The top five most-read Arts & Letters stories from 2023

Author: College of Arts and Letters

As we look to the new year, we reflect and celebrate the top five most-read stories from the College of Arts & Letters in 2023.

#5: Three faculty members win first-place book awards from Catholic Media Association

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From left to right, Fr. Dan Groody, C.S.C., Fr. Emmanuel Katongole, and Timothy P. O'Malley

Six University of Notre Dame faculty members garnered seven book awards, including three first-place honors, from the Catholic Media Association in 2023.

Fr. Dan Groody, C.S.C., professor of theology and global affairs and vice president and associate provost for undergraduate education, took top honors in the Theology–History of Theology, Church Fathers and Mothers category for his book, A Theology of Migration: The Bodies of Refugees and the Body of Christ.

Fr. Emmanuel Katongole, professor of theology and peace studies, earned first place in the Gender Issues–Inclusion in the Church category for Who Are My People?: Love, Violence, and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa.

And Timothy P. O’Malley, professor of the practice and director of education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life and academic director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, won in the Future Church category for Becoming Eucharistic People.

Read more about their research here.

#4: Family guy: Notre Dame anthropologist Lee Gettler broadens perspectives on fatherhood

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Lee Gettler works with samples in his Corbett Family Hall lab alongside anthropology Ph.D. student Sana Saiyed.

Lee Gettler can tell a lot about a man based on his spit.

It’s not about whether he does it on a baseball field, with watermelon seeds, or not at all. Gettler is much more interested in what’s inside it.

In his Hormones, Health, and Human Behavior Laboratory inside Corbett Family Hall, he has freezers full of saliva samples and fingernail clippings from people from around the world. By studying the chemical composition of these specimens, the associate professor of anthropology has developed several groundbreaking studies that have focused attention on — and reframed perspectives about — fatherhood.

“For a long time, there have been questions in anthropology about how humans evolved to cooperate to raise children,” he said. “It’s important to think about where fathers fit into that cooperative network. Fathers have traditionally been thought of only as providers, and I have tried to expand that conversation.”

Gettler has focused on testosterone levels in men — in places as nearby as South Bend and locations as far away as the Philippines and the Republic of the Congo — and how those levels change (or don’t change) as they grow, age, and become fathers.

His goal is to examine and share the diverse ways that fathers and families around the world raise children, and to support the wide range of approaches to bringing up healthy youth.

“How children learn to parent and why they mimic or diverge from the care they received growing up are very important questions for how we can encourage healthy environments for children across generations,” Gettler said.

Read Gettler's story and research here.

#3: How senior thesis research led an American studies and FTT major to a career working alongside her professional inspiration, Katie Couric

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Fazio with Katie Couric on the day they first met, for an interview for Fazio's senior thesis.

Adriana Fazio ’19 went from watching her idol on TV every day to working alongside her.

Fazio has been fascinated by the media since she was a young child, waking up to The Today Show and even putting on fake broadcasts for her parents.

When it came time to write her senior thesis, it was no surprise that the American studies and film, television, and theatre major chose to explore the career of her inspiration, famed journalist Katie Couric.

By studying Couric’s career, Fazio set her own in motion.

The opportunity to interview Couric for her senior thesis ended up leading Fazio to a job with Katie Couric Media, where she’s been able to work across a variety of media projects and learn firsthand from her inspiration.

“After three years of working with her, to me she’s just ‘Katie’ now, and I love her deeply and I feel so grateful to learn so much from her,” Fazio said. “I really believe she is the best journalist of at least my era, and I will never get over the fact that I get to work with her.”

Read how the liberal arts launched Fazio's future.


#2: Glynn Scholar finds pitch-perfect research passion at the intersection of music and pre-health

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Noah Bongiovanni majored in music and Arts & Letters pre-health during his time at Notre Dame.

When the time came to select his senior thesis topic, Noah Bongiovanni picked a subject that has fascinated him ever since he was 12 years old and learned he had a rare ability — perfect pitch.

The Notre Dame music and Arts & Letters pre-health major focused his research on how adults identify and recall musical notes, particularly when presented in different keys and octaves and played by different instruments.

“Perfect pitch is essentially the ability to hear colors the same way you can see them. Nobody needs a color wheel in their back pocket to look up and see the sky is blue,” he said. “Not having perfect pitch is like looking around the room and seeing all the different colors but not knowing what any of them are.

“It’s fascinating, and obviously the big question is ‘Why is it this way? And how do we crack it?’”

The deep dive into perfect pitch enabled Bongiovanni to combine his passion for music with his love of science — and resulted in his work as an undergraduate being published in two academic journals. His senior thesis, “Generalizing across tonal context, timbre, and octave in rapid absolute pitch training,” was published online in January in Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, a Psychonomic Society journal, and a second paper based on the continuation of his research has been published by a sister journal, Memory & Cognition.

Read more about Bongiovanni's interdisciplinary passion here.

#1: Africana studies professor’s book, detailing how slavery’s influence survived emancipation, wins Paul E. Lovejoy Prize

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Zach Sell

Zach Sell’s book Trouble of the World: Slavery and Empire in the Age of Capital has won the 2022 Paul E. Lovejoy Prize from the Journal of Global Slavery for its excellence and originality in a major work related to global slavery.

The panel of judges unanimously awarded the prize to the assistant professor in Notre Dame’s Department of Africana Studies, describing his book as meticulously researched and beautifully written.

“I opened an email notifying me that I had won the award, jumped up and, in a moment of lucidity, celebrated very briefly with my partner,” said Sell, who learned of the honor while recuperating from an illness in Rhode Island. “Then I went back to sleep.”

Sell said it’s very personally meaningful that Trouble of the World — which details how slavery's influence survived emancipation and still infuses empire and capitalism — was recognized for making a contribution to the dynamic field.

His award-winning book evolved from research that he conducted for his doctoral dissertation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Sell initially focused on the movement of enslavers and overseers between the U.S. and the British imperial world.

“It’s been really important to work with Notre Dame students and be in dialogue with them about the history and legacies of slavery.”

Read more about this book and award here.