What a society counts as moral or immoral is subject to the particular zeitgeist—the spirit of the times. “At the time of the slave trade, for example, most people who were slave owners thought it was moral. Even a few blacks, once they were freed, had slaves,” explains Sharon Welch, Professor of Religious Studies. As a social ethicist, Welch researches not just the way individuals make moral choices, but how a whole society begins to decide “what counts as moral.” To that effect, all of her projects coalesce around such issues of social morality.
As Professor in the Classics Department at MU, Daniel Hooley’s research includes Roman poetry, the classical tradition, and translation studies, about which he has written three books, including his most recent, Roman Satire (2006). Hooley first became interested in studying the classics through an “accidental journey,” studying the western classics as an English and Humanities graduate student at the University of Minnesota, where he focused his studies on modernism and wrote his dissertation on how Latin poetry was translated by American modernists such as Ezra Pound or T.S. Eliot. The dissertation became his first book, The Classics in Paraphrase: Ezra Pound and Modern Translators of Latin Poetry (1988).
Art history, studying the artifacts of the past, provides context for all the history we learn, Stanton says. She believes that art history is the core discipline of the humanities because it touches on all of the other aspects of life: language, culture, science, and math.
Humanities-related research involves studying the work of other scholars (e.g., philosophy and comparative religious ethics) and then synthesizing those ideas. For example, Welch has taken up the challenge to dominant ethics by Native American and Engaged Buddhist philosophers. Using certain techniques like interactive theatre in the classroom, she is applying qualitative measures to determine the effect of these pedagogical techniques. So far she has learned that these interactive theatre experiences can really change the way many students see the world around them.
While Hooley’s first book focused on Latin translations, his second book, The Knotted Thong: Structures of Mimesis in Persius (1997), is a study of Roman satire—namely of Persius, one of the three major Roman satirists. Hooley was drawn to this man and his work partly because Persius was considered such a “strange guy.” Satire, Hooley says, “fosters all those things that are healthy for the human spirit—it makes us laugh at silly things and sometimes makes us laugh at things that are egregious and wrong.”
Most recently, Hooley has completed an introductory book on Roman satire. It covers the historical development of satire, explaining the genre as inherently human: “It’s in our blood; it’s hardwired into our brains.” Satire carries a very broad definition: it is partly a reaction to power and a way of expressing resistance, but at other times it provides a vehicle to poke fun at things.
Hooley talks about his first book, The Classics in Paraphrase: Ezra Pound and Modern Translators of Latin Poetry, and how it opened a door for him to begin studying the various theories of translation.
For a long time the classics were thought of as foundational texts of western culture. Hooley sees the role of classics now as “one body of relatively coherent, related texts that constitute a tradition in themselves.” He says they have become the intellectual currency of our culture and are “great to think with.”
Dan Hooley first became interested in studying the classics through an “accidental journey,” studying the western classics as an English and Humanities graduate student at the University of Minnesota where he focused his studies on modernism and wrote his dissertation on how Latin poetry was translated by American modernists such as Ezra Pound or T.S. Eliot.
Teaching a general course on Russian civilization has helped Langen’s research process by allowing him to connect literary studies to other aspects of Russian life.
Langen is gearing up for his next research project that will focus on late nineteenth-century Russian intellectual history. “These people thought of literary studies as something you could do scientifically,” Langen explains, and he plans to begin by exploring “the rules for responsible, scholarly discourse.”
Langen’s most recent project, The Stony Dance: Unity and Gesture in Andrey Bely’s Petersburg (2005.
Langen highlights three major reasons to study Russian literature and humanities more deeply than for simple enjoyment.
Langen describes the rewards of two collaborative projects: Eight Twentieth-Century Russian Plays (2000) is an anthology of Russian plays that he translated and edited with Justin Weir. He also worked with his brother, Jesse Langen, examining how the music by Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich drew upon the poems of Alexander Blok.
Jonassen describes some practical examples of this model at work: the successful utilization of problem-based learning in the MU medical school and in the department of Religious Studies. He calls for education reform that includes more problem-based learning in other fields.