Paula Eckard regularly teaches a course called Literature of the American South. In her response to me, she explains how she includes the sciences in this course: “When I teach the novel The Evening Hour by Carter Sickels, I use various aspects of science and technology to examine the novel, including coal mining technologies, environmental destruction of mountains, and heavy metal contamination of groundwater and waterways. We also discuss health implications related to these environmental issues, as well the health and social science aspects of opioid addiction, illness, and aging in Appalachia. When I teach works by Thomas Wolfe, including The Lost Boy and Look Homeward, Angel, we discuss issues related to infectious disease in the early 20th century, including typhoid fever, tuberculosis, and influenza. As a registered nurse, I had many courses in the sciences, so bringing those topics to bear on literary discussions seems a relevant thing to do.”
Jen Munroe has researched the roles that women have played in the history of science. In her response to me, she discusses how this research interest relates to her teaching: “Last spring I taught an upper-division course titled Gender, Science, and Nature. I asked the students to consider how the development of scientific discourse in the seventeenth century in England (the origins of our modern scientific methodology) cast the nonhuman world (plants and nonhuman animals) as objects of inquiry divorced from the human world and how notions of male, elite ‘objective,’ scientific knowledge was posed as in opposition to amateur experimentation and knowledge of non-male, non-elite groups and resulted in the further marginalization of women, racial and ethnic minorities, and the poor. In our course, that is, we considered how studying the ways that gender, science, and nature (and their interconnections) came to mean in a certain way three hundred years ago has informed tensions between Humanities and STEM today.”
Alan Rauch has a graduate degree in biology, and he frequently draws on his background in the sciences in his scholarship. In his response to me, he explains how he incorporates science and technology in many of the courses that he teaches: “Book History, which I frequently teach, is always and inevitably about science and technology, to say nothing of literacy and the rise of ‘knowledge’ (often scientific) as a commodity. The Graphic Novel, relying as it does on visual representation is enabled and driven by technologies of print and the cognitive awareness of how readers process image and text together. Finally, Animals, Culture, & Society addresses the very essence of our scientific selves, and the cultural identities that we manufacture out of our organismal selves, and the animals around us. My interest in animals, culture, and society stems, of course, from the many years I spent studying zoology, but also draws on a lifelong commitment to scientific knowledge. That commitment was predicated on a model that rejects the idea of overlapping circles in a Venn diagram, in favor of a synthetic matrix in which the terms science and culture are merely different terms that describe the same idea. Cultural studies of animals, which looks at behavioral, ecological, physiological, and anatomical variations of living beings, underscores the idea of a synthetic matrix because we can never get ourselves out from under our own interpretations of ourselves as scientific and cultural creatures.”
Matthew Rowney has an expertise in the relationship between literature and the environment especially as it relates to the Romantic period in British literature. In his response to me, he writes about the various ways he draws on this expertise in his teaching: “In my Romanticism and Ecology course, I ask students to consider the first published account of the life of a black woman, Mary Prince, which details ten years working in the salt ponds on Turks Island, then part of the British colony of The Bahamas. We consider the importance of this substance in part through an understanding of its scientific qualities, including its geological formation and contribution to the tectonics that shape the earth’s surface, its chemical qualities, which enable its use as a preservative throughout much of human history, and its physiological effects, particularly in terms of the epidemiology of hypertension among members of the African diaspora. My experience has been that when students consider cultural and scientific representations side by side rather than in isolation, they gain unique insight into how we might face contemporary global challenges.”
Ralf Thiede is interested in the relationship between language acquisition and the science of brain development. In his response to me, he comments on how this interest relates to some of the linguistics courses that he teaches: “Since 1990, I have been teaching a course called The Mind and Language that explores how brain architecture and language shape each other (within and across brains). This semester, I am teaching (for the fifth time) a course in the linguistics of children’s literature, this time with an emphasis on what children’s books uniquely contribute to neural development that is not already present in child-directed speech. And in the Fall of 2019, I am going to teach an honors course that explains linguistic inequality in evolutionary terms.”
Greg Wickliff has conducted extensive research on the connections between the history of science and the development of technical communication. In his response to me, he explains how this research interest informs his teaching: “I integrate science into several of my English courses that examine how formal arguments are constructed through technology, writing, and illustration. For example, in my course titled Visual Rhetoric, students are introduced to material from Lorraine Datson (a historian of science) and Peter Galison (a physicist) about the history of the concept of Objectivity, then they read and discuss material from Colin Ware (a data visualization expert and oceanographer) in Visual Thinking for Design, about the physiology and perceptual psychology of vision. Students also explore the treatment of Photography and Science by Kelley Wilder (a historian of photography) and go on to study selections from a book by the historian of science Klaus Hentschel: Visual Cultures in Science and Technology: A Comparative History. By the end of the course, questions of computer modeling and measurement come to the fore in selections from the computer scientists Julie Steele and Noah Illinsky’s Beautiful Visualization: Looking at Data Through the Eyes of Experts.”
As these six examples illustrate, our English Department has many connections to the STEM disciplines, and these connections are often reflected in the courses that we offer. At least in terms of our English Department, there really isn’t a conflict between the humanities and the STEM disciplines. For our department, this much ballyhooed conflict is just a false dichotomy.
Kudos — As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of the English Department. Here is the latest news:
Bryn Chancellor last week was a Visiting Writer for Converse College’s low-residency MFA program in Spartanburg, SC. She gave a craft lecture titled “Later, and Later Still: Exploring the ‘Nth’ Perspective and the Retrospective ‘I’,” and a fiction reading from Sycamore.
Katie Hogan recently delivered the following two papers at the Modern Language Association Conference in Chicago: “Narrating Queer Disaster” and “Compounded Exploitation: Race, Gender, and Contingency.
Jen Munroe recently published a co-authored article titled “Becoming Visible: Recipes in the Making” in Early Modern Women Journal, 13(1) 2018: 132-142. She was also a respondent for the “Marlowe and Ecology” roundtable at the Modern Language Association Conference in Chicago.
Upcoming Events and Meetings — Here is a list of upcoming events and deadlines:
January 9 — First day of classes for the Spring 2019 semester.
January 16 — Last day for students to add or drop a course with no grade.
January 29 — The Personally Speaking presentation featuring Janaka Bowman Lewis will take place on Tuesday, January 29, 2019, at UNC Charlotte Center City. Janaka’s presentation on her book Freedom Narratives of African American Women will begin at 6:30 p.m. A book signing and reception will follow her presentation. For more information and to RSVP, please click on the following link: https://exchange.uncc.edu/how-early-womens-writings-led-to-civil-rights-discourse/
February 7 — Grace Ocasio will participate in a poetry reading at the Waccamaw Library on Pawleys Island, SC, from 3:00 to 4:00.
Quirky Quiz Question — This Monday Missive spotlights six faculty members who incorporate science in their English courses, but these faculty members are by no means the only English faculty members who draw on the sciences in their teaching. For example, another faculty member is teaching a course this semester on the “Rhetoric of Science.” What is the name of the professor who is teaching this course?
Last week’s answer: Apple Records