Mark Dries’ dissertation examines how indigenous conceptions of health influenced the labor regime in the mercury mines of Huancavelica, Peru during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As the only American source of the mercury needed to refine silver, Huancavelica was singularly important to the colonial mining economy and by extension, the Spanish Empire. Descriptions of Huancavelica, from colonial accounts to modern historical analyses, focus exclusively on the victimization of conscripted indigenous laborers in the toxic environment of the mines. Dries posits that scholars have assumed that the mines’ toxicity limited the opportunity for resistance and negotiation and, thus, have failed to consider the different ways in which Early Modern Europeans and indigenous Andeans understood the dangers of subterranean labor in Huancavelica. In contrast, Dries analyzes colonial documents from regional and local archives to show how worker health emerged as a distinctly colonial idiom deployed and manipulated by various interests in pursuit of their often conflicting goals. By integrating his study of the Quechua language and Andean culture into his work on the history of Huancavelica, Dries explores how indigenous and Early Modern conceptions of well-being ascribed meaning to conflicts over labor, and vice versa, making debates over worker health the crucial site of indigenous contestation of colonial labor demands.
In her dissertation, Jennings explores medieval instruction in grammar and rhetoric as a means for understanding and interpreting performance in the Middle Ages. Rather than assuming a “third wall” in the theater, medieval drama relied on a dynamic relationship between performer and audience in which the actor’s body functioned as a medium for transforming the audience’s emotions as a way of making meaning. Jennings argues that this interest in the body as a medium of communication was shaped in large part by the educational practices of the medieval classroom. Using treatises on conduct, grammar, and rhetoric; school notebooks; poetry composed for pedagogical purposes; and other material related to education, she examines performance’s essential role in classroom instruction as well as how pedagogical practices shaped educated readers’ and viewers’ encounters with performance outside the classroom. Her project explores how classroom exercises and performances shared with popular drama a reliance on sensory experience as a means of instruction, and then turns to examine how individual plays interrogated the relationship between performance, knowledge, and the bodies of the audience and performers.
Drawing on theories of performance and cognition, Jennings’s dissertation casts into relief productive correspondences between premodern and postmodern theorizations of the mind, the body, and the performer. Her project uses medieval drama, which actively incorporated the audience into the play, as a fruitful site for considering how performance creates empathy among performers and audience.
Cognitive theory’s investigation of how embodied minds interpret the actions of others serves as a framework for her exploration of medieval theorizations and practices of performance as dynamic, embodied communication.
The dramatic rise in theatrical representations of female soldiers raises urgent questions about how gender and war interact to circulate new political discourses about women in the U.S. military, as well as larger feminist dialogues about violence, citizenship, and power in American society. I argue that the onstage image of the female soldier is the most resonant and divisive cultural strategy today for interrogating American society vis-à-vis post-Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts. While American news media and popular entertainment showcase female soldiers as eternal victims in cycles of sexual, psychological, economic, and social oppression, theatrical representations of female soldiers forge a new frontier of activist theater that engages radical coalition politics to incite audiences to alter the current political culture of the United States..
Andrew Kalaidjian, English, UC Santa Barbara
Places of Rest: Modernism and Environmental Recovery
Places of Rest argues that literary modernism’s presentation of human fragility amidst exhausted environments challenged problematic industrial and imperial narratives of unlimited progress and contributed to the rise of ecological awareness and recovery efforts in the 20th century. The project outlines a modernist aesthetic of slowness, immediacy and introspection alongside a cultural history of nature protection in the United Kingdom, drawing on the archives of the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves, founded in 1912, which invoked a threatening rhetoric of Nature’s total exhaustion under the march of modern development. Faced with the restless and inescapable forces of modernization, writers shifted away from the withdrawn, “restful contemplation” of Immanuel Kant and the Romantics and moved towards an increasingly materialist attention to the world as an immersive stream of human and nonhuman connections that are interdependent and all too often hierarchical in problematic ways. The Anglophone novel, in particular, as it develops through D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Jean Rhys and Chinua Achebe, becomes increasingly attuned to constructions of personal, social and planetary identity in relation to environmental control and exploitation. Highlighting the physical limitations that deny autonomy to human life, these writers communicate the unsustainability of relentless modernization and foreground the importance of recovery and regeneration for ecological and communal wellbeing.