SPEAKERS for 2022
MEET MERVE EMRE
Thursday, February 24th 5:00-6:00 p.m.
Co-sponsored by the Wittreich Family Endowment, Department of English
Merve Emre is associate professor of English at the University of Oxford. She is the author of Paraliterary: The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), The Ferrante Letters (New York: Columbia University Press, 2019), and The Personality Brokers (Doubleday: New York, 2018), which was selected as one of the best books of 2018 by the New York Times, the Economist, NPR, CBC, and the Spectator, and informs the CNN/HBO Max documentary feature film Persona. She is the editor of Once and Future Feminist (Cambridge: MIT, 2018), The Annotated Mrs. Dalloway (New York: Liveright, 2021), and The Norton Modern Library Mrs. Dalloway (New York: Norton, 2021). She is finishing a book titled Post-Discipline: Literature, Professionalism, and the Crisis of the Humanities (under contract with the University of Chicago Press) and starting a book called Woman: The History of an Idea (under contract with Doubleday US / Harper Collins UK).
She is a contributing writer at The New Yorker. Her essays and criticism have appeared in publications ranging from The New York Review of Books, Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, and the London Review of Books to American Literature, American Literary History, and Modernism/modernity. In 2019, she was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize, and her work has been supported by the Whiting Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Leverhulme Trust, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Quebec, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, where she was a fellow from 2020-2021. In 2022, she will serve as one of the judges of the International Booker Prize.
MEET JUANAMARÍA CORDONES-COOK
Title: Ediciones Vigía and its Aesthetics of Bricolage
Friday, February 25th 3:15-4:15 p.m.
Bingham Poetry Room
Co-sponsored by Latin American and Latino Studies and Department of Classical and Modern Languages
Established in 1985 in Matanzas, Cuba, Ediciones Vigía is an alternative artisan press that merged literature and visual art not only through its production of artisanal magazines and books, but also through its creation of a space where young writers could share their work. The talk will bring to light the unique bricolage aesthetics developed by the press founders, the productive collaborations between writers and artists who converged in Vigía, and the process through which the home-made publications produced through bricolage were transformed into art-objects coveted by international readers, librarians, gallerists, and museums alike.
Juanamaría Cordones-Cook is the University of Missouri Curators’ Distinguished Professor and the Catherine Paine Middlebush Professor. An Emmy nominated filmmaker with an extensive record of published journal articles and award-winning books and documentaries on Afro-Hispanic writers and artists, Cordones-Cook has given image, sound, and movement to her research through her films. She has built a panoramic compendium and memory of Havana’s Black Renaissance with over twenty-five documentaries on artists and writers of the African Diaspora with emphasis on Cuba.
MEET BRENDA HILLMAN
A Reading from her Work
Friday, February 25th 5:00-6:00 p.m.
Bingham Humanities Building
Co-sponsored by the Commonwealth Center for the Humanities and Society
Brenda Hillman has published ten collections of poetry, all from Wesleyan University Press. In her five most recent collections, Extra Hidden Life, Among the Days (2018); Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire (2013); Practical Water (2009), Pieces of Air in the Epic (2005), and Cascadia (2001), each book receives her ‘sustained attention’ to one of the natural elements. A Publishers Weekly starred review of Extra Hidden Life, Among the Days elucidates, “Having written four previous books each addressing one of the four traditional elements of nature, here she considers wood as a fifth element, making her hieroglyphic way through ‘forests of grief’ as might one of the book’s beloved beetles, ‘pressing/ their whole jeweled bodies/ in the beauty of the bark.’ Neither simply empirical nor transcendental, Hillman’s poetry takes what she calls ‘woodmind’—a sort of deep attention to natural processes—and applies it to notions of human action, recollection, imagination, and craft.”
Practical Water won the LA Times Book Award for Poetry. Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire received the International Griffin Poetry Prize for 2014, as well as the Northern California Book Award for Poetry and the California Book Award Gold Medal in Poetry. Dean Rader wrote, “Seasonal Works With Letters On Fire is a profoundly humane work. In language that moves from the chatty to the experimental to the heightened to the rhetorical, Hillman shows us once again that poetry is itself a tireless worker, always on our behalf.”
Hillman is also the author of the collections Loose Sugar (1997), Bright Existence (1993), Death Tractates (1992), Fortress (1989), and White Dress (1985), and three chapbooks Coffee, 3 A.M. (Penumbra Press, 1982), Autumn Sojourn (Em Press, 1995), and The Firecage (a+bend press, 2000). Hillman has edited an edition of Emily Dickinson’s poetry for Shambhala Publications, and, with Patricia Dienstfrey, co-edited The Grand Permission: New Writings on Poetics and Motherhood (2003). She co-translated, with Diallah Haidar, Poems from Above the Hill: Selected Poems of Ashur Etwebi, one of Libya’s most significant poets. In 2010 she co-translated Jeongrye Choi’s book of poems, Instances, released by Parlor Press. With Helen Hillman and Sebastião Macedo, she has translated At Your Feet by Brazilian poet Ana Cristina Cesar, to be published by Parlor Press/Free Verse Editions in 2018.
In 2016 she was named Academy of American Poets Chancellor. Among other awards Hillman has received are the 2012 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the 2005 William Carlos Williams Prize for poetry, and Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation.
Included in their list of “50 of the Most Inspiring Authors in the World,” Poets & Writers states, “[Hillman] reminds us that the language we use when ordering a sandwich is also the language we use to make art. Her environmental concerns prove writers can offer more than just aesthetic pleasure.” Hillman has been increasingly interested in the innovative and experimental lyric traditions, particularly in how the Romantic concepts of nature and spirit have manifested in contemporary ecological and political poetry. In her essay entitled “Split, Spark, and Space,” Hillman writes about the emergence of different kinds of lyric impulses in her writing: “The sense of a single ‘voice’ in poetry grew to include polyphonies, oddly collective dictations, and the process of writing itself. This happened in part because of a rediscovered interest in esoteric western tradition and in part because I came to a community of women who were writing in exploratory forms….A poetic method which had heretofore been based on waiting for insight suddenly had to accommodate process, and indeterminate physics, a philosophy of detached looking.”
Hillman is the Olivia Filippi Professor of Poetry at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California, where she teaches in the undergraduate and graduate programs. She is also a member of the permanent faculties of Napa Valley Writers’ Conference and of Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Hillman is also involved in non-violent activism for social and environmental justice. She is married to poet Robert Hass.
MEET ALI ALTAF MIAN
"Untranslated Desires: Islam and Sexuality"
Saturday, February 26th 5:30-6:30 p.m.
at University Club
200 E Brandeis Ave
Co-sponsored by Commission on Diversity & Racial Equality (CODRE)
In “Untranslated Desires” I seek to explore the fraught relationship between sexuality and Islam. I understand these terms as two genres of identification but also as two objects of academic inquiry. I relate this fraught relationship to the broader tension between religion and secularity in modernity as well as to anti-colonial and decolonial approaches that highlight alternative desires. The point of recuperating alternative desires is to resist the biopolitical capture that is often pursued through sexuality as identity and not to posit a reactionary notion of identification. Thus, I ask: What is the analytical purchase for approaching desire as ultimately ineffable? Might the refusal of sexuality allow Muslims an opportunity to resist biopolitics? At the same time, I am also mindful of the question: How to affirm globalized sexual identities carved in the politicized language of human rights, freedom, and dignity of the individual while also affirming those forms of intimate life and expressions of desire that sexuality as ideological machinery forecloses and/or marginalizes?
Ali Altaf Mian received his B.A. in Philosophy and M.A. in English from the University of Louisville, and his Ph.D. from the Graduate Program in Religion at Duke University. His research areas include Islam in South Asia, the history of classical Islamic theology, mysticism, and legalism (especially the Hanafi Law School), Qur’anic studies, Hadith studies, gender and sexuality in contemporary Islam, religion and modernity (with particular emphasis on how religious traditions changed in and through European colonialism), as well as method and theory in the study of religion (particularly the invocation of psychoanalytical theory for interpreting religious ideas, rituals, and institutions).
Mian is currently preparing two manuscripts: Muslims in South Asia (contracted with Edinburgh University Press) and Surviving Modernity: Ashraf ‘Ali Thanvi and the Genres of Muslim Self-Making in Colonial India. Mian also serves on the editorial board of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion (since 2017).