What are Faculty Shop Talks all about?


A Call for Papers


Fall 2001 Schedule

Spring 2002 Schedule


Past Shop Talks



Fall 2001 Schedule

Presenter:  Joyce Sutphen

Title:  Treading Air:  One Way of Writing Poems

Time and Place:  September 21, 2001 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


My talk is a "serious (though not solemn)" reflection on what (for me) goes into making poems.  I wrote this paper expressly for this Shop Talk, but the subject is always on my mind; I simply needed Paul Saulnier to nudge me into saying something coherent (or at least sustained) about how I do this thing that I seem unable to resist doing.

One afternoon this summer, I was in Ireland working on a poem.  I looked out the window and saw a pair of kestrels floating back and forth over the abandoned rock quarry across the road.  As I watched, one of them stopped in mid-air and rapidly beat its wings so that it held on to a single piece of sky.  It reminded me of a swimmer, treading water to stay afloat, and somehow it also reminded me of writing a poem to make a stay in the flow of time - hence the title, "Treading Air."

The poet, Randall Jarrell said, is "someone who manages, in a lifetime of standing in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightening five or six times," and Henry James said:  "Try to be one of those people on whom nothing is lost."  Luck and diligence: these are key ingredients in my own way of writing poems, but like Jorge Luis Borges, I am afraid I can not offer a definitive recipe.  "Drinking in poetry," Borges said, "I have come to a final conclusion about it.  Indeed, every time I am faced with a blank page, I feel that I have to rediscover literature for myself. . . . I have only my perplexities to offer you."  

Presenter:  Jonathan Smith

Title:  Twist and Shout: Spectroscopic studies on systems that undergo dramatic
changes upon absorption of light

Time and Place:  October 5, 2001 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


An important and familiar molecular system, retinal, undergoes a large geometry change, twisting, upon absorption of light. This process triggers the vision process. The molecular systems under investigation by laser resonance Raman spectroscopy at Gustavus are related compounds, stilbene derivatives, that twist upon absorption of light but certain types of twisting may also induce the movement of an electron across the molecular system and other types may inhibit these charge-transfer processes.  Spectroscopy coupled to quantum mechanical computational modeling of these systems provides important clues as to these systems' behavior and properties. Encapsulation of these compounds into a cyclodextrin cavity can may constrain the twisting and cause the molecule to "shout" instead.  Detailed understanding of these systems may lead to important insights into charge-transfer processes and potentially molecular electronics.

Presenter:  John Braun

Title:  Self, Family, and Society -- Comparative Values of Japanese and American Students

Time and Place:  October 26, 2001 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


This paper resulted from a series of student surveys that used a values inventory I developed based on John Condon's 'Map of Values.' I used it initially as a learning tool in my Intercultural Communication classes both in Japan and the US, but finally tabulated all the results into this comparative study. As the title suggests, I looked at nine values, three each clustered around the self, the family, and society. I asked students to identify the importance of each value first of all to themselves, and then to identify their perceptions of it for most in their society. The results reveal some insightful dichotomies both between the students and their larger cultures, and between Japanese and American students. I'll try to illustrate the numbers with some cool computer graphics, but short of that, I'll have some transparencies and hard copies so you can look at the results close up for yourselves.

Presenter:  Gregory Kaster

Title:  Honorable Workers, Honorable Men: Masculinized Assimilationist Desire in Workingmen's Rhetoric, 1827-1877

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


(Note: This paper is a version of my contribution to an anthology on the history of American masculinity edited by Thomas Winter and soon, we hope, to be considered by the University of Chicago Press.) This essay seeks to recover and understand the masculinized assimilationist desire embedded in the movement rhetoric of organized white male craft workers in American from the late 1820s through the late 1870sódates that demarcate, however imperfectly, a formative half-century of class formation and labor protest. That desire, or yearning, I argue, was a central and persistent tendency in the language of organized white workingmen across those fifty years, one that sheds suggestive light on both workingmen's ideology and collective identity. Even as labor texts called for manly solidarity and resistance, they expectantly linked such class behavior to a class-inflected, trans-class gendered identity for workingmen as elevated men of character and standing. Simultaneously, and related, even as the same texts proudly celebrated manual labor, they evinced ambivalent defensiveness about it. In these ways labor rhetoric and ideology resisted others defining workingmen, and workingmen defining themselves, solely or chiefly as workers. Part of a wider literature and practice of self-construction in nineteenth-century America, labor texts together delineated and bespoke a persistent, ambivalent double identity defined at bottom as much by manly character as by class characteristics.

Presenter:  Michael Ferragamo

Title:  Timbre, Pitch and Spectral Shape: From Perception to Protein

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


In my previous Shop Talk (Spring 1999), an attempt was made to tie a common evolutionary thread between the percept of musical pitch and the construction of images during bat echolocation. Extension of this comparative approach between phylogenetically distant species has provoked a way of thinking about the human sensation of timbre, or spectral shape.  Timbre is defined as that attribute of auditory sensation in terms of which a listener can judge that two sounds similarly presented and having the same loudness and pitch are dissimilar (ASA Standards).  Differences in timbre enable one to distinguish between the same note on a piano, flute, or violin or to localize acoustic signals along the elevational plane.  Recently we have been trying to understand the physiological underpinnings of the interplay between spectral shape and pitch as cues in vocal communication among anurans, and in target identification during echolocation.  Our analysis will span from behavior and systems, to membrane physiology.






Spring 2002 Schedule

Presenter:  John Cha

Title:  On The Radical Reorientation of Consciousness: The Concept of Awakening in Classical Indian Buddhism

Time and Place:  February 15, 2002 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


During the first several centuries of the Common Era, Buddhist intellectuals in India composed religiously authoritative treatises whose objectives included moral and intellectual formation as well as spiritual liberation. These Buddhists assumed that prior to awakening consciousness is afflicted with affective and cognitive obscurations the removal of which results in the purification of consciousness and eventually the awakening to Reality. These treatises, therefore, prescribe a religious path of the systematic cultivation of ethical conduct, mental concentration and insight. The final aim of the path is Buddhahood (Buddhatva), which refers to both the radical transformation of consciousness and the Reality thus disclosed. In this presentation I will explain the concept of awakening in Indian Buddhism as represented in these classical treatises, focusing on one of the most important schools of the time, the Yogacara ("Practice of Yoga"), otherwise known as Cittamatra ("Mind-only").

Presenter:  Jon Grinnell

Title:  A Lion's Peculiar Voice

Time and Place:  March 8, 2002 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


Once widespread throughout Africa and the Middle East, populations of African lions have over the past 100 years been reduced, fragmented and isolated from each other by human activity.  Molecular evidence from populations that haven't been driven extinct suggests that this isolation has resulted in genetic divergence between populations.  Although the remnant population of lions in the Gir forest of India are the most distinctive, even populations of African lions that have been recently isolated appear to have accumulated novel traits.  In the last few years I've begun making and collecting recordings of lion roars from different east and southern African populations, and will in this talk discuss the patterns of vocal differences I've found and what difference they may-or may not-make to the many social functions of roaring.

Presenter:  Eric Josef Carlson

Title:  Preaching and the Reformation in England

Time and Place:  March 22, 2002 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


This talk could be subtitled "Excuse Me, But What Happened to Justification by Faith?". In my research on preaching in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, I have discovered that mainstream preachers routinely endorsed a theology of "no salvation without preaching", arguing that saving faith could only come (ordinarily) from hearing sermons. In this presentation, I will outline the role that preaching came to play in the reformed English church through about 1630, how preaching was supposed to work on the listener, and the practical problems that preachers came to identify. I will also explore some of the problems of studying preaching through printed sermons, which may be seen as quite different both in content and purpose from the original oral versions on which they were based.

Presenter:  Gretchen Hofmeister

Title:  Pharmaceuticals, Medical Sutures, and Plastic:  The Titanium Connection--Using Molecular Architecture to Control Reactivity

Time and Place:  April 12, 2002 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


Of fundamental importance in organic synthesis is to control the outcome of a particular transformation in a manner that produces a single, predominate product. Synthetic targets, such as pharmaceutical agents, natural products and their derivatives, and polymers, are increasingly more complex, requiring that the methods used to accomplish specific transformations be more selective. One approach for controlling reactivity is to employ metal-ligand complexes as mediators or catalysts for organic transformations. We have prepared and characterized some new titanium trisphenolate complexes, which have interesting and unique structural features, and which catalyze the preparation of polylactic acid, a biodegradable polymer.

Presenter:  John Mosbo

Title:  Undergraduate Research  - The Synthesis of Transition Metal Complexes with Pendant Crown Ether Ligands

Time and Place:  April 26, 2002 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


This presentation reconstructs the paths taken by a number of undergraduate research students toward their goal of preparing and studying the chemical, physical, and spectroscopic properties of compounds with crown ether groups attached to transition metals.  Crown ethers are organic compounds with several oxygen atoms.  Though simple inorganic salts, such as table salt, are normally quite insoluble in organic solvents, many salts are readily soluble when crown ethers are present.  Transition metal complexes are used as catalysts in a variety of chemically and industrially important processes.  Attaching crown ether groups to transition metals provides the potential to manipulate catalytic activity through the addition of simple metal salts.  More importantly, these kinds of compounds furnished challenging synthetic problems involving previously unreported classes of materials that provided students the opportunity to develop insight into the thought processes of chemical research, as well as new laboratory skills, and to experience both the frustration of failure and the thrill of success.  The presentation will emphasize the laboratory-based learning experiences these syntheses provided for the students involved.





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) 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@gustavus.edu).  If the current Shop Talk schedule does not have any vacancies do not hesitate to contact Paul to reserve a future date.  We look forward to hearing from you.