When the term “research” comes to mind, “experiments” and “laboratories” are often thought of. Not so often do we think of literature as a forefront of research.
There is a significant amount of research being conducted in the University of California, Santa Barbara English Department that has an impact in several areas of study. There are eight concentrations within the department developing knowledge in nearly every subject from innovation theory to cultural intelligence.
“This interdisciplinary focus allows us to be creative, to collaborate and create new initiatives,” Candace Waid, an English professor who is currently researching comparative linguistics in American literature, said.
Waid encourages synergistic and cross-disciplinary components to improve students’ education. With so many diverse initiatives in the department, undergraduate and graduate students are able to develop much-needed critical thinking skills. Another instrumental part of the English department’s research is its ability to gain information about complex issues.
“Studying the concept of the mind through literature enables an understanding of how people perceive reality,” Julie Carlson, an English professor focusing on literature pertaining to the mind, said. “Literature is a contemporary art that is often the force of positive social change.” Often, the understanding of a social movement can be complex, with many unanswered questions. Carlson attempts to answer these through the careful study of particular circumstances expressed in literature.
Carlson’s work is a way to bring these complex topics to conversation. Literature of the mind is an essential way for research to create a conceptualization of a person’s or people’s thought processes. “There is an incredible developmental capacity to knowing a mind other than your own,” she said.
With a potential to understand many aspects of society, this literary research creates a possibility of cross-examinations of sociocultural elements. “Fiction and poetry within literature have data,” Chris Newfield, another English professor in the department, said. He analyses this data to understand people and how they work in groups.
Newfield’s work brings a sociocultural aspect to the development of technology. For instance, his research with innovation theory is in the future of solar energy. This research attempts to determine whether certain societies have the ability to negotiate openly about issues like alternative energy. Literature enables him to answer these questions through a “subjective analysis of cultural intelligence.”
The English department has these research concentrations in order to increase the quality of education for its students. The professors believe these synergistic components of education allow for a greater level of brain development. “Understanding different ways of knowing enables students to have a deeper understanding of diversity, society, literature and people,” Waid said.
The research within each of these concentrations in the English department contributes to the way people see the world. With the vast amount of writing being shared, nearly every discourse of thought is being discussed. The English department allows for this discourse to become knowledge. The work of these professors combines liberal arts and practicality to take an understanding and link it to a variety of skill sets. The critical thinking and cross-disciplinary analyses of society gives the studies, as professor Waid says, “the UCSB touch.”