Faculty Research: Summer 2016

Author: Nanovic.nd.edu


Eight full-time faculty fellows received Institute funding to conduct exciting and innovative research projects this summer in Europe. Each project intersected with at least one of the Institute's five research areas.


This summer, Thomas Kselman (History) spent several weeks in the Musée de la Vie Romantique in Paris looking at nearly a hundred letters sent by French clergy to the controversial nineteenth-century scholar, Ernest Renan. Complicating the picture of a France divided into the simple binary of Catholics vs. secularists, Kselman shows that clerical responses were "more open-minded and tolerant" of critical methods but also expressive of "considerable anxiety of the inability of church leaders to deal fairly with dissent."  Kselman will soon publish this research as part of a new monograph, Conscience and Conversion: Religious Liberty in Post-Revolutionary France (Yale University Press, 2017). 

Why do some Muslim states respond differently to secular international law and institutions, such as the European Court of Human Rights? Emilia Justyna Powell (Political Science) traveled to the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies to explore whether the internal reasons for applying shari'a law differently in those different Muslim states can account for the countries' different responses. Her qualitative interviews with Muslim scholars and secular scholars of international law form the beginning of an in-depth exploration of this topic.


Meredith Chesson (Anthropology) was interested in how people in small island communities in western Ireland withstood the stress and loss when many of their neighbors and kin emigrated from their homes to far-flung regions. Focusing on the island communities of Inishark, Inishbofin and Inishturk, Chesson creates thick descriptions of their material cultures and enriches these descriptions with oral testimonies. Her research is presented annually at the Society for American Archaeology. Chesson reported that in February 2016, one of her graduate students involved in the project, Sara Morrow, won the Best Student Presentation Award at the annual meeting of the Irish Post-Medieval Archaeology Group. 


Situated at the top of the Adriatic, Venice has long been a cultural palimpsest of East and West -- but arguably, so is Budapest. What then is uniquely Venetian about the materials, forms, and iconography of Venice? Duncan Stroik (Architecture) received funding to pursue that question by measuring and documenting twenty churches in Venice in an attempt to distinguish the elements of Venetian from the classical, the gothic, and the Roman and Florentine renaissance. This exploration led to Stroik's wider, multidisciplinary explorations of the Venetian popular cults and ruling families. The geography of the built environment is thus also a social and political geography in Stroik's account, which aims also to assist in the development of new models for church buildings in America.


How do multicultural empires disintegrate? John Deak (History) spent several weeks this summer exploring one historical precedent. A specialist particularly in the history of the Habsburg monarchy, Deak was interested to find out how the empire was reforged as a small state called "Austria" between 1918 and 1925. His research looked particularly at how the successor states treated the multinational imperial bureaucracy after the First World War. In Austria, state employees were purged and re-hired on the basis of being "German." But who was really a German when these administrators spoke multiple languages and came from far flung regions of the old empire? Deak found that founding a state also meant defining a nation in 1918 and those definitions were fuzzy, slippery, and had to be articulated and enforced by ad hoc hiring commissions. Thus, Deak's empirical research in administrative history shows that the history of nationalism is not just a history of ideas or an illustrative case study for comparative politics: it has a specific institutional history that is not itself political but has far-reaching political effects.

How should we understand the idea of "the masterpiece" in European culture today? In the past, a masterpiece was a kind of cultural summa -- but has its nature and function changed in the visual age of mechanical reproduction? James Collins (Film, Television, & Theatre) is developing two new courses at Notre Dame which grapple with that question and invite students to understand how past masterpieces in Europe are being used (i.e. appropriated, re-contextualized) to form new visual grounds for transnational European identity. Collins visited the Rijksmuseum and its Rijksstudio, the Palais Garnier, the Tate Modern, and the Victoria and Albert Museum's presentation of Botticelli: Reimagined. One of the course titles, which will be cross-listed as European Studies, will be "Self-Imaging: From Rembrandt to Selfies." 


In Europe, the 'subjective turn' of Romanticism had a complicated political identity but was widely associated with revolutionary energies. Yasmin Solomonescu (English) received funding to push forward on her second book, Romantic Persuasions, which will be the first study of how and why theories and practices of persuasion changed in response to new developments in revolutionary politics and scientific psychology. The book shows how, between roughly 1790 and 1840, poets, dramatists, and novelists sought to represent and elicit states of mind capable of responding to complex ethical questions in novel, creative, and flexible ways. Solomonescu concentrated her research as a Visiting Fellow at the Chawton House Library--set in an English manor house that once belonged to Jane Austen's brother--and held concurrent affiliation at the nearby University of Southampton.