The 2021-2022 academic year will provide the opportunity for two Valparaiso University professors to assume the role of University Research Professors.
Every year the university issues the research professorship to two faculty members as an opportunity for them to focus solely on conducting research. Essentially, the grant compensates for the salary of the period of temporary leave and covers departmental support of finding help for teaching classes while the professors are away.
George Potter, an Associate Professor of English, and Allanah Karas, Assistant Professor of Greek and Roman Studies in the department of World Languages and Cultures, have been awarded the semester-long position and a grant to pursue research within their fields.
Karas has been with the university since the fall of 2017, while this is Potter’s seventh year at Valpo. The research grant offers either one semester of full-time leave or two semesters of a part time schedule with a $4000 stipend. Karas will be opting for the full-time leave for one semester.
“I’m really excited to actually focus on my research because I’ve been building a program and running a curriculum singlehandedly. This will be an excellent opportunity to delve into this other aspect of being a professor which is publications and bringing professional intellectual contribution to my field and to others,” Karas said.
Potter will also choose the one semester leave however, he will use his post tenure sabbatical for a second semester to be gone for the entirety of the academic year to continue his research.
“The idea [of the grant] being that, aside from the fact the university professors are supposed to produce research, being active in scholarship makes us better teachers because it keeps us up to date in the process of writing and finding new information and ideas to bring into the classroom,” Potter said.
Potter will be working in the archives in the New York Public Library, as well as London’s National Theatre archives. He will focus on watching videos of productions and adding missing and new information from the research he did on a previous visit ten years ago.
“So the plan is working on a book about Liberal Islamophobia and how, particularly in the work I’m looking at, is theatre, those critiquing the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and sometimes the occupation of Palestine and how even in liberal critics of war there’s a failure to write Muslim and Arab chacters as fully human,” Potter said. “I’m also going to be trying to develop a course on gender and sexualtiy in the Middle East [for Valpo students],” Potter said.
Karas is also researching through a cultural scope. She is taking the opportunity of having the grant to primarily focus on the relationship between classic works and African Americans. An interest will be placed on how African Americans made classics their own.
“[The research] has to do with the reception of classics by African Americans because it’s a very interesting field in that oftentimes classics are associated with everything from the Ku Klux Klan to Hitler’s aryan race,” Karas said, “There are aspects within the classical tradition...that are enduringly human perhaps, and appeal to Black Americans just as any other Americans, just as much as any other person.”
Specifically, Karas will look at works from Bob Thompson, an abstract figurative expressionist painter. Thompson took classic art motifs and remade them with multi-color to reflect on himself as a Black man and his intrigue with Renaissance artwork.
“So what [Thompson] did in about seven years where he was really productive before he died, he painted almost 1000 paintings. Very little has been done to explore these paintings and also to explore the presence and purpose of his reworking or reconfiguring of the classics,” Karas said. “Right now I’m finishing up an article for the Journal Ramus that will be the start of that project and I’m hoping to continue by examining other [Thompson] paintings.”
Karas will finish her last year with Valpo during the 2021-2022 academic year as a result of the discontinuance of the Greek and Roman studies program.