Letter from the Director, Fall 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

posted under by Unit for Criticism

Dear Colleagues,

So lovely to write to you on the subject of Fall 2012 on this beautiful autumn day in Champaign-Urbana. The Unit for Criticism & Interpretive Theory is off to a lively start this year with our first two events—a screening and conversation on Lesbian Life in France as well as Karuna Mantena’s lecture on Gandhian Satyagraha—anticipating this letter. We are catching our breath now in preparation for next week’s Nicholson Distinguished Scholar visit from Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia. Khalidi’s lecture, "The United States as Honest Broker in the Mideast?," will take place next Wednesday (9/26) at 8pm in Levis Faculty Center (3rd fl). The event should be of interest to many on campus, including undergraduates, so please alert them to this important opportunity to hear from a renowned public intellectual and expert on the Middle East.

As always, Associate Director JB Capino and I owe a great deal of thanks to our two Graduate Research Assistants: MC Anderson (Educational Policy) who continues from last year and Estibalitz ("Esti") Ezkerra (Comparative & World Literature) who joined us this August. Along with hourly assistant Dan Bornt, their work includes design of the Unit’s many e-flyers and a new Fall 2012 folder which we hope will reach your campus mailboxes some time next week. As well as providing handy storage for the remaining paper in your life, the folder details the complete roster of autumn events including an October 15 Author's Roundtable with historian Samuel Moyn focusing on his recent book, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History. In addition to comments from Moyn and discussion of select chapters from the book, the event features responses from Xinyuan Dai in Political Science, Trish Loughran in English, and Zack Poppel, a grad student in history. The roundtable is part of a visit co-organized with the Program in Jewish Culture & Society and the Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies Initiative (see our website for information on the 10/16 workshop on Moyn's work on Jewish internationalism). On Fri. November 2, thanks to a collaboration with IPRH, we are hosting a seminar with Tricia Rose (Brown) devoted to discussing some of her groundbreaking scholarship on hip hop. Our fall events conclude with a Mon. 11/12 lecture from Tim Dean, "Stumped: The Pornography of Disability."

Turning to spring, JB and I are delighted to be working with Jennifer Greenhill (Art History), Justine Murison (English), and Gabriel Solis (Musicology) in organizing a faculty/grad seminar and state-of-the-art conference on The Eighties in Theory and Practice, a cultural studies topic with special emphasis on 80s art, world music, and AIDS-related culture. This 80s-oriented programming will be complemented by two symposia in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Unit for Criticism's pioneering work from that decade: Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, a still-classic volume which will provide the inspiration for symposia in Fall and Spring 2013 and a subsequent publication: Marxism & the Interpretation of Culture at 25: Theories for the New Millennium. Joining us in planning this event is former Unit director and current HGMS director, Michael Rothberg.

In other Unit news, affiliated faculty will soon be electing a new member to the Unit's Advisory Board to replace Feisal Mohamed who has completed his 2-year term (thanks Feisal!). The newly elected member will join JB, Dara Goldman (Spanish, Latin American & Caribbean Studies, Latino/Latina) and Ellen Moodie (Anthropology, Latin American & Caribbean Studies). Among other tasks, the Advisory Board assists in the choice of the two Nicholson graduate student fellows we send each year to the School of Criticism & Theory at Cornell and the Unit's Faculty Fellowship Program. Last year (at the senior level) Lilya Kaganovsky and Martin Manalansan and (at the junior level) Manisha Basu and Julie Turnock became our inaugural fellows for 2012-14. We will be inviting applications for 2013-15 fellowships during the winter break. Please note that new junior faculty are most welcome to apply (we do not expect them to be affiliated faculty members since affiliation always follows a record of service to the Unit for Criticism). If you are new to our campus and interested in our interdisciplinary programming please write to me to introduce yourself and I will make sure you are added to our listserv.

The Unit's Modern Critical Theory lecture series is up and running with a lecture on Marx tonight from Emanuel Rota (Italian). The series is free and open to the public so please feel free to drop by (our swank new location is 1092 Lincoln). Likewise, the Unit's blog Kritik is always an option for any submission you think would be of interest to our readers. In addition to covering our own campus events, we welcome ideas for covering other Illinois or off-campus events as well as any topic on theory, culture, or politics (local, national or international). Last summer we were tickled pink—perhaps I should say tickled black, white, and red—when Todd McGowan's wonderful post on a standout episode of Mad Men was picked up by the New York Times's ArtsBeat blog—and viewed 8,000 times that day. Although we can't promise coverage in the Times, Kritik gets about 200 views each day and many more when we announce a new post—so please consider making us your online home for short pieces on topics that inspire you. (We received many excellent suggestions for a series of posts on a non-Mad Men topic last year. Although none developed into a full-blown series, please don't let that dissuade you! If you want to write on this year's election, the state of the humanities, Girls or Game of Thrones, please get in touch.)

Oh, and before you ask, will there be a dance party this December? Well, does the Unit have a Facebook page?

With warmest wishes for a cool and productive fall semester,

Lauren Goodlad, Director


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