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Fall 2014 CURRENTS

October 22nd

Acting While Black (and Male) in Disney’s Land

Kimberly Moffitt, American Studies, Spring 2014 Dresher Center Residential Faculty Fellow

President Obama’s rise to the presidency is described as a post-racial moment when America moved past its preoccupation with race and elected who Americans believed was the better candidate. Using that moment, in particular, I consider the representations of young Black males on Disney’s television programming from 2009-2012. In order to do so, I have carried out a textual analysis that includes episodes of six programs featuring young Black male characters during the aforementioned timeframe. Although the textual analysis shows that Disney channels increase their representation of young Black male characters, those roles remain marginal and caricatured. To extend the exploration, I have decided to include interviews with young Black male viewers aged 7-12 years old who watch(ed) the specific television programs in an attempt to hear their voices regarding these characters and their identification with them.

November 3rd

The Hopkinson Hoax of 1763

Kevin Wisniewski, Ph.D. student, Language Literacy and Culture
Fall 2014 Dresher Center Graduate Residential Fellow

As a literary device, the hoax is a slippery term.  A popular maneuver among British writers like Jonathan Swift, Samuel Richardson, Daniel Defoe and Benjamin Franklin, hoaxes were used to mislead and mystify readers and to disrupt bureaucratic systems.  They inspired a number of young writers growing up in the era leading up to the American Revolution.  Before signing the Declaration of Independence, designing the American flag, and penning dozens of wartime propaganda including the famous “Battle of the Kegs,” Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791) was a poet and composer.  Scholars consider one of his earliest published poems “Science,” the first pirated work in the American colonies.  But what if the highly publicized quarrels following these pirated copies were part of an elaborate marketing scheme for not one but three separate Hopkinson titles?


An American Enlightenment: Political Theory and the Origins of American Feminism

Lisa Vetter, Assistant Professor, Political Science

I am currently working on a book project that makes the case that several pivotal figures in the 19th century American women’s rights movement deserve to be incorporated into the received narrative of American political thought. I argue that a more inclusive approach is necessary to fully appreciate the richness and diversity of the history of American political theory. The book focuses on several female writers and activists who are not typically considered political theorists, including Frances Wright, Harriet Martineau, Sarah and Angelina Grimke, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  I show that these women were engaging in many of the same theoretical debates as their mainstream male counterparts and on many different levels.  Equally important, these women often innovated on and broadened traditional theoretical teachings to better accommodate women and the disenfranchised. For my talk, I will give an overview of the major arguments made in the book and discuss the challenges I have encountered in performing interdisciplinary research, broadening a male-dominated “canon” of political theory, and adapting scholarly work to a broader audience.

November 14th

Neoliberal Globalization and the ‘Chinese Dream’

Fan Yang, Assistant Professor, Media and Communication Studies

I’m working to adapt part of the conclusion of my book, Faked in China, into a chapter for an edited volume titled Commercial Nationalism. My plan is to examine the discursive formation of the “Chinese Dream” (zhongguomeng, 中国) under the cultural conditions of neoliberal globalization. Installed in 2012 by China’s newly inaugurated president Xi Jinping as a new catchphrase for his administration, the “Chinese Dream” has taken the Chinese media by storm and garnered global media attention in turn. While Xi understands modern China’s “greatest dream” as the “rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” which embodies “the integrated well-being” of the country and its people, observers in both China and the West are quick to notice the slogan’s semantic affinity to its American counterpart; after all, the “American Dream” remains the only “dream” that is globally recognized. It would be interesting, therefore, to explore the rise of this discourse as a global-national ideological formation, a concept that I’ve developed in my book to account for the reconfiguration of China’s state apparatus amidst the myriad forces of contemporary globalization.


Scribebamus epos: Identity and Confusion in Martial’s Exilic Poetry

Tim Phin, Assistant Professor, Ancient Studies

The assassination of the emperor Domitian in 96 CE brought an end to Flavian rule in Rome. An elated Roman senate damned the emperor’s memory. Subsequent Roman authors, Tacitus and Pliny, would write of the horrors and indignities of Domitian’s reign. This narrative juxtaposed terrible Domitian with the glorious reigns of Nerva and Trajan. My current research looks closely at that narrative, asking why and how it formed, and what it obscured. My present focus is the poet Martial, whose career began during Flavian rule and continued after Domitian’s death. Martial’s poetry provides the best example of an author struggling to reconcile the reality of regime change in the Roman empire. For my talk, I will discuss a series of emotional, ecphrastic poems written during Martial’s ‘exile’ from Rome. These poems reveal a man deeply concerned with his identity as a Roman; an identity complicated and unsettled by Domitian’s assassination.