Sean Latham Archives - Kendall College of Arts and Sciences

Sean Latham

James Joyce Quarterly announces leadership transition

man in a plum-colored shirt and grey blazer gesturing upwards with this right arm
Sean Latham

After 21 years of service, Walter Professor of English Sean Latham has stepped down from the editorship of the James Joyce Quarterly (JJQ) to take on new a position with The University of Tulsa. He will be succeeded by Chapman Professor of Law Robert Spoo and Associate Professor of English Jeff Drouin, who will serve as co-editors.

Latham arrived at TU in 2001 to lead the journal after completing his doctorate at Brown University. As editor, he oversaw the transformation of JJQ from a print-only publication into an innovative, hybrid publication with a sprawling global readership of scholars, fans, teachers,and students. During this tenure, he hosted the North American Joyce Conference, marked the centenary of Bloomsday and created the journal’s 50th-anniversary issue. In addition to producing over 70 issues of the print journal, he revived the celebration of Bloomsday here in Tulsa and returned the headquarters of the International James Joyce Foundation to TU.

“The James Joyce Quarterly brought me and my family to Tulsa,” Latham remarked, “and the community of scholars, fans and students that have gathered around it have made the Joyce world a second home.” His work as editor has taken him to symposia and universities around the world, from Dublin, Zurich and Paris to the world’s largest book festival in Shanghai. During his editorship, he wrote or edited 10 books on modern literature and culture, including editions of Joyce’s Dubliners and Ulysses, as well as influential studies on literary magazines, libel law and snobbery.

man smiling and wearing a white shirt, blue tie and blue blazer
Robert Spoo

More than anything, Latham has valued the opportunity to help shape the work of developing scholars: both the students who have come to Tulsa to study Joyce and the writers and researchers whom he has mentored through the challenges of a rigorous peer-review process: “The arrival of each new issue is a joy because I know the huge amount of work that our entire team has put into maintaining the journal’s reputation for excellence.”

Latham’s successors also came to Tulsa to pursue work on James Joyce. In fact, he took over the journal from Spoo, who, while then a member of the English faculty, had served as editor from 1991 to 2001. “I’m in the amazingly unique position of having preceded Sean at JJQ and now returning to it as he embarks for new challenges and opportunities,” said Spoo. “In addition to my work in TU’s College of Law, I remain active as a scholar of Joyce, so the transition will be a natural one for me, and I greatly look forward to collaborating with Jeff in guiding JJQ into the future.”

man wearing glasses, black shirt and black blazer
Jeff Drouin

Spoo will share the editor’s chair with Drouin, an expert on modernism and digital humanities. Drouin describes it as “an honor to become an editor of the journal that has guided research in Joyce and modernism for so many scholars over so many years. Bob and Sean as the two more recent editors, have both made a lasting impact that will allow us to carry the journal forward as the world moves in new directions.”

Stepping down from a position that has defined almost his entire professional life is emotional, Latham admits. “I do so, however, knowing that the journal will be led by an outstanding team who are certainly far better qualified for the work than I was back in 2001. And they will be supported by Carol Kealiher, our managing editor, and the dedicated staff of graduate assistants who have always been the real keys to the journal’s ongoing success.”

Latham will remain at TU and move to a largely administrative role leading the institution’s public humanities initiatives while developing the fledging TU Institute for Bob Dylan Studies.

The JJQ was founded by Thomas F. Staley at TU in 1963 and began its life as a modest passion project in a midtown Tulsa garage. It has since grown into the internationally recognized flagship of Joyce studies and a leading publication in literary studies more generally. TU itself is home to one of the world’s leading collections of Joyce’s papers and has been a research leader in the field of modern literature for more than 60 years.

Dylan, Shakespeare, Decadence! Some recent faculty publications

Scholarly publishing tends to move slowly, with articles and books following many years of research and writing. It is especially exciting, then, that even as the pandemic has brought new challenges for this work, Department of English and Creative Writing faculty have seen a prolific year. In this spring 2022 issue of our newsletter, we highlight three books recently published by esteemed university presses. We reached out to their authors — Professors Denisoff, Engle and Latham — for comment on what motivated them to produce these works.

Eco-politics through a decadent lens

man in a white shirt with arms folded across his chest standing in a formal Italian gardenDennis Denisoff, McFarlin Professor of English, published his most recent monograph, Decadent Ecology in British Literature and Art, 1860-1910, this year with Cambridge University Press. While focused on the British Decadent movement of the Victorian and early-Modernist periods, this project is highly engaged with our current moment of environmental precarity, showing how contemporary attitudes to nature and the environment were shaped by this earlier era.

It is this interlacing of present with past, combined with his keen interest in environmental humanities, that drew Denisoff to the project: “In light of recent works engaging apocalyptic climate change, I’m especially interested in nineteenth-century literary renderings of the growing awareness that, far from humans being ‘stewards’ of nature and managing the environment, the biosphere is itself acting in what it senses to be its own best interests, with no discernible concern for what humans in particular think.” Denisoff’s book is capacious and innovative in its methodology, drawing on art history, queer studies, feminist theory and ecocriticism as it shows the mutually influential relationship of art and science in a tumultuous and formative period.

The classroom has been an animating force in Denisoff’s research and writing, and he credits his students with challenging him to explore new ideas and approaches in his scholarship: “Students ask the most fundamental and, so often, the most difficult questions. Their willingness to engage a new set of inquiries, to read current theoretical works in the field and to learn to cull useful insights and then work to prove the extrapolations did more to change my own research questions than anything else.”

Ideas and inspiration in early modern Europe

close-up photo of a man wearing glasses and a white shirtLars Engle, Chapman Professor of English, delves even more deeply into the past in Shakespeare and Montaigne, which was published last December by Edinburgh University Press. This essay collection, which Engle co-edited with Patrick Gray at Durham University and William M. Hamlin at Washington State University, looks at Shakespeare alongside the French philosopher and essayist Michel de Montaigne, who was three decades older than Shakespeare, and whose publications were circulating around Europe both before and while the playwright pursued his storied career.

Engle noted that the collection emerged from a Shakespeare Association seminar he and Hamlin chaired six years ago involving participation by both the field’s most prominent and exciting up-and-coming scholars: “The book has chapters by many distinguished Shakespeareans and Montaignians and also by promising younger scholars, and features really nice paratexts: a brilliant preface by Colin Burrow, insightful afterwords by George Hoffman and Katharine Eisaman Maus, and generous blurbs from Stephen Greenblatt and Emma Smith.” Engle, who wrote the book’s introduction and a chapter titled “Montaigne’s Shakespeare: The Tempest as Test-Case,” said that his contributions to the volume “investigate why Shakespeareans want to believe that Shakespeare read Montaigne, to suggest why Shakespeare may have read the particular essays by Montaigne Shakespeareans most often sensed in Shakespeare’s works and finally to discuss whether Shakespeare is thinking actively about Montaigne in The Tempest.”

A contemporary bard’s “sprawling reach”

man in a plum-colored shirt and grey blazer gesturing upwards with this right armWith the imminent opening of the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa’s Arts District, the publication of The World of Bob Dylan in spring 2021 by Cambridge University Press is especially timely. Sean Latham, Walter Professor of English and director of the TU Institute for Bob Dylan Studies, edited this collection of 27 essays by a renowned group of rock and pop critics and music scholars.

The book offers a comprehensive exploration of Dylan — songwriter, artist, filmmaker and Nobel Laureate — considering his transformative global effect on literature, pop culture, music, and politics. Even as his editorial work on this project was intensively international, Latham’s inspiration for editing this book was local: “I was astonished when the Dylan Archive arrived here in Tulsa and fortunate to be one of the first dig into these materials and then help organize the decades of research and scholarship that will grow from this expansive collection. This book gave me an opportunity to work with people around the world to offer students, fans and scholars alike a peek into the archive and an opportunity to better understand the sprawling reach and enduring influence of Dylan’s music, art and life.”

Indeed, an especially exciting feature of this collection is its use of never before accessed materials from the Dylan Archive, which promises to continue to provide the world with new information about Dylan’s life, work and ongoing influence.


Oklahoma Center for the Humanities awarded major grant

The Oklahoma Center for the Humanities (OCH) has received a grant of $100,000 from the Social Science Research Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities through the Sustaining Humanities Infrastructure Program (SHIP). These awards support colleges, universities and nonprofit humanities research or educational organizations to restore, sustain and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing them to bolster under-supported humanities programming with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Old red brick three-story building with an illuminated entryway and the partial words Tulsa Paper painted near the top
Henry Zarrow Center for Art & Education

One of 21 grantees from the across the country, the OCH will use the funds to support a project titled Pathways to Freedom: Re-energizing the Public Humanities in Tulsa. The main thrust of this endeavor will be the reactivation of The University of Tulsa’s Henry Zarrow Center for Art & Education as a key site for bringing the distinctive tools of the humanities to bear on urgent community challenges.

“This generous funding provides the OCH an exciting opportunity to fully activate the Zarrow Center in Tulsa’s Arts District as an active cultural hub for both the university and the region as whole,” said OCH Director Sean Latham. “We’ll work with diverse community partners to fill the space with exhibitions, lectures and performances all designed to explore the complex idea of freedom as a fundamental part of our legacy, identity and future.”

illustration bearing the word FREEDOM in capital letters in white set against a dark blue background with colored ribbons trailing off of the letter MIn concert with the OCH’s 2022-23 theme “Freedom,” the Zarrow’s SHIP-supported reactivation will focus on three topics:

  • The history and future of tribal sovereignty in Oklahoma
  • The state’s historic all-Black towns
  • The musical legacy of the Dust Bowl

SHIP funds will also enable the hiring of a post-doctoral assistant director, an emerging scholar who will gain mentoring and practical management experience in the public humanities.

Craving a space for collaboration, research synthesis, deep thinking and community engagement? At the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities, we’re eager to welcome you to our vibrant community.

Three faculty named Outstanding Researchers for 2020

The University of Tulsa is honored to announce the recipients of the 2020 Outstanding Researcher Award – a lifetime distinction, received only once in an individual’s career. It is intended to honor achievements that have been validated in the scholar’s professional field.

The 2020 recipients are:
outstanding researchersJoanne Davis, Professor of Psychology: Professor Davis’ research is broadly concerned with trauma and its consequences. Particular focus of this work is on the development of sleep disorders following traumatic events, and the exploration of the effects of interpersonal violence. Notably, Joanne translates her research to make the findings useable for the broad, nonacademic community, providing seminars for organizations such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and NGOs in Tulsa including Family and Children’s Services and Domestic Violence Intervention Services.

outstanding researchersRobert Spoo, Chapman Distinguished Professor of Law: Professor Spoo conducts his interdisciplinary work at the intersection of copyright law, theories of the public domain, informal norms, publishing, modern authorship and law and literature. Robert combines these distinct disciplines in scholarship that is grounded in literary and legal history and nourished by his diverse roles as literature professor, law professor, attorney and journal editor.

outstanding researchersSean Latham, Professor of English: Professor Latham’s scholarly activities focus on modern literature and culture and have drawn inspiration from the likes of James Joyce and Bob Dylan. His work intertwines with a broad interest in the cultural context of modernist aesthetics and the meanings and uses of formal innovation in 20th century literature. Since 2001, Sean has been the editor of The James Joyce Quarterly, the pre-eminent journal of Joycean studies in the world, and he also serves as the director of the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities.

Candidates for the Outstanding Researcher Awards were nominated by deans from Kendall College of Arts & Sciences, Collins College of Business, Oxley College of Health Sciences, the College of Engineering & Natural Sciences and the College of Law. Nominees were selected for their recognition of outstanding research and scholarly achievements. Other considerations included pedagogical awards, honors from scholarly societies, grants, publication citation counts or other forms of public recognition. External recognition of a faculty member’s work also factored into the selection process.