Public Humanities

Adaptation: (Not) a 21st Century Phenomenon

Posted by on Mar 10, 2018 in Homepage Features, Humanities Center Blog, Public Humanities | 0 comments

Adaptation: (Not) a 21st Century Phenomenon

This week’s public humanities post features the experience of Dennis Cutchins, English, on BYUradio Movies are on the mind: many of you watched the Oscars 2018 last week. The award for Best Picture, The Shape of Water, was an adaptation of a book written by Andrea Camilleri in 1994. Adaptation studies is an important field in the Humanities College, and we have some distinguished staff that specialize in it. Our very own Dennis Cutchins was invited to speak on BYUradio with Julie Rose on book-to-film adaptations that came out in September 2017. Movie adaptations are as relevant today as they have always been, and they continue to capture audience’s attention in innovative ways. New technology has dazzled us for decades as it has been applied to a movie experience. CGI has taken the movie industry to new heights and made stories possible to tell on screen that had never been an option before. Anyone interested in adaptations, the cross sections between text and film (or text and text, film and film, text to play, play to text, etc.), should have the experience of sitting down and having a conversation with Dr. Cutchins. His passion for the subject brings even more vitality to an already fascinating and relevant topic. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but one of the greatest adaptation achievements of the last decade has been bringing comic book characters to the big screen. The Avengers, Justice League, and X-men are all examples of a new generation of film and story-telling where the limits of computer technology have been stretched in order to tell a superhero’s story in ever more visually exciting ways. Car chases, crashing planes, flying around Manhattan, things that fifty years ago needed to be rendered (with the exception of perhaps a single image or two) in the imagination in a comic book are brought to life through increasingly complicated computer graphics and film technologies. Dr. Cutchins sat down with me and told me how although film adaptation has become much more prevalent in public consciousness in the last 10-20 years, it is nothing new. Adaptation has been around since the Greeks. We adapted myths into a play; we adapted plays of plays. In fact, adaptation has been around since recognizable literature. It has become dominant feature in literature and film and stage productions., we are saturated in them. It is cool because there are so many and they are so prevalent. We are telling something important about contemporary culture and our interest in remakes and reboots. For example, let’s talk superheroes. Marvel has made an empire out of adapting comic characters. New movie every year with stunning regularity. In addition to the (at least) annual movie, they have two different TV shows on Netflix. Marvel is becoming a media powerhouse. Dr. Cutchins said when he was a kid, Marvel was a comic book company. They wrote books for 11–14-year-old boys. Now, in the last 20 years, we have seen them become HUGE! Rivaling (and now owned by) Disney and Lucas Films, Marvel is one of the biggest media concerns on the planet, all based on adapting the narratives and characters and genres. These adaptations are sometimes more direct, sometimes less so, but there seems to be an infinite amount of energy and funding going into creating new characters and scenarios and politics. What is the future of adaptation studies? According to Dr. Cutchins, the future is in the video game industry. He says, “Video games are the next big thing. There is about to be a boom in video game scholarship.” It...

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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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Urban Narratives and the Provo City Planning Commission

Posted by on Sep 28, 2015 in Community Collaborations, Homepage Features, Public Humanities | 0 comments

Urban Narratives and the Provo City Planning Commission

In 2013, Dr. Jamin Rowan of the BYU English Department attended a neighborhood meeting to discuss the proposed routes for the new Bus Rapid Transit line that will soon connect the Provo and Orem Frontrunner stations. Although he had never imagined that he would be involved in city politics, participating in this meeting helped him recognize that his interest in urban literature and culture had put him in a position to contribute to his community’s conversation about planning issues. Shortly after that neighborhood meeting, he began a three-year term as a member of the Provo City Planning Commission. His research on how urban narratives shape the city’s built environment and social landscape has enabled him to approach the development proposals, zone-change requests, and other issues that come before the planning commission in a unique way. Additionally, his exposure to the particular urban narratives embedded in zoning codes and city ordinances has refined his understanding of the social values and cultural desires that shape those narratives. Being on the city planning commission has not only strengthened his writing, but has also informed the courses he teaches. He loves taking students on walking tours of Provo neighborhoods to help them see how the study of twentieth-century U.S. literature can help them make sense of the landscape they currently...

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Public Humanities

Posted by on Mar 19, 2015 in Humanities Center Blog, Public Humanities | 1 comment

Public Humanities

The Humanities Center’s Public Humanities page is an attempt to document the vast public efforts made by BYU faculty in the Humanities College. Included in the page is an impressive list of affiliated faculty–that is, faculty with some kind of public humanities presence over the past five years. Some of this work has been enabled by the Humanities Center, but much of it is simply the documentation of work people in the college are already doing. We will also regularly feature outreach efforts in the following areas: lectures, media, public schools, and community collaborations....

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Quotidiana.org

Posted by on Feb 20, 2015 in Featured Outreach, Media | 0 comments

Quotidiana.org

Among his many teaching goals when he arrived at BYU in 2004, Professor Patrick Madden wanted to expose creative writing students to far more classical essays than they were used to (often they were used to zero), and he wanted to avoid costly, unwieldy coursepacks. His solution was an online anthology of public-domain essays (originally published before 1923) that covered the canonical authors (Montaigne, Lamb, Hazlitt, etc.) as well as lots of essayists who were nearly forgotten. With support from the English department and research assistant Joey Franklin, he adapted blogging software to provide an orderly container for hundreds of essays, including work by many women and a few minorities. In honor of the way so many essayists work from common, even mundane experiences and objects but write resplendently toward transcendence, he called his website Quotidiana.org, to suggest a collection of such oxymoronically ordinary/extraordinary writings. The site has grown, too, to include interviews with dozens of living essayists who’ve either visited BYU or have spoken with Madden’s students over the phone, as well as irregular lists of excellent contemporary essayists selected from literary journals by students and honored as the “Essayest American Essays” of the year.  The resource serves not only BYU but people all around the world, with hundreds of teachers and thousands of students (as well as general readers) accessing the site each month. Its popularity fosters Dr. Madden’s belief that the essay genre is not simply a quaint, stuffy relic or an assignment students perform to show their knowledge of other topics, but it’s a vibrant and still-vital literary form in its own right, one that gives great aesthetic and intellectual pleasure as it allows readers insight not only into other times and places but other minds, which can’t help but increase our empathy and...

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Utah Literacy Project

Posted by on Feb 20, 2015 in Community Collaborations, Featured Outreach | 0 comments

Utah Literacy Project

The Utah Literacy Project is a door-to-door survey initiated by Wendy Baker Smemoe, assistant professor of English language and linguistics, with Brad Wilcox in the BYU McKay School of Education and Russell Warne, assistant professor of psychology at Utah Valley University. The survey includes questions about the ability to read prose, numbers, documents, and information on computers. The main goals of the project are 1. To determine the number of illiterate adults in Utah County 2. To better understand who in Utah County is illiterate 3. To determine what factors contribute to their not seeking help 4. To determine what health effects may be related to illiteracy Smemoe has served for a decade as a volunteer and board member of Project Read, a non-profit organization that helps with adult literacy. The survey organizers hope their research will help Project Read and other non-profits reach out to adults who can benefit from literacy programs and help adults with literacy needs to seek out the several free programs in Utah County. For the students who have conducted over 100 surveys in Orem and Provo neighborhoods, it’s been a great opportunity to interact with community members and to learn about what literacy is and how to set up and carry out a study.  Judy Ma, a graduate student, observes that “the most surprising thing for me is that some people didn’t want to take the survey because they thought their literacy was pretty high.” Another student, Bradley Elders, who has conducted many interviews explains that people “gladly participate when they learn that they will help those who need extra assistance.” He is “eager to see the results, knowing how much potential this project...

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