Featured Projects

It’s a Long Story: Victorian Short Fiction Project

Posted by on Nov 6, 2017 in Featured Projects, Homepage Features, Humanities Center Blog | 0 comments

It’s a Long Story: Victorian Short Fiction Project

This blog post features the work of Leslee Thorne-Murphy, Department of English This week, the Humanities Center is pleased to feature the work of Leslee Thorne-Murphy. Over the last decade, Dr. Thorne-Murphy’s work on Victorian short fiction has become an invaluable resource to scholars interested in Victorian literature and those interested more broadly in short fiction. The project is called the “Victorian Short Fiction Project,” and it has attracted the attention of scholars worldwide and has recently been accredited by NINES (Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship)–a major step for any nineteenth-century online project. This project began as a way to get students involved in academic research and give them exposure to campus library resources. The project began in 2004 as Dr. Thorne-Murphy asked her Victorian literature students to take advantage of the impressive collection of Victorian-era periodicals housed in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library and comb through them to find interesting pieces of short fiction to share with class members and to analyze in a research paper. Students would transcribe their findings and do a write-up that they would share with the class. Dr. Thorne-Murphy quickly realized that this project had a lot of potential, and rather than risking redundancy in the students’ projects, she began to have the students compile their findings in what became a website known as the Viki Wiki. This way, students’ work of the previous semesters would be available to students in the future and the collection would grow rather than recycle. One of the most interesting patterns, Dr. Thorne-Murphy says, is that on top of finding pieces by household names like Mary Shelley, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling and Charles Dickens, her students have uncovered a vast archive of anonymous pieces of short fiction. According to Dr. Thorne-Murphy, unaccredited pieces of short fiction have not yet been given adequate scholarly attention in Victorian scholarship. The work on the Viki Wiki is helping to bring this important archive of short fiction to light. Students have responded well to the project over the years. One student said: “Overall, this project was one of [the most], if not the most[,] influential educational activities I’ve taken part in as a student here at BYU. I was able to research lesser known material which contributed to the sense of accomplishment I felt. I had the sense that I was actually contributing to the discourse within literary studies and not simply churning out another banal paper or project and at the same time I also feel that the knowledge I gained from the project is valuable because it is not a topic that the whole of literary studies is familiar with, and I can therefore feel a sense of ownership for what I’ve done and feel pleased with the effort I put into it.” Collaboration around campus has been crucial as the project has picked up steam. Working closely with Maggie Kopp in Special Collections, Mike Johnson from the Center for Teaching and Learning, and Jeremy Browne in Digital Humanities, this project has taken on multiple lives–going from the HBLL’s periodicals to the classroom to the web. Students also continue to be an important part of the project. From the beginning, this was a classroom project, and there is still a lot of student-led energy behind the growing archive as Dr. Thorne-Murphy’s students have been able to be on the front lines of distinguished Victorian scholarship. Dr. Thorne-Murphy has a large vision for the project as it continues to mature. She says, “We envision compiling critical editions of those texts that were re-published, so that we can show authorial and editorial emendations.” The project, which began as a...

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Juan Rulfo’s Journey through Film

Posted by on Feb 6, 2017 in Featured Projects, Homepage Features, Humanities Center Blog | 0 comments

Juan Rulfo’s Journey through Film

This post features the work of Douglas Weatherford, Spanish and Portuguese Department This year (2017) Mexico celebrates the centennial of one of its most beloved and iconic authors, Juan Rulfo (1917-1986). Although best known for two groundbreaking pieces of narrative fiction (El Llano en llamas, 1953 and Pedro Páramo, 1955), Rulfo was also an avid photographer and film aficionado who participated in his nation’s film industry as a scriptwriter and reviewer, as an historical consultant, as a location scout, and as a one-time actor. Weatherford has spent the last decade helping to rewrite what is known about Rulfo’s creative legacy by exploring the author’s connection to the visual image, especially film.   Weatherford has written numerous articles on Rulfo and film and is in the process of publishing multiple book-length projects on the topic. Of particular interest is Weatherford’s translation of Rulfo’s second novel, El gallo de oro, a work that has suffered marginalization in Rulfo’s canon in large measure due to its misclassification as a film text (“texto para cine”). Appearing in May as The Golden Cockerel and Other Writings (Deep Vellum publishing), the novel will be accompanied by a selection of short works that Weatherford chose in association with the Fundación Juan Rulfo and members of the Rulfo family. Beyond his publication agenda, Weatherford has been proactive in finding other venues to promote Rulfo’s work in the visual arts. In 2006, for example, Weatherford was the faculty curator (working with two MA candidates supported by a MEG grant) of an exhibition of Rulfo’s photography, titled “Photographing Silence: Juan Rulfo’s Mexico,” that was displayed for five months at the BYU Museum of Art. Recently, Weatherford has been working with Juan Rulfo’s youngest son, Juan Carlos, who is completing a seven-part documentary of the author’s life and work that, in 2017, will run, among other places, on Mexican television. The award-winning cineaste asked Weatherford to consult as a content expert on the chapter dedicated to Rulfo and film. As part of that project, Weatherford interviewed on camera numerous filmmakers who have attempted adaptations of Rulfo’s fiction, was interviewed himself, and accompanied Juan Carlos and his crew to a few locations where Rulfo adaptations have been made. Although his research concentrates heavily on one individual, what Weatherford most enjoys about this line of investigation is its expansive and eclectic nature. To be sure, Rulfo’s appearance on the literary scene in the mid-twentieth century and his subsequent dabbling in filmic waters make him a fascinating intersection between visual and literary arts in Latin America and beyond. In one of his publications, by way of illustration, Weatherford shows that Rulfo wrote Pedro Páramo partially in homage to the movie Citizen Kane by Orson Welles. Just as Welles’s masterpiece served as a magnet to draw the attention of one of Mexico’s most important authors, Rulfo’s literary output seduced a number of talented individuals (including Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez) who hoped to work with the innovative novelist on film projects or to adapt his work to the silver...

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Collaborative Language Learning

Posted by on Oct 24, 2016 in Featured Projects, Homepage Features, Humanities Center Blog | 1 comment

Collaborative Language Learning

This post features the recent research of Dr. Greg Thompson, Spanish and Portuguese Department One of the challenges in learning a foreign language, especially in the first years, is communicating with native speakers of the target language. Given the limited contact that many foreign language students have with native speakers of that language, they are often ill-prepared when they need to communicate outside of the confines of the classroom. Greg Thompson and Rob Martinsen of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese have been working to help first and second year students engage in conversations with native speakers. In their research, they have been working to connect students in first and second year Spanish with native Spanish speakers via a variety of programs available on the Internet to improve language skills and cultural understanding as part of a traditional face-to-face language course. Through the incorporation of a mix of structured and unstructured interactions, Greg and Rob have been able to inspire students not only to learn the language and culture but actually get to know individuals from the cultures being studied through synchronous conversations about topics that they are studying in class. Students’ experiences and learning in these online interactions with native speakers have helped them make friends with and contact people from all over the Spanish-speaking world. Students’ reflections have supported the inclusion of this type of interaction in the language classroom. “Spanish seems more realistic now, instead of a made-up way to communicate badly.” “It made the experience more real. As I heard others struggling to speak my language, I realized what I sounded like as I spoke theirs, and it made me want to really know how to speak correctly.” The research from this project is currently being written up and will be published in the coming months with hopes of encouraging other language programs to bring language learners together....

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On the Write Track: The PhraseWorthy App

Posted by on Apr 4, 2016 in Featured Projects, Homepage Features | 0 comments

On the Write Track: The PhraseWorthy App

Writers in a variety of fields sometimes want to create wordplays and do it fast. This can be vital, for example, in preparing advertising, marketing slogans, company names, greeting cards, bumper stickers, and catchy newspaper headlines. Professor Dallin D. Oaks of the Linguistics and English Language department teamed up with Thad Gillespie and David Healey (a former student) to create a web app called PhraseWorthy, which brainstorms ideas for clever wordplays and then provides lists of phrases from which a user of the software can then select the most potentially useful ones for further refining and polishing. The software is based in part on research by Professor Oaks on structural ambiguity, but it also uses additional features to make the app especially creative and useful. In fact, the first part of the title for this report (“On the Write Track”) was generated in seconds by the PhraseWorthy app after typing in the word “write.” The PhraseWorthy brainstorming tool draws upon different language databases and accesses related words, rhymes, idiomatic expressions, homonyms, etc. It also has some formulas for manipulating selected words into phrases that can be catchy and clever. But it is still the creative writer’s responsibility to add the finishing touches to make the phrases really effective. BYU’s Advertising Lab has recently decided to use the PhraseWorthy software with the advertising students. Check into the PhraseWorthy app at...

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“Providing a World of Opportunities for Students”: Chantal Thompson’s Work with Dual Language Immersion Programs

Posted by on Feb 22, 2016 in Featured Projects, Homepage Features, Public Humanities, Public Schools | 0 comments

“Providing a World of Opportunities for Students”: Chantal Thompson’s Work with Dual Language Immersion Programs

Utah has become a model for dual language immersion programs around the country—and around the world. The state of Utah currently offers 38 immersion programs in Chinese, 19 in French, 2 in German, 6 in Portuguese, and 73 in Spanish, for a total of 138 schools participating in dual language immersion. And why are these programs so successful? One of the main reasons is that learning targets are defined in terms of proficiency in the language, and reading, listening, writing and speaking proficiency is assessed on a regular basis. As an ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) certified tester and trainer in proficiency assessment and proficiency-based instruction, Chantal Thompson has been working with the USOE (Utah State Office of Education) since the early days of the dual immersion programs, defining learning targets, designing curricula, training teachers, and conducting oral proficiency interviews with a representative sample of learners from each grade at the end of each school year. In addition to her work with the dual immersion program, Professor Thompson has been working for many years with school districts throughout the United States, conducting workshops to help world language teachers and administrators with proficiency-based curriculum design and instructional strategies. As a keynote speaker at state conferences from Oregon to Massachusetts, Professor Thompson has been promoting the cause of proficiency-based education in the foreign language classroom, with topics such as “Empowering Students to Communicate” or “Higher-Order Learning and Proficiency.” Click here for more information on Utah’s dual language immersion programs. See original photo...

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Cinematic Landscapes of the Anthropocene

Posted by on Jan 25, 2016 in Featured Projects, Homepage Features | 0 comments

Cinematic Landscapes of the Anthropocene

The Anthropocene is a term proposed by some geologists to redesignate the current geological epoch in which we live. The argument for this reclassification highlights the profound and lasting impact humans have had as a species on the planet from the beginning of agriculture to the “great acceleration” of industrial and private resource consumption from the mid-twentieth century to the present day. Activities such as the detonation of atomic weapons, industrial accidents, the emission of large amounts of greenhouse gases, and other forms of pollution have left a legible stratigraphic mark on the surface of the earth that will be detectable for eons to come. BYU Professor Christopher Oscarson’s research project does not weigh into the stratigraphers’ arguments about the minutiae of geological classifications; rather, it takes the idea of the Anthropocene as a metaphor for rethinking the human relationship to nature and considering the challenge of representing Homo sapiens as a geologic agent. Nature can no longer be defined as that which is untouched by humans. Everything is connected. Oscarson’s research project focuses on examples from recent Scandinavian films that in various ways reject the notion that nature is something intrinsically outside the human and grapple with the idea that nature and wilderness, in a sense, no longer exists. This awareness forces a new type of ecological imagination that can potentially dislodge entrenched, misanthropic views of the place and role of humanity on a rapidly changing planet, and invites a rethinking of key concepts of environmental stewardship and the very notion of ecology. Photo: The transportation of dead reindeer in Northern Sweden contaminated from the radioactive fallout following the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. A still from the movie Hotet (The Threat) by Stefan Jarl,...

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