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Dissertation, Public Humanities Fellows Advance Student-Centered Research
Cognitive experience. Romantic legalism. Educational equality. Authentic writing. These are some of the themes of this year’s research by Dissertation and Public Humanities Fellows in the Syracuse University Humanities Center.
Based in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), the Humanities Center offers a range of competitive fellowships supporting graduate research.
The fellowships, says Humanities Center Director Vivian May, pave the way for emerging scholars to excel in their careers. “They also illustrate the humanities’ breadth and relevance,” says May, a professor of women’s and gender studies in A&S. “At a time when government funding [of the humanities] is unpredictable, the University and other private sources, including foundations, often make up the difference. Sustaining such inquiry is vital to our success as a student-centered research university.”
This year’s Dissertation Fellows are Lorenza D’Angelo and Adam Kozaczka G’12, doctoral candidates in philosophy and English, respectively, in A&S.
The Public Humanities Fellows are Camilla Bell ’14, G’18 and Gemma Cooper-Novack, doctoral students in cultural foundations of education and literacy education, respectively, in the School of Education (SOE).
The Humanities Center awards up to two Dissertation Fellowships a year. Fellows receive stipends, office space and support for their research during their residency in the Humanities Center.
D’Angelo and Kozaczka will present their research on Friday, Jan. 18, from 9:30-11:30 a.m. in 304 Tolley. The event, which includes coffee and a light breakfast, is free and open to the public. For more information, call the Humanities Center at 315.443.7192.
D’Angelo is using her fellowship to write about the value of experience. Much of her work evolves from ongoing debates about the nature of cognitive phenomenology, which is the study of experiences associated with thinking, reasoning and understanding.
The Italian-born scholar insists that not all forms of pleasure and pain are sensory (i.e., associated with perception or bodily sensation). Some are cognitive, such as “pleasures afforded by art and nature, the joys of academic discovery and the frustration experienced when witnessing an injustice,” D’Angelo explains.
She says that in addition to providing information about one’s physical well-being, pleasure and pain measure one’s “psychological and social flourishing.”
“It is a mistake to think that physical health and material goods are sufficient for a happy life,” says D’Angelo, who works with Ben Bradley, the Allan and Anita Sutton Professor of Philosophy. “If you are surrounded by injustice and crime, deprived of educational resources and incapable of enjoying your cultural and natural environment, your pain is real. The connection between individual well-being and collective goods is much more immediate than people normally realize.”
Kozaczka’s work also is highly varied. Consider his dissertation, “Romantic Legalism,” which examines the overlap between legal and novelistic concepts of character in 18th- and 19th-century Britain.
Working with English professors Mike Goode and Erin Mackie, Kozaczka explores the convergence of masculinity, violence and character in British novels and criminal trials from that period.
“The concept of character relates to not only carefully written novels, but also carefully constructed criminal defense” says Kozaczka, who earned a master’s degree in English at SU. “Authors such as Sir Walter Scott, Jane Austen, Frances Burney and William Godwin wrote and thought about how the difference between guilt and innocence was not just about what the accused did, but also about who the accused was.”
Public Humanities Fellowships are supported by a partnership between Humanities New York (formerly the New York Council for the Humanities) and the Mellon-funded Central New York Humanities Corridor, which is a program of the Humanities Center.
As the name implies, the yearlong fellowships focus on public scholarship.
“We encourage emerging humanities scholars to conceive their work in relation to a broad public sphere. In the process, they develop skills for doing public work and strengthen the region’s overall humanities community,” says May, adding that the Humanities Center, in partnership with Humanities New York and the Central New York Humanities Corridor, awards up to two such fellowships a year.
Bell is using her fellowship to launch a retreat for participants of the 2018 Summer Arts & Culture Camp, facilitated by the Community Folk Art Center (CFAC) and modeled after the Freedom Schools of the Civil Rights Movement.
She works closely with SOE Professor Mario Rios Perez, CFAC Education Director Tamar Smithers ’07 and former camp facilitators Evan Starling-Davis G’20 and Howard Jones Jr. “I envision reflective workshops where participants grapple with the impact of the summer camp, as well as the relationship between freedom and education,” says Bell, who holds a master’s degree from SOE and a dual bachelor’s degree from A&S and SOE.
Freedom Schools originated in the 1960s in the Deep South, where systemic racism exacerbated educational inequities.
“During the Civil Rights Movement, Freedom Schools helped young people of color navigate unjust and inequitable living and learning conditions. We’re doing the same, carving out a space for today’s youth to sharpen their critical literacies and obtain the tools they need to serve as agents of change,” she adds.
Cooper-Novack also is a proponent of public scholarship, as evidenced by her desire to develop a yearlong out-of-school-time program for locally resettled refugees. Her goal is to help them write and publish a middle grades collective novel.
Providing refugees with authentic writing opportunities is a relatively new concept, and Cooper-Novack hopes her project will push the boundaries of narrative writing.
“I want to strengthen the voices, writing skills, and storytelling and advocacy skills of ENL [English as a New Language] refugee students in Syracuse,” she says. “I will do this by focusing on the intersections of writing pedagogies and social justice, the development of writer identity in the community, and the significance of arts education and creative writing in literacy education in and out of the classroom.”
Cooper-Novack’s project will culminate with a local youth book festival in 2019.
Students interested in applying for 2019-20 Public Humanities Fellowships are invited to attend an information session on Friday, Dec. 7, from 10:30-11:45 a.m. in 304 Tolley. The program includes brief presentations by Bell, Cooper-Novack and former fellow Jesse Quinn G’17. The event is free and open to the public, and includes a light breakfast.