JHI Home
About Us
Research Communities
Fellowships & Calls for Funding
Working Groups
Humanities At UofT
Events and Exhibitions

2014-15 Faculty Research Fellows

The Chancellor Jackman Research Fellowships in the Humanities

Jackman Humanities Institute Research Fellows
Research Fellows hold an office on the 10th floor of the Jackman Humanities Building and are central members of a Circle of Fellows.  They are University of Toronto tenured faculty members by the time of their fellowship, chosen for their distinction in achievements relative to their career stage, the excellence of their proposed project, and its relation to the annual theme for 2014—2015.

Humour, Play, and Games
A distinctive human quality is our sense of humour, and our attraction to play and to games. Play is central to such fields as literature, music, poetry, art, and film. Humour can, of course, be very serious: a powerful critique, a source of strength to survive, a tool for building solidarity, and a means of drawing and redrawing limits. But humour also poses a challenge to the serious. Today, when scholarship needs to justify itself and time is money, what room is left for play and humour? Can they be justified along functional and economic lines (e.g. play is the seedbed of the genuinely new) or must we resist justification in the name of play itself? What is an old joke worth? Games can be both competitive and collaborative, and play is structured by the virtual spaces games create. Playing games and studying games fosters new modes of knowledge. This theme will allow all disciplines, those that have long-recognized the aesthetic importance of humour and play and those that traditionally have not, to intersect with new thinking about games, and so explore a full range of serious (and sometimes funny) play.

Download long announcement of 12-month fellowships with project descriptions [pdf]

Download short announcement of 12-month and 6-month fellowships [pdf]

Simon Dickie, Department of English
Simon Dickie is Associate Professor of English. He is the author of Cruelty and Laughter: Forgotten Comic Literature and the Unsentimental Eighteenth Century  (Chicago, 2011) and of numerous articles on early modern comic literature, the novel, the history of sexuality, and related topics. His JHI fellowship project will be the second in a series of three studies of humour in literature; the third is titled The Comic Rise of the European Novel. 
Serious Word Play:  Eighteenth-Century Literature and the Mysteries of Style
My new book, Serious Word Play: Eighteenth-Century Literature and the Mysteries of Style, will create an updated set of tools for analyzing stylistic effects across the entire range of 18th-century texts. I proceed through five case studies, each of them a mainstream 18th-century linguistic practice that readers now struggle to comprehend. I begin with the ubiquitous echoes of the King James Bible and Anglican ritual. The problem here is not the allusions themselves, but their astonishing range of tones, from pious citation at one extreme, through idle puns and half-affectionate parodies to true profanity at the other. Second, I stress the prominence and immediate comprehensibility of verse in 18th-century Britain. This was an intensely metrical culture, one in which couplets and quatrains were as comprehensible as prose sentences and came just as easily. My third case study is the largely forgotten practice of reading aloud and its profound effect on the sound, patterns of emphasis, and timing of now familiar texts. Fourth, I explore a neglected tradition of extravagantly non-realist prose, stretching from Nashe to Sterne and taking in a large cluster of translated comic texts, including James Mabbe’s Guzmán de Alfarache and Thomas Urquhart’s Rabelais. Finally, I describe seven distinctively early modern forms of innuendo, from bawdy suggestiveness to parenthesis, typographic puns, and different forms of repetition (as practiced especially by Henry Fielding). The cumulative result will be a detailed reader’s guide to five lost chapters in the history of English style.

Thomas Hurka, Department of Philosophy
Thomas Hurka is University Professor and holds the Chancellor Henry N.R. Jackman Distinguished Chair in Philosophical Studies. He works in moral and political philosophy and is the author of Perfectionism (1993), Principles: Short Essays on Ethics (1993), Virtue, Vice, and Value (2001), and The Best Things in Life (2011), as well as many articles in philosophy journals; among their topics have been population ethics, the rationality of regret, the value of games, and proportionality in the morality of war. From 1989-92 he wrote a weekly ethics column for The Globe and Mail newspaper.
Games and Play
My project will explore (i) what games and play are, (ii) how they're intrinsically good and contribute directly to the value of a life, and (iii) how they relate to each other. Are games and play completely separate concepts or are they somehow essentially linked? My starting-point will be the analysis of games in Bernard Suits's brilliant The Grasshopper: Games, Life, and Utopia (1978), whose republication I recently arranged and which has been the subject of much recent philosophical discussion. I'll ask how far Suits's understanding of games can withstand the recent critiques of it and where and how it needs emendation; I'll also examine his related views about play. Among the more specific topics I'll discuss are the difference between the rules of a game and moral rules, whether or when reading a novel can be a game, and the difference between the philosophers' analytic approach to games and play and the more combinatory approaches of influential non-philosophical theorists such as Johan Huizinga and Roger Caillois. My ultimate aim will to be to discover what, after Suits's and others' discussions, the most adequate understanding of games and play is.

Louis Kaplan, UTM Department of Visual Studies
Louis Kaplan is Professor of History and Theory of Photography and New Media. He is recognized internationally for his innovative historical and theoretical contributions to the field of photography studies in such areas as spirit photography, photography and community, photographic humour, the New Vision, and photography theory.  He has published three scholarly books in the field of photography studies – Laszlo Moholy-Nagy: Biographical Writings (Duke, 1995), American Exposures: Photography and Community in the Twentieth Century (Minnesota, 2005), and The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer (Minnesota, 2008). He has maintained an abiding interest in the role of humor in art and culture for over twenty-five years beginning with his first co-authored book on the animated cartoon and pop cultural icon Gumby: The Authorized Biography of the World’s Favorite Clayboy (Harmony, 1986). More recently, his essay on the significance of laughter in the philosophy of Georges Bataille was included in John Welchman’s edited volume Black Sphinx: The Comedic in Modern Art (Ringier, 2010). Professor Kaplan’s commissioned entry on the subject of “Humour in Art” will be published in Oxford University Press’ Encyclopedia of Aesthetics (2nd edition) in 2014. In 2013-2014 he is Visiting Scholar at the Center for Jewish History in New York where he is completing a book manuscript (At Wit’s End) that examines how jüdische Witz (Jewish wit and the Jewish joke) was utilized as a rhetorical figure by a range of writers of different ideological persuasions in the larger cultural debate about the Jewish question in Germany and the German-speaking lands of Central Europe from the Weimar Republic to the Holocaust (and beyond). Louis Kaplan also collaborates with Melissa Shiff on the SSHRC-sponsored digital art and humanities project Mapping Ararat (www.mappingararat.com) that utilizes augmented reality to imagine an alternative Jewish homeland on Grand Island, New York.
Photography and Humour: Laughter Through Four Lenses
What are the ways in which photography as a visual and narrative medium induces laughter and provides amusement? How does photographic humour specifically mock and subvert basic premises of the medium and the ways in which photography’s being in the world has been articulated? Photography and Humour addresses such questions with each of its four core chapters providing a different lens that focuses on a way by which photography has been conceptualized and how these serious attempts to locate photographic meaning have been mocked and lampooned via a particular type of humour. The first chapter looks at humour that makes fun of photography’s role in identity formation and identification. The second chapter explores humour that mocks the assumption that photography offers a certain and infallible discourse of truth and reference (“seeing is believing”). The third lens focuses on the familial and social functions of photography to engage with an amiable style of photographic humour that plays off such conceits. The final chapter turns to the common association made about photography’s relations with death and mortality. This reveals a darker type of humour that is not afraid to laugh in the face of death. The book will contain 80 – 100 photographic images to illustrate its argument and also engage issues and questions related to curatorial practice. Therefore, I also suggest the possibility of curating a selection of photographs in a small exhibition to generate concrete reflection and interactive discussion with significant examples of this modern mode of mass visual entertainment.

Katherine Larson, UTSC Department of English
Katherine Larson is Associate Professor of English. Her research and teaching centre on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature and culture, with particular interests in early modern women’s writing, gender and language, rhetoric and embodiment, and music (especially opera and song). Her first book, Early Modern Women in Conversation, featured in Palgrave Macmillan’s Early Modern Literature in History series, considers how gender shaped conversational strategies and spaces in England between 1590 and 1660. She has published essays on Mary Wroth, Mary Sidney, Aemilia Lanyer, and Margaret Cavendish, as well as on musical topics ranging from Benjamin Britten’s operatic adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the songs pervading Moulin Rouge. She has also co-edited three special issues: Operatics: The Interdisciplinary Workings of Opera and The Song Is You: Opera, Lyrics, and Literary Studies, both for the University of Toronto Quarterly, and Gendering Time and Space in Early Modern England, for Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme. Her current book project integrates her training as a singer in its exploration of gender, song performance, and rhetorical affect in the early modern context.
The Ludic Function of Song in Early Modern England
My research contributes to a fuller understanding of the musical facets of play and the playful facets of song by probing the rhetorical significance of song and of the singing body in early modern English literature and culture. The goals of this research program are twofold: 1) the completion of my current book project, “Blest pair of Sirens…Voice and Verse”: The Rhetoric of Song in Early Modern England, and 2) the development of a CD recording, which I intend to release as a companion publication to the monograph. This two-pronged study makes an important critical intervention in its attention to song as a multi-dimensional genre encompassing lyric text, musical setting, and moments of embodied performance within specific sociocultural and textual spaces. My work will focus especially on the playful force of the singing body, which has too often been overlooked in literary and musicological discussions of early modern song. Even in the absence of early modern singing voices, song texts, visual art, and literary and cultural documents provide rich evidence of the affective, performative, and fundamentally ludic potency of song. My research seeks to animate such traces in order to consider how song—confronted in its full acoustic and visual splendor—contributes to the rhetorical work performed by musical play in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England.


Jackman Humanities Institute Six-Month Research Leaves

Tenure-stream or tenured faculty at the University of Toronto, each receives a six-month leave from the normal teaching and administrative duties in order to undertake research (including travel) on the project proposed in their application, and are chosen for demonstrated excellence of their record of scholarship and the merit of the research proposal.

Download long announcement of 6-month fellowships with project descriptions [pdf]
Mathew Farish (Ph.D. UBC 2003, Geography) is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography & Program in Planning. His research concerns the relationship between militarism, militarization, and geographical knowledge, with an emphasis on the twentieth-century United States. His book The Contours of America’s Cold War (University of Minnesota Press, 2010) was called “indispensable” (Society and Space) and “among the best contextual, critical histories of geographical knowledge yet produced” (Environment and Planning A).  He is currently at work on two book-length projects. The first, scheduled for completion in 2014, is a co-written history of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, the enormous radar network built across the North American Arctic in the 1950s. The product of ten years of research, the book will be the first comprehensive history of this singular northern monument to militarization and modernization. The second book is a sole-authored study of the American military’s study and simulation of ‘hostile environments’ in the twentieth century. These two projects have received support from SSHRC, the American Geographical Society, the Arctic Institute of North America, and the University of Toronto’s Connaught Fund.
Simulating War, Simulating Nature
This project is a history of environmental research conducted by the United States armed forces during the twentieth century. At root, the project is a history of three enduring geographic categories – Arctic, Desert, and Tropic – scrutinized and shaped by U.S. military scientists as they considered survival and combat in non-temperate settings. As the U.S. War Department, and later the Defense Department, embarked on an unprecedented global expansion, its researchers gathered knowledge about distant realms. But they also supplemented this with new knowledge, using laboratories and testing grounds to simulate both climatic conditions and military operations under these conditions. During and immediately after the Second World War, in particular, several of these facilities drew geographers, anthropologists, physiologists, psychologists and explorers to the study of ‘hostile environments’. At the heart of their investigations was an antagonistic relationship between soldiers and the spaces through which they moved, fought, and lived. This relationship was dramatized in scientific simulations staged with the aim of defeating or suppressing both human and natural opponents. But the environmental and social knowledge generated in the making and execution of these games was not only put to use within the Defense Department; my project follows this knowledge out of the laboratories and testing grounds where it was crafted and defined, and considers its influence on more popular forms of geographic discourse.

Sean Mills (Ph.D. 2008 Queen’s University, History) is Assistant Professor in the Department of History. He is a historian engaged in interdisciplinary and transnational research, with interests that include postcolonial thought, migration, race, gender, and the history of empire and oppositional movements.  He is currently working on a history of Quebec’s relationship with Haiti, which will focus both on Quebec’s presence in Haiti throughout the 20th century, as well as on the transformation of Montreal into a central site for the Haitian diaspora.  His articles have appeared in journals such as The Canadian Historical Review, Histoire Sociale/Social History, Mens: Revue d’histoire intellectuelle de l’Amérique française, as well as national and international collections of essays. In 2009 he co-edited New World Coming: The Sixties and the Shaping of Global Consciousness, a major collection of essays reassessing the meaning, impact, and global reach of the period’s social movements.  In 2010 he published The Empire Within: Postcolonial Thought and Political Activism in Sixties Montreal, a book exploring the local particularities and global dimensions of political and intellectual movements during the decade.  The book received the Quebec Writers’ Federation First Book Award (2010), as well as an Honourable Mention for the Canadian Historical Association’s Sir John A. MacDonald Award (2011), given out annually for the best book in Canadian History.  In 2011, Les Éditions Hurtubise published the book in French translation, entitled Contester l'empire. Pensée postcoloniale et militantisme politique à Montréal, 1963-1972.
Language Race and Status: Haitian Migration and Modern Quebec
My project will explore how transnational flows of people and ideas have shaped the development of Quebec society. The project will offer a new perspective on Quebec’s Quiet Revolution by looking at French-Canadian missionaries’ activities in Haiti following the Second World War, the intellectual and cultural contributions of Haitian exiles and writers in 1960s Montreal, and the role played by the second wave of Haitian migrants in the 1970s and 1980s in shaping Quebec culture and society.  A central theme will be the connections between language, race, and debates about immigration.  In Haiti, French is the language of power, and arriving into the linguistically divided world of Montreal, in which French was associated with victimization, was often destabilizing to Haitian migrants.  Yet because Haitian migrants were seen to integrate into the French-speaking community, they played a highly symbolic role in Quebec’s shifting immigration policies.  After looking at the influence of Haitian writers and activists in the literary and intellectual sphere, the study will examine two major crises regarding the planned deportation of hundreds of Haitians without legal status, and the efforts made to regularize their status. Through a study of these two critical moments, the proposed project will analyze the role of migrant communities in shaping debates about immigration, race, language, and national belonging. By investigating the complex interactions between global and local politics, as well as between groups of different ethnic origin, the proposed project will offer crucial historical context to discussions about immigration and race in Quebec today.

Meng Yue (Ph.D. 2000 UCLA, History) is Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies.  Engaging with China’s significant transitions during the recent two centuries, her work evolves into a few research fronts ranging from cultural productions of space, literary criticism, urban cultural history, women’s writings, history of science and technology and eco-cultural studies. She is the author of Shanghai and the Edge of Empires: The Reposition of Chinese Cosmopolitanism, 1800-1927 (University of Minnesota Press, 2006), as well as of several books and articles on these topics.

The Bonds of Living Things
My fellowship will support research and writing on a book-length project that investigates the competing modes of cultural production of human-nature connections (and disconnections) in modern China and related parts of the world. Both “human” and “nature” are treated as relational, plural concepts here. As the former is informed with concepts that have unfolded beyond the legacy of Renaissance humanism, the latter with the ongoing critique of capitalist production of nature and with the ethical and social efforts of reconstructing the ecology. The project takes as its task to place the global environmental crisis back to humanity's self-understanding, seeing the destruction of nature an ultimate consequence of the ethical, aesthetic, scientific and socio-political productions of the human and human communities. The modes of these self-contradictory productions of the human (and nature) are often captured in those tropes or historical roles featuring human communities’ work on nature and nonhuman inhabitants. My project therefore focuses on four important sets of such roles that have (re)surfaced somewhat chronologically in the Chinese context during the past two centuries. These include “the botanists,” “the agronomists,” “the growers,” and “the waste man.” I engage with the ethical, aesthetic, technical, socio-cultural and political dimensions of the problematic production of these four sets of tropes in China through investigating botanical knowledge, agronomic and agro-political works, historical and social constructions of “landed wealth”, as well as related textual and visual materials. I have currently completed most research for three chapters and will use the fellowship to revise the drafts of two and half chapters and write the fourth.

About JHI | Contact JHI | UofT | Follow us on Twitter twitter icon

Copyright © 2011-2014 University of Toronto. Jackman Humanities Institute. All Rights Reserved.
Tel: (416) 978-7415 Fax: (416) 946-7434, 170 St. George Street, Tenth Floor, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5R 2M8