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Shown at right,
Humanities Fellows (l-r)
Ami Cutler, Jamie Car,
Al Killilea and
Carolyn Livingston.
Photo by Nora Lewis

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Department of Communications/
News Bureau

22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Jan Wenzel, 401-874-2116

Four humanities researchers at URI awarded fellowships

KINGSTON, R.I. -- June 11, 2003 -- Here are some questions to ponder: Was it acceptable for President Nixon to lie about imposing wage and price restraints to counter inflation? Was George M. Cohan a Rhode Island Yankee Doodle Dandy? What can we learn about fascism by studying a northeastern Portuguese province? And what do the writings of Christopher Isherwood tell us about the connection between art and politics?

If the questions sound diverse, so, too, are the University of Rhode Island humanities researchers posing them. Two faculty members and two graduate students have just been named Humanities Fellows by URI’s Center for the Humanities for the upcoming academic year, beginning in July. The Center is charged with fostering humanities research, teaching, and outreach programming at the university and for the larger community.

The Center has been awarding faculty fellowships since 1995, but the awards mark the first time the Center has granted graduate student fellowships. The expansion of the fellowship program has been made possible by URI’s new Humanities Endowment campaign, which to date has raised more than $300,000. The goal is to reach $1 million by 2007.

Al Killilea of Kingston, a professor of political science and co-director of URI’s John Hazen White Sr. Center for Ethics and Public Service, will research when and/or whether it is acceptable for politicians to lie for a perceived public good.

"Today it is widely supposed that politicians lie, but the public’s demand for benefits and opposition to taxes compel many politicians to bend the truth," says Killilea who runs workshops on public ethics every year for leaders in Rhode Island state agencies.

When asked if he was going to impose wage and price restraints to curb inflation, Nixon had to say no even though he imposed them the very next day, according to Killilea who was awarded a $1,500 Shannon Chandley and Tom Silvia Faculty Fellowship. "Had he told the truth or even if he had said no comment, he would have set off a panic of the very price increases he was trying to avoid. Few political scientists fault him for this deception, but it may have encouraged him to walk a path of grander and less defensible lies."

It’s not a lie to say that Rhode Island has a rich history of music, although very little has been published on the topic. That is about to change thanks to Carolyn Livingston of Cranston, a professor of music, who plans to edit a book, Music and Music Education in Rhode Island: Historical Essays. The essays, written by URI graduate students since 1992, include biographies of well known people like Rhode Island-born George M. Cohan and lesser known ones such as Sissieretta Jones (1869-1933), who was barred from the Metropolitan Opera because of her race and then organized her own troupe of musicians, which toured nationally and internationally. Not all topics are biographical. For example, one essay highlights the Newport Music Festival and another is about the state's first Portuguese band.

Livingston’s $1,500 Richard Beaupre Faculty Fellowship will help her develop an introduction to music teaching course focused on the humanities project. "I want my students to realize that history takes place all over the world and even in their own backyard," the music professor says.

Graduate student Ami Cutler of Sterling, Mass., on the other hand, is focused on emigration from a northeastern Portuguese province. The history student spent four years wandering three continents and fell in love with several languages after earning her undergraduate degree. One of them was Portuguese, which eventually led her to study the post-colonial Portuguese speaking world.

"What was going on in a province like Trás-os-Montes in the 1970s tells us everything about what the dictatorship did and didn't do to ordinary people and how the same people were affected by the breakdown of the empire. History of one place is never an isolated thing. It's impossible, for example, to understand emigration from northern Portugal without understanding the dictatorship. It's impossible to understand the dictatorship without knowing about fascism in Europe in the 1930s, imperial policies and independence movements later in the century, etc…" says the master’s student. Cutler’s Mark and Donna Ross Fellowship will help defray research expenses in Portugal this summer.

Jamie Carr of East Greenwich, a Ph.D. candidate in English, will use her David and Tracey Maron Fellowship, for travel expenses to the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. where she will conduct dissertation research entitled "Christopher Isherwood’s Aesthetic and Political Experimentation: Homosexuality, Fascism, and Critical Theory."

Isherwood (1904-1986) was born in England, had prolonged visits to Germany, and emigrated to the United States with his friend, W. H. Auden, settling in southern California where he wrote for Hollywood and taught. His best-known fictional work, The Berlin Stories, depict a glittering but threatening metropolis of pre-Hitler Germany, filled with cafes, nightlife, and vices. The stories, considered some of the most political novels of the 20th century, inspired the world famous Cabaret.

"I am interested in the way in which writers engage politics and given that Isherwood analyzed from the 1930s through the late 1970s, both historical politics—that of fascism, communism, and pacifism, as well as identity politics, his work allows me to think about the relation between art and politics in unique, and I think, significant ways," says Carr.

Anyone interested in contributing to the Humanities Endowment Campaign, should contact Tom Zorabedian, senior development officer for the College of Arts and Sciences, 401-874-2853.

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