Fall2013More News News: Hispanic Studies

Handbook of Fashion Studies, Regina Root, co-editor, hot off the presses

9780857851949The first handbook of fashion studies and a work that has been heralded as “essential” reading by folks at some of the top design schools, among others, is hot off the press.  At almost 700 pages, it can be added to the list of books published by members of our department.  This project began in 2008.  It was an international project, too.

A few select reviews of the book can be found here.

The handbook’s already getting some coverage across the Atlantic.  But it’s an international initiative that also began here at W&M.


Working as an Au Pair in Chianti

The beginning of my study abroad story sounds similar to the experience of most students: I researched programs, found one that aligned with my interests, and applied to study in Florence, Italy during the summer of 2013. With one semester of Italian under my belt, I hoped my language skills would improve as I took Italian and Renaissance art courses in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I chose William and Mary’s Summer Program because of its wonderful student reviews and homestay component, though I felt that I might want to live in Italy for longer than the program’s 4 weeks. With that in mind, I independently found a family willing to host me as an “au pair” nanny for their two children after my W&M classes ended.

While I was a bit nervous about working alone in a foreign country, the added value to my study abroad trip was immense. I was able to practice communicating in situations that I didn’t experience as part of an academic group, from bonding with my Italian kids to navigating the extra-urban bus system in Tuscany. I also had several opportunities during my time off to explore on my own. Day-trips I planned included visiting small towns throughout the beautiful Chianti countryside and wandering the narrow Florentine streets at my own pace. I was even lucky enough to attend two historic festivals, La Festa di San Giovanni in Florence and Mercantia in Certaldo, both of which were once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Working as an au pair in Chianti gave me a different perspective on Italian life and culture that I may have missed as a student. The multigenerational family that I lived with was so tight-knit, yet they welcomed me into their home like I was a long-lost relative. I gained an insider’s view on what childhood in Italy is like— parenting techniques and family dynamics were totally different than what I experienced growing up in the U.S. Moving from my study abroad homestay apartment in central Florence to a tiny town in rural Chianti wine country also broadened my view of Tuscany. I loved the slower pace of life in the hills above the city almost as much as the breathtaking pastoral views I awoke to every morning.

One of my favorite words I learned this summer is agrodolce, meaning bittersweet. Boarding the plane to come home, I felt both sad about ending my stay in Italy, but ready to build on what I learned this past summer. I’m now continuing to improve my Italian and fill in the gaps in my vocabulary and grammar. I’m furthering my art history knowledge beyond the Renaissance, though I’m glad to have a foundation in the Italian masters. I’m also finding ways to integrate the cross-cultural skills I developed into other fields of study. As an International Relations major, I hope to bring a nuanced understanding of culture to the realm of diplomacy and international organizations. Most importantly, I’m happy knowing my study abroad journey didn’t end when the plane landed.

Fall2013More News News: Hispanic Studies

Raft Debate ’13: Hispanic Studies Prof. John ‘Rio’ Riofrio Defends the Humanities

Hard sciences the ‘natural’ choice in annual Raft Debate

John Riofrio and his children perform during the rebuttal portion of the event.Photo by Stephen Salpukas
John Riofrio and his children perform during the rebuttal portion of the event.
Photo by Stephen Salpukas

Dressed as Charles Darwin and armed with an erupting bottle of “science juice,” Dan Cristol scored a victory for the natural and computational sciences on Wednesday night at William & Mary.

The biology professor was this year’s winner of the annual Raft Debate, held on Oct. 2 in the Sadler Center’s Commonwealth Auditorium, which was packed with students, faculty and staff.

The event begins with this premise: Three professors are stranded on a desert island with only one chance of escape: a life raft. The professors – representing the humanities, social sciences and natural and computational sciences, overseen by a judge and opposed by the notorious devil’s advocate — battle it out to determine academia’s most valuable discipline.

In addition to Cristol, the debaters for this year’s competition were Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies John Riofrio for the humanities and Associate Professor of Sociology Thomas Linneman for the social sciences. Presiding over the debate was Virginia Torczon, the dean of graduate studies and research for Arts & Sciences, and playing the part of the devil’s advocate was Associate Professor of Mathematics Sarah Day.

Some students come in with an idea of who they want to win—a number of students in the front row were wearing homemade “Dan Fan Clan” T-shirts sporting Cristol’s face on them—but a number came simply to watch the fun. Some switched allegiances midway through the performance, and others even went for the nihilistic third option.

“In the beginning I was probably rooting for the devil’s advocate,” said Cole Pearce ’15.  “It’s fun, incites some conflict.”

Each of the professors and the devil’s advocate were given seven minutes to make their case. Then, after each had gone, they were given another three minutes for a rebuttal.

Cristol led the debate dressed in official robes and a fake beard, claiming to be Charles Darwin and giving a case for why the natural and computational sciences should claim the dinghy. Painting a world with only humanities as full of “naked people rooting around for tubers” and only social sciences as “like a world with only humanities, but with more marketing research,” he brought up natural sciences’ role in helping humanity through medicine, agriculture and the scientific method.

The high point of his statement was his inclusion of Mentos and a bottle of Coke, which produced a fizzy explosion onstage.

Riofrio, not one to be outdone, complemented Cristol on his use of “words and language” to give his presentation, and talked about the use of humanities in things such as the clothes Cristol was wearing (fashion design), the food everyone was eating (culinary arts) and general “expression and communication,” or language. Comparing his opponents to the Jersey Shore cast, he threatened that a world without the humanities would result in nothing but terrible reality TV shows, and gave the other professors a number of Jersey-Shore themed props.

Defending the social sciences last, Linneman brought up a number of issues with both of the other fields—that the natural sciences were more focused on the “coulda” rather than the “shoulda,” and the “outrageous obfuscation” present in the humanities—before insisting that the social sciences had a lot to offer.

“These other fields, they’re too old,” he said. “Nothing new is coming out of them anymore. Social science though is new, young: it’s still got a lot of area to explore.”

Finally, the devil’s advocate came up to speak her mind. She argued that in order for any of the fields to be of use, they had to be used in conjunction with all of them.

“A world with only humanities is like a bunch of brilliant actors and a great script in a room with no way to broadcast them,” she said. “With only social sciences, it’s a bunch of CSI shows with no actors, only real crime labs; and with only the natural sciences, it’s a reality show with no talented people at all.”

She gave each of the professors a gift she thought they could use: including yarn to Cristol to make a “bird harness,” a book on “how to speak bird” for Riofrio and a notebook and pens for Linneman, so that he could implement some thought experiments “while they were all alone on the island.”

The rebuttals began again with Cristol, who started with the claim that the humanities were “a luxury we simply can’t afford without science.” He further added that the social sciences, far from the clarity Linneman was touting in his opening remarks, were in fact riddled with obscurity.

Riofrio’s defense rested on the guest appearances of his two kids, who helped him perform a song loosely adapted from a Rihanna tune. This was met with great applause from the audience.

Linneman, however, didn’t seem impressed.

“I’m not even going to stand up,” he said, shaking his head. “Can’t even do anything once you break out the children.”

Day, in one last plug as the devil’s advocate, urged the audience to embrace balance between the disciplines and leave them all on the island.

After a quick round of questions from the audience, the votes were taken. All four contestants received a considerable amount of applause, but Cristol clearly took the cake.

“That’s what you get for telling your 500-student class that they get extra credit for coming to this,” quipped Judge Torczon.

Still, the audience seemed pleased by the result.

“I thought it was great,” Cole said. “I was happy to see Cristol pull through with a Dar-Win.”

Fall2013More News News: Hispanic Studies

Cate-Arries honored for ‘broad scope’ of professional achievements

Francie Cate-Arries was just about to leave the stage after giving a lecture at the College of Charleston on Sept. 12 when she was stopped by Mark Del Mastro, the executive director of the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society.

He had an announcement to make, he told the audience: Cate-Arries, a member of William & Mary’s Department of Modern Languages and Literatures since 1986, was being awarded Sigma Delta Pi’s Order of the Discoverers.

At that moment, three student members from the College of Charleston’s chapter stepped forward and presented Cate-Arries with the commemorative plaque.

Professor Francie Cate-Arries (second from left) was awarded the Order of the Discoverers on Sept. 12 following her lecture at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. Also in the photo are (from left) Justin Lyons, College of Charleston chapter co-vice president; Jocelyn Moratzka, chapter president; Rachel Wadsworth, chapter co-vice president and Mark Del Mastro, executive director of the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society.Courtesy of Mark Del Mastro
Professor Francie Cate-Arries (second from left) was awarded the Order of the Discoverers on Sept. 12 following her lecture at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. Also in the photo are (from left) Justin Lyons, College of Charleston chapter co-vice president; Jocelyn Moratzka, chapter president; Rachel Wadsworth, chapter co-vice president and Mark Del Mastro, executive director of the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society.
Courtesy of Mark Del Mastro

“I hadn’t shared with my hosts that it was my birthday,” Cate-Arries said. “It is an understatement to say that being honored this way was a most memorable surprise birthday gift.”

The prestigious Order of the Discoverers recognizes, among others, outstanding teachers of Spanish or Hispanic studies at the college or university level, as well as university personnel who have served the cause of Sigma Delta Pi in an exceptional way.

Cate-Arries, who was nominated by the national executive committee of Sigma Delta Pi based on her scholarship and the scope of her activities in the profession, qualifies on several levels. She is a professor of contemporary Spanish cultural and literary studies, and teaches courses at all levels of the curriculum, including Fundamentals of Literary Criticism; The Art & Literature of the Spanish Civil War; Film under Franco; Literary Landscapes of Spain, 1800-2012; Phantasms of Francoism: History, Literature, Memory; and language courses at all levels.

“Dr. Francie Cate-Arries’ impressive record of scholarship along with the broad scope of her other professional accomplishments earned her this important international distinction, which is among Sigma Delta Pi’s top honors,” said Del Mastro.

Cate-Arries regularly serves as a faculty adviser for W&M’s Semester in Sevilla program, which includes an innovative “International Service-Learning Internship” opportunity for qualified students. She also frequently directs the W&M Summer in Cádiz, Spain program, celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2013. She supervises on-site undergraduate research projects about contemporary topics in today´s Spain related to, for example, women´s issues, cinema, immigration, historical memory, music, commemorative cultures and youth cultures.

Her book Spanish Culture Behind Barbed Wire: Memory and Representation of the French Concentration Camps, 1939-1945 (Culturas del exilio español entre las alambradas: Literatura y memoria en Francia, 1939-1945), was the first monograph written about the literature and culture of the French internment camps for Spanish war refugees.

She is no stranger to awards. Cate-Arries was a 2007 recipient of the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia´s Outstanding Faculty Award and received the Plumeri Award for faculty excellence in 2010.

Her relationship with Sigma Delta Pi dates back to the 1970s and her days as an undergraduate student at the University of Georgia when she was inducted into that university’s chapter.

“One of my earliest memories as a new faculty member more than 25 years ago was attending a candlelight induction ceremony in the Wren Chapel for new undergraduate initiates into our local chapter,” she said. “During the years of my tenure at the College, I’ve seen our most outstanding students of Spanish language and culture, under the leadership of my colleague Carla Buck (long-time faculty adviser for our local chapter), join the ranks of the national membership.

“To have the society officially recognize my work as a professor and a scholar in the field of Hispanic studies is an especially satisfying connection to have with this accomplished body of university students. Good company to keep!”