False Dichotomy — I took a logic course in high school, and that’s when I first learned about false dichotomies. I remember developing an affection for the term. I saw false dichotomies wherever I looked, and I didn’t hesitate to say so. Well, I guess I haven’t changed much, for it seems to me that the much ballyhooed division between the humanities and the STEM disciplines is a false dichotomy, at least where our English Department is concerned. As researchers and teachers, our English faculty have many connections to the STEM disciplines.
Here are a few examples of English professors who deal with the STEM disciplines in their research. Boyd Davis is conducting cutting-edge medical research related to the impact of Alzheimer’s and dementia on language skills. This research has resulted in many publications, including Boyd’s most recent book, Pragmatics in Dementia Discourse. Tony Jackson has immersed himself in the field of neuroscience, and he is currently writing a book in which he is exploring how the human brain processes narratives. Jen Munroe has developed an expertise in the history of horticulture and botany, and she draws on this expertise in her publications related to eco-criticism. Alan Rauch has studied biology at the graduate level, and he has a deep-seated passion for zoology. This passion is reflected in his most recent book, Dolphin. Aaron Toscano has a strong interest in the rhetorical strategies used in the development of new technologies, and this interest is at the core of his book titled Marconi’s Wireless and the Rhetoric of a New Technology. Heather Vorhies is conducting research on the history of rhetoric and its impact on how the STEM disciplines currently construct arguments and present evidence. Greg Wickliff has developed an expertise on the role of photography in the history of science and technology. He has written on this topic in his book tentatively titled Enlightened Arguments: Photography and Rhetoric in Nineteenth-Century American Science and Technology. Greg has completed this book, and it is currently under review at the Smithsonian Press.
Here are a few examples of ways in which the English faculty deal with the STEM disciplines in their teaching. Through her work with the Writing Project, Lil Brannon has forged an ongoing relationship with Discovery Place, Charlotte’s science museum. This collaborative effort focuses on encouraging young people to write about the sciences. Alan Rauch often teaches courses that deal with the sciences, and this semester he is teaching a graduate seminar titled “Science and Literature.” Our program in technical communication plays a key role in the education of many students in the College of Engineering. Similarly, our faculty in linguistics provides both undergraduate and graduate course support for the Cognitive Science Program.
As I see it, the humanities and the STEM disciplines do not inhabit separate worlds. In a sense, the classic Venn diagram better describes the relationship between the humanities and the STEM disciplines. Many members of our English Department inhabit the space where the two circles overlap.But What About the M in STEM? — The M in STEM stands for mathematics, and the English Department does not have much in the way of connections with mathematics. However, we are fortunate to have a long-time friend from the Math Department, and that friend is Joel Avrin. Joel’s office is in our part of Fretwell, so he can often be seen in the English Department. In fact, when I come in the office on weekends, the person I see most often is Joel. Joel contributes to our coffee fund, and he often visits Angie and other members of our department. In addition to being a mathematician, Joel is a great supporter of poetry. He has studied poetry with Chris Davis, and for a long time he organized a series of poetry readings in the Charlotte area. In recognition of Joel’s passion for poetry and his interest in our department, I hereby proclaim Joel Avrin to be an honorary member of the English Department. Now, thanks to Joel, we have our M covered.
Kudos— As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of our department. Here is the latest news:
Chris Davis just had a poem titled “Anonymous” accepted for publication in the annual Bloom.
Jeffrey Leak just had an article titled “Memories of Brooklyn” published in Charlotte Magazine.
Upcoming Events and Deadlines— Here are some dates to keep in mind:
August 27 — Last day to add or drop a course with no record.
September 1 — Labor Day (University closed).
Quirky Quiz Question — Joel Avrin is the not the only mathematician from UNC Charlotte to take an active interest in other departments in the university. Can you name the mathematician who played a pivotal role in the creation of UNC Charlotte?
Last week’s Quirky Quiz answer –Mark Twain