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In ‘Labyrinth of Ice,’ the grim fate of the Greely Polar Expedition gets a compassionate telling

Buddy Levy.

In “Labyrinth of Ice,” a recent account of Greely’s northward trek, Washington State University associate professor of English Buddy Levy, noted for bringing a fine novelist’s sense of storytelling to his narrative histories, tells this difficult but fascinating story with a compassion and vividness often lacking in works of this nature. In the doing, he adds another essential volume to what has become an onslaught of recent literature concerning the far north.

It’s here, a little more than a hundred pages into this book, that Levy’s remarkable skills as a writer, already evident earlier in the book, fully bloom. In page after agonizing page, he details the daily lives of the men as darkness and hunger overtook them. Up until digging in for the winter, they had beaten the odds of 19th century polar exploration; they were all still alive. This would not last.

Levy demonstrates deep compassion for all the men throughout, even those who did bad things under horrible circumstances. He could have been perhaps more critical of some, but he makes up for it with his genuine empathy.

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Anchorage Daily News

Enhancing research, creative activity in the arts and humanities

Eleven of Washington State University’s most innovative scholars and artists have been selected for faculty fellowships and mini-grants from the Center for Arts and Humanities (CAH) and the Office of Research.

Todd Butler.

“We are excited to support faculty as they advance not only their academic fields but also the communities we serve,” said Todd Butler, director of the center, associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, and professor of English.

Funded by a five-year commitment from the Office of Research and its strategic research investment program, the center’s grant programs strengthen and enhance research and creative endeavors across WSU. Any faculty member pursuing arts and humanities-related work, regardless of rank or home department, is eligible to apply.

“This year, almost all of the arts and humanities departments—as well as associated faculty working in the social sciences—were represented in the proposals submitted, testifying to the ongoing vitality and reach of these disciplines at Washington State University,” said Butler.

Reflecting upon her CAH experience, School of Music instructor and 2019 faculty fellow Melissa Parkhurst said, “The CAH Faculty Fellowship put me in regular communication with a group of dedicated interdisciplinary scholars. I gained a vital support network, valuable feedback, and ideas for future projects.”

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WSU Insider

Simplifying board game instructions for translation into other languages

Go Fish. Life. Apples to Apples. Checkers. These are games that bring people to together for the purpose of family and friend bonding. But for some new to the English language, translating how to play the games into a structure that is easy to understand can be difficult, considering the complexity of some instructions.

Vanessa Cozza.

“Board games are great ways to spend time with families, and they wanted a way to make their game nights not only more inclusive, but more accessible by a variety of individuals locally in the Tri-Cities,” said Vanessa Cozza, clinical assistant professor of English. “This is a fun project for students to use the skills they learn and develop in an English class to make a difference in their local community.”

“These are great opportunities for students to not only develop their skills in the English language, but also give back to a local organization that will have a real-world impact,” Cozza said.

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WSU Insider

Creative collaborations connect arts, sciences, community

Linda Russo.

Walking along the soggy banks of the Palouse River near Pullman, Washington, Linda Russo an assistant professor of English, listened to the squish of mud under her feet and felt the cool wetness seep into her shoes. As the water rose around her heels and toes, her mind was flooded with thoughts about the past, present and future of the riverfront and other “wild edge” spaces.

“Almost 11 years ago, I went down to the muddy Palouse riverbank and my feet sunk in, setting a course,” Russo said about the genesis of EcoArts on the Palouse, her newest community project which brings together environmental history, ecology and creative expression.

“EcoArts on the Palouse invites the community to engage in exploration, discussion and discovery of the Palouse’s wild edge spaces by calling out the details in the languages of environmental science and different creative and healing arts to see what image of the landscape emerges and what new connections might arise,” she said.

A similarly collaborative, cross-disciplinary current runs through Russo’s other teaching and outreach activities. The projects allow her to reach students inside and outside the humanities and to help them engage with complex, challenging ideas.

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Mirage news
WSU Insider

Ask Dr. Universe: Why are bears called bears when they can be called anything else, not just a bear?

You’ve noticed something very important: there’s no natural reason for the words humans use. Any sound could be used to describe a big mammal that eats berries and salmon.

But people who speak English choose “bear.” People who speak Spanish use “oso.” People who speak Maricopa say “maxwet.” They’re all different, but they’re all correct.

Lynn Gordon.

That’s what I learned from my friend Lynn Gordon, an associate professor emeritus of linguistics in the English department at Washington State University.

“Why do we call bears ‘bears’?” she said. “Because we’ve agreed to.”

Humans have a unique knack for speech. They talk about things in the past or future. They make up new words. They even say things they’ve never said before (like you did with your excellent question).

To be understood, speakers of a language agree about its rules. This happens very early, when a baby is first learning to talk.

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Dr. Universe