The roots of African history in the Americas, the complexities
of Irish identity, the enduring power of a 14th-century Spanish
classic these are the stories behind the three programs
affiliated with the University that have received grants from
the National Endowment for the Humanities.
shares passion for African history
by Tom Cogill
history captivated Joseph Miller in the 1960s, when many African
nations were gaining their independence.
was so much hope in Africa, and I was intrigued by the challenge
of doing history in a place where history is perceived not to
exist, Miller said.
former dean of the College
of Arts & Sciences and a history professor who teaches
about early Africa, slavery and the slave trade, will share his
passion for African history with 15 college instructors this summer
in a seminar called Roots 2003: African Dimensions of the
History and Culture of the Americas.
received a $119,999 grant from the National Endowment for the
Humanities to direct a six-week program designed to enrich the
research and teaching of college professors.
hopes to have 15 historians from diverse fields of study in the
Americas, such as North American, Latin American and Caribbean
main goal of the seminar is bring a topic to the table, open it
up and encourage people to collaborate on research, he said.
has been developing the idea for this seminar for years, and his
term as president of the American Historical Association in 1998
confirmed his desire to design a course in African studies for
was one of the only Africanists in the association, so the course
will be a rare opportunity to enrich what we historians already
do by talking to people in different fields, he said.
has published widely in the field and edited numerous books, including
The African Past Speaks: Essays on Oral Tradition and History
(1980) and the Macmillan Encyclopedia of World Slavery (1999),
which he co-edited. He also served as editor of the Journal of
African History (1990-96).
has invited several experts in related fields to speak to his
class, and he plans to give his students plenty of time to take
advantage of U.Va.s vast library resources as they develop
Gerli giving Spanish medieval poetry
by Jenny Gerow
Gerli has been reading the same book for 30 years. Its
a great book, he said. Its inexhaustible.
book is the Libro de Buen Amor, a 14th-century Spanish
classic by Juan Ruiz. Cejador y Franca, an eminent Spanish literary
critic, called it the most powerful book ever written in
the Spanish language.
in English as The Book of Good Love, the work is an
intensely dramatic kaleidoscope of songs, hymns, poetry, tales
and fables, according to Elisha Kane, one of Ruizs
professor of Spanish at the University, recently received a $95,753
grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to teach
a five-week seminar on the book and its cultural context next
summer to 15 college and university teachers. Im already
getting inquiries, he said.
makes the book so fascinating?
more complicated than most people had perceived, Gerli said.
Below the veneer of popular culture, it shows a detailed
knowledge of canon law and a knowledge of vernacular literature.
Its an amalgam of different traditions that are examined,
parodied and pushed to the limits of their interpretations. It
can be understood in many ways as a guide for sinners to
teach them how to sin; as a guide for the righteous to teach them
how to save themselves; and as a source of examples of poetry
and rhymes before literature existed as such.
1340s were a critical time in Iberian history, Gerli said. Spain
was on the frontier of Christian, Jewish and Muslim society. It
was before the rupture among these communities. It was 150 years
before the Inquisition, before the breakdown of the House of Burgundy
in Spain and the advent of the French who brought anti-Semitism
to Spain and made it governmental policy.
is known for certain about the 14th-century Spanish poet. According
to Kane, Ruiz lived most of his life in New Castile. He became
archpriest of the village of Hita, near Guadalajara, and spent
13 years in prison.
believed Ruiz to be the illegitimate child of a wandering beggar
and a small-town prostitute. At a young age, Ruiz was taken into
a monastery and taught to read and write. In the introduction
to his 1933 translation of the book, Kane speculated that Ruiz
later ran away, lived a full life on the open road and began to
write poetry and stories. After returning to a religious calling,
Ruiz somehow fell afoul of ecclesiastical authorities. In 1337,
the Archibishop of Toledo threw him into prison, where Ruiz apparently
wrote parts of Libro de Buen Amor, according to Kane.
said Kane had his own run-ins with the authorities. A scholar
in Pennsylvania, Kane was accused of moral depravity in a court
case involving the death of his wife. His translation of the book
was introduced as evidence. Perhaps Kane was too sympathetic to
Ruizs colorful nature, describing his indecencies
[as] merely the excrement of wit, evacuated somewhat copiously,
to be sure, from a robust and hearty nature.
parents were born in the U.S. and moved to Latin America so his
father could work for U.S. pharmaceutical companies. Born in Latin
America, Gerli was schooled by Jesuits in San Juan, Costa Rica.
planned to follow his father into the field of industrial pharmacy,
but a chance course in medieval Spanish literature, taken to fulfill
a humanities requirement at the University of California-Berkeley,
altered his lifes path.
professor teaching the course, Samuel Armistead, was an
amazing, charismatic teacher, Gerli said. Doors opened
for me in that class, and I found a new way of looking at the
followed Armistead to UCLA where he earned his doctorate in Hispanic
language and literature. Gerli wrote his first article on the
Libro de Buen Amor in 1979, and his most recent appeared
last June in the Bulletin of Spanish Studies. It probably
wont be my last, he said.
came to U.Va. in 2000 after 28 years in teaching and administration
at Georgetown University. He travels each summer to the 14th-century
granite house on the island of Majorca that he and his wife spent
15 years restoring. From his home away from home, he can hop a
short flight to reach libraries in Barcelona and Madrid.
got the greatest job in the world, he said.
International conference to explore
Mary McAleese of Ireland will be the keynote speaker for Re-Imagining
Ireland Transformations of Identity in a Global Context,
a Virginia Foundation for
the Humanities groundbreaking international conference
and festival to be held May 7-10 at U.Va. and in Charlottesville.
funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Irelands
Cultural Relations Committee, the gathering will feature more
than 100 journalists, writers, politicians, artists, scholars,
musicians and citizen activists from Ireland and around the United
intent is to explore the relation between global economics and
traditional culture, the challenges and opportunities posed by
the worldwide migration of national populations and connections
between religious and political identity and issues of war and
attention on Irelands and Northern Irelands changing
profile in a global context, the program will have particular
relevance for an American audience, speaking to their countrys
role in the world of the future.
Ireland has been planned as a kind of time-out
on neutral ground, said project director Andrew Higgins
Wyndham. We want to take people out of place, routine and
mind-set, to a new environment in America, where for four days
they will exclusively focus on, analyze and appreciate Irish culture,
both in itself and in relation to America and other parts of the
conference and festival schedule includes 31 thematically organized
panel sessions and special activities. On the roster are two major
concerts, a series of musical narratives, an award-winning play,
a new Irish feature film and series of short films, readings by
major Irish poets, and an exhibition of contemporary Irish art.
The program will accommodate 450 participants and featured guests
from Ireland and throughout the United States, with larger audiences,
ranging up to 900, expected at special events. A documentary film
and book will extend the life and reach of the program.
the opening speaker, is the eighth President of the Republic of
Ireland and the first to come from Northern Ireland. A barrister
and former professor of law, in 1994 she became the first female
Pro-Vice Chancellor of Queens University. McAleese also
is an experienced broadcaster, having worked as a current affairs
journalist and presenter in radio and television with Radio Telefís
Éireann, Irelands national broadcaster.
the 102 other participants slated to appear at the conference
are such award-winning writers and poets as Frank McCourt, Roddy
Doyle, Nuala OFaolain, Colm Toibin, Ciaran Carson, Paula
Meehan and Cathal O Searcaigh; renowned musicians, including Frankie
Gavin, Seamus Egan, Mick Moloney, Andy Irvine, Joannie Madden,
Martin Hayes, Tommy Sands, Bruce Molsky, and Len Graham and Pádraigín
Ní Uallacháin; and such well-known activists and
politicians as Margaret Mac Curtain, Michael D. Higgins and David
Ervine. Participants will also include economists, prominent business
and cultural leaders, clergy, Irish Travelers (sometimes referred
to as tinkers or gypsies) and representatives of the
Ireland is funded by a $200,000 award from the National
Endowment for the Humanities and a grant of 50,000 Euros from
the Cultural Relations Committee of Ireland. Additional major
support has been provided by many other organizations.
the conference and festival, the Re-Imagining Ireland
documentary film and book will reach an American and international
audience of millions, introducing new perspectives on Ireland
and global culture, challenging national stereotypes and assumptions
about historical and contemporary change. The documentary will
be co-produced by Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker
Paul Wagner and RTÉ, Irelands national broadcaster,
with distribution support from South Carolina ETV. The project
book, a group of commissioned essays with photo illustrations,
is under contract with the University of Virginia Press.
program information on Re-Imagining Ireland is available
at the project Web site, www.re-imagining-ireland.org. The conference
is a public event, with free admission to all panels, but registration
will be limited. The fee structure for the conference package,
including meals and all arts events, will be posted shortly.
interested in attending can register on-line, beginning Jan. 10,
2003. To receive printed bulletins or registration materials when
available, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tickets for individual events, including concerts, film screenings,
Foley and other performances, will be available on-line
and by mail, beginning March 1.