Op-ed: ‘Death is having a moment’ in Academia.

We live everyday with the signs of death’s inevitability: aging bodies, decaying buildings, dead flowers. The everyday-ness of death, or what sociologist Zygmunt Bauman calls “living with death,” is always with us and, yet, also is somehow kept in the background as we go about our daily routines. Our own deaths in particular are events that, under normal circumstances, we try to put off for as long as possible.

And then there are deaths that are not “everyday” in quite the same way, the kinds that result from illness (physical or psychological), war or natural disasters. Approaches to the causes and kinds of deaths that humans have faced throughout history — be they medical, environmental, social or political — are essential variables in a wide range of academic disciplines, spanning the humanities, social sciences, arts and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.

Courses in “death studies” have become extremely popular on university campuses while the recently founded “Death Café movement” is bringing people together in cafes around the world to foster “an awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.”

– Written by Karen Bassi. Article appeared in The Daily Pilot, on February 15, 2015.

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Mediterranean Post-Doc Position at UC Santa Cruz

The History of Art and Visual Culture Department (havc.ucsc.edu), at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) invites applications for the position of postdoctoral scholar – employee position in Mediterranean Studies predating the Early Modern Period. We seek a scholar who works on the visual production of Mediterranean societies beyond the traditional confines of art history and archeology, and studies the socio-cultural role of visual communication in areas such as the formation and impact of class, gender, sexuality, political or cultural affiliations, ritual, religion or ethnic identity. An interest in cross-cultural interactions and an interdisciplinary approach are highly desired. Some teaching experience at the university level is required. We are interested in candidates who can contribute to the diversity and excellence of our academic community through their research and teaching.

Under the mentorship of Maria Evangelatou, the finalist is expected to be active in research during this one-year term, and to interact with members of the UC Mediterranean Studies Research Project who work in our university and on other UC campuses. The successful applicant will also participate in teaching undergraduate classes in areas not currently offered in our curriculum, such as the civilizations of Bronze Age Aegean, Ancient Greece and Rome, Egypt, Phoenicia, the Persian Empire, Western medieval or Islamic cultures. The successful applicant will teach three consecutive five-unit courses in the undergraduate core curriculum as a lecturer. This competitive postdoctoral position emphasizes teaching responsibilities and provides the opportunity to enhance one’s experience in working with students from a wide range of social and cultural backgrounds. The scholar will hold two university appointments. The primary appointment will be as a postdoctoral scholar at 100%. When teaching, the postdoctoral scholar appointment will be reduced and a lecturer position will be added (lecturer appointment usually 37.5% for a five unit course). At no time will the appointment drop below 100%.

HAVC supports the investigation of art and visual culture across a wide variety of theoretical perspectives in the cultures of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Mediterranean and the Pacific Islands. As part of a vibrant community of faculty and graduate students in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, we encourage collaborative projects and foster innovative research. The successful applicant will have opportunities to share research interests and present work in progress in a number of contexts, including HAVC’s graduate program in visual studies.

UCSC is located among redwood forests and meadows overlooking Monterey Bay, along California’s Central Coast, in close proximity to Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. The campus currently operates on a schedule of three 11-week quarters per academic year.

RANK: Postdoctoral Scholar – Employee/Lecturer

SALARY: $42,840-$45,000, commensurate with qualifications and experience + $5,000 research account from the Arts Excellence Research Fund

BASIC QUALIFICATIONS: Ph.D. by July 1, 2015.

PREFERRED QUALIFICATIONS: University-level teaching experience.


TERM OF APPOINTMENT: One year. For appointments within the University of California, the total duration of an individual’s postdoctoral service may not exceed five years, including service at other institutions.

TO APPLY: Applications are accepted via the UCSC Academic Recruit online system, and must include 1) a letter of application outlining scholarly background as well as current and future research plans; 2) curriculum vitae; 3) a current publication or writing sample (chapter of dissertation if no publications); 4) descriptions or syllabi for three courses (one large lecture, one small lecture, one seminar); 5) three current confidential letters of recommendation.* Applicants are invited to submit a statement addressing their past and/or potential contributions to diversity through research, teaching and/or service. Documents/materials must be submitted as PDF files.

Apply at https://recruit.ucsc.edu/apply/JPF00244 Refer to Position #JPF00244-15T in all correspondence.

*All letters will be treated as confidential per University of California policy and California state law. For any reference letter provided via a third party (i.e., dossier service, career center), direct the author to UCSC’s confidentiality statement at http://apo.ucsc.edu/confstm.htm.

CLOSING DATE: Review of applications will begin on April 1, 2015 To ensure full consideration, applications should be complete by this date. The position will remain open until filled, but not later than 6/30/2016.

The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, or protected veteran status. UC Santa Cruz is committed to excellence through diversity and strives to establish a climate that welcomes, celebrates, and promotes respect for the contributions of all students and employees. Inquiries regarding the University’s equal employment opportunity policies may be directed to: Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064; (831) 459-2686.

Under Federal law, the University of California may employ only individuals who are legally able to work in the United States as established by providing documents as specified in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Certain UCSC positions funded by federal contracts or sub-contracts require the selected candidate to pass an E-Verify check. More information is available here or from the Academic Personnel Office (APO) at (831) 459-4300.

UCSC is a smoke & tobacco-free campus.

If you need accommodation due to a disability, please contact the Academic Personnel Office at apo@ucsc.edu (831) 459-4300.

BEYOND. Death and Afterlife in Ancient Greece

Exhibit: “BEYOND. Death and Afterlife in Ancient Greece”

BEYOND. Death and Afterlife in Ancient Greece

Through the 120 objects from 21 Greek and international museums emerges one of the most important issues that puzzled and continues to concern humans; the fate of the immortal soul after the death of the mortal body. The descriptions in the Homeric epics of the underworld as they were depicted on ancient works of different periods is the starting point of this exhibition.

As epilogue, the Platonic concepts –which mark the shift of perceptions on the divine element– both as development and in contrast to the Homeric beliefs. The show will be divided into 5 thematic sections: The moment of death, Burial Customs, Homeric Hades, Bacchic-Orphic Hades and Platonic Hades.

BEYOND. Death and Afterlife in Ancient Greece runs from November 12, 2014 – August 2, 2015 at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, Greece.

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Karen Bassi

Update from Karen Bassi

Karen BassiI am directing a UCHRI Research Residency in fall 2015 on the topic of The History Mortality: Interdisciplinary Approaches. The call for applications for the Residency — with a description — can be found at http://uchri.org/cfps/residential-research-group-fellowship-f2015/. The deadline for applying is February 11, 2015.

As a lead up to the Residency, I will also be directing a workshop on this topic to be held at the UCHRI in January 2015.

I am teaching a senior seminar this term (fall 2014) on the topic of “Ghosts in Pre- and Early-Modern Literature.” This course deals with the ways in which ghosts function as heuristic devices in literature, not only as characters in a variety of genres but also as figures for the effects of aesthetic experience. The course stems directly from discussions that took place during the Institute this summer and incorporates a number of readings and artifacts studied during the Institute.

Together with two other colleagues from the Institute, Deborah Lyons and Renee Calkins, I have submitted a successful panel proposal to the annual meeting of the Classical Association of Great Britain; the meeting will take place April 10-13, 2015 at the University of Bristol. The name of our panel is The Mortal Body and its Afterlives.

I’ve been invited to give a paper at a conference at Wellesley College in May 2015. The conference is on the topic of “House and Home.” My paper, titled “Domesticating Death: “The House of Hades,” will explore a variety of Greek texts and artifacts in which the houses of the dead and the houses of the living suggest a compensatory homology between these two separate realms. The paper is directly related to the work we did during the summer Institute.

I am also in the very early planning stages with NEH participant Gretchen Henderson for an NEH Institute in Washington DC on the role of museums in humanistic research and teaching. More on this as the planning progresses!

Karen Bassi is Professor of Literature and Classics at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Gretchen Henderson

Update from Gretchen E. Henderson

• Preparation for the opera performance at MIT of my libretto, Cassandra in the Temples, composed by the Guggenheim-winning composer Elena Ruehr for the Grammy-winning vocal ensemble, Roomful of Teeth. I will be sharing my experience from the institute with classes through my Visiting Artist residency. The Institute and immersion in Greece also provided ideas for future staging.

• The experience helped to shape a commissioned exhibition essay on the artwork of Sanda Iliescu (Associate Professor of Architecture & Art at the University of Virginia), also forthcoming as a chapbook from Gallery Molly Krom in New York City. Additionally, Sanda and I are undertaking a larger writing and art collaboration called “Correspondences.”

• Although the Institute didn’t change my draft of Ugliness: A Cultural History for Reaktion Books, the experience certainly animated the material and issues!

• The Institute’s immersion in museums will be useful to share for my spring course at Georgetown University on “Writing and the Museum.”

Gretchen E. Henderson is a writer who works at the intersection of literature, creative writing, book history, art history, museum studies, disability studies, and music. She is an Affiliated Scholar at Kenyon College.

Yurie Hong

Update from Yurie Hong

Yurie HongI am currently working on a book about childbirth in archaic and classical Greek literature. Given that maternal and infant mortality rates in antiquity were very high and inevitably shaped the way that ancient Greeks thought about and represented birth, the topic of this seminar could not have been more fitting. Participation in this institute has enabled me to think broadly about the entire book project and has also contributed significantly to the chapter on childbirth and funerary commemoration.

I am also in the process of designing a January term course on ancient and modern responses to death, grief, and commemoration. I will be able to use my firsthand experience of site visits in Greece as comparanda for students’ consideration of the St. Peter cemetery, the columbarium on campus, and Reconciliation Park in Mankato commemorating the execution site of 38 Native Americans following the 1862 Sioux Uprising, still the largest mass execution on US soil. Such cross-cultural comparisons and direct encounters with monuments and commemorative space will provide students with opportunities to reflect on the ways that death impacts personal experience and communal identity across an array of times, places, and cultures.

Yurie Hong is an Associate Professor of Classics at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota.

Robert Pirro

Update from Robert Pirro

Robert PirroDarby and I have been emailing back and forth about a collaborative project on the topic of hero cult in Plato. This project takes as its starting points a preliminary cut at the subject that I presented as a political science conference paper back in 2006, Darby’s prior research on lamentation, Darby’s NEH presentation on katabasis in Plato, and my NEH presentation contrasting immortality and eternity as responses to the challenges of political life. We hope to reconsider conventional readings of Plato’s hostility toward politics by investigating the relationships in his work and life between hero cult, poetry, and philosophic notions of eternity.

Robert Pirro is Professor of Political Science at Georgia Southern University.

Jennifer Eyl

Update from Jennifer Eyl

Jennifer EylI am doing two things that pertain to our NEH Institute. I am revamping my class, Life After Death in Western History (tentative course title), which I will be teaching in Fall 2015. I am also reworking part of my book manuscript, to include an analysis of the apostle Paul’s promises of immortality to gentile followers. This section of the book will probably first be a conference paper for next year’s SBL or APA/SCS.

Jennifer Eyl is Assistant Professor of Religion at Tufts University.

Edward Clayton

Update from Edward Clayton

Edward ClaytonI am currently working on a proposal for a study abroad course in Athens for my home institution of Central Michigan University that will hopefully start in the Summer 2016 semester. Michael Wedde and the Athens Centre staff have been extremely helpful with my work on it so far. That’s the main thing I’ve done with my experience to date although there will be research/writing that’s going to emerge as well.

Ted Clayton is a member of the Political Science Department at Central Michigan University.

Jennifer Glancy

Update from Jennifer A. Glancy

Jennifer GlancyI applied to the institute in order to work on teaching projects, and that’s what I’ve done.

I have received an internal grant from Le Moyne College to develop a First Year Seminar on Mortality and Immortality. I’m eager to be part of ongoing conversations with institute participants and others who have integrated mortality into their curricula.

At the institute, I presented on another course in development, “The Future of Being Human,” which will be offered for five successive semesters, beginning in Spring 2015. Mortality will be one thread in the story that course teaches. I anticipate that “The Future of Being Human” will have a significant impact, enrolling 100 students a semester (large by Le Moyne students), featuring both large lecture sessions and more intimate seminar sessions. I’m not sure whether that material can be digested in a form for the website, but I did want to let you know that the institute will inform my teaching in that context as well–the syllabus approved for the spring includes some readings we did as well as readings suggested by other participants when I presented. With the somewhat improbable title of “McDevitt Core Professor” (I’m not much for titles, but there it is), I have some resources for the course; at some point may be able to invite one or two institute participants to join us for a night or two–I’ll keep you posted if that works out.

Right now teaching is at the heart of my professional agenda. I’m keeping up a steady stream of articles, but largely in response to specific invitations. I have resisted some (tempting) offers from presses to work on larger projects–I don’t want to begin my next book until I’m passionate about what I’m working on. At this point I anticipate that mortality (and related questions of what it means to be human) will be central to that project, but I’m taking my time to think it through…

I want you to know that the institute made a significant impact.

Jennifer A. Glancy is the McDevitt Core Professor and Professor of Religious Studies at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York.