April 12, 2012
Wizards of word-learning: Linguistic and conceptual foundations to infants’ stunning success
Human infants are wizards of word-learning. In this talk, I will describe the conceptual and linguistic capacities that underlie their success. To learn the meaning of any novel word, infants must set their sights in two distinct directions. Facing the conceptual domain, they must identify concepts that capture the various relations among the objects and events that they encounter. Facing the linguistic domain, they must cull words and phrases from the melody of the human language in which they are immersed. Findings from our laboratory, among others, have revealed that even before they begin to speak, infants’ advances in each of these domains are powerfully linked. In this talk, I will argue that infants begin with a broad universal initial link between the linguistic and conceptual systems, and that this sets the stage for increasingly precise links between different kinds of words (e.g., noun, verb) and different kinds of meanings. I will then present new evidence from infants as young as 3- and 4-months of age. Together, the work reveals that throughout development, naming is a powerful engine, fueling the acquisition of the essential, rich relations that characterize our most powerful concepts.
April 10, 2012
“Post-Mortem Translations: Yeshurun Keshet’s ‘Jackals and Arabs’”
Maya Barzilai, Frankel Center and Near Eastern Studies,
University of Michigan
“Kafka and the Arab Intellectuals”
Atef Botros, Near Eastern Studies,
“Reading Kafka in Istanbul”
Kader Konuk, Comparative Literature and German Studies,
University of Michigan
“Castles in the Air”
Na’ama Rokem, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations,
University of Chicago
Scott Spector, History and German Studies,
University of Michigan
“On the Extra-Colonial Invisibility of Egyptian-German Translation”
Shaden Tageldin, Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature,
University of Minnesota
April 5, 2012
Saarland University, Germany
The interplay of language and gaze in virtual environments
When dialog pertains to the objects and events in the world around us, gaze and speech become closely intertwined: Speakers typically look at objects about 1sec before they mention them, while listeners fixate relevant objects within 250msec of hearing them mentioned. In face-to-face dialog, listeners can “short-cut” this process by following the speaker’s gaze directly to get cues about which objects he/she is planning to mention. Thus gaze serves as a useful visual cue for grounding and disambiguating linguistic interaction. In this talk I will discuss recent research which seeks to better understand the importance of gaze for situated dialog in human-computer interaction. In the first part of the talk, I’ll focus on how eye gaze of both robots and virtual agents influences the way people understand their speech. I will then discuss ongoing research which exploits the real-time gaze of human users in order to improve the automatic generation of spoken directions, as users seek to navigate their way through a virtual environment. I will conclude by summarizing the importance of eye-gaze as a real-time channel for situated interaction, and speculate on how increasingly ubiquitous gaze-tracking technologies could be exploited in future applications.
Toward A Comprehensive Understanding of African American College Students: The Interface of Counseling, Educational, and Social Psychology
Kevin O. Cokley, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology and African and African Diaspora Studies,
University of Texas – Austin
The UM Psychology Diversity Speaker and Award Ceremony AND The Center for the Study of Black Youth in Context Seminar Series.
The 2012 faculty and student Diversity Reseach Awards will be at 2:30, the talk at 3:00, and a reception at 4:00 pm.
April 2, 2012
You had to be there: Acquisition of Conventional Expressions in L2 Pragmatics: Recognition, Production, and Environment
Lecture by Kathleen Bardovi-Harlig
Although both proficiency and length of stay in the host environment have been hypothesized to contribute to L2 pragmatics, early studies of length of stay suggested that only very extended stays influence pragmatic development (3 yrs, Bouton, 1994; 10 years, Olshtain & Blum-Kulka, 1985). Recent research on study-abroad learners has renewed interest in length of stay (e.g., 2007 Intercultural Pragmatics thematic), but has found study-abroad stays too short to be a significant variable (Félix-Brasdefer, 2004). The one study in L2 pragmatics that has investigated both length of stay and proficiency (Roever, 2005) found only proficiency– and not length of stay–to be significant. This is puzzling because intuitively we expect contact with target-language environments to increase pragmatic competence. However, Klein, Dietrich, and Noyau (1995) claim “Duration of stay is an uninteresting variable. What matters is intensity, not length of interaction.”
This study separates intensity of interaction, length of stay, and proficiency to investigate their contribution to the acquisition of conventional expressions in L2 pragmatics by learners of English. Conventional expressions, including such strings as No thanks I’m full, Sorry I’m late, and No problem, are one type of pragmalinguistic resource available to speakers to realize social demands. Oral production of conventional expressions was elicited from 122 learners and 49 native speakers (NS) of American English via a computer-delivered audio-visual task consisting of 32 scenarios pretested to yield conventional expressions (Bardovi-Harlig, 2009). Proficiency was determined by scores on a four-part placement exam, yielding four low-intermediate to low-advanced levels. Length of stay in the host environment was measured in months. Intensity of interaction was measured by self-report of weekly English language use outside class with native speakers, with other learners, and media consumption.
A repeated measures logistic regression model shows that both proficiency and intensity of interaction are significant, but that length of stay is not. Both proficiency and intensity of interaction contribute positively to the development of L2 pragmatics.
This talk will first discuss the general findings regarding the relation of recognition to production of conventional expressions, and general acquisitional patterns, and then explores the role of proficiency and the non-linguistic variables length of stay and intensity of interaction.
March 28, 2012
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University
This lecture focuses on the role of the voice in South Korean Christian culture. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in Seoul’s Protestant churches and colleges of music, I explore the way European-style classical singing (songak) relates to certain idealized qualities of modern Christian personhood and national advancement. Among these Christians, it is claimed that the advanced nation is joyful, healthy, stable, and clean—and so should its voice be. I discuss both the aesthetics of sound as well as the ethics of bodily practice.
March 27, 2012
Brown Bag Lecture by Alan Itkin
In his novel Vanishing Point (1962), the German-Jewish author Peter Weiss describes the newsreels of concentration camps that he saw as an exile at the end of World War II as “ultimate pictures.” These “ultimate pictures,” he tells us, have nothing to do with “the great visions of art, the paintings, the sculptures, the temples, the hymns, and epics.” We cannot, in other words, make sense of them by turning them into the stuff of art or literature. They resist the sort of transcendent meaning that we usually ascribe to works of art.
What then, one might ask, is the point of Weiss’ vivid and lyrical description of these images in what is essentially a literary work? Weiss began his career as a painter and only later turned to writing as his primary means of artistic expression, a transition he has dramatized in several of his literary and critical writings. In his discussion of this transition, however, Weiss describes it not so much as a turn away from pictures towards words, as an attempt to turn the kind of “ultimate pictures” that resist meaning into language. As I will show, Weiss’ discussion of the difference between visual art and literature and his own personal relationship to both media is best seen as a poetics of description that emphasizes literary language’s ability to represent the traumatic events of the past while at the same time probing the limits of artistic and literary representation. Representing the past in this way is, for Weiss, one of the imperatives of artistic expression “after Auschwitz.”
Alan Itkin completed his PhD in Comparative Literature last year with the generous support of the Mary Fair Croushore Graduate Student Fellowship at the Institute for the Humanities. He also holds an MA in Humanities and Social Thought from NYU and a BA from the University of California Berkeley. He has published an essay on journeys to the underworld in W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, in The Undiscover’d Country: W. G. Sebald and the Poetics of Travel. He also has two articles currently under review, one on the historical philosophy of the German Jewish film theorist, Siegfried Kracauer, and another on the role of “degenerate art” in debates about public memory in contemporary Germany. Currently he is working on turning his dissertation into a book manuscript, tentatively titled Underworlds of History: Classical Motifs and the Representation of History in Post-Holocaust Literature.
March 23, 2012
Relativizer Omission, the Independence of Linguistic and Social Constraints, and Variationist “Comparative Reconstruction”
A linguistic variable that has been the focus of many quantitative, variationist analyses of English over the past two decades (cf. Guy and Bailey 1995, Lehmann 2001) is the omission of the relativizer (that or WH-forms like what, who, or which] in restrictive relative clauses, as in “That’s the man Ø (who/ that/what) I saw.” In recent work, I’ve examined the occurrence of this variable in the vernacular/creole varieties of Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, African America, Appalachia and Southwest England (Dorset, cf. Piercy et al 2011), considering, among other things, the evidence it provides on the creole origins hypothesis of AAVE. In this paper, I extend the data set to a total of nine varieties, including relativizer omission data from “Northern English” varieties in Ireland, Scotland and Northern England kindly made available by Sali Tagliamonte (cf. Tagliamonte et al 2005).
A key change in my analysis, following suggestions from colleagues and students and a re-reading of Johnson (2008), was the use of logistic regression with R, rather than Goldvarb/Varbrul, as it offers several advantages, including mixed effects modeling, and better ability to detect interactions in the data. Additionally, I included social variables: class and/or gender. This allowed me to look for interactions between social factors and linguistic constraints and test Labov’s important generalization about the independence of linguistic and social constraints. Finally, on the advice of a colleague in Psychology, I combined the data from all nine varieties in a big mixed effects regression analysis, controlling for differences by variety by entering them as factors in a “Language Variety” factor group.
The results were intriguing. To begin with, the values (“factors” in variable rule terminology) that turned out to be most significant for relativizer omission across all nine individual language varieties were those that matched Wasow et al’s (2011) predictability hypothesis, like Superlative NP antecedents and occurrence in existential, possessive, or cleft structures, all of which have general processing explanations that make them less useful for recovering historical relationships. Moreover, although gender and/or class turned out to have significant effects on the rate of relativizer omission in several cases, they did not show any interaction with the effect of linguistic constraints, confirming Labov’s more general (2010) hypothesis about the independence of linguistic and social constraints. Finally, in the big regression runs, there were very few significant interactions with language variety, suggesting that the widely separated language varieties I compared were essentially behaving alike with respect to relativizer omission. This calls into question the viability of variationist “Comparative Reconstruction” (Poplack 2000) for detecting prior diachronic relationships, especially when, as in this case, the variation is governed by general sentence processing constraints.
March 22, 2012
If You Can’t Say Something Nice then Draw It: the Role of Stereotyping in New Yorker Cartoons (Jill S. Harris Memorial Lecture)
Cartoon Editor, The New Yorker
Robert Mankoff is the cartoon editor of The New Yorker. More than eight hundred of his cartoons have been published in The New Yorker in the past thirty years, including the best-selling New Yorker cartoon of all time.
He is the author of the book The Naked Cartoonist: A New Way to Enhance Your Creativity, published in 2002, about the creative process behind developing magazine-style cartoons. He has also edited dozens of cartoon books and published four of his own. Notably, he edited The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker (Black Dog & Leventhal), the best-selling coffee-table book for the 2004 holiday season, featuring all 68,647 cartoons ever published in The New Yorker since its début, in 1925.
Mankoff graduated from Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences in 1966. He lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, with his wife, Cory, and their two children.
African American Vernacular English and the Black/White Achievement Gap in American Schools
The persistent Black/White achievement gap in Education has been a source of concern for many years. Although many other factors contribute to it, one that has not attracted sufficient attention is the African American Vernacular English [AAVE] spoken by many African American students, and more importantly, the negative responses of teachers and administrators to it. The predominant response of teachers and administrators to AAVE has been that of the ostrich–burying their heads in the sand, and hoping that by ignoring and failing to acknowledge it, the vernacular would quietly disappear, with mastery of mainstream or standard English miraculously replacing it. An alternative response has been that of the elephant–acknowledging the vernacular, but attempting to stamp it out with proscription and vigorous correction. Neither approach has been particularly effective, as shown by data from more than thirty years of research.
In this talk, I’ll discuss in turn the more promising responses that sociolinguists and applied linguists have proposed to the challenges facing vernacular speakers in schools. The primary solutions include: Dialect Awareness, Dialect Readers, Contrastive Analysis, and Linguistically Informed Pedagogy (including individualized and group instruction based on systematic studies of phonemic decoding errors). Although some of these responses invariably bring public misunderstanding and controversy in their wake (recall Oakland’s 1998 Ebonics resolutions), they show promise for narrowing the achievement gap, and are worth serious consideration and implementation.
Poet and Author from Cyprus
Sponsors: Mediterranean Topographies Workshop, CES, II.
Mehmet Yashin (Yaşın) is one of the best-known contemporary poets and authors from Cyprus. The different voice and sensibility that he brings to Turkish poetry is based on his hybrid literary sources, combining the Turkish, Greek and Levantine cultures of the Mediterranean, creating a dramatic and narrative lyricism, using Turkish in his writing by reference to historically and geographically variant forms of the language, as well as his poetic themes which give importance to personal experiences.
Born of a cosmopolitan Cypriot family in 1958, he studied International Relations at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Ankara and has an MA in political history from Istanbul. His first poetry collection was banned by the Turkish military junta and he was deported from Turkey in 1986 for what was characterized as his ‘subversive’ poetry. He went to Britain where he began post-graduate studies at the Centre for Byzantine-Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies at Birmingham University, working on Cypriot and Turkish literatures and cultures. Since 2002, he has moved between Cambridge, Nicosia and Istanbul.
He has published 8 poetry collections, 2 novels, 3 essay collections, 3 anthologies and studies of Cypriot poetry in Istanbul. His books have played an important role in re-defining the literary traditions of Cyprus and Turkey. His work has been translated into more than 20 languages and his books have been published in various countries. His poems were set to music and adapted for the stage as well as to the visual arts. His poetry was the subject of an exhibition at the Pompidou Center in 2011. He has lectured all over the world on subjects pertaining to identity, cosmopolitanism, mysticism and literature, the “Euro-Mediterranean,” exile and more.
Mehmet Yashin who has just completed the writing of two books dealing with the Mediterranean. The first is to be published in French, La recontre de Sapho et Rumi (2012). The second book is a novel/memoir/travel writing/album titled Kehribar set in the Levant 1906-1966 and 2007.
Mediterranean Topographies Workshop
Mediterranean Topographies (meditopos) is an interdisciplinary Rackham graduate student/faculty workshop which has operated since 2009. Dedicated to an interdisciplinary and trans-historical approach to the Mediterranean, the group meets bi-weekly to discuss works on topics related to the Mediterranean and hosts speakers and discussants from U-M and beyond. http://sitemaker.umich.edu/meditopos/home.
March 17, 2012
Featuring Greg Doran, RSC Chief Associate Director
A retrospective on previous creative residency and its fulfillment on three productions in Stratford.
This event is offered as part of the Creative Residency of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
March 15, 2012
Annual Distinguished Lecture on Europe
Europe is a continent of many states and nations, cultures and languages. The process of integration of the European Union has been trying for more than 50 years to give unity to a patchwork of proud and ancient identities. Today, despite the Euro crisis and many contradictions, Europe is a more cohesive association of States, with a common ground of interests, a common economic perspective and perhaps even the perception of being one single entity.
But nonetheless Europe remains a collection of States, not a community of peoples. It cannot agree on a common vision of its history, it shares no common language and its citizens are often unable to communicate with each other. Instead of developing a supranational identity, European peoples appear to continuously rediscover and revamp ancient local identities, with their own languages and customs, traditions and cultures. This fragmentation is even more aggravated by the migration of more and more substantial non-European communities, speaking non-European languages, who tend not to integrate in the European society but to develop a system of loyalty of their own.
How can Europe build an identity of its own out of this melting pot? On what foundations was national identity built in Europe? Can the building of traditional national identities that led to the creation of the European nation-state be a model for today’s Europe?
Languages play an important role in the definition of European identity. They are associated with the very idea of fatherland and have often been opposed to the languages of other countries in a cultural and also political competition. Language is the distinctive element of each European nation. Languages shape our character, even our face, influence our perception of reality, our approach to problems, our vision of life. The European States were born from wars that traced first religious and then linguistic borders between them. But before the birth of the European nation-state, languages had no clear borders in Europe. They extended as far as their cultural influence could go, often without a clear difference between them in some transnational regions. Today language, territory and flag are still the three tokens of the European nation-state and the three symbols to which every European returns in times of difficulty.
Is it possible to conceive a European identity built on something else than languages? Can languages be shared and become an asset for all Europeans? To disentangle language from identity it is necessary to dismantle many prejudices and false assumptions that go to the very roots of the European cultures, of language teaching and even of civic values. In this framework, the provocation of an artificial mock language that imitates language unity to show its inadequacy for Europe might be of help. The fake language Europanto tries to demolish the dogmas of the European linguistic religion and to question in a satirical way the sacredness of the nation-state.
To have a future, Europe must invent a new form of patriotism, a different model of belonging, a European fatherland based on principles, not on borders, language and territories. In fact, for Europe to be united, the model of the nation-state must be abandoned.
Biography of the Speaker:
Diego Marani was born in Ferrara (Italy) in 1959. He received a degree in classical studies from the Liceo Ludovico Ariosto in Ferrara and in Simultaneous interpretation and Translation at the University of Trieste (Italy), specializing in French and English. He has worked as a translator at the Council of Ministers of the European Union and subsequently as policy officer at the Directorate General for Culture of the European Commission. He now works for the Directorate General for Interpretation of the European Commission, where he is in charge of international cooperation, training and support to universities. Marani has published many novels and essays; New Finnish Grammar, recently translated into English, received the Grinzane-Cavour prize in Italy, and The last of the Vostyaks received the Italian Campiello prize. Diego Marani is also the inventor of a language, Europanto, in which he wrote columns for a number of European newspapers and published a collection of short stories entitled Las adventuras des inspector Cabillot. He is also a columnist, a blogger and commentator for Italian newspapers, including Il Sole 24 Ore, Il Fatto Quotidiano and La Nuova Ferrara.
SHARP Insight Lectures: How Title IX Changed the Game
Associate Professor of Journalism and Associate Director, Curley Center for Sports Journalism, Pennsylvania State University
March 14, 2012
Professor, Haverford College
The stereotype of the newly wealthy, naive and over-friendly Greek American on a short visit to Greece was summed up with the Greek term “Brooklis” — most probably because the first such visitor was from Brooklyn.
There may well be a particular type of Greek American who resides in Brooklyn but he or she does not fit the stereotype.
This lecture and power point presentation explores the relationship between ethnicity and location by examining the ways New York’s most self-assertive, blue-collar and multiethnic borough has shaped the experiences of the many Greek Americans who grew up in Brooklyn.
In doing so it highlights the careers of Greek Americans who gained national prominence growing up in a place where there was no ethnic concentration — no “Greektown” like Detroit’s — and where there was a wide dispersal of the Greeks among several other, larger ethnic groups.
March 10, 2012
Public lecture on the issues that arise when translating a language and culture as distant from our own as is Javanese.
Organized by Susan Pratt Walton of the Residential College, this is part of an interdisciplinary project focusing on wayang (Javanese shadow puppet theater) to complement the winter 2012 LSA theme “Language: the Human Quintessence.” She is bringing to UM a famous wayang troupe headed by puppeteer Ki Purbo Asmoro and his ten professional gamelan musicians who will accompany the wayang. The gamelan is a traditional ensemble of drums, gongs, metalophones, string instruments and singers.
Kathryn Emerson, scholar of Javanese music and theater, will provide spontaneous translation of the improvised performance. She has been working with Ki Purbo for several years and is lauded for her lively and informative translations. The troupe will perform the wayang on March 10. 2011, in the Michigan Union Ballroom. The play they have chosen is part of the famous Ramayana epic. Ms. Emerson will provide a lecture on the issues that arise when translating a language and culture as distant from our own as is Javanese, on March 10, 10:00 AM- noon, Rackham Amphitheater.
See “Javanese Shadow Puppet Theater: Language, Music, Drama and Art” for more information.
March 9, 2012
Susan Pratt Walton of the Residential College has put together an interdisciplinary project focusing on wayang (Javanese shadow puppet theater) to complement the winter 2012 LSA theme “Language: the Human Quintessence.” She is bringing to UM a famous wayang troupe headed by puppeteer Ki Purbo Asmoro and his ten professional gamelan musicians who will accompany the wayang. The gamelan is a traditional ensemble of drums, gongs, metalophones, string instruments and singers. Kathryn Emerson, scholar of Javanese music and theater, will provide spontaneous translation of the improvised performance. She has been working with Ki Purbo for several years and is lauded for her lively and informative translations. The residency of the wayang troupe features a public lecture and three workshops in addition to the performance of the wayang.
March 8, 2012
University of Toronto
The Meaning of Puzzles in Human Mental and Cultural Life
Puzzles have existed since the dawn of history. From riddles and anagrams to today’s Rubik’s Cubes, sudoku, and TV game shows, it seems that humans have engaged in this sort of activity since they became conscious beings. Why? This talk will look at the origins of puzzles and what they tell us about the human mind and how they relate to discoveries in language mathematics, and philosophy. It would seem that we possess a “puzzle instinct” that guides us in our overall search for meaning to life.
February 21, 2012
Brown Bag Lecture by Basil Dufallo
University of Michigan
An influential view of ecphrasis (the description of art objects in literature) consists in treating it primarily as a way for authors to write about writing without appearing to do so. Modern theory and criticism have done much to propagate this perspective, even comparing such self-assertion of text over image to the colonizer’s domination of the colonized, and ancient Roman examples drawn from the major classical Latin texts have often been adduced in support. By contrast, my claim in the book from which this talk is drawn is that in Latin literature ecphrasis is also, and more centrally, about competition between cultures—Greek and Roman, literary and visual. By “competition,” however, I refer to something far more complex and subtle than simply overt, agonistic struggle or attempts at domination.
Roman ecphrasis stages a larger, ambivalent receptivity to Greek culture, a set of changing social attitudes reflecting the rapidly shifting political conditions of the Roman Republic and Principate. The trope is a site of cultural competition both in the way that Roman authors vie to display their receptivity to Greek culture (often for the benefit of patrons who also wish to display such an attitude) and in the way that divergent Roman and Hellenic cultures themselves can be said to compete, through ecphrasis, for influence over a Roman sense of self. But in both cases cultural competition occurs via the author’s receptive postures, as staged within broader cultural circumstances that favor a receptive response, in turn, from contemporary audiences: a broader Roman philhellenism expressed through visual and verbal means.
Basil Dufallo is associate professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan. He is the author of The Captor’s Image: Greek Culture in Roman Ecphrasis (forthcoming), The Ghosts of the Past: Latin Literature, the Dead, and Rome’s Transition to a Principate, and articles on Latin literature and Roman culture. He is also co-editor, with Peggy McCracken, of Dead Lovers: Erotic Bonds and the Study of Premodern Europe.
February 16, 2012
Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads Event: Janice Pagano Of Building Bridges Therapy Center Discusses Speech And Language Development In Children
The theme for Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Reads 2012 is Language: How We Communicate. But, what happens when communication is difficult? Are you concerned about your child’s speech and language development?
Janice Pagano MA CCC Speech Language Pathologist and Clinical Director of Building Bridges Therapy Center will present information about signs and symptoms any parent can look for to determine if there is an area needing further attention. The guidelines presented will be applicable to children of all ages from birth through high school. Handouts, charts and practical rules of thumb will be provided.
Janice Pagano is the Clinical Director of Building Bridges Therapy Center. She has experience with diagnosis and treatment of multiple types of speech and language challenges and also has experience working within school settings.
The University of Chicago
Culture’s Pantomime: The Code of Life-as-Lived
Through bodily movement, a pantomime artist creates a sense of co-presence of objects, persons, etc. in a surrounding envelope of goal-directed social activity. Just so, in any communicative use of language the interacting individuals create a framing sense of “who” they are – sociologically, what social identities they bring to and create in the situation – as well as the “what”—“where”—“when”—“why” of the occasion of their interaction, all through the magic of the “how” of their use of language and its surrounding signals. In every interaction, this at first invisible socio-cultural frame that comes into being is the experienced “reality” of life-as-lived at that moment; its coded regularities, pervading all language, are denoted by the term ‘culture’.
Presentation by Brian Whitener and Martin Vega
Romance Languages and Literatures
University of Michigan
February 15, 2012
The theme for Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Reads 2012 is Language: How We Communicate. Award-winning journalist Stephen G. Bloom, the UM Howard R. Marsh Visiting Professor of Journalism, will discuss how he communicates through non-fiction writing – including his December piece “Observations From 20 Years of Iowa Life” in The Atlantic which set off a firestorm of controversy placing him in the national spotlight. Bloom will also discuss the role of journalists today, touching on the future of journalism and nonfiction writing.
Since 1993, Bloom has been on the faculty of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa, where he is Professor and the Bessie Dutton Murray Professional Scholar. Prior to joining the Iowa faculty, Bloom was a staff writer at the Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News, Los Angeles Times, and Dallas Morning News. He was Brazilian correspondent for the Field News Service and national news editor at the Latin America Daily Post.
He is the author of “Tears of Mermaids: The Secret Story of Pearls,” “The Oxford Project” with photographer Peter Feldstein, “Inside the Writer’s Mind” and “Postville: A Clash of Cultures In Heartland America.” His work has appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, including The Atlantic, Smithsonian, The New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, Wilson Quarterly, Salon, Chronicle of Higher Education, American Journalism Review, International Herald Tribune, Chicago Tribune Magazine, Money, Journal of Health Communication, Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, American Editor, and National Public Radio’s All Things Considered
February 14, 2012
Professor of English and American Literatures, Middlebury College
In 1595 Matteo Ricci composed the first work to be written in Chinese by a European, a treatise on friendship in the classical style which instantly attracted the attention of discerning Chinese literati. This talk discusses the nature of the text and various challenges and insights that arose in the process of preparing its first English edition.
February 8, 2012
Lecturer in imperial history, University of Liverpool
Between 1839 and 1895, Imperial Russia annexed approximately 1,500,000 square miles of territory in Central Asia, an example of European expansion that in speed and scale is matched only by the “Scramble for Africa” or the British annexation of India slightly earlier. Unlike the latter, however, it has generated a very meagre modern historiography, and the interaction of Russian motives, local dynamics, and ideological and technological change which brought it about are still very imperfectly understood. In English-language historiography the dominant interpretation is that of the “Great Game,” asserting that it was designed to threaten the British in India, something which tells us much more about how the British perceived it than it does about either Russian motives or the Central Asian experience of Conquest. In Russian-language writing the emphasis is usually placed on the Moscow textile industry’s need for a secure source of raw cotton and a captive market for Russian manufactured goods, crude economic determinism derived from the works of Lenin rather than from any actual evidence. The paucity of modern research is all the more surprising given the richness of the available sources–not only archival and published documents, but Islamic chronicles, officer memoirs, and military historiography which together represent an earlier, diverse and now largely ignored written legacy. This material is under-used and long overdue a reappraisal, but it has to be handled with caution. In the case of chronicles in Persian and Turkic this is because they are the product of an elite literary tradition more concerned with the internal politics of the Central Asian khanates than with the Russian advance itself. In the Russian case it can be deceptive in at least two respects–firstly because although it involved very small bodies of troops, this was one of the few unequivocally successful military campaigns for Russian arms in the nineteenth century. The weight of published campaign memoirs is thus disproportionate both to the numbers who took part and to the purely military dangers and difficulties they encountered in what was for the most part a classic case of asymmetrical colonial warfare. The other reason is that well before the conquest came to an end it was being quite deliberately narrated and mythologised in official historical works, beginning perhaps with the “Historical Section” of K. P. von Kaufman’s Turkestanskii Al’bom (1871-72) and the campaign histories of the Khiva Expedition of 1873. During his tenure as War Minister the Turkestanskii General Alexei Kuropatkin commissioned both M. A. Terent’ev’s Istoriya Zavoevaniya Srednei Azii (1906) and A. G. Serebrennikov’s vast publication of documents related to the conquest (1908–15). This process reached its peak in 1915, with the memorialisation and commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the fall of Tashkent. The last major article published by Voennyi Sbornik, running for the whole of 1916, even as Central Asia was convulsed by revolt, and still unfinished when the February Revolution broke out, was on the lessons which the Central Asian conquest supposedly held for Russia’s immediate challenges on the Eastern Front. This paper will analyse both the process of composition and the purposes for which these works were used by the Russian military establishment, and attempt to establish what, if any, impact they had on educated society in Russia.
February 3, 2012
2012 CICS Human Rights Fellow
February 2, 2012
The New Yorker
Online Responses to the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest: An Insider’s Take
As the cartoon editor of The New Yorker, I created the caption contest in 1998 and have been running and judging it since then, collecting and analyzing data from over 300 contests and 1.7 million entries with many interesting results about the statistical and textual characteristics of humorous user generated content.
The database has been made available to researchers in the fields of cognitive science and social psychology and yielded many interesting results.
The presentation will review these results to see which, if any, of the current theories of humor best explains them.
Also included in the presentation will be consideration of the forms of meta-humor the caption contest has spawned such as the anti-caption contest in which the objective is to write the worst possible caption and mashup sites which pair New Yorker cartoon images with Kanye West tweets or Charlie Sheen rants.
January 31, 2012
Lecture: Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads Event: Dr. Rick Solomon Discusses Autism: The Brain-Mind Connection
Find out more about autism in this informative lecture by developmental and behavioral pediatrician Rick Solomon MD. In this lecture Dr. Solomon will update participants on the most recent scientific evidence related to autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs). His talk will cover the brain science and genetics of ASDs; demonstrate the diagnostic criteria with video examples; discuss possible causes for the large increase in prevalence, including the controversial relationship between ASD and immunizations/mercury; and overview the evidence for behavioral, developmental, educational and dietary/alternative interventions. His PowerPoint and a list of scientific references will be provided.
January 27, 2012
January 26, 2012
Numbers as tools for thinking
What is the relationship between language and thought? Traditional approaches to this question have staked out extreme positions: either that language determines the shape of the thoughts you can entertain, or else that natural language is only a thin overlay on top of a more basic “language of thought.” Work in the domain of numerical cognition supports a middle view: that language is a tool that can help with complex cognitive tasks by supplementing core non-linguistic numerical abilities. But if number systems are tools, then the way these tools are structured should make a big difference to how they are used and what they are good for. In this talk, I’ll describe cross-linguistic and cross-cultural evidence from Brazil, India, and Papua New Guinea, showing some of the incredible variation in number representations across the world and how these representations affect the cognition of their users.
2011-12 Toyota Visiting Professor, CJS
Professor, History of Japanese Art, Heidelberg University
Do medieval narratives and their pictorializations matter today? In 2007, a scandal at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco involved a 1389 handscroll of the Hachiman narrative, raising questions regarding the relevance of history, the veracity of images, and the politics of display. Beginning with a disciplinary critique and methodological explorations, this paper examines the influential history of the Hachiman legend and its visualizations. Drawing on thick descriptions of three pre-modern handscrolls and popular imagery of the 1870s and 1880s, I argue that the repeated textual and pictorial reinventions were imperative in devotional, individual, institutional and political times of crisis.
January 19, 2012
This 10th annual event focuses on the 2012 Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads book selection Born On A Blue Day: Inside The Mind Of An Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet, and will feature nationally-known Autism Consultant Dr. Julie Donnelly and (via Skype) Dr. Darold Treffert, one of the world’s leading experts on Autistic Savant Syndrome. Arrive early (door open at 6 pm) and spend time interacting with local organizations, many of will center on autism and local related services. Copies of the book will also be for sale.
January 13, 2012
University of California in Berkeley
Language revitalization, civil rights, and modern times
The indigenous language revitalization movement of North America has roots in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960′s. Language loss in indigenous communities is often viewed as the result of linguistic oppression, with the boarding schools being a major example; and the effort to reclaim the lost language is an expression of freedom. At the same time, language loss is moving faster today than ever before, no longer due so much to oppression, but more to modern media and other features of modern American life that leave no room for the mother tongue. We will examine case studies to show how indigenous people are battling to express their right to know and use their languages in the face of the overwhelming pressure from the English language.
January 11, 2012
Lecture: Ann Arbor /Ypsilanti Reads Event: How To Achieve Student Success For Adults And Teens (Grade 6 And Up)
Join us for this session, presented by the UM Center For Human Adjustment, which offers tips to help middle and high school students with language-based learning disabilities, including dyslexia, improve the way they tackle reading and writing assignments, as well as organize themselves and prepare for tests. Do not miss this informative presentation by Karen Wasco, M.S., CCC-SLP.