Humanities Center

Humanities Center

Upcoming Events for 2022-2023


Digital Humanities Seriers:  Helen J. Burgess, "Loops and Flows: Spinning Worms and Digital Rhythms"

Helen Burgess smiling and wearing glasses.

Wednesday, December 7th

5:00 PM, Helen J. Burgess ZOOM

Small and unassuming, yet insistent and demanding, the larva form of bombyx mori — the domestic silkworm — is a thoroughly artificial animal, having participated in thousands of years of domestication and research. As well as being a significant economic product, the silkworm is a common "model organism" for research in genetics, agricultural husbandry and the development of assorted medical interventions. As a producer of fibrous media, this technical animal exists in a highly entangled relationship — both literally and physically, in the form of sticky webs — with us. The rhythms of worms spin in time, attuned to our processes just as we are attuned to theirs.

This presentation discusses how we might read these attunements and entanglements in light of digital rhetorics. Helen J. Burgess argues, following an intriguing throwaway comment by Timothy Morton, that one way to the inner world of the silkworm is through rhetoric, and tie this insight to the work of Diane Davis' "foreigner relations." Rhetorical strategies such as ekphrasis and prosopopoeia allow us a glimpse into the life of a silk worm — the reading of a mind — as a thoroughly mediated, and yet strangely intimate, animal of art and artifice. Burgess presents a critical crafting project in which silkworm products  — silk cocoons and spun fiber — are combined with electronic components to produce a digital artifact of prosopopoeia: the rhetorical act of speaking in the voice of another.

Burgess (she/her/hers) is a Professor of English at NC State University, where she teaches in the Communication, Rhetoric and Digital Media PhD program. An electronic publisher, digital humanist, multimedia developer, critical maker, and crafter, she loves Mars, textiles, cyberpunk, and bots. She is editor of Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures.

 *The Digital Humanities Series is co-hosted by Meriam Library.

University Film Series:  Black Orpheus

(Orfeu Negro)

Female character from movie is standing in the street.

107 minutes.  Directed by Marcel Camus. (France/Brazil, 1959)  Introduction by Dr. Hannah Burdette. (Languages and Cultures)

Monday, February 20th

Ayres 106, 6:00 PM, FREE

Just in time for 2023 Carnaval! Black Orpheus, a French, Brazilian, and Italian co-production, retells the Greek myth of Eurydice and Orpheus and their doomed love, but transplants the story in the favelas of 1950s Rio de Janeiro. A winner of nearly all the major awards during its award season—the 1959 Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the 1960 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and the 1960 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film—the film is also renowned for introducing Brazilian samba and bossa nova to the rest of the world through its amazing soundtrack and score.

This film would be of particular interest to those working in Latin American cinema and culture; arthouse cinema; Portuguese; bossa nova, samba, and Brazilian music; sociology; mythology; intersectionality; class studies and socioeconomics; gender studies; urban development; and critical race studies.  

Visiting Scholar:  Dr. Jessica Schwartz, "Radiation Songs, Global Harmony, & Formations of Abolition"

Jessica Schwartz looking ahead.

Thursday, February 23rd

Arts Recital Hall, 5:30 PM, FREE

On March 1, 1954, the US military detonated “Castle Bravo,” its most powerful nuclear bomb, at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Two days later, the US military evacuated the Marshallese to a nearby atoll where they became part of a classified study, without their consent, on the effects of radiation on humans. This talk draws from Jessica A. Schwartz’s recently published book, Radiation Sounds: Marshallese Music and Nuclear Silences (Duke UP 2021) to delve into the musical consequences of US nuclear weapons testing and radiological testing in the Marshall Islands. It outlines seventy-five years of Marshallese music developed in response to US nuclear militarism on their homeland. Unpacking “radiation songs” that amplify the impacts of “insensible” radiation on humans and nonhumans, Schwartz shows how Marshallese singing draws on religious, cultural, and political practices to make heard the deleterious effects of US nuclear violence that have often been silenced across levelsfrom the governmental to the corporeal. Placing the aural and sensorial in understanding nuclear testing’s long-term effects, Schwartz offers new modes of understanding the relationships between the voice, sound, and militarism through decolonizing challenges to the imposition of harmony and possibilities for (global) abolition.

Jessica A. Schwartz is an associate professor of musicology at the Herb Alpert School of Music at the University of California-Los Angeles. Schwartz’s work focuses on critical, creative, and poetic dissent from an interrogation of sonic histories and musical representations of imperial and military violence, as explored in Radiation Sounds: Marshallese Music and Nuclear Silences (Duke 2021), American Quarterly, and Women & Music, as well as DIY/punk musicality/philosophy/education in Punk Pedagogies: Music, Culture and Learning andthe journal Punk & Post-Punk. Schwartz is the Academic Advisor to and co-founder of the Marshallese Educational Initiative (501c3), co-hosts the Punkast Series (a podcast series), and plays noise/experimental guitar.

University Film Series:  Boat People

young female character looks up with despair in her eyes.

106 minutes.  Directed by Ann Hui. (Hong Kong, 1982) Introduction by Dr. William Nitzky. (Anthropology)

Monday, March 6th

Ayres 106, 6:00 PM, FREE

Still one of the few films about the Vietnam War and its aftermath not made by US, French, or Vietnamese filmmakers, Ann Hui’s Boat People serves as a searing indictment of social conditions following the end of the war. It was the first Hong Kong film to be made in Communist China, and its success—nominated for 12 Hong Kong Film Awards and winning five, including Best Picture and Best Director—helped usher in the Hong Kong New Wave film movement. It is still a decidedly controversial film, too, in its treatment of the Vietnam War and its political message, generating criticism from across the political spectrum.

This film would be of particular interest to those working in arthouse and independent cinema; Asian cinema and history; refugee narratives; Vietnam War studies; sociology; anthropology; political science; and international relations.


The 2022-2023 Humanities Center theme, Soundscapes, explores perceptions and interpretations of acoustic environments in their respective cultural, political, and spatial contexts.  Ranging from the sounds of nature to a multitude of expressive forms such as music, poetry, dance, and storytelling, every culture has created distinctive soundscapes that shape our daily experiences and mediate our relationships to the world.  Events will highlight interdisciplinary humanities research and creative activity on this year’s theme. 

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