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Feast of Words provides (at least) 89 reasons to prize faculty books

Though writers can be notoriously solitary, where new books are on display that they and their colleagues have written, swing the doors wide: they will come. 

And so they did on Dec. 6, when the annual Feast of Words, which honors faculty book production in the past year, took place in the Jones Room of the Robert W. Woodruff Library. Though food and drink were plentiful, the real feast — as the event’s name implies — consisted of the published research that Emory’s faculty made possible last year as either writers or editors. 

Sponsored by the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence (CFDE), Emory Libraries and the Emory Barnes and Noble Bookstore, Feast of Words also marked being back in-person since the pandemic began. Normally headlining the event but unable to do so because of travel for Emory in India, Ravi V. Bellamkonda, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, sent along a video conveying his appreciation for what the faculty accomplished. 

Calling the event “an amazingly joyous occasion,” Bellamkonda characterized the lead-up to any finished academic work, saying: “For some of our faculty, it reflects several dedicated years of hard work, of trying to find time in between the many other things our wonderful scholars do. In some cases, it is a labor of love. In other cases, it is a triumph of perseverance and grit. In some instances, it is an intellectual feat.”

This year’s list — reflecting works published between Sept. 1, 2021 and Aug. 31, 2022 — consists of 89 titles and 65 faculty authors representing all the schools and colleges, including emeriti faculty. In the 19 years since the event began, Emory faculty have produced nearly 2,000 titles.

The CFDE manages two funds that have contributed to success for faculty authors. Ten of the 89 titles were helped toward publication by the Scholarly Writing and Publishing Fund, which provides small grants to faculty to hire an editor to take a manuscript from one stage to the next. Five of the projects were supported by the Public Scholarship Advancement Fund, which provides small grants to faculty interested in moving their research and writing into the realm of public influence. 

Visiting Assistant Professor Anthony Healy and Rosemary Magee

Visiting Assistant Professor Anthony Healy and Rosemary Magee, retired Rose Library director, show off their volumes — the former on school choice, the latter a short-story collection.

Deserved recognition for Emory’s subject librarians

This year, Feast of Words highlighted the role of Emory subject librarians who aided faculty in finding resources and bringing these projects to life. Daniel LaChance, Winship Distinguished Research Professor in History and associate professor in the Department of History, co-authored (with Paul Kaplan) “Crimesploitation: Crime, Punishment, and Pleasure on Reality Television.” In the book, LaChance and Kaplan identify what they call the “troubling nature” of reality crime TV. 

As the book was being researched, LaChance was grateful to Erica Bruchko, librarian for African American studies and United States history, for training two of his undergraduate research assistants on how to “comb Emory’s databases for coverage of the reality television shows my co-author and I were analyzing in the book.”

According to LaChance, “The two students, Sueda Polat and Jenna Yun, found hundreds of articles from popular media that gave us insight into how journalists and television critics were talking about the shows and the meanings they found in them. This was critical, because it allowed us to compare our interpretations of the shows to the responses of those who were reacting to them when they first came on the air or when they blew up in popularity. Many of our citations in the book come from the invaluable work of these research assistants, who were expertly trained by Erica.”

Though modest about her role with LaChance’s book, Bruchko provided a sense for the types of services she is called upon to provide, which include, she says, “tracking down hard-to-find sources, fielding questions about particular types of research materials (e.g., court records, advertising data, Atlanta-based archives), in-depth training on a type of resource (e.g., census data) and acquiring large databases.” 

Raising a glass

Valeda F. Dent, vice provost of libraries and museum, was excited to be at the event for the first time since joining Emory in July 2022. To appreciative nods, she noted, “I am building my gift list for the holidays and will be choosing from the wide variety of materials here.”  

In thanking the authors for “contributing to the university’s academic framework and to the betterment of society,” she also credited their wider circle of collaborators. “This kind of work is a team effort. It is not just you; it is your families, students, graduate assistants, colleagues locally and internationally, along with the professionals from Emory Libraries, who provide support and the scholarly infrastructure that allows you to obtain the resources you need,” Dent said. 

Pearl Dowe

Pearl Dowe, vice provost for faculty affairs, led a toast to honor Emory’s scribes.

Pearl Dowe, vice provost for faculty affairs and Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Political Science and African American studies, led a toast to the authors. As she began her remarks, she reminded the audience of Plato’s contention that “books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”

Needing just a few examples to prove her case regarding Emory faculty authors’ diverse subject matter and magnitude of impact, Dowe cited titles about Black sacred music, Mexican cinema, Sufi teachers in India, the Cold War in South Korea, using nature to secure the future of medicine, the legacy of colonization in Africa and artificial intelligence. 

In commending the faculty scholars for “increasing our understanding of the world,” Provost Bellamkonda had in mind both the realm of “the inner self and outer world.” As he concluded, “It is a triumph for all of us when you succeed.”

View the full list of faculty titles.

All photography by Kay Hinton, Emory Photo/Video

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