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Professor Piers Beirne Named 2012-2013 USM Provost Research Fellow

Professor of Sociology and Legal Studies in the Department of Criminology Piers Beirne of Bowdoinham was recently named the third recipient of the University of Southern Maine’s Provost Research Fellowship. Beirne’s research will combine the unlikely fields of criminology, human-animal studies and art history as he strives to answer questions about the work of 18th-century English artist William Hogarth and his 1751 prints, “The Four Stages of Cruelty.” Hogarth was a painter, printmaker, and social critic.

Among the questions Beirne seeks to answer is why Hogarth limits the species victimized in this series to cats, dogs, sheep, and a horse rather than the animals routinely killed by landed gentry: foxes, deer, partridge and pheasant. The initial result of his research will be two journal articles, one on Hogarth’s representation of animals throughout his art and one focusing on “The Four Stages of Cruelty” alone.

Beirne taught sociology and criminology in England and Ireland and at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Connecticut before coming to USM. He holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Durham University in England. His most recent books are “Criminology” (2011, Oxford University Press, with James Messerschmidt) and “Confronting Animal Abuse” (2009, Rowman and Littlefield).

The USM Provost’s Research Fellowship is designed to allow the recipient, who must be a tenured professor, the opportunity to spend time on activities related to research, creative work and scholarly attainment. Chosen through a competitive process, Research Fellows are given release time from teaching one class for two semesters, using the time to proceed with a research project.