Throughout history, people have defined themselves in part through a sense of place, both geographical place and social place. An individual may live in a particular town or city and hold a position within local society, and every person literally inhabits a physical body.
In the current information age, though, cyberspace operates outside the bounds of physical geography, and a virtual world – from social media to digital archives – has increasingly moved in alongside the real world of physical places and bodies.
What is the effect of the rise of cyberspace on the place-bound model of human identity? Does identity and thought exist independent of physical bodies and physical spaces? What does it mean to operate in a virtual place, and how does that affect identity and perception of the self and others?
The Newberry Library on Chicago’s Near North Side.
Those are among the questions that a group of students, led by professors Marcy Sacks and Ian MacInnes from Albion College, will address in the fall 2015 Newberry Seminar: Research in the Humanities.
Organized around the theme of “Knowing Your Place: Human and Social Geography,” the seminar will use the library’s resources to explore the documentary evidence of a sense of place from the ancient world to the modern era, to interrogate the current trend away from the embodied and toward the virtual, and to examine the role of the archive itself in a digital era.
Each fall, the interdisciplinary Newberry Seminar, taught by two visiting Faculty Fellows on a broad theme they have proposed, offers undergraduates the rare opportunity to conduct independent research projects in the humanities at one of the premier libraries in the world, the Newberry Library in Chicago.
The Newberry’s vast holdings – manuscripts, maps, music, rare books, and other printed materials – span the history and culture of Western Europe from the Middle Ages to the mid-20th century and the Americas from the time of first contact between Europeans and Native Americans.
Sacks and MacInnes are structuring their seminar as an entry point into the library’s collections and as a vehicle for developing the students’ skills as scholars and writers on their way to completing a complex and substantial research paper.
Assignments will be designed to address the questions and challenges that arise in different stages of the students’ independent projects, including finding a topic, developing research questions and goals, looking for source material (primary and secondary), refining questions and goals, incorporating sources in written work, and revising strategies appropriate to each stage of the project.
Along with meetings of the full seminar group, students will write research-related blogs throughout the semester, participate in peer working groups, and meet individually with the Faculty Fellows as they work more intensively on their individual projects.
Through a longstanding relationship with the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA), the Newberry Seminar draws students and faculty from colleges in both ACM and GLCA, of which Albion is a member.
Newberry Seminar Faculty Fellows, Fall 2015
Marcy Sacks, Chair and Professor of History, Albion College
Sacks, who is the John S. Ludington Endowed Professor of History, joined the Albion faculty in 1999 and regularly teaches courses on African American history, race and nationality in America, colonial history, and the Harlem Renaissance.
She is the author of Before Harlem: The Black Experience in New York City Before World War I, and her second book, Joe Louis: Sports and Race in Twentieth Century America, is forthcoming. Sacks received a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and her research interests include African American history and U.S. social and cultural history. See her profiles on the Newberry Seminar webpage and the Albion College website.
Ian MacInnes, Chair and Professor of English, Albion College
MacInnes has written articles on 16th-century literature and culture appearing in Early Modern Literary Studies, and other publications and is at work on a study of animals in early modern literature and culture.
He received a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in the field of Elizabethan poetry. He was named Albion’s Professor of the Year in 2011 and teaches such courses as Renaissance women’s literature, 16th century literature and culture, British literature, composition and expository writing, an honors seminar on Great Issues in the Humanities, and Voices of Literature: Milton and the 17th Century. See his homepage on the Albion College website.
More information about the seminar topic and Faculty Fellows will be posted on the Newberry Seminar webpage during the next several weeks.