Graduate Activities: Melissa Fitzmaurice and Dengyan Zhou receive Graduate Excellence Awards

Congratulations to doctoral students Dengyan Zhou and Melissa Fitzmaurice, both recipients of Binghamton’s Graduate Excellence Awards for 2014-2015. Melissa Fitzmaurice will receive the Award for Excellence in Teaching, which honors graduate teaching assistants and instructors of record who have demonstrated exceptional service to Binghamton University’s undergraduates. Dengyan Zhou will receive the Award for Excellence in Research, which honors the important contributions graduate students make to research at the University and the wide variety of approaches they take to the advancement of knowledge.

Call for papers: “Sites of Decay”

Sites of Decay:The Eighth Annual Graduate Conference

Literature, Politics and Aesthetics

The Department of Comparative Literature

Binghamton University (SUNY), March 13-14, 2015

Keynote: Ann Stoler, Willy Brandt Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology and Historical Studies (The New School)

Faculty Keynote: Julia Walker, Assistant Professor of Art History (Binghamton University)

Decay calls upon a variety of meanings. It can be defined as decomposition over time, or as site of decomposed material; as the processional decrease in material magnitude; or as a displacement of organic power. Decay places and takes place. Decay may be erosion, both from outside and from within. Decay negotiates, monumentalizes, ossifies and ruins. The eroded sites invoke ludic aspects of decay’s simultaneous presence and absence. Its discourse draws attention to spatio-temporal flux, and further renders discontinuities, creases and folds at decay’s various sites. The discourse of decay centers in ideal conceptions of corporeal, aesthetic, political, and cultural sites. Decay can be manifest in death, disease, contamination, transgression. Ruins, monuments, bodies, borders, texts all serve as its locales.

The topic of decay has been taken up in various artistic and literary productions (whether in recent exhibitions of modern art, in avant-garde movements, or in literature of the fin de siècle), as well as in theoretical readings that have implications for various disciplinary practices.

We invite talks/papers as well as artistic productions that deal with but are not limited to the following topics:

Politics of decay: Is decay a process occurring over time or an instantaneous Event? How do we define decay? To what extent does decay reveal something of the subject-object relationship? In what ways might notions of decay destabilize existent frameworks of representation? How might one locate the various sites of decay?

Corporeality and decay: How does decay enter and change the notion and the borders of the body? What are some sites of transgression? How does this border crossing happen: through disease, contamination and death? What happens after death? Is it possible to contain or stop this process?

Memory/ forgetting and decay: How or does the decay of memory result in the loss of identity? What about dementia? Is decay becoming? What about schizophrenia, or a degradation of the dialectic of the totality and dialectic of becoming? What is the connection to the sites of memory and monumentalization? What about the “recycling” of monuments? How are sites of decay related to the feelings of nostalgia?

Environment and decay: What is the “nature” of decay? How does decay help define the forms of life? How do we conceptualize waste and wastefulness versus consumption? How does decay affect our lived and built environment? How do we think of decay as working against the grain of history?

Aesthetics and Decay: What is our reaction (repulsion or attraction) to decay as an aesthetic? Is aesthetics “contagious”? What do we make of the notion of “decay of aesthetics” in avant-garde? What about the notions of “art for art’s sake” or the so-called “degenerate art”? Is there a decay of aesthetics in post-war places? Is there an element of decay in the passing of fashion and trends?

Literature and decay: How does decay destabilize theories of representation? What about erosion of the corpus/body of works/canon? How does decay counter master narratives, including, among others, the narrative of decay of “civilization”? How do we read decadence in literature (Silver Age vs. Golden Age in Roman literature) or literature of the fin de siècle, to give a few examples.

Translation and Decay: What is the relationship of translation to language? Is decay mediation? Is the translator an agent of contamination? Is translation a site of contamination? How and why does a translation decay over time? Is it necessary for translations to decay in order for the original to continue?

Please send an abstract of at least 250 words detailing your proposal for a twenty-minute presentation or artistic submissions along with your C.V. to by January 23rd, 2015.


Graduate Activities: Frick Symposium Rehearsal

Please join us on Wednesday, December 17 at 2:00 pm in FA 209 for the annual Frick Symposium Rehearsal. Each fall the department receives an invitation to send a speaker to the Annual Symposium in the History of Art, held at the Frick Collection and the Institute of Fine Arts in New York in collaboration with the Frick Collection curatorial staff. The symposium is organized by the Graduate Student Organization of the IFA. Fourteen graduate programs in Art History in the region send a nominee to read a 15-minute paper. In general, the presentations are based on doctoral projects, although many, including some very successful ones, have been developed from Masters theses, seminar papers, or other original research. The Symposium offers each participant the opportunity to represent his or her graduate program at a prestigious event as well as to gain valuable experience in constructing and delivering a major paper and, of course, to meet students, faculty, and museum professionals from leading regional institutions.

The speakers are all students in the graduate program of the Department of Art History at Binghamton University. A reception will follow in FA 218.


Paulina Banas, “The ‘Oriental album,’ its illustrative wood engravings, and the marketing of the Nile Valley in the British Nineteenth-century Travel Book.”

Amanda Beardsley, “Celestial Mechanics: Harvey Fletcher and the Gospel of Modern Science.”

Debora Faccion, “Micropolitics of Pixaçāo: Negotiating Art Worlds.”

Melissa Fitzmaurice, “Ancient/Modern: Fascist Architecture and Italo Gismondi’s ‘Plastico di Roma’.”

Rotem Rozental, “‘To Guide Them Through My Own Narrative:’ Establishing The Umm El Fahem Photographic Archive.”


Graduate Activities: Dengyan Zhou in Shanghai


Doctoral candidate Dengyan Zhou has been in Shanghai for the December 5 opening of the path-breaking exhibition, “See You Yen’an! British Scholar Michael Lindsay at the Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945,” in the Shanghai Library. The exhibition of over 200 of Lindsay’s photographs was co-curated by Dengyan and the photo-historian and curator, Shi Zhimin, in conjunction with the Anti-Fascist War Research Center of Shanghai Jiaotong University. The public response to the show has already been outstanding, with many younger Chinese visitors seeing documents of the war against the Japanese invasion for the first time.


L1030432 copy

Dengyan Zhou and co-curator Jim Shi at George Eastman House, Rochester, NY, June 2014.


Alumni Activities: Jasmine Burns in Art Documentation

Congratulations to Jasmine Burns (MA ’13), whose article “Digital Facsimiles and the Modern Viewer: Medieval Manuscripts and Archival Practice in the Age of New Media,” appears in the Fall 2014 issue of Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America. The article, based on Jasmine’s MA thesis, was also the winner of this year’s Gerd Muehsam Award from the Art Libraries Society of North America.

Faculty Activities: Nancy Um at the European University Institute

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 9.11.58 AMOn December 5, Associate Professor Nancy Um will give a talk, titled “Taking Lessons from Failed Embassies: Ottoman, Qasimi, and European Claims to Coffee in 18th-Century Yemen,” at the European University Institute in Florence as part of the symposium Crossings and Circulations in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean since 1450. For more information, visit