Todd Decker's project "Show Boat: Making and Re-making a Twentieth-Century Musical" considers the interracial character of this formative work of the American musical theater and asks two as yet unanswered questions. First, why did Show Boat, written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, based on the best-selling 1926 novel by journalist Edna Ferber, and premiering on Broadway in 1927, appear when it did? Second, how did a work so completely shaped by the segregated imagination of "Jim Crow" America manage to hold a place in the active musical theater repertory until the end of the twentieth century despite larger changes in musical style, dramatic conventions, racial representation, and race relations? Stretching from the 1920s to the 1990s, the chronicle of Show Boat's making and re-making combines the history of the American stage and screen musical with an instructive, often cautionary tale of interracial show-making as lived by performers and behind-the-scenes creators.
Ph.D., Professor of German, Film and Media Studies, and Comparative Literature
Lutz Koepnick's "On Slowness: Towards a Contemporary Aesthetic of Deceleration" proposes a new understanding of modern culture and aesthetic practice based on a critical engagement with a contemporary desire to slow down the pace of progress and reflect on the interplay of past, present, and future. As a result of the dominant conceptualization of modern culture as a culture of velocity, discourses on slowness have often been considered as rhetorical weapons of unbending conservatives and anti-modern fundamentalists. "On Slowness" explores the viability of a different framing of slowness. The project investigates paradigmatic positions in late twentieth and early twenty-first century art, music, literature, photography and film that decelerate the passing of time, not to halt the course of history, but to intensify our temporal and spatial experience and to enable a special receptiveness for the multiple layers of time and motion that constitute the present. Slowness in the work of the artists and authors under discussion is an effect of a deliberate exploration of the temporal logic of their respective media. It unlocks a space within the heart of modern acceleration from which one can reflect on the future as one different from present and past.
Susan E. and William P. Stiritz Distinguished Professor of Women's Studies Professor of History Professor in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program
Linda Nicholson's "Identity in a Complex Time" is motivated by the desire to explain and help us move beyond confusion in contemporary U.S. discourse about the continued salience of race and gender. Contemporary discourse seems to uphold two very contradictory positions: on the one hand, that race and gender are still very salient social categories, with many effects in social life, and, on the other hand, that the nation has arrived at a point where these social categories are no longer socially salient. One of the purposes of this project is to elaborate on this contradictory stance, on its causes and its content. Another purpose is to propose ways for moving beyond it. Nicholson will argue that we need to stop thinking about race and gender as describing properties of individuals and instead focus on both categories as symbolic means by which bodies and behaviors are interpreted in diverse contexts. An emphasis on context will help us reconcile the awareness that in some situations we have become more "post racial" and "post gender" than we were forty years ago while in others we have not.
Anca Parvulescu's "1989: The Televised Revolution" revisits the year 1989 in Eastern Europe, with a focus on Romania. At that time and for a few years after that, Romanians referred to the events of 1989 as "the Revolution." Political theorists in the Western world saw in the same events patterns of a coup d'état: members of the existing political elites took and maintained power for more than ten years. Beyond this tension of interpretation, however, 1989 marked a turning point in European and international politics: the end of the Cold War opened the door of European Union expansion and of globalization, with its promises and risks. Parvulescu's book project focuses on the relation between the last historical event to have been called a "revolution" and the visual media, television in particular. If prior to 1989, our belief was that, as African American poet/singer Gil-Scott Heron's lyric expressed it, "the revolution will not be televised," the events in Romania in 1989 became a televised revolution. This meant not only that the events were caught on camera but also that their stake was access to the national television station. The subject of the revolution was at the same time "in the streets" and in front of a TV set. Contrary to the conclusions usually drawn from these circumstances (the illusory dimension of the revolution), the project tests the hypothesis that 1989 inaugurated an era in which the revolution is necessarily televised.