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Congratulations to English UURAF Winners
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Congratulations to English's University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) winners, Maggie Chesbrough, Sal Antonucci and Kristin Bilyea, and Addi Wood, Derrek Dwamena and Ben Horne. 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.

Chesbrough 2.jpgMaggie Chesbrough's poster examining male perspectives on infertility was produced during her internship with The ART of Infertility at MSU, under the guidance of Professor Robin Silbergleid.

Abstract: The ART of Infertility is an international project that is currently in the process of becoming a certified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We work to educate and advocate against infertility and how it affects the individual experience. The ART of IF showcases illustrative works that depict the human experience of infertility and addresses these narratives through traveling art exhibits, followed by panel discussions. Through the use of narratives that have been achieved through our interviewing process, I seek to analyze the effects of infertility through the male perspective. Historically, infertility has been seen as an issue that targets women; however, infertility does not discriminate nor is it gender biased. In this manner, I will interview males who have struggled with infertility such as obtaining a low sperm count, the struggles of trying to start a family after receiving a vasectomy reversal, and various other causes and obstacles of infertility. By incorporating my knowledge in Gender Studies, I address how gendered concepts like masculinity and femininity coincide with one’s view of this disease. Ultimately, by sharing the male experience of infertility, my objective is to break gender barriers and hopefully introduce infertility as a subject in conversation, focusing on how infertility affects specifically males.

Sal Antonucci and Kristin Bilyea's poster, "Aesthetic Pleasure in Poetry: A Revised Approach to An Old Inquiry" was produced under the guidance of Professor Natalie Phillips, within the Digital Humanities and Literary Cognition Lab. 

Abstract: 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.

Addi Wood, Derrick Dwamena, and Ben Horne presented their poster, "The Science of Sonnets: An FRMI Investigation into the Neuroscience of Reading," under the guidance of Professor Natalie Phillips, through the neuroscience partnership with the Digital Humanities and Literary Cognition Lab. 

Abstract: 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.