New Arts and Humanities Faculty 2004

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Distributed August 15, 2004
Contact Mary Jo Curtis

Arts and humanities departments welcome 12 new faculty for 2004-05

Timothy Bewes, Arlene Keizer and Rolland Murray in English; Youenn Kervennic in French Studies; Zachary Sng in German Studies; Nidia Schuhmacher and Silvia Sobral in Hispanic Studies; Herve Vanel in the History of Art and Architecture; Katherine Bergeron and Butch Rovan in Music Mark Cladis in Religious Studies, and Patricia Ybarra in Theatre, Speech and Dance


Katherine Bergeron

Professor of Music

Todd Winkler, chair of the Music Department, predicts that when Katherine Bergeron joins the faculty this fall, she will become the “glue” that ties his department’s varying specialties together and entices other disciplines into new collaborations.

“She’s a brilliant young scholar, and she’s among the best musicologists – if not the best – of her generation,” said Winkler. “I can’t imagine bringing in a better person, given the range of her interdisciplinary interests; they’re all the things we’re interested in as a department.”

Currently an associate professor at the University of California–Berkeley, Bergeron has a special interest in French music and early modernism, as well as song, opera and film. She is completing an eight-year cultural study about language politics in the French Third Republic and the emergence of the vocal genre known as mélodie. She hopes to publish her findings soon in her second book, Voice Lessons, and eventually incorporate them into a new course. In the meantime, she will offer a course on the popular culture of song, which she has dubbed “Minnesang to MP3,” and another called “Listening to Film.” She hopes to collaborate with Brown’s departments of French Studies, Comparative Literature and Modern Culture and Media – and to be involved in strengthening the doctoral programs in music.

“My work has always been informed by other disciplines, and there’s a huge potential for dialogue here, which makes Brown very attractive,” she says. “There’s great potential to create something at Brown that doesn’t exist anywhere else.”

In addition to her scholarly work, Bergeron is an accomplished flutist and singer of contemporary and Indonesian music and the blues. She often performs with her husband, Joseph (Butch) Rovan, who will also join the Music Department next fall. Bergeron earned a B.A. in music from Wesleyan University and a Ph.D. in musicology at Cornell University. She taught at the University of North Carolina and Tufts University before moving to Berkeley in 1993.

– Mary Jo Curtis

Timothy Bewes

Assistant Professor of English

When Timothy Bewes accepted a position as a visiting professor in English and Modern Culture and Media in 2002, he wanted “the experience of teaching in the United States,” he says. “The students here are very stimulating, and there’s a great, intelligent atmosphere here that’s also very stimulating.”

That experience will continue for him. Bewes has joined the regular faculty as an assistant professor of English.

A specialist in contemporary literatures and cultures in English, Bewes will be continuing the work he undertook a year ago, as the Carol G. Lederer Postdoctoral Fellow at the Pembroke Center. There, as part of the center’s 2003-04 seminar on shame, he began a project titled “Shame after Colonialism: Aesthetic and Ethical Perspectives,” using the concept of post-colonial shame to illustrate the relationship between literature and ethics.

Shame became a motif in the 20th century as writers tried to represent the tragedy of the Holocaust, he says, but the writers experienced shame “in the face of that horror and the inadequacy of writing itself.” Bewes will teach a graduate seminar on the topic next spring; this fall he’ll teach freshman and senior seminars on contemporary fiction.

Bewes received a B.A. from the University of North London (1992) and an M.A. (1993) and a D.Phil. (1997) from the University of Sussex, all in English literature. He taught at several English universities before moving on to visiting positions at Brown and Brandeis two years ago. He is the author of two books, Cynicism and Postmodernity (1997) and Reification, or the Anxiety of Late Capitalism (2002), and he co-edited two collections of essays, Cultural Capitalism: Politics After New Labour (2001) and After Fanon, a special issue of New Formations (2002). He is also co-editor of the journal New Formations and has written a dozen articles on subjects ranging from the concept of “sleaze” to philosophical honesty in postmodern literature.

– Mary Jo Curtis


Mark S. Cladis

Professor of Religious Studies

Mark S. Cladis loves teaching, and it is that passion, among others, that will bring him to Brown this fall.

“Brown’s undergrads and grads are among the best – and the most creative and risky – in the world,” says Cladis, who has taught religious studies at Vassar College for the last 13 years and has served six years as department chair. He now finds himself drawn to Brown because of its strong support for research, writing and interdisciplinary work – “and because I have long admired its Religious Studies Department,” he adds.

Department chair Stanley Stowers returns the compliment and is pleased to be adding Cladis to his faculty.

“He has a large and growing reputation as a scholar, and at the same time, he’s won many awards and honors as a very exciting teacher,” Stowers says.

Cladis is known internationally for his work in religion and social theory, religion and public policy – including environmental studies and Western religious thought.

“He connects us with political science, the Watson, philosophy and history – and that’s very attractive to us,” says Stowers. “He has a creative way of bringing these areas together.”

Cladis received his B.A. from the University of California–Santa Barbara and his Ph.D. in religious studies from Princeton. He has taught at the University of North Carolina and at Stanford University. He is the author of more than 30 articles (publishing in French, Italian and English), as well as A Communitarian Defense of Liberalism: Emile Durkheim and Contemporary Social Theory (Stanford University Press, 1992) and Public Vision, Private Lives: Rousseau, Religion and Twenty-First Century Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2003). He has delivered more than 50 national and international lectures. Cladis is currently at work writing Religion Gone Wild: Spirituality and the Environment.

– Mary Jo Curtis


Arlene Keizer

Associate Professor of English and
American Civilization (with tenure)

Arlene Keizer is the “dream candidate” sought by the departments of English and American Civilization, according to English Department Chair Nancy Armstrong.

“She has expertise in several different areas – American studies, African American literature, ethnic studies, Caribbean literature and creative writing,” says Armstrong. “The topics and arguments from these areas achieve [coherence] in her teaching and research.”

“My scholarly work to date has been driven by a fascination with the way history – especially the history of slavery – influences contemporary African American and Caribbean literature and culture,” Keizer says.

Keizer received a B.A. in history from Princeton in 1986, an M.A. from Stanford in creative writing in 1988 and a Ph.D. in ethnic studies from Berkeley in 1996. She began her career in 1997 at the University of Michigan, where she received tenure and promotion to associate professor in 2002. She has published numerous articles in journals of American and African American literature and culture and has a body of poetry to her credit. Her first book, Black Subjects: Identity Formation in the Contemporary Narrative of Slavery, was published this year.

Keizer teaches courses on African American and Caribbean literature in general and on the writings of Toni Morrison and the African American novel in particular. In the future she hopes to also offer a course on the history of literary criticism of African American literature. She’s currently working on two projects, including an examination of how black women writers use post-modernist literary techniques in fiction and drama – examining such writers as Adrienne Kennedy, Anna Deveare Smith and Gayle Jones. She has also received a grant for a project titled, “Tight Spaces and Loopholes of Retreat: Sexuality in the Margins of History.”

“If her first book demonstrated the breadth and subtlety of her literary training, then this project will define her as important cultural historian, as it draws on heretofore unmined archives to lend new complexity to sexual relations under slavery,” observes Armstrong.

Keizer was attracted to Brown by the resources it offers for research – and by the opportunity to work with Brown students. She says, “That’s something no one else can offer.”

– Mary Jo Curtis


Youenn Kervennic

Lecturer in French Studies

It is an understatement to say Youenn Kervennic’s career has been somewhat unusual.

Since 1974, he has visited more than 50 countries. He has worked as a fisherman in Brittany; a cowboy and sheepherder in Arizona; a beekeeper, roofer and crawfisher in Louisiana; and a technician in a German factory – in addition to working in other parts of the United States, Spain, Mexico, India, China, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Bolivia.

Kervennic is also an accomplished freelance photographer. His work has been published in various art and text books, as well as in Paris Match and other magazines. He is the author of L’Appel de la Mer, which French Studies Department Chair Michel-Andre Bossy describes as a “brilliantly written” book that has gained Kervennic “a wide audience beyond Brown.” And, of course, Kervennic is a teacher.

“He is an absolutely superb language and cultural teacher, and he has an immensely rich background that he melds into his fiction and his teaching,” says Bossy. “He’s a tremendous leader in the department [and] he’s a wonderful model for students.”

Kervennic began his studies in his native France, then earned a B.A. in French and Spanish at Indiana University (1991), an M.A. (1993) and Ph.D. (1997) in interdisciplinary French studies at the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign. He taught at the University of Illinois from 1992 to 1997 and has been a visiting lecturer at Brown since 1999 – except for the 2001-02 academic year, when he was traveling to research his next book.

The globe-trotting Kervennic won’t be teaching this year. He’s currently resident director of the Brown-in-France Program based in Paris. When he returns to campus, he plans to offer a course on travels and travelers, in addition to teaching language courses.

“Prior to my life as a professor, I spent 18 years hitchhiking around the world,” he says. “Beside the travels, my interests focus on the culture and civilization of France, especially various aspects of the region of Brittany.”

Travel is also the focus of the book he is currently writing, Errance, based on his travels through Latin America.

“My travels and my life experience in general tell me to go full-speed toward my own goals,” he says. “The idea is that you should always enjoy what you do, and work hard while having fun.”

– Mary Jo Curtis

Rolland Murray

Assistant Professor of English

After fours years teaching in a college community of nearly 60,000 students, Rolland Murray says he finds Brown’s relatively small size “very appealing.”

“You can really teach in a more intimate setting, and there’s strong support of research here,” says Murray, who specializes in African-American literature of the 20th century and, more broadly, American literature of the same period. He’s had a long-standing interest in the former since his undergraduate days – and “it developed from there,” he adds.

A native of California, Murray completed his B.A. at San Jose State University in 1992, then continued his studies at the University of Chicago, where he earned an M.A. in 1995 and a Ph.D. in 2000 with support from a Mellon Dissertation Fellowship and a predoctoral fellowship at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for Afro-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia. He has been an assistant professor at the Ohio State University for four years, during which time he has published two articles on modern African American literature in the top journals in the field. His first book, Our Living Manhood: Literature, Black Power, and the Limits of Masculine Ideologies, is forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Murray hopes to work on two projects while at Brown. In the first, he’s investigating the relationship between the Civil Rights Movement and the evolution of black American literature in the post-World War II era. In the second, he’s examining the politics of identification in the post-1960s era for African-Americans.

“The English Department sees his work as forging a vital link among faculty who work on black feminism, ethnic studies, African literature and the literature of the diaspora,” says Nancy Armstrong, the English Department chair. “With a chapter in his forthcoming book on John Edgar Wideman, he’s as excited about joining the community of scholars at Brown as we are about having him join us.”

– Mary Jo Curtis


Joseph (Butch) Rovan

Associate Professor of Music (with tenure)

Joseph (Butch) Rovan is an expert on hardware and software design for interactive computer systems, as well as several other areas of technology and recording. He will not be joining the Computer Science Department, however. Rovan is a composer and performer who uses technology to transform motion into sound – with video. He’ll be in the Music Department.

It was Brown’s own developing program in electronic music that attracted him to Providence.

“Brown is an incredible University in and of itself, but I’m really excited by the new Ph.D. program in computer music and multimedia that is kicking off this fall,” Rovan says. “This is the only one in the country, and it has the potential to be an incredible program. To be part of that and be able to collaborate with (department chair) Todd Winkler is really exciting.

“This kind of interdisciplinary effort is key to the way Brown operates. I’m excited about the kind of students this will generate,” he adds. “I have a lot of respect for the faculty in this music department, and I’m excited about what we can achieve.”

Rovan earned a B.A. in music at the University of California–Riverside (1989), where he also earned an M.A. in composition in 1991. He received a Ph.D. in composition from the University of California–Berkeley in 1998. For the last four years he has been director of the Center for Experimental Music and Intermedia at the University of North Texas. He has also taught at Florida State University and was “compositeur en recherché” at the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique in Paris. He has numerous scores and performances to his credit and has received several awards for his work.

This year Rovan will teach introductory music classes and graduate seminars, in addition to an introductory course in computer music and another on designing and performing on custom-interactive instruments. He is already planning his first concert at Brown on Oct.4; noted German cellist Ulrich Maiss will be the guest performer. For a sample, visit

– Mary Jo Curtis


Nidia Schuhmacher

Lecturer in Hispanic Studies

Nidia Schuhmacher has always loved the study of languages and culture. In her career, she’s also come to love teaching language and training the future teachers of language. Brown, she believes, will be the right place to cultivate all her interests.

“Brown attracted me for its commitment to foreign languages and cultures, the diversity of its population, the quality of teaching and research, and the vibrant and inspiring energy I sense when I am on campus and in this department,” she says. “This is an opportunity and a challenge for me to share my experience and knowledge, as well as to continue learning from the accomplished colleagues and graduate students with whom I will be working.”

A native of Argentina, Schuhmacher has been involved in foreign language teaching for 20 years.

She earned degrees in translation and interpretation (1974) and E.F.L. teaching (1975) in Córdoba, Argentina, as well as an M.A. in T.E.S.O.L. from the Teachers College at Columbia University after moving to the United States 23 years ago. She has taught English, Italian and Spanish in Argentina, Italy and the United States, in both educational and business settings. She has also taught languages at Boston University, the University of Massachusetts–Boston, Tufts, and – since 1990 – full-time at Brandeis.

An Oral Proficiency Interview Tester, Schuhmacher has mentored and trained teachers and undertaken projects in translation, interpretation and editorial work. She has recently begun to explore technology in education; her current work focuses on the teaching of writing and the central role of culture in language teaching and learning.

“I’m committed to helping students discover the beauty, richness and value of learning more than one language as a way to access other cultures and understand other people and themselves better – in particular, the Spanish language and the richness of the many Hispanic cultures it allows one to access,” she says. “And I’m very committed to helping young teachers develop their potential to become the best language teachers they (can) be.”

Schuhmacher will be teaching Spanish language courses this year.

– Mary Jo Curtis


Zachary Sng

Assistant Professor of German Studies

Zachary Sng made a trans-Atlantic move to accept a position at Brown, but his adjustment should be an easy one. The multilingual Sng earned both his bachelor and master’s degrees at Brown, and he was happy to return to the University.

“I find the atmosphere of intellectual curiosity and openness at Brown very exciting,” he says. “I hope that both my teaching and my research will benefit from this atmosphere, but I also hope that they will allow me to contribute to what I see as a very provocative and fruitful approach to higher education.”

Sng began his education in Singapore before coming to Brown in 1990 to study English and American literature. After leaving Providence, he earned a post-graduate diploma in secondary education at the National Institute of Education in Singapore, then an M.A. in German and, this May, a Ph.D. in comparative literature at Johns Hopkins University. For the last year he has been a doctoral fellow at Germany’s University of Konstanz. He is the author of numerous publications and the recipient of several academic awards, in addition to being fluent in Mandarin, English, German, French, Italian, Latin, Classical Greek – and nearly a dozen computer languages.

Sng specializes in literary studies and philosophy in 18th-century Europe, with particular focus on Germany.

“I am especially interested in theories of language and rhetoric in the period,” says Sng, who first studied English literature. “I quickly moved toward a more comparative approach, because I felt that the questions and problems that interested me went beyond the confines of British or American literary history.”

While his research is inspired by issues drawn from a number of European literary traditions, he says he feels particularly at home in the field of German studies.

“I think this has something to do with the German tradition of a strong focus on philology and on working closely with texts, while being open to opportunities for exchange and inspiration across disciplinary boundaries,” he explains.

This year Sng will be teaching a variety of introductory courses in German Studies, covering different periods of the German literary canon.

“I hope to get students interested in thinking about issues of language and meaning in general, and to get them enthused about reading some of the classical texts from the 18th and 19th centuries.”

– Mary Jo Curtis

Silvia Sobral

Lecturer in Hispanic Studies

Silvia Sobral admits that, until recently, all she knew about Brown was “the excellence of its undergraduate program and its reputation as the more diverse and open of the Ivy League schools.”

Now that she has learned more and joined the faculty, she says she’s “very impressed with the way education is understood and promoted here.”

“I wholeheartedly support the principle that students should have both choice and responsibility for their own education, that there should be more integration of disciplines and of groups of the community,” she says.

Sobral is a native of Spain, where she received a B.A. in English philology at Universidad de Madrid in 1993. A stint as an exchange student at the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign led her to earn an M.A. in teaching English as a second language in 1995. During those two years Sobral taught English to foreign adults and became more involved and interested in language acquisition and related issues. After teaching English in Spain for a short time, she returned to the University of Illinois to pursue a Ph.D. in Hispanic linguistics; she received her degree in May.

Sobral has taught all levels of Spanish and will do the same here, although she hopes in the future to offer undergraduate courses on Spanish linguistics, language acquisition and foreign language teaching. She is also deeply interested in heritage language – that is, a language that bilinguals are raised with or have significant exposure to during childhood, usually at home, but in a social context where another language is dominant.

“Generally [this is] an immigrant situation,” she says. “My research is specifically concerned with Hispanic students who enroll in Spanish courses in college with the goal of improving their proficiency and skills. My investigation attempts to describe these speakers’ linguistic knowledge and point out implications for instruction.”

Sobral is pleased that her new position provides an opportunity to teach varied courses, to work closely with teaching assistants and support their professional development, and to develop new programs for the department.

“I really find this to be a perfect job for me,” she says.

– Mary Jo Curtis

Herve Vanel

Assistant Professor of the History of Art and Architecture

In hiring Herve Vanel, Maggie Bickford, chair of the Department of History of Art and Architecture, says the department has gained an impressive junior art historian – but that’s just the beginning.

“He is a serious and rigorous art historian, an excellent and prolific writer and researcher, a charismatic teacher devoted to teaching both graduates and undergraduates, and a colleague whose research is deeply interdisciplinary and highly original,” says Bickford. “We are particularly impressed by his scholarship, which takes on both contemporary art and its criticism. Theoretically sophisticated and knowledgeable about current trends on many fronts – contemporary art history, criticism, performance studies and film to name a few – Vanel provides a new and vibrant voice in the field.”

Of all the candidates interviewed by department members, Bickford says Vanel has by far the most varied and prestigious publications, while his latest project on the critic Lawrence Alloway is “well-developed, subtly stated, and brilliantly argued.” The lectures and seminars he’s recently taught are “exciting and new,” and his teaching evaluations “show that students respond enthusiastically to his work.”

“My current research focuses on the development, from the late 1950s on, of an aesthetic of participation in the arts,” Vanel says. “In brief, I am concerned with a contemporary sensibility that echoes the Romantic dream of an integration of art into our surrounding, but which in its contemporary realizations actually sounds like elevator music.”

Vanel was educated at the Sorbonne, earning an M.A. (1992), a D.E.A. (1993) and a Ph.D. (2001), and writing his dissertation on the works of Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning and Barnett Newman. He has been a visiting professor at Brown in the History of Art and Architecture since 2001, teaching courses on contemporary art, art and the mass media and the art of Francis Bacon. He’s pleased to be continuing his work at Brown.

“Like anybody else, I think, I’d like to accomplish myself while doing what I like the most – and share this goal with the students,” Vanel says. “In this regard, Brown gives wonderful opportunities to professors and students, and I am deeply grateful for that.“

– Mary Jo Curtis


Patricia Ybarra

Assistant Professor of Theatre, Speech and Dance

As Patricia Ybarra joins the Department of Theatre, Speech and Dance this semester, she brings yet a new dimension to a nationally recognized program that has steadily expanded both its degree and course offerings in recent years.

“Patricia Ybarra brings to our department a broad and rich background in theater and performance studies, including notable expertise in Hispanic – especially Mexican – culture and performance,” said department chair Spencer Golub. “This hire will allow us to develop departmental offerings in theater of the Americas and to forge ahead with interdisciplinary initiatives. It will also allow us to diversify our explorations of avant-garde and postmodern theory and performance.”

“Brown is maybe the best possible home in the country right now for a theater scholar who also practices,” says Ybarra. “I believe it will be a place I can grow as a scholar teacher and artist.”

Ybarra’s work focuses on the relationship between historiography, local identity and performance in the Americas. She is currently writing a book on the performance of Tlaxcaltecan identity in Mexico, both within and without the theatre. She says she has been equally drawn to ethnography, history and performance; the project grew out of the intersections among them.

Ybarra earned a B.A. in theater from Columbia College (1994) and an A.M. (1999) and Ph.D. (2002) in theater history and theory from the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. She has taught theater courses at University of Kansas since 1999, most recently as an assistant professor. She has also directed numerous theatrical productions since 1991, in addition to acting as a dramaturg and festival coordinator. She has authored several publications and made numerous scholarly presentations throughout the United States and abroad. This academic year Ybarra will teach theater history and courses on “Theater and Conquest,” “Race in 19th-century U.S. Theater” and possibly another on Latino/a theater.

– Mary Jo Curtis


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