Democracy in America — As this year’s mid-term election process builds to its crescendo on Tuesday, I can’t help but reflect on how we conduct our elections. Our democracy seemed so pure in the civics books I read as a boy in school, but in real life our democratic elections are messy affairs. One of the first writers to take a serious look at how our democracy functions in real life was a Frenchman named Alexis de Tocqueville. He traveled throughout America during the early 1830s, observing our elections and political processes. He wrote about his findings and observations in his now famous two-volume work titled Democracy in America, which came out in 1835 and 1840. In part because he did not grow up in America, he was able to take a clear-sighted view of the political contradictions and complexities inherent in our then fledgling democracy.
In a number of ways, Pilar Blitvich reminds me of Tocqueville. Like Tocqueville, Pilar grew up in Europe and has travelled widely. Just as Tocqueville did in his time, Pilar has taken a keen interest in the American political process. She has studied the inner workings of our elections, paying particular attention to how digital forms of communication shape our elections and political discourse. She has written several scholarly articles about the impact of YouTube on political campaigns. She has also conducted groundbreaking research on the aggressive language used on political television programs. However, unlike Tocqueville, Pilar is not just an observer of American democracy. She is a participant observer. Several years ago, Pilar became an American citizen, and she now eagerly casts her vote during our elections. In this regard, Pilar has one up on Tocqueville.
Explore — This past weekend, Aaron Toscano and Tiffany Morin served as ambassadors of English Department. I asked Aaron about the experience, and he sent me this statement: “Tiffany and I greeted prospective students at EXPLORE UNC Charlotte on Saturday. We had more prospective students come to our table than I ever remember, and, more importantly, I didn’t have skeptical parents in the background seemingly humoring their children by letting them talk to a Humanities Major. The parents were supportive.” My thanks go to Aaron and Tiffany for representing the English Department at this event.
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:
Boyd Davis and Mohamed Shehab (SIS) received a Mosaic grant this fall for a project called “Investigating Seniors’ Preferences for Receiving Information about Internet Security.”
Katrina Holmes, an English major, has been selected for membership in the Pinnacle Honor Society. Created in 1989 to recognize outstanding adult students (24 years of age or older), Pinnacle celebrates academically successful seniors and rising seniors who have displayed leadership and community engagement.
Quirky Quiz Question — While conducting her research on aggressive language used on political television programs, Pilar spent countless hours dissecting the language used by a regular host on Fox News. What is the name of the person whose language usage she studied?
Last Quirky Quiz answer – Rip Van Winkle