»; M. Toru Hatakeyama (Professeur adjoint, Université Meiji Gakuin, Tokyo) : «La modernisation littéraire au Japon : Baudelaire lu et traduit par Oté Takuji»; Mlle Yui Oshima (Doctorant, Université Paris III) : «Baudelaire, un détective ? – le 1848 vu par Kiyoshi Kasai»; M. Makoto Tominari (Doctorant, Université Paris IV) : «Baudelaire et Junzaburo Nishiwaki»; Mme. Toshié Nakajima (Professeur, Université de Toyama) : «Baudelaire et Lafcadio Hearn».

Professor Barsky taught several years in the Vanderbilt Aix-en-Provence program, and he is excited to welcome conductor and trumpeter Jean-Philippe Dambreville to West for a visit with students on Saturday, October 10th at noon. Dambreville taught his instrument since the age of 16. He won the first prize of the Regions’ Conservatories in conducting. In 1992, he founded the ensemble Brass Rouen. He directed the Music School of Rouen Conservatory Beauvais, before taking the direction of the Conservatoire Darius Milhaud, in 2012.He participated in 2007 at the master class of the Neeme Järvi Summer Academy with the Philharmonic Orchestra of The Hague, in which he conducted the Concerto for Orchestra by Béla Bartók.In 2008, he led the St. Petersburg Festival Orchestra in Estonia.

Joseph Fishman will join West house students for a discussion in the Faculty Head of House apartment after his talk at the Robert Penn Warren Center (November 18th at 4PM), to which students are all invited. Professor Fishman’s research focuses on intellectual property, particularly its relationship to creativity and the creative process. His most recent work, “Creating Around Copyright,” published in the Harvard Law Review, examines copyright restrictions’ underappreciated upside for stimulating creativity among those who need to work around them. Professor Fishman joined Vanderbilt’s law faculty in fall 2015 after serving as a Climenko Fellow and Lecturer in Law at Harvard Law School. He earned his A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard College with a joint major in music and religion, his M.Phil. in musicology from the University of Cambridge, and his J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School. After law school, he was a law clerk for Judge Jeffrey R. Howard of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and for Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He practiced as an associate at Jenner & Block in the firm’s content, media and entertainment group, where he specialized in litigation involving the music industry, before entering the legal academy.

Since his arrival as FHOH of West, Professor Barsky has started a kind of “scholar-in-residence” program for students of West, and for faculty and students on the Commons. Renowned scholar Paolo Tortonese will be Visiting Fellow at the Bandy Center and in West House, from October 26-30. A Professor at Université de Paris – Sorbonne, Professor Tortonese is the Director of the Centre de Recherche sur les Poétiques du XIXe siècle. He has special interest in Romanticism, Naturalism, Theories of Representation, Esthetics, and the History of the Novel. His books include: L’œil de Platon et le regard romantique, Paris, Kimé, 2006, and L’Homme en action: la représentation littéraire d’Aristote à Zola, Paris, Classiques Garnier, 2013. He directed several collections as well, including Paradigmes de l’âme : littérature et aliénisme au xixe siècle, éd. J.-L. Cabanès, D. Philippot, P. Tortonese, Paris, Presses de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2012, and Erich Auerbach, la littérature en perspective, Paris, Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2009. He will give a talk on October 27th at 4PM in the Bandy Center, and is available to meet with students at West House after that talk, and during that entire week. Interested students should contact Faculty Head of House Professor Barsky.

Professor Barsky was honored to host Professor Daniel Gervais of the Vanderbilt Law School for a discussion in the course of the West Monthly Brunch series. Professor Gervais is a world-renowned expert in intellectual property, and focuses on international intellectual property law, having spent 10 years researching and addressing policy issues on behalf of the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers, the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations, and Copyright Clearance Center, Inc. He is the author of The TRIPS Agreement: Drafting History and Analysis, a leading guide to the treaty that governs international intellectual property rights. Before joining Vanderbilt Law School in 2008, Professor Gervais was acting dean of the Common Law Section at the University of Ottawa, where he also served as vice-dean for research and received funding for his research from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation. Before entering the academy, he practiced law with Clark Woods and as a partner with the technology law firm BCF in Montreal. He also served as a consultant and legal officer at the WTO, as head of the Copyright Projects section of the WIPO, and as vice-president of international relations at CCC. In addition, he was a consultant with the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. He has been a visiting professor at numerous international universities, a visiting scholar at Stanford Law School, and is a visiting lecturer at the University of Amsterdam. In 2012, he was the Gide Loyrette Nouel Visiting Chair at Sciences Po Law School in Paris. He is editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed Journal of World Intellectual Property and editor of http:// www.tripsagreement.net. In 2012, he was the first North American law professor admitted to the Academy of Europe. He is a member of the American Law Institute.

The next FHOH Barsky brunch will feature Fulbright Guest Professor Kaisary. Professor Kaisary’s research interests include Haitian Revolutionary Studies, the literature and culture of the postcolonial Atlantic, and race, law, and human rights. He is author of “The Haitian Revolution in the Literary Imagination: Radical Horizons, Conservative Constraints” (University of Virginia Press, 2014) which examines the representation of the Haitian Revolution by major Caribbean, African American, and US writers, artists, and thinkers. The study spans English, French, and Spanish languages, and includes poetry, drama, historical writing, biography, fiction, jazz, and opera. In 2015-16, Philip will be a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Vanderbilt University. Philip joined Warwick Law School in 2012. He graduated from Edinburgh University in English Literature (MA Hons) in 2001, from Sussex University with an MA in Postcolonial Studies in 2003, and he holds a PhD from Warwick University in English & Comparative Literary Studies (2008). On the completion of his PhD, Philip was awarded an Inns of Court Lord Haldane Scholarship and he attended Oxford Brookes University School of Law where he received a Graduate Diploma in Law and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice; he qualified as a solicitor in 2012. Professor Kaisary is also meeting with West students on December 2nd at 3PM, following which time he’ll be presenting a paper on the 1805 Haitian Constitution in the Robert Penn Warren Center, to which West students are invited.

We regularly feature writers, discussing their craft. Professor Barsky invited David Maraniss, associate editor at The Washington Post. He is the winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting and has been a Pulitzer finalist two other times for his journalism and again for They Marched Into Sunlight, a book about Vietnam and the sixties. The author also of bestselling works on Bill Clinton, Vince Lombardi, and Roberto Clemente, Maraniss is a fellow of the Society of American Historians. What this means for Vanderbilt’s West House students, is that with Barsky and Maraniss chatting, students were able to discuss the biographies of Barack Obama, Noam Chomsky, Zellig Harris, Bill Clinton, Vince Lombardi and Roberto Clemente during brunch in the Faculty Head apartment! To complement this non-fiction work, we followed the Maraniss event with invitations to the Commons Writers in Residence, and were thrilled to have presentations from Alicia Brandewie, and Katie Foster, who read from work they have written for their MFA program that held the West audience captive. We have had a growing pantheon of writers give talks at West over the years, and some reflections on the role of literature, such as Professor Gary Wihl, Dean of Arts and Sciences, Washington University, who discussed “The Modern Definition of a National Literature”, asking: “What gives rise, in the first instance, to these common assumptions about the classification of literature into national groups?” And in a notable Quebec event, Marie Laberge, born in 1950 in Quebec City, came and gave a very moving talk to breathless students. Marie Laberge is a versatile and prolific author, who has worked as a playwright, novelist, actress and director. In Canada, she is primarily known for her literature; in other francophone countries, for her plays. Her works have sold over one million copies, in Francophone countries, and are now being translated into English.

Italian Nights, that have featured Marisa Verna, Professor and Chair of French Literature at Univeristà Cattolica di Milano, Italy and a Bandy Center Fellow. She is the author of « Montrer son âme dans le vêtement » Drappi, stoffe, vestiti ed accessori nella letteratura, nella cultura e nella lingu: Des anges en robe de laine: l’âme nue d’Arthur Rimbaud. Elsa Filosa (Assistant Professor of Italian, Vanderbilt), Andrea Mirabile (Associate Professor of Italian, Vanderbilt), Letizia Modena (Associate Professor of Italian, Vanderbilt), Federica Locatelli Assistant Professor Università Cattolica, Milano, Italy and W.T. Bandy Fellow,” L’imagination de Coleridge à Baudelaire.”, Chiara Nifosi, Graduate Student at Univeristà Cattolica di Milano, Italy, independent scholar, Studying the “issue of space in Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du Temps perduDamian Catani, Lecturer in French, Birkbeck College, London University, W.T. Bandy Fellow, discussing “Baudelaire, De Quincey and Les Paradis Artificiels.” Each of these guests have presented their work to students in West House, discussing poetry, Italian culture, and relations between Vanderbilt and Italy, and France.

Key administrative figures from Vanderbilt University have come to discuss their work, their role, and current issues on campus. We have had the special privilege of welcoming Provost Susan Wente, who discussed all things Vanderbilt in light of her recently taking up this role; Associate Dean Martin Rapisarda, who discussed international programs, summer schools and the Gallery; Joseph Mella, Director of the Vanderbilt Art Gallery, who discussed his work, and recent exhibits; Clive Mentzel, Director of the Office of Active Citizenship and Service, who provided a fascinating insight into Peace and Reconciliation efforts in South Africa.

Literature and Law has been an on-going theme at West House, nourished by a host of international luminaries. For example, Institute for the Public Life of the Arts and Ideas (IPLAI, McGill), and the second with Professors Paul Yachnin (Chair of English, Director of the IPLAI), Michael Jemtrud(Architecture, McGill) and Leigh Yetter (History, McGill). The question to be discussed focus on: Is there law that works in Measure for Measure, or is the world of the play, in spite of all its proclamations and statutes, essentially lawless? In this talk, Paul Yachnin undertakes to answer this question by considering the play in terms of what he calls the three genres of law—the law of sovereign will, the law of kind, and the law of judgment—and by re-situating the play’s treatment of law within the dynamic interrelationship between the play world and the play in the playhouse. McGill University’s Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas—IPLAI—is a unique venture. It is a collaboration of the faculties and schools of Architecture, Arts, Law, Education, Music, Management, and Religious Studies. The threefold mission of IPLAI is to foster innovative, collaborative,  humanities centered teaching and research, to build bridges between the academy and the multiple publics outside the academy in ways that promote active, two-way intellectual traffic, and to bring scholarship and the creative arts into substantial, mutually beneficial conversation and collaboration. Another event featured Prof. Thomas McGinn, Vanderbilt, and Prof. Chevreau, Professeur ordinaire à l’Université Panthéon-Assas (Paris II) and co-Director of Law and History at the Sorbonne. A description of her current work: “Aujourd’hui, le droit des obligations est en plein bouleversement. Non seulement le livre III de notre Code civil est promis à une refonte prochaine, mais encore les projets européens d’un droit privé commun se font de plus en plus précis, notamment dans le domaine du droit des contrats. They are part of a large group of literature and law specialists who have discussed their work at West House.

Professor Aglaia McClintock, a guest from Universita’ del Sannio in Beneventi, along with Professor Thomas McGinn, Vanderbilt Professor of Classics. Professor McClintock is a Romanist, a European professor of law with a specialty in Roman law. Her areas are criminal law and the status of women. And a guest who has loved West House and Vanderbilt so much that he has accepted repeat invitations is the incredible Professor Julius Grey, McGill University and Grey Casgrain, who has handled some of the most controversial civil rights cases of the past half century in Québec. He is also a remarkable expert in diverse areas of work, including literature (his talk at the Robert Penn Warren Center is on “crime, punishment, and 19th Century literature”, including work of Zola, Dickens and Dostoevsky), opera, history, philosophy, …

Because Professor Barsky is the Faculty Director of the W. T. Bandy Center for Baudelaire and Modernist Studies, West House students have been part of many discussions concerning literary modernism. For instance, West hosted “Modernism and Baudelaire in the Americas” discussion featuring a host of Professors from Québec including Professors Michel PierssensAntoine BoisclairBenoît HouzéLuc BonenfantNelson CharestKarim LaroseNathalie Watteyne,Daniel Ridge, and Andrée Tremblay from the Government of Quebec Consular Office. They presented their work at West House, and in the Bandy Center, and a special issue of their work was published in AmeriQuests. We have also been honored by a discussion with Professor Seth Whidden, Pascal Pia fellow at the W.T. Bandy Center for Baudelaire and Modern French studies, is associate professor of French at Villanova University. His research focuses primarily on nineteenth-century French literature. He is Associate Editor of Nineteenth-Century French Studies and coeditor-in-chief of Parade sauvage and Revue Verlaine. He has published a monograph, edited volumes of essays, critical editions, articles, and translations on issues related to literary collaboration and the crisis of the lyric subject in nineteenth-century French poetry, as well as articles on hip-hop culture and baseball. His current research, on issues of authority and authorship in nineteenth-century French literature, includes a monograph on literary authority during Second Empire France.

The Bandy Center has also been the impetus to invite professors whose work emerges from the study of modernism, but exceeds this realm and extends into, for example, questions of intoxication, and evil. Professor Damian Catani, University College London, will discuss his research project, on Baudelaire’s under-explored work Les Paradis Artificiels, especially the second section ‘Un Mangeur d’Opium’, his adaptation and partial translation of Thomas de Quincey’s Confessions of an Opium Eater. The research has two interrelated methodological aims: first, to argue that De Quincey’s frank biographical exploration of his opium-use offers Baudelaire a valuable lens through which to broach and hone his own aesthetic and ethical concerns: the relationship between poetic creativity and drugs, memory, dream, childhood and the crowd; secondly, to emphasize how his encounter with De Quincey allows Baudelaire to rehabilitate an unjustly neglected author, whose work enhances our understanding not only of the important relationship between intoxicants and cultural production, but of confessional Romantic literature more generally. Another example is Benoît Houzé, a MICEFA exchange scholar from Paris and Daniel Ridge, PhD, from French and Italian. Houzé discussed intermingled poetry and painting in an unpublished work by Tristan Corbière, and was joined in discussion of literary dandies, by Daniel Ridge.

Sometimes we have the pleasure of offering dynamic conversations that feature luminaries from different realms. For instance, students enjoyed the presence of Professor Federica Locatelli, Department of Foreign Literatures and Languages, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore Milano. She was joined by Dean Frank Wcislo, Jane Wcislo of the Dayani Center, Daniel Ridge, PhD, Department of French and Italian and Professor Leonard Folgarait, Art History (Vanderbilt). Federica Locatelli’s work is on French Modernism: “My first dissertation was about Proust and death. My PhD is from both the Université de Paris 7, Diderot, and the Catholic University of Milan. My doctoral research, which is situated at the crossroads of linguistics and literature (entitled “the periphrasis between rhetorics and stylistics: the case of Charles Baudelaire”) was given summa cum laude. I am currently developing perspectives on the language of symbolists poets («L’imagination de Coleridge à Baudelaire: positivement apparentée avec l’Infini», «L’inépuisable fonds de l’universelle analogie: Baudelaire et la comparaison», L’Analisi Linguistica e Letteraria).” Federica’s trip was followed by the visit of Professor Marisa Verna, Chair of French Studies, Università Catolica.

Incarceration Series, supper and discussion on the “living-learning” prison communities in and around Nashville. Social Justice is a crucial West theme, and we have had discussions with ANN-MARIE CHARVAT, PH.D (Sociology) Concentrations: Criminology, Family Sociology, Theory, and Quantitative Methods. Her dissertation was on “The Significance of the Social Bond in Predicting Family Violence,” and she has subsequently written such work as “Breaking Free: A Model for Restorative Justice in Family Violence” (in progress), “The Impact of The Death Penalty on the Mentally Ill,” “Unmeasured Costs of the Death Penalty: The Impact of State Killing on Children.” “Conflict Resolution: A Sociological Approach,” “Mitigation Evaluation: Preparation for a Death Penalty Trial.” Her community service includes work for the American Sociological Association – Sociological Practice Section – Advisory Council; Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness — Advisory Council; Sociological Practice Association — Board Member, Certification Chair; CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates — Mediator; Metropolitan Nashville Community Education – Teacher; Neighborhood Justice Center – Mediator. SUSAN McBRIDE “Storytelling has always been a natural part of my life. Family, my father’s side in particular, was an embarrassment and I needed a way to fix all that. A deeper truth was that my childhood was damn near insufferable. We were an alcohol, drug, food, and God addicted bunch. My one preoccupation as a kid was to rewrite my entire life so it resembled something pretty. In the end the things that haunted me most kept surfacing. A dozen or so years work in death penalty cases resulted in stories that uncovered a lot of secrets and heartache. My clients would say, “You know more about my family than I do.” And it’d be true.” And, most recently, Professor Lisa Guenther provided students with a strong sense of how academics can change the world by working both within and beyond the Ivory Tower, in her case in regards to incarceration practices.


(i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o),

ga(‘create’, ‘UA-1394945-2’, ‘auto’);
ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);