My research primarily focuses on performances and texts responding to ancient tragedy and epic, the traditional arts in modern British theatre-making, and contemporary storytelling practices.
2016-2017 Fulbright Scholar – Russia
I received my MFA at Washington University in Saint Louis and my Ph.D. in English, with Creative-Writing dissertation, at University of Tennessee where I am a post-doctoral lecturer. I study poetics and the Victorian Novel with an emphasis on place, the environment, and labor. My articles have appeared in Dickens Studies Annual and George Eliot-George Henry Lewes Studies. My fiction and poetry explore the rural landscape and labor, subjects I see as underrepresented in contemporary writing. My current novel project, Present Blusters, explores the hidden past of the Hudson Valley through the story of a woman who, after getting Lyme disease, sees ghosts on the rundown estate where she lives. One chapter is forthcoming in Witness, while another has appeared in cream city review as the winner of the A. David Schwartz Fiction Prize.
I am medical rhetorician and technical communicator. I teach writing at Harold Washington College — one of the City Colleges of Chicago. There, I am an Associate Professor of English and a member of the City Colleges of Chicago Institutional Review Board (IRB). I am a Newberry Library scholar-in-residence for 2018-2019, a 2018 recipient of a Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication (CPTSC) research grant, and an associate editor for the Foundations and Innovations in Technical and Professional Communication book series.
Performing Relationships: Choreia, Qasida, and Community — A Cross-Cultural Perspective The communal culture of classical Greece was fundamentally musical. This, as many have noted, harkens back to a pre-literate society, where song and oral formulae were aids to composition, memory, and cultural preservation. Yet, even after the Greeks developed writing, musical expression retained pride of place. Thus the Athenian confidently asserts: οὐκοῦν ὁ μὲν ἀπαίδευτος ἀχόρευτος ἡμῖν ἔσται, τὸν δὲ πεπαιδευμένον ἱκανῶς κεχορευκότα θετέον; (Plat. Laws 654a-b). This ‘culture of musical expression’ is far more than a source of entertainment, or a basis for education (as Plato would have it). Indeed, they are fundamentally connected to the roots of the community itself, as Damon observes in the Republic: οὐδαμοῦ γὰρ κινοῦνται μουσικῆς τρόποι ἄνευ πολιτικῶν νόμων τῶν μεγίστων (5.424c) Not only does the medium itself represent social cohesion — paradoxically, it is also frequently used to depict stasis and social isolation. Indeed, the very act of performing a choral song expresses and confirms the network of reciprocal social relationships by and through which communities are formed, either directly or meta-poetically. So we see Odysseus reduced to tears by Demodocus’ song, utterly isolated in his grief, even as he is an honored guest among the Phaeacians (Od. 8.521-31) and we also see Achilles sing the tales of heroes to Patroclus, although anger isolates him from the rest of his comrades (Il. 9.189-91). The social significance of musical expression extends beyond the creation and performance of song to the political realm, as we see in Hesiod, where the wise king is one who, through the blessing of the Muses, is able to deploy language skillfully, soothing high spirits and maintaining social order (Thg. 80-92;93-103). The successful king, then, must also be a successful performer. When we turn our gaze to the Arabian desert, we find that Nabati poetry, the oral poetry of the Bedouin, has served a strikingly similar function within that culture. Indeed, the Arabs themselves consider poetry to be the essence of their language and the poetry of the desert to express the fundamental social and political structures of their society: “The people of pre-modern Arabia were ruled by eloquent persuasion rather than by outright force; therefore, the gift of poetry constituted an essential qualification for effective leadership” (Sowayan 1985: 67). And the fundamental quality of that poetry is that it is a musical performance: “When one hears a new poem one may ask ‘wiššū h-aṭ-targ’ (‘What is this rhythm?’) or ‘wišlōn šēlitah?’ (‘How is it sung?’)” (Sowayan 1985:158). Nabati poetry ranges in scope from brief, direct love-poems composed for the most intimate of audiences to accounts of tribal histories and versified negotiations between rival parties. It is not epic poetry and, yet, the nature and function of its role in Arab society, particularly that of the Najd, certainly calls the Homeric poems to mind — these are also performances outside of historical time, marked by a unique dialect, memorializing communal bonds and individual losses, all in song. My aim, without supposing that these works are genetically related in any sense, is to compare the nature and function of these traditions, and to consider the wider role of poetry, music, and expressions of community in East and West. It is my earnest hope that such an endeavor will both better our understanding of the ancient world we study and an often misunderstood part of the modern world we share. Sowayan, S. A., (1985), Nabati Poetry: The Oral Poetry of Arabia (Berkeley: University of California Press). ___________________________________________________________ About me: Classicist, philologist, eternal student of Indo-European, endlessly entertained by etymologies. Things I like: strong tea, Oum Kalthoum, re-performances of ancient drama and music Things I dislike: Fitting into boxes, filling out boxes, checking off boxes, packing boxes. Random FAQs: Where are you? I’m nomadic, so it depends. Where do you work? See above. Do you speak Arabic? Not as well as I should, but I’m working on it. How do you propose to do this work without a degree in Arabic? Very carefully. I think my philological training has prepared me fairly well for work like this, plus, I have the support of very kind, learned colleagues helping me learn Arabic and come to grips with that textual tradition. There isn’t a lot here, where can I find out more? Follow me on Twitter @DrVHSmitherman. Cheers!
I have just finished my manuscript The Corporation in the American Imagination, 1819-1905, and I am now looking into the modes of representation in which stories of male and female entrepreneurs are told in the US.
I am a freelance writer, editor, and independent scholar with a PhD in ethnomusicology. I have conducted research on Afro-Cuban folkloric and popular musical practices since 2004, primarily in the cities of Havana, Matanzas, and Santiago. My dissertation, entitled “Localizing Hybridity: The Politics of Place in Contemporary Cuban Rumba Performance”, focused on recent innovations in rumba performance in the cities of Havana and Matanzas. My book, Geographies of Cubanidad: Place, Race, and Musical Performance in Contemporary Cuba, examines various Cuban musical practices – rumba, timba, son, and folklore oriental (eastern Cuban folklore) – and draws on recent fieldwork conducted in Santiago. My theoretical focus has centered on the entanglements of race and place in contemporary Cuba and their impact on musical performance. Beyond Cuban music, I am interested in African-derived practices from various sites throughout the diaspora, including Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and black American popular genres such as hip-hop and soul.
I work as an open source/media analyst at Novetta, where my domain knowledge of Russian language and culture helps to make patterns in Russian and East European messaging meaningful and assess the contents and target audiences of adversarial messaging. In research not directly related to my job, I specialize in twentieth-century Russian poetry, especially the early Soviet avant-garde and their successive work and successors under Socialist Realism. This interest in poetry also drives a agenda of developing computational methods to facilitate the study of versification and quantitative poetics. I also enjoy the opportunity to examine other media, particularly film, as can be seen in my notes and reviews on contemporary film for the annual Pittsburgh Russian Film Symposium and Kinokultura.
I am a historian of modern Europe, specialising in the history of science, urban history and the study of translation and reception in the history of ideas. My research interests include the academic and popular reception of Darwinism and evolution in Hungary and Central Europe; the study of knowledge production and transfer in the long nineteenth century; the role of the city and urban culture, including the urban press, in the circulation and transformations of knowledge; the history of scientific societies, associations and institutions; and the effect of migration and exile on knowledge transfer.