Since 2017, Trinity University's Humanities Collective has advocated for the centrality of the humanities to intellectual and cultural life on campus and throughout the wider San Antonio community. The Collective serves as Trinity’s hub for the humanities on campus, supporting nine departments and humanities-related programs.
The Collective hosts events throughout the academic year to promote student success and strengthen the humanities community on campus while connecting it with local and worldwide publics. Through its efforts, students, faculty, staff, and the broader public understand that the humanities are at the heart of Trinity’s nationally recognized liberal arts education.
To aid in their mission of promoting Trinity’s unique approach to the humanities beyond the campus community, the Collective and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship have funded Public Humanities Faculty Fellows each academic year since 2019. The Public Humanities Fellowship program supports faculty in their efforts to communicate their scholarship in the humanities to a broad audience and engage local, national, and worldwide publics in the co-creation of humanistic knowledge. The Collective has funded 11 projects so far across various academic disciplines, resulting in many different forms of media, such as video essays, traveling exhibits, books, public talks, and more.
Faculty Fellows often collaborate with their peers in academia, multiple generations of Trinity students, or Mellon Initiative Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURFs) to conduct their research, and they often incorporate their research into their courses. Thus, through this fellowship, the Collective not only supports humanities faculty but also fosters a love for and understanding of the impact of humanities research on Trinity students, while giving them the opportunity to participate in that very research alongside their faculty mentors.
The Public Humanities Faculty Fellows for the 2022-23 academic year are history professor Sarah Luginbill ’14, Ph.D., and English professor Shaj Mathew, Ph.D. Both Luginbill and Mathew have spent their summers or plan to spend their fall semesters traveling to different sites across the country and across the world for their research projects.
Read more about Luginbill and Mathew’s projects:
Sarah Luginbill ’14, Ph.D. | History
The Materiality of Catholic Devotion in the World Wars
History professor and Trinity alumna Sarah Luginbill ’14, Ph.D., is investigating the mobilization of U.S. Catholics in World War I and II to supply Catholic chaplains with portable Mass kits. Her project consists of three parts: research in and around San Antonio, research on the East Coast, and the composition of two scholarly articles and creation of a traveling miniature exhibition on World War Catholicism and material culture.
During World War I, U.S. Catholics launched an unprecedented initiative to supply portable Mass kits, including an altar stone, crucifix, chalice, and paten, to Catholic military chaplains serving in Europe. Led by the newly-formed National Catholic War Council and the Chaplains’ Aid Association, Catholic citizens combined patriotic sentiment with religious devotion to send physical items across the Atlantic in a unique, faith-based material war effort. This endeavor proved successful, so much so that individual U.S. parishes mobilized their members to purchase and create even more elaborate portable Mass kits for Catholic priests serving in World War II.
“Despite recent significant publications on U.S. religious identity during World War I and II, as well as new scholarship on military chaplaincy that encompasses multiple faiths, the National Catholic War Council and the Chaplains’ Aid Association remain largely absent from scholarly conversations about national religious mobilization in wartime,” Luginbill says. “Additionally, there is currently a lack of discussion on the material culture of Catholic military personnel.”
Luginbill hopes her research project will help fill in these gaps in scholarship. Throughout the fall, Luginbill visited the Archives of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, UTSA Special Collections, St. Mary’s University Special Collections, the National Pacific War Museum (Fredericksburg, Texas), and the Ft. Sam Houston Museum and Archive to consult their materials this fall.
“While I look for letters, papers, photographs, and items that explicitly relate to portable Mass kits,” Luginbill says, “I’m also casting a wide net to uncover more about San Antonio’s Catholic involvement in World War I and II. This research will form the majority of the mini-exhibition I will create for rotation in San Antonio next spring.”
In addition to contacting local archives, Luginbill has made appointments with the National Archives and the Catholic University of America Special Collections in Washington, D.C., for December. In both archives, she will sift through several boxes of documents related to the National Catholic War Council and the Chaplains’ Aid Association. Luginbill also plans to visit the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps Museum on Ft. Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, where she will analyze the surviving portable altars, as well as photographs of chaplains with them.
“Without the Humanities Collective to fund the travel to D.C. in December, I could not undertake this project,” Luginbill says. “I’m intrigued to see how the intersection of Mass publications, gender, and military faith continue in my study.”
Luginbill’s research and photographs will culminate in a miniature exhibition and lecture series on Catholic material devotion and the U.S. military. In designing her exhibit, Luginbill will consult with local curators, Catholic leadership, and translators to identify key places for the exhibition, coordinate a rotating exhibition schedule, and compose bilingual text to accompany the photographs and visual evidence.
With the mini-exhibition’s launch, she will conduct a brief speaking tour around San Antonio in both academic and community spaces. Luginbill hopes to schedule this speaking tour in conjunction with Fiesta (April 2023) in order to highlight the importance of local history and religious devotion to the ongoing San Antonio communal identity.
Shaj Mathew, Ph.D. | English
Universal Museums in the Middle East
English professor Shaj Mathew, Ph.D., is researching the rise of universal museums in the Middle East. Specifically, he is examining the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Museum of the Future in the United Arab Emirates.
Universal museums, sometimes referred to as encyclopedic museums, collect all cultures of the world, instead of just one culture. Mathew views the Louvre Abu Dhabi as a universal museum because it arrays European and non-European art together instead of being solely devoted to the art of one culture or nationality like, for example, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.
“The Louvre Abu Dhabi professes to retell the ‘story of humanity’ via multiple Western and non-Western cultures,” Mathew says, “while the Museum of the Future suggests that the future can be imagined in an institution designed to study the past. Both museums invite a discussion of the history of history—and reveal how time takes on a certain shape in a given curator's mind.”
Thanks to his Public Humanities Fellowship, Mathew can contribute to this discussion of history. “I’m so glad that this program exists, and I’m very grateful to the Humanities Collective for funding my research to the United Arab Emirates,” Mathew says.
Five years ago, Mathew traveled to the United Arab Emirates to write about the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi for The New Republic. Last summer, he returned to the museum to see how, if at all, it had changed since day one.
“The museum is a stunning work of architecture,” Mathew says. “But in the back of my mind, I’ve always wondered why the modernization of the Persian Gulf has corresponded to its museumification, for lack of a better word. In Dubai, the new Museum of the Future captures this paradox through its name alone: Why seek the future in an institution designed to study the past?”
Mathew traveled to Abu Dhabi and Dubai in June, and he is now at work on three projects related to his travels: a work of literary journalism, a public lecture, and a chapter for a scholarly book. Instead of translating existing scholarship for public consumption—the typical public humanities model—Mathew’s gambit is that these three different forms of media will tease out different dimensions of one topic: the rise of universal museums in the Persian Gulf.
“I’m a comparatist at heart,” Mathew says, “and these museums open up a bigger question: How do different regions of the world come together? Interestingly, that’s a question of both geography and temporality. In the early-modern era, mapmakers tried to array all the world’s cultures in the same timeline; the Louvre Abu Dhabi replicates that same move—fascinatingly, and not always successfully.”
Mathew’s public humanities goals for his current research reflect the goals of his classes at Trinity. Mathew teaches literature and film from around the world, specifically the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
“On one hand, I hope that anyone who comes across my research is encouraged to learn more about cultures beyond their own. When you study different cultures, you start to see your own in a new light,” Mathew says. “On the other hand, my research focuses on a museum like the Louvre Abu Dhabi because it reminds us that our ‘own’ cultures aren’t completely our own. Global cultures don’t exist in isolation. Instead, they are fundamentally connected—the product of ceaseless exchanges across borders.”
Past Public Humanities Faculty Fellows
Music of the Cosmos
Gary Seighman, D.M.A., has designed, prepared, and recorded a choral music performance inspired by astronomical phenomena in collaboration with the Scobee Planetarium at San Antonio College for "Music of the Cosmos." The program, which culminated in Spring 2022, will be integrated into the planetarium’s educational outreach program geared toward school-aged children. After some road bumps with COVID-19, Seighman will present at the Scobee Planetarium on Friday, January 27, 2023.
During Fall 2021, Seighman finished up two long evenings of recording sessions with the Trinity University Chamber Singers for the project. The musical selections, inspired by the Aurora Borealis, will be used in conjunction with Scobee Planetarium's upcoming "Experience the Aurora" educational program in 2022.
In addition, Seighman is partnering with the San Antonio Independent School District to offer multi-sensory lessons in select elementary schools. He is currently working on scheduling a class visit for one of these lessons.
Operation: Unleash Classroom Horror (OUCH)
Intended to bridge the best parts of the horror academic community with the best parts of the larger horror fan community, "Operation: Unleash Classroom Horror (OUCH)" is a multifaceted public humanities project that includes, among other initiatives, Monster MAYhem.
Katherine Troyer, Ph.D., worked with a group of Trinity students in Fall 2021 to create Monster MAYhem, a tournament-style way for the horror community to think more deeply about the monsters we create and the horror narratives we tell. Troyer unleashed Monster MAYhem in Spring 2022.
“The inaugural Monster MAYhem allowed us to bring together horror fans, horror writers, and horror artists. It was a blast!” Troyer says. “This fall, a new group of Trinity students will be meeting for Monster Lab to work on preparing for Monster MAYhem 2023. We have four new brackets and are excited to dig into films and books!”
Satiate your current horror needs by listening to Troyer’s podcast and YouTube channel, Such a Nightmare: Conversations about Horror. Follow @NightmarePod1 on Twitter to keep up with Troyer’s current work.
Trinity Philosophy and Literature Circle
Mel Webb, Ph.D., received a Public Humanities Faculty Fellowship to support their involvement with The Trinity University Philosophy and Literature Circle at the Torres Unit, a state prison in Hondo, Texas. The Philosophy and Literature Circle cultivates collaborative learning communities so people in prison and beyond can thrive and build trust across divides. It is a 12-week reading, writing, and discussion program that fosters a vibrant learning community in which 15 incarcerated scholars and 15 university students engage together in a sustained exploration of humanistic texts and questions.
Webb launched the program through UTSA at the Dominguez State Jail in January 2019. Because of the program’s success at that unit, Webb worked with Judith Norman, Ph.D., Trinity professor of philosophy, to start a sibling program through Trinity at the Torres Unit in January 2020; in-person programming was interrupted shortly after by the pandemic.
In Fall 2021 and Spring 2022, Trinity students in Webb’s “Moral Imagination and U.S. Incarceration” class completed the program with incarcerated scholars through written correspondence because of COVID-19 protocols due to the delta and omicron variants.
As Webb begins full-time employment at UTSA this semester, Norman is taking the lead for the Fall 2022 Trinity program, including the return to in-person sessions. Fall 2022 will be spent brainstorming with a cohort of scholars and undergraduates who have previously completed or participated in the program about what The Philosophy and Literature Circle can be going forward.
The Career of Adolphus Busch
Todd Barnett, Ph.D., created a traveling exhibit on the career of Adolphus Busch, the co-founder of the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association. The exhibit was presented in conjunction with public talks at universities, businesses, and public spaces in several cities across the United States.
Barnett created this traveling poster exhibit, titled "Bigger than Budweiser: Adolphus Busch's Investments in the Lone Star State," with the help of his 2021 Mellon SURF and history major, Gabriel Odom ’22. The traveling poster exhibit uses the complexities of Adolphus Busch’s business operations in Texas as a lens to examine the Texan social, political, and economic landscape in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era of the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Barnett showed his exhibit at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, where he also gave a public talk. He capped off the two-month residency of his traveling poster exhibit in Dallas Heritage Village at Old City Park.
Barnett presented on the history and collaborative aspects of his and Odom’s exhibit as part of the grand opening of Dicke Hall. They plan to give one more public showing in San Antonio before retiring the exhibit in St. Louis, Missouri, later this fall.
Jenny Browne, MFA, published and publicly presented "Belfast Ekphrastic," a sequence of experimental ekphrastic poems, and a companion personal essay. During Spring 2021, she developed a collaborative ekphrastic poetry exchange between poetry students at Trinity and Queens University in Belfast.
One of the results of this collaboration was a live screening by Queen's Film Theatre of the Ekphrasis Project Film, which consisted of a mix of live poetry readings by Queen's University students, as well as AI-generated images responding to the spoken words of Trinity students that they recorded last spring. You can view the collaborative film A Unique Silence: Poems of the Ulster Museum or digital and print publication of the images from the Rembrandt show and the poems written by both groups of students.
The September/October 2021 issue of American Poetry Review includes an essay by Jenny Browne on ekphrasis, COVID-19, and meeting Van Morrison in Belfast titled, "Too Late to Stop Now."
Taking Philosophy of Music to the Community
Andrew Kania's project "Taking Philosophy of Music to the Community" was intended to introduce philosophical questions about music to a range of audiences outside the academy, targeting high school music students, music teachers, and classical music audiences by offering a series of classes at Reagan High School and Saint Mary’s Hall. However, due to COVID-19, the plans were put on hold.
In 2020, Kania published Philosophy of Western Music: A Contemporary Introduction with Routledge, which introduces the philosophy of Western music while discussing popular music and hybrid musical forms. Throughout the book, Kania explores examples of popular songs and other musical traditions such as rock, classical, and jazz. The book also includes public Spotify playlists so that readers can easily listen to the examples Kania uses within it.
Kania was a guest on KZSM, San Marcos, Texas's community radio station for the radio show “Philosophy of Popular Music,” where he discussed a range of philosophical issues raised by the creation and appreciation of popular music. In November 2021, Kania was a guest on Texas Public Radio for a program titled, “Think Science: The Science of Music.”
To Be Honest
This project began in 2016 when Habiba Noor, Ph.D., Sarah Beth Kaufman, Ph.D., and their collaborator William Christ secured a Mellon Initiative grant that brought on four undergraduate researchers, Hanna Niner ’17, Savannah Wagner ’17, Iris Baughman ’17, and Matthew Long ’19, for a period of summer research. This research involved outreach to leaders of mosques, churches, synagogues, and other social, political, and religious sects throughout the San Antonio community.
In 2017, Noor, Kaufman, Christ, and another collaborator, Stacey Connelly, turned their research into the performance To Be Honest: Voices on Islam in an American City. To Be Honest is a play script and series of essays reflecting on the ways Muslims are perceived and spoken of in America. Early in 2020, just before COVID-19 changed everyone's plans, To Be Honest was presented in Fort Worth, Texas, at Texas Christian University and also in Irving, Texas, as part of the Southwest Commission on Religious Studies 2020 Meeting.
To Be Honest: Voices on Donald Trump's Muslim Ban, edited by Kaufman, Christ, and Noor, has now been published by Trinity University Press.
In Spring 2020, Kaufman and Noor, along with history professor Lauren Turek, Ph.D, and modern languages and literatures professor Norma Cantu, Ph.D., became founding members of the Mellon Initiative-funded Story Lab. This interdisciplinary lab seeks to extend the practices of producing narratives as the products of social science and humanities research. The Story Lab course was taught in Spring 2021, Fall 2021, and Spring 2022.
This past spring, Noor's Story Lab course studied the discourse surrounding the anti-Critical Race Theory movement in Texas. Students in the class produced a short podcast series that draws from this research.
The Bard in the Borderlands
Kathryn Vomero Santos, Ph.D., produced a virtual public presentation about the innovative ways in which Chicanx and Indigenous writers and theatermakers are translating and transforming the works of William Shakespeare to tell stories of and for La Frontera. This roundtable conversation brought together five scholars actively working at the intersections of Shakespeare and borderlands studies.
Santos’s Public Humanities Fellowship led to the founding of the Borderlands Shakespeare Colectiva (BSC) with Katherine Gillen, Ph.D., and Adrianna M. Santos, Ph.D., at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. Together, they are editing an anthology of Borderlands Shakespeare plays entitled The Bard in the Borderlands: An Anthology of Shakespeare Appropriations en La Frontera.
Santos’s collaborative Bard in the Borderlands project has involved the help of four Mellon SURFs: Sarah Pita ’23 and Kaylee Avila ’21 in 2021, and Eva Buergler ’22 and Paloma Díaz-Minshew ’24 in 2022.
This year, Santos was awarded a Paul Oskar Kristeller Fellowship from the Renaissance Society of America to support archival research for the anthology. Volume 1 of The Bard in the Borderlands will be published as an open-access book by ACMRS Press in early 2023, and Volume 2 will be published in early 2024. The BSC commissioned a local printmaker named Celeste De Luna to create a linocut print for the cover.
Santos and her collaborators will be running two workshops based on the anthology: one at Arizona State University as part of their Mellon-funded "Crossing Latinidades" Humanities Research Initiative, and the other at the annual meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America in Minneapolis. They will also present their work on Borderlands Shakespeare at the annual meeting of the Renaissance Society of America in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The BSC was recently awarded a $50,000 Collaborative Research Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to put on a conference titled "Adapting, Translating, and Performing Shakespeare in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands" in San Antonio in 2024. This event will be free and open to the public.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
With the support of his Public Humanities Faculty Fellowship, Patrick Keating, Ph.D., delivered three public talks and created a video essay to accompany the release of his new book, a close analysis of Alfonso Cuarón’s 2004 film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Video essays are short movies about movies; they pair scholarly commentary with clips from existing films. Keating’s video, “Music and Point of View in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” contributes to a tradition of scholarship analyzing cinematic point of view. The video essay also includes a supporting written statement.
Keating visited the United Kingdom in October 2019 to show the video essay to audiences. He also participated in a symposium on videographic scholarship at Birkbeck, University of London, and delivered lectures about point of view in Azkaban at the University of Reading and the University of Exeter. After making several revisions based on the feedback from these audiences, Keating published the final version of the video essay in Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism, which has a long history of publishing work about cinematic point of view and a more recent history of welcoming video essays as a new form of scholarship.
Keating’s book, titled Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, a contribution to the 21st Century Film Essentials Series from the University of Texas Press, was released in May 2021.