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Cheers to the DHLC's University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) winners!

Join us in congratulating Sal Antonucci and Kristin Bilyea, and Addi Wood, Derrek Dwamena and Ben Horne on their first-place wins at UURAF 2017. The annual University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) provides Michigan State undergraduate students with an opportunity to showcase their scholarship and creative activity. Held each spring in the MSU Union, UURAF brings together an intellectual community of highly motivated students to share their work with faculty, peers, and external audiences. UURAF provides a unique educational opportunity for aspiring researchers. MSU undergraduates gain experience in presenting their research, answer questions about their work from audience members and guests, and receive constructive feedback from judges.

Antonucci and Bilyea: "Aesthetic Pleasure in Poetry: A Revised Approach to An Old Inquiry" 

Since the advent of poetry, readers have been curious about its mechanics. The earliest readers, beginning with Aristotle, have been focusing on finding what is responsible for the pleasure that is experienced when reading poetry. This project aims to revise the traditional approach taken to this literary inquiry. Instead of offering a theory centered on subjective readings of poems of one’s choosing, this project attempts to offer an explanation for the cause of poetic aesthetic pleasure that is based on both traditional literary analysis and a multitude of readers’ responses. To do so, 30 English undergraduates from Michigan State University were tasked with reading 16 sonnets two times. During the first reading, participants became acquainted with the language of the sonnets; in the second reading, participants were prompted to highlight in green specific words, phrases, lines, or passages that they found aesthetically pleasing. By compiling all participants’ highlights, we surprisingly found that up to 80% of readers agreed upon positive aesthetic 141 judgments. This set of data, with its varying degrees of agreement, shows what poetic moments are more or less aesthetically pleasing to our sample of readers. These responses are most valuable to our investigation as they allow us to objectively identify aesthetically pleasing elements within our sample of sonnets. Ultimately, in forming an explanation for aesthetic pleasure in poetry with this approach, we show a way to practice literary criticism without relying on our possibly subjective readings as has been the tradition.

Wood, Dwamena and Horne: ""The Science of Sonnets: An FRMI Investigation into the Neuroscience of Reading" 

The field of literary neuroscience is a rapidly expanding field providing valuable insights into the cognitive processes involved in reading. The cognitive processes involved in reading sonnets has historically been an understudied aspect of literary neuroscience. Our study aims to investigate the neural structures involved in reading poetry, specifically sonnets. Sonnets have been a part of western culture since the 13th century, but the research into the cognitive processes involved has been largely untapped. In our study, English undergraduates read 16 sonnets inside a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanner. Participants read both Elizabethan and Petrarchan sonnets, 8 of each. Participants were asked to highlight during moments that were aesthetically pleasing in green and moments that were aesthetically displeasing in red. Eye tracking was used throughout to more effectively track the participant’s reading. We hypothesized that during moments of aesthetic pleasure, the intraparietal sulcus (IPS) will have heightened activation, while moments of aesthetic displeasure will show decrease activation in the IPS. This research will hopefully help develop a more complete understanding of the cognitive processes involved in various forms of reading that are embedded in western culture.


Professor Natalie Phillips Redefines the Age of Distraction in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Visit The Chronicle of Higher Education this week to read Assistant Professor Natalie Phillips's redefinition of the age of distraction, "A Crisis of Short Attention Spans, 250 Years Ago." Debunking the narrative of modernity as an era of increasing distractions amid increasing technological developments, Phillips reminds readers that distraction is nothing new: "If we complain today of media, and social-media, oversaturation, writers then worried about industrial, vocal, and literary tumult," she argues. For more of Phillips's research and writing on the history of distraction, see also her recent book from Johns Hopkins University Press: Distraction: Problems of Attention in 18th Century Literature (2016). 


Eight members of the Digital Humanities & Literary Cognition Lab (Department of English, MSU) accepted to present at the prestigious National Conference of Undergraduate Research in Memphis, TN 2017

Eight students will be presenting new interdisciplinary research from the DHLC at NCUR April 6th through 8th. 

Two presentations "Pop Culture's Influence on the Stories We Hear in Music" (Karah Smith--English, Psychology; DH minor, Kendall Hughes--English and Secondary Education; Women and Gender Studies and TESOL minor, and Courtney Bennet--) and "Culture and Training in Music-Narrative Cognition" (Viktoria Teneqexhi--Neuroscience, Emily Vaughan--English, Spanish, and Secondary Education) draw on a new study at the DHLC, "The Stories We Tell About Music" (Phillips & McAuley, MSU; Margulis, U. Arkansas) which explores when and why we use narratives to understand music, as well as how these music-inspired narratives relate to cultural training. 

The final presentation, "Attentional Connectivity Networks and Their Implication in Reading and Memory" (Lana Grasser--Neuroscience; Dance Minor, Mohan Gupta--Neuroscience, Psychology; Cognitive Science minor, Michel Kabbash--Human Biology; French minor) draws on an interdisciplinary study of students reading Jane Austen, in one of the first neuroscientific experiments to use fMRI & fMRI compatible eyetracking to explore the cognitive domains involved in literary reading.