A Collaborative Fellowship at the CHS

Now that the application period for 2016-17 CHS Fellowships has opened, we would like to draw the attention of interested scholars to an innovative project from the last Fellowship season, a first in the Center’s history: a paper conceived, researched, and written together by two Fellows, Alberto Quiroga-Puertas and Ryan Fowler. The paper, “Silence and Rumor as Rhetorical Strategies in Basil’s Letters” in CHS Research Bulletin 3, no. 1 (2014), explores the writings of Basil of Caesarea, one of the Cappadocian Fathers and a great figure in the intellectual and religious milieu of the 4th century CE. With the successful completion of their project, the Center welcomes joint applications for collaborative papers.
Ryan and Alberto had written a piece together over email for an edited volume and discovered a common interest in late antique Christian rhetoric and philosophy, and they applied to do a joint research project on the rhetoric of the early Cappodocian Fathers. However, they had never met until they arrived at the Center last August. Rather like a blind date (“I was so nervous,” Alberto remembers), they met over dinner and discovered that they would be living in separate apartments in the same house on campus. As Ryan says, “I met someone that day who would be a simpatico collaborator and friend.”
They came to the project without a fixed plan of how to tackle the huge body of writings by the early Fathers. Over the first days they worked out a plan, with Ryan focusing on rhetorical silence and Alberto taking on rumor. They met several times a week and narrowed their attention to the letters of Basil, who commented most directly on these particular rhetorical issues. They dubbed the library room where they met “The Chamber of Understanding,” and there they tracked each other’s progress and determined the ongoing path of research. “It all came together as we kept working and reading,” Ryan says. Their conclusions were largely harmonious but, as Alberto points out, “My experience of the CHS and of working with Ryan was highly enriched by what I learned from my disagreements with him.”
Ryan and Alberto each wrote his own portion of the narrative. Yet, the final paper required a single, coherent authorial voice. Over their final weeks at the Center, they read and edited each other’s work and produced endless drafts that gradually knit their voices together to the point that, as Ryan recalls, “we nearly lost track of who said what.”
The finished paper was successfully presented at the Fellows’ Symposium in the spring of 2015. Alberto and Ryan’s work is a model for future collaborative projects at the CHS.