Arts and Sciences dissertation fellows to present Doctoral Showcase Lectures

The College of Arts and Sciences Doctoral Showcase Lectures will feature the work of fellows of the 2014 Arts and Sciences Dissertation Seminar Series April 13, 14 and 16.

Refreshments will be served beginning half an hour before each lecture.

Cara Byrne

Cara Byrne, doctoral candidate in English, will present “From Black Misery to Happy to be Nappy: Transformative Race & Body Politics in African American Picture Books,” on Monday, April 13, at 4 p.m. in Clark Hall, Room 206.

Authors of African American children’s literature have long recognized the political power of picture books and have created works that establish black children as political agents deserving rights. In his 1969 picture book Black Misery, Langston Hughes states: “Misery is when you start to help an old white lady across the street and she thinks you’re trying to snatch her purse.” Through a simple sentiment accompanied by an illustration, Hughes poignantly presents the difficulties facing black children in the 1960s. In this lecture, Byrne will examine several key African American picture books, first establishing the origin of the genre in 1836 and then tracing its complex history. Although frequently overlooked, picture books authored by canonical African American writers, including Hughes, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, and Bell Hooks, carry messages about the frailty and strength of the black child’s body, ultimately affecting larger assumptions about black childhood and racial identity.

Byrne’s research interests include children’s literature, gender studies, and African American literature. Her dissertation, “Illustrating the Smallest Black Bodies: The Creation of Childhood in African American Children’s Literature, 1836–2014,” examines visual representations of black childhood in picture books. She has published on visual messages in picture book adaptations of Romeo and Juliet and third wave feminism in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.

Mandy Smith

Mandy Smith, a doctoral student in musicology, will discuss “The Drum Kit: A Hodgepodge of Cultural Signification,” on Tuesday, April 14, at 4:30 p.m. in Clark Hall, Room 206.

Take a moment to listen to—or simply aurally imagine—the hectic “BAga-daga BAga-daga” drum solo in The Surfaris song “Wipeout.” Compare that to the opening “boom…, boom-boom, CRACK” of The Ronettes hit “Be My Baby.” The former evokes a lineage of the primitive Other through its use of frantic tom-tom drumming, while the latter immediately screams modern, Western “rock and roll” with its emphasis on the bass and snare drums playing a standard rock pattern. But how and why do the diverse instruments in the drum kit create such different meanings? In this lecture, Smith will trace the arrival of the drum kit’s individual components to both Western culture and the kit itself to demonstrate how their accumulation of cultural signifying power affects rock’s meanings. She will perform live musical examples on a drum kit to highlight the centrality of the body in these meanings.

Smith earned a BA in Rock History from Indiana University and an MA in Musicology from California State University, Long Beach. Recently, she won the 2015 David Sanjek Memorial Graduate Student Prize at the U.S. branch meeting of the International Association of the Study of Popular Music in Louisville, Ky. Her dissertation investigates tensions between the rock drum kit’s ability to signify simultaneously the virtuosic and the primitive.

Margaret Waltz

Margaret Waltz, a doctoral candidate in sociology, will present “Waiting on Others: Performing Gender in Medical Waiting Rooms,” on Thursday, April 16, at 4:30 p.m. in Clark Hall, Room 206.

Technological advances now permit instant access, instant messaging, and almost instant everything. We commodify time and think of it as scarce. We thus think of waiting as something to avoid, as we long to spend our time more wisely and to reach faster the goal for which we wait. We often describe waiting as a painful process, because it reflects power relations in society, as those with power can avoid or reduce their wait times because their time is deemed to be more important than the time of those who have less power. Using ethnographic fieldwork of medical waiting rooms, this lecture will focus on patterns of waiting within medical institutions, how they vary by gender, and how the processes of waiting allow individuals to perform gender. Because women more frequently populate medical waiting rooms and both men and women reproduce gender there, these spaces reproduce gender inequalities, perpetuating male entitlement and female deference.

Waltz’ research interests include medical sociology, social inequalities, and gender. In her dissertation, she is investigating the power dynamics that play out within medical waiting rooms.