The objective of this grant is to expand undergraduate research in the humanities by providing an intensive summer research experience in which students will be introduced to important research questions, trained in methods of research and analysis, and guided in the development of critical thinking, independent learning, and communications skills. Students (selected by faculty directors) will enroll in a two-week intensive seminar taught by a faculty member at the beginning of the summer ten-week session. In the seminar students will be immersed in a focused topic and develop a research question that they will then investigate under the mentorship of the faculty member for the remaining eight weeks of the summer. Students will be required to meet with each other for peer writing activities at the Glasscock Center and to attend writing workshops created especially for this program through the Writing Center throughout the eight-week period. Faculty are encouraged to meet with students every two weeks after the intensive two-week seminar to discuss progress on each phase of the project after each of the Writing Center workshops.
Academic Year 2017-2018
The Trials of History
Dr. Richard J. Golsan | Distinguished Professor, Department of International Studies
This course will focus on several historical trials from the post-World War II era that deal with the crimes perpetrated by Nazi Germany and its Allies and Collaborators during World War II. To use a somewhat dated term, these trials are “world-historical” in their implications for several reasons. First they either introduced or deployed in both national and international contexts the newly minted concepts of “genocide” and “Crimes against humanity.” Today, these concepts shape international prosecutions in places as far flung as Cambodia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, as well as in Latin America. They also inform efforts to explore the outer reaches of human cruelty and human evil, and they impact as well international politics and interventions and also international human rights and aid efforts around the globe.
Adaptations Then and Now: Medieval England and Contemporary Culture
Dr. Britt Mize | Associate Professor, Department of English
This advanced undergraduate seminar is a special engagement with “adaptation studies”: an interdisciplinary field that has mainly focused on novels turned into films, but whose theoretical features can offer us powerful tools for analyzing relations among cultural objects in any medium or mode, so long as they are connected by lines of influence.
We will explore a paradox that is central to my current research, and which unites present-day popular culture with medieval forms of cultural production: namely, the fact that most adaptations rely on the source’s authoritative, canonical status while simultaneously offering audiences something different in place of it. We will work together to test the usefulness of a completely new application of adaptation theory: while the theory has often been used to examine instances of medievalism (that is, modern adaptations of medieval sources), never before has it been applied to acts of adaptation happening within the Middle Ages. Because our culture and medieval culture share a similar attitude to canonical works, wishing simultaneously to reassert their importance and change them, the benefits of adaptation theory for the analysis of film versions of novels, for instance, may prove equally informative for the analysis of medieval acts of appropriation and transformation.
The outcome of this course will be your presentation of a viable proposal for an original research project to be carried out over the next academic year. What will you notice or figure out about adaptations of medieval literature—whether within the Middle Ages or in modern culture—that no one has noticed or figured out before?
Academic Year 2016-2017
Dr. Britt Mize | Associate Professor, Department of English
The 19th through 21st centuries have seen an immense variety of modern and postmodern Beowulfs, and over the past decade Professor Mize has built a large unique collection of materials in addition to those which exist in Cushing and Evans Libraries. The course focus was not on the Old English epic itself, but rather on its appropriations, adaptations, and reimaginings over about the past century and a half. The published translations (well over 100 into Modem English, and many into numerous other languages) that continue to pour out year by year are only the most obvious of these re-productions. The first part of the course was devoted to discussing Beowulf in a few selected translations having very different styles (it is a relatively brief text, easily managed in several versions if read in familiar language), with the goal of comprehending the relation of each to the environment and conditions of its making. This start created a shared knowledge base about the story and its thematic concerns, which served as a common reference point for the group’s discussion of the extraordinarily diverse subsequent material.
Forming the bulk of this course’s subject matter were selections from the many inventive redactions of Beowulf. These include several works of fiction by authors such as John Gardner, Michael Crichton, and Neil Gaiman, as well as, sci-fi, cyberpunk, fantasy, and detective novels by lower-profile writers; at least eight comic book series or graphic novels, representing each decade but one since the 1940s; several films and television productions; nearly 100 children’s books; a few continuations and sequels; live retellings or recitals; musical settings (including rock songs, an animated musical film, and a full opera); stage plays; parodies; role-playing and video games; and depictions in the visual arts. Other appropriations of Beowulf’s perceived value include serious attempts by at least two religious groups to invoke its authority in support of their belief systems; intellectual and artistic assertions of its relevance to several real wars; the publication of a Beowulf-based self-help book; and an allegorical reading of the stoiw as a critique of present-day American society.
At the conclusion of the intensive two-week session students considered historical and present-day uses of Beowulf in the academy: how it went from being the hobby-horse of Renaissance antiquarians, mainly interested in rediscovering its language, to becoming institutionalized as “literature”; what it means that a course like our biannual Old English sequence is taught, and that people are paid salaries to teach them; and how the questions of utility and value that we have asked might influence our understanding of familiar scholarly and pedagogical enterprises like the production of new editions, interactive web resources, scholarly translations, and anthology extracts.
Epidemics in literature, literature as epidemic
Dr. Jessica Howell | Assistant Professor, Department of English
This course examined representations of epidemics and the consequences of epidemics in literature. It also engaged the ways in which literature itself has been perceived as a mode of contagion causing social unrest, moral corruption or somatic illness. It examined how authors envisioned epidemics changing social relationships and physical environments, as well as how these authors develop innovative narrative patters and styles to reflect the spread of epidemic diseases and the consequent effects on human communications. The students studied works such as Mary Shelley’s Last Man, stories by Edgar Allen Poe, and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. They developed skills of close literary analysis, as well as became adept at applying theoretical concepts drawn from medical history, women and gender studies, psychoanalytic criticism, and literature and science studies. The students were encouraged to see the course as a foundation to developing their own unique topic. They practiced presentation skills by choosing and speaking about an extract related to epidemics in contemporary culture on the last day of class. The course learning outcomes included the development of interdisciplinary research skills, peer collaboration and editing, crafting a proposal for a research paper of significant length. These skills will enhance the students’ professional development and allow them to be competitive for future graduate study in English.
The Body and/in Performance
Dr. Kirsten Pullen | Associate Professor, Department of Performance Studies
This seminar parallels Dr. Pullen’s current book project, Theory for Theatre Studies: The Body, and the students followed the monograph’s argument and explored its case studies. The book borrows Julie Holledge and JoAnne Tompkins’ understanding of the three bodies of performance: the body of the performer (which includes training and technique, as well as social, cultural, gender, and racial identity), the performing body (the body as it appears in performance, as a character or persona, and aided by costume, make-up, prosthetics, and other non-physical aspects), and the body of the audience (an understanding of an audience as sharing a particular time and place of performance and therefore a particular orientation toward that performance).
The course was intended to introduce the students to several performance studies considerations of teh body, and to prepare students to undertake their own research on embodied performance practices, audiences, and performers. At the end of the course, they were able to articulate different theories of the body in performance, analyze key performances that highlight the performing body on its own an din relation to the audience, use our own bodies in performance, and write a proposal for individual research projects.
The course professionalized students by introducing them to the modes of performance studies research and the written and oral avenues for communication that research. In addition, they’ll be able to follow the process of academic writing, editing, and publishing through the book’s initial draft to final proof.
Academic Year 2015-2016
Dr. Britt Mize | Associate Professor, Department of English
During the first two weeks of this Glasscock Undergraduate Summer Scholar Seminar, the participants engaged in an intensive study of a number of films, literary texts, popular songs, comic book, and graphic novel appropriations of the Old English epic Beowulf. Students discussed the environment and conditions of the original tale’s making, which served as a common reference point for the group’s discussion of the extraordinarily diverse subsequent material. The seminar concluded with a discussion of the historical and present-day uses of Beowulf within the academy. Thus immersing themselves for more than four hours per day, morning and afternoon, each scholar gained an understanding of the place Beowulf continue to occupy in modern and contemporary culture, as well as theoretical perspectives and analytical tools that will enable them to set out on the path of an individual research topic related to the seminar’s themes.
Life and Death at Sea in Ancient Greece and Rome
Dr. Deborah Carlson | Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
The goal of this seminar was to examine the topic of death at sea in Greco-Roman antiquity. Students began with an evaluation of the literary and historical accounts of seafaring, shipwrecks, and death at sea, which will serve as a catalyst for evaluation of the meager but direct archaeological evidence for ancient seafarers, which includes epitaphs and so-called sailor cemeteries. Assigned readings were in translation, though students with classical language training had the opportunity to delve deeper into question of linguistic symbolism and etymology. Other students interesting in physical anthropology took up the challenge of determining why human remains are rarely found on ancient shipwrecks. In the process of exploring their individual interests, participants became familiar with the research methods, scholarly resources, conventions, and methodologies that classical philologists and archaeologists use as they develop their own research, writing, and oral presentation skills.
Narrative, Conversion, and New Media from Augustine to the App
Dr. Nandra Perry | Associate Professor, Department of English
This seminar used the genre of the Christian conversion narrative as a starting point for exploring the epistemological and ethical value attached to first-person narrative in the West, from pre-modern to post-modern times. How is our understanding of what counts as “truth” mediated through the telling of “real life” stories? How do “canonical” language, ritual, and story work to authorize narratives of personal assimilation and transformation? These questions were contextualized within an emergent critical discourse about the relationship of religious culture to the media through and within which they circulate. By the end of the immersive seminar, students were able recognize the major narrative features of Christian conversion narratives, theorize the relationship between medium and message as it relates to generic conventions of conversion, appreciate the influence of such narratives on modern and post-modern narratives of personal transformation, as well as formulate and pursue an independent research topic related to the seminar’s themes.
Sociology of Community
Dr. Sarah N. Gatson | Associate Professor, Department of Sociology
This seminar involved an analysis of the social construction, social experience, and community as an institution and as a set of everyday relationships and networks. Participants discussed particular concepts of community and its attendant institutions and roles as important cornerstones of ways to structure social interactions on various levels. Particular attention was paid to relations of power and inequality in society. The seminar sought to challenge our taken-for-granted notions about these topics and ask the sociological questions, “How constructed and/or natural is community? What is community, and what is it for?” The seminar dealt primarily with these issues over the last two decades, with an eye simultaneously towards a historical grounding of our understanding of contemporary issues.