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Students in Adjunct Assistant Professor of English Jonathan Gottschall's First-Year Program seminars are learning more than how to analyze literary works from scientific perspectives, the stated topic of the course. They're also learning a lot about giving conference presentations and publishing their research.

Gottschall's spring 2002 seminar, titled "The Heroine with A Thousand Faces," focused on representations of heroines in traditional narratives from a broad range of diverse cultures and historical periods, with the goal of identifying the features that shift and the features that remain constant in the depiction of heroines. The group's research was presented at the Midwestern Conference on Film Language and Literature. In addition, they -- with Gottschall -- co-authored a paper, forthcoming this year in the journal Human Nature, a publication described as being "dedicated to advancing the interdisciplinary investigation of the biological, social and environmental factors which underlie human behavior." The article is titled "Patterns of characterization in folk tales across geographic regions and levels of cultural complexity: literature as a neglected source of quantitative data"; co-authors are, in addition to Gottschall, Rachael Berkey, Chagrin Falls, OH; Mitchell Cawson, Dorval, Quebec; Carly Drown, West Chazy, NY; Matthew Fleischner, Westhampton, MA; Melissa Glotzbecker, Ganesvoort, NY; Kimberly Kernan, Shelburne, NH; Tyler Magnan, St. Albans, VT; Kate Muse, Troy, NH; Celeste Ogburn, Lafargeville, NY; Stephen Patterson, Ganesvoort, NY; Christopher Skeels, Potsdam, NY; Stephanie St. Joseph, Brownville, NY; Shawna Weeks, Ewa Beach, HI; Erin Welch, Troy, NY; and Alison Welsh, Manchester Center, VT.

Similar work has continued this year with content analyses of literary works to gain information on questions from literary studies and questions from the scientific study of behavior and psychology. The topic of the spring 2003 seminar is "Generating Knowledge." The group's research was presented at the Northwestern Modern Language Association meeting, as well as at two on-campus conferences, the Undergraduate Conference on Literature and the Festival of Science. Work coming out of both projects will also be formally presented this year at the Modern Language Association meetings in San Diego and the Human Behavior and Evolution Society meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Students in this year's seminar are Elizabeth Allison, North Creek, NY; Peter Cahill, North Hampton, NH; Jason DeRosa, Killingworth, CT; Kaia Klockeman, Dundas, MN; Johanna Martin, Champlain, NY; Turner Masland, Concord, NH; Jonathan Pakan, Syracuse, NY; Jonathan Rea, Falmouth, MA; Trisha Ritchie, Fulton, NY; and Adam Tapply, Agawam, MA.

Posted: April 23, 2003