Literary Studies News

  • Literature Student Starts Campaign To Spur Deeper Dialogue About Race
  • Nifa Kaniga

    UT Dallas literature junior Nifa Kaniga wants to create deeper and more authentic conversations about race with his street campaign. “There’s a lot of misinformation on social media. People hide behind their screens and post nasty comments about Black Lives Matter. And the other side responds with, ‘That’s racist,’ or ‘That’s ignorant. Shame on you!’ People are a lot more behaved when you can talk to them in person,” he said.

    A literature junior at The University of Texas at Dallas who was frustrated by the toxic rhetoric on social media launched a campaign this summer to engage people in face-to-face conversations about race.

    Nifa Kaniga, who is Black, has taken to the streets three days a week from noon to sunset in his mostly white and conservative community of Dripping Springs, Texas, wearing a sign that reads “Ask Me Anything” and “Why are people angry and rioting?”

    The response has been “very, very positive,” said the 20-year-old.

    “I’m trying to give people an opportunity to learn rather than stay in the echo chamber that supports only what they believe,” Kaniga said. “There’s a lot of misinformation on social media. People hide behind their screens and post nasty comments about Black Lives Matter. And the other side responds with, ‘That’s racist,’ or ‘That’s ignorant. Shame on you!’ People are a lot more behaved when you can talk to them in person.”

    His decision to start the campaign was prompted by the death of George Floyd and reaction to mass protests across the country. Kaniga wanted to make a difference by engaging people in more authentic and deeper conversation.

    “George Floyd was the straw that broke the camel’s back for everybody. I just want to do my part,” he said.

    Kaniga’s approach has garnered national media attention, as local television reports have been carried by CNN. He shrugs off the extra attention.

    “It’s been pretty interesting. I’ve seen a very rapid increase in followers on social media — I have up to 30,000 on Instagram now. But I’m still me at the end of the day,” Kaniga said.

    What’s more gratifying is the response from people he meets on the street.

    “People of different political ideologies and races are coming over and having a discussion with me, and I’m hearing them out. Most people are more confused and scared than angry, and this type of conversation pops that bubble they’re living in,” Kaniga said.

    No questions are off limits for Kaniga. The Black Lives Matter movement, in particular, has raised questions from those in his community. To encourage conversation, his sign includes starter questions like “Why are people angry and rioting?” and “Why is everything about race?”

    “It’s a platform to raise awareness of police brutality,” Kaniga explains to neighbors and passersby. “You can’t chastise anyone. It only makes them more ignorant. But after we talk, a lot will end up saying, ‘I never thought of it that way.’”

    Dr. Jessica Murphy, dean of undergraduate education, said Kaniga reflects the values and goals that UT Dallas tries to instill in its students.

    “This is an exemplary UT Dallas student: one who takes initiative, thinks deeply and positively engages his community in critical issues,” said Murphy, who also is a professor of literary studies in the School of Arts and Humanities and the Mary McDermott Cook Chair for Undergraduate Education.

    Kaniga hopes to become a high school literature teacher so he can encourage young people to close their screens and take up the “lost art” of reading.

    “We’ve forgotten how to do that. Literature is a reflection of the world we live in. It helps us explore the human experience. Screens have replaced a lot of it because social media is easy to digest, and it’s a passive experience. You have to think harder when you’re reading a book,” Kaniga said.

    Until he returns to campus in the fall, Kaniga finds it worthwhile to invest his time in helping people talk about racial and political issues.

    “I just want people to have these uncomfortable conversations. If we don’t talk about it, we won’t have empathy for one another, and we won’t move forward together,” Kaniga said.

    This article originally appeared in the UTD News Center.

  • University Honors Educators with President’s Awards for Teaching Excellence
  • Karen Baynham and Dr. Pamela Gossin

    Karen Baynham and Dr. Pamela Gossin

    Five instructors from The University of Texas at Dallas recently were honored with the annual President’s Teaching Excellence Awards for their positive impact on student learning and innovation in the classroom.

    UT Dallas President Richard C. Benson recognized the recipients virtually in May for their outstanding efforts. The Center for Teaching and Learning plans to host a future event to celebrate the faculty members’ achievements.

    “Teaching is at the core of our University. In fact, many of our bright students choose to attend UT Dallas because of the esteemed reputation of our faculty. Now perhaps more than ever, it’s important to recognize our instructors. We are so proud of their dedicated work and their willingness to help prepare students for rewarding lives and productive careers,” said Benson, the Eugene McDermott Distinguished University Chair of Leadership.

    The President’s Teaching Excellence Awards committee receives hundreds of nominations every year and considers a broad spectrum of eligible candidates throughout the University. The award comes with a stipend, and recipients are presented with medallions.

    This year’s honorees represent the School of Arts and Humanities; the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication; the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences; and the Naveen Jindal School of Management.

    President’s Teaching Excellence Award in Undergraduate Instruction (tenure-track)


    Dr. Pamela Gossin

    Dr. Pamela Gossin

    Dr. Pamela Gossin, professor of history of science and literary studies, director of Medical and Scientific Humanities

    School of Arts and Humanities

    What is the most rewarding part of the teaching experience?

    “All of my courses explore ‘big cosmic questions’ through interdisciplinary approaches that combine the methods and values of literature, history, philosophy, science, medicine and the arts. In class, we share and help each other build creative perspectives, self-awareness and mutual understanding — inner and outer worldviews and global philosophies of life — across disciplines, cultures and generations. I value opportunities to help students learn to trust (and even enjoy) the inherently dynamic (and sometimes uncomfortable and discombobulating) process of learning by unlearning and relearning, by constantly and courageously seeking out chances to refresh and revise their previous knowledge base, provisional hypotheses and learning styles. By helping each other quickly and ably adapt to new information, unexpected complexities and consequences, we can hopefully develop the kind of cognitive agility and emotional resilience that will enable us all to more compassionately and inclusively problem-solve whatever challenges we might face.”

    What is one of your favorite memories from teaching at UT Dallas?

    “Recently, one occurred during the final in-class mini-lesson plan given by a UTeach Dallas student in my Perspectives on Science class. A military veteran returning to complete his education and begin a new career as a STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] teacher, this student demonstrated the power of empathetic storytelling by teaching a classroom full of other future teachers about the ‘hidden figure’ of a high-level research scientist he’d discovered who worked through personal struggles and mental-health challenges to model unconventional pathways to success in life and academics. He then shared his own trauma-related challenges and how he’s been creating his own path to success by learning from others’ stories. One by one, all of the other students paused, looked up from their note-taking and fully engaged and listened to his story and then burst into spontaneous applause and support. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.”

    What was the best part of the online teaching experience during the final weeks of the spring semester?

    “This semester, my co-instructor, Dr. Marc Hairston [research scientist in the William B. Hanson Center for Space Sciences] and I faced the unusual challenge of having to convert our highly visual and experiential Literature of Science Fiction – Animated Nature course to an online format. The main themes of this class offered an exploration of humanity’s relationship with the natural world through both traditional and innovative visual storytelling techniques of Japanese anime and manga, with a shoutout to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. But, how do you translate the impact and affective power of an aesthetically beautiful and emotionally dramatic big-screen, film-watching experience shared with 130 other highly enthusiastic fan-students into meaningful, small-screen, personal-device viewing moments? Our solution was to ‘gameify’ the original syllabus and rewrite it into a ‘post-viral’ science-fiction-fantasy journey in which students were given the choice of following one of two science-fiction adventure pathways. To bring us all together in the end, we invited students to share stories, photos and artwork inspired by their journeys through animated nature on an end-of-class online Earth Day gallery. Yes, the overall feel of this class ‘room’ was more virtual than we originally envisioned, but the final exhibit was full of truly inspirational sharing, surprise, hope and creative joy. Together — alone — we all survived the ‘viral’ path!”

    President’s Teaching Excellence Award in Online/Blended Instruction


    Karen Baynham

    Karen Baynham

    Karen Baynham, senior lecturer of communication and basic course director

    School of Arts and Humanities

    What is the most rewarding part of the teaching experience?

    “The courses I teach, COMM 1311 and COMM 1315, are communication classes. The most rewarding part is when I get to witness students’ transformations over the course of the semester from timid, inexperienced speakers suffering from high speech anxiety into confident, skilled presenters. Public speaking is such a strong, marketable skill.”

    What is one of your favorite memories from teaching at UT Dallas?

    “When a former student emailed me an update on his internship search, he informed me he was seeing the requirements ‘strong written and oral communication skills’ on literally every posting. Each semester I show students how to represent COMM 1311 and COMM 1315 skills on their resumes. This student used the communication tips he learned in class and got the internship. Success!”

    What was the best part of the online teaching experience during the final weeks of the spring semester?

    “I was expecting students to be stressed, overwhelmed and distracted. On the contrary, many took the time to thank me for all the work and preparation that went into keeping the communication going while they were struggling to adapt to a remote situation. They still felt connected in my class.”

    Read the entire article in the UTD News Center.

  • Jessica Murphy Named to UT System Academy of Distinguished Teachers
  • Dr. Jessica Murphy

    Dr. Jessica Murphy

    Dr. Jessica Murphy, dean of undergraduate education and professor of literary studies at The University of Texas at Dallas, has been inducted as one of four new fellows of the UT System Academy of Distinguished Teachers, which recognizes outstanding educators throughout its academic institutions.

    “It’s very exciting,” Murphy said. “These are fabulous teachers who care a lot about their students and about improving how the student experience works, all across the UT System.”

    The academy was created in 2012 and serves as an advocacy group to foster classroom innovation, promote interdisciplinary educational perspectives and catalyze the sharing of best practices.

    Fellows are selected through a campus-based nomination process. Nominees must have received a Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award.

    Murphy, who also is a professor of literature in the School of Arts and Humanities and the Mary McDermott Cook Chair for Undergraduate Education, said that joining the academy allows her to participate actively in improving the educational experience for students.

    “I am not really a fan of things where you just show up and you aren’t able to make a difference. I like to think about the ripple effects of pretty much every interaction that we have,” Murphy said.

    The academy is known for its publication of The Little Orange Book, which features teaching tips and reflections on classroom learning. The group recently released a new book, The Little Orange Book II: Student Voices on Excellent Teaching, which features UT System students’ perspectives on what makes a teacher great.

    Other academy projects include teaching conferences on each of the academic campuses and a blog that includes teaching ideas and information.

    Dr. Inga Musselman, vice president for academic affairs and provost, said Murphy is a passionate advocate for teaching and learning. She noted that Murphy’s work on developing the Quality Enhancement Plan for UT Dallas’ reaffirmation of accreditation was influential in her induction into the academy.

    “Jessica cares deeply about students and about teaching. I have no doubt that we will see reflections of her creativity and knowledge in projects undertaken by the academy and in teaching strategies throughout the System,” said Musselman, who is also the Cecil H. Green Distinguished Chair of Academic Leadership.

    Three other UT Dallas faculty members serve as fellows: Dr. John Sibert, associate professor of chemistry in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Dr. Karen Huxtable-Jester, a senior lecturer in psychology in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences; and Dr. Alex Piquero, Ashbel Smith Professor of criminology in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.

    This article originally appeared in the UTD News Center

  • Class of 2019: Lifeguard, Lover of Literature Is a Thinker at Heart
  • Francis Patience

    Francis Patience

    Francis Patience is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in literature, with minors in philosophy and political science from the School of Arts and Humanities. For most of his time at UT Dallas, he has worked in University Recreation as a lifeguard; he also played intramural soccer. But even with his love of sports, Patience considers himself a thinker. He enjoys philosophy and appreciates thoughtful discussions. He was born in Norway to a Chinese mother and a British father, but after being raised in Houston, he considers that city to be his home. Patience does not yet have a definite postgraduation plan, although he foresees enrolling in graduate school and working in a field that involves research.

    What will you miss most about UTD?

    First and foremost, the friends that I have made here. Seeing as I don’t live here and not many of my friends live here either, I’m going to miss this family that I’ve created and that I rely on almost every day. Second, I’m going to miss school; I’m going to miss learning. I have enjoyed having structure that’s both flexible and rigid. I can go to class, but I still have time for myself.

    Would you rather have to retake a final exam or be Temoc for a day?

    Considering the looks that Temoc gets on campus, I don’t know if I’d want to be Temoc. People see him with a mixture of fear and joy. It’s like, “There’s Temoc, but I hope he doesn’t come over here.” But, I’d probably be Temoc just to make people feel uncomfortable for the day. I’d just be kind of weird and goofy.

    What is a fun fact about you?

    My viewpoint on the world: That the whole world is based on responsibility and relieving oneself of responsibility. People don’t want to be responsible for their own lives and living those lives because that scares people. Once people have to take responsibility, for example, for having to make decisions, those decisions will be long-lasting and consequential. That’s why people turn to the things that they do to avoid that responsibility.

    What are the best ways to survive a Monday?

    1. Don’t wake up too late.
    2. Have a cup of black coffee.

    What’s the most Instagrammable spot on campus?

    Looking down the mall over the fountains. Or the Plinth — I haven’t seen many places like the Plinth. Then, maybe, TI Plaza.

    What’s the first thing you’ll do to celebrate your graduation?

    I’ll go to Uchi (Japanese restaurant in Dallas).

    What accomplishment/project are you most proud of from your time at UTD?

    I feel I have equipped myself here with skills for life. I feel like I fundamentally understand my place in the world and my place in relation to other people. I understand that the world is largely constructed of narratives, and if you come to understand those narratives and your place within them, then a lot of uncertainty and fear about life kind of fades away. Because with understanding comes comfort. That is what I feel most proud about — that I can now feel very comfortable in the skin that I wear.

    UT Dallas alumni make their mark wherever they go. How will you make yours?

    A lot of students see their degrees as very transactional. I come here; I give you money; you give me a degree, and then I leave. But I don’t think you can reduce it down to that because the University gives you a lot of things that you take for granted, such as giving you a safe space to just be you and make friends and be happy. Ultimately, I will make my mark by sharing what I’ve learned here with other people and working to make sure that attitudes toward the world are not antagonistic. It’s about fostering relationships, community and feelings of acceptance and understanding. Because a lot of that is just missing today.

    This article originally appeared in the UT Dallas News Center

  • Arts and Humanities Adds Interim Dean, New Experts in History, Writing
  • Dr. Nils Roemer

    Dr. Nils Roemer

    The School of Arts and Humanities at The University of Texas at Dallas has three new tenured and tenure-track faculty members who bring a wide range of expertise — in gender, race and law enforcement studies, poetry and creative writing, and art history.

    “I am excited about our new hires, who already are very accomplished. They bring fresh perspectives in their respective fields and already have expressed an interest in collaborating across disciplines,” said Dr. Nils Roemer, interim dean of the School of Arts and Humanities and the Stan and Barbara Rabin Professor in Holocaust Studies.

    Roemer assumed the interim dean role Sept. 1 and continues his position as director of the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies.

    Earlier this year, Dr. Michael Thomas was named director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History and teaches classes in art history. The institute, created in 2014 with a generous endowment from arts patron Edith O’Donnell, is the first art history research institute founded in the digital age. Thomas also holds the Edith O’Donnell Distinguished University Chair and serves as a professor of arts and humanities while directing the school’s art history graduate studies program.

    Dr. Anne Gray Fischer’s research focuses on the ways that women in history have been policed by law enforcement officers — why some are targeted and others are not. She uses the information to examine how and why police power expanded in America in the 20th century. Fischer received her master’s and doctoral degrees from Brown University.

    Roemer said Fischer is a true believer in the importance of historical research and thinking.

    “Her research and teaching offer a much-needed historical perspective on political issues of our societies,” he said.

    Dr. Nomi Stone, an anthropologist, poet and scholar, is writing a collection of poems about science and scientists. Her most recent collection of poems, “Kill Class,” is based on her anthropological fieldwork on American militarism and the 2003 Iraq War. Stone received a PhD in cultural anthropology from Columbia University, a Master of Philosophy in Middle East studies from the University of Oxford and a Master of Fine Arts in poetry from Warren Wilson College.

    “Students will be excited to travel with her to the boundaries of anthropological fieldwork and poetic creativity,” Roemer said.

    In addition to the O’Donnell Institute and the Ackerman Center, the school is home to a number of centers for research and scholarly study, including the newly established Center for Asian Studies. The school offers degree programs in visual and performing arts, art history, historical studies, history, history of ideas, humanities, Latin American studies, literature and philosophy.

    New Tenure-Track Faculty

    Dr. Anne Gray Fischer

    Dr. Anne Gray Fischer

    Dr. Anne Gray Fischer, assistant professor of history

    Previously: visiting assistant professor at Indiana University Bloomington

    Research Interests: gender, race and law enforcement, specifically policing in U.S. cities during the 20th century

    Quote: “I’m very excited about the STEM-forward profile of the students at UT Dallas because one of my favorite things to do is to expose history to students who otherwise might not have encountered a lot of these stories. I hope that students, regardless of their future career paths, will feel the lasting benefit and reward of engaging in historical thinking. I’m also very excited to discover collaborative possibilities with faculty across campus. I look forward to seeing what happens when faculty members get together, create an inspired spark and develop new insights.”




    Dr. Nomi Stone

    Dr. Nomi Stone

    Dr. Nomi Stone, assistant professor of creative writing and literature

    Previously: postdoctoral research assistant at Princeton University

    Research Interests: poetry and poetics; anthropoetics; empire and militarism; phenomenology and affect; science studies

    Quote: “I love the hybridity and cross-pollination at UT Dallas. I’m an anthropologist and a poet — a scholar who also writes creatively — so this is just the exact right fit for me. Braiding these things together is my passion. I haven’t seen a place that does collaboration as well as this place. I see a real investment in bringing seemingly disparate things together.”


    This article originally appeared in the UT Dallas News Center

  • Patterson Appointed to Texas Holocaust Group
  • Dr. David Patterson

    Dr. David Patterson

    Dr. David Patterson, professor of literature and history and Hillel A. Feinberg Chair in Holocaust Studies, has been appointed to the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission.

    The commission was established 10 years ago to ensure that resources about the Holocaust and other genocides are available to students, educators and the public.

    “The sense of urgency about awareness of what happened in the Holocaust and why it matters is growing,” Patterson said. “It’s in the interest of citizens and the culture to examine the ethical question of what makes another human being matter. That’s something we are prone to forget or ignore.”

    The Texas Legislature created the commission in 2009. Since then, its staff and volunteers have worked on projects to meet the commission’s mission, including educating hundreds of Texas teachers through regional live workshops, developing an online digital library for educators, and recording the audio and visual oral histories of 19 Texans who helped liberate concentration camps.

    Patterson, who previously served on the Tennessee State Holocaust Commission, is filling an incomplete term on the Texas commission, which ends in February 2021.

    Read the original news article on the UTD News Center

  • McDermott Scholar Will Further Her Arabic Studies as Boren Scholar
  • Elizabeth Helfrich

    Elizabeth Helfrich

    Elizabeth “Tess” Helfrich, a biology and historical studies junior at The University of Texas at Dallas, hopes a distinguished scholarship will provide the next step in her journey toward practicing emergency medicine overseas.

    Helfrich is the first Eugene McDermott Scholar to receive a Boren Scholarship from the National Security Education Program. She will spend the next year studying modern standard Arabic as well as the local Ammiya dialect at the Qasid Arabic Institute in Amman, Jordan.

    The Boren Scholarship provides up to $20,000 for study in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests, including Africa, Asia, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia and the Middle East.

    Helfrich is the University’s fourth Boren award winner. Aysha Khan received a Boren Fellowship for graduate students in 2017, as did Brian Couzelis in 2013. Hyunjoo “Eunice” Ko received a Boren Scholarship for undergraduates in 2014. Boren recipients are typically students interested in international studies and politics, but Helfrich sees the medical field as another path toward improving global relations.

    “In my travels, I’ve seen the impact and honor that comes with being an American citizen more than ever before, but we obviously have some perception problems. Health care is a good way to change that, and UTD has let me find that path,” she said.

    Helfrich already has a head start on reaching her goals. Her interest in Arabic language and culture was stirred when she attended a Michigan international high school, where about 45% of the population was composed of Arab Americans, many of whom were Muslim. She also studied basic Arabic for a semester at UT Dallas.

    Additionally, Helfrich has medical experience as an emergency medical technician working with the University Emergency Medical Response team at UT Dallas.

    “Everything’s different every day. You never know what you’re going to walk in on, and you have to make split-second decisions,” she said. “The EMT squad is so passionate and smart, and it’s so cool to see the care they place in their work.”

    And she has experience living overseas. She spent last summer in Sierra Leone, shadowing physicians who were working on clinical trials of an Ebola vaccine in a pediatric ward. That’s where she saw a clash between Western medical training and cultural values.

    “Some cultures see the blood as finite, so our standard practice of withdrawing blood is seen as taking their life force,” Helfrich said.

    She hopes living in Jordan will give her further insight into cultural differences. She will supplement her Arabic studies by maintaining her UT Dallas coursework through independent study classes on topics such as women in the Middle East and public history. She also will have an internship that focuses on refugee health care.

    “With her engagement with global affairs and emergency medical response, Tess is helping to expand the different meanings of national security that the Boren Scholarship seeks to promote,” said Dr. Douglas Dow, associate dean of the Hobson Wildenthal Honors College and clinical professor of political science. “Tess has an adventurous and cosmopolitan spirit in addition to her strong set of diverse academic interests. I’m very happy she will be representing UTD in Jordan next year.”

    This story originally appeared in the UTD News Center.

  • Professors Open Up About Their Favorite Books
  • A happy World Book Day to bibliophiles everywhere!

    As a tip of the hat to the celebration, UTD Magazine asked a handful of faculty members to share influential books in their lives.

    Dr. Kenneth Brewer

    School of Arts and Humanities

    By George Eliot

    “I first read Eliot’s massive Victorian novel as an undergraduate, and I’ve read it many times since then. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found myself interested in different characters than the ones I found fascinating the first times I read it. Initially unsympathetic characters have become sympathetic and interesting; it’s almost like reading a different book than the one I read as a young person. Eliot’s novel takes in a panorama of Victorian society, and focuses on so many issues that are relevant to our lives today. I hope to read it many more times because I always have a new experience whenever I read it again.”

    Read the full article on UTD Magazine.

  • Defining Moment: Center for Translation Studies Marks 40th Anniversary
  • Dr. Rainer Schulte

    Dr. Rainer Schulte

    The UT Dallas Center for Translation Studies, one of the oldest academic centers for literary translation in the U.S., recently marked its 40th anniversary.

    The center was created in 1978 by Dr. Rainer Schulte, professor of arts and humanities and the Katherine R. Cecil Professor in Foreign Languages, with the purpose of fostering and promoting the study and practice of literary translation. It was officially named in 1980.

    “Translation is a model of communication across barriers. And once you think of it that way, everything changes,” said Dr. Dennis Kratz, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities and the Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professor.

    Kratz, who previously served as co-director of the center, said translation brings in everything about a culture and a writer to re-create a piece as fully and completely as possible.

    “That means not taking ‘word A’ and making it ‘word B,’ but re-creating the impact of what was said in a new language. If the original made you cry, then the translation should make you cry,” he said.

    Schulte described translation as a type of bridge.

    “As you cross the bridge you have to leave some of your prejudices or some of your concepts behind and open yourself to new ones,” he said. “And the discovery of the new ones is frequently very exciting.”

    Schulte said that at the time the center was created, translations of literary texts were primarily done in Europe. He wanted to change that.

    “There were very, very few places in the United States where literary translation or translation in academia was taken seriously,” he said. “We built the center to train students, gain more respect for translation, and to support faculty members who work in literary translation.”

    Faculty and students in the center also conduct research in cultural and cross-cultural communication, which, in collaboration with other literary associations and centers throughout the world, includes the development of writer and translator databases.

    At about the same time the center opened, Schulte also launched the Translation Review, an academic journal that provides translators, scholars and readers a forum to dialogue about the importance of translation, to discuss the challenges in transplanting a text from a foreign culture into English, and to increase the visibility and status of the translator in the world. He also co-founded the American Literary Translators Association, a national nonprofit arts association that supports the work of literary translators and advances the art of literary translation.

    Kratz said the work done by Schulte and others in the center has made a significant difference in how translation is seen by the academic community.

    “He, in a very real sense, is the founder of translation studies as an academic discipline. There was a time when translation wasn’t taken seriously. But now, people get tenure for translating. Rainer in many ways singlehandedly fought this battle,” he said.

    Schulte said the center is looking to the future, particularly at how digital media can help translators, researchers and readers. As an example, he said a poem could be further explored by offering links to multiple translations into English, interviews with scholars or other details that could improve understanding of the piece.

    “Digital research is where the field of translation is headed, and I expect our center to be at the forefront of this movement,” Schulte said.

    This article originally appeared on the UT Dallas News Center.

  • Frankenstein Story’s Meaning Is More Than Monstrous, Professor Says
  • Dr. Sabrina Starnaman

    Dr. Sabrina Starnaman

    On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a UT Dallas professor said the book is much more than a scary Halloween story.

    According to Dr. Sabrina Starnaman, clinical assistant professor in the School of Arts and Humanities who teaches a class about the book, Frankenstein offers a thought-provoking look at science and ethics.

    “While one might think that a class on Frankenstein would be all horror and shadows and gasps, I would argue it’s a class asking some of the most pivotal, pointed human questions,” said Starnaman, ”including questions about the responsibilities that creators or scientists have to their creations or their science.”

    Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was 19 years old, and it was published the following year in 1818. The book tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist in search of the secret of life who creates the monstrous creature in a secret experiment.

    Starnaman said the representation of the Frankenstein creature has shifted a great deal from the original monster in Shelley’s book.

    “When people dress up as the Frankenstein creature, they usually dress up like the Frankenstein character from the 1931 movie, with the flat head and the bolts, which is not in any way what’s in the book. If people dressed up as characters from the book, we wouldn’t recognize them,” she said.

    While dozens of movies about the creature have been made since the early 1900s, Starnaman said many people would be surprised by the original book.

    “It’s an incredibly well-written book, and it seems to touch people who read it. My class has 90 students in it. There was a part of me that wondered if today’s students would read and get excited by an early 19th-century novel,” she said. “And they do. They find it beautiful.”

    Starnaman said Frankenstein is thought by many to be the first science fiction novel.

    “Victor Frankenstein had this great idea that his creation would thank him and would honor him and would be glorious. And when his creature came to life, he found it grotesque and monstrous and terrifying,” she said. “Mary Shelley was not just exploring the technological questions, but also the human questions.”

    In her class, Starnaman uses a version of Frankenstein that is published by MIT Press. Besides the original text, the book includes annotations and essays that explain the science behind the story and explore the social and ethical aspects of scientific creativity.

    In addition to studying Frankenstein, the class also explores other writings that raise similar scientific questions — such as the play R.U.R. by Karel Čapek, which involves the creation of artificial human workers that look like people, and Frankenstein in Baghdad, by Ahmed Saadawi, an Iraqi novel about a city torn apart by war and foreign occupation and the pieced-together creature that arises to avenge its citizens.

    Starnaman said Frankenstein, though, is a text that is timeless, noting that there are still modern-day headlines and references that analogize the story.

    “It is used to talk about any kind of scientific advancement that we worry will have unintended consequences,” she said. “The idea of creating something that ends up going beyond the intention or being more than the creator can handle — or that has social implications — is extremely familiar to us and one that is often used to question the ethical implications of advancements in science.”

    This article originally appeared on the UT Dallas News Center.