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2009-10 Graduate Fellows

The Cogut Center for the Humanities sponsors academic-year-long Graduate Fellowships each year for Brown graduate students in the humanities. Doctoral students who have advanced to candidacy are eligible and encouraged to apply. Fellowships are not exclusively for students who are completing their dissertations; those who are at earlier stages of research are also eligible.

We are pleased to announce the 2009-10 Graduate Fellows Sophia Beal, David Bering-Porter, Kevin Patton and Oded Rabinovitch.


Sophia Beal
Sophia Beal is a PhD candidate in the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies. Her dissertation, "Infrastructural Literacy: Material Symbols of Progress in Brazilian Texts" focuses on how
Brazilian urban narratives represent infrastructure—such as electricity, public transport, road construction, and sewer systems —to probe larger questions about national progress. Although critics generally ignore public infrastructure in fictional narratives, viewing it merely as an element of setting, pulling infrastructure to the foreground to track the transition of debates about national development offers rich insights about the protean meanings of identity, politics and national belonging.

Her publications on Lusophone literature have focused on contemporary authors and have been included in anthologies and the Luso-Brazilian Review. Her next major project involves developing culturally relevant activities for the Portuguese language classroom that harness cognitive science research on effective techniques of second language acquisition.

Sophia is now a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Tulane University in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.


David Bering-Porter
David Bering-Porter is a doctoral candidate in the department of Modern Culture and Media, studying new media and bio-power through mediations of the body and the archive. His dissertation explores the expression of undeadness, or uncanny vitality, in psychoanalysis, science, and zombie movies. His dissertation, entitled “Undead: Bodies and Codes of Uncanny Vitality in the Media of Late Capitalism,” looks to the way in which figures of undeath run through many diverse sites of cultural production, ranging from the zombie in film, to the structural limits of
subject formation and experience, as well as certain conceptions of race and population that arise from the histories of science and government in the twentieth century. The undead have long held an important place in the popular imagination, and such figures
appear in a variety of media from myth to cinema to video games, yet the central questions yielded from this investigation of undeadness speak not to the role of death per se, but rather a mediated notion of death or the uncanny “life” or vitality that emerges in contemporary culture. Fundamentally, this dissertation asks the question, how is it that structures of power and politics invest in this terrain of “life” in the contemporary period of late capitalism? How is this notion of “life” constituted, and within what frames of representation and knowledge? The undead serve for this project, both as a figure to be defined and a symptom to be outlined.


Kevin Patton
Kevin Patton is a PhD candidate in Computer Music and Multimedia Composition in the Department of Music. He is a composer, scholar, and performer whose research focuses on the design, implementation, and performance of new computer-based interactive musical instruments. His dissertation, "The Performance and Orchestration of Interactive Music Instruments" focuses on the challenges of designing and composing with new instruments that embed interactive technology in music practice from opera to improvisation.

The last 30 years has seen a dramatic increase in technological development and musical performance, marking a turning point in music history. Ever more musicians and technologists have begun to develop tools and practices together. Works that use sensors attached to the body, computer extension of acoustic instruments (through sensors or audio stream analysis), or non-haptic interfaces such as video tracking or proximity sensors are different articulations of the same idea: they require a manifestation of technology to be performed. Furthermore, these new interactive music instruments challenge traditional notions of virtuosity and production-centered concepts of instrumental efficacy. In a very different way from acoustic instruments, control of time and musical output must be negotiated, instead of commanded—a secondary, non-human presence unlike that of the acoustic instrument must be dealt with. These systems are dynamic but not indeterminate, and unique to each work. Kevin argues that the dynamic interactive system challenges the musical autonomy of the performer, and forces—on an intrinsic level—a negotiated, contingent subjectivity that simultaneously subverts and extends the intentionality of the performer.


Oded Rabinovitch
Oded Rabinovitch is a PhD candidate in History. His research is broadly focused on the relations between literature, science and social institutions in early modern France. His dissertation project, “Anatomy of a Family of Letters: The Perraults, 1640-1705,” examines these relations by looking at men of letters in seventeenth-century France through the lens of the family. By taking as its central object the Perraults, a family of literary and scientific authors based in Paris, this study shows how they became a “family of letters.” The Perraults’ actions as a family shaped their cultural activities, while at the same time their family life was altered because of their literary careers. By focusing on the connections between literary and intellectual careers and the functioning of the family, it argues that kinship networks were central for generating “modern” literature and ways of thinking about nature often referred to as the “Scientific Revolution.”

In contrast with works that focus on a narrow institutional context or intellectual field, this project encompasses the wide range of the Perraults’ actions: from literature, science and architecture to finance and the service of the monarchy. Consequently, this in-depth study of one family of authors reconnects the historical question of authorship, as well as literary, cultural and scientific production, to the strongest social reality of early modern France: the family as a unit of social, cultural and economic reproduction.

Oded was awarded a Hanadiv Fellowship for 2010-12 and spent the 2010-11 academic year as a postdoctoral fellow in the History Department at Harvard. In 2012-13, Oded will spend the year as a Thomas Arthur Arnold Postdoctoral Fellow at the Graduate School for Historical Studies, Tel-Aviv University.