Rumowicz Lecture Series


What Does the Sea Mean at Guantánamo?

A lecture by Erin Thompson, Assistant Professor of Art Crime at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice

April 26, 2018, 4:00-6:00 pm, Beaupre Center, Room 105

free and open to the public


Untitled (Pier), Muhammad Ansi, 2016. Paper, pigment, 12 x 18 inches. Held by Beth D. Jacob in New York City.

Erin Thompson, one of the curators of “Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantánamo Bay,” and Assistant Professor of Art Crime, at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, will speak to us about art made by detainees at the United States military prison camp known as Guantánamo Bay. The exhibit displayed some of these evocative works, made by eight men: four who have since been cleared and released from Guantánamo, and four who remain there. They paint the sea again and again although they cannot reach it.

Prof. Thompson will also speak about the controversy sparked by the exhibit with hundreds of newspaper articles and TV and radio reports asking whether displaying this art glorified terrorism, or helped fight terrorism by helping scholars understand the minds of suspected terrorists; whether it insulted the victims of terrorist attacks, or tried to help them achieve justice by renewing pressure to charge and try detainees; whether its humanization of the artists was evil or good– even whether the work was art or not.

She will talk to us about the sea, about art and Guantanamo, but also about the many paths to activism, to using the skills you have instead of the skills you think you need.

Lecture to commence immediately after the awards ceremony for the winners of the Rumowicz Undergraduate Maritime Essay Contest.


The Global Ocean: Racial Geographies and the Oceanic Humanities

April 12, 2017, 9:30 to 4:30 pm, URI Multicultural Student Services Center, 74 Lower College Road, Kingston, RI 02881    #globaloceanURI

A day-long symposium sponsored by the Edmund S. and Nathalie Rumowicz Lecture Series in Literature and the Sea, the Departments of English, History, and Philosophy, the URI Center for Humanities, and the Coastal Institute featuring Monique Allewaert (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Jason Oliver Chang (University of Connecticut, Storrs), Steve Mentz (St. John’s University), and Ketaki Pant (Coget Center for the Humanities, Brown University).

Two workshop sessions (at 10 am and 12:30 pm) will be held in the conference room at the URI Multicultural Student Services Center to discuss pre-circulated papers. Please see complete schedule and register here to receive copies of the essays.

At 2:30 pm we will convene a panel discussion to discuss the contributions of the panelists’ current work to the oceanic humanities at the Hardge Forum, URI Multicultural Student Services Center (2:30 – 4 pm). This event is free and open to the public and features:

Monique Allewaert (University of Wisconsin-Madison), “Super Fly: Makandal, Atlantic Fetishisms, and Aesthetic Theory”

Jason Oliver Chang (University of Connecticut, Storrs), “Sea Coolies: Race, Diaspora, and Maritime Exile

Steve Mentz (St. John’s University),  “Wet Globalization”

Ketaki Pant (Coget Center for the Humanities, Brown University), “A Poet’s Ocean: Merchants, Place-Making and Poetics across Indian Ocean Gujarat”

April 28

Awards Ceremony for Rumowicz Undergraduate Maritime Essay Contest will take place during the English Department Awards ceremony in Swan Auditorium. Open to the public, refreshments to follow.


Lecture Series

April 28, 2016: Nancy Shoemaker (University of Connecticut, Storrs), “Native American Whaling Writings in the Age of Moby-Dick,” 2PM -4PM at the Gender and Sexuality Center, 19 Upper College Road, Kingston, RI 02881. To take place immediately following the Awards Ceremony for Undergraduate Maritime Essay Contest. Open to the public, refreshments to follow.

March 31, 2016: Rachel Boccio (English, University of Rhode Island), Swan 311. Seminar students only.

March 18, 2016: Sarah Schweitzer (The Boston Globe & 2014 Pulitzer Finalist for Feature Writing), “When Narrative Storytelling Meets Public Policy: Getting Out from Behind the Data to Write Stories That Move People,” 9:30 AM,  Essay In Public: The Way We Work Now Conference, URI Providence. Please register here. Free and open to the public.

February, 18, 2016: Wendy S. Walters (The New School), “You Are Pip,” 2-3:30PM at the Hoffman Room, Swan Hall. Open to the public, refreshments to follow.

Previous events include:


Thursday, April 23, 2015 3:30 – 6:00 pm The University of Rhode Island Alumni Center

The Edmund S. and Nathalie Rumowicz Endowed Seminar and Lecture Series in Literature and the Sea and The College of Arts and Science proudly announces an afternoon colloquium featuring:

Awards Ceremony for Undergraduate Maritime Essay Contest

URI Visiting Professor of Anthropology Hilda Lloréns whose talk, “The Caribbean Sea in Art and Literature,” will examine the cultural production of writers and artists as diverse as Edwidge Danticat, Hunter S. Thompson, William E. Scott, Tony Capellán, Jorge Zeno, Terry Boddie, and Scherezade Garcia.

Remarks by Commodore Henry “Harry” Anderson with a Special Introduction by Roger Vaughan, recent author of The Strenuous Life of Harry Anderson (Mystic Seaport, 2013).

Colloquium will include a student reading and the Awards Ceremony for the Rumowicz Maritime Essay Contest.

Reception and Book Signing will follow. This event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.


Filmscreening of America’s Forgotten Heroine: Ida Lewis Keeper of the Light and Q&A with Director and Producer Marian Gagnon.

Gagnon is a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at Johnson and Wales University. America’s Forgotten Heroine: Ida Lewis Keeper of the Light examines the legacy of one of Newport’s most influential lighthouse keepers and her impact in the history of women’s suffrage.



Birgit Brander Rasmussen, “Queequeg’s Coffin: Indigenous Literacies and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.” 

Rasmussen is Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Race and Migration at Yale University. She is author of Queequeg’s Coffin: Indigenous Literacies and the Making of Early American Literature (Duke University Press, 2012). Rasmussen invited us to rethink what ‘American literature’ is, to expand its purview to include not only alphabetic languages, but also non-alphabetic writings throughout the Americas. Her talk took on Melville’s iconic novel Moby-Dick and explored Ishmael’s description of the tattoos on the body of the Polynesian harpooner Queequeg and on his coffin.


Christopher Freeburg, “Interracial Friendship and the Bottomless Deep in Melville’s Moby-Dick.”

 Freeburg is Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He is author of Melville and the Idea of Blackness: Race and Imperialism in Nineteenth Century America (2012). His talk investigates interracial encounters in Melville’s Moby-Dick. While scholars have long discussed the importance of racial politics in Moby-Dick, they tend to neglect connections between Ahab’s and Ishmael’s meditations on the ocean’s abyss and the racial darkness of their companions Pip and Queequeg. Freeburg took this occasion to think about how Melville’s famous racial pairings and the intensity of the maritime setting shape the novel’s racial politics and incessant philosophical probing.



Hester Blum, “Melville’s Extravagance.” 

Blum is Associate Professor, Penn State University and author of The View from the Masthead: Maritime Imagination and Antebellum American Sea Narratives (2008). She was also the NEH Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Library Company of Philadelphia where she worked on a project entitled “Arctic and Antarctic Circles: The Print Culture of Polar Exploration.” Her talk addressed what one reviewer called the “negative virtues of [Melville’s] originality.” Although a lively imagination could be a desirable quality in an author, the extravagance of Melville’s prose was thought by his contemporaries to have wandered too far beyond the limits of literary expectation. But what if we choose not to romanticize Melville as an outsider or outlier? “Melville’s Extravagance” instead considers the structural innovations of Melville’s novels within the boundaries of fiction’s formal expectations.



Lecture Series

• Steve Mentz, “Fathoming Shakespeare’s Ocean: The Sea in English Literary Culture,”  February 24, 2009

Mentz is Professor of English at St. John’s University in New York City, where he teaches Shakespeare and Renaissance literature. His talk drew from the then forthcoming book, At the Bottom of Shakespeare’s Ocean (2009), that ranges from The Tempest, King Lear, early modern cartographers and hydrographers to Melville, Walcott, Byron, Conrad and post-colonial sea poetry.


• Matthew Cordova Frankel, Meditation by the Sea,” March 24, 2009

Frankel, former co-director of the Rumowicz Program in Literature and the Sea, was awarded the prestigious Hennig Cohen Prize for his article, “Tattoo Art: The Composition of Text, Voice, and Race in Melville’s Moby-Dick,” published in ESQ, 2007. Frankel work brings together the thought of Gilles Deleuze, Herman Melville, and Baruch Spinoza around the image of the sea.  His talk was drawn from a chapter of his longer work which explores the aesthetic concept and literary composition of what has been termed “the novel of Spinozism.”


• Talvikki Ansel, “Archipelago and Other Works,” April 7, 2009

Ansel read from and discussed her two books of poems: My Shining Archipelago (Yale Series of Younger Poets Award) and Jetty & Other Poems. Her awards include the Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing at Stanford University, a Pushcart Prize and Lannan Residency Fellowship. Currently teaching at URI, she has also taught at Centre College, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Texas at Austin. Her poems have appeared in several anthologies and in magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly, The New RepublicThe Journal, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and Shenandoah.



Jeffrey Bolster, “Landfalls and Departures: New Sea Stories for a Historic Ocean.”

 Bolster is the Hortense Cavis Shepherd Professor at the University of New Hampshire. Bolter’s lecture was drawn from his then book-in-progress, The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail (2012). Winner of the 2013 Bancroft Prize, the North American Society for Oceanic History’s John Lyman Book Award for the best book in U.S. Maritime History, the American Historical Association’s 2013 Albert J. Beveridge Prize, and the American Historical Association’s 2013 James Rawley Prize in Atlantic History.


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