New Academic Journal Creates Opportunities for UT’s English Students

The “International Journal of Nuclear Security” is only nine months old, but it has already made significant changes to UT’s technical communications program, according to director Russel Hirst.

In July, UT’s English Department joined forces with the UT Institute for Nuclear Security and the Department of Nuclear Engineering to create a peer-reviewed journal titled the “International Journal of Nuclear Security” (IJNS).  IJNS was created to fill the need for an open, global, scholarly dialogue about nuclear security among scholars, scientists, and law enforcement agencies.  The journal, while interdisciplinary, is mostly managed by UT’s technical communications program.

Technical communications, one of the English department’s four concentrations, was established by Michael Keene in 1985.  The concentration was immediately successful, and within five years the department brought in Hirst to help continue the program’s growth.

Hirst, now the director of the program, is largely responsible for the journal’s creation.

“I met people from UT’s Department of Nuclear Engineering who…said to me, ‘Hey, we want to start up a journal about nuclear security.  Would you be interested in editing the journals?’  So I said, ‘Yeah, sounds fascinating!’”

The first issue came out five months ago.  “Already it has made a big change,” Hirst said.

One such change is the creation of internships and editorial positions for both undergraduate and graduate students.  The real-world experience gives these students opportunities not offered at most other universities.

Sarah Docktycz, a senior in technical communications, said her experience with IJNS impacted her education in several ways.  “This internship gave me invaluable experience…that I’m not sure I could have gotten anywhere else.  I’ve started to make connections in my field, and it’s helped me get a job post-graduation.”

Sumner Brown, a graduate student studying rhetoric and writing, agreed.  “[IJNS] has completely shaped my career.  It’s taken me from not knowing where I was going or what I was doing to ‘Wow, there’s this niche and I fit right into it.’  I have found that [rhetoric and nuclear security] come together in a perfect fit.”

IJNS has also helped shape course curriculum.  Hirst said he has learned enough from his new nuclear security connections to offer a new class.  “Next semester I’m offering a special topics course…called Global Communication in Science, Technology, and Policy,” he said.  The course will focus on the interconnectivity between rhetoric and writing in technical fields, such as nuclear security or public policy.

“IJNS is developing curriculum, it’s developing research and publication opportunities for me in collaboration with students, [and] it’s helping to fund INS and IJNS,” Hirst stated.  “All these connections are helping to bolster technical communications within the UT Department of English in a significant way.”

The journal is free and open to the public on their website.



Digital Technologies Help Humanities Analyze Fluid Texts


John Bryant, a professor of English at Hofstra University, created a literary database of Herman Melville’s work to help other scholars analyze texts.

Digital technologies and electronic databases may have a profound impact on how we read and understand literature, according to Dr. John Bryant.

Bryant, a professor of English at Hofstra University, presented a lecture titled “Big Data | Close Reading: Melville and the Humanities as Fluid Texts” Thursday in the John C. Hodges Library.  In his lecture, he explained how a new software called TextLab allows scholars to analyze and interpret data gathered from studying what Bryant termed “fluid texts.”  Bryant specifically focused on how he uses TextLab to better understand the works of Herman Melville, an American writer best known for his novel, “Moby-Dick.”

“A fluid text,” Bryant stated, “is any written work that exists in multiple versions due to revisions made by authors who revise their own works, or editors and publishers who might censor parts [of the work].  [They] also encompasses adaptation…for music, or opera, or fine arts and translation.”

According to Bryant, “Moby-Dick” is an excellent example of a fluid text.  For example, due to the lack of international copyright, “Moby-Dick” was published as two novels in 1951 – as “The Whale” in Britain and as “Moby-Dick” in the Americas.  This meant each copy was edited and revised by different publishers.  Sometimes the differences between the two texts were drastic.  For example, the British version does not include the epilogue where Melville reveals the protagonist, Ishmael, does not die with his crewmates.

Modern adaptations are another way “Moby-Dick” is a fluid text.  There have been two film adaptations (1926 and 1956) as well as several stage adaptations and a musical.

“Taken in all of its versions, the textual, the visual, the musical…Moby-Dick is not one book, or two, or even a book at all – it’s a cultural phenomenon.  The main question is…how do we get all of these versions together in one place?”

Digital technologies are Bryant’s solution to this problem.  With several colleagues, Bryant created the Melville Electronic Library (MEL), an online archive for Melville studies.  MEL uses TextLab, a text transformation tool, to document manuscript revisions such as crossed-out words, added-in phrases, and notes in the margins.  These small edits to a manuscript can help modern readers grasp the author’s thought process while writing and give insight to a text that would be missed by simply reading a published copy.

Dr. Hilary Havens, an English professor at UT, attended the event and especially appreciated Bryant’s points on how authorial intention and revision can shape the way we interpret texts.  “I think in the printed version…a lot of things are made invisible.  The nice thing about digital technologies is often you can see the many stages of revision that a text goes through before it’s published.  I think these things can tell us, not just about author intentionality, but sort of larger questions about the creative process of composition during the period.”

Bryant’s lecture was part of UT’s annual AuthorFest, a festival that highlights the contributions of influential writers from around the world.  The next event, a staged reading of “Moby-Dick” at the Relix Variety Theatre, will be tomorrow at 7 p.m.



Egyptian Ambassador discusses cyber security, gender equality in Middle East


Ambassador Sameh Aboul-Enein is also an assistant professor at the American University in Cairo.

Strengthening regional security and improving education in the Middle East may solve many problems in the region, according to Egyptian Ambassador Sameh Aboul-Enein.

Aboul-Enein presented a lecture titled “Emerging Regional Challenges in the Middle East” Monday, Mar. 28 in the Howard Baker Center.  His lecture discussed the regional challenges currently faced by the Middle East and several long-term solutions for solving these challenges.

“We have witnessed an era of an Arab Spring in the Middle East and there have been several developments in the aftermath of that, some of them political, some of them economic, social, [and] security,” he stated.

Aboul-Enein identified seven challenges currently afflicting the Middle East, but the two he stressed the most were issues surrounding cyber security and gender equality.

“Cyber security is one of the most pressing challenges in the Middle East currently, and the political transition in the region has undoubtedly put a highlight on the role of cyber security,” he stated.  “Information technology [gives] wide access to average citizens.  Public opinion has played an increasingly dominant role.  A decade ago that was not the case.”

Despite this benefit, cyberspace presents multiple difficulties to the region.  People with malicious intent can operate from anywhere in the world, giving them a strong advantage over governments and regional organizations.  Also, many physical concepts are linked to cyberspace, such as control over electricity or building security.  Terrorists can access these things via the Internet.  Many governments lack the legal framework to build up cyber security on national and regional levels.

The Ambassador also discussed gender quality in the Middle East.  He stated that according to statistics, women in the Middle East are more socially and economically disadvantaged than women in other regions of the world.

“There has been a major program with the United Nations…to improve empowerment capabilities by providing better education [and] by providing equality in job opportunities.”

Sarah Doktycz, a senior studying technical communications, appreciated the Ambassador’s position on women’s empowerment and gender equality in the Middle East, especially since gender equality is still an issue the United States is facing.

“I believe that we’re all part of an international community…[and] we can certainly work together.  And if we improve over [here], that can only help people improve in the Middle East and places like Northern Africa and Latin America.”

Aboul-Enein suggested several approaches as long-term solutions to these challenges.  One was to better equip regional think tanks to develop a stronger security framework.  Another was to better educate all parties involved in order to strengthen conflict management.

“In addressing conflicts, you need the proper conflict management, and that is what has been missing,” he commented.  “You need proper scenarios…and you need a lot of mediation roles.  That is the culture of engagement that needs to be developed very carefully and needs the encouragement of the international community.”

Aboul-Enein’s lecture was part of the Howard Baker Center’s Global Security Program.  The next lecture, titled “To the Moon, Alice,” will be given by U.S. Senator Harrison Schmitt on Apr. 4 at 4 p.m. in the Baker Center’s Toyota Auditorium.

International Conflict Mediator Shares Strategy for Countering Violent Extremism in Middle East

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Samar Ali concludes her lecture by listing key strategies for countering violent extremism.

Violence will not stop terrorist extremism in Syria, according to international conflict mediator and international law attorney Samar Ali.

Ali presented a lecture titled “Countering Violent Extremism in Syria and Beyond” Monday, Feb. 29 in the Howard Baker Center.  Her lecture discussed the Syrian conflict over the past decade and strategies for countering violent extremism in the Middle East.

Ali stated that there are now 13.5 million refugees as a result of the Syrian crisis.  As a result, 40 percent of youths in the Middle East are unemployed, which makes them targets for terrorist recruitment.

“[Terrorist groups] prey upon grievances, and they understand what those are,” she stated.  “The smart thing for us to do is to provide alternatives to those grievances.”

Ali stated that these “grievances” that make individuals or communities vulnerable to violent extremism recruitment are predominately conditions like physical insecurity or the inability to provide for oneself or one’s family.  But sometimes they are mental needs as well, such as feeling valued or having a “higher purpose.”

Ali’s solution is to implement strategies that improves living situations for at-risk populations.  Some strategies included promoting human rights, expanding economic and political opportunities, and avoiding harmful generalizations about entire groups of people.  She concluded by suggesting that there is a global responsibility surrounding these strategies that cannot be left to just the Middle East.

“The majority of Muslims want to live the same lifestyle that everyone in this room is living right now.  These people are people, just like anybody else, and they have had historical realities that have pushed them into a very unfortunate time period.  This is a global security matter where we all hold a certain level of responsibility, and if we rise up to the opportunity, we will conquer violent extremism.”

Grace Rotz, a senior studying technical communications who attended the lecture, appreciated the reminder that it is crucial to be well-informed before forming opinions about groups of people, especially during a time when the United States is seeing large numbers of Syrian immigrants enter the country.

“Public policy and international policy deals a lot more talking with the people and not just assuming political rhetoric is always correct,” Rotz stated.  “We can’t assume that Americans know everything about Syria or that Syrians know everything about America.  We need to know both sides of the story.”

Ali’s lecture was held by the Baker Center’s Global Security Program, which offers many related events year-round that are free and open to the public.


This article was featured on TNJN, the official news website for the University of Tennessee’s School of Journalism and Electronic Media.

UT’s Writer-in-Residence shares writing inspiration

William Wright

William Wright signs copies of his most recent book “Tree Heresies” which was published in 2015.

Inspiration for writing can come from anywhere, according to William Wright, the current UT Department of English Writer-in-Residence.

Wright read and discussed a number of his poems at a reading Monday, Feb. 22 in John C. Hodges Library.  The event was part of the University’s Writers in the Library series in which distinguished authors and poets from around the country come to read from their own work.

Wright’s poetry is unique because, unlike many more traditional Southern poets, he writes in an informal style.

“When I began writing seriously, I [wrote] formal poems.  Then I fell in love with Gerard Manley Hopkins, who hit me with sort of this pyrotechnic force.  What I did then is say, ‘How am I going to synthesize this formal tradition with Hopkins…to create a contemporary poetry worth reading?’”

Over time, Wright developed an innovative yet Southern style of free-verse poetry.

One of the biggest reasons why Wright’s poetry is categorized as Southern is that he draws a large amount of inspiration from the outdoors.  Hikes, animals, snowstorms and orchards were all topics addressed in the poems he read.

According to Art Smith, a poetry professor at the University, Wright “is a custodian of the land, of the southern earth itself…[and] a preserver and delighter of language [evidenced by the] lush and sometimes raucous sounds of words.”

Many of Wright’s poems were inspired by his sleep paralysis, a condition he has suffered from since he was 7 years old.

“What that means,” he stated, “is that I actually don’t go to sleep.  I see my dreams in my waking state.  So I see things, I hear things, I smell things, I even sometimes have tactile sensations.”  He says many of these episodes are terrifying.  “I try to make them art to help deal with the fact that I have this condition.”

Honor Lundt, a senior Linguistics major who attended the reading, appreciated the fact that Wright offered context to his poems by sharing the things that inspired his writing.

“A lot of times poetry represents an idea or an emotion, and [readers] kind of have to guess at the context,” she stated.  “It was interesting to hear him tell his stories and personal experiences that inspired the artwork.”

After the reading, Wright signed copies of his most recent book “Tree Heresies,” which was published in 2015.

The next reading will be held Mar. 7 in the Lindsay Young auditorium of John C. Hodges Library.


This article was featured on TNJN, the official news website for the University of Tennessee’s School of Journalism and Electronic Media.