Category: News Spring 2008
While 5,800 hopeful graduates pondered future possibilities at B.U.’s graduation on May 18th, Professor of French Jeff Kline was thanked and honored for past successes.
As one of three winners of the prestigious Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching, Kline was recognized as a “consummate teacher.” “A life without teaching is unthinkable,” Kline had remarked, and B.U. President Bob Brown added that Kline’s teaching is “infused with an irrepressible joie de vivre [that] has enriched countless lives.”
Added Brown: “Professor T. Jefferson Kline has inspired generations of students by his informed passion for French literature and cinema . . . Whether instructing undergraduate classes or graduate seminars, advising and mentoring students and colleagues, sharing his expertise with high school teachers or colleagues at other universities, or publishing seminal articles and books, Professor Kline is always the consummate teacher.”
The Metcalf Committee chose Kline for the award after reviewing his teaching record, student evaluations, and student letters, as well as observing his teaching. A BU professor for more than 30 years, Kline’s teaching style may be called a lesson in disciplined merriment. As one student explains, “Though his teaching exuded the freshness and humor of improvisation, I have since realized that it was the result of fastidious planning.”
Despite years of experience, Kline admits to still feeling nervous before each class. His nerves are a result, he says, of the “sense of the immense delicacy and importance of the task I have before me.”
To hear an interview of Jeff Kline with Edward A. Brown, go to
(Courtesy of BU Today.)
Two Spanish courses courses will be returning to our course offerings in Fall 08.
Spanish for Native Speakers CAS LS 309, taught by Tino Villanueva, is designed for students whose Spanish-language skills have been acquired within Spanish-speaking households or environments. Frequently, these students –not all of whom consider themselves “native Speakers”– speak Spanish easily, but wish to improve their written skills. The course will explore the Latino heritage in the United States.
Taught by Elizabeth Lozano, Spanish for Business LS 305A1 will interest students who hope to work in a Spanish-speaking environment, whether in the United States or abroad. Case studies, business-oriented writing exercises, and conversation about topics relevant to the world of business, commerce and the professions in the U.S. and abroad. According to Elizabeth Lozano, the course is designed “to develop the cultural and linguistic competency of students interested in business interactions, and indirectly, social patterns, in Latin American countries… Students will practice the linguistic skills and become familiar with the cultural patterns necessary for successful professional communication, both oral and written, including business correspondence.” Students can also explore business opportunities through the Summer Madrid Internship Program.
This past February, Assistant Professor of French Irit Kleiman and her students celebrated a grant award from the Grants for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarship (GUTS) program. In the following interview, Kleiman discusses this innovative project, which partners undergraduates with faculty in determining future course offerings.
Q: What is the project about? How will it be implemented?
IK (Irit Kleimain): At its broadest level, my project is about giving talented students a chance to explore the pleasures of research; about cultivating the wonderful pool of talent in our RS students; about building teaching materials that can bring the world of medieval French letters alive in the classroom; and about bringing together teaching and research. I’ll be guiding a team of four undergraduates, students of mine in medieval literature courses, as they carry out independent research projects based on their own particular interests. Each student will write up and write about their research experience, and s/he will also assemble a portfolio of targeted multi-media materials for use in teaching medieval literature in its full performative, manuscript-based, and historical context. At the end of the semester, we’ll hold a mini-conference where the students will share their work with the broader BU community. All are invited!
Q: Why do you think it’s beneficial for undergrads to be involved in the decision-making process behind course offerings?
IK: Asking students to think critically about what goes into the processes of learning and teaching—to think strategically about the goals of pedagogy as communication and guided critical inquiry—requires them to think critically about learning itself, about the goals of classroom education, and about why something (a text, an image, etc.) is important. I think that students are capable of working at this higher level, and that the experience of shifting planes, so to speak, can be transformative.
Q: What do you hope students will take away from this experience? What are you expecting in terms of the results of the project?
IK: First and foremost, I want each of these four students to come away feeling deeply enriched by an intense and wonderful learning experience. I want them to feel satisfaction at their own growth, and pride in their own accomplishments. Next, I want to have materials that I can use for years ahead to deepen the classroom learning experiences of my students. I want to be able to say, “a student in the class X years ago built this,” and I want the student hearing those words to be motivated to carry out his/her own project.
For the hearing-impaired and their families, learning American Sign Language can be a kind of Catch-22. There are ASL dictionaries in print, but because the language lacks a written form the signs are often organized according to their nearest English translation. “You can only look up a sign in the dictionary if you already know what it means,” says Carol Neidle, Professor of French and Linguistics in the Department of Romance Studies and coordinator of the Undergraduate Linguistics Program at BU.
Neidle and Stanley Sclaroff, a professor and chair of the CAS computer science department, hope that before long it will be possible to demonstrate signs in front of a camera and have a computer look up their meaning. With a three-year, $900,000 National Science Foundation grant, the two BU professors are collaborating on computer technology that could identify a sign based on its visual properties.
The first step is establishing a comprehensive ASL video lexicon — 3,000 to 5,000 signs. Native ASL users have already logged countless hours in front of a camera at BU’s National Center for Sign Language and Gesture Resources. Neidle and Sclaroff have developed a computer program called SignStream, which displays videos of ASL signing from multiple angles for linguistic annotation.
Neidle says that the ASL look-up and search capabilities have important implications for improving education, opportunities, and access for the deaf and their families. “Ninety percent of deaf children are born into hearing families,” she says. “This would allow parents to look up a sign produced by their deaf child.”
Devin Hahn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the past nine years, Lecturer and Language Course Coordinator in Italian Laura Raffo has provided The Opera Institute at Boston University’s School of Music with the opportunity to “tell the truth” in its productions of Italian opera. As Sharon Daniels, the long-time Director of Opera Programs, points out, this mandate to “tell the truth”—handed down by Vintage Books’ A Practical Handbook for the Actor—is an important one. In her Stage Director’s Notes to The Opera Institute’s 2001 presentation of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Daniels states that “when the text is sung … it must be done with naturalness, technical ease, and inherent style” (7). And to maintain this naturalness, this verisimilitude to the Italian language, the Opera Institute relies on the skilled diction and content drills of the Department of Romance Studies’ own Professor Raffo.
Since 1999, Raffo has spearheaded a language program at The Opera Institute that consists of Italian practice and conversation courses. Student singers begin with a focus on everyday life in Italy and progress to a concentration on specific professional topics, such as musical and rehearsal terms, and then to more complicated grammatical structures. In addition to her teaching duties at BU, Raffo works with the twelve young professional singers at The Opera Institute twice a week. Singers are often from various ethnic backgrounds—in the 2000 production of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito alone, Raffo worked with singers of American, Armenian, Portuguese, and Korean origin—all of which were “held accountable for the Italian text” (Daniels in “Giving Voice” by Richard Dyer, Boston Globe).
According to Raffo, the decision to unite her love of Italian language with her teaching experience and affinity for music was an obvious one: much of her personal interest is based on the interaction between historical and cultural events and its reflection within musical expression, and her professional research includes such diverse topics as folk theater and Commedia dell ‘Arte. Raffo believes that classic Italian opera is particularly well-suited to relate history because its stories are so often based on cultural events or norms and often more “modern opera is … not as pleasing to the eye.”
And the critics seem to agree. In a 1999 review of Puccini’s La Boheme, Boston Globe correspondent Susan Larson praised Raffo’s ability to impart “not only good diction but entry into the meaning of the language” for the singers. Boston Globe staff writer Richard Dyer stated that La Clemenza was “first-rate in nearly every respect,” giving particular credit to the “Italian coaches and voice faculty.”
The Opera Institute plans at least one or two Italian operas each year, and Raffo is always happy to offer her time and talents to the up-and-coming singers, both in her courses and in private lessons. When asked what the best part about her experience with The Opera Institute has been, Raffo’s eyes brighten and her smile broadens: “When the students go on to bigger things.” She remembers that one of her former students, a powerful tenor, was recently given the opportunity to perform Verdi’s Requiem with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
For Raffo, her students’ success may be the happiest “truth” of all.
A new summer program, “Argentina Cultural Studies: Writing in the Americas” offers undergraduates and graduate students from BU and other universities the chance to study writing and film in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s intellectual and cultural capital, and one of Latin America’s most sophisticated cities.
This summer courses will be offered on Argentine culture and on the work of Jorge Luis Borges, as well as recent literary and intellectual developments. Classes will take place on the campus of the Universidad de San Andres in downtown Buenos Aires. Students will be housed with families and will be provided with breakfast and dinner. Upon successful completion of the program, students will earn eight Boston University credits. See the International Programs website for details.
Boston University in Madrid is offering a new program on FILM STUDIES AND DOCUMENTARY VIDEO PRODUCTION combining advanced Spanish study with a unique opportunity to explore Spanish culture through the study of film and television. It also offers students a rare chance to investigate some aspect of Spanish culture through the production of a documentary. This class will be led by an accomplished Spanish documentary filmmaker and will entail in-depth observation and immersion into the culture. The program is open to upperclassmen with an advanced level of Spanish language and a serious interest in both Spain and film production. Upon successful completion of the semester, students earn 16 Boston University credits.
Thomas Edison decides to create a mechanical replica of a woman for his troubled friend, Lord Ewald. This android woman would have all the perfections of Alicia Clary, the woman Ewald loves, with none of her flaws. Using sound recordings, chemically created skin, electricity, and photosculpture, Edison succeeds in crafting an ideal, working Alicia. Ewald accepts her and sets out to take her back to his estate; however she is lost at sea in the wreck of the ship on its voyage. This is the plot of L’Ève future, the 1886 French novel written by Villiers de l’Isle-Adam.
In her new book, published in print and online by Penn State University Press, Reconstructing Woman: Gender and Scientific Thought in Nineteenth-Century French Narrative, Professor of French Dorothy Kelly investigates the reasons for and meanings of this literary fantasy. She reaches back to the beginning of the nineteenth century, when Balzac’s character, Raphaël de Valentin, wishes to turn his beautiful neighbor, Pauline, into an artificial creation, into his idea of what she should be. Kelly goes on to explore in Flaubert’s texts the preference for dreams of women and the rejection of real women, as well as Zola’s images of man’s need to cure woman’s nature, which he views as having been corrupted by modern life. Because all of these novelists were influenced by scientists and the science of the time, Kelly explores their favorite scientific inventions, fads, and ideas, as well as other cultural influences, to show how they allow these authors to imagine the invention of an artificial woman.