What are Faculty Shop Talks all about?


A Call for Papers


Fall 2000 Schedule

Spring 2001 Schedule


Past Shop Talks




Fall 2000 Schedule

Presenter:  Stewart Flory

Title:  The Fair Captive Spared: Three Ancient Generals Who Just Said No to Rape and Murder

Time and Place:  September 15, 2000 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


A story of war atrocity that has a positive outcome: A city is captured by a hostile army. One of the soldiers rapes a local woman and then forces her to reveal the whereabouts of her stash of jewelry. Pretending to give in to his threats, she leads him to a well in the back yard. She encourages him to lean ever further over the edge and then pushes him in. With the help of her maids she stones the rapist to death. Other soldiers drag the woman before the victorious general for summary punishment. Impressed by her bravery, however, he pardons her and restores her property.

The place is Thebes (not Bosnia), and the date is 335 B.C. The victorious general is Alexander the Great, his captive is the otherwise unknown Timokleia, and our source is Plutarch's Life of Alexander, written about 100 A.D. This marvelous story of a "fair captive spared," as I have discovered, forms a kind of narrative urban legend, what ancient historians call a topos. Though Plutarch does not remark on the fact, and the similarities have gone unnoticed by scholars for two thousand years, a virtually identical story is told by Herodotus of the victorious Spartan general Pausanias after the battle of Plataea (479 B.C.). The Alexander anecdote has another precedent (if we look to date of composition) or successor (if we look to historical time). The Roman historian Livy writes about 10 B.C. the story of the triumph of the great general Scipio Africanus over Hannibal. In 211 B.C. Scipio captures a town called New Carthage in Spain and there encounters a beautiful female captive, who happens to be betrothed to be married. Scipio gives a speech about the Roman virtue of clementia, restores the young woman to her fiancé, and even provides a dowry.

Each of these anecdotes reveals something about the historian who tells it and also perhaps about each of the three victorious generals. Herodotus' fair captive shows typical Herodotean female virtues of intelligence and bravery, casting into the shade the general who spares her. Though Timokleia is brave too, Plutarch's interest (or that of his source) is in the humanity of Alexander and his mastery over base passions-though cynical modern critics might see evidence of Alexander's fear of women and repressed homosexuality. In the Scipio anecdote the fair captive, muta persona, is mere eye candy for us to contemplate while we listen to Scipio's moralizing rhetoric. If, on the other hand, the stories are to some degree true, to what extent do the stories reflect each general's interest in promoting a certain image? Have we here the ancient equivalent of a "photo op"? To find out the answer, tune in 15 September!

Presenter:  Clark Ohnesorge

Title:  When Good People Pay Attention to Bad Things

Time and Place:  September 29, 2000 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


The emotion evoked by stimuli or events has been shown to influence performance across a very large range of cognitive and behavioral tasks.  Generally the concept of attention is invoked in developing theoretical explanations with a conclusion that negative experiences attract or receive more attention than do positive or neutral ones. Physiological indices (skin conductance, eyeblink magnitude, orienting) show a similar pattern of increased responsiveness to negative things. This correspondence between low and higher level responses suggests that the attentional effect may be relatively hard-wired or automatic. I present data from several studies designed to trace the deployment of attentional resources across time following the visual presentation of emotionally valenced lexical stimuli. The data from our low-level visual tasks reveal that the attentional enhancement effect is automatic and occurs within a tightly focused region of space surrounding the emotion-eliciting stimulus. Consistent with previous results we find evidence for increased allocation of attention to negative but not to neutral or positive stimuli.

Presenter:  Donald Scheese

Title:  The Fires This Time: A Retrospective on the Summer 2000 Wildfires

Time and Place:  October 13, 2000 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


My interest in wildfire grows out of my experiences as a fire lookout for the US Forest Service.  For twelve seasons I worked a number of lookouts in Idaho and Montana, becoming both a participant in and student of federal wildfire management policy.  I fought, reported and wrote about wildfires for many years.  My memoir of these experiences, Mountains of Memory: A Fire Lookout's Life in the River of No Return Wilderness, will be published by the University of Iowa Press in 2001.  In this talk, illustrated by slides and video, I will discuss the significance of the summer of 2000 wildfire season, which has proven to be one of the worst in recent memory, from the perspectives of both a fire lookout and an environmental historian.  After briefly reviewing the history of federal wildfire management policy I will discuss the summer 2000 wildfire season in its larger historical and cultural contexts, paying some attention to the situation in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness but focusing mainly on Western wildfires.  I intend to conclude with some reflections about Americans' conflicting attitudes towards wildfire, wilderness management, and wilderness itself as illuminated by our long and complex relationship with fire as a species.

Presenter:  Pedro J. Cordova, Jr.

Title:  Does students' performance on an exam differ from what they think ought to be in the exam?

Time and Place:  October 27, 2000 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


In second language (L2) testing of reading, students encounter a number of exercises such as multiple choice, fill in the blanks, true and false, matching, open-ended questions, sentence completion and paragraph writing. In this presentation, I will point out what exercises students prefer for testing reading and if their preference matches their performance in those exercises. Do students prefer those exercises in which they perform best? A discussion will follow as to what should be included in a reading exam, who has the final say--the student or the teacher, and should we solicit the students' input when the issue at stake is the content of an exam.

Presenter:  Nancy Butler

Title:  Shrimp Swarms on Coral Reefs

Time and Place:  November 17, 2000 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


In this presentation I will discuss the research that I and two students conducted this summer on the schooling behavior of the mysid Mysidium gracile in the shallow water coral reefs of Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Mysids are small, crustacean zooplankton found in marine and freshwater environments.  A unique aspect of their biology is their tendency to form aggregations (swarms) that are strikingly similar in cohesiveness, precision of locomotion, and anti-predation responses to those formed by fish. Formation and maintenance of these aggregations involve behavioral as well as environmental components, with topography, hydrodynamics, light intensity influencing the location and nature of aggregations.  

One striking characteristic of mysid aggregations is the frequency with which swarms are associated with other organisms.  For example, mysid swarms have been observed amongst the spines of the sea urchin Diadema and the tentacles of sea anemones.  Even more striking is the frequency with which mysid swarms are located within the territories of damselfish.  Damselfish are extremely territorial, aggressively defending their territories from intruders, including planktivorous fish such as the bluehead wrasse.  Therefore, when a swarm is located in a damselfish territory, the territory may act as a refuge, offering protection from predation as the damselfish drives away potential predators.  Swarming may also offer the benefit of increasing the probability of locating a mate while decreasing the risks associated with mate searching behaviors. 

Two undergraduate assistants and I spent 16 days at Discovery Bay Marine Lab conducting field investigations into the swarming behavior of mysids.  I will present the results of our field studies and the on-going and proposed lab studies that were based on our field observations.






Spring 2001 Schedule

Presenter:  Laura Behling

Title:  "the secret stories of rickets":  Anatomy, Dissection, and Modern American Literature

Time and Place:  February 16, 2001 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


In Voyage to Pagany (1928), William Carlos Williams' narrator describes a physician named Waldheim who meticulously reads texts that are not simply written on the body, but are the body themselves.  He "carefully, carefully [took] apart the unhappy bodies of dead children, and [unwound] out of them the secret stories of rickets, of tuberculosis, of syphilis and the gland deficiencies" (157).  Physical disease has a discernible narrative; conversely, narratives in the corpus of modern American literature have bodies anatomized by disease, dissection, and corporeal mutilation.   

This anatomization of the body, I suggest, becomes the means for ordering and controlling the disorderly social body by dehumanizing not only the objective body but also the subjective spectator whose fascination with such dis-integration betrays a loss of humanity.  If autopsy allows one to see for oneself, then it also necessarily allows one to see oneself--it is a method of self-examination or an investigation of the human psyche--displayed in the muscles, organs, and vessels of the body, or in Waldheim's case, in the "unhappy bodies of dead children." Indeed, modernism's central tenets of social and cultural chaos, interpersonal relationships disintegrating in the face of industry and war, and a sense of hopelessness can be recognized in far more than T.S. Eliot's "patient etherized upon a table" ("The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, 1915).   

My presentation will span a variety of texts that traverse nineteenth and twentieth centuries in American literature, and expand codified definitions of "literary texts."  I will begin with an examination of surgical and anatomical accounts from the mid-nineteenth century, followed by a discussion of what artificial limb manuals and illustrations of such limbs suggest about human integrity.  Then, I will specifically focus on some twentieth-century literary texts that attempt to discover through corporeal anatomization, dissection, or mutilation, an ultimately unknowable and diseased modern social reality.

Presenter:  David Koppenhaver

Title:  Reading Stories, Reading Kids: Interaction Supports for Girls with Rett Syndrome and Their Mothers

Time and Place:  March 2, 2001 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


Rett syndrome (RS) is a neurological disorder seen almost exclusively in females. Girls, who follow a typical developmental course for 12-18 months, become multiply disabled in a very short time period (a few months). They lose developing capabilities in communication, cognition, and physical. Stereotypic, repeated hand movements (e.g., tapping or wringing) are characteristic of the population.

Research involving girls with RS understandably has been focused on medical treatment. However, girls with RS typically survive into adulthood, making communication and education interventions also important in the present absence of a cure.

In this presentation, I will share research that my colleagues and I have been engaged in, studying the use of storybook reading as a context for communication intervention. I will share videotapes of several girls to familiarize participants with the challenges RS presents to girls and their mothers. Then I will describe and share basic technologies and strategies that we have found supportive of successful mother-daughter storybook

Presenter:  Pamela Kittelson

Title:  Evolutionary ecology in the field: the influence of gene flow and natural selection on local adaptation

Time and Place:  March 16, 2001 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


Evolutionary ecologists note that across large spatial scales plants often exhibit differences in traits that allow adaptation to local environmental conditions.  Few studies, however, examine the degree of local adaptation over smaller areas.  Moreover, few field studies identify the relative strength of evolutionary mechanisms responsible for this divergence.  Theory predicts that strong selective factors or restrictions in gene flow should produce differences in plant traits among populations.  But, in situations where gene flow is high (i.e. not restricted) local adaptation will not develop unless selection is quite strong.  In my study system, insect herbivores and environmental gradients serve as strong selective forces.  Additionally, plant genes ‘flow’ among populations via pollinating bees or seed-dispersing mice.  If bees or mice move among areas, gene flow will be quite high. To determine the strength of evolutionary forces at work, I quantified the level of gene flow and determined the degree of differentiation among three populations of perennial yellow bush lupine (Lupinus arboreus).  Populations grew in close proximity to one another, and were part of a larger continuous population at the Bodega Marine Lab, in Sonoma County, California.  In this Shop Talk, I will describe my results from these studies and how they contribute to the field of evolutionary ecology.  I also will discuss how this research dovetails into work being conducted by my students in Minnesota tallgrass prairies.

Presenter:  Amy Seham

Title:  Walk like a man: See Jane Improvise

Time and Place:  April 6, 2001 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


This talk is drawn from research for my dissertation on race, gender and improv-comedy, soon to be a book published by the University Press of Mississippi entitled Whose Improv Is It Anyway? Beyond Second City. This selection explores the gender play in performances by JANE, the first all-woman improv-comedy troupe in Chicago, analyzing their "spontaneous" choices of gesture, voice, and action to represent "maleness". Women are still a rarity in comedy performance, particularly in the aggressive world of Chicago improv-comedy. Because improvised comedy is spontaneous, fast-paced, and usually dependent on stereotypes, women often find themselves relegated to the standard supporting roles of "wife" or "girlfriend" in scenes focused on the male comedians. However, in 1996, a group of women formed an independent group called JANE -- a development that throws much common improv-comedy practice into sharp relief. Because women play both male and female characters in JANE's scenes, the company produces a fascinating commentary on gender roles in improvisation. In particular, gestural, physical, and verbal indicators of maleness are starkly foregrounded through the female body -- a reversal of the more common female impersonation in many comedy genres. It can be unclear in a romantic scene, for example, whether the women are playing a lesbian relationship or whether -- when she takes on an aggressive posture, commanding voice, and confident attitude -- one of the players is "doing" a male role. This uncertainty helps pose the question of intrinsic maleness and femaleness in all improvised and other theatrical representations.

Presenter:  Greg Mason

Title:  Politics and Psychology, Acknowledgement and Denial: World War II Exhibited in Japanese and United States' Peace Museums

Time and Place:  April 20, 2001 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


One hopeful sign for the future of world peace has been the widespread growth of peace museums.  As our new millennium begins, profound, ambiguous issues from recent history remain, which need to be thoroughly acknowledged and worked through in order for the world community to move forward into a genuinely peaceable new age. Within this context, my presentation will examine some recent developments in how critical and sensitive events of World War II are being remembered and displayed in museum exhibits in Japan and in the United States.

When the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum attempted in 1995 to prepare a comprehensive exhibit on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, veterans groups and others objected vehemently.  The museum quickly abandoned its attempts to contextualize the atomic bombings and to raise questions about their morality in an historical light. The orignanally envisioned scope of the exhibit was radically reduced to a presentation of the Enola Gay, the airplane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.  The resulting exhibit was essentially devoid of historical context, with no investigation of the legitimacy or consequences of the allies' actions.  Japan, by contrast, a country that has hitherto been justly criticized for a reluctance to acknowledge responsibility for its own past deeds, has recently shown itself ready to present its actions that led up to and accompanied World War II in a frank and revealing manner in new peace museum exhibits in Hiroshima and Osaka. Although internal dissent on these issues certainly still exists in Japan, she now shows clear signs of working to foster an informed and critical, historical consciousness in her citizenry concerning her past. The Smithsonian exhibit suggests that it is still unclear whether the United States is also now ready to reflect critically on its own past deeds as part of an authentic process of reconciliation among former enemies which must form the basis of any lasting future peace.





What are Faculty Shop Talks all about?

Faculty Shop Talks provide a serious (though not solemn) forum for the presentation of original research and artistic creation by Gustavus faculty. The meetings are generally Friday afternoons at 4:30 and last no more than an hour, though some may come earlier or stay a bit later. The audience is limited to Gustavus faculty and their guests. The actual presentation should be no more than 30 minutes.  The model should be a "conference" paper adapted to a non-specialist academic audience. Shop Talks aim to speak both to departmental colleagues and those in completely different disciplines. Wine, soft drinks, and snacks are provided.





A Call For Papers

The Shop Talk organizing committee (Paul Saulnier and Claude Brew) would like to solicit abstracts for the Shop Talk series. These 20-30 minute presentations allow Gustavus scholars to share their research/art and enthusiasm. A title, brief abstract (electronic format), and A/V requirements should be sent to Paul (psaul@gac.edu) or Claude (cbrew@gac.edu). If the current Shop Talk schedule does not have any vacancies do not hesitate to contact Paul or Claude to reserve a future date. We look forward to hearing from you.