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Voices from the Field Blog

Weekly Blog on Graduate Student Research by Graduate Students

This blog is intended to help highlight research of ARHU graduate students. As a very diverse college on campus, ARHU graduate students' research spans a wide breath of research topics, utilizing a wide range of methodology and inquiry. This blog will also serve as a resource on topics relevant to graduate research in ARHU. 

Blog Topics:

Second Language Learning: From Theory to Practice
Jon Malone, PhD candidate, Second Language Acquisition

Jon did his undergraduate (English literature) and M.Ed. programs at the University of Oklahoma, with his M.Ed. focusing on teaching ESL to international students. He has worked since 2012 as the Associate Director of the Maryland English Institute at UMD, and is a Ph.D. student in the Second Language Acquisition (SLA) department.

For his first qualifying paper, Jon wrote about how listening while reading can affect how much vocabulary learners acquire in a foreign language from context alone (without focusing on learning the new words). He found consistent results that auditory enhancement in the listening conditions resulted in better learning outcomes, whether or not learners had high working memory capacity.

For his second qualifying paper, Jon has just finished collecting data remotely from a study examining how phonology and orthography from the L1 influence L2 processing of difficult vowel contrasts, and how modality (i.e., listening or reading) can affect these processes for English learners whose L1s are Spanish and Korean. He predicts that difficulty will be shown for certain vowels (e.g., the difference between "ship" and "sheep" will be difficult for both L1 groups) through lower accuracy scores and reaction times in visual and auditory processing tasks, with certain vowel sounds being more difficult for Spanish speakers and others more difficult for Korean speakers.

Working full-time in a language teaching and learning context provides Jon a helpful perspective when applying theoretical concepts in SLA and instructed SLA to the classroom. Jon very much hopes that his research work can provide insights that might be translated into instructional design and pedagogical approaches, as well as contribute to the broader applied linguistics/SLA research community. While he wouldn't recommend working full-time and studying for a Ph.D. to anyone else, he is able to daily experience how the applied and the theoretical realms of language learning overlap and intersect. It also allows him to work with students from a variety of culturally-diverse backgrounds and perspectives. 

If you'd like to learn more about Jon's first qualifying paper, here is the citation:
Malone, J. (2018). Incidental vocabulary learning in SLA: effects of frequency, aural enhancement, and working memory. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 40(3), 651-675. doi:10.1017/S0272263117000341

An International Crossroads: Studying the Franco-Judaic Novel
Samuel Blank, PhD candidate, Department of French (SLLC)

Samuel has always been interested in world languages and cultures, ever since his childhood in Maryland. Before coming to the University of Maryland, Samuel spent several years living and studying abroad. He received his first degree in English and French from Université Paris IV, La Sorbonne, in Paris, France. During this time, Samuel participated in a variety of pedagogical initiatives, including the completion of a language assistant internship at Lycée Fénelon Sainte-Marie. He also created a series of professional voice recordings for the Académie de Paris, to facilitate language instruction in French schools. Alongside his studies, he worked for a year as a garçon-au-pair for a Jewish family. Completely fascinated by the métissage of both French and Judaic cultures, the seeds of inspiration for his future studies were being planted.

Samuel then continued his educational journey in Israel at Tel Aviv University. There he earned a masters degree, magna cum laude, with a thesis in World Language Education. During that time, Samuel completed comprehensive training in both pedagogical theory and practice, paired with coursework on the relationships between language and society. Through the practicum of this program, he served as an assistant instructor in the Department of Foreign Languages. At the same time, he completed a seminar in Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, and conducted research at the Yad Vashem International School of Holocaust Studies. For his master’s thesis, Samuel completed a dynamic comparative literature study: The Role of National Ideology in Three Holocaust Narratives from the United States, France, and Israel. At the intersection of his international experience, his research for this study addressed many different notions of identity, national sentiment, language, religiosity, and trauma. Some of these themes continue to influence his research to this day.

Samuel then decided to return to the United States for the next step in his education, where he is now a Ph.D. Candidate in French at the University of Maryland. At the time of this writing, he is at the beginning of his doctoral program. His thesis is still in its fundamental stage, an interdisciplinary research project at the crossroads of French and Judaic cultures. It is projected to be a comparative study between the works of Marcel Proust, Romain Gary, and Albert Cohen. More specifically, Samuel is interested in researching the roles of marginalized sexualities within this Franco-Judaic literary corpus. He analyzes how trends of twentieth century francophone literature coincide with those of the European Jewish experience, all of which serve as a framework to depict LGBT characters.  It is his suspicion that these characters showcase a certain hidden spirituality within the Abrahamic tradition towards alternative sexualities. There is a morsel of Jewish wisdom that states that all learning is discovery of the self. Samuel believes that his research reveals greater understanding of not only literature and the world, but of himself and his calling. Similar to his masters thesis, themes of identity, religiosity, trauma, and marginalization are key pillars of this study. As this is an entirely theoretical research project. Samuel uses primary sources from these authors along with literary theory. Samuel is also preparing a paper for publication.

Besides his research, Samuel is an innovative and passionate educator. He is a teaching fellow in the Department of French, where he teaches a variety of French courses. He is also a Board-Certified Educator in English and French by the Maryland State Department of Education. Throughout his studies, he has also extensively taught private French lessons and in various educational contexts, both abroad and in the United States. He is also the current mentor of the French cluster of the Language House Immersion Program. Samuel is looking forward to what the future holds, both in his doctoral program and beyond.

Feel free to write to Samuel at: sgblank@umd.edu.

Doorways as Dangerous Spaces
Amanda Chen, PhD Candidate, Department of Art History and Archaeology

Amanda is a PhD candidate in the department of Art History and Archaeology, originally from Los Angeles, CA. She earned her BA in Art History from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and her MA in Art History and Archaeology at UMD with a thesis on female funerary monuments and identity construction in Roman Italy. Outside of academia, she has worked in the curatorial and education departments of various museums, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Hammer Museum, and the Banning Museum, and within the Archeology department of the National Park Service. Amanda is also a field archaeologist, and serves as a field supervisor on two archaeological projects in central Italy. In addition, she has worked at the site of ancient Stabiae (modern Castellamare di Stabia) in south Italy, where UMD’s architecture program brings students every summer.

Her current research/dissertation examines the art and experience of ancient Roman doorways. As a result of their liminal positions, doors and other spaces of passage were regarded as dangerous and ambiguous by the Romans, and in order to counteract this uncertainty, Roman doors were decorated with a variety of protective images. Amanda studies the visual details of these images and reconstructs the experience of viewing the mosaic, frescoes, and architectural elements she studies to understand how the images would have functioned within their original contexts and communicated with viewers. Amanda combines art historical, archaeological, architectural, historical, and literary evidence in her work.

Her research in general tends to focus on various types of ambiguity in the ancient Roman world. These different ambiguities include transitional states (the boundary between life and death), statuses (freedmen and women), and locations (passageways), and she is particularly interested in how uncertainty or transition is represented visually in art. She chose this dissertation topic in part due to her overarching interest in ambiguity, but also because she was intrigued by the idea of doorways as dangerous spaces. Prior to graduate school Amanda had never given doorways much thought, but now that she has begun to study ancient Roman passageways, she sees resonances of the ancient tradition all over!

From Jazz to Classics
William Linney, MA candidate, Classics

Bill learned Latin in high school and really loved it, but he loved to play the saxophone too. He attended the University of North Texas in the Dallas area which has a large Jazz Studies department. He studied saxophone there and played in the jazz bands, and earned a bachelor's degree and then a master's degree in Jazz Studies. Then he became a member of the US Army Band "Pershing's Own" in Washington, DC. Bill was in the jazz band which is called the Army Blues. They played jazz concerts for the public and for patriotic shows. Through the years, he never lost his love of Latin, so he started studying Classics part-time here at UMD in the fall of 2018. Then, when he retired from the Army Band in 2019, he started as a full-time student. He thinks he’s working harder now than before he retired from the Army!

His current research topic is Athenian origin narratives and how they changed during the fifth century BC. After the Greeks defeated the Persians, Athens became very powerful as leaders of the Delian League, which really just became an Athenian empire. During this time, the mythical narratives of their genealogical origins underwent some changes, so Bill is investigating the specifics of how and why that happened. In the field of Classics, people study Latin literature and Greek literature. Over the years Bill has spent more time studying the Latin side of things, so for this big research project he wanted to take the opportunity to learn more about Greek literature and myth.

Regarding the sources he uses, his professor recommended several helpful books. Also, JSTOR has been extremely helpful for finding individual articles from a variety of classics journals and art history journals.

In his spare time, Bill creates educational materials for homeschoolers and self-taught students.

Bill loves being a student. It is great fun for him to be part of a group of people who are learning together.

The Art of Translating Live Theater into a Virtual Platform
Andrés Poch, Scenic/Projection Design MFA candidate, Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies

Andrés was born and raised in Colombia, and has always been creative and curious by nature. He loves projects where he gets to collaborate with other people and gets to tell their stories. He is passionate about projects where creativity meets humanity.

Before moving to the DC area, Andrés graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design where he majored in Production Design and minored in Themed Entertainment. He has worked as a Resident Assistant, Scenic Shop Workstudy, Stagehand of an Off-Broadway production, as an Event Designer, and now as a Senior Designer at ViDCo. 

Andrés’ current research is centered around translating live theater into a virtual platform with remote performances. With the help of Professor Jared Mezzocchi, he has been working on a series of projects studying how they can have performers across different locations performing together and the product being streamed live to the audience. They believe that liveness is the key factor that sets theater apart from all other entertainment mediums and they are researching ways to translate both, the feelings of the performers and also the audience’s reaction, into a virtual landscape.

Since this is an emerging medium, there are not too many sources that they can rely on to get answers to the issues they are running into. Nevertheless, they have taken a lot of inspiration from silent movies and the first sound films to see how they used physical performance to develop a new medium and a new way of communicating with an audience. They have also been dissecting elements from theater and live television to create a blended new medium that they are calling Remote Performance. What has been most useful for their research has been to do a series of labs and productions with which they have slowly been establishing vocabulary and methodologies to learn how to create a framework in this medium. Andrés has been lucky enough to work on a diversity of projects that have allowed him to research more in depth what this new medium can become.

Some of these projects are:

  • Arena Stage Flash Acts Festival. A multicultural exchange exploring plays on the theme of isolation, where Andrés was a Virtual Media Designer for 7 productions and that has been featured in the Washington Post.  
  • Russian Troll Farm: A workplace comedy. This was included in the New York Times Best Theater of 2020 list. Andrés was an Associate Designer under the Leadership and Direction of Professor Jared Mezzocchi.
  • The Juke Joint Live. A multi-media live show streamed through Facebook live that invites its audience into the intimate lives of Black folks in America. Andrés has been an executive producer, co-head of production, and Art Director for 10 episodes. 
  • Crash test. A UMD’s second season dance collaboration that was performed and streamed live. Andrés was the Scenic Designer and Live Visual Mixer.
  • Digital Renaissance Project. A portal for young artists, ages 8-18, to engage with artists around the world and to create live performances. Andrés has been working as the head of public relations.

To learn more about Andrés Poch, visit his personal website and the website of ViDCo, the company where he has been working with Professor Jared Mezzocchi.

The Making of Madness on Stage
Lindsey R. Barr. PhD candidate, Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies

Since graduating from Towson University in 2012 with a BS in Theatre Production and Theatre Studies, Lindsey went on to earn her masters in Nonprofit Management and Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Baltimore in 2017. Her professional career has taken her down many paths working with different nonprofits and professional theatres throughout the Washington, DC and Baltimore regions. A professional dramaturg and director, Lindsey has worked at Everyman Theatre, Baltimore Center Stage, the Capital Fringe Festival, and the Goethe Institut, among others. She currently flexes her nonprofit management muscles as the Administrative Director of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, a nonprofit service organization dedicated to furthering the fields of Dramaturgy and Literary Management throughout Canada, the US, and Mexico.

Lindsey’s research focuses largely on representations of madness in the contemporary American musical, and specifically how these representations intersect with race and gender. Identifying the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as a moment of juridical categorization of disability, her dissertation explores the potential relationship between the passage of the ADA and subsequent representation of cognitive difference in the American musical. Covering the span of the last 30 years, she utilizes feminist theory, dramaturgical analysis, and disability theory to think through how dramatic representation of madness impacts the larger societal ideas about disability through the site of knowledge production that is the American musical.

She has always been drawn to musicals and it was through musicals that she was introduced to the art of theatre. As a dramaturg, much of her work requires her to do textual analysis of scripts and respond to how certain elements of the show are “reading” to the audience. (As a production dramaturg on different shows, she is often in rehearsal with the director supporting the process by asking questions to ensure their vision is reading as they intend.) In 2015 she saw a production of Dear Evan Hansen at Arena Stage (before its subsequent move to Broadway the following year), which tells the story of a teenage boy with severe social anxiety who ends up in a web of his own lies that has deep consequences. Something about that show really got under her skin and she couldn’t shake it, so she started exploring it personally. Eventually, she realized that she was uncomfortable with the positioning of madness and disability in the show and started identifying other musicals that gave her the same response. Once she started following that impulse, a genealogy of these works emerged and she came to a place of really wanting to situate the incredible increase in madness on stage with the sociocultural and sociopolitical moment of the ADA being passed in 1990. 

Aside from analyzing the primary texts of the musicals themselves (called librettos), Lindsey relies heavily on archival recordings of the pieces she is studying. For the analysis of race, gender, and madness she is working through texts from disability studies and specifically woman of color feminisms, so her bibliography is full of works from Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, bell hooks, Kimberle Crenshaw, Patricia Hill Collins, Nirmala Erevelles, Alison Kafer, and Lennard Davis.

Lindsey’s website is lindseybarr.com. In addition to her dissertation, her scholarship will be published soon. She has a forthcoming journal article in Studies in Musical Theatre titled “Waving Through a Window: Prosthetic Memory and Nostalgia in Dear Evan Hansen”. She also has a co-authored book chapter (written with Dr. Laura MacDonald of Michigan State University), forthcoming in The Routledge Companion to Musical Theatre that focuses on the dramaturgical world-making in musical theatre.

Examining English Language Policy in Maryland
Ben Davidson, MA Candidate, Hispanic Applied Linguistics, Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese

Ben is originally from southern New Jersey but now lives in Baltimore, Maryland where he works full-time as an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) instructional lead at Holabird Academy, an elementary/middle school in east Baltimore. Ben completed his B.A. in Spanish and English at Johns Hopkins University, where he solidified his interest in foreign languages and applied linguistics. After teaching high school Spanish for a few years, Ben was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Grant and spent a year working in the multilingual education system of Galicia, Spain. While in Galicia, he became particularly interested in language education policy, minoritized languages, and how language ideologies can impact policy decisions. Upon his return from Spain, Ben began the M.A. program in Hispanic Applied Linguistics in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

Ben’s research is inspired by his experiences working with language learners across multiple places and contexts and is informed by questions like: What does it mean to be proficient in a language? What does it mean to be called an “English language learner”? Who decides and how do we decide when a student is no longer “learning English”? What power dynamics are at play when making these decisions? A key component of Ben’s academic interests lies in bridging the gap between current research in applied linguistics and mainstream assumptions about language among teachers and education policy makers.

His current M.A. capstone research project is a Critical Discourse Analysis of Maryland’s English language learner education policy. Specifically, he is examining how the concept of English language proficiency is constructed and transmitted across various levels of institutional policy documents. His research tracks the various uses and manifestations of the terms English proficiency and English learners from the federal definition of an English language learner, to the state level, and then finally to more localized, district level policy documents. An important aspect of his research agenda is drawing attention to certain gaps between policy-based labels like English learner and the actual linguistic practices of these students. Through this research, Ben hopes to open up space to question “common sense” assumptions about language acquisition and broaden education policy makers’ perspectives on the implications of these assumptions for students.

Digital Media, Rhetoric, and Social Change
Matthew Salzano, PhD student, Department of Communication

Matthew went to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, and graduated with dual Bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Women’s and Gender Studies. He started at PLU with an interest in journalism. He worked for the student newspaper and TV station, and he did a few internships at local papers and nonprofits. What he realized was that what he found most interesting about his journalism wasn’t the practice of reporting. Instead, he liked the pedagogical and analytical parts of journalism: the analysis of public discourse and the ‘holding truth to power’ by disseminating of information to the public. As his interest in a career in local journalism declined, he found rhetorical studies in a slightly different hallway of the communication department. Matthew knew he was hooked when he started taking courses on media and cultural criticism, social movements, and argumentation, because they linked his interest in media, publics, activism, and education. He ended up at UMD after his undergraduate mentors introduced him to the work of his now-adviser, Dr. Damien Pfister. He thought: “I can do that for the next 5-6 years? Great. Sign me up.” 

Now, as a Rhetoric and Political Culture Ph.D. Student in the Department of Communication, Matthew is researching digital media, social change, and affect. Rhetoric is, by Cicero’s definition, an ancient art of invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. Matthew is primarily concerned with invention. He wants to explore how digital media could be (and are being) used to invent more equitable, just worlds.

His research probes the question: What rhetorical sensibilities are generated by digital media, and how do these sensibilities constrain social change? This question has struck Matthew across a variety of contexts: while watching stalemates between student activist groups at PLU, while reading arguments between feminists on blogs, and while taking gender studies courses and reflecting on his queer experiences with Tumblr. In 2020, his first solo-authored publication, “Lemons or Lemonade? Beyoncé, Killjoy Style, and Neoliberalism,” was published in Women’s Studies in Communication. The paper explores ‘killjoy style’ as a rhetorical sensibility, embodied by bell hooks and the circulation of her black feminist criticism of Beyoncé’s Lemonade. He argues that killjoy style can snap the affective bonds of happiness to create space for feminist theorizing.

Matthew has a few current projects he is working on as he wraps up coursework: He is writing about posthumanism and deliberation with Twitter bots, accounts of participation at the Women’s March, and the YouTuber Contrapoints. He also just started a co-authored project about digitality, argumentation, and Apple AirDrop that he is excited about. He mostly uses texts from social media. So far, his research has included Tweets, YouTube Videos, and blogs. He has also used photographs and mass media accounts of protests. And right now, his project on Twitter bots includes some basic Javascript code as a source.

Matthew’s work is available at https://matthewsalzano.com and he is always open to chatting with researchers who share similar interests.

The full citation for the essay mentioned above: Salzano, Matthew. “Lemons or Lemonade? Beyoncé, Killjoy Style, and Neoliberalism.” Women’s Studies in Communication 43, no. 1 (2020): 45–66. https://doi.org/10.1080/07491409.2019.1696434.

The Gordon Riots and Revolution in England and America
Lauren Michalak, PhD Candidate, Department of History

Lauren earned her B.A. from Michigan State University in 2008. She was a double major in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy (James Madison College) and History (College of Social Science). After graduation, she spent five years working for the Michigan Senate as a committee clerk. She entered the History M.A. program at the University of Maryland in 2013, graduating in 2015. She then returned in 2016 to work towards a Ph.D. in United States History. She focuses on the American Revolutionary period and the Atlantic World.

Her dissertation (tentatively titled: ‘The Mobs All Cry’d Peace With America’: The Gordon Riots and Revolution in England and America) explores the myriad of connections between the 1780 London riots (known as the Gordon Riots) and the American Revolution to understand how power was contested on both sides of the Atlantic during the American Revolution and how ideas and information spread and shaped political ideology. She has found scores of American newspaper articles and correspondence between individuals during the 1780s that discussed and interpreted the riots’ impact on their own situation. Pamphlets, newspapers, and parliamentary journals demonstrate that prior to the riots, the American Revolution inspired efforts at domestic reform of the British political system. Those efforts lost momentum because of the riots, however, leading to a stronger, hawkish conservative majority in the British Parliament. The trajectory of events and the rhetoric used in both the prelude to the American Revolution and the Gordon Riots demonstrates striking political and ideological similarities. The connections Lauren has unearthed indicate that these two events are not isolated to their particular causes, but are part of a larger discontent in the Age of Revolution. The American Revolution is a complex event, one that has been studied for centuries.  But if we are to truly understand this turning point in history, Lauren argues we need to see it in line with the other revolutions, rebellions, and riots that shared similar grievances, if not similar results. At the heart of the American Revolution and the Gordon Riots were the notions of the government being responsive to—and representative of—the governed, and abuses and limitations of power: perennial concepts that we continue to grapple with in our modern world. Lauren’s dissertation prompts us to consider how these notions manifest themselves in different ways and how these manifestations can inform and influence one another.

In her research Lauren uses a variety of sources, but she primarily uses newspapers, political pamphlets, personal and public letters, and memoirs. She also uses court records, parliamentary records, political cartoons, engravings, and legal acts.

Lauren has started a website (http://blog.umd.edu/laurenkmichalak/) that she hopes to start updating more frequently. She has also been working on a StoryMap using ArcGIS to map the events of the Gordon Riots. While the StoryMap isn’t public, she hopes to make it public and connected to her website once she has completed it.

Lauren has received fellowships from the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to conduct research at their institutions. She has also received her department’s Dissertation Fellowship. In early 2020 she was awarded a fellowship from the Library of Congress to fund a month of research at the LOC and a month of research with the Georgian Papers Programme at the Royal Archives, Windsor, UK. Unfortunately that fellowship has been postponed due to the ongoing pandemic.

Rétif and 18th-Century Literature in France
Charlee Bezilla, PhD candidate, Modern French Studies, Department of French & Italian 

Charlee earned her BAs in English and French and Francophone Studies at Penn State University, where she was part of the Schreyer Honors College and the Paterno Fellows Program. After graduating, she worked as an editorial assistant at the Penn State University Press for three years before coming to the University of Maryland for her MA in the Department of French & Italian, which she finished in 2017. Throughout her masters and doctoral programs, she has worked as a teaching assistant in the French department here at UMD, teaching everything from beginner French to composition and lead a short-term summer study abroad program in Montpellier, France.

Currently, Charlee is a fourth-year PhD candidate in Modern French Studies, and this semester her dissertation research is supported by a Wylie Fellowship from the Graduate School. Inspired by graduate seminars taught by Professor Sarah Benharrech, she became fascinated by the literature of the eighteenth century in France, as well as by Enlightenment studies, ecocriticism, and the development of scientific cultures in the early modern period. Her dissertation focuses on the work of an eighteenth-century French writer named Nicolas-Edme Rétif de la Bretonne (1734–1806), who was a notoriously prolific author and observer of his society. Specifically, she is interested in the ways his literary production engages with scientific ideas of the time, especially the sciences du vivant, or what would come to be known as biology at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Focusing on Rétif’s 1781 proto-science-fiction novel La Découverte australe (The Australian Discovery), she argues that the author’s work should be understood as a “hybrid text,” meaning both that it plays with the conventions of a variety of literary and narrative forms and that it represents biological hybrids and the possibilities of controlling these mixed-species lifeforms. Long before the twenty-first century’s inventions of genetic engineering and technologies like CRISPR, thinkers in the eighteenth century considered the opportunities and quandaries of biopolitics—managing life in the service of the state.

In addition to novels by Rétif, the sources she uses in her dissertation research are primarily literary texts and natural historical texts from the mid- to late eighteenth century by a variety of writers and thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Denis Diderot, and the physicians Charles-Augustin Vandermonde and Julien Offray de La Mettrie, among others. Luckily, many of these sources are now digitized and easily accessed online. In her dissertation, she uses these sources to delve into the intellectual landscape of eighteenth-century France. As the historian Robert Darnton argues, we can best understand periods in the past by leaning into those things we find strange about them, and this is one of the things Charlee most enjoys about studying the French eighteenth century and sharing her research with others.

In the spring of 2021, Charlee will present aspects of this work at the conferences of the Modern Language Association and the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. Beyond her doctoral work, Charlee participated in the summer of 2020 in a virtual digital humanities workshop of the VESPACE project (Virtual Early-Modern Spectacles and Publics, Active and Collaborative Environment: http://vespace.univ-nantes.fr/project) organized by Dr. Jeffrey Leichman of LSU. In the workshop, participants used a social physics engine, bringing together analyses of literary texts and computational methods, to write logico-mathematical rules that could be used in a virtual reality game simulating the experience of attending an eighteenth-century marionette theater in Paris. Charlee wrote an article about this engaging collaborative experience, which is currently under review with a digital humanities journal as part of a collection about the VESPACE project. In her spare time, she also does freelance editing for academics and fiction writers alike.

Beyond the Migrant Trail as a Geopolitical Construct
Mariana Reyes, PhD candidate, Latin American Literature, Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Mariana Reyes was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. While reading El Quijote for the first time in high school she was fascinated and discovered that she wanted to study something that would allow her to continue on the literature path. She studied Spanish literature at the Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua in her hometown and a M.A. in Latin American Literature and Culture at The University of Texas at El Paso.  There she became very interested in analyzing the ways violence is intertwined with essential aspects of our life, and started exploring the perception of the U.S. - Mexico border. Both, the importance of the space and the violence it was experiencing led her to study the impact of a very painful happening: the Juarez femicides. The killing of women for the sake of being women raised issues of gender, belonging, and minorities’ rights to inhabit public spaces, as well as questions about the way black legends around a place are created and reproduced.  This inspired her M.A. dissertation in which she studied femicides representations, specifically in theatrical pieces written by border authors.

Now, some years later, Mariana is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Maryland. Her ongoing research on the U.S. – Mexican border has shifted into exploring further expressions of violence. She is interested in artistic strategies used to depict and narrate the horror suffered by precarious subjects such as women and migrants. She has expanded her interest from the geographical border to the extension of the migrant trail, but with a focus in Mexican territory. She is interested in this subject because it is something very close to her heart. Being situated in the geographical border between two countries and living the border life moved her to become drawn to the multiplicity of resistance meanings that arise in spaces surrounded by stigma and different types of violence. That is why her research explores a variety of contemporary cultural representations of forced migrations from Central America and Mexico to the U.S. She studies literary works, documentaries, cultural and religious practices and web projects to better comprehend the way in which cultural products understand and depict the conditions and spaces that foster migration. Furthermore, she is interested in challenging the idea of the border and its components as more than a geopolitical construct. She traces movement, bodies, and their interactions as multiple expansions of the border construct as a conflicting space embedded with violence, but also, with innovative resistance actions. One of the main aspects of her research is the reinterpretation of boundaries, whether political, geographical, material, or even as part of an identity. In order to integrate this array of limits Mariana delves into the necropolitics of the migrant trail, exploring the way in which migrants experiment and come into contact with death. Death inhabits Mariana’s research as an ending, but also as a bridge to reinterpret resistance and as an opportunity to reshape communities and spaces. It helps her reimagine the power of mourning, remembrance and illusion.

Currently she is in the process of writing her dissertation and hopes to travel to Tijuana and San Diego to study the cultural practices that surround the growing devotion for the saint of death “La Santa Muerte” among the migrant communities.  She is particularly interested in how the materiality of the popular religious practice amalgamates with the transitional nature of the migrant devotees. Finally, she addresses the way in which the power of death is converted into a tool of empowerment that helps the migrant community stay hidden whilst exposing them as a shifting but strong transnational community.

Auditory Input and Incidental Vocabularly Learning in Second Language Acquisition
Kyoko Kobayashi Hillman, PhD candidate, Second Language Acquisition Program

Kyoko has been teaching Japanese in both the U.S. and Japan as well as other countries since completing a M.A. in teaching Japanese as a second/foreign language at the University of Iowa. While studying in the UMD’s SLA Ph.D. program, she also taught at George Washington University as a part-time instructor. Since January 2020, she has been teaching at the University of British Columbia as a full-time lecturer.

Kyoko just finished writing her dissertation entitled “Effects of different types of auditory input on incidental vocabulary learning by L2 Japanese learners.” This study investigated how four different types of spoken input facilitate listening comprehension and incidental vocabulary learning differentially. Incidental vocabulary learning in the study refers to the learning of novel vocabulary items that occur while a person’s attention is drawn to a primary activity. For example, people pick up previously unknown words while watching foreign films for fun. This type of learning is not intentional, but incidental. In Kyoko’s study, the participants’ attention was drawn to academic mini lectures. Three versions of the lectures were modified for simplification and elaboration based on an original ‘genuine’ lecture, created for an audience of native speakers. The content for all lectures was the same.

An underlying question of the study is why people modify their speech when they notice that the listener does not understand the message they are trying to convey, and how they know what type of modification is beneficial for the listener to understand them. In the L2 classroom setting, it is crucial that instruction provides learners with rich input. Input sufficiently adjusted for learners is suggested to enhance their language development. Findings from previous studies suggested elaborated input led ESL/EFL learners at the intermediate level to better comprehension of English reading passages.  Kyoko’s study investigated whether auditory-only-modified input, especially elaborated input, could be more effective than genuine input on learning by participants who were advanced Japanese speakers studying/working in Japan. A total of 106 study participants were randomly assigned to four different input groups, and completed listening comprehension questions, vocabulary tests and a Japanese proficiency test. They also performed two working memory tasks.

Her results showed that elaborated input was the most effective for both comprehension and incidental vocabulary learning. The highest scores earned by participants with elaborated input on vocabulary tests suggested that they incidentally learned both forms and meanings of newly encountered vocabulary items while focusing on the content of the mini lectures. Furthermore, elaborated input was found to be least affected by the participants’ working memory capacities. This finding was unexpected: elaborated input was expected to require more working memory resources due to its syntactic complexity and longer sentences. It supported a claim that elaborated input is psycholinguitically sound input.

Kyoko’s findings are useful for developing teaching materials. Task-Based Language Teaching, one of the communicative language teaching approaches, promotes use of elaborated input in L2 instruction. The input can be used to create materials for extensive listening/reading, which could expand learners’ vocabulary knowledge beyond the textbook. These materials can also be incorporated into online learning management systems such as Canvas. Kyoko is planning to pursue this research topic for a longitudinal study for learners with various proficiency levels.

More information about Kyoko can be found on her website: www.kyokokh.com.

Horror Framing and Presidential Campaign Advertising
Fielding Montgomery, PhD student, Communication

Fielding was born in Iowa and spent his life through high school living in Des Moines, Iowa. Given Iowa's status as a swing state, he worked a presidential campaign there and that sparked his interest in studying campaigning in general. He then moved to Texas and went to Baylor University for his undergrad. He got a B.A. in University Scholars, concentrating in Communication and Political Science. He then pursued a M.A. in Communication at Baylor. While in his master’s program, he worked as the editorial assistant for the journal Rhetoric & Public Affairs. Now at Maryland, he is working as the editorial assistant for the journal Feminist Studies. He also teaches COMM 230: Argumentation and Debate, and has taught COMM 107: Oral Communication: Principles and Practices, and TA'd COMM 250: Introduction to Communication Inquiry.

His current research focuses on campaigning, public address, and popular culture. Sometimes those things are studied individually, but Fielding is particularly interested in when they intersect. He has always had an interest in campaigning across a variety of media, everything from speeches to advertisements. He has also been a movie buff for most of his life. While at Baylor, he took a class on horror at the same time he took a class on the rhetoric of the presidency. He was struck by the connections he found between those two and how prominent such fear appeals are in political advertising. As such, he focused his thesis on horror framing in presidential campaign advertising. A chapter out of that thesis on the 2016 election was published in Rhetoric & Public Affairs:
Fielding Montgomery, “The Monstrous Election: Horror Framing in Televised Campaign Advertisements during the 2016 Presidential Election,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 22.2 (2019): 281-321.

This article highlights how popular culture genres like horror influence presidential campaigning. Fielding has also published in the inverse, on how politics impact popular culture through another article published in the Journal of Popular Film & Television:
Fielding Montgomery, “Rogue One: A U.S. Imperialism Story,” Journal of Popular Film & Television 48.1 (2020): 27-37.

Both of these articles use rhetorical methods to analyze their texts.

He has also coauthored a political science piece that relies on quantitative methods:
Patrick Flavin and Fielding Montgomery, “Freedom of the Press and Perceptions about Government Corruption,” International Political Science Review 41.1 (2019): 554-566.

All of these articles share a common theme, each showing unique ways that information is manipulated and fed to the public. Fielding is currently working on projects that cover both the 2020 election and more historical campaigns.

Fielding generally uses visual texts as the materials for his research. For his campaign research, he relies heavily on The Living Room Candidate archive of presidential advertisements and a vast array of horror films to draw connections between the two. His other solo-authored piece also relies on films as the text of analysis, particularly the Star Wars franchise. His coauthored, quantitative piece relied on data from the Gallup World Poll, Transparency International, and the World Bank.

Fielding is always excited to discuss his work with those intrigued by it and is open to collaborative efforts with those who hold similar research interests. He encourages anyone who wants to discuss these topics to reach out at fmontgom@umd.edu.

Salvadoran Music in the Washington, D.C. area
Mariángel Villalobos, PhD Candidate, Ethnomusicology

Originally from San José, Costa Rica, Mariángel Villalobos is currently enrolled as a Ph.D. student in ethnomusicology at the University of Maryland, where she’s also been a teaching assistant for over two years.

Her dissertation project is dedicated to the music of the Central American community of the Washington, D.C., metro area, with a special focus on music and national identity among people from El Salvador. This specific immigrant community has been growing in large numbers since the 1980s (due to the Salvadoran Civil War), and even though El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, its citizens comprise the most numerous immigrant community in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.

Even though there is a music genre called xuc (created by Paquito Palaviccini in the 1940s) that has its roots in the country and was intended to represent El Salvador on the international stage,

many people from El Salvador view Salvadoran cumbia as a music genre that is representative of their national identity. This is interesting because cumbia originated in Colombia, but groups such as Los Hermanos Flores (who employ nostalgic lyrics that appeal to the large numbers of Salvadorans in the diaspora) have transformed the genre into an emblem of Salvadoran identity.

Being from Costa Rica, where cumbia has been adapted to become its own cultural manifestation with a very particular style of dance, Villalobos has been especially aware of how music genres circulate and are embraced beyond their place of origin, especially in the Central American region. When she arrived in Washington D.C. in 2012 with her family, she found it surprising how ubiquitous Salvadoran cumbia is.

In support of her doctoral research, Villalobos was awarded the 2018 Blanton Owen award by the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress to document Salvadoran festivals in Maryland, which resulted in brown bag presentations at the Smithsonian Institution, Library of Congress and a photography presentation at the Salvadoran Consulate through Casa de la Cultura El Salvador. She has also presented papers on other topics at the annual conferences for the Society for Ethnomusicology and the British Forum for Ethnomusicology.

Besides her doctoral work, she has been an intern with the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian, working for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the Mother Tongue Film Festival. In addition, she has written pieces on the Festival Blog and Folklife Magazine playlists on topics including Catalan music and migration, and indigenous Latin American hip-hop. 

Exploration and Identity in Fiction
Kiera Wolfe, MFA candidate, Creative Writing

Kiera grew up in Millstone, New Jersey and received her BA in the Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University. The youngest of three, Kiera learned to read from her sisters, eager to play the role of “teacher” and share what they learned in school, and really never stopped. As a student and instructor of writing, Kiera is passionate about access and literacy education. She has worked with nonprofits such as 826Valencia to teach creative writing to ESL students and The Maryland Book Bank to distribute books to Baltimore’s Title I schools.

As an MFA candidate, Kiera is currently working on her thesis, a collection of short stories. Although its contents are fickle and ever-changing, Kiera is drawn to writing unconventional women – female characters that push at or crumble under society’s expectations. She loves to write and read complex sibling relationships, and is fascinated by stories that explore the boundaries of the household and parenthood: tales of adoptions, surrogates, sperm donors, families brought together or pulled apart regardless of blood.

In her more personal work, Kiera looks to chronicle and fictionalize her family’s experience as Japanese-Americans in the wake of WWII and internment. As a yonsei, or fourth-generation Japanese-American, Kiera uses her writing to explore her mixed-race identity in parallel to her mother’s and grandmother’s, to pull apart that which has been concealed or assimilated in the name of protection. She finds the work of Maxine Hong Kingston and Julie Otsuka inspiring to this endeavor.

Kiera’s begins and ends her creative writing course reading with the first and second-to-last story from Jennifer Eagan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad, and would highly recommend it to anyone reading. Good writing comes from good reading (something Kiera has tried to keep in mind through quarantine), and Kiera finds the work of many authors encountered in the past few years foundational to her work. She greatly admires Jhumpa Lahiri, and resonates with her provocative and intimate exploration of the Asian diaspora in America. She also admires the blunt yet romantic prose of Louise Erdrich, the devastating humor of Nathan Englander, and the precision of surprise in Lorrie Moore’s similes.

Kiera currently lives in Washington, DC and interns with The Inner Loop, a literary reading series and network for creative writers in the DC metro area. Last month, she was a guest-host on their podcast, The Inner Loop Radio, for their Quarantine Inspiration series. You can listen to the episode at: https://theinnerloop.fullserviceradio.org/episodes/lingering-in-the-mundane-with-kiera-wolfe. You can also hear Kiera read her work at the MFA Program’s reading series, Mock Turtle (@theumdmockturtle on IG).

Health Advocacy and Activism for Stigmatized Health Issues
Sarah A. Aghazadeh, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Communication

Sarah earned a B.S. in public relations/minor in political science and an M.A. in interdisciplinary studies from San José State University (SJSU). While working towards her M.A., she worked as a program assistant for SJSU’s Persian Studies Program. In 2010, she interned in Congress through The Panetta Institute for Public Policy. She also served as administrative assistant/scheduler to former Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, and Sylvia Panetta in 2013. Prior to seeking a PhD, she coached weightlifting and fitness classes, where she expanded her interests in public relations and political science to physical and mental health topics. 

Her doctoral research is at the intersections of public relations and health communication, particularly the ways in which advocacy and activism facilitate voice and social change for people who experience stigmatized health issues. Currently, she is conducting dissertation research about mental health advocacy and she has recently started another research project about pregnancy loss/stillbirth awareness. She chose the overarching topic of health advocacy/activism for stigmatized health issues because of its connections to social justice and health equity. Experiencing a highly stigmatized health issue can marginalize people across various social and political contexts and can diminish health. Thus, her research seeks to share voices and stories so that the people who experience these health issues and the health experiences themselves are acknowledged, accepted, and valued while also seeking ways to address health disparities and/or inequities.

One finding that has emerged during her ongoing dissertation research about mental health advocacy is that advocacy is not only about representation, but also about empowerment – advocates can equip people to conduct advocacy and activism for themselves and their communities.

Sarah often uses qualitative methods (e.g., interviews, focus groups, document analysis, etc.) because of the types of questions she is interested in answering with her research, though she also incorporates quantitative methods at times.

She recently coauthored an article about a health literacy intervention for elementary school children. The citation is as follows:

Aghazadeh, S.A., Aldoory, L., & Mills, T. (2020). Integrating health literacy into core curriculum: A teacher-driven, pilot initiative for second graders. Journal of School Health, 90, 585-593https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.12907

Women of Color Anticapitalism and World-Building
Lenora Knowles, 
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Women’s Studies

Since enrolling at the University of Maryland, Lenora has negotiated a hybrid identity as an emergent scholar and a social movement practitioner. For the last 6 years she has lived and organized in Baltimore working (mostly unpaid) in Black led grassroots base-building organizations, and political education and cultural organizing collectives. Right now, she holds leadership roles at Village of Love and Resistance (VOLAR), a Black and Brown led East Baltimore community development and community organizing collective, and Oak Hill Center for Education and Culture, an East Baltimore social movement school. 

Before moving to Baltimore, she lived in New York City, where she received a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary (UTS). She completed a thesis on Black women's leadership in the National Welfare Right Movement of the 1970s. She got to work with and learn from powerful faith leaders and longtime homeless, welfare and poor people's organizers from around the country who have since launched the Poor People's Campaign—A National Call for Moral Revival. Lenora believes that religion and spirituality play an important role in building sustainable, relevant, and holistic social movements that can meaningfully address all aspects of the human. She was drawn to Union because of its history as an incubator for Womanist theology, Mujerista theology, and Black theology. UTS was a formative period in her intellectual, political, and spiritual development. 

Immediately prior to UTS she graduated from Brown University where she concentrated in Africana Studies. She loved the Brown Africana Studies Department. It was a vibrant intellectual community of Black scholars from all over the world. It was there that she was first politicized, learned to love her Blackness, and began to process her own experience as a working-class Black and Honduran woman. She was exposed to an expansive and profound corpus of Black thought. The Africana Studies Department and her four years of organizing for worker rights (as a member of Brown Student Labor Alliance) on campus and across the country, have most certainly shaped her current intellectual questions and her epistemic genealogies. 

Lenora sustains that she has not always been the best at living into this duality of scholar-organizer but she feels committed to it. The language, preoccupations, values and modes of operation have often felt so different, but it's all a part of the world she is making, in community. She believes that her experiences growing up African American and Honduran American in Columbus, Ohio have trained her to be open to the possibilities of multiple belongings and identities¾while being acutely aware of the limits and boundaries those in power have established and continue to police. The writings of Gloria Anzaldúa on the US-Mexico border and borderlands have been particularly essential for allowing Lenora to think through what it can mean to inhabit and generate in the liminal spaces, those contested in-between spaces. 

She has been inspired by Antonio Gramsci's concept of the organic intellectual as she is particularly interested in the essential role of political education, consciousness raising, and ideological formation in building transformative grassroots movements led by Black and Brown working class folk of all gender and sexual identities and abilities. She sees her time at UMD as a time to liberate valuable skills, knowledges, information, and resources that she can share with her communities in Baltimore and beyond, all while learning from those very communities. 

Her research topic is women of color organizing of the 1960s and 1970s. Her current research project is on third world women's marxisms and anticapitalist critique. More specifically, her work is focused on the organizing of the Third World Women's Alliance (1968-1980)¾a radical Black and women of color led grassroots collective that had chapters in New York City and the East Bay. She has been deep in their archive and hopes to move onto other methods for engaging their work as her project progresses. She has been thinking a great deal about how women of color have theorized and organized around anticapitalist critiques of power and reimagined capacious new economies. The Alliance was clear about the failures of capitalism for poor and working women of color and communities of color across the country and globe. Integral to their anticapitalism was the political identity of "third world" which served as a coalitional term that not only worked to unite racialized women but also aligned them with women of color who experienced the violence of colonization and US imperialism across the globe. They really were trying to address the multi-valent impact of capitalism, racism, patriarchy and more not only in terms of the material conditions of third world communities but also in the very way the Alliance organized and built collectivity amongst themselves. 

Lenora contends that there needs to be more exploration of the ways that Black and Brown women have fundamentally challenged capitalism (as an ideology, corporate practices, extractive work conditions, state violence, etc.) while being attuned to race, gender, sexuality and other systems of power and control. She puts forward that our current political and economic moment necessitates a centering of women and femme of color ethics for living, working, organizing, and world-making. She came to the academy burnt out by the whiteness, professionalism and capitalist ideologies that were and still are pervasive within the non-profit industrial complex, and even within so-called radical organizing spaces. She came to Women's Studies with a desire to learn about how Black and Brown women (she uses this category expansively) have grappled with similar and different material conditions, ideological contradictions, strategic challenges, and organizational failures. Her research questions emerge from her commitments to bolster Black, worker, and poor people's organizing, abolish systems of violence, and build transformative movements. 

Lenora is always open to collaboration with people with similar intellectual curiosities. She encourages others on campus and beyond to reach out to her. Her email address is lknowles@umd.edu.

The Dynamic Complexity of an Artist: modern dance, disco, identity, and the self
Gabriel Mata, MFA Candidate, Dance

(Photo Credit: Mikii Jourdan)

Gabriel’s training and education in dance started in college but he began dancing in high school. He received his undergraduate degree (B.F.A in Dance) from San José State University in California. After undergrad, he performed as a guest artist for companies and choreographed in the Bay Area. One of the most valuable experiences was working with Joel Smith (www.joelsmithdancing.com). He introduced Gabriel to the choreographic process of creating talking dances (dance work that incorporates talking, text, narrative, and movement). Through dance, Gabriel investigates, makes space, and presents his complex and marginalized identity as a queer undocumented Mexican immigrant. His work offers fragmented narrative, physicality, and leans more towards dance than theater. Gabriel’s upbringing led him to be reserved in many ways. Working with Smith helped him develop the use of voice, narrative, composition, and movement as protest. Mata uses text, narrative, music, and movement to share, expose, interrogate, challenge, and to make space for marginalized bodies in a predominantly white art form. 

Gabriel’s thesis proposal looks at Disco dance and culture as a viewpoint to access broader social themes and individual identity. He identified with Disco at a young age and has used it as a form to connect to American queer and popular culture, while recognizing his own intersectionality. This research looks at the past and is a way of making space for oneself in the present.

On a personal note, being an undocumented Mexican immigrant, the resources and community for dance are limited or nonexistent. His nationality and cultural inheritance are void of influence and have a limited presence when looking at contemporary modern dance. By finding Disco, he recognized a culture that was egalitarian in its inception. With that in mind, he is interested in the conversations, and researching ways in which contemporary modern dance’s cultural practices can make space and support the contributions of bodies of color. Another part of Gabriel’s work is on decentering and decolonizing academic and concert dance practices with equity in mind, as an educator and creator. He looks into his own experience while exposing structural systems of oppression. In a broader sense, this looks at the culture of dance. 

Attending to community health guidelines due to the pandemic, he is researching ways to develop a thesis production that attends to a virtual public access platform while also working with a cast of dancers. He wants to create a production that can be a personal and virtual experience; this is a change from his concert dance experience in relation to the pandemic.

Gabriel is presently researching and developing a Disco course (Fall 2020) and Jazz Disco course (Spring 2021). For Jazz Disco, he is interested in how they intersect. The course will be navigating the technical demands of jazz while engaging in the social and individuality movement forms of Disco.

Gabriel is collaborating with Lemz, (Steve Lemmerman - www.djlemz.com) a musical composer, and Robert Woofter, director of haus of bambi (www.hausofbambi.com), as a dramaturg and videographer. He is looking forward to working with the Design graduates at UMD: Stephanie Parks (costume), Michael Winston (lighting), Andres Poch (scenic), and Sean Preston (projection).

In his research, Gabriel uses different sources. For Disco, YouTube has been a great source of preserved work. He has researched soul train, Disco documentaries, musical playlists, and academic articles. He has investigated the work of Tim Lawrence, who is a prominent writer on music and dance culture. All that work has led Gabriel to current manifestations of Disco such as Glitterbox, Purple Disco Machine, Defected Records, and SLEAZE (www.sleazeparty.com). He is looking forward to incorporating production elements (projection, video, scenic, and costuming) into his work, as it will expand into his postgraduate career. 

To learn more about Gabriel and his work visit his website and his YouTube channel.

To watch a premier of three dance films that Gabriel created over the summer, click here.

Investigating the Syntax of Human Language
Aaron Doliana, PhD Candidate, Department of Linguistics

Aaron received a BA and MA at the University of Leipzig, Department of Linguistics, in Germany. In his time there he also worked as an RA at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, in a longitudinal study investigating what neural circuits are at play with reading, comparing typical, dyslexic and illiterate populations.

Aaron is a syntactician. That means that he investigates the ways in which our human mind allows us to form complex sentences by putting together smaller bit of language, such as words. For example, he might observe a contrast between “Who helped who(m)?”, and “Who(m) did who help?”. The first is a perfectly fine question in most varieties of English, to which you could answer “Jordan helped Makayla, and Ashlyn helped Kyle.”, but the second is just an odd way of asking the same question. It is odd even when we can start a question in both ways, as in “Who helped you?” and “Who did you help?”. He then asks what properties of our mind contribute to creating these rather abstract limitations on how we form sentences.

In a recent project, Aaron investigated how certain words that can be quite far apart in a sentence still get to be interpreted as belonging together. In particular, he studied questions like “Who all did Susi invite yesterday?” in German. In German, the word for ‘all’ (alles) can occur together with ‘who’, like in English, but it can also occur in various other places in the sentence without changing the meaning (“Wen {alles} hat {alles} die Susi {alles} gestern {alles} eingeladen?”). So there is a large amount of freedom. At the same time, the word for ‘all’ is subject to general restrictions: it requires the presence of a question word like ‘who’ somewhere in the sentence and even then, it cannot occur just anywhere in the sentence. The tension between freedom and restrictions is something Aaron looked to explain as it promises to tell us something about how the human mind relates words in a sentence to form coherent complex meanings.

The finding from this project was that, at an abstract fundamental level, ‘who’ and ‘all’ form one unit in our minds, just like when they are pronounced together, and that is true even when they are not pronounced in the same place in the sentence like in English “[Who all] did Susi invite?". For instance, the options where in a sentence ‘alles’ can or cannot occur follows closely the options where in a sentence ‘who’ can occur; ‘alles’ appears only in places in a sentence in which ‘who’ could also occur. So our mind deals with much more abstract representations of sentences than we see or hear on the surface, and one way that our mind connects things that appear far apart is by keeping them together at a more abstract level.

To determine how the human mind can or cannot put words together to form coherent sentences, researchers like Aaron start from an individual language. They ask native speakers of the language to express how they feel about using a certain sentence to express a certain meaning. For example, the main method Aaron used in this project was to give speakers of German pairs of sentences that are supposed to mean the same thing, and to ask them to express if they find both equally natural, both equally unnatural, or have a preference for one over the other. Depending on the noisiness of the results they may do this with half a dozen of people, or turn to online settings where they run the experiment with a larger sample of people.

Aaron has a journal article that has been accepted with minor revisions but not up yet. The reference is this: “Doliana, Aaron & Sandhya Sundaresan. Proxy Control: Extending the typology of control in language”. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory.”

His conference proceedings and working papers volumes can be found here: https://aarondoliana.com/#publications. The reference for a conference proceedings paper about the project described here is this (soon to appear): Doliana, Aaron. (2020). ‘Wh-Quantifier Float in German. In: M. Asatryan, Y. Song, A. Whitmal, eds., Proceedings of North East Linguistic Society (NELS) 50. PDF of current version also available through the link.

Besides being a busy PhD candidate, Aaron is also involved in outreach. He is currently co-chair of the outreach committee of the Language Science Center here on campus.

Art of the Farm
Heidi Zenisek, MFA candidate, Department of Art (Sculpture)

Heidi Zenisek is a sculptress from Iowa, where she grew up on a farm surrounded by dirt, cows, corn, and rust. A few weeks after earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the University of Iowa, she was on a plane to Iceland where she spent the next year living, making, and shaking in a small, remote fishing village called Seydisfjordur. She participated in numerous artist residencies (HEIMA & The LungA School) and worked at a gallery during this time. Upon her return to the States, she moved to Minnesota where she worked and exhibited at Franconia Sculpture Park and participated in their Hot Metal Casting residency and Intern Artist Fellowship program. Promptly after, she spent some time in upstate New York working and exhibiting at Salem Art Works and then Charleston, Illinois where she earned a Master of Arts in Studio Art at Eastern Illinois University and worked at the Tarble Arts Center. Currently, she is an MFA candidate in Sculpture at UMD and will be presenting her thesis in spring 2021.

Heidi says that reexamining details of her childhood on a farm and her experiences traversing the world as a contemporary woman underlies her art’s focus on humanity’s interaction with the natural world and its relation to broader systems of power and subjugation. 

She makes work that doesn’t necessarily depict the farm, but is of the farm, recasting our understanding of good and bad, and collapsing the distance between life and death. Having witnessed firsthand the whimsy and brutality of nature, she investigates ways this farmstead childhood has uniquely shaped the lens through which she views the world. On the farm, time is measured by the color of the fields and when babies are born. Vast expanses of crop are raised, harvested, and migrated. Large quantities of material are vigorously used for months, then discarded or replaced, and certain animals are only as valuable as their ability to procreate. Humans manipulate reproduction cycles through breeding, artificial insemination, castration, pollination, and genetic engineering in order to optimize yields. She is interested in what has been normalized in her eyes, but is seen as alien and cruel to those who did not have the unique experience of a rural upbringing. To reduce these practices to good or bad is simplistic, she sustains. It’s the complexities in-between that she explores. It is said that poetry exists in the space between the question and the answer… Perhaps that's where her work belongs as well. 

Heidi loves experimenting with materials! Sometimes it’s an instinctual attraction, other times she uses what is available to her where she is making. She likes contrasting. Refined vs. raw. Organic vs. artificial. Rudimentary vs. technologic. She thinks about the aesthetic and conceptual qualities and how that relates to the ideas of the piece she is working on, but also how it could be redefined. She will always have a soft spot for found objects and discarded materials, but she has recently been obsessed with light and has been making light sculptures using dichroic film. You can see this on her website (heidizenisek.com) under Death & Donuts, which is currently up at Culture House DC. Heidi and her peer Michael Thron (UMD MFA ’20) were able to take over the space and do a series of installations. She also has an exhibition titled Bullet Points opening in September at The Arlington Arts Center. It was supposed to open in April, but got postponed due to COVID.

Towards A Better Understanding of Time
Shen Pan, Philosophy Ph.D. candidate

Shen has always been fascinated by questions about the most fundamental aspects of the world. During his first year as a philosophy major at Renmin University of China, however, he found himself often more perplexed than excited. Studying the history of ideas and unraveling the abstruse words of Kant or Laozi were as valuable as they were rewarding. But, surely, that could not have been what philosophy was all about. That is, until he read the German philosopher and mathematician Gottlob Frege’s Über Sinn und Bedeutung, in an introductory course on Predicate Logic. Shen was mesmerized by the rigor, clarity, and insight in Frege, and from then on he knew he wanted to become an analytic philosopher.

Nowadays Shen’s research interests are in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind, with a specific focus on time in both cases. Still troubled by questions concerning the most fundamental, Shen wants to make progress toward better understanding “What is time?” and “How is time represented in cognitive systems?”. As Shen sees it, what connects these two broad questions is an apparent conflict between what might be called our manifest image of time and our scientific image of time. If some physicists are right that time does not pass and that past, present, future are equally real, then how come we seem to experience time as passing, and the world as dynamic? Are our dynamic-seeming ordinary experiences simply mistaken? If they are, are the mistakes we make merely incidental, or might they offer clues about our cognitive architecture and our place in the universe? If they are not, how should we modify the scientific image in light of them?

Shen believes the extant boundaries between philosophy and science are most likely due to contingent sociological factors, rather than there being inquiries of two different sorts. Hence in his research he tries to be empirically-informed wherever possible, drawing insights and findings from physics, cognitive science, evolutionary psychology, linguistics, and so on. On a side note, Shen also wishes more scientists would read a little bit of Kant.

Pan, S., & Carruthers, P. (2019). No doing without time. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 42, e270.

Identity in Ancient Rome
Tara Wells, MA candidate in Classics (Latin & Greek)

Tara Wells grew up in Roanoke, Virginia where she took Latin in high school, which is what first got her interested in Classics. She grew up doing musical theatre and so for Undergraduate studies she spent a year at Pace University in New York City, hoping to pursue theatre, but changed her mind and transferred to Oberlin College in Ohio, where she double majored in Latin & Ancient Greek (graduate May 2018). While at Oberlin she studied abroad in Rome for a semester at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies (ICCS) which really solidified her desire to continue studying the ancient world and expanded her interests beyond studying only the ancient languages and wanting to dive deeper into material culture through art and archaeology. She also had experiences abroad in Italy and Greece, and did an internship at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in the Conservation department.

Tara has always been interested in identity and representation. Her own identity as a multi-racial (Native American, African American, German and Irish) woman in academia has strongly fueled this interest as well, as she often thinks about ways that her Black & Indigenous ancestors have been mis-represented or had their images manipulated for the benefit of others' agendas. Following this interest, for her final MA paper her broad topic of exploration was to look at ancient Roman representations of non-Romans. In particular, she investigated if there were descriptions that were consistently positive, negative, or neutral. She looked at literary evidence from Roman historians’ writings about non-Romans together with material evidence and visual representations of non-Romans. She focused on Egyptians and Parthians during the time of the first emperor Augustus’ reign because they had an important role in founding the Roman Empire.

According to Tara, ancient Roman identity is not based in race or origin but in Roman citizenship, which means behaving like a Roman, following Roman customs, and supporting Roman traditions. Augustus pushed a return to traditional Roman morals that were rooted in certain values of virtue and honorable behavior over things like violence, adultery, and general indulgence in luxuries, pleasures, and material goods. During his reign, the textual and visual evidence seemed to emphasize the Egyptians as overly-indulgent in luxuries and material goods, thus morally inferior from Augustus' perspective, and the Parthians as inferior based on similar stereotypes of moral deficiencies. In visual sources each group of people is presented quite differently, with Egyptian imagery focused more on symbols and representations of wealth whereas Parthian imagery focuses on the people themselves, often showing them as individuals kneeling and "beneath" the Romans, physically so in the images and metaphorically in their morals. Thus, Augustan propaganda emphasized ways in which Parthians and Egyptians, among others, were very much not Roman and were worse because of it. In founding an Empire, it was important for Augustus to make his moral stance clear, gain support from Roman citizens, and make others fear him. These portraits of Egyptians and Parthians in his time functioned as propaganda which fed directly into these goals.

In her research, Tara looked at literary and visual descriptions by Romans about non-Roman groups. She used primary sources of Roman Histories written in both Latin and Greek but all by Roman historians (writing from a Roman perspective), namely Cassius Dio, Florus, and Justin. She translated and analyzed passages that were either ethnographic descriptions of Parthians or Egyptians, offering general details about each people and their customs, or ones that described interactions between Romans and Egyptians or Parthians, which then gave her insight as to Roman thoughts and attitudes towards non-Romans. For visual sources, she looked at such pieces as monuments, statues, wall paintings, and small objects with images (e.g. coins and rings), which in various ways offered representations of Egyptians or Parthians. Some of this evidence came to mind from sites and museums she has visited throughout her studies, but others she found referenced and described throughout her research of relevant secondary scholarship. 

Combining the Handmade with Digital Media
Noah McWilliams, MFA candidate, Department of Art (Sculpture)

Noah McWilliams is currently a sculpture MFA candidate at UMD, and will pursue teaching art as a profession afterwards. Throughout his teens and twenties, he experimented heavily with video, screen printing, and illustration. He always had a studio space, but he did not get his undergraduate degree or study art formally until he was in his early 30’s. Before enrolling at Corcoran School of Art and Design, he worked in Information Technology. While he enjoyed the financial stability, he decided that in order to maximize his creative output he should pursue not only a better understanding of art history, but also a profession more in line with his passion. He graduated with his BFA from Corcoran in 2017, which gave his practice the historical context he hoped it would. At Corcoran, he also shifted away from 2-dimensional work into sculpture after having some impressive MICA grads as sculpture and installation professors. 

Right now, Noah is having fun creating a series of large soft sculptures that play with the idea of a fruitful but anticlimactic future. The impact of this sci-fi universe is dampened by the incorporation of mundane domestic motifs, like distressed denim, and watercolor quilts. Noah loves quirky special effects, so he is also going full tilt Garbage Pail Kids with bodily elements like silicone flesh textures and novelty-size fingernail clippings. It’s a playful, even juvenile approach to world building, and a celebration of the pretense that technological progress will transform us into something more than quilters and kid spankers. 

 In his recent work in soft sculpture the materials he uses consist of stitching together faux furs, velvet, kitschy patterned tablecloths, and other fun or plush would-be textiles. These sewn elements are often accompanied by light or video works that ground them in another world. Noah thinks there is something magical about combining the visibly handmade with digital media.

Noah’s website is noahmcwilliams.com.

He had a solo show called Fleishig slated for February at IA&A at Hillyer in DC, but they have since suspended all operations due to the COVID crisis. Noah always has applications floating about, so he is sure something will come up soon. He is also a founding member of Kicker Collective, a DC artist collective (https://www.kickercollective.com/).  

Finding Community through Black Popular Culture and Social Media
Brienne Adams, American Studies Ph.D. candidate 

Brienne was raised in Beloit (Wisconsin) and had a unique experience growing up in this place. The city boasts a multicultural make-up of mainly working-class people, with a present and culturally involved Black community that has ties to the south due to the Great Migration. She also attended Beloit College for undergrad, a small liberal arts college located in her hometown. Initially, she majored in Creative Writing, but changed her major to Literature Studies after completing her first summer as a McNair Scholar. It was during that time that the current iteration of her project began to take form. She was interested in why and how repetitious narratives in Black romance or romantic centered novels became popular and what did it reveal about people and their intimate lives. This led her to pursue a Summer Research Opportunity Program with UCLA’s Bunche Program in Afro-American Studies to continue research as a McNair Scholar. From there, she pursued an MA in Afro-American studies at UCLA. Brienne took time off after completing her MA to work for a grant project and in student affairs at a local community college. During her experience as an adjunct professor at DePaul University, she found her passion to return to the classroom as an instructor, which propelled her to apply to PhD programs. 

At UMD Brienne is pursuing a PhD in American Studies. She recently graduated in spring 2020 with the Digital Studies in the Arts and Humanities (DSAH) interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate at the University of Maryland and will apply for completion of the Women’s Studies Certificate in the fall of 2020. She is also a UMD 2019-2020 African American History, Culture and Digital Humanities (AADHum) Scholar, a Mellon funded initiative housed in the College of Arts and Humanities that is co-directed by the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH). With the support of the fellowship, she will produce a chapter of her dissertation digitally as a public facing digital humanities project.

Brienne’s current research is on popular culture representations of Black intimacy (familial, friendships, and romantic relationships—both hetero and queer) in web series, television shows, and albums. She focuses on the fandom response from Black fans on social media. She came to this research from her experience as a McNair scholar and as a fan of many of cultural productions and the reactions and conversations she observed between friends and other fan communities on social media.

Through focusing on interiority and affect, Brienne proposes that we can examine common themes and issues that fans contend with and how they navigate them through using the stories, characters, and music for expressing and finding community on social media. These are acts of pleasure and process for Black fans. She asserts that audiences contemplate their own interpersonal relationships through popular culture and create community around their fandom. She speculates that these actions can reverberate into the world to change their personal and political lives due to participating in the discourse on social media. Brienne focuses on Between Women, Awkward Black Girl, and Brown Girl web series, the HBO television show Insecure, and Beyoncé’s album Lemonade, Solange’s A Seat at the Table, Jay-Z’s 4:44, and The Carter’s Everything is Love.

Regarding her research methods, Brienne is currently exploring various digital tools to gather tweets and YouTube comments to first find major themes. She then will ask individual twitter users for permission to use their tweets in her research to demonstrate an ethics of care and to honor user intent for their social media production. As an interdisciplinary project, she will then use textual analysis to examine the cultural productions and fandom response and other mixed methods as the project evolves. 

Enlightening Hasidism or Other Marginalized Genres in the World Literature
Chen Mandel-Edrei, Comparative Literature Ph.D. candidate, Jewish Studies specialization

Chen defended her dissertation titled “Hasidic Hagiography in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction – A Historical and Literary Perspective” this past spring. She was born and raised in Israel and obtained a B.A. and M.A. at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She started her academic research experience working on the Israel poet from early 20th century, Avot Yeshurun. He created very unique poems that expressed the complex social reality of the Israeli-Palestinian landscape. In his poems he offered a dialogic and accepting environment and language for co-existence of Jews and Arabs. Ever since then Chen was interested in finding new languages, aesthetic, and social form that overcome the limited borders of national literatures. During her M.A., she worked both as a teaching assistant and as an instructor of undergraduate students. She worked at the university and in the university’s programs for underprivileged students to prepare them for academic studies. She enjoyed it very much and realized that she can be both an academic and a teacher and mentor. Therefore, she decided to do a High School Teaching Certificate so that in the future she would be able to integrate her academic career with her passion for high school students.

Chen decided to write her dissertation about a neglected genre in the historiography of modern Hebrew Literature and that is Hasidic stories. Hasidism is a social and mystical movement that emerged at the second half of the 18th century and challenged many of the contemporary Jewish social and theological conventions. They placed the spiritual experience of the individual at the center of their belief-system and on that account, they have parallels with modern ideas of individualism. The movement had a special social structure that towards the end of the 19th century became very strict and kind of “lost” its critical and revolutionary characteristics. Jewish Enlightenment and Jewish Nationalism rejected the movement and its literature because it didn’t follow rationalism and was unnational. Chen chose to focus on the moment in which Hasidic stories emerged as a new modern genre in the mid-nineteenth century, before the fixation and stagnation of the movement, because she wanted to see what aesthetic and existential alternatives they offered to the modern man.

One of the things that she found was that despite what Jewish Enlightenment thought, this literature is not primitive and irrelevant, but a reaction to modernity. It was part of the long process of modernization of Eastern European Jewish life and literature. She also found that although this movement is very strict and fundamentalist today, it was actually the one that enabled individualism within traditional life. Its literary projects integrated aesthetic pleasure into Jewish traditional experience and legitimized leisure. It was the first form of popular culture in Hebrew. Finally, she developed a new historiographical method for discussing the development of modern Hebrew literature. A method that allows for more marginalized branches to be recognized. The historiographical approach that Chen developed can be applied on any similar cases of marginalized genres in world literature.   

In order to understand the significance of the Hasidic genre, Chen had to investigate the historical background that led to its emergence. She had to take an interdisciplinary method that integrates history with critical theory. She took history classes and read a lot on her own. She had to learn the political history of eastern Europe.

Chen has published one article based on her Master thesis that can be found here.

She also has an article that will be published soon (summer 2020) in a Hebrew journal. This is the reference: Chen Mandel-Edrei. “Stories that I have Heard from Men of Truth:” Authority, Poetic and Modernization in Hasidic Hagiography,” Gal-Ed 26 (forthcoming Summer 2020). (Hebrew).  

Chen has three children: a 9-year-old boy, a 5-year-old girl, and a 2-year-old boy. One was born during her M.A. studies and two were born in the U.S. during her Ph.D. studies. It was very challenging for Chen to manage and balance school with family life, but as she says: “They are wonderful and bring so much joy!” It also made her more focused – She had no time to waist, so every hour of reading/writing was very productive most of the time.

Chen is currently looking for both postdoc opportunities and teaching positions.

French Gyncolonisation in the North American Colonies
Elizabeth Robinson, Modern French Studies Ph.D. candidate

Elizabeth is originally from Rochester, NY – the home of Kodak, Abby Wambach, and the infamous garbage plate. Her passion for languages other than English started when she was a little girl watching Sesame Street. There was a cartoon of a faucet dripping water with an off-screen voice that repeated the word, “agua.” When Elizabeth figured out that that meant water, she wanted to learn more.

As soon as school offered language classes, Liz took Spanish, and two years later started French. After learning Spanish and participating in an exchange program through her high school, she was able to have exchange students in her home and then later stay with those same students in their hometown, Madrid, Spain. Elizabeth continued to study both languages through high school and majored in French and Spanish at SUNY Geneseo. Ultimately, after taking a survey of French literature course as a freshman at Geneseo, Liz’s professor sat her down and suggested she consider going to graduate school to further study French literature. This conversation influenced her to do just that. After finishing a Master’s degree in French, with a minor in Canadian Studies at SUNY at Buffalo, Liz applied to the University of Maryland where she is pursuing a PhD in Modern French Studies.

Elizabeth’s research focuses on two groups of women sent by the French crown to marry soldiers and fur trappers and bear their children in the colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries. This topic allows her to focus on reproduction (cultural, institutional, and historical/memory), mothers, and francophone North America. The genres she is able to explore range from historical narrative, biography, popular romance, and Southern Gothic, though musicals have also been written around this subject.

Her research methods involve a lot of reading, both literature and theory. She recently received a grant from the Association International des Études Québécoises (AIEQ) and the American Council for Quebec Studies (ACQS), to visit archives and libraries in Quebec; however, the current pandemic and closed border have prevented her from being able to travel to Quebec and do research there, which she does annually.

A Passion for Latin American Art
Patricia Ortega-Miranda, Art History and Archaeology Ph.D. candidate (Latin American Art)

Patricia was born and raised in Havana, Cuba. When she was twenty years old she left her country following the steps of many people from her generation and the generations before. Back then there was a saying that the last person to leave the country would have to turn the lights off, referring to El Morro, which is a huge lighthouse located right at the entrance of the Havana Bay, a very special place to experience.

Patricia wanted to be with her family, be able to see other places and cultures, and have better opportunities to study. She spent two years in Costa Rica before finally deciding to cross all through Central America hoping to make it to the United States. She lived in Las Vegas, where she earned a Bachelor's degree in Art History with a Minor in Art. She decided to study Art History because she could combine her two biggest passions, art and writing. She also has a vocation for education, as both of her parents are teachers. She likes to use participatory and ludic pedagogical models in her teaching practice.

One of the most enriching and gratifying experiences she has had was thanks to a teaching fellowship awarded by the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas. Using works of art to engage complex ideas, and helping students to connect with the visual and the sensorial at a deep level, not only transformed her teaching but also her approach to research. She earned her Master's degree in Art History at the University of Texas, with a special focus in Latin American Art. Currently, she is a PhD student in the department of Art History and this will be her second year working at the Art Gallery.

She has recently discovered a passion for the creative and critical aspects of curatorial practice. Last year she curated an exhibition showcasing works by the performance artist Carlos Martiel. She is currently preparing an online exhibition with a selection of video works by Glenda León. It will be titled Breath and Delirium and it is conceived as a meditation on our current situation.

Her research project is still in the beginning stages, but what she hopes to do is open a new line of study that considers the relationship between vanguard aesthetic practices and the construction of an ethnographic archive in Cuba, as they challenge our current understandings of cultural identity. Her work is very interdisciplinary and she uses a broad range of methodologies including visual and textual analysis, critical theory, and primary sources that include works of art in various media as well as archival material. 

Mexico's Afro-Mestizaje
Nancy Vera, Comparative Literature Ph.D. candidate

Nancy Vera was born in Los Angeles, California. Her family is from Guerrero, Mexico. She lived in South Central Los Angeles until she was thirteen years old. The gang violence in her neighborhood forced her parents to move north to Bakersfield, California, to work in the San Joaquin Valley as farmworkers. This move north helped Nancy focus on her academics and physical health. Since South Central Los Angeles is a grid block city, there were very few spaces where she could enjoy being outdoors. Her parents moved to a safer and greener neighborhood. And for the first time, she could go for a jog without fearing for her safety. She also had a bedroom and desk of her own to focus on her studies. She enjoyed living in Bakersfield. She attended Bakersfield Community College and received her Associate Degree in Liberal Arts. Then she went to California State University, Bakersfield, where she completed her B.A. and M.A. in English.

Nancy never intended to pursue a Ph.D. and much less a doctorate in Comparative Literature. However, during her master’s studies, she met Dr. Anthony Nuño, and he completely changed the course of her life. She took a course in Chicano Studies with him. And, for the first time, she began to learn about her Mexican-American history. She learned about the rich oral culture of Mexico, and she started to question things about her upbringing heritage that she had suppressed. 

Although she enjoyed learning about her Chicano identity and history, she continuously felt like something was missing from the texts and history she read. Chicano Studies emphasized Mexico’s Amerindian and Spanish heritage. But she did not feel Spanish, and the few Spanish people she met in her life made it a point to remind her that they did not speak the same language. She embraced her indigenous roots, but there was something more. 

After reading Gloria Anzaldúa’s book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, she was struck by a sentence in the collection, “each of us must know our Indian lineage, our afro-mestizaje, our history of resistance.” Those words were the key that started her journey. After reading those words, she realized that she did not want to stop going to school. 

During her master’s program, she presented her research on Mexico’s African heritage at the National Association for Chicano and Chicana Studies Conference in Denver, Colorado. The scholars in attendance highly encouraged her to continue her studies. And she applied for doctoral programs far and wide. She narrowed down her topic to Afro-Mexican folklore and literature because she believes that her research is vital to the expansion of Chican@ and Mexican-American studies. 

By comparing folklore collections from West Africa and Mexico’s Costa Chica, a coastal area between Guerrero and Oaxaca in Mexico, she shows that Mexico’s Afro-Mexicans brought and maintain African storytelling practices. Moreover, she traces how Afro-Mexican folklorists have influenced the writing style of published Afro-Mexican artists. 

Nancy is currently conducting interviews with writers and scholars of Afro-Mexican studies. She has interviewed Dr. Paulette Ramsay, who published the first critique of Afro-Mexican literature and folklore and is in the process of interviewing writers and local intellectuals from the Costa Chica. She hopes to visit the Costa Chica in November to celebrate the Day of the Dead and watch her first Afro-Mexican folklore performance. 

Music, Dance and Race in the Dominican Republic
Victor Hernandez-Sang, Ethnomusicology Ph.D. candidate

Victor is originally from Santiago de los Caballeros (Santiago, Dominican Republic). His passion for music started at a very early age. He started playing the flute when he was ten. When it was time to go to College, he decided to come to the United States to study Music. He completed his BA in Music (flute performance) at Luther College (Decorah, IA). During his time at Luther College, Victor became interested in Ethnomusicology. This is the study of music of different cultures, especially non-Western ones. After a year teaching flute, ear training, and English in his hometown, he came to UMD to pursue a MA and a subsequent PhD in Ethnomusicology. His doctoral project examines the performance of gaga (Haitian-Dominican music and dance) and issues of race, immigration, and racial discrimination in the Dominican Republic.

Gaga is a musical manifestation of the Vodou religion in the Dominican Republic. A combination of music and dance originated in Haiti, it has been present in the culture and traditions of the Dominican Republic for a long time. It is practiced during Lent and it consists of a procession that includes musicians and dancers. This tradition involves African and Catholic deities. Victor hypothesizes that it might serve to create or reinforce a sense of belonging for Haitian-Dominicans living in the Dominican Republic. This community has suffered from historical racial discrimination and this was what moved Victor to conduct his research.

The Dominican Republic has a long history of anti-Haitianism. Haitian-Dominicans are the largest immigrant population in the Dominican Republic. It is estimated that between 650,000 and 1 million live in the country. Many of them have low-paid jobs and are treated unequally. In 2013, the Dominican Republic Constitutional Court issued a rule that removed citizenship from over 200,000 Haitian- Dominicans who were born in the Dominican Republic after 1929 but were descendants from undocumented immigrants from Haiti. This moved Victor to research how a traditional manifestation such as gaga can help Haitian-Dominicans to feel a sense of belonging.

In his research, Victor uses a variety of research methods. He mostly does field work and records audio, video, takes pictures, and engages in the activity. He also does individual and group interviews. He is planning on doing some archival work to investigate articles about gaga published in different newspapers.

Neurostimulation, Pupillometry and Second Language Acquisition
Nick Pandza, SLA Ph.D. candidate

Nick Pandža has always been interested in languages. After completing a BS in Spanish and Japanese at Florida State University, and a MS in Applied Linguistics at Georgetown University, he landed at the Second Language Acquisition Program at UMD. Besides being a PhD student, Nick also works at the University of Maryland Applied Research Lab for Intelligence & Security (ARLIS) where he conducts research related to second language acquisition and cognitive neuroscience. He’s currently on a team of researchers to investigate how peripheral nerve stimulation, a type of neurostimulation, can enhance language learning. He received an invitation to publish results in the Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, which is one of the leading journals in the field.

Learning a second language is a difficult task, especially for adults. When people whose mother tongue is nontonal (like English) learning a tonal language (like Chinese) is even harder. In Chinese, when we change the tone of a word, we change its meaning. For example, /ma/ with a high flat tone means ‘mother’ but /ma/ with a dipping tone means ‘horse’. The goal of Nick and his team in their study was to find out if, through neurostimulation, people who have never been exposed to a tonal language can learn one easier and faster. To do this, they stimulated the vagus nerve of the participants in the study through a noninvasive earbud and measured their pupil dilation (pupillometry) while they were completing a series of vocabulary learning tasks. The experiment took several days and, for comparison, some participants received the vagus nerve stimulation while others did not.

The results show that even with two days of training, participants whose vagus nerve was stimulated were able to learn more words than those who did not have the nerve stimulated. This was complemented by the results from the pupillometry measures. When researchers use pupillometry, they measure the pupil’s diameter while performing a specific task. Greater pupil dilation is associated with increased effort. In Nick’s study the diameter of the pupil of those participants who were receiving the stimulation decreased while they were doing the vocabulary learning tasks. This indicates that the stimulation was helping them to learn those words more easily, with less cognitive effort.

The results from this study are very relevant for the future of the field. Moreover, this type of neurostimulation can be easily implemented with an out of the box device. Nick is part of a team of researchers who are leading this new direction in the field of Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition.

Nick’s article is going to appear soon. This is the citation:
Pandža, N. B., Phillips, I., Karuzis, V. P., O’Rourke, P., and Kuchinsky, S. E. (2020). Neurostimulation and pupillometry: New directions for learning and research in applied linguistics. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 40, 1-22. 

Religion and the French Revolution
Jonathan Brower, HIST Ph.D. candidate

When we talk about the French Revolution, we might think about La Marseillaise or about its most famous phrase Liberté, égalité, fraternité. However, many more things happened during this historical period, like religious revolution. Jonathan Brower is investigating this topic focusing on the Sacerdotal Revolution that happened during the Period of the Terror (1793-1794) along the Pyrenean border.

According to Jonathan, the goal of the Sacerdotal Revolution that emerged in southwestern France was to abolish all existent religious manifestations in France in order to construct a new national identity. There are three main aspects that characterize this revolution: restriction and abolition of exterior religious worship, anticlericalism, and the establishment of revolutionary cults. Revolutionaries at first limited exterior worship by prohibiting people from wearing religious clothing in public, ringing bells in the churches, and celebrating religious services in public. Eventually revolutionaries closed churches and synagogues completely. The Sacerdotal Revolution was anticlerical in that the revolutionaries arrested and executed priests, pastors and rabbis; forced celibate clergy to marry; and demanded that all religious ministers resign. Finally, revolutionaries sought to replace traditional religion with new revolutionary cults, culminating in the civic religions of the Cult of Reason and the Cult of the Supreme Being. Jonathan argues that all this was done to build a national identity in the borderland region of the South West that was home to bustling communities of Sephardi Jews, Catholic Basques, and Béarnais Protestants.

Jonathan conducts his research mainly through archival work. He has spent time in France and Spain working in the archives of Gers, Landes, Hautes-Pyrénées and Pyrénées Atlantique among others. Jonathan incorporates insight from gender studies, cultural history, and borderland studies to understand how the French attempted to construct new national identities through religion.

Lost in Translation
Ofelia Montelongo Valencia, SLLC, M.A. in Spanish: Latin American Literature candidate

When Ofelia Montelongo Valencia (Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, México) read The House on Mango Street (1984) by Sandra Cisneros for the first time (in Spanish), she found little connection between the book and Chicano culture. Months later, she realized that that book was written originally in English, so she read it again, and the experience was much more meaningful. She wondered what happened in the translation process and started investigating. Her master’s thesis that she recently defended at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese is the result of many months of hard work and research on the topic.

To better understand Chicano culture and literature, one must first know what a Chicano is. A Chicano is a chosen identity among Mexican descendants in the United States. Chicano culture and literature are characterized by the use of code-switching between English and Spanish. This is when people alternate languages when speaking or writing. This poses a challenge for the translation of Chicano literature, which is mostly written in English, but includes code-switching in Spanish. Ofelia found that when Chicano literature is translated into Spanish, most code-switching is lost. She discovered this through the analysis of three famous novels from Chicano literature.

The novels analyzed by Ofelia were The House on Mango Street (1984) by Sandra Cisneros, Across a Hundred Mountains (2006) by Reyna Grande, and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (2017) by Erika L. Sánchez. According to Ofelia, the translations of these works Mexicanize the texts and modify the code-switching, which is one of the most important aspects of Chicano literature and culture. In her thesis, Ofelia examined the code-switching strategies of Lourdes Torres. She also investigated the translation model proposed by Basil Hatim and Ian Mason in The Translator as Communicator, and the translation paradigms developed by Anna María de D’Amore. Based on this, Ofelia proposes a typology of translation that does not ignore code-switching used in the original versions. This will allow a truer representation of Chicano culture when works are translated from English into Spanish. Ofelia’s passion for literature goes beyond her academic work, and when she is not working on her research, she is writing books!

As a writer, Ofelia has written stories and has conducted numerous workshops on creative writing. Her work has been published in Latino Book Review, Los Acentos Review, and Rio Grande Review, among others. She is currently writing her first novel titled Rosa Mexican X, which is about a Mexican girl who lives on the U.S.-Mexican border and experiences the culture and language from both countries. More information about Ofelia can be found on her website: www.ofeliamontelongo.com.

The Link Between Theatre and Espionage
Fraser Stevens, TDPS Ph.D. candidate


For many of us, theatre and espionage might be poles apart. However, according to Fraser Stevens, PhD candidate in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, they complement each other. Stevens is currently investigating how espionage is related to theatre and performance practice.

Originally from a small town in Canada, Fraser studied in the UK, the Netherlands, and Canada before coming to UMD. His interest in the topic emerged during the course of his MA in Wales. At the same time, he also explored the theme of how theatre and performance have played a decisive role in historical phenomena impacted by individuals who were unsupportive of the arts.

Fraser has found that theatre techniques such as the establishment of false persona, character development, the use of props, and more have been appropriated to help train spies. He sustains that the act of espionage is a form of applied theatre; often referred to as theatre for social change. Moreover, his research shows that in the world of espionage, the use of theatre and performance analyses allow agents to reconstruct training methods and locations. In addition, he has investigated how espionage, when analyzed through a performance studies lens, proliferates in some of the most basic aspects of our lives, such as acts of surveillance through social media platforms like Facebook or Tik Tok.

Another interesting instance of espionage that Fraser discovered in his research is techniques for training actors —as developed and described by master theatre instructor Konstantin Stanislavski— have appeared in spy training manuals of the WWII British Special Operations Executive. These include the development of a character and the performance of cover stories. More about this can be read in his chapter “Cultural Camouflage/Suspicious Behaviour: Acting Identities in WWII Espionage” in the edited volume War and Theatrical Innovation

Fraser is investigating the use of disguises and camouflage in corporate and state infrastructures, such as information networks and social media. In effect, such infrastructure is built under the guise of connecting members of the public, but in fact serves the purpose of monitoring citizens. This is another example of the crossover between theatre and espionage being investigated for his dissertation project.

Aside from his major research project, he is also interested in contemporary theatre and performance practice, with a distinct focus on how artists can capitalize on less traditional forms and venues of art to help advance their careers in an era of decreasing arts funding. Using his independent theatre company Almost Human as a platform, Fraser has broached these questions through the development of several performance projects. The work created by the company has been produced in North America, Europe, and the Middle East and has received funding from national, state, and artistic organizations. Fraser has been invited to present on both his scholarship and artistic practice in a variety of locations around the world. 

 

What does ARHU research hold for graduate students?
by Fatima Montero, SLA Ph.D. candidate

The College of Arts and Humanities at UMD is well-known nationally and internationally for its research. Professors and students are always busy conducting studies in different areas and topics. This is an example of what it is currently being done in our college:

American Studies
Students and professors in American Studies conduct research on diversity and identity, social activism in American life, media studies, public history and culture, and public service in and around Washington, D.C.

Art History
In Art History people focus on the study of art globally, chronologically, and thematically. They study cultures of Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

Art
At the Department of Art people investigate creative problem-solving strategies, experiment across disciplines, and produce images, objects, and experiences of sophisticated visual literacy. Research combines a foundation of traditional fundamentals of art and design with media concentrations. This encourages interdisciplinary interaction, particularly in developing digital technologies.

Classics
The Classics Department does research on a broad range of topics dealing with antiquity. Some such topics include reception studies, analysis and interpretation of classical texts, questions of identity and representation in ancient texts, pairing information from literary sources with archaeological sources, reviewing and critiquing scholarly interpretations of materials from antiquity, understanding classical texts within their cultural and historical contexts, and recognizing trends in ancient sources throughout the philological, archaeological, and historical records.

Comparative Literature
This program promotes the study of multi-disciplinary texts, discourses and media. Faculty and students specialize in literatures of the Americas, the Atlantic, Africa, the African Diaspora, Europe, Israel, the Jewish Diaspora, and expertise in literary theory, postcolonial studies, digital humanities, film and LGBT studies.

Communication
Research in the Department of Communication focuses on communication science and social cognition, public relations and strategic communication, and rhetoric and political culture.

Creative Writing
At this program faculty and students focus on the production of manuscripts of poetry or fiction. Many of them have been recognized with prizes and awards.

English
The English Department's research includes a wide variety of topics related to English language and literature. Particular strengths of the department include early British literature, especially Medieval and Renaissance, American literature, literature of the African diaspora, postcolonial and transnational literary studies, digital humanities, feminist theory and gender studies, and rhetoric and composition.

French
In the Department of French, the faculty and graduate students research a variety of topics in French and Francophone literature and cinema, covering periods roughly between the sixteenth century and today, and focusing on France as well as French-speaking regions around the world. Current research topics in this department are the literature of Madagascar, the role of historical narrative in Quebecois literature and film, hybridity in eighteenth century French literature, the aftereffects of the trauma of the Terror and the French Revolution in fantastic literature of the nineteenth century, the representation of the Medusan gaze in the works of contemporary French women writers and filmmakers, and twentieth-century Francophone theater and "cruel optimism." 

History
The main research areas in the History Department include Europe, Global Interaction and Exchange, Jewish History, Latin America, Technology, Science, and Environment, and the United States.

Linguistics
At the Department of Linguistics research is centered in phonology, syntax, and semantics, as well as in language acquisition, computational linguistics, psycholinguistics, and neurolinguistics.

Music
Faculty and students at the Department of Music engage in research and creative work that includes performance at the Kennedy Center, masterclasses in local schools, international conferences, and community-centered workshops. This results in recordings, articles, books, and editions for everybody to enjoy.

Philosophy
The main research topics in this program include aesthetics, moral and political philosophy, the philosophy of language and linguistics, philosophical logic, the philosophy of mind and of cognitive science, and the philosophy of science.

Second Language Acquisition
Research in this program focuses on second language learning, second language instruction, second language assessment, and second language use. Faculty and students collaborate with affiliated departments such as Linguistics; Measurement, Statistics, and Evaluation; Hearing and Speech; Philosophy; Psychology; Sociology; and Curriculum and Instruction.

Spanish and Portuguese
Research topics at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese include medieval historiography and poetry, Hispanic philology and Hispanic applied linguistics, Iberian cultures and exile studies, eighteenth-century cultural and literary studies of Spain, nineteenth-century literary and cultural works of Spanish and Latin American literature, literary twentieth century Brazilian cultural productions, connections between Hispanism and Brazilianism, Mexican literature, modern transatlantic literatures and cultures, colonial Latin American studies,  contemporary Caribbean studies, gender cultural representations, Latin American politics, U.S. Latina/o studies, Central American, and U.S. Latina/o literatures and cultures.

Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies
Students and faculty and TDPS investigate how the performing arts can address social issues. As an example, recent research has investigated how to do live theater during a pandemic.

Women’s Studies
In Women’s Studies people work on topics such as social movements, transnational feminism, popular culture, labor, citizenship, sexuality and identity.