Steph Ceraso, English, Receives the 2015 Richard Ohmann Outstanding Article in College English Award

stephceraso_webSteph Ceraso, an assistant professor of English, has been selected for the 2015 Richard Ohmann Outstanding Article in College English Award. The annual award is presented by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Ceraso received the recognition for her article “(Re)Educating the Senses: Multimodal Listening, Bodily Learning, and the Composition of Sonic Experiences.”

The award is recognition of an outstanding refereed article in the past volume year of the journal College English that makes a significant contribution to the field of English studies. It is given in the name of Richard Ohmann, landmark editor of College English from 1966 to 1978.

Ceraso’s essay aims to reimagine how listening is taught by accounting for the different sensory modes in which sound is experienced: “In response to widespread ‘plug in and tune out’ listening habits, and to the need for a more substantial listening education—particularly in relation to digital engagement and production—my article offers an expansive, explicitly embodied approach to the teaching of listening. My aim in writing this piece was to create a sonic pedagogy that allows students to capitalize on the compositional affordances of sound in digital contexts and retrains them to become more thoughtful, sensitive listener-composers of sound in any setting,” Ceraso shared.

Ceraso’s article received significant praise from the NCTE selection committee in a press release announcing the award: “The judges found Professor Ceraso’s essay fresh, timely, and engaging—a piece that will have an impact on the field for its vision and accessibility. Her essay, woven throughout with connections to pedagogy and composition, pushes the boundaries of multimodal composition as Professor Ceraso challenges us to reimagine how soundscapes can change the writing classroom—that is how we can incorporate ‘productive, quality sonic experiences’ that build on students’ past experiences.”

The award will be presented in November at the NCTE Annual Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Ceraso’s teaching and research interests include rhetoric and composition, sound studies, digital media production, and pedagogy. Read more about her work on the English department website.

Orianne Smith, English, Wins Inaugural British Association of Romantic Studies First Book Prize

Orianne Smith bookOrianne Smith, associate professor and chair of English, has won the prestigious biennial First Book Prize from the British Association of Romantic Studies (BARS). Smith’s book Romantic Women Writers, Revolution, and Prophecy: Rebellious Daughters, 1786–1826 (Cambridge University Press, 2013) was selected from a strong shortlist of finalists for the inaugural prize.

Professor Smith traveled to Cardiff, Wales to accept the award. In an announcement posted on the BARS blog, the judges stated during the award ceremony that her book “corrects the gender imbalance of previous work on literary enthusiasm by shedding light on the previously obscured role of women writers in apocalyptic discourse…a tremendously fluent and incisive study, making surprising and productive use of speech-act theory to bring out the performative dimension of prophetic writing.”

Dr. Smith participated in a detailed and wide-ranging Q&A posted on the BARS blog about her research process in writing her award-winning book. She said the idea for the project first came to her when writing the conclusion for her final paper on the “wild, wacky and truly wonderful Civil War prophetesses” in her seventeenth-century sectarian writers class during her second year of graduate school.

Orianne Smith with Professor Emma Clery, the Chair of the First Book Prize Committee, giving her acceptance speech.

Orianne Smith with Professor Emma Clery, the Chair of the First Book Prize Committee, giving her acceptance speech.

“It occurred to me that there could be an interesting connection between these seventeenth-century women who claimed the authority of God during a period of revolution and Romantic women writers who also assumed the mantle of the female prophet in the wake of the French Revolution,” she said. “I wrapped up the paper with this thought, but the idea of a British tradition of female prophecy stuck with me.”

Also in the Q&A, Smith discussed how the project evolved, the benefit of placing religious discourses at center of cultural debates and literary studies, and her future research, among other topics.

Dr. Smith’s teaching and research interests include gender and Romanticism, the Gothic, and the connections between religion, superstition, and magic in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and she has published widely in these fields. Read more about her work on the English department website.

UMBC Faculty Discuss Baltimore City Civic Engagement Work in Diverse

In the wake of the unrest in Baltimore earlier this year, several UMBC faculty were interviewed by Diverse to share the projects they are doing with students and colleagues to work with the city as it recovers from its first uprising in nearly 50 years.

Bev BickelBeverly Bickel, a clinical associate professor in the language, literacy and culture program, discussed the Imagining America conference, which is sponsored by UMBC in partnership with MICA and Morgan State University. Many conference sessions will focus specifically on Baltimore and address topics such as race, inequality and community-based approaches to spur collective action.

“Part of our commitment in doing that was about how we could use this conference to develop the work in Baltimore,” said Bickel. “We want to use it as an organizing process to strengthen the arts community [in] Baltimore.”

Lee BootLee Boot, associate director of the IRC, said that he and some of his colleagues are cautious about not appearing as to have all the answers: “These issues are real[ly] complicated. The whole idea that [the] university alone is [the] purveyor of knowledge is insane,” he said.

“And we’re trying to level that. Another thing that came up is that Baltimore has to take its stories back. … An opportunity that comes out of what happened in April is that now [there is] a wider understanding that those events were results of things that had happened before. We’re trying to say [that] this is not a bunch of bad players, but results of decisions we have made. That’s a line of thought most people are not interested in listening to most of the time.”

Denise MeringoloDenise Meringolo, an associate professor of history, is working with community partners to create a website that includes original content and documents history in the days surrounding Freddie Gray’s death. The goal is to provide a historical record of diverse perspectives from the people whose lives were directly impacted by the events.

“The thing that’s most important for me [is] that it’s broadly collaborative and puts [the] needs and interests of community first,” Meringolo said. “At this point this is a collection project. … Healing at this time feels like skipping over their pain. I think we’ve got to stop skipping over the pain, so people don’t go from trauma to forgiveness and skip over the hard work. I feel like this [is] the beginning of the hard work.”

Read “Baltimore Higher Ed Institutions Fight to Restore the City” in Diverse.

Maurice Berger, CADVC, Latest “Race Story” in The New York Times

In the latest essay for his Race Stories column in The New York Times, Maurice Berger, research professor at the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, examines the research of photographers Martin Parr and Ruben Lundgren, whose exploration of Chinese photobooks has resulted in The Chinese Photobook, published by Aperture. Largely unknown in the West, the photobooks, dating from the early 20th century to current times, document a nation undergoing profound cultural change. “The sheer quantity of important Chinese photobooks that remain unexamined by scholars within and outside of the country suggests that considerable work remains to done,” says Berger. “In this context, The Chinese Photobook represents an auspicious beginning rather than a definitive end, a turning point in unearthing a long-overlooked history and narrowing the comprehension gap between East and West.”

Read “In China, the Photobook as Art and History” and view the photographs at The New York Times Lens blog.

Berger’s Race Stories column, which appears monthly on The New York Times website, is “a continuing exploration of the relationship of race to photographic portrayals of race.”

James Smalls, Visual Arts, Writes on Race, Gender, and Sexuality in The Conversation

On July 23, James Smalls, professor of Visual Arts and affiliate professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, published an article in The Conversation that discussed the rationale behind his upcoming course, Roaming the Star Trek Universe: Race, Gender, and Alien Sexualities. Sensing that students often seem very “connected” but are simultaneously distanced from the overwhelming complexities of the world around them, Smalls set out to find ways in which to explore the difficult topics of race, gender and sexuality. “I found part of the answer,” he said, “by traveling back to the 1960s, when difficult social change movements around race (civil rights, black power), gender (the women’s movement) and sexuality (the gay and lesbian movement) were in full swing and paralleled the national obsession with technology, the space race and indulgence in popular culture as a way to both escape and liberate ourselves.”

“One way to do this,” he added, “is to ask probing questions so to get students thinking about ways in which interspecies conflicts among humans, Vulcans, Romulans, Klingons, Andorians, Betazoids, Cardassians and Bajorans, to name a few, are portrayed and how they mirror or parallel disagreements between today’s nations, races, genders, religions and classes.”

Read “A teacher uses Star Trek for difficult conversations on race and gender” in The Conversation.

Michele Osherow, English, and Manil Suri, Mathematics, Explore “The Mathematics of Being Human” on WYPR

On Thursday, July 16, Michele Osherow, associate professor of English, and Manil Suri, professor of mathematics, were guests on WYPR’s Humanities Connection to discuss their play “The Mathematics of Being Human,” which debuted at UMBC last fall. The play explores how mathematics and the humanities offer valuable perspectives on what it means to be human, perspectives that at first glance are highly distinct, but that create entry points for conversation and shared understanding over time.

Photo by Marlayna Demond.

Photo by Marlayna Demond.

“The idea of pairing mathematics with humanities subjects like literature may seem odd. But, we found that there are many exciting opportunities for joint exploration. The humanities can help put mathematical inquiry into a human, accessible context and allow people to relate to a subject that too often seems obscure,” Osherow explained.

“For example, creative works like film and literature can generate real curiosity about mathematical ideas. Movies like Darren Aronofsky’s Pi, plays like Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia and books like Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time expose non-mathematicians to the mystery and complex beauty of mathematics,” Suri added.

Suri was also recently interviewed by SPAN Magazine about the play, which is scheduled to be performed at the Bridges Conference in Baltimore on July 29. Suri and Osherow have previously performed the play in New York City and San Antonio, with plans to bring the production to Mumbai and New Delhi early next year in partnership with the U.S. Embassy. Read “From STEM to STEAM” in SPAN Magazine.  

Kate Drabinski, Gender and Women’s Studies, Discusses Public Representation of the Civil War in Md. on WYPR

Kate DrabinskiKate Drabinski, lecturer of gender and women’s studies, was a guest on WYPR’s Maryland Morning on July 10 to discuss how slavery and the Civil War is represented in public spaces in Maryland. Drabinski was joined by Karsonya (Kaye) Wise Whitehead ’09, Ph.D. LLC, an assistant professor in the department of communication at Loyola University-Maryland.

The discussion helped listeners think about how the history of slavery is conveyed in Maryland memorials and parks as Gov. Larry Hogan has decided to stop issuing license plates with the Confederate symbol and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is appointing a task force to review the city’s Confederate monuments and other historical sites.

The conversation covered a wide range of issues, including thinking about symbols of the Civil War in the context of present day America. “We are long past slavery, but we are still working through the issues of the relationship between freedom and slavery, between white Americans and black Americans, and these different periods of history. We’re still fighting over the meaning of the war,” Drabinski said.

To listen to the complete discussion, click here.