About the Arts & Humanities Initiative (AHI) Program grant program
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October 2019 AHI Awardees
March 2019 AHI Awardees
October 2018 AHI Awardees


The Office of the Vice President for Research is proud to present the October 2018 Arts & Humanities Initiatives (AHI) Program Awardees:

Matthew Arndt, Associate Professor, School of Music
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant

Elaboration in Georgian Chant

Professor Arndt will study the elaboration of simple musical patterns to produce complex ones in three-voiced sacred chant from the Republic of Georgia. Georgian chant has experienced a rebirth since its rediscovery in the 1980s, after being literally buried underground during the interwar period to protect it from the Bolsheviks. Since Georgia gained independence in 1991, the academic study of Georgian chant has also been pursued with growing intensity, primarily according to historical and ethnographic methods. At the same time, in the last decade there has been a burgeoning of theoretical and analytical study of world music. But little of this latter work has so far addressed Georgian music. Bridging these two broad research areas (the theoretical study of world music, and the study of Georgian chant), Arndt aims to investigate the unity—posited by practitioners—of an ancient, simple manner of Georgian chant with two increasingly modern, elaborate manners. What specific forms of elaboration might render the latter two manners more elaborate and unified with the first? In Western music, such elaboration has been studied for about three and a half centuries, and especially during the past century, owing to the pioneering work of Austrian music theorist Heinrich Schenker. But in Georgian music, such elaboration has hardly begun to be studied. Arndt will extrapolate specific forms of elaboration by synthesizing (1) empirical data about melodic and harmonic probabilities in transcriptions of the three manners of chant, (2) interpretation of a manuscript containing the sole extant illustration by one of the original master chanters of relations between the three manners of chant, and (3) experiential learning of style through attending a Georgian singing retreat with master musicians. The empirical and experiential components of the method are meant to help mitigate bias in interpreting materials from another culture. Arndt anticipates that this study will precipitate in a substantial article. This research will shed new theoretical and practical light on the treasury of Georgian chant.

Ed Folsom, Professor, Department of English
Arts & Humanities Initiative Major Conference Grant

Walt Whitman at 200: The Bicentennial Symposium

I am applying for an AHI Major Conference grant to support a rolling symposium, “Walt Whitman at 200: The Bicentennial Symposium,” planned to accompany and coincide with a major new exhibition of Whitman’s work that will run in the Main Library’s new first-floor gallery from April until August 2009. One of the most influential writers in American literature and a widely recognized and innovative thinker about the evolution of American democracy, Whitman will be celebrated during his 200th birthday year around the nation and around the world. The Iowa symposium will be one of the scholarly highlights of the year and will present a significant reassessment of his work and his impact on American culture. This will be a unique opportunity for our graduate and undergraduate students in American literature, American Studies, Digital Humanities, and Book Studies. Each of the visiting scholars in the rolling symposium will agree not only to present a public lecture but to lead intensive discussion sessions with students and interested faculty members. Each of the presentations will respond to the work of the other scholars in the symposium. I will give an opening talk on Whitman’s often overlooked late writings and how Whitman extended his innovative poetic power in some surprising ways very late in his life. The five guest professors—Betsy Erkkila (Northwestern University), Jerome Loving (Texas A&M University), Zachary Turpin (University of Idaho), Ivy Wilson (Northwestern University), and David Reynolds (CUNY-Graduate Center)—will help the audience for the exhibition and symposium understand the importance of Whitman’s deep involvement with the quickly evolving printing and publishing enterprises in nineteenth-century America. The reassessments and fresh angles on Whitman’s work that the symposium participants will be producing will be gathered as a special double issue of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review. The Whitman community is a large and active one at the University of Iowa, where much of the Whitman scholarship of the past forty years has been produced and published, and the series of presentations in this rolling symposium will be one of the major events of the Whitman Bicentennial.

Matthew Hill, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
Arts & Humanities Initiative Major Project Grant

The Social Landscape of Wood: A Comparative, Collaborative Project in Rajasthan and
Odisha States, India

Our work examines the complex social, economic, and political landscape of household wood use in India. Approximately 200 million households in India still rely on wood for their daily energy needs, in spite of the sustained and often invasive efforts to eliminate fuel wood (which preferentially target poor women). Vast effort has been expended on developing cook stoves that reduce pollution, but much less effort on understanding why new stove designs or alternative energy sources fail to replace the standard wood-burning chulha. Greater understanding may come from considering wood’s social and economic life as constructed by women and their families. Our project follows wood and the people who use it across two regions in India, one in Rajasthan and one in Odisha, to describe a poorly understood informal economy linking forests, homes, and local and regional markets. As anthropologists, we will use ethnographic methods such as personal interviews and participant observations to explore people’s lived experiences with wood and their choices surrounding its collection, use and sale within particular physical, social, economic, and political environments. AHI funding will support our initial data collection and new collaborations with researchers in India. We will conduct fieldwork in 2019 during the summer and winter seasons in the “wood-poor” state of Rajasthan. We will also begin a collaboration with two colleagues, Drs. Gopal Krishna Sarangi and Swarup Dutta at the TERI School of Advanced Studies, who will contribute crucial economic and development expertise and help us expand our work into the “wood rich” state of Odisha. Our results will contribute to one or more journal articles and large external grant applications for future fieldwork in Rajasthan and Odisha. Ultimately, we believe our data may help policy-makers better predict the social, economic, and geographic conditions that support or undermine large-scale energy interventions (such as the recent Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana program by the Indian government).

Brenda Longfellow, Associate Professor, Division of Art History
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant

Female Tomb Builders and Posthumous Honors for Women in Ancient Pompeii

I am applying for an AHI Standard Grant to research and write a book chapter on female funerary monuments in the ancient city of Pompeii in Italy. In preparation for writing the chapter, I will study and photograph the architectural, decorative, and epigraphic remains of Pompeian tombs built by women as well as the funerary equipment awarded to Pompeian women by the town council. This research will provide the source material for a chapter in my singleauthor book titled Women in Public in Pompeii. Women comprise half of the known tomb builders in Pompeii and received more than one third of the tomb plots awarded to individuals by the city council, and so female economic agency and civic connections are more visible in the cemeteries than anywhere else in the city. The chapter will further our understanding of the historical nature of female involvement in the larger community and outside of the domestic sphere.

Richard Priest, Associate Professor, Department of History
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant

Deepwater Horizons: The Epic Struggles Over Offshore Oil in the United States

This grant will be used to support the final stage of research for a book project titled, Deepwater Horizons: The Epic Struggles Over Offshore Oil in the United States, which provides the most deeply researched and comprehensive historical narrative of the governance of offshore oil development in the United States. It demonstrates how these struggles played out at the center of American politics, contesting the boundaries of the American nation-state, the contours of federalism, the shape of the American energy system, and the environmental limits of resource extraction. For readers interested in understanding the larger historical context behind Deepwater Horizon oil disaster – the leading news story of 2010 in the United States – this book will become the definitive study. Given the battle lines drawn for the proposed federal offshore leasing plan for 2019–2024, which proposes opening up 90 percent of the U.S. coastline to drilling, Deepwater Horizons will inform political and policy discussions about offshore oil for many years to come. This project is based on more than a decade of original primary research in manuscript collections, congressional hearings, court cases, oral histories, and law review articles, as well as the voluminous records of the Department of the Interior at the U.S. National Archives and related collections at several U.S. presidential libraries. I request AHI funding to cover travel expenses for research trips to three presidential libraries and two archives in Louisiana: the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, CA; the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta GA, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA; Louisiana State University, Hill Memorial Library Special Collections, in Baton Rouge, LA; and the Nicholls State University Archives and Special Collections in Thibodeaux, LA. I have identified a number of collections at each place with important documents relating to U.S. OCS law, politics, and policy that will fill in gaps in research already completed and clarify some unanswered questions relating to the role of OCS policy in the formulation of overall energy policy during the 1970s and 1980s and the influence of Louisiana politicians in the 1950s and 1960s.

Kim Marra, Professor, Departments of Theatre Arts & American Studies
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant

The Pull of Horses in Urban American Performance, 1860-1930

A digital arts and humanities project, The Pull of Horses synthesizes archival and live performance sources into a 60- minute large-scale immersive video animating historical human-equine interactions for scholarly and wider public audiences. The video aims to illuminate how horses shaped gender and other human identities and bodies in and beyond the emerging U.S. cultural capital, New York City, c. 1900 during a pivotal era of industrial transformation when 130,000 horses dwelled among 1.85 million people on the island of Manhattan. To evoke that now forgotten density of equine and human traffic, the video projects life-sized historical images and film clips on a 9’x16’ screen set at ground level where viewers can stand on the same footing with the animals and feel their presence and power in terms of scale, proximity, and motion. A customized, historically accurate soundscape edited in surround sound brings the massive pull of working equines in harness further to life. For the last two years, in conjunction with writing a book on the same topic, I have been collaborating on this project with Mark Anderson, Digital Collections Librarian in the UI Libraries Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio, and, since Summer 2017, with Theatre Arts major and extraordinary sound and video designer, Wade Hampton, who graduated in August 2018. As PI, I am applying for an AHI Standard Grant to support our continuing work together from January to July 2019 to complete the video by building the remaining three of five sections; testing the immersive, large-scale display with all the requisite equipment; and conducting final editing after that test. Animating historical human-equine interactions to scale can provoke our critical thinking about bodies and technology for consideration of what was lost as well as gained in the transition to mechanical power, questions that resonate today when mechanization again is supplanting living beings in large sectors of the economy. Moreover, because animals can forge connections between humans across so many divides, the Pull of Horses project, through projected gallery and historical museum showings in Iowa and elsewhere, can broaden appreciation of arts and humanities scholarship in the public sphere.

Robyn Schiff, Professor, Department of English
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant

Information Desk: An Epic

I am applying to the AHI Program to support extensive research at two major archives in NYC: the Thomas J. Watson Library and exhibition archive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs at the New York Public Library. I intend to spend three weeks immersed in each archive completing the research crucial to finishing my manuscript-in-progress, Information Desk: An Epic, a book-length poem in the tradition of the female epic that draws on my experience formerly fielding questions at the information desk at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I was a staff member two decades ago, when I was a young adult. Both a work of art history and a personal coming-of-age set within the museum itself, Information Desk: An Epic is as concerned with the forces of power and world history that drove the museum’s early encyclopedic collecting as it is with the making of and the meanings of art. Meandering through the physical building and time traveling through the art it stores, Information Desk: An Epic contemplates the political and emotional complexities of making, collecting, possessing, and representing, while it explores the spiritual meanings wrought by aesthetics. This project is a significant deepening of my critically acclaimed ambitions and accomplishments as a poet, and will be published as a book in due course, following the publication of its separate cantos, or chapters, in prestigious literary journals. My stature as a poet richly contributes to the excellent writing tradition at Iowa, and my work is nationally known for how its emotional depth is propelled by intense formal ingenuity. The New Yorker summarized my contribution to the field of contemporary poetry by stating that my attentive, unsettling poems “of almost forensic specificity.... offer something few poets ever discover: a vision of the whole world.” That “forensic specificity” is informed by my rigorous adherence to fidelity of content and image, and research is central to my artistic process. I am eager to complete my art historical inquiries at the Watson Library and the Wallach Division of the New York Public Library.

Loren Glass, Professor, Department of English
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant

Accessing the Writers' Workshop Records

I’m applying for an AHI Standard Grant to facilitate scholarly access to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop records currently held under restriction in the Special Collections and University Archives. Requests for access are currently handled through the Transparency Office, and the fees are prohibitive, meaning that these records are essentially inaccessible to scholars for an indefinite period of time. Furthermore, the finding aids lack adequate detail for scholars to determine whether or not the materials they require are even in the records. I strongly feel that the University of Iowa should facilitate the processing of these records so that a version which doesn’t violate confidentiality or privacy laws can be made available to scholars interested in writing about the history of creative writing. Since the publication of Mark McGurl’s The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing (Harvard 2009), interest in this history has increased, and Iowa stands at the center of the story. As McGurl himself emphasizes, “We need to start documenting this phenomenon, moving out from the illustrious case of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop…This enterprise is our literary history.” This literary history cannot be written without access to these records.