Faculty Shop Talks

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Fall 2022

Presenter: Matthew Panciera
Title: "The Most Remarkable Epitaph of the Ancient Roman Freedwoman, Allia Potestas"
Time and Place: September 23, 2022 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

The long, poetic epitaph for the freedwoman, Allia Potestas, was discovered in 1912 and instantly caused a stir. Not only did it praise her in fascinating and highly specific ways - the description of her body is stunningly direct by ancient Roman standards - but it also seemed to say that she had been in a stable and happy relationship with two men simultaneously, the writer of the epitaph and another man. This was an ancient Roman throuple! In this talk I will point out some of the more fascinating aspects of the epitaph. I will also argue that the identity of the writer of the epitaph has been hiding in plain sight the whole time and shifts our interpretation of the epitaph in significant ways.

Presenter: Sam Kessler
Title: "Snapshots of a Modern Jewish Theology: Medieval Continuities and Historical Dissonances"
Time and Place: October 12, 2022 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

This talk will discuss the co-edited anthology I'm completing, entitled Modern Jewish Theology: The First Hundred Years, 1835-1935. Featuring newly-translated excerpts from over thirty nineteenth and twentieth century thinkers, the book is the first of its kind to identify a unique strain of modern Jewish thinking, one that combined academic scholarship with historical religious philosophy. My talk will focus on the introduction to the volume, and work through the challenges of explaining this genre and its assumptions to a contemporary audience in American English. 

Presenter: Laura Burrack
Title: "How do fungal pathogens evolve resistance to antifungal drugs?"
Time and Place: October 14, 2022 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Fungal infections are a significant threat to human health with an estimated 1.5 million deaths/year caused by fungal infections. Mortality rates for invasive infections approach 50%
and many fungal pathogens have resistance to available antifungal drugs. One important emerging fungal pathogen is Candida auris which can cause outbreaks of skin and invasive
infections, especially in long-term care and intensive care facilities. Here, we obtained and characterized a set of clinical isolates of C. auris including multiple isolates from the same
patient. To understand how drug resistance arises, we evolved these isolates and found that resistance to fluconazole, a commonly prescribed antifungal, can occur rapidly and that there
are multiple pathways to resistance. During our experiment, resistance was gained, but it was not lost, even in the absence of drug. We also found that some C. auris isolates have higher
mutation rates than others and are primed to acquire antifungal resistance mutations. Furthermore, we found that multidrug resistance can evolve within a single patient. Overall, our
results highlight the high stability and high rates of acquisition of antifungal resistance of C. auris that allow evolution of pan-resistant, transmissible isolates in the clinic.

Presenter: Sean Easton
Title: "Heckling the Heroes: Blaming, Rebuking (and More!) in Greek and Roman Epic"
Time and Place: October 28, 2022 at 4:30 pm in the St Peter Room

All nine epic poems that survive in complete or nearly complete form from Archaic Greece through first century CE Rome feature one or more ‘blameworthy blamers’. Epic heroes often taunt one another, but typically they are exact or near social equals. The blameworthy blamer, however, heckles and criticizes the hero(es) without the social standing that permits such speech. Over time, these blamers will include intoxicated warriors, wiley political orators, substandard soldiers, a vagrant, disaffected gods, the mother of one hero and the wife of another. Their blameworthiness in this regard makes rebuke, censure and a demonstration of restored authority desirable among the targets of their attack. The result is a mini-drama that begins in blame that retains its principal distinguishing features across centuries of epic tradition, encapsulating, in each case, key insights about the poem in which it appears.

Presenter: Rebecca Fremo
Title: “Hardiness Zones: Reading from A Memoir in Progress”
Time and Place: November 4, 2022 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Environmentalists study global implications: Climate refugees. Water shortages. But I’m fascinated by the incremental changes I see in my own rural Minnesota backyard: those I observe in my plants, and the ones I see in my three sons. I don't pretend our approaches are equal in scope or importance, but environmentalists and I share a fundamental assumption: that people can and must take responsibility for what they grow. Still, I write as a gardener. Gardening both expands our understanding of how things thrive and complicates our belief in our own power. Hardiness Zones, my memoir in progress, takes readers through my backyard garden, a small college's arboretum and prairie restoration project, and state parks of Northern Minnesota. In moving through a spectrum of wild spaces, the essays depict my attempts to learn how to take better care of my three sons in the often chilly climate we inhabit together here in Minnesota. 

Presenter: Kathy Lund Dean
Title: “Not even trying” to be innovative? Network ties and homophily in management research leadership
Time and Place: November 18, 2022 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Management scholars routinely call for increasing innovation and creativity in our research. After examining explanations for why research is judged as uninspiring and irrelevant, we theorize that research decision-makers in our field may be quelling acceptance and dissemination of innovation. We use social network analysis to examine network ties among presidents and editors within the Academy of Management from 1990 to the present. We measure network density, homophily by sex and race, cliques, and Simmelian ties to determine potential editorial and leader gatekeeping and ideological conformity among network members. Analyses revealed low network density and no evidence of sex-based homophily. About half of the presidents do not belong to cliques, and Simmelian tie analysis does not indicate conformity. There is evidence of race-based homophily and significantly more network ties among non-people of color. We discuss analysis results and opportunities for extending network openness and avenues for additional research. 

Spring 2023

Presenter: Yurie Hong
Title: “Between Appreciation and Complicity: The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, and a Korean-American take on Arranged Marriage and Family History”
Time and Place: February 17, 2023 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

The Homeric Hymn to Demeter tells of the goddess Persephone's abduction by the god Hades, her mother Demeter's frantic search, and Persephone's eventual transformation into the queen of the underworld. The hymn is remarkable for its acknowledgement of the trauma of forced marriage and mother-daughter separation. However, it is also a hymn sung in praise of the two goddesses and the blessings they bestow on worshippers. In this talk, I reflect on how my undersatnding of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter has been impacted 1) by my grandmother, who had an arranged marriage in South Korea as a teenager and 2) by Octavia Butler’s novel Kindred, about a Black woman who time travels back to the antebellum south and is tasked with facilitating the rape of her female ancestor. In particular, I explore how societies offer certain forms of respect and deference as compensation for the violation of women's bodies and the uncomfortable ways in which, even descendants who seek to acknowledge the injustice of the past, can be made complicit in the very act of commemoration and appreciation.

Presenter: Lisa Heldke
Title: "Stuck on You: Thinking Parasitically."
Time and Place: March 3, 2023 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

The Enlightenment notion of the human individual as a “billiard ball”—an independent, self-contained unit—has long been challenged by philosophers advocating a relational conception of the self that acknowledges our fundamental reliance on other human beings. My current work explores the significance of recognizing not just our macro-level reliance on other humans, but our micro-level relationships with the microbes living in and on us. How does our philosophical conception of personhood need to change, when we acknowledge the fact that even the digestion of our morning toast is a committee task?

But while many who study the human microbiome focus on mutualistic or at least commensal relationships (“we are all lichens,” as one biologist puts it), I’m interested in how our conception of personhood is challenged even more deeply when we take seriously the degree to which life on this planet—including human life—is shaped by parasitic relationships. What happens to our understanding of personhood if we take seriously the degree to which all life on this planet, including human life, is threaded through with—indeed, is constituted out of—relationships with myriad other organisms in which one organism sinks its “teeth” into another and hangs on for dear life, deriving vital sustenance from that second creature, but sometimes imperiling that life as well? Or, to put the matter less colorfully, how ought we reconceptualize the human person in light of the complex relationships between humans and our resident colonies—relationships that run the gamut from “everybody-wins!” to “one-or-maybe-both-of-us-is-gonna-die!”

Presenter: Whitney Dirks
Title: "Monstrosity, Bodies, and Knowledge in England, 1450-1800"
Time and Place: March 17, 2023 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

In 1680, the impoverished cottager Mary Herring gave birth to conjoined girls. Within six weeks, the twins had been kidnapped by a local Justice of the Peace to be shown for money (in whose care they died), and the girls’ father had filed the first complaint in what would become a four-year-long legal battle over ownership and income. This sordid story constitutes the backbone of my first book, which examines how monstrous births (a contemporary term used to describe deformed humans and animals) were discussed in cheap print, put on show in London’s pubs and coffeehouses, examined by the Royal Society, portrayed in visual and material culture, and litigated about in London’s Court of Chancery. I argue that people discussed monstrous births because they provided newsworthy entertainment that also revealed the will of God and the internal workings of Nature.

Presenter: Kate Aguilar
Title: “It’s All About the U”: The University of Miami Football Program and Black Athletic Activism in the 1980s
Time and Place: April 14, 2023 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Cultural histories of Miami recognize it as a Sunbelt city where economic, political, and demographic forces worked together after World War II to encourage population movement from the North to the South. These histories have largely overlooked the mobilization of college football and the Orange Bowl Festival through which Miami boosters sold the city as a playground for White Americans. This analysis of the University of Miami’s 1980s program demonstrates that historically Miami boosterism erased Black contributions to the city that the Black football player’s hypervisibility confronted and exposed. Based on the new Orange Bowl Collection, this work reveals how the University of Miami Black football player used his play to bring national attention to the university and the contributions of Black Miamians.

Presenter: Julie Bartley
Title: "Inclusive Excellence in STEM at Gustavus - update and lessons learned so far"
Time and Place: April 28, 2023 at 4:30 pm in the St Peter Room