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Christian Pirhalla at UD

Making connections between and across different fields of inquiry has become increasingly important in order to thrive in today’s interconnected world. The study of world languages and their literatures and cultures is by its very nature interdisciplinary, and the DLLC is engaged in many interdisciplinary endeavors, including several minors being offered in conjunction with other programs, as well as a broad range of scholarship being carried out by our faculty and graduate students across such diverse fields as healthcare, business, economics, linguistics, anthropology, film studies, game studies, art history, and neuroscience, to name just a few. 


Interdisciplinary initiatives have been the focus of the two newest minors in the Spanish program: Spanish for Healthcare and Spanish for Business and Finance. The first was developed to address the needs of students in healthcare majors. The course offerings and flexibility in its requirements make it an ideal addition to their majors. Partnering with the Nursing Program, Spanish Professor Jorge Cubillos established the SPHC minor in 2018. The minor includes a HLTH course on health matters affecting Spanish-speaking communities and a service-learning course that allows students to have first-hand experience using their Spanish in the healthcare setting. Along with courses on Spanish grammar, conversation, literature and culture, students also take “Reading and Writing for Healthcare Professionals” to enhance their knowledge of vocabulary and contexts for treating Spanish- speaking patients in the United States. 

Students are able to take these classes on campus at UD as well as abroad in programs to Panama and Spain. Students enrolled in the SPHC minor have said that it prepares them well for using Spanish in their future healthcare professions: 

"As a Medical Diagnostics major on the Pre-Med track, the Spanish for Healthcare minor has provided a valuable diversity within my curriculum at UD. Apart from the opportunity to immerse myself in other cultures on Study Abroad, the minor provides endless opportunities for exploration. The internship built into the minor is a unique experience that allows students to realize first-hand the need for medical offices to communicate with patients in multiple languages in order to provide proper care. This experience provides students a space to serve their community while also utilizing their Spanish speaking skills in a healthcare setting, which is an opportunity for which I am very grateful."

— KATIE BODYCOT (Medical Diagnostics major, Spanish for Healthcare minor)

"Although I am a native Spanish speaker, the SPHC minor has really helped me both develop new skills and strengthen old ones. This minor has brought to me many rewarding and valuable experiences that will serve me in my future profession as an occupational therapist in many ways. One of the most valuable things this minor has brought to me is helping me to work and build communication with Spanish-speaking patients in the healthcare field. My experience taking SPAN319 as part of the Winter 2020 Study Abroad program in Panama, allowed me to communicate with native Panamanians in a nursing home setting and learn about the differences between Panamanian and United States healthcare. I am excited to utilize all of my learned skills and opportunities from the SPHC minor to help me fully succeed in my professional future." 

— ELIZABETH BROWN-CORDERO (Health Behavior Science major, Spanish for Healthcare minor) 

In the fall of 2020, the Spanish for Business and Economics minor will debut. For this 22-credit minor, students in the Lerner College of Business will take “Introduction to Business Spanish” before completing an internship course “Service Learning and Earned Income Tax Credit” in which they will learn the skills necessary to help Spanish-speaking clients complete their annual tax returns. As part of their course load, students will also take an ECON course, “Urban Economics,” to learn how Spanish is used in a business context in the US and abroad. In the future, the DLLC hopes to develop a study abroad program to enhance the multidisciplinary focus of this new minor. 


Mackenzie Campbell, TA for the 2019 Martinique study abroad program

Armani. Fendi. Gucci. Versace. Prada. Some of the most celebrated designer names come from Italian fashion houses. These brands are renowned for their luxury clothing, high-end accessories and stylish footwear.

Now, students interested in combining their language study with a career in the fashion industry have the opportunity to do so through a joint minor between the Italian program and the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies. This partnership enhances the natural connections between Italian culture and language and fashion.

“This minor allows students to apply their linguistic skills within a specialized setting: that of the fashion industry,” Italian Professor Laura Salsini noted. “Students can explore the many facets of the world of fashion, from sustainability to marketing to design. A solid foundation in the language will open up a myriad of opportunities to them, both here and abroad.”

Students enrolled in the 21-credit minor, which launches in Fall, will choose from a variety of courses that will enhance their knowledge of the fashion industry and culture while building a strong foundation in the language. Courses include Italian language, culture and literature courses through the 300 level. These classes will address such topics as the role of fashion in Italian culture, the concept of “Made in Italy,” and the symbolic significance of clothing on gender and identity, among others, along with specialized terminology. Students will also take courses more specifically focused on the fashion industry, including an overview of costume history and international fashion retailing.

“We also plan on creating an internship for students in this minor,” said Dr. Salsini. “They could do this here, perhaps in New York City, or in Italy. Working closely with fashion industry experts would significantly enhance their understanding of the field as well as their employment opportunities after they complete their studies.”

Eventually, the minor will also include an optional study-abroad program based in Milan, one of the great fashion capitals of the world. Through targeted course work, language study, guest lectures, and excursions to museums, exhibitions, fashion houses, and shopping areas, students will gain broad and invaluable hands-on experience with la moda italiana


Natalie Medlock with her Dominican host grandmother in her Peace Corps Community

During the 2020-2021 academic year, the DLLC is leading the proposal process for an all-new interdisciplinary Game Studies major, drawing out the connections between the sciences and the humanities in a collaboration between DLLC and the Departments of Communications, Computer and Information Sciences, Art, English, Sport Management, Business Administration and Music. This new major will build on the current Game Studies minor, which consists of eighteen credits spread among courses in game design, game reception, and games and culture.

Leading the development of this major and minor are two DLLC faculty members: Dr. Rachael Hutchinson, Associate Professor of Japanese, offers a course on Video Games and Japanese Culture, while Dr. Phillip Penix-Tadsen, Associate Professor of Spanish, teaches Introduction to Game Studies as well as Video Games and Latin American Culture. Assistant Professor of French Dr. Ana Oancea also incorporates game analysis into courses like Mad Science in Popular Culture, pointing to a bright future for this trajectory.

For Dr. Hutchinson, “the interdisciplinary Game Studies minor at the University of Delaware—as well as the new major we are preparing—will equip students to analyze, interpret, understand and work hands-on developing video games. All in all, the Game Studies minor and major prepare students to approach video games as an object of analysis that requires thinking across disciplines and that thrives on the kinds of connections that our worldly and adaptable students can make.”

Dr. Penix-Tadsen emphasizes the unique focus on culture and diversity that sets UD’s Game Studies program apart from other programs in game design and development, explaining, “Game audiences and developers are growing ever more diverse, and it is essential that our program focus on nurturing a diverse group of students and faculty as well as the types of cultural perspectives that will enable to them to face the myriad issues surrounding video games and game culture in society today with sensitivity and confidence.” 

Miranda Armiger

Mirando Armiger


To Dr. Rachael Hutchinson, Associate Professor of Japanese Studies, ‘interdisciplinary’ means crossing boundaries, drawing comparisons and contrasts between and across different areas of study. She analyzes Japanese literature, film, manga (comics) and video games, to discover how the Japanese people have historically represented themselves and others. The idea of a national ‘Japanese Self ’ has been explored by artists in all these different fields of creative endeavor. She enjoys drawing comparisons between specific films, games, novels and manga, to shed more light on Japanese perceptions of identity. Thematically, Japanese video games have much in common with other Japanese narrative media. Video games of all genres, from role-playing games like Final Fantasy to fighting games like Soul Calibur, explore serious issues like childhood abandonment, the fear of nuclear power, and ambivalence towards Japan’s colonial history. She recently published a book titled Japanese Culture in Videogames to explore these ideas in more depth.

Using different approaches from Film Studies or Game Studies, she analyzes the various texts to see how the audience experiences the narrative through different modes of sensory input. The idea of ‘interacting’ with a text can mean watching a film and actively empathizing with the hero, or playing a game and controlling the movements of the avatar in a 3D graphic environment. An author, illustrator, film director or game developer also has various methods by which they can convey their own opinions about political issues, creating an underlying ideology of the text. Where an author may use specific words, imagery or narrative development to suggest their ideology, a film director may use camera placement and editing, a manga artist may use different sized panels and free-floating text, or a game developer may use specific programming rules to enforce what is allowed and what is forbidden in the virtual environment. Comparing media in this way can illuminate various thematic readings of the text, as artists will get the same point across in very different ways depending on the art form.

Lately Dr. Hutchinson has been looking at the concept of bioethics in Japanese video games, and how it is connected to a deep-seated unease with nuclear power. The scientific manipulation of genes to make a human body stronger, for example, appears in many games from the mid-1990s onwards. Similarly, many games from this period deal with the issue of nuclear power, arguing that the use of atomic weaponry and atomic energy is irresponsible, even immoral. She thinks that the two ideas are related, because both stem from experimenting with the core of an atom – either cloning or splitting the nucleus. The mid-1990s in Japan saw many minor accidents at nuclear power plants, and public protest succeeded in blocking the construction of nuclear plants at two sites. The relationship between text and historical context is therefore very clear, but the relationship between bioethics and nuclear fears may not be so clear to readers. Drawing new connections between prevalent themes is an exciting challenge, and interdisciplinary work has broadened and enriched her research and teaching.


Phillip Penix-Tadsen, Associate Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies, specializes in contemporary Latin American cultural studies and regional game studies, focusing on the intersections between politics, economics, digital media and visual culture throughout Latin America today. Prof. Penix-Tadsen is the author of Cultural Code: Video Games and Latin America (MIT Press, 2016) and editor of the anthology Video Games and the Global South (ETC Press, 2019). Both books are examples of cultural ludology, an approach Penix-Tadsen has helped pioneer as a way of analyzing video games as a unique medium—attending to the myriad ways culture is incorporated into game design and mechanics— while at the same time considering the impact of the cultural environment in which games are created, designed, manufactured, purchased, played and otherwise put to use. He has organized panels for conferences including Digital Games Research Association, Society for Cinema and Media Studies and Latin American Studies Association, showing the breadth of his work.


Associate Professor of Spanish Dr. Guardiola-Griffths’ research focuses on the literary and artistic portrayal of women in the cosmetics industry, as witnessed in several medieval works of fiction, and medieval and early modern medical treatises. Studies have examined the diminishing role of women from various fields of medicine. Most have dealt with the traditionally female roles of midwife and children’s physician. Given medieval moral-didactic treatises that condemned cosmetics as primarily feminine products of falsehood and evil, and the modern aspersions cast on what is today a 170-billion-dollar industry, it is not surprising that the study of medicine and cosmetics only now has seen some light. Through her work, she opens a field of inquiry into women’s material culture of the Castilian early modern period. The recipes and practices of this barely tangible feminine world – represented in literary and visual media – suggest a potentially wealthy source of information with which to look at women’s healthcare practices and aesthetic concerns. They are instances of female medicinal knowledge, and offer a means to understand how women self- fashioned their identity in a world that increasingly marginalized them.

Examples of Dr. Guardiola-Griffiths’ research interest can be seen in the articles she has written in recent years. One of the most important works of the late Middle Ages, and the focus of much of her academic interest is Fernando de Rojas’s Celestina. Scholars celebrate the eponymous character of this novel-in- dialogue, as a female quasi-picaresque “entrepreneur” who “capitalizes” on a seedy, black market economy. Her more nefarious side-gigs include perfumer, cosmetics maker, and restorer of women’s hymens. In “Medieval Mean Girls,” Dr. Guardiola-Griffiths showed that not only Celestina, but every female character in Rojas’s novel had a working knowledge of cosmetics, a knowledge that subverted the patriarchal order of late medieval society. In “Homegrown. From the Woman’s Workplace to the Medieval Garden,” she showed how the purview of women in the medical care of others may be seen in the cookbooks, house-books, and health manuals that Michael Solomon has identified as part of a corpus of medical vernacular writing (Fictions 4). These works detail empirical practice that, in turn, witnesses the abundant use of ingredients provided either from home gardens or from the trade routes of the Mediterranean and beyond. These homegrown practices, she argues, disclose a continued female tradition of medical practice, as many of these ingredients were used in medical treatments and ointments. Women were able to maintain ties to the scientific and medical communities increasingly dominated by a professional, masculine elite. Currently, Dr. Guardiola-Griffiths is writing on a misogynist tract published in 1498, Arcipreste de Talavera o Corbacho, famous for its “realistic” use of female voice, which curiously includes several cosmetic recipes. These articles inform the basis of a book project she hopes to finish by 2022, called Beauty Matters.


Dr. Renee Dong, Assistant Professor of Chinese and Pedagogy, has recently collaborated with colleagues in the Department of Linguistics and Cognitive Sciences, in particular with the Experimental Psycholinguistics Lab led by Dr. Arild Hestvik, Associate Professor of Linguistics and Psychology to conduct neurolinguistic research on how adult and classroom-trained second language speakers comprehend the target language in real time.

The question they seek to answer is: When someone studies a second language (L2) post childhood and becomes highly fluent, do their brains process the target language like native speakers? Some scholars of Second Language Acquisition believe that there exists a fundamental difference between the ways native and L2 comprehension work, and such differences persist for the L2 learners even when native-like proficiency level is attained. Specifically, it has been proposed that the L2 processing is less sensitive to purely grammatical requirements (e.g., number agreement), and tend to over- rely on semantics and pragmatics to reach comprehension. Using the method of Event Related Potentials (ERP), which measure the brain’s response to a stimulus, they tested this proposal by measuring native and L2 brain responses to grammatically problematic sentences like “The camel that the hippo kissed *the elephant ran far away”, in which the extra noun phrase the elephant disrupts comprehension.

The L2 speakers were intermediate to near-native Chinese learners of English, who started to learn the language after childhood and mostly in the classrooms. Study findings revealed drastically different brain responses to the extra noun (the elephant), although both groups performed highly accurately in rejecting such sentences. While the native speakers generated components indicative of grammatical processing, the L2 speakers obtained completely different neurophysiological signatures unrelated to handling grammatical rules. In other words, the L2 speakers did not reject the sentence based on its grammatical ill- formedness, but something else, possibly semantic incongruity. Further, the L2 proficiency levels and working memory capacity have no effects on the non-native brain processing pattern, suggesting that the L2 speakers in our study are unlikely to ever become native-like. While results lend support to accounts such as the Shallow Structure Hypothesis, Dr. Dong and her collaborators maintain that the persistent native-L2 processing difference is not global and only occurs for a limited number of linguistic constructions. 


As the first student in UD’s Master’s in Italian Studies program, Miranda Armiger (MALLC Italian, 2019) had the unique opportunity to shape her research to fulfill her interdisciplinary studies. Having majored in Art History and minored in Italian, she was exposed to the University’s breadth and excellence in these areas, and found that this blend primed her for the next phase in her academic preparation. The MA in Italian Studies program enabled her to develop research that explored many facets of the language and culture, art and history of Italy.

In her research, she evaluated the influence of art, fashion, and other material culture objects on the creation of the socio-cultural identity of women across their life stages during the Italian Renaissance. While her background in Art History provided the necessary tools to analyze the artistic significance of the art, fashion, and material culture objects, the Italian studies expanded her ability to read and comprehend the original texts and theories, which supported her thesis. 

Elements of the women’s identity in the various paintings analyzed were brought to life through the richly decorated material culture objects, which were more than props in a painting. An example of such material culture was the pearl and diamond studded belt that Eleonora di Toledo dei’ Medici wore in a state portrait with her young son, which spoke to her socio-economic position, and reflected her role as fertile mother and guarantor of the Medici line. By identifying the significance of the objects featured in the various paintings, it was possible to begin to understand the importance of the identity of women as daughters, wives, and most importantly mothers. Arguably, women’s greatest role was that of mother, as she ensured the continuation of the family and Italian society as a whole. The culmination of Ms. Armiger’s thesis in Italian allowed her the ability to forge a connection between past and present, intertwining the two worlds through art, fashion, language and culture. 

Amanda Abrom speaking at the UN Conference on Trade and Development as a Youth Delegate at the UN Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

Briyana Chisholm visiting Navia, Spain

Jackie King in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil facing Sugarloaf

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Fall 2020 Polyglot
  • Department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures
  • Jastak-Burgess Hall
  • University of Delaware
  • 30 East Main St.
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-2591