The Jewish-American Experience through Graphic Novels & Comix

Yesenia Caballero and Dr. Victoria Aarons

Our research on Jewish-American graphic narratives contributed to "The New Jewish-American Literary Studies," a book-length project for which Dr. Aarons received a contract with Cambridge UP. The book will capture the tumultuous energies in Jewish-American studies in the 21st century. This will be one of the first books published in a series that examines contemporary criticism and scholarly “takes” on developments in the field of Jewish-American studies. The chapters will challenge previous assumptions, long-entrenched postulations that have dominated the field in the past and will invite a reconsideration of past approaches and conventions. One of the key chapters will address "new" approaches to the medium of graphic narratives and comix. This project did the research necessary to draft the chapter that will suggest the range of expression achieved through the intersection of text and image, arguing for the place of the graphic form in contemporary Jewish-American literary studies.

San Antonio Lost and Found: A Poetry Exchange

Derek Hudson and Professor Jenny Browne

As the 2016-2018 Poet Laureate of the City of San Antonio, Prof. Browne was charged with creating a signature poetry initiative that will enhance literacy, preserve cultural history and engage the larger San Antonio community with the tradition and practice of poetry writing. Building upon Emerson’s assertion that “the poet is the Namer, or Language-maker…” the initiative focuses on San Antonio’s namesake, St. Anthony de Padua, also known as the patron saint of lost things. Combining research, community engagement, and creative expression, San Antonio Lost and Found: A Poetry Exchange designed and implemented an accessible poetry curriculum grounded in the literal and figurative legacy of St. Anthony for use in schools, libraries and community centers around the city. Derek also composed original poetry as a means of documenting his experiences with community collaboration and art as social practice.

San Antonio Lost and Found: A Poetry Exchange  books on table done by Derek Hudson and Dr. Jenny Browne

The Border Cultural Production Research Project

Chelsea Rodriguez and Dr. Norma Cantú

Through the Border Cultural Production Research Project the research team surveyed two main areas of cultural production along the Texas Mexico borderlands: literary production and material culture. The research was conducted in two locations: McAllen and Laredo. The overarching hypothesis for the work is that the borderlands region, as a cultural area, as noted by various scholars (Arreola, Anzaldúa, Martínez, and others), constitutes fertile ground for the study of the intersection of various conditions such as class, race, ethnicity, and gender as expressed through cultural production. Building on Dr. Cantú's previous work in the area, the Project focused on women's roles in these cultural events and expands the terrain to the cultural workers—that is the dancers, seamstresses, and piñata makers as well as the writers. The team interviewed the writers and other cultural workers to theorize around the issues of intersectionality within the borderlands context.

Politics, Religion, and the British Armed Associations, 1798

Caroline Grand and Dr. Duane Coltharp

In the 1790s, as revolutionary France began to expand its military reach beyond its own borders, the British government encouraged the formation of “armed associations” -- voluntary groups of civilians who pledged to defend the British homeland against French invasion if necessary. Although the invasion itself never materialized, the armed associations became a highly visible part of British society. In towns and cities throughout Britain, volunteer units would sometimes march to church in uniform and hear a sermon commissioned for the occasion, after which the unit's banners were often consecrated by the Anglican priest. Many of these sermons were printed, and the printed texts were then reviewed in the periodicals of the day. This research project involved an attempt to catalogue and interpret these sermons and the rituals surrounding them, with the goal of understanding how the volunteer movement articulated British national identity at the end of the eighteenth century.

"To Think--To Think--To Learn--To Teach!" Translating Erwin Piscator's Post-War Diaries

Michael Cole Callen and Dr. Stacey Connelly

As the pioneer of documentary theatre, Erwin Piscator was the foremost stage director of the Weimar Republic and, after twenty years of exile, the post-war German theatre. Piscator's post-war diaries, written between 1951 and 1963, have never been published or translated into English. Our project translated this diary of over a thousand pages, in order to chart Piscator's return from exile, the re-building of his career, and the development of his innovative dramaturgy and stagecraft. To situate the diary in a clear historical context, we also reviewed existing material about Piscator's career to examine how his diary reflects and comments on contemporary historical events in Western Europe, but how it also compares to other accounts of Piscator's artistic theories and process.

The Butterfly Project: Using Virtual Worlds to Document Oral Histories of Refugees in San Antonio

Andrea Acevedo and Dr. Aaron Delwiche

The Butterfly Project used virtual world development tools to document oral histories of Latin American refugees who – after being released from an immigrant detention center – currently call San Antonio their home. Using the virtual platform High Fidelity, we created a stylized digital simulation of a Southtown residence which shelters families who are being represented by the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). The most important part of this virtual space is the kitchen: a conversational space where residents gather to share personal histories as they prepare common meals for one another. Visitors to this virtual space will be able to wander through the household, interacting with residents and listening to them share their stories in their own voice. As a point of comparison to the supportive freedom offered within the RAICES household, visitors will also be invited to navigate their avatar through the cramped quarters of a typical detention center.

Aaron Delwiche and Andrea Acevedo working on a  Virtual Reality project

Roman World Lab: Second Century Transformations
(Mellon Institute)

Caroline Kerley, Andrew Tao, and Curtis Whitacre with Dr. Tim O’Sullivan and Dr. Ruben Dupertuis

Our focus for the summer research session was on novelistic literature from the 2nd century CE: Apuleius' Golden Ass and the Gospel of Peter. These two texts are rarely paired, yet they share many features, including a focus on conversion, transformation, and religious salvation. Apuleius’ Golden Ass sheds light on a non-Christian version of this kind of transformation. At the end of this raucous and bawdy novel, the narrator, who has spent much of the novel living as a donkey, not only regains his human form but also converts to the henotheistic worship of the Egyptian goddess Isis. The Gospel of Peter contains the only narrative description of Jesus’ resurrection in early Christian literature. Central to this 2nd century gospel is an interest in the bodily Jesus’ bodily transformation as well as the importance of the resurrection as the key event that offers salvation to believers.

The Golden Ass also has a special role at Trinity as a perennial highlight of the syllabus for HUMA, where it typically serves as the final text of the year. In that role, it offers students a kind of alternative history, since the surprise conversion of the narrator at the end offers obvious parallels to the spread of Christianity during this period. Reading this text in conjunction with the Gospel of Peter allowed us to explore these connections in some more detail. In addition to a traditional comparative study of the two works, our project created interpretive guides and commentaries for students that will be available to future HUMA students through Trinity’s open access repository. 

Caroline Kerley, Andrew Tao, and Curtis Whitacre with Dr. Tim O’Sullivan and Dr. Ruben Dupertuis sitting around a table talking

Images, Administrators, and Archives: Seals Preserved in the Persepolis Fortification Archive

Benjamin Brody and Dr. Mark Garrison

Our project is part of a larger research initiative (based at the University of Chicago) involving what is today called the Persepolis Fortification archive, a massive hoard of clay administrative documents excavated at Persepolis in southwestern Iran. The archive dates to the years 509-493 BC in the reign of Darius the Great. The Elamite and Aramaic texts from the Fortification archive concern the state’s storage, transfer, and disbursal of food rations to workers (mainly agricultural), administrators, some elite members of Achaemenid society (including the royal family), animals, and deities in the various administrative regions of the system. Individuals involved in the disbursement, oversight, and receiving of these transactions signified their presence/authorization via the application of their seals to the tablets. These seals, cylindrical- and stamp-shaped pieces of stone, were carved (in the negative) with remarkably complex figural imagery. The application of the seal to the still-moist clay document left impressions (in the positive) of that imagery (in essence, these impressions served the same functions as signatures do today).

The summer research project focused on linking images (left as impressions on the clay documents) with officials/offices named in the texts. To date some 3400 distinct seals have been identified in the archive. Our goal was to establish an “administrative commentary” for each seal in the archive, i.e., a comprehensive summary for each seal that articulates: 1) how a seal is applied to tablets (i.e., on what surfaces); 2) in what types of transactions it is involved (Hallock [1969] established thirty-two transactional categories); 3) with what type of commodities it is involved; 4) with which named officials/offices it is linked.

Benjamin Brody studying Seals Preserved in the Persepolis Fortification Archive

Visible Cities: The Unveiling Journeys of Teatro Potlach

Beverly Morabito and Alexis Jarrett with Dr. Kyle Gillette

Inspired by Italo Calvino’s novel of the same name, Teatro Potlach’s Invisible Cities has since 1991 “excavated” over fifty cities, from Palermo to Rio de Janeiro. Through video-mapping projections, fabric corridors, performances embedded in urban spaces and routes that turn spectators into travelers, Invisible Cities reveals these cities’ latent anthropology. Dr. Gillette's book will be the first to explore this 25-year-old, ongoing project. It will include brief, evocative descriptions of several of these transformed cities; interviews with artists; theoretical reflections on theatre and cities; and scholarly unpacking of the work's stakes in conversation with historical and contemporary site-specific performance. His structure mirrors Calvino’s novel, which punctuates a long conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai Kahn with dreamlike descriptions of cities throughout the empire. He weaves an extended conversation between the artistic director and a traveler (me) throughout the book. In Fall 2017 we worked to integrate Beverly’s drawings into my short descriptions and she will begin drafting her children’s book.

Maverick Rights: Mayor Maury Maverick and Free Speech in Wartime San Antonio

Hunter Sosby and Dr. Jennifer Henderson

The project included the historical research for and writing of a book telling the story of San Antonio Mayor Maury Maverick Sr.’s public stance supporting and then rejecting free speech rights for marginalized groups during the pre-war and early years of World War II. The team of student historians will each focus on one free speech incident during Maverick’s political career – a 1935 call to oppose federal “military disaffection” bills which punished those speaking against joining the armed forces, a series of speeches made between 1936-1938 calling for an end to the economic policies of “machine government” which included the suppression of the press, the 1939 Communist Party Meeting at the Municipal Auditorium, and the request for a permit to hold the region conference of The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses) in 1940 - with each of these incidents forming the basis of one book chapter.

Neither Quite Southern nor Western: African Americans during the Civil Rights era in San Antonio, 1937-1978

Nina Nevill and Dr. Carey Latimore

This project "Neither Quite Southern nor Western: African Americans during the Civil Rights era in San Antonio, 1937-1978," examined the ways black San Antonians pursued a political and social agenda during this period. By relying on a variety of private, public, court, church, and government documents, this study explored the ways that the Civil Rights era in San Antonio neither completely reflected the struggles in traditionally Southern cities nor did it completely mirror the Civil Rights struggles in Western cities. Instead San Antonio’s race relations over this period reflected a hybrid, a result of a number of factors. One, unlike areas of east Texas including Houston and Dallas, San Antonio did not have a significant racial past that predated the Civil War, as only a small number of African Americans lived in San Antonio on the eve of the Civil War. Two, the fact that San Antonio was a city with slavery and that the surrounding countryside was home to a larger number of slaves helped create a climate where, although race relations were not as strained and abrasive as they were in Houston or Dallas, racial sensibilities ran significantly higher than they did in Western cities which had even less of a racial history than San Antonio did.

Student writes at desk

Music in Pre-World War II San Antonio

Ryun Howe and Dr. Carl Leafstedt

One of the most musical cities in the United States for much of the 20th century, San Antonio paradoxically suffers from chronic public amnesia in many areas of its cultural history. Much remains to be discovered about the circumstances that gave rise to the creation of the San Antonio Symphony, established in 1939. Few people remember anymore that two earlier incarnations of the orchestra existed from 1905 through the early 1930s – also called San Antonio Symphony.” Our research thoroughly documented these earlier orchestras for the first time, connecting them – musicians, civic ambitions, patrons – to the later founding of the current Symphony. Equally important in establishing civic identity was the beloved “orquesta tipica,” a Mexican American folk ensemble established by the WPA’s Texas Music Project in 1936. Records available at the Library of Congress allowed us to document the tipica ensemble’s history for the first time.

An Anonymous Antiphonary Manuscript in the
Trinity University Library

Kristina Kummerer and Dr. Kimberlyn Montford

An antiphonary is a liturgical book of the Roman Catholic Church that contains the chants sung for the Divine Office for Sundays, feasts, and the yearly commemoration of the saints. They tend to be large enough that the book can be read by all the members of a choir during the service. These collections are not just records of liturgical practice but can also serve as reflections of local usage, allowing a glimpse into traditions that have long been lost.

The Trinity University Special Collections possesses an anonymous late medieval/early Renaissance Antiphonary that was the gift of Arthur and Jane Stieren from the estate of his mother, Elizabeth Huth Coates.  This project examined and catalogued the content of this resource, seeking to both assess a preliminary compilation date for the manuscript and situate it through analysis of its contents, marginalia, its physical condition and treatment, and liturgical associations.

Read more about this project...

Kristina Kummerer and Dr. Kimberlyn Montford with An Anonymous Antiphonary Manuscript in the Trinity University Library

Anti-Chinese Sentiment in Vietnam

Nhi Nguyen and Dr. Alfred Montoya

Political tensions between China and Vietnam concerning disputed islands and maritime boundaries in the East Sea have spilled over into mass political demonstrations, overt calls for aggressive defense of national territories, and sniping and trolling in online fora. This project explored this developing situation in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest and wealthiest city, and home to the largest Hoa (ethnic Chinese) population in the country. We conducted interviews with Hoa and Kinh (ethnic Vietnamese majority) residents of the city, concentrating on the historically Chinese quarter, Cho Lon. We gathered life histories from elderly Hoa residents concerning their recollections of the post-1975 period of ethnic targeting, interviewed Hoa and Kinh college-age residents about this same period, and how new developments in the political, territorial and economic relationship between China and Vietnam affect their perceptions of one another.

Nhi Nguyen and Dr. Alfred Montoya picture standing before monument

Old, Other, and On View: Exhibitions of Ancient and “Primitive” Art in the Twentieth Century

Natalie Carrier and Dr. Kathryn O’Rourke

This project investigated the history of exhibitions of ancient and “primitive” art in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in western Europe, the United States, and Latin America in order to understand how curators and scholars used the term “archaism,” and how they regarded the art of cultures that were historically and/or geographically remote. Through analysis of exhibition catalogues and reviews in scholarly journals and the popular press we developed a working definition of “archaism” and explored the ways intellectuals constructed the meaning of ancient and “primitive” art in dialogue with one another and for the museum-going public.

Transatlantic Perspectives: Spanish Cultural Production about New York

Rachel Daniel and Dr. Debra Ochoa

We embarked on an interdisciplinary project – focusing on film and literature – that examined Spaniard’s portrayals and reactions to New York from 1983 to 2014. Recent publications have brought to light post-national Spanish literature that focuses on the United States, but there remains a significant body of work that has yet to be analyzed, specifically cultural production from the end of the twentieth century to the present. We aimed to ameliorate this critical gap in scholarship, and we identified additional themes that have yet to receive sufficient analysis, namely the issue of gender and how Spanish writers and directors depict male and female urban subjects’ experiences. To date, the majority of research completed on Spanish cultural production about New York does not include the study of women writers, and few scholars have examined Spanish films set in New York. We took a cultural studies approach that explores gender, urban space, and globalization.

New Manuscript Sources and the Canon of John Donne's Poetry

Tiffany Nguyen and Dr. Willis Salomon

Our research is part of Dr. Salomon’s continuing work on the English poet, John Donne (1573-1631). The Variorum Edition of Donne’s poetry, still in progress but already well advanced, has gone a long way toward clarifying the editorial uncertainty that has plagued twentieth-century editions of Donne’s poetry, revealing its complex manuscript history. The Variorum uncovers a robust, at times overwhelming, variety of manuscript versions of Donne’s poems. These manuscripts circulated freely in the coterie culture of early seventeenth-century England and Tiffany Nguyen and Dr. Willis Salomon offer suggestive examples for new interpretations of the poems. There are literally hundreds of examples of manuscript variants in individual poems that present opportunities for re-readings of this canonical poet. This project researched the effect of the Variorum’s discoveries of new manuscript sources on the interpretation of individual poems in the Donne canon and on the making of Donne as a canonical poet.

Surveying Classical Traditions in Science Fiction and Modern Fantasy

Ariana Fletcher-Bai and Dr. Benjamin Stevens

This project was the beginning of a survey and catalogue of primary materials and published research in the study of classical traditions in science fiction and modern fantasy (CTSFMF). CTSFMF is a burgeoning field in classical reception studies, as heralded by recent 'state of the art' essays and dedicated volumes (esp. Rogers and Stevens 2012, 2015, and 2017; cf. Bost-Fievet and Provini 2015) and by representation at international conferences (e.g., University of Puget Sound, March 2015; Hamilton College, April 2016; University of Patras, June 2016). Despite increased theoretical sophistication, CTSFMF remains new enough that (1) the primary materials for study-- science fiction and fantasy (SF&F)--have not been surveyed and catalogued with an eye on their relevance, and (2) there is no up-to-date and running bibliography of the published research. This project began the surveying and cataloguing of primary materials and of published research.

Three students in discussion over science fictions novels

Seeing China through Different Eyes: Analyzing Ten Years of Trinity Students’ Responses to Chinese Cinema

Jessica Philips and Dr. Jie Zhang

In this project, Jessica Philips examined how five selected Chinese films, produced during the nine decades from the 1930s to present, have been approached by about ten classes of Trinity students (2008-2017). She studied all the films before the project began and worked with 340 students’ discussion questions on the selected films. Her major responsibility was to situate these questions into their cultural contexts. These included the students’ perceptions of Chinese cinema and their expectation rooted in the genre films that they know. While she could anticipate issues of cultural stereotyping and misunderstanding, she also used her classmates’ questions to negotiate for possibly new and meaningful interpretations of the films. In this process, she actively engaged existing scholarly discourses, both in Chinese and in English, on these films.

Jessica Philips and Dr. Jie Zhang reviewing binder notes