Last week, the Department of Religious Studies hosted its annual Undergraduate Research Symposium at Gorgas Library. Students from Religious Studies courses collaborated with advisors on written projects before presenting their work at the event. The unique topics, challenging question-answer portion, and free coffee made for a refreshing Friday morning. Professors, alumni, MA students, and undergraduates used social media to keep up with the event.
Last week, Professors Steven Ramey and Vaia Touna sat down to discuss their involvement with the Culture on the Edge research group and blog, along with their two book series. Though the discussion was intended to focus on Prof. Touna’s recent addition to the published series, it naturally led to a conversation on the implications of fabricating origins and identity.
Last semester Prof. Merinda Simmons mentored graduate student Alex Ates in an independent study — a program designed to help students earn credit while researching specific material that typically manifests into a conclusive project.
Alex, an MFA student in the Department of Theatre and Dance, compiled data on the Free Southern Theater before writing a compelling essay on the groups’ confrontation of “American moral contradictoriness”. The community theater group was founded in Mississippi in 1963 with the goal of combining art and politics on stage to promote social justice across the American South.
At the end of the semester, Alex compiled his research in a paper titled, “Powerful Contradictions on Charged Stages: Theater Revolutions in the Jim Crow South”. The project recently led to his selection as the 2019 Graduate Student Winner of the Southeastern Theatre Conference Young Scholar Award. He will present his paper at the 2019 SETC Young Scholars Panel Presentation in Nashville, TN.
Alex’s Independent Study with Prof. Simmons was not his first time working with the Religious Studies Department. Last year, he consulted with another faculty member, Prof. Altman, before successfully directing The Christiansin the fall semester. His career as a graduate student at the University of Alabama and his recent nomination as the SETC Young Scholar Award Winner demonstrates his skill for researching, writing, directing, and acting.
The discourse of modernism has conventionally been dominated by a limiting attention to aesthetics, form, experimentation, and canon, often treated as standalone objects that capture the essence of modernist art — but what if we focus instead on social politics as a driving force behind the modernist movement? What new perspective might be gained if we unite the typically separated categories of aesthetics and politics? In their forthcoming book, Race and New Modernisms, REL Prof. Merinda Simmons and English Prof. Andy Crank confront these questions by offering a unique reevaluation of modernism, one that considers the racial ideology, colonial history, and regional complexity at work behind modernist form and aesthetic. Continue reading →
We asked the faculty what they were up to this summer; after all, just because the Spring semester is done doesn’t mean they’re all off gardening. And so this is what we learned…
Prof. Simmons was recently selected by UA’s College of Arts and Sciences for a funded residency at the National Humanities Center during the month of June. The center provides office space and library support to assist scholars in their research and writing. While there, she will spend her time working on two book projects. The first is Race and New Modernism (co-authored with James A. Crank), the manuscript of which will be submitted to Bloomsbury Academic in August. The volume will be included in the press’s New Modernisms series. She will also be continuing work on her second monograph, tentatively entitled Sourcing Slave Religion: Theorizing Experience in the American South. This summer will also see some revisions to the Graduate Handbook as Prof. Simmons prepares to greet the incoming and returning MA students in her role as Graduate Director.
In my Introduction to Religious Studies course, my students think a lot about “making the strange familiar and familiar strange.” With those lessons in mind, I thought I’d make a bit more familiar for students who won’t see me as much in the Spring a practice that happens within the academy—the sabbatical. After being awarded tenure (typically in year 5 or 6), professors can apply for a sabbatical by outlining a specific research project that would benefit from some time away from campus. The project I described in my own proposal is my second single-author scholarly monograph. But, of course, there are always multiple projects at different stages in the works—or, as a colleague put it to me years ago, various pots simmering at higher and lower temperatures on the same stove. I’ve found I’m far more productive and enjoy writing more when I’m working on a few things at once instead of trying to move through projects and ideas linearly. Going into next semester’s sabbatical, I currently have three proverbial pots simmering:
If you pick up the most recent issue of the venerable journal Method and Theory in the Study of Religion you will find three essays from REL faculty discussing the recently published Norton Anthology of World Religion. Rather than a simple review of the multivolume work, the essays from Merinda Simmons, Nathan Loewen, and Mike Altman consider what the publication of the anthology means for the larger field of religious studies. Each essay puts the anthology into a larger context of how scholars research and teach about religion. Curious what they said? Abstracts and links for the essays are below. Continue reading →
The Department has taken over the Marginalia Review of Books today. The popular site for reviews of work in religious studies is currently featuring interviews with both Prof. Merinda Simmons and me, Prof. Mike Altman.