Previous Working Paper Presentations

Working Papers, Fall 2013

  • Tuesday, October 13th 2013: 12:30 – 1:45 p.m. POT 1643.

David Hunter (Interim Chair MCL and Cottrill- Rolfes Chair of Catholic Studies): “Sacred Space, Virginal Consecration, and Symbolic Power: A Liturgical Innovation and Its Implications in Late Ancient Christianity.”

Respondents: Leon Price (MCL) and Jacqueline Couti (MCL).

Working Papers, Fall 2011

  • Thursday, September 29th, 2011: 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Commonwealth House, Gaines Center.

Arnold Farr (Philosophy): “In Search of Radical Subjectivity: Re-reading Marcuse After Honneth.”

  • Thursday, October 27th, 2011: 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Commonwealth House, Gaines Center.

Akiko Takenaka (History): “Postmemorial Conservatism: Mobilizing the Memories of the War Dead in Contemporary Japan.”     

  • Thursday, November 17th, 2011: 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Commonwealth House, Gaines Center.

Jacqueline Couti (French-MCL): “Colonial Democracy and Fin de Siècle: The Third Republic and White Creoles' Dissent in Martinique.”

A discussion by two respondents: Jeremy Popkin (History) and Joe O'Neil (German) and a general discussion with all present will take place.

Working Papers, Spring 2011

  • Thursday, January 27th, 2011: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Commonwealth House, Gaines Center.

Vershawn Ashanti Young (African American Studies, English, WRD): “Our First (White) Female President: Compulsory Homosexuality and Barack Obama’s Masculine Performance.”

Respondents: Arnold Farr (Philosophy) and Anna Secor (Geography).


Observations by two 20th century sociologists—that “the Negro is the lady of the races”[i][i] and that “Negro men… resemble women who …compensate for their inferior status in relation to men”[ii][ii]—beg the questions, What has changed about black male gender roles in American society and politics in light of the election of President Barack Hussein Obama? And, indeed, what remains the same? These questions become more complicated when the latter sociologist’s claim that “‘personalities’” “enable [middle-class black men] to exercise considerable influence among whites” is placed in the context of Obama’s presidential campaign and victory.  It is often remarked that Obama’s unoffending discourse on race and his “feminine” leadership style endear or at least makes him racially palatable to the white majority.  And, it’s true, at least in the case of the pro-feminist Ms. Magazine, which represented Obama on its January 2009 cover in the manner of a superhero. As he rips open his business suit, however, there is no “S” donning his chest, but the statement “This is what a feminist looks like.”[iii][iii] And it is certainly his personality, which lead Newsweek’s contributing columnist Martin Linsky to ask in the title of his article whether Obama is “The First Woman President?” and to confirm in the text that “Obama's campaign bends gender conventions.”[iv][iv]  

This essay examines the gender, racial and political ideologies that Obama’s  gender performance confirm and challenge under the rubric the author defines as compulsory homosexuality, a rubric he applies to the masculine performance of black men. The paper seeks to explain what Obamas gender performance means for understanding the current and future political milieu. 

Working Papers, Fall 2010

  • Thursday, November 8th, 2010: 8:00 – 10:00 p.m. Commonwealth House, Gaines Center.

Liang Luo (MCL): “International Avant-garde and Modern China.”


This working paper looks at cultural practices in and about modern China in the context of the post-WWI international avant-garde, esp. its Japanese, Russian, and German variations. Tian Han (1898-1968), a Chinese who came of age in interwar Tokyo, and Joris Ivens (1898-1989), a Dutchman who was shaped by post-WWI Berlin, shared a remarkable list of artistic and political inspirations, of which Russian avant-garde and German expressionism occupy crucial positions. Tian Han experimented with independent filmmaking and advocated “spoken drama” and “new opera” as modern genres and practices, while Joris Ivens was among the forerunners of “documentary” filmmaking and instilled drama into representation of reality (many of his documentaries are about China). Like many others who were born in 1898 and came of age after the WWI, such as Sergei Eisenstein, Bertolt Brecht, and Yokomitsu Ruiichi, Tian Han and Joris Ivens resist any easy categorization as “lyric poet” or “social realist.” They simultaneously occupy the positions of artistic avant-garde and political vanguard, and their shared aspirations and frustrations require scholarly attentions with a broader vision, with an emphasis on the simultaneities of and cross-fertilizations among the post-WWI international avant-garde.

  • Thursday, December 2nd, 2010: 8:00 – 10:00 p.m. Commonwealth House, Gaines Center.

Jan Fernheimer (WRD): “Rhetoric, Race, Religion.”


This paper considers the question, “Who Is A Jew,” as an important rhetorical topos and inventional prompt that often has grave material consequences for Jews and non-Jews alike. Building on earlier work in Rhetoric and Jewish Studies and reflecting the influence of cultural, post-colonial, whiteness, and interdisciplinary studies, Rhetoric, Race, Religion promises to advance rhetorical studies in two ways. First, it expands the breadth of rhetorical history by interpreting the archival materials of Hatzaad Harishon (H.H.), a New York based, multi-racial Jewish non-profit organization that worked to increase recognition and legitimacy for Black Jews. The materials preserve interactions among diverse Jewish communities including Black Jews, self-proclaimed Black Jews, Hebrew Israelites, and recognized Jewish communities. Second, it advances rhetorical theory by arguing Hatzaad Harishon’s attempts to answer the age-old question of “who is a Jew” provide the basis for a new theory of cross-audience communication and rhetorical success, a process I term “interruptive invention.” Extending and further developing familiar concepts such as Burke’s identification and Perelman and Olbrhechts-Tyteca’s universal audience, dissociation, and communion, interruptive invention offers a way for individuals or groups who do not already share the same values or definitions to begin to engage one another. It provides both a descriptive term and an analytic heuristic for explaining the important work rhetors do when they begin to engage with and shake up a dominant discourse, even if those in power do not immediately recognize or accept the changes wrought by the interrupters. In cases where the community of minds is fragile and language becomes divisive rather than unifying such as in conflicts over definition or identity, interruptive invention provides a means for including a wider variety of rhetors, prolonging the conversation without using violence, and thus delaying judgment and decisions until a time when more just solutions might be more likely. In the contemporary political, social, and increasingly global scene within which localized identity narratives are both constructed and circulated, this work provides a model for intervening productively, albeit incrementally, in dominant discourse to allow for individuals and groups who may lack institutional power and authority to begin to claim it. 



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