Faculty Pursue New Avenues of Learning with NEH Grants


Grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities has helped faculty in the School of Arts & Sciences pursue new directions in art, examine the rise of princess culture in the United States, and develop a certificate program in Latin American and Caribbean studies.

The faculty members presented their work to their colleagues on Tuesday, December 10, at Sweeny Student Center.

The certificate program is on pace to be in place by the end of the spring semester, said Dr. Anne McKernan, Associate Professor of History and director of the International Studies Program. McKernan presented with Dr. Daniel Garcia, Associate Professor of History, and Dr. Nereida Segura-Rico, Associate Professor of Spanish.

The group is still working to finalize the capstone course for the certificate, which Garcia said will likely involve work with the significant Latino populations in the New Rochelle and New York City areas.

They also are gathering potential speakers, putting together a library, and reaching out to fellow faculty for courses that might fit into the program. "The school needs it very much," Garcia said. McKernan said the program would likely be the foundation for a future minor.

Faculty took the opportunity to bid farewell to Dr. Maria Rosa Doria Ribeiro, whose yearlong term as Fulbright Scholar is coming to an end. Ribeiro played a large role in developing the certificate program, while teaching numerous courses.

Cristina de Gennaro, Professor of Art, completed a residency program in GlogauAIR in Berlin this past July. The NEH grant allowed her to travel to Germany a week earlier to visit museums in Saxony, and visit the Venice Biennale exhibition in Italy for a week on her way back home.

During her residency, de Gennaro continued work on a series of charcoal drawings she began the previous summer in Taos, New Mexico. That summer marked a shift from drawing figures to landscapes, a change she had wanted to make for some time.

"I wondered what I could draw from the landscape that would express something about my experience as a middle-aged woman relating to some of the issues I had been thinking about in the Medusa series, albeit in a less direct and literal manner," de Gennaro said. She found it in the form of dried sage bushes as they decomposed back into the earth. The drawings, on translucent mylar, are layered with each other and archival ink jet prints. They're cropped so that most viewers can't tell exactly what they are.

These drawings inspired de Gennaro to view paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, a 19th-century Romantic landscape painter, while in Germany. She also visited many of the subjects of his work, on the "Painter's Path" in Saxony National Park. But where Friedrich sought the sublime, de Gennaro said her recent work represent "a kind of underside to the sublime."

Dr. Amy Bass, Professor of History, shared the development of an Honors seminar called American Princess: Once Upon a Time, an exploration of the rise of "girlie-girl" culture.

The course was largely inspired by "Cinderella Ate My Daughter," a book by Peggy Orenstein that "reveals the dark side of a pretty and pink culture confronting girls at every turn as they grow into adults."

Bass noted that there has been renewed interest in fairy tales across all genres -- movies, TV, comic books, and Broadway, to name a few. Students worked backwards from current pop culture, to their origins as folk tales.

"The course became a real exercise in understanding knowledge, how we know what we know," Bass said.