April 4, 2014

Behind the Mask, Part 2: The Evolution of a Genre

People, Places, and Ideas: Episode #15

Last week, we defined the superhero. However, superheroes have evolved greatly over the last seventy years. The Adam West Batman of the 1960s now only vaguely resembles Christian Bale's Batman of The Dark Knight, to say nothing of the rise of the anti-hero in Alan Moore's classic, Watchmen. How do we reconcile these heroes and their many iterations? Dr. Peter Coogan, the founder of the Institute for Comics Studies and lecturer within American Culture Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, returns to trace the evolution of the superhero genre. He explains how superheroes are both a reflection and product of America's shifting modern mythology.

April 2, 2014

Behind the Mask, Part 1: Superheroes and Supervillains

People, Places, and Ideas: Episode #14

It's hard to recall a movie season in recent memory that hasn't been marked with at least one superhero blockbuster, so we're taking a closer look at these stories and heroes. In the first episode of this two part series, we consider what makes someone a superhero. Is it simply a question of superpowers? According to Dr. Peter Coogan, the founder of the Institute for Comics Studies and lecturer within American Culture Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, that's certainly part of the equation. He will layout the criteria caped crusaders must meet and the hallmarks of the wider superhero genre.

March 26, 2014

The Foreign Language Question

On Language: Episode #7

What do the history of physics, the international women's movement, microfinance, the modern philosophical novel, and the fight against the spread of AIDS in Africa all have in common? According to Joe Loewenstein, professor of English and director of the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities, in order to study any of these topics and countless others, students are well-advised to begin the slow and rewarding process of mastering a foreign language. The important question becomes, which languages open which doors of opportunity?


March 19, 2014

The Music of Conversation

On Language: Episode #6

Whether or not you can play the drums or keep your body in rhythm out on the dance floor, if you're reading this sentence, you're participating in the unheard music of language. In his research at Washington University in St. Louis, linguist Brett Hyde, assistant professor of philosophy, delves into the rhythms behind everyday conversation. By studying the accent patterns of languages around the world, Hyde's goal is to discover the underlying principles that organize these patterns. Feel free to clap along as you hear about the connections between music, poetry, and the distinct beats of every sentence ever spoken.

March 12, 2014

Jane Eyre and the Art of Translation

On Language: Episode #5

When you think of the novel Jane Eyre, you might think of its author, Charlotte Brontë, or perhaps certain elements of the plot, like Jane's time at Lowood School or her tumultuous relationship with Mr. Rochester. However, in a recent project, Lynne Tatlock is exploring how the original novel is only the beginning of the Jane Eyre story. Like many other 19th century texts, this novel was repeatedly translated into other languages and adapted into new works. Tatlock, a professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and chair of the Comparative Literature program at Washington University in St. Louis, seeks to uncover the German portion of that international journey. In addition to sharing thoughts on this new line of research, Tatlock discusses 19th century German romance novels in translation and reveals some of the challenges and insights that she has personally encountered as a translator.

March 5, 2014

Venus, Deconstructed

People, Places, and Ideas: Episode #13

Today, we're going back to 18th century Florence, Italy to tell the story of one museum, La Specola, and its infamous exhibit of gruesome wax anatomical models. At the time of its founding in 1771, the new Archduke Peter Leopold found himself confronting the deep-rooted legacy of his famous predecessors—the Medici. La Specola quickly became the crux of a larger movement within Tuscany, and the museum and its wax inhabitants helped set the course for a new Enlightenment era. Rebecca Messbarger, a professor of Italian and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, is our guide, and she explains how one figure, the Venus, became central to this new regime of the human body.

February 26, 2014

Youth Poets Take the Stage

On Language: Episode #4

High-school students sometimes have a bad reputation when it comes to language and literacy. Teenagers may be well versed in YouTube and social media, but these outlets are more known for shortened words and poor grammar than articulate speech and writing. However, Korina Jocson, assistant professor of education, sees a much different picture. As a researcher and teacher, Jocson has observed and analyzed the ways that students use the beauty and power of poetry to make sense of their experiences, to comment on culture and politics, and to create multimedia art and storytelling. The question now becomes, how can educators bring the energy of a slam poetry competition back into the classroom?

February 19, 2014

The ABCs of Reading and Writing

On Language: Episode #3

What can parents and teachers do to help young children become successful readers and writers? In what ways does a 2-year-old begin to understand the differences between written words and pictures? Rebecca Treiman, the Burke and Elizabeth High Baker Professor of Child Developmental Psychology, shares recent research that explores how children around the globe take their first steps toward reading and writing. Treiman heads the Reading and Language Lab at Washington University in St. Louis.

February 12, 2014

You Are How You Sound

On Language: Episode #2

Imagine that you're walking down the street and hear someone speaking with a British accent. What assumptions might you make about that person based on his or her voice? Would you come to the same conclusion if that person had a heavy southern drawl or sounded like he or she spoke Spanish as a first language? John Baugh, the Margaret Bush Wilson Professor in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, continues his discussion of linguistic profiling and describes how he hopes his research will lead to policies that increase Americans' acceptance of linguistic diversity.

February 5, 2014

Linguistic Insights

On Language: Episode #1

To kick off our newest topic, On Language, John Baugh, the Margaret Bush Wilson Professor in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, shares two stories of personal linguistic epiphanies. Baugh researches linguistic profiling, or the ways in which people react to and treat one another based on speech. His initial interest in this line of work began when he himself encountered linguistic profiling earlier in his career. Baugh shares that experience, as well as a childhood incident in which he first realized that accents can carry as much meaning as words. Baugh will also be featured next week on Hold That Thought, when we'll hear more about specific research projects and the types of policies that he believes would help Americans accept linguistic diversity.