Transdisciplinary Areas of ExcellenceMaterial and Visual Worlds


Material and Visual Worlds collaboration grant awards from prior years

The following projects were awarded funds through a competitive, peer-reviewed program, with the goal of encouraging faculty to develop collaborative projects that stimulate the advancement of new ideas that can build Binghamton University's expertise toward a national reputation in the broad area of material and visual worlds.

  • Authority and Materiality in the Vernacular Songbook: From the Medieval Lyric to the Petrarchist Madrigal

    In recent decades, scholars of medieval and early-modern texts have increasingly rejected as object of study the coherent, corrected text of the modern critical edition in favor of the instability and singularity of individual manuscripts and prints. Academic interest has turned particularly to the construction of authorial identity in late medieval and early-modern lyric anthologies and music books through scribal and authorial choices about the visual disposition and ordering of individual poems and songs. Francesco Petrarca (1304–1374) stands as a key figure in the development of the single-author poetry book, exhibiting in his autobiographical Canzoniere an acute concern with the minutia of the material production of texts and a high degree of authorial self-consciousness in the arrangement of his poems into a coherent narrative, which set a precedent for centuries to come. Petrarchism became the dominant idiom of European poetry in subsequent centuries, as well as the primary thematic register of the sixteenth-century madrigal, a musical genre in which composers also increasingly asserted authorial control over the appearance of their songs in printed music books.

    We are planning a conference for May 1-2, 2015 to bring together musicologists and literary and book historians with an interest in the shared material sources of Italian poetry and music, from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries, focusing especially on Petrarch and his legacy. This conference and resultant publication will unite specialists who approach some of the same material objects with diverse methodologies and from different disciplinary perspectives. The evolving reconceptualization of lyric authority also depends and impinges on other important aspects of books, including their distribution and commodification, as well as their status as luxury items and recreational objects, and the meanings attached to reading or singing from them. Contributions will address what it means rhetorically, socio-historically, and ontologically when song becomes poetry book, and poetry—through the music book—becomes sound again. Conference highlights will include a public concert of Petrarch's poetry in musical settings by the early music ensemble Blue Heron.

    Also supported by a grant from the SUNY Conversations in the Disciplines program for "Intercampus Scholarly Conferences."

    Principal investigators/departments: Olivia Holmes, Department of English, and Paul Schleuse, Department of Music
  • Visual and Material Negotiations Around Borders – A Case Study of Sovereignty and Provincial Identity at the Edges of Imperial Rule

    This project brings together BU faculty and staff in Art History, History, Sociology, and Geography to work with scholars in Europe and Turkey on early modern maps, topographic drawings, and documents in historical state archives. Their collaborative efforts will address 1) how empires negotiated the limits of sovereignty along shared borders, and 2) how subject-populations at the edges of empire negotiated identity. Given the research interests of current participants, the project will focus initially on the Ottoman Empire and borders it shared with the territorial state of Venice in present-day Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Montenegro, 16th–18th centuries. The purpose is to place visual representation into the larger context of imperial archives and to draw on those archives to reconstruct the shared space of borderlands in their material form (town, fortress, settlement, hinterland). Foregrounding the material and the visual as important objects of interrogation, the focus then is on 1) the role of images in the management of the imperial state, and 2) the object-world and spatial practices of a lost frontier.

    Principal investigators/departments: Karen edis-Barzman, Department of Art History; Kent Schull, Department of History; Richard Lee, Department of Sociology; and Mark Blumler, Department of Geography
  • The Materiality and Visuality of the Pre-Modern Book: A Case Study

The Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies is about to embark on a three-year initiative on the History of the Pre-modern Book. The first stage of this project requires that we undertake a series of workshops during spring 2014 for CEMERS faculty and graduate students from different departments (history, art history, music, literature and languages). We propose to purchase a fragment of a fifteenth-century Latin manuscript of Thomas of Chobham's Summa de penitentia. This material artifact would be added to the Special Collections of Bartle Library. The fragment is a portion of a popular Latin text on penance originally composed in the twelfth century by an English theologian, Thomas of Chobham. During spring semester 2014, this fragment will be the focus of an interdisciplinary workshop aimed at uncovering all the empirical information that this artifact might disclose to the modern scholar. We envision publishing a journal article, collaboratively authored, on this fragment. We also plan to host an invited talk on the study of manuscripts during the spring semester.

Principal investigators/departments: Marilynn Desmond, distinguished professor of English, general literature and rhetoric; Tina Chronopoulos, assistant professor of classical and Medieval Studies; and Ed Shepherd, director of collections, University Libraries

  • Hidden Images: Revealing the Three-Dimensionality of Film Emulsion

Digital technology has expanded the way artists express their ideas, and in cinema most filmmakers today choose digital video as their medium mostly for cost and distribution reasons. Recently, Fujifilm announced its cessation of the production of most motion picture filmstrips, and many film labs have closed down in the last decade. Thus, now is a crucial time to examine the dying film medium with its many artistic values still left unexplored. Through this project, we will create a live-processed film/video installation to re-examine the 3D film material and its uniqueness by combining engineering and artistic filmmaking, an angle that is pursued by very few. The core concept of this project is to reveal the 3D quality of the film medium, an aspect often ignored when we are watching a movie, by using digital technologies and computer programming to create pseudo-3D images. The project exhibit will stimulate the audience's visual sense when the filmstrip's 3D aspect is brought to the forefront of its attention, and the audience will understand more about the film medium.

Principal investigators/departments: Tomonari Nishikawa, assistant professor of Cinema, and Peter Huang, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering

Last Updated: 12/8/14