School of Humanities and Sciences
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Associate Professor of French and Italian
BioLaura Wittman primarily works on 19th- and 20th-century Italian and French literature from a comparative perspective. She is interested in how modernity articulates new relationships between religious experience, embodiment, mortality, health, and politics, and how these are mediated by literary and artistic creations.
Her book, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Modern Mourning, and the Reinvention of the Mystical Body (University of Toronto Press, 2011) was awarded the Marraro Award of the Society for Italian Historical Studies for 2012. It explores the creation and reception of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – an Italian, French, and British invention at the end of the First World War – as an emblem for modern mourning, from a cultural, historical, and literary perspective. It draws on literary and filmic evocations of the Unknown Soldier, as well as archival materials, to show that Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is not pro-war, nationalist, or even proto-Fascist. Rather, it is a monument that heals trauma in two ways: first, it refuses facile consolations, and forcefully dramatizes the fact that suffering cannot be spiritualized or justified by any ideology; second, it rejects despair by enacting, through the concreteness of a particular body, a human solidarity in suffering that commands respect. Anticipating recent analyses of PTSD, the Memorial shows that when traumatic events are relived in a ritual, embodied, empathetic setting, healing occurs not via analysis but via symbolic communication and transmission of emotion.
Laura Wittman is the editor of a special issue of the Romanic Review entitled Italy and France: Imagined Geographies (2006), as well as the co-editor of an anthology of Futurist manifestos and literary works, Futurism: An Anthology (Yale University Press, 2009). She has published articles on d’Annunzio, Marinetti, Fogazzaro, Ungaretti, Montale, Sereni, and Merini, as well as on decadent-era culture and Italian cinema. With Jon Snyder and Simonetta Falasca Zamponi, she recently co-edited a special issue of California Italian Studies on "The Sacred in Italian Culture" (2015).
She received her Ph.D. in 2001 from Yale University where she wrote a dissertation entitled "Mystics Without God: Spirituality and Form in Italian and French Modernism," an analysis of the historical and intellectual context for the self-descriptive use of the term "mystic without God" in the works of Gabriele d'Annununzio and Paul Valéry.
In Spring 2009, she was organizer of the California Interdisciplinary Consortium for Italian Studies (CICIS) Annual Conference, held at the Stanford Humanities Center; she is currently the organizer of the upcoming CICIS 2019 conference, also to be held at the Stanford Humanities Center. She was also organizer of the interdisciplinary conference on Language, Literature, and Mysticism held at the Stanford Humanities Center on 15 and 16 October 2010.
She is currently working on a new book entitled Lazarus' Silence that explores visions of the afterlife and visits to the underworld in modern literature and culture, as a window toward our changing attitudes toward death, accepting our mortality, and accompanying the dying.
Holbrook Working Professor in Commodity Price Studies and Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute and at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research
BioFrank A. Wolak is a Professor in the Department of Economics at Stanford University. His fields of specialization are Industrial Organization and Econometric Theory. His recent work studies methods for introducing competition into infrastructure industries -- telecommunications, electricity, water delivery and postal delivery services -- and on assessing the impacts of these competition policies on consumer and producer welfare. He is the Chairman of the Market Surveillance Committee of the California Independent System Operator for electricity supply industry in California. He is a visiting scholar at University of California Energy Institute and a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).
Professor Wolak received his Ph.D. and M.S. from Harvard University and his B.A. from Rice University.
Assistant Professor of History
BioIn my work, I examine the intersection of social, political, environmental, and technological change in modern Mexico and Latin America by focusing on the history of agrarian reform, water control, hydraulic technology, drought, and climate change. I offer a wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses in Mexican, Latin American, environmental, and comparative and global history, on topics such as the history of water control, climate ethics, economic development, international relations, revolution and film (see course offerings below).
My first book, Watering the Revolution, recipient of the 2018 Conference on Latin American History's Elinor Melville Prize for Latin American Environmental History, transforms our understanding of Mexican agrarian reform, Latin America's most extensive and longest-lasting (1915-1992) through an environmental and technological history of water management in the emblematic Laguna region. Drawing on extensive archival research in Mexico and the United States, it shows how during the long Mexican Revolution (1910-1940) engineers’ distribution of the water paradoxically undermined land distribution. In so doing, it highlights the intrinsic tension engineers faced between the urgent need for water conservation and the imperative for development during the contentious modernization of the Laguna's existing flood irrigation method into one regulated by high dams, concrete-lined canals, and motorized groundwater pumps. This tension generally resolved in favor of development, which unintentionally diminished and contaminated the water supply while deepening existing rural social inequalities by dividing people into water haves and have-nots, regardless of their access to land. By uncovering the varied motivations behind the Mexican government’s decision to use invasive and damaging technologies despite knowing they were ecologically unsustainable, the book tells a cautionary tale of the long-term consequences of short-sighted development policies.
The research I completed for my first book led to my second book project tentatively entitled “Revolution in the Air: A Comparative Historical Climatology of the Mexican and Cuban Revolutions.” The book makes climate endogenous to the story of revolution. It contends that climatic events did not simply happen once, only to disappear in importance. Rather, revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries interpreted climatic variability through a mixture of geopolitical, scientific, and religious knowledge and practices. These interpretations, in turn, shaped how revolutionary societies incorporated climatology into a broader state policy toward the environment.
Richard W. Lyman Professor of the Humanities
BioAlex Woloch received his B.A. and PhD in Comparative Literature. He teaches and writes about literary criticism, narrative theory, the history of the novel, and nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature. He is the author of The One vs. The Many: Minor Characters and the Space of the Protagonist in the Novel (Princeton UP, 2003), which attempts to reestablish the centrality of characterization — the fictional representation of human beings — within narrative poetics. He is also the author of Or Orwell: Writing and Democratic Socialism (Harvard UP, 2016), which takes up the literature-and-politics question through a close reading of George Orwell’s generically experimental non-fiction prose. A new book in progress, provisionally entitled Partial Representation, will consider the complicated relationship between realism and form in a variety of media, genres and texts. This book will focus on the paradoxical ways in which form is at once necessary, and inimical, to representation. Woloch is also the co-editor, with Peter Brooks of Whose Freud?: The Place of Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture (Yale UP, 2000).
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Archaeology
BioAndrew Womack is currently a postdoctoral scholar in Chinese Archaeology at the Stanford Archaeology Center. His research focuses on using geophysical survey, excavation, and ceramic analysis to explore craft production, identity, and interaction in late Neolithic and early Bronze Age northwestern China. He is Associate Director of the Tao River Archaeology Project and the creator and editor of the China Ceramic Petrography Database.