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Research and Scholarly Work

Robert Levine Discusses Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson. The talk is part of a series centering ARHU faculty expertise on issues of systemic racism, inequality and social justice.

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By Jessica Weiss ’05

Barbara Haggh-Huglo, professor of musicology in the University of Maryland School of Music, was elected an honorary member of the American Musicological Society (AMS), the largest musicological organization in the world. Honorary members are those scholars “who have made outstanding contributions to furthering its stated object and whom the Society wishes to honor.” The award is the highest honor of the AMS, reserved for the most esteemed of scholars.
Haggh-Huglo, who specializes in medieval and Renaissance music, has conducted extensive research in libraries and archives across Europe and the British Isles, as well as in the United States and Mexico, and has published widely on the music and musicians of northwest Europe from 800–1600. The AMS called Haggh-Huglo “a committed pedagogue.”
The “author of over 100 articles and chapters, Dr. Haggh-Huglo is a reservoir of knowledge on medieval and Renaissance music whose expertise has made for a significant international presence and enduring impact at her institution,” the AMS statement said.
Haggh-Huglo became immersed in the history of medieval music thanks in large part to her multilingual upbringing; by the time she was 20, she read English, French and German and had taken lessons in Dutch. During her doctoral research at the University of Illinois, she took several research trips to Europe and began working with early archives.
In Lille, France, Haggh-Huglo found documents to prove that Guillaume Du Fay, considered by many the greatest composer of the 15th century, composed a day’s worth of plainchant, or music with a single melodic line.
“No one had known about it and still, to this day, it is an exception in the history of music because we don’t know of any well-known composer of choral music who also composed chant,” Haggh-Huglo said.
She went on to write the first histories of music in the cities of late medieval Brussels and Ghent in her dissertation and articles, and later became known for her editions and studies of pre-modern plainchant offices, which were sung from one evening to the next in churches and told the lives of patron saints. During her research on offices, she rediscovered a lost 15th-century office used by the Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece.
Haggh-Huglo has also published articles on topics ranging from Old Hispanic and Irish chant to German radio dramas of the 1950s and 1960s.
She has been at the University of Maryland since 2000, where she has taught courses on early music, notation and theory, research methods, and the survey of music history. She will teach a course on music, art and architecture from Vitruvius to the present for the first time in Spring 2022.
Her forthcoming three-volume book is “Recollecting the Virgin Mary with Music: Guillaume Du Fay's Chant across Five Centuries.” She will lecture about the book to the Belgian Academy of Sciences next spring.
“This was very unexpected and I am deeply honored,” Haggh-Huglo said about the award. “I have dedicated my life to this scholarship and this puts me in the company of a very elite group of people in the field. I hope this distinction will help me to continue and encourage others to pursue this research.”


By Rosie Grant

Professor of English and Comparative Literature Ralph Bauer’s work “The Alchemy of Conquest: Science, Religion, and the Secrets of the New World” has been awarded the Modern Language Association of America’s (MLA) Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies.

“The Alchemy of Conquest” examines the historical relationship between European expansionism in the Americas and the Scientific Revolution during the so-called Age of Discovery. It focuses particularly on the “language” of alchemy—the ancient speculative art of transforming base metals—in the Spanish, English and French literatures of discovery during the early modern period (ca. 1500-1700).

The book’s inquiry into the violent connections between conquest, discovery and alchemy in the early Americas was inspired by Gabriel García Márquez’s novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” said Bauer.

In the novel, an alchemist named Melchíades appears in the remote South American town of Macondo and writes an enigmatic manuscript in the ancient Indo-European language of Sanskrit. When it’s finally deciphered at the end of the novel, it turns out to be a prophecy of Macondo’s destruction. “The Alchemy of Conquest” is “conceived as a literary and cultural history of Melchíades’s apocalyptic manuscript,” according to Bauer.       

Encapsulating 16 years of Bauer’s research, the work provides a deep exploration of the role that alchemy played in the literature of the discovery of the Americas and in the rise of an early modern paradigm of discovery in both science and international law.

For example, alchemy had been rather marginal in medieval science and primarily an artisanal endeavor often practiced by friars in the mendicant orders. Bauer explains that during the age of European expansionism, it moved into the courts of monarchies eager to harness its methods and operations for military technology in their competition for global dominance during the 16th century. Alchemical language and ideas laid the foundations for a modern rhetoric of science in the aftermath of the conquest of America, during the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century.

The book traces the legacies of late medieval alchemists such as Roger Bacon, Arnald of Villanova and Ramon Llull in the early modern literature of the conquest of America in texts written by authors such as Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, José de Acosta, Nicolás Monardes, Walter Raleigh, Thomas Harriot, Francis Bacon and Alexander von Humboldt.

The award will be presented on January  8, 2022, during the Modern Language Association’s annual convention in Washington, D.C. UMD English alum Allison Bigelow ‘03, whose honors thesis was directed by Bauer, will also be awarded the MLA’s Prize for a First Book. Bigelow is an associate professor of Spanish at the University of Virginia.

Bauer specializes in the literatures and cultures of the early Americas, comparative literature, critical science studies, as well as hemispheric American and early modern Atlantic studies. He is the general editor of the Early Americas Digital Archive and is currently serving as associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland.



Robert S. Levine is Distinguished University Professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park, and author of The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson, available now from W. W. Norton & Company.

On Jan. 3, 1867, nearly two years after the end of the Civil War, Frederick Douglass stood before a full house of hundreds of African Americans at Philadelphia’s National Hall. He had been invited to speak in a Black lecture series organized by William Still, famous for his work on the Underground Railroad. As recounted by the Philadelphia Daily Evening Telegraph, the celebrated African American singer Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield performed several arias before Douglass’s introduction. Douglass then took the stage to speak on the “Sources of Danger to the Republic.” The Telegraph reported that he “was frequently interrupted by applause, and evidently made the best effort of his life.”

“Sources of Danger to the Republic” is indeed one of Douglass’s greatest speeches, and it deserves to be better known for its ruminations on the precarious state of democracy in post-Civil War America. Douglass delivered the speech in the midst of the battle over civil rights for Black people, addressing the threat posed to the nation by a racist President who refused to give them the full rights of citizenship. Douglass’s warning about antidemocratic authoritarianism during the early years of Reconstruction resonates in our own time as well.

The “Sources of Danger” speech was prompted by the reactionary policies of Andrew Johnson, who assumed the presidency on April 15, 1865, after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Shortly after taking office, Johnson pardoned former Confederate leaders, and over the four years of his presidency he vetoed all legislation that sought to expand the rights of African Americans. (Many of those vetoes were overturned by the Radical Republicans and their allies.) In particular, Johnson opposed measures that granted African Americans the right to vote. His reactionary policies contributed to massacres of Black people in Memphis and New Orleans during the spring and summer of 1866. Appalled by the killing of over 100 Black people in those cities, Douglass linked the murders to the disempowerment promoted by Johnson. “Disenfranchisement means New Orleans; it means Memphis,” he said. In this way Douglass called attention to the always simmering possibilities for violence that accompanied the suppression of voting rights.

But Douglass was also angry at the Radical Republicans, who claimed to support African Americans, but attempted to stop Douglass from attending a public meeting of Republicans in September 1866 because they didn’t want their party to be perceived as “Black.” Douglass was also distraught that the Republicans’ proposed Fourteenth Amendment, which gave Blacks birthright citizenship, failed to include the right to vote. Without the vote, Douglass bitterly remarked, “my citizenship is but an empty name.”

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By Maryland Today Staff 

While the world contended with a pandemic, social media platforms and other sources spewed billions of misleading health messages at users—more than 3.8 billion times on Facebook over the course of a year, according to one study—a dynamic that University of Maryland researchers and their colleagues say can lead to adverse public health outcomes ranging from mistrust in reliable information sources to deaths from disease.

Now, these risk communication experts in the Department of Communication and at the University of Georgia (UGA) are collaborating with researchers at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop and test messaging strategies that can help overcome misinformation during public health emergencies.

Supported by a three-year, nearly $225,000 award from the FDA, communication Professor Brooke Fisher Liu and Yan Jin, professor of public relations and Georgia Athletic Association professor at UGA, will develop and test message strategies concerning vital health information that can help keep people safe.

“Past research found a clear link between COVID-19 misinformation exposure and vaccine hesitancy,” said Liu, the project’s principal investigator. “Research also connects misinformation exposure to lower compliance with government health and safety guidance. In short, misinformation is just as great of a threat to public health as the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, but our knowledge is limited on how to combat misinformation.”

The researchers will be among the first to explore how public health misinformation can be corrected through strategic risk communication and what methods work best in thwarting misinformation. They will conduct two large-scale online experiments on how messages containing misinformation and various types of corrective responses are interpreted by U.S. adults.

“This project exemplifies the importance and promising future for more collaborative risk and crisis communication research across universities and with the government to provide theory-driven, evidenced-based insights to protect public health and safety,” said Jin, co-principal investigator.

Liu and Jin’s research collaborations date back to 2001, when they both studied in the graduate program at the Missouri School of Journalism. Now they are joined by graduate research assistants Tori McDermott from UMD, and Xuerong Lu from UGA.

In addition to the experimental results, the research team will also provide a targeted deep-dive analysis of previous research, and will recommend best practices for how public health agencies can combat health misinformation for current and future threats.

This article was adapted from a news release by the University of Georgia.


By Jessica Weiss ’05

Students of science in the United States are likely to recognize the names and discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, Galileo and Charles Darwin. Fewer may know of the many influential curanderos, cosmologists and agriculturists from across the Americas whose work has impacted science across the globe for centuries. 

Thanks to a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, a new project led by Professor of History Karin Rosemblatt aims to establish how Latin America’s popular, Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities were “never on the periphery of scientific developments.” 

“We aim to shift emphasis away from the discoveries of a few scientific geniuses and to foreground instead the many contributors to scientific work—porters, local guides, wives and family members, technicians, herbal specialists,” said Rosemblatt, who is also the director of UMD’s Nathan and Jeanette Miller Center for Historical Studies. 

The project, “Placing Latin America and the Caribbean in the History of Science, Technology, Environment, and Medicine,” will bring together senior and established researchers and graduate students in the field of HSTEM (History of Science, Technology, Environment and Medicine) in Latin America and the Caribbean. The network will secure ties among researchers in North and South America, produce publications that make their research widely available and provide training and mentoring to graduate students.  

Rosemblatt, whose research focuses on the transnational study of gender, race, ethnicity and class, has already coordinated a 13-person steering committee made up of scholars at different stages of their careers working in Latin America and the United States. The committee members specialize in different time periods, geographic regions and topics. They include: Miruna Achim (Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Cuajimalpa, Mexico City); Eve Buckley (University of Delaware); Marcos Cueto (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Rio de Janeiro); Sebastián Gil-Riaño (University of Pennsylvania); Pablo F. Gómez (University of Wisconsin-Madison); Carlos López Beltrán (National Autonomous University of Mexico); Camilo Quintero (UNIANDES, Colombia); Megan Raby (University of Texas at Austin); Julia Rodriguez (University of New Hampshire); Carlos Sanhueza Cerda (Universidad de Chile); Elisa Sevilla Perez (Universidad de San Francisco, Quito); and Adam Warren (University of Washington, Seattle). Ana Luísa Reis Castro (MIT) will serve as graduate student representative. 

Next steps involve growing the network and building out a website. 

Through the materials produced by the network, teachers of students of all ages will also gain access to bibliographies, lesson plans, essays and collections of syllabi that allow them to cover a broader range of scientific endeavors and a more diverse community of scientists, Rosemblatt said. 

“We hope to convince other historians, students and the broader public that the Western scientific tradition developed in conversation with other, often colonized, peoples,” she said.   

Image: “Two views of Cabo Tres Montes” (Chile), 1891, via memoriachilena.cl


By Jessica Weiss ’05

Anyone who’s ever tried having a conversation with a 1-year-old knows it can feel like very little is getting through. But according to linguistics Professor Jeffrey Lidz, there’s plenty going on behind the adorable babble and occasional slobbering.

For the past two decades, Lidz has focused on behind-the-scenes action in the youngest human minds, seeking to discern how and when infants begin to understand things like sentence structure or the difference between a noun and a verb.

Lidz co-authored—with Laurel Perkins Ph.D ’19, now an assistant professor at UCLA—a groundbreaking study published last month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing that syntax, or the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences, actively develops during the second year of life. According to the researchers, 18-month-olds have developed syntax capacities on par with adults.

We recently spoke with Lidz, who is also the director of the University of Maryland Project on Children's Language Learning and one of the founders of the Infant and Child Studies Consortium, about his latest discovery and what it’s like to conduct research into the mysteries of baby talk.

When did you begin researching language in kids?
In the last year of my Ph.D., I took a course on language acquisition, which I thought was really cool. I had some questions about how that research worked, and I managed to get a postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania in 1997. So, I started researching syntax and semantics in 3- and 4-year-olds, and the thing I kept finding was that for almost every phenomenon I looked at, children had a really sophisticated knowledge of their language—even though they didn’t speak super fluently. So, the question that was driving me was: How did they get there? Language is a really, really complicated mental construct. It almost seems like an impossible task to figure out how children acquire all that knowledge.

You’ve been at the forefront of making discoveries about syntactic abilities in young children. How does your recent paper fit into the trajectory of your research?
Before the early 2000s, nobody was really studying the syntax of children between 1 and 2 because they thought there wasn’t anything to study because kids that age don’t talk much. But sometimes what kids say is a reflection of what they know, and sometimes what they say is much less than what they know because it’s hard to coordinate a long expression. By 18 months, kids understand that sentences are hierarchically structured, even though you can’t see that in their productions. We found that kids know about grammatical categories like the difference between nouns and verbs, between 16 and 18 months. This most recent paper is about a central feature of language structure, which is the ability to create dependency between words in a sentence that are far away from each other. Discovering that kids can do those computations by the time they’re 18 months is new and exciting.

How do you manage to get babies to cooperate for research studies?
It’s fun—and it’s a challenge. We try and make the lab environment an interesting place to be, and we spend a fair amount of time at the beginning of a study playing with toys, making the children feel comfortable and getting them accustomed to the environment so that when we want to take them into the room to do the study, they’re happy to go with us and interested to see what’s there. We want to make the lab feel like a mix between a dentist’s office and a preschool. In the dentist’s office everything works the way it’s supposed to work and you feel like you’re in the hands of total professionals. But we also want it to be a place that’s fun, where the kid feels happy and so do the parents. If the kids are not feeling comfortable and safe, the experiments are just not gonna work.

Are there things parents can do to help their own kids’ language development?
When my kids were little, we would play with them and figure out ways to probe what they understood. I think playing with your kids linguistically is a fun thing to do, like by seeing how they react when something is ungrammatical. You’ll learn a lot about how sophisticated their knowledge is. But I don’t think parents need to worry, generally, about language development. Children are aggressive learners, and they’re motivated to learn language because they're trying to be understood and they’re trying to understand the world around them.


Photo: Linguistics Professor Jeff Lidz talks about adjectives with an aspiring child scientist at Family Science Days at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in 2016. Lidz is co-author of a groundbreaking new study about how children learn syntax in language.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Language Science Center


By Jessica Weiss ’05

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened in early 2020, Lecturer in the Department of Art Mollye Bendell felt a growing anxiety that the last time she would see her loved ones might be on a video call. 

Bendell, who works with electronic media to explore themes of vulnerability, visibility and longing, began to attempt to preserve her friends and family through her work using images of their faces from video chats. 

In her video project “Sketch for Sleepers,” Bendell projects those images in 3D onto stock digital silhouettes of human bodies that float across a screen. 

artwork by Lecturer in the Department of Art Mollye Bendell

The work is on display now until Dec. 3 at the University of Maryland Art Gallery as part of a triennial exhibition of professional work by Department of Art faculty and adjunct faculty. Part of the campuswide Arts for All initiative, which seeks to spark new ways of thinking through collaborations across the arts, sciences and other disciplines, Faculty Exhibition 2021 showcases works from 20 faculty members in a range of mediums. It is the first in-person art exhibition held at the Art Gallery since it closed in March 2020. 

“The exhibition honors faculty work while emphasizing that their scholarship and teaching is grounded first and foremost in an art-making practice,” said Art Gallery Associate Director Taras W. Matla. “Having been closed for 18 months due to the pandemic, this is a terrific way to reintroduce the Art Gallery and art department faculty to the campus community.” 

Professor of Art Foon Sham’s “Covid 19, 2020” wood and acrylic wall sculpture emerged from elements related to his state of mind during lockdown. It’s made of wooden sticks that represent the many people affected by the virus. 

artwork by Professor of Art Foon Sham

“There are various colors of wood sticks and some are stained with red and blue, implying all the damage this virus could do,” he said. 

Many of the works also address socio-political issues and social justice. For instance, Lecturer Julia Kwon’s “Dissent” is inspired by the fight for abortion rights, via the format of traditional Korean object-wrapping cloth with embedded patterns. And Assistant Professor Jessica Gatlin’s “Work Related” is a series of wearable canvas “paintings” that comment on themes of sustainability, labor, consumption and capitalism.   

Assistant Professor Cy Keener, whose work blends art, science and technology, is exhibiting “Terminal Front,” a virtual reality experience that allows people to visit a remote and uninhabitable landscape in Greenland. Using scientific data gathered from the site—via custom laser scanners built by the Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory—paired with detailed drone photography, the VR user can immerse in a massive and detailed landscape of a glacier’s surface. 

art by Assistant Professor Cy Keener

Keener and Bendell are among faculty instructors in the new immersive media design major, co-taught by faculty from the Department of Art and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. The program prepares students to use digital tools and technologies including virtual and augmented reality, digital art, projected imagery, computer graphics, 3D modeling and user interfaces spanning audio, visual and tactile platforms.

Additional participating faculty artists include: Emily Conover, Patrick Craig, Pete Cullen, Brandon Donahue, Wendy Jacobs, Richard Klank, Matthew McLaughlin, Brandon Morse, Irene Pantelis, Narendra Ratnapala, John Ruppert, Justin Strom, Athena Tacha, Jowita Wyszomirska and Rex Weil. 

In addition, an In Memoriam section recognizes the vast contributions to the Department of Art made by longtime faculty members David C. Driskell (1931-2020) and James Thorpe (1951-2021). 

Visit the Faculty Exhibition 2021 at the University of Maryland Art Gallery in the Parren J. Mitchell Art-Sociology Building until Dec. 3, 2021. Free and open to the public, Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 

Photos from top to bottom of page: Visitors at Faculty Exhibition 2021; Mollye Bendell's video project “Sketch for Sleepers;" Foon Sham’s “Covid 19, 2020; " A visitor experiences Cy Keener’s “Terminal Front.” Photos by Thai Q. Nguyen.


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