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Summer Seminar 2015

Nicholas Brown

Associate Professor, English and African American Studies

Nicholas Brown teaches Modernism, African literature, and critical theory in the English Department and in the Department of African American Studies, with an affiliate position in Art History. His research interests include Marxism, Hegel studies, the history of aesthetics, Lusophone literature, and music studies. His first monograph, Utopian Generations: The Political Horizon of Twentieth-Century Literature (Princeton, 2005), examines the relationship between postcolonial literature and European modernism, and the relationship of each to continuing crises in the global economic system. His current book, Autonomy: The Work of Art in the Age of its Real Subsumption under Capital, asserts the resumption of the modernist sequence — not always in the expected places — in the era after postmodernism. Chapters of Autonomy have appeared in nonsite, Postmodern Culture, and the Revista do Instituto dos Estudos Brasileiros. President of the Marxist Literary Group, Professor Brown also chairs the editorial board of the journal Mediations and is a founding editor of the electronic/print press MCMʹ.

Rachel Havrelock

Associate Professor, English

Rachel Havrelock is an Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Trained in Hebrew Bible, Rabbinics, Folklore, and Middle East Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, her research concerns three distinct areas and the overlap among them.

Her work on gender and the Bible began with a co-authored book, Women on the Biblical Road (University Press of America, 1996), that introduced the idea of a female hero pattern based on evidence from the Hebrew Bible. She elaborated on the notion of female heroism in an article, “The Myth of Birthing the Hero,” published in Biblical Interpretation in 2007 and in her commentaries in The Torah: A Women’s Commentary (edited by Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Andrea L. Weiss, Union of Reform Judaism Press 2007).  Rachel’s recent work on female political leadership in antiquity is forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Biblical Interpretation and The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Gender Studies, for which Havrelock is serving as editor of the Early Judaism section.

Rachel’s book, River Jordan: The Mythology of a Dividing Line (University of Chicago Press, 2011) illustrates her distinct methodology of combining biblical studies, literary and political theory, and the politics of interpretation. River Jordan examines the long history of the Jordan as a border, as well as the moments when it was not a border. It argues for five coexistent national myths in the Hebrew Bible and examines which of these myths have had political currency and which have been repressed. River Jordan shows how biblical interpretation impacted the formation of early Christianity and Judaism and, in more recent times, the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the spirit of River Jordan, Rachel is currently working on the political interpretation of the book of Joshua for a monograph entitled The Joshua Generation: Politics and the Promised Land.

Rachel’s work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and modern Middle East has been published in the journal National Identities and in Understanding Life in the Borderlands: Boundaries in Depth and in Motion (University of Georgia Press, 2010). Her current research in this area focuses on the oil pipeline that once ran from Kirkuk to Haifa. During a 2013 sabbatical, Rachel pursued research on the pipeline at the British National Archive, in Israeli and Jordanian archives, and by traveling the pipeline route and interviewing those living on and around it.  She plans to publish this research as a book entitled Pipeline: How Oil Created the Modern Middle East and How Water Can Transform It. She is involved with efforts on the part of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) to develop a transborder ecological peace park at the Jordan River.

Her research has been supported by FLAS, the US Department of State, the UIC Institute for the Humanities, the UIC Dean’s Research Award, the American Academy of Jewish Research, and the University of Cambridge Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH).

Rachel blogs for The Huffington Post and is the writer and director of the hip-hop play From Tel Aviv to Ramallah about the daily lives of young people in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She co-hosted Who Was Jesus, the Discovery Channel’s series on the historical Jesus and appears in the History Channel’s show about the book of Joshua.

Michał Paweł Markowski

Stefan and Lucy Hejna Family Chair in Polish Language and Literature

Head, Department of Slavic and Baltic Languages and Literatures

Tenured Visiting Professor, Jagiellonian University

Michał Paweł Markowski is author and editor of more than twenty books on literature and philosophy, translated into English, Serbian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Swedish, and Romanian, and over 200 essays, articles, chapters in collected volumes, and columns in cultural magazines in Poland. The most important monographs include: The Inscription Effect: Jacques Derrida and Literature (1997), Nietzsche: Philosophy of Interpretation (1997), Desire for Presence: Philosophies of Representation from Plato to Descartes (1999), Identity and Interpretation (2003), Black Waters: Gombrowicz, World, Literature (2004), Polish Modern Literature: Leśmian, Schulz, Witkacy (2006), Theories of Literature in the 20th Century (2007)Universal Dissolution: Schulz, Existence, Literature (2012), The Politics of Sensitivity: Introduction to the Humanities (2013).

As translator he brought into Polish works by Proust, Barthes, Blanchot, Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, Deleuze, Kristeva, Rorty, and Perec. He edited writings of Friedrich Schlegel, Marcel Proust, Roland Barthes, and Julia Kristeva and penned 5 collections of essays: Anatomy of Curiosity (1999), Excess: Essays on Writing and Reading (2002), Desire and Idolatry(2004), Life Measured by Literature (2007), and Sun, Possibility, and Joy (2010). For the lifetime achievement in essayistic writing he was awarded in Poland in 2010 with The Kazimierz Wyka Prize.

His most recent book, Day on Earth: Travelling Prose (2014) combines fiction, travel essays, and photography. An exhibition of his photographs, Line and Land, was recently on display in Chicago’s Dreambox Gallery.

Steven Marsh

Associate Professor of Spanish Film and Cultural Studies, Hispanic and Italian Studies

Steven Marsh’s recent work includes invited editor of Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies’ special dossier on Spanish film and spectrality (2015) together with articles in Discourse and Hispanic Review. Author of Popular Film Under Franco (Palgrave 2006) and co-editor of Gender and Spanish Film (2004). Published widely in journals and book collections in US, UK, Chile and Spain. Member of the editorial collective of the Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies and editorial committee member (and founding editor) of the journal Studies in Hispanic Cinemas.

Walter Benn Michaels

Professor and Head, English

Walter Benn Michaels has just completed a new book, The Beauty of a Social Problem; Photography, Autonomy and Political Economy, forthcoming in Spring 2015 from the University of Chicago Press.

Marina Mogilner

Edward and Marianna Thaden Chair in Russian and East European Intellectual History

Associate Professor of History

I consider myself a global scholar who studied, taught and conducted research in Russia, USA and in a number of European countries. This professional trajectory reflects my interest in the studies of (imperial) diversity, in political and intellectual organization of complex, multi-national and multi-cultural societies. My field of specialization can be broadly defined as a New Imperial History of Russia and the USSR.

In my first book, Mythology of the “Underground Man:” Russian Radical Microcosm in the Early Twentieth Century as an Object of Semiotic Analysis (Moscow, 1999),  I traced the genesis, rise, and demise of the intellectual canon of Russian radicalism of the nineteenth−early twentieth centuries in its pan-imperial dimension. My second book, Homo Imperii: A History of Physical Anthropology in Russia (Moscow, 2008), was the result of a decade of research in archives and libraries in five countries. As a history of Russian physical anthropology, it is also a revisionist reading of the Russian imperial experience that is often regarded as “premodern,” based on “non-Western” ideologies and practices that did not need “race” to legitimize regimes of difference and cultural and social stratifications. A substantially revised and extended English version of this book is published in 2013 by Nebraska University Press in its acclaimed “Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology” series.

Currently I am working on a book project dedicated to Jewish race scientists and intellectuals who, for different reasons and in different contexts, insisted that Jewishness was based on race. One line of my inquiry reconstructs the intellectual communicative space of Jewish race science—its international dimension as well as its specific Russian imperial version. Another line consists in revising Russian-Jewish political (Russian Zionism), cultural (literary and linguistic debates), and medical discourses and practices in the light of the racialized understanding of modern Jewishness. Ultimately, I intend to show how the Russian-Jewish intellectual “romance” with race, so typical of the epoch of “nations and nationalisms,” was facilitated by the specific Russian imperial situation.

Parallel to this, I am engaged in a collective project of writing a new college textbook on Russian/Eurasian history that aims to integrate the most valuable achievements of the new imperial history approach (most important—the idea of studying the process of organizing, rationalizing, and making sense of human diversity).

A very important part of my academic career is associated with the Ab Imperio quarterly – a bilingual humanities and social sciences peer-reviewed journal dedicated to studies in new imperial history, and the interdisciplinary and comparative study of nationalism and nationalities in the post-Soviet space. It is published in Russia and the US, and provides a venue for scholars from different countries and academic traditions to discuss the history of cultural diversity without essentializing the ethnoconfessional nation as its fundamental and self-evident basic unit.