Assistant professor receives highly competitive national fellowship

February 29, 2012

photo of Cord Whitaker
Cord Whitaker, assistant professor of English, has been awarded the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Career Enhancement Fellowship for Junior Faculty. Only twenty fellowships are awarded each year nationally. The award supports promising research from young scholars who are committed to eradicating racial disparities, in core fields in the arts and sciences.

During the full-year fellowship, Prof. Whitaker will work on his book project Black Metaphors: Race, Religion, and Rhetoric in Late Medieval English Literature. The book argues that in the late Middle Ages “race thinking”—the notion that differences in physical appearance indicate religious identity and the comparative value of human groups—emerges from late medieval theology that challenges exactly that presumption. The book also posits that late medieval texts present black people as rhetorical and literary vehicles for dealing with anxieties about the ability of Christian conversion to efface differences such as those between Christians and Jews, Christians and Muslims, and even differences between Christians in the West and those in the East. Black Metaphors shows that attention to the medieval literary nexus of rhetoric with blackness and whiteness should play a major role in how we understand the history of race.

Prof. Whitaker’s activities will involve sustained periods of writing punctuated by work with medieval manuscripts of classical rhetorical works as well as medieval romances. Research visits will include trips to the Folger Library in Washington, DC, the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City, and the Huntington Library in California as well as return trips to several libraries in the UK.

UNH student wins national scholarship to study in Russia

February 24, 2012
Republic of Bashkortostan

Ufa is located in the Russian Republic of Bashkortostan

Senior Joshua Swanson from Hudson, NH, was awarded full funding from the U.S. Department of State to study in Russia in the summer of 2012 as part of the Critical Language Scholarship Program. This highly competitive program is part of a U.S. effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. A double major in Linguistics and Russian, Joshua hopes to study in Ufa, Russia.

English faculty member will spend a year in DC on National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship

February 21, 2012

Dennis Britton
Dennis Britton, assistant professor of English, has been awarded a year-long National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. The fellowship will allow him to complete research and make final revisions to his current book project, “Becoming Christian: Race, Reformation, and Early Modern English Romance.” The fellowship will take place during the 2012-13 academic year.

Britton’s monograph is the first to explore the role of race in the Church of England’s baptismal theology and literary representations of “infidels”—specifically Jews, Turks, and Moors—converting to Christianity in early modern English romance. Catholic romances emphasized baptism’s magical power to transform infidels into faithful Christians. However, theologians within the Church of England denied the miraculous power of baptism, even debating whether or not it was necessary for salvation. In fact, many English theologians asserted that salvation could be assured by one’s race and lineage. Britton contends that baptismal theology and emerging concepts of race provide a not-yet-recognized context for understanding why works such as Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene and William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and Othello transform and, at times, explicitly reject the infidel conversion motif.

The Folger Shakespeare Library is home to the world’s largest and finest collection of Shakespeare materials and to major collections of other rare Renaissance books, manuscripts, and works of art.

Bestiary for the five fingers of my right hand: new UNH composition features poetry of Charles Simic

February 17, 2012

right hand

The annual UNH faculty composers concert takes place tonight at 8:00 p.m. in the Bratton Recital Hall of the Paul Creative Arts Center. Several UNH faculty will be presenting their works, including Michael Annicchiarico, Peter Urquhart, Lori Dobbins, Ryan Vigil, and Rob Haskins with Dionisis Boukouvalas.

A unique collaboration this year involves new compositions by Christopher Kies in which he sets the text of two poems by Charles Simic. UNH Professor Emeritus Simic is a former US Poet Laureate and a world-renowned, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet.  The poems featured will be “Dismantling the Silence” and “Bestiary for the Five Fingers of My Right Hand.”

The composition featuring “Bestiary…”  is a five movement piece for piano, bass, drum set, and narrator. The poem is written in five segments, each devoted to one of the five fingers of the human right hand. Kies will play piano, UNH Professor David Ripley will provide the narration, UNH resident artist John Hunter will play bass, and UNH student Brett Gallo will play drums.

When considering the text of “Bestiary…,” Kies says, “I’ve long wanted to try to capture some of his [Simic’s] brilliantly expressed ‘finger personalities’ in some kind of musical illustration. My problem has always been that I arbitrarily thought the individual pieces could only use one finger to play the notes, but when it occurred to me that the left hand could help out, then it became easy. So each movement will feature the entire left hand plus only one particular finger of the right hand in a kind of strange duet.”

The concert is free and open to the public.  For more information, call the UNH Department of Music at 603-862-2404.

Undergrad research results in book for recent Harvard grad who will be speaking at UNH tomorrow

February 15, 2012

American Uprising book cover2009 Harvard graduate Daniel Rasmussen will speak at UNH about his book, American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt, which grew out of a student research project. His talk will take place on Thursday, Feb. 16, at 3 p.m. in MUB Theatre II.

In his junior year at Harvard, Rasmussen began work on the 1811 German Coast Uprising–the largest slave revolt in American history. Over the next two years, he performed research in New Orleans, Washington, DC, and Massachusetts, digging up letters, traveler’s narratives, naval records, court records, planter statements of accounts, and newspaper articles—anything that would help provide insight into the revolt. The resulting prize-winning thesis became the basis for his first book.

The event that so enthralled Rasmussen occurred in January 1811 when a group of around 500 enslaved men, dressed in military uniforms and armed with guns, cane knives, and axes, rose up from the slave plantations around New Orleans and set out to conquer the city. Ethnically diverse, politically astute, and highly organized, this slave army challenged not only the economic system of plantation agriculture but also American expansion. Their march represented the largest act of armed resistance against slavery in the history of the United States.

Please contact Lesley Curtis with any questions about this event.

MUB exhibit shows cultural exchange between NH elementary school students

February 13, 2012
painting by elementary school student

Ayat, an 11-year-old student at Webster Elementary School, created a picture depicting his family leaving Iraq in 2010.

The project, “Our Stories in Pictures and Words: Immigration Past and Present,” is featured in an exhibit on the third floor of the UNH Memorial Union Building.

“The project was designed to foster mutual understanding and respect between students new to this country and longtime residents,” said Beth Olshansky, director of the UNH Center for the Advancement of Art-Based Literacy, which spearheaded this project.

The project involved students from Webster Elementary School’s English Language Learner (ELL) Magnet Program in Manchester and Moharimet School in Madbury. Each student created a book about their family’s immigration story. Many students from Webster Elementary School are recent immigrants while third-graders from Moharimet School delved into their ancestor’s journey to America long ago.

Learn more.

Award-winning travel journalist up next

February 9, 2012

Tom Haines

Where are you right now?  It’s 4:30. At 5 p.m., Tom Haines, assistant professor of journalism at UNH, will be speaking about his experiences and reading from his work. Don’t miss it! MUB Theater 1.

During two decades as a journalist, Haines reported in more than 40 countries on five continents on topics ranging from coal to cricket, art to revolution. As a staff writer at The Boston Globe, he was three times named Travel Journalist of the Year in North America, and his stories were anthologized in “The Best American Travel Writing” and elsewhere.

UNH Writers Series Presents Tom Haines | UNH Today.

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