The Stanley Seeger Center in Athens hosted a three-day “retreat” of the International Network for the Comparative Humanities (INCH), co-directed by Professor Maria DiBattista and Notre Dame Professor (and former Princeton PhD) Barry McCrea. INCH is an international consortium that promotes interdisciplinary exchange between faculty and graduate students from English and Comparative Literature with their counterparts overseas. Aimed at developing a new model for “networking” in the humanities, INCH stresses the importance of collaboration across generational as well as national and institutional boundaries. Attending from Princeton were Robert Barton, Oliver Browne, Caitlin Crandell, Rachel Gaubinger, Brian Gingrich, Eva Kenney, Jennifer Minnen, Orlando Reade, and Maria DiBattista.
INCH’s meetings are organized around variations on a major theme explored over a period of 18 to 24 months, with the chosen texts often reflecting the literature and traditions of the host country. The consortium’s first cycle focused on the Emotions, with workshops on Political Passions and Social Emotions. The theme of its second cycle, Transformation, takes up the personal, political, cultural, and ecological value and direction of change. In a workshop on Supernatural Transformation, hosted at Kylemore Abbey in Ireland, participants discussed Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Heaney’s translation of the Irish medieval poem “Buile Suibhne” (“Sweeney Astray”), and Rilke’s Duino Elegies—texts that showcase how change might be experienced as originating in supernatural agents (gods, nature divinities, witches, sorcerers, magicians).
The consortium’s most recent workshop, in Athens, considered the question of Social Transformation. Organized around Aeschylus’s Oresteia, poems by Cafavy, Lampedusa’s Il Gattopardo (The Leopard), and Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, the group debated works that dramatize change, including descents into barbarism as well as restorations of order. Joining the Princeton attendees in Athens were two additional core faculty, Helena Buescu from the University of Lisbon and Simona Micale from the University of Sienna, and graduate students from Notre Dame, University of Arezzo, University of Geneva, University of Utrecht, Scuola Normale Pisa, University of Lisbon, Oxford University, and University of Bologna.
This year’s INCH retreat was made possible with help from a substantial grant from the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Project in the Council of the Humanities.