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Faculty Forum

Members of our College of Letters and Science faculty are excited to present our Faculty Forum 2023-2024 presentations. The faculty lecture series is open to the public and free of charge. Light refreshments served.

For more information, contact: Robert Sirabian, Department of English, email

October 12, 2023

Freesia McKee – English: “How to Title a Poem”

CCC 321 at 4:00 pm

Trying to compose a title for a poem—or any other piece of writing—can feel confusing and mysterious. Instead of waiting around for a stroke of genius or that evasive “good idea,” creative writers can use a systematic method to generate title options for their work. This approach can be transferred to titling anything (a song, a scholarly article, a conference presentation, etc.). McKee will discuss the title taxonomy she developed and demonstrate how title-writing plays out in her life as a poet.

November 9, 2023

Luke Whitmore – Religious Studies: “Analyzing Himalayan Futures in 2023: A Jungle of Decisions”

Rescheduled for Fall 2024

Dr. Whitmore’s exploratory trip was the first stage in a new and primarily ethnographic project looking at the intersection of religion, tourism, agriculture, urbanization, gender, and environmental justice in the central Indian Himalaya, especially within the region of Garhwal that is part of the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Part of the goal of this talk is to invite conversation about possible future directions for the research. Stay posted for talk details, to be scheduled in Fall 2024.

December 5, 2023

Jason Zinser – Philosophy: “Disentangling Domestication: Are Humans ‘Domesticated’?”

CCC 321 at 4:00 pm

It is orthodoxy to believe that humans have domesticated a variety of plants and animals, but some argue that we have this relationship backwards – we are the species that has been domesticated, or that we are self-domesticated.  Zinser will explore domestication, both the historical use of the concept as well as its underlying biological processes, to assess whether we should consider humans as domesticated.  Ultimately, he will argue that humans are not self-domesticated in any biologically interesting way, but viewing humans through the lens of domestication reframes our relationship to the natural world.

February 8, 2024

Tom Leek – World Languages and Literatures: “Developing a Translingual Search Function for Ancient Languages… and Who Needs It?”

CCC 227 at 4:00 pm

Natural Language Processing (NLP) has made possible machine processing of human languages for a variety of purposes such as search, translation, text generation, or plagiarism detection. While NLP technologies have been robustly applied to modern languages, ancient languages have received only light attention via newer technologies. Through the alignment of vectorized language corpora of Latin and Middle High German corpora, Leek will discuss different approaches to gaining the most accurate alignments as a step towards creating translingual search functionality. A translingual search function may allow for more effective research of translingual influences in textual traditions.

March 12, 2024

Kay Mann – Sociology and Social Work: “Rights, Social Movements, and the Wisconsin Idea”

CCC 227 at 4:00 pm

Social rights and social movements are closely related. In an age of rollbacks of hard-won rights and debates about curriculum and affirmative action in public institutions of higher education, the role social movements have played in the formation of rights of citizenship suggests paths for regaining and expanding those rights. This paper explores the origins of rights and the role of mission-oriented public institutions like the University of Wisconsin in contemporary debates around social and civic rights.

April 11, 2024

Alek Toumi – World Languages and Literatures: “Albert Camus: Exiles from Algiers: Part Three of a Camus Dramatic Trilogy”

CCC 227 at 4:00 pm

Camus once said that he knew how to write only from personal experiences. An orphan at 10 months old, he was raised by an illiterate mother, a half-deaf, Spanish cleaning lady.  He grew up in Belcourt, a poor working class, immigrant part of Algiers, comparable to the South Bronx, in New York, in a two-room apartment. Camus was poor by third world standards, had tuberculosis at 17, then at 37.  He lived under Vichy France and Nazis occupation in Paris.  Between 1954 and 1960, condemned by both France and Algerians, living through the tragic France-Algeria War, Camus was torn, living a violent divorce between his “Patrie”- Mother Country and “Pays”- his Birth Land.  After winning the Nobel Prize in 1957, Camus “became silent.” He died in a tragic, “controversial car crash” on January 04, 1960, at the very young age of 46 while writing his last novel The First Man. This play is the third part of the Albert Camus trilogy, after Between my Mother and Injustice and AmericCamus 1959.  The theme of this third play is best expressed by Camus himself: “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”

May 2, 2024

Shanny Luft – Religious Studies: “Religion and Stand-Up Comedy”

CCC 227 at 4:00 pm

Stand-up comedians have a unique place in America as entertainers who have frequently been labeled cultural critics, public educators, social activists, and even modern philosophers.  In that context, it may not be surprising to observe that contemporary stand-up comedians have a lot to say about religion.  Yet how contemporary comedians engage with religion has undergone significant change in the last three decades.  In this talk, Luft will examine what popular comedians have had to say about religion, what aspects of religion are (and are not) susceptible to ridicule, and how stand-up comedy has adapted to suit America’s increasingly diverse religious landscape.

View Past Presentations Here.