Fenwick Fellows Lecture, April 17: Jennifer Ashley and Alok Yadav

All are invited to join us on Wednesday, April 17 at 2 p.m. in Fenwick 2001 for our annual Fenwick Fellow Lecture. This year’s lecture features our 2017-18 fellows: Jennifer Ashley, Assistant Professor of Global Affairs, College of Humanities and Social Sciences; and Alok Yadav, Associate Professor of English, College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Professors Ashley and Yadav will discuss their research and updates on the projects they undertook over the course of their fellowship year, as well as their thoughts on the digital tools used in their explorations and research. A summary of each of their lecture topics follows.

“The Chilean Plebiscite and the Power to be Affected” by Jennifer Ashley: Plebiscites and referendums have played central roles in the political life of Latin America and Europe during the last few years. As I watch these political scenarios unfold around the world, I ask: What makes a campaign successful? How do media representations frame our understanding of these political processes in the moment in which they are happening, and how do they help shape our memory of these events years later? I explore these questions in a digital humanities project that takes as a case study the 1988 Chilean plebiscite. In this plebiscite, a “YES” vote meant eight more years of Pinochet in power, and a “NO” vote expressed a desire for the return to democratic elections the following year. On October 5, 1988, following an intensification of protests, a long process of political coalition building, and a well-executed television campaign, 54.71% of the Chilean population voted to end the dictatorship. With a slogan of “joy is on its way”, one of the most significant characteristics of Chile’s “NO” campaign was its promise of the good life to come. Drawing on fifty interviews with Chileans of different ages and political perspectives, I focus on this plebiscite campaign as a means of reflecting on the importance of affect and, in particular, the power to be affected in shaping political life.

“Anthologies of African American Writing: Literary History and Digital Scholarship: A Modest Proposal” by Alok Yadav: There’s been much interest in recent years about the new kinds of scholarship in literary studies made possible by digital resources and digital tools. There are also, however, possibilities for the renovation of older kinds of scholarship through the use of digital media. In this talk, I’ll present work I’ve been doing on a digital project that seeks to compile a comprehensive bibliography, index, and reception history of anthologies of African American writing in order to provide the basis for a range of literary historical investigations of African American culture. Questions about the circulation and status of particular authors and works, about the framing and interpretation of African American literature, about canons and canon-formation, and about anthologies themselves as a particular kind of text can all be pursued more effectively if adequate scholarly reference works exist to facilitate such inquiries. This project seeks to develop one such essential resource, using a digital platform to make the project possible and more useful for users. My talk will provide a progress report on the project and a discussion of how digital tools can help advance literary historical scholarship, not by seeking out brave new worlds of inquiry, but by helping us to address existing topics and terrains more effectively.

About the 2017-18 Fellows: Jennifer Ashley is a Term Assistant Professor of Global Affairs at George Mason University. She has a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Brown University. Her work focuses on media and political subjectivity, and has been published in journals such as American EthnologistPopular Communication, and Television & New Media. Alok Yadav is an Associate Professor in the English department at George Mason University, where he teaches courses on eighteenth-century British literature and on various topics in literary research, literary analysis, and literary theory. His first book was titled Before the Empire of English: Literature, Provinciality, and Nationalism in Eighteenth-Century Britain (2004). He has been working, slowly, on a project on political criticism of literature focused on Rudyard Kipling’s Kim – a project that involves a bit of a stretch for a dix-huitiémiste, since Kim was published in 1901. His current project on Anthologies of African American Writing involves a further stretch, in at least a couple of directions.

About the Fenwick Fellows Program: The Fenwick Fellowship is awarded annually to Mason faculty member(s) to pursue research project(s) that use and enhance the University Libraries’ resources while advancing knowledge in the faculty members’ field. Applications for the 2019-2020 fellowship are currently being accepted; the deadline is Monday, May 6, 2019.

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