Institute Fellowships offer faculty course reductions so that they can develop research projects within an interdisciplinary community. Kaplan Institute Fellows, who are selected by an external team of reviewers, present work at weekly lunchtime colloquia, participate in Institute events, and develop a course to offer in the Institute in the year after their fellowship. Read more about our Fellowship Program.
Meet the 2017-2018 cohort of Fellows for the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities:
Assistant Professor, Department of History
Project: Gender, Labor, and Environment in Early Modern Europe
Scientific interest in the environment grew enormously during the 17th and 18th centuries. This project explores the largely invisible labor that went into the making of environmental knowledge—the ‘housework’ performed by the wives, children, and servants of elite European naturalists, and the ‘fieldwork’ done by local peasants and colonial subjects—in order to understand the classed, raced, and gendered assumptions lurking behind Enlightenment climatology.
Assistant Professor, Department of English and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities
Project: Animating History: New Media Art and the Opacity of Digital Experience
A multitude of animated forms flourish in the digital age from glitch aesthetics to video games. Animating History theorizes the present ubiquity of animation as a symptom of the changing relation of human experience to the workings of technology itself, or the sense that digital media operate beyond human agency. In this context animation aesthetics in new media art become an indispensable resource for gauging the ways digital media transform historical experience.
Digital Humanities Librarian, Northwestern University Library
Library Fellow 2017-18
Project: A Million Tongues Are Calling For My Pen: The Life and Works of Ross D. Brown
In 1916, Ross D. Brown (1885 - 1965) published his first chapbook of radical poetry, Rhymes of Reason, which included an introduction by America’s leading socialist Eugene Debs. Born in Dublin, Indiana, Ross D. Brown lived most of his life on the southside of Chicago, and in that life he was many things: African American, socialist, poet, activist, orator, organizer, inventor, preacher, author and publisher. A Million Tongues Are Calling For My Pen seeks to situate Brown’s life and work in black radical literary and political traditions and movements, while also critically exploring the genre of biography, “recovery” projects, archive-making, and what it means to be made obscure.
Associate Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese and Latina/o Studies Program
Project: Tropical Time-Machines: The Uses of Science Fiction in Contemporary Caribbean Literature and Film
The last two decades have seen a remarkable rise in the presence of science fiction in the cultural production of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and their diasporas. My project explores the significance of this science fictional turn in recent Caribbean literature and film. If Caribbean literature has previously positioned the region as outside of [Western] time, occupying a repeating or static space, I show how science fiction as a mode of narration acts to break this cycle, establishing a different relationship not only to the future but also to global understandings of history, temporality, and interconnectedness.
Associate Professor, Department of History
Project: The Law of the Land: Race, Liberty, and Policing Before the Fourteenth Amendment
This project elucidates debates about race, police powers, and personal liberty from the colonial period through the Civil War. In the process it offers a new account of the origins of the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections of citizenship, equal rights, and due process, and helps us understand why those protections have been so very tenuous.
Assistant Professor, Department of English
Project: Transient Intimacies: Contemporary African American Writing and the Form of Travel
My project examines how African American writers in the post–civil rights era have reimagined the meaning and grounds of U.S. racial integration by depicting the black traveler’s transient intimacies. Staged in memoirs, performances, travel journals, and fiction, these scenes of fleeting but close encounters with strangers abroad offer not only a critique of integration’s unfulfilled promise of liberal subjectivity but also the occasion to rethink the primacy of the novel in contemporary African American literature.
Assistant Professor, Department of French and Italian; Affiliated Faculty, Comparative Literary Studies Program
Project: Violent Sympathies: Literature, Sovereignty, and the Hazards of Fellow Feeling
Violent Sympathies takes an interdisciplinary, cross-temporal approach to an enduring problem: the political challenge posed by sympathy. Investigating the ways in which sympathy counterintuitively enables force when shifted from victims onto perpetrators or institutions, it bridges early modern literature and contemporary political theory to explore how fellow feeling’s “hazards” channel broader concerns regarding national identity, elite privilege, personal sovereignty, and the state’s monopoly over violence and law-making.
The Alumnae of Northwestern University Teaching Professor; Associate Professor, Department of English
Project: Learning to Talk Shop: Mercantile Mischief and Popular Pedagogy in Premodern England
In the fifteen and sixteenth centuries, multilingual dictionaries and phrasebooks flooded the European marketplace, opening up a virtual classroom to an audience who did not have access to formal education. Far more than practical conversation guides, these bestsellers offered instruction in the pragmatic, and murky, ethics of the premodern marketplace, teaching readers how to take advantage of retailers, cheat customers, and welch on debts in up to eight different languages. My project explores what happens when language learning itself undergoes a translation, out of the schoolroom, into the marketplace and further down the social ladder.
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Associate Professor, Department of Radio/Television/Film; Director, MFA in Documentary Media Program
Project: "True Memories and Other Falsehoods," A Documentary Feature Film
Memories are unreliable and their use within the criminal justice system can have grave consequences. Penny Beerntsen (Making a Murderer) mistakenly identified an innocent man as her attacker, resulting in his 18-year incarceration. An individual remembers committing a crime that they did not commit. An investigator elicits (and believes) a false confession. My documentary examines how memories form, how they become contaminated, and how convictions based on contaminated memories affect everyone involved, while underscoring protocols to prevent future errors.