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About the Community of Scholars
Lecture Series

History of Speakers

2012/2013 Community of Scholars Conference

February 21, 2013, 3:00pm in Kleymeyer Hall

“The Validity of Navajo Is In Its Sounds:”
The Poetics of Punning in Contemporary Navajo Aesthetic Traditions

Anthony K. Webster, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

How can it be that Navajos often consider their language both highly descriptive and simultaneously highly ambiguous? This talk explores the poetic use of a saad aheełt’éego diits’a’ ‘punning’ in Navajo aesthetic traditions.  I begin by looking at the use of punning in Navajo in a variety of settings. I suggest that punning is a highly valued verbal aesthetic practice.  I then turn to uses of punning across Navajo and English. Such interlingual puns between Navajo and English highlight the permeability of linguistic boundaries. I also show how interlingual puns between Navajo and English can be understood as a form of social critique towards outside institutions. Such punning practices are an established form of mischievous grammar. I then turn to the contemporary written poetry of Navajo poet Rex Lee Jim and show how punning are a poetic device which he frequently employs in his poetry.  An understanding of Jim’s poetry then demands, not just attention to the content of the poem, but to the sounds of the poetry and the way the sounds evoke other words.

What is the Community of Scholars Lecture?

During the fall semester the College of Liberal Arts engages a speaker for the Community of Scholars Presentation.   This presentation is to draw attention to one or more of the disciplines within the School, to appeal to the general public and to faculty and students by illustrating high intellectual achievement.  Programs are of general humanistic appeal with interdisciplinary topics.  The speaker is asked to make one public presentation and one presentation to students.

The responsibility for identifying and contacting the annual speaker falls to individual departments within the school on a rotating basis.  The reasons for taking this approach are not only to identify worthwhile speakers but also to insure "ownership" of the program for that year by the department and to insure a good student turn out.

Funding for the Community of Scholars Presentation derives from resources in the Provost's office and from grants.

Until 2003 funds from the Community of Scholars program together with funds from Liberal Arts were combined to help underwrite the Liberal Arts Distinguished Scholar Presentation.  In 2002 the decision was made to create two programs.

History of speakers

2012-2013 Dr. Anthony K. Webster, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
2011-2012 Dr. Paul J. Rosen, Ph.D., Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Louisville
2010-2011 Dr. Jan Younger, professor emeritus at Heidelberg University (Tiffin, OH)
2009-2010 Dr. Colin Allen, Department of History and Philosophy of Science and the Cognitive Science Program, at Indiana University - Bloomington
2008-2009: Amanda Dehnert, resident director with the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, RI and associate professor of theatre at Northwestern and Brown universities
2007-2008: Dr. Elisa Camiscioli, Assistant Professor of History, State University of New York at Binghamton
2006-2007: Dr. Jonathan Tittler, Professor of Spanish, Rutgers University-Camden
2005-2006: Dr. Louise DeSalvo, the Jenny Hunter Endowed Scholar for Creative writing and Literature, Hunter College
2004-2005: Dr. Judith D. Hoover, Professor of Communication, Western Kentucky University
2003-2004: Dr. Peg Zeglin Brand, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Gender Studies
Indiana University, Bloomington
2002-2003: Dr. Douglas Harper, Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology, Duquesne University