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Voices from the Field

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:

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

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, Latin American Art Ph.D. candidate

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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." 

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.

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

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.

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.