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HI Faculty Fellow Spotlight: Randy Schiff

November 2, 2020

Each month, we will feature one of the Humanities Institute Faculty Fellows and their answers to a short questionnaire. This month’s featured fellow is Randy Schiff whose [Virtual] Scholars@Hallwalls talk, “Catastrophic Companionship: General Systems Theory, the General Prologue, and the Collapsing Canterbury Tales” takes place on Friday, November 13th at 4pm.

What material(s) sparked your current project that you are now working on as a faculty fellow?

I became fascinated with systems theory through my research into various environmental humanities methodologies. Examining scholars who worked on such topics as systems modeling and ecosystem mapping made me realize that systems theory has tremendous potential to integrate the humanities and the sciences (both hard and social) into shared inquiry into environmental problematics.

What has been a source of entertainment these past months as we deal with coronavirus? Any specific recommendations (books, podcasts, film/tv, etc.)?

Like many, I have been doing more than my share of binge-watching, but I have also been doing a bit more pleasure-reading than usual. For escapist viewing, I highly recommend all three seasons of Babylon Berlin: to me, seeing the volatility of another era is strangely gripping during these difficult times. I would also recommend that those seeking a Shakespeare fix watch the six amazing films comprising The Hollow Crown. In terms of books, I have been reading more science fiction than I usually do: Daniel F. Galouye has been a favorite, lately. I have also been both reading a lot of, and watching a lot of, Greek tragedy, lately: somehow, Sophocles and Aeschylus seem like the right commentators for our unsteady era.

What is your favorite place outdoors in WNY?

While I absolutely love the sublimity of Reinstein State Park, I probably love most what is most familiar to me: I love the Bidwell and Chapin Parkways as routes into the serenity of Delaware Park, as well as the Gothic splendor of Buffalo’s Forest Lawn.

Is there a UB colleague whose research or work you think others should know more about?

With so many amazing colleagues, this is simply too hard to answer. But my first response would be to point you to the amazing work on postcolonialism, Caribbean literature, feminism, and ecocriticism by my colleague and collaborator in the environmental humanities, Carine Mardorossian.

Originating as a 19th century parlor game, popularized by Marcel Proust’s responses, pick a question from the so-called “Proust Questionnaire” to answer.

Who are your favorite writers?

My top 20: Dostoevsky; Chaucer; Shakespeare; Rimbaud; Plath; Faulkner; the Gawain-poet; Chrétien de Troyes; Dumas; Kafka; Marie de France; Chesnutt; Maupassant; Ovid; E. Brontë; Carroll; Allende; Malory; Dick; Sophocles.

Our thanks to Randy for sharing with us! Randy has also created a cocktail recipe to accompany his talk. Click here for event details and the recipe! For more information about Randy and the rest of the 2020-21 HI Faculty Fellow cohort, please visit our Faculty Fellows page.