ACLS Honors Dartmouth Professors’ Joint Work

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Dartmouth’s George Edmondson, an associate professor of English, and Klaus Mladek, an associate professor of German studies and comparative literature, make up one of eight teams chosen by the American Council of Learned Societies for 2014 Collaborative Research Fellowships. Edmondson and Mladek plan to write a book together; it is to be titled “A Politics of Melancholia.”

Klaus Mladek and George Edmondson

Klaus Mladek, left, and George Edmondson are collaborating on a writing project that is funded by the American Council of Learned Societies. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

“Long-lasting collaborations between scholars from different fields are unusual in the humanities,” Mladek says. “When George and I began working on our co-authored book, we had to get out of our customary writing habits as soon as we began developing our thoughts together—by writing and discussing at the same desk and on the same computer.”

This process, he says, “forced me to break out of my own mode of solitary thinking in reaction to the voice and ideas of my collaborator.”

The ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship Program, launched in 2007 and made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, aims to demonstrate the creative potential of collaborative research in the humanities and related social sciences.

Academia, says Edmondson, has been generally “slow to acknowledge, let alone reward, collaboration in the humanities. But Dartmouth is a unique place. Klaus and I have been afforded a number of different venues for developing this project, including a co-taught interdisciplinary course, and “States of Exception,” a Humanities Institute program presented by the Leslie Center for the Humanities in 2009. Mladek notes that they “were supported across campus, from office space to flexibility in our teaching schedules, to enable us to work together.”

Mladek says “A Politics of Melancholia” grew out of the authors’ “discomfort with certain forms of activism in our political world, with the frenzied hyperactivity in our lives that often ends up merely servicing the status quo.”

Examining sources from ancient Greece to the 20th century, the book seeks to present melancholia—philosophical discontent—as a force for genuine political change.