Several Bowdoin professors can finally breathe easy after publishing books that represent years of research and effort.

In February 2013, Associate Professor of English Guy Mark Foster finished a collection of short stories—his first foray into fiction—entitled “The Rest of Us,” which explores issues of sexual and racial identity.

“The stories all center around characters who are black and ‘sexually different.’ Some characters are gay, some characters are bisexual, and some characters are heterosexual, but their sexualities play a large role in their navigating their racial identities within a white-dominated culture,” said Foster.

Asian Studies Lecturer and Executive Director of the ISLE Program Sree Padma Holt released a book this October, “Vicissitudes of the Goddess: Reconstructions of the Gramadevata in India’s Religious Traditions,” about the evolution of goddess worship in India.

Holt focuses on the deified female in India and South Asian countries, juxtaposing goddess worship with the subordination of women in everyday life.

“I am interested in gender issues. Goddess worship is really prominent everywhere in both cities and rural areas,” said Holt, “so why is the woman not given an equal place in society?”

In August, Assistant Professor of Asian Studies Vyjayanthi Selinger’s book, “Authorizing the Shogunate: Ritual and Material Symbolism in the Literary Construction of Warrior Order” was released. Selinger described it briefly as a look into “the relationship of literature and history.” 

Selinger also said her work addresses questions like, “When you have a big traumatic historical event, how does literature grapple with that? How does literature try to find continuities or discontinuities in history? What does literature feel pressed to respond to? In some sense, that speaks to how society is trying to respond to these pressing questions.”

All three professors have found ways to connect their books to the classes they teach at the College.
Foster teaches courses on African-American literature, American literature, and gay and lesbian studies.
Selinger teaches about Japanese language and literature and said: “I have a class on World War II and the atomic bomb in Japan and that is far from the medieval Japan that I studied [in my book], but the questions are the same.”

Holt, an archaeologist and historian who teaches courses on Indian cultures, said, “whenever I teach any course I do have some component of probing into women’s issues.”

Although Holt realizes that her work “is kind of exotic to Bowdoin,” she emphasizes the relevance of this goddess culture to students. “This is liberal arts and we focus on various different cultures from all over the world. And India’s population is the second biggest [behind China], which means that the Indian culture is important for the world to know.” 

The inclusion of the culturally pertinent themes of women’s and gender issues in Holt’s work adds a very timely aspect of importance to her research.

Similarly, Foster’s collection also is deeply rooted in present-day social issues.

“My research challenges the notion that racial discourses and sexual discourses are somewhat separate discourses; that you have black civil rights and then gay civil rights,” said Foster. 

“There’s a way in which these discourses merge to become identities. There’s no separation really. They’re not mutually exclusive to one another—actually, one helps to mediate the other. We’re all of these things at once; we are never each of these things separately—racialized or sexual person—so the book was a way for me to fuse things together and make it clear that these things were never really separate,” he said.

After years of research, writing, rewriting and editing, Selinger was glad to finally have her first book complete.

“Writing can be hard, I’m sure students feel it as they write their own papers, but it’s rewarding when you see a finished product because it reflects so much of you,” Selinger said.

She noted that she has been motivated by both. the excitement of the subject and the thrill of letting herself engage in new and complex territory. 

“A book is something that you nurture over five or six years and it’s exciting to put it out in the world and see what people think of it,” said Selinger. “How would they engage these ideas? How would they look at these things in a different way?”

All three professors held readings on campus in the past month as an opportunity to share their work with the academic community.