Foundation awards Vanderbilt University grant to fund graduate seminar

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Trustees of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation recently awarded Vanderbilt University a grant of $207,000 to support a dissertation seminar in the humanities entitled “The Souls of Brute and Stupid Things.” The seminar, which will be led by English Professor and Mellon Chair of Humanities Jonathan Lamb, is in response to a proposal prepared and submitted to the foundation by Lamb.

According to Lamb’s proposal, satire during the period of Enlightenment often featured intelligent machines and animals that could speak, introducing a whole genre of literature called “it-narratives” where things (lapdogs, sofas, parrots, fleas, coaches and watches) give their life stories. The graduate seminar will explore the history of fascination with matter, motion, consciousness and speech and will attempt to answer the question, what do things want to say in these dialogues with humankind? Do they want to give us information, reprehend us for our vices and tell us how they feel, or redefine the limits of humanity?

The seminar will begin in late May 2006 and continue for seven weeks.

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