Letter from the Director, Fall 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

posted under , , by Unit for Criticism

Dear Colleagues,

Once again it’s my great pleasure to welcome you back after summer and invite you to take part in the Unit’s programming this fall. The Unit has a busy autumn calendar that Associate Director Rob Rushing and I hope you will enjoy. Before I turn to those events, I want to offer an official welcome to Geography and Musicology, the latest programs to affiliate with the Unit for Criticism, as well as our new (2009-10) faculty affiliates: Francis Boyle (Law), Patrick Bray (French), Maggie Flinn (French), Feisal Mohamed (English), Justine Murison (English), Chantal Nadeau (GWS), Lisa Nakamura (Asian American Studies/GWS/ICR), Hina Nazar (English), Yasemin Yildiz (German), Julia Saville (English), and Eleonora Stoppino (Italian). This year Kathy Skwarczek will complete her second term as a Unit Graduate Assistant and be joined by a new assistant, Mike Black (English). We thank Carl Lehnen for his terrific service last year and wish him the best with his dissertation fellowship. I’m also pleased to remind you that the Unit’s most recent publication, a special issue on “Comparative Human Rights: Literature, Art, Politics,” derived from our February 2009 symposium on that topic, appeared this summer in the Journal of Human Rights.

Our first event this fall, on Monday 9/13, is an 8pm Author’s Roundtable devoted to discussion of Kathleen Woodward’s Statistical Panic: Cultural Politics and Poetics of the Emotions (Duke 2009). Woodward, who is Director of the Simpson Center at the University of Washington, Seattle will be joined by two faculty respondents—Ericka Beckman (Spanish/Comparative Literature) and Jane Desmond (Anthropology/GWS/ International Forum for US Studies)—along with grad student respondent Elizabeth Hoeim (English). The details for these and other fall Unit events, as well as the selections from Statistical Panic, will very soon be available on the Unit’s website—which is being updated at breakneck speed by our trusty GAs.

Also in September we welcome Elaine Freedgood (NYU) who will deliver the Marx lecture for this year's Modern Critical Theory lecture series on Wed. 9/22 at 8pm in English Rm. 104. (The complete schedule for the series will soon be available on our website.) We have arranged for Professor Freedgood’s visit to coincide with the Geographies of Risk conference (9/23-9/24), an interdisciplinary event organized by Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. Finally on Monday 9/27 we invite graduate students to join us for a pizza night at the IPRH for those wishing to learn more about the Unit’s programs for graduate students.

This October we are excited to host our first-ever Nicholson Distinguished Visiting Scholar, the Italian philosopher Roberto Esposito, author of groundbreaking works including Bios: Biopolitics and Philosophy (2008). Esposito will join us for an 8pm lecture in the Levis Faculty Center on Monday 10/ 4, “The Dispositif of the Person,” and a morning seminar on Tuesday 10/5, co-organized with the IPRH, on the topic “Community and Violence.” I will write again soon with background readings for the lecture and registration information for the seminar. There will also be numerous opportunities to meet with Professor Esposito, so please contact me if you are interested in sharing a meal with him during the 4 days he will spend on our campus.

On Monday 10/11, the Unit welcomes Judith Halberstam (USC) to our campus for a lecture co-organized with the Holocaust, Genocide and Memory Studies Initiative. Halberstam’s 8pm lecture, “The Killer in Me is the Killer in You: Homosexuality and Fascism” will take place at Levis Faculty Center. (Note that our colleagues in the Program in Jewish Culture and Society have also scheduled a Tuesday 10/12 workshop with Halberstam which you can learn about by consulting their website.) Also in October, Todd McGowan (U of Vermont), who will deliver the 10/26 Lacan lecture for the MCT lecture series, will also lead a 10/26 panel, co-organized with Media and Cinema Studies, on the topic “Christopher Nolan’s Dark Worlds.” In yet another exciting October event, the Unit is collaborating with Anna Stenport and Germanic Languages and Literatures for a visit from Toril Moi (Duke). Moi’s 8pm lecture for the Unit, “What Does it Mean to Claim that Sex, Gender and the Body are Socially Constructed?,” will take place on Thursday 10/28 at Levis.

On Friday 11/5 we welcome Amy Kaplan (U Pennsylvania) for a CAS/MillerComm lecture that the Unit has helped to organize in collaboration with the International Forum for U.S. Studies: "Exodus and the Americanization of Zionism." Later in the month Gabriel Solis, Director of Musicology here at Illinois, will deliver “Moving Beyond Preservation: ‘Traditional’ Music, Arts Institutions, and Modernity in Papua New Guinea,” a 10/29 lecture at Levis with a response from Jodi Byrd (American Indian Studies/English).

In December, the Unit hosts Dana Polan (NYU), for a second Author’s Roundtable, on Thursday 12/9, devoted to discussing Julia Child’s The French Chef, forthcoming form Duke UP. Joining Polan for this event will be faculty respondents Larry Schehr (French), James Hay (Media & Cinema Studies/ICR), and grad student respondent Jing Jing Chang (History). Rumor has it that the Unit will plan a Friday 12/10 Dance Party in an as yet undisclosed location to celebrate the end of the semester: we hope you will join us for another demonstration of the physical prowess and overall joie de vivre of the Unit’s faculty and grad students.

And since it is never too early to begin thinking about Spring, please keep open April 28 and 29, the dates of our Spring ‘11 conference, Freedom and its Discontents. Our partners so far in organizing the events and seminar on this topic are Elena Delgado (Spanish/Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies), Colin Flint (Director of the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security/Geography), and Jesse Ribot (Director, Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy/Geography). We are already looking forward to a keynote lecture from geographer Audrey Kobayashi (Queens University) and an associated visit at the end of February from political theorist Nancy Fraser (New School). More news on Freedom and its Discontents as it develops!

Let me take this opportunity to say that the Unit warmly welcomes the participation of all faculty, grad students, and other interested members of the UI community. If you have any questions or suggestions about our programming and other activities please email me or set up an appointment for us to meet. I also welcome emails from individuals wishing to spend time with any of the many interesting scholars we have invited to our campus.

With all best wishes for a productive and stimulating fall semester,


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