Laura Kremmel is Assistant Professor of English & Humanities.
What’s your area of expertise? What do you primarily research and/or teach? And what drew you to this field?
My training is in Gothic Studies and British Romanticism (British literature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries), so my expertise is in the early Gothic novels, poetry, and drama that started the Gothic tradition we still read today. I’ve always been particularly interested in two authors: Matthew Lewis, who wrote a scandalous novel called The Monk (1796), and Charlotte Dacre, who wrote an even more scandalous novel called Zofloya (1806). Both are about transgressing boundaries through shockingly graphic and gory scenes, leading me to become curious about the ways that they challenge conventional understandings of what bodies are, do, or could be.
In my teaching and recent research, I’ve expanded into the Health Humanities, history of medicine, other eras of Gothic literature, and horror film. The Gothic is so obsessed with empowering bodies of all kinds that there’s a lot of work in combining the Gothic with the Health Humanities, Disability Studies, and Death Studies. I started to see these fields coming together while visiting medical museums (like the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia), where I saw Gothic narratives being applied to the history of medicine and its impacts.
What is nature? What do you imagine when you think of nature? What are the qualities of nature (better yet, of Nature with a capital N)?
Pause now and think about that for a minute.
What is the image of Nature you hold in your mind? Picture it.
Did you imagine something like that? Maybe not that exact image, but something similar? If so, consider this response more fully. What are the qualities of this representation of nature? It’s beautiful. It has lots of elements of the natural world (I know, that seems circular, but stick with me), like trees, mountains, a lake. It’s pure and untouched. It’s wild. Notably, there are no humans in this image.
I often teach a general education Humanities course (HUM 200, officially titled Connections: Humanities and Technology) on the topic of “Automatic Art.” As a Humanities class, we study representative elements from the entire range of arts and letters:
Those are representative examples of the coursework – but what is “Automatic Art”? The term doesn’t actually have much reality outside of my course. (Frustrated students will often turn to the surrealist technique of Automatic Writing, which does exist, but has little bearing on the collection of objects we study.) I like to tell students that “automatic art” is equivalent to “taking the human out of art,” but what does that actually mean?
Today marks the end of the first week back to class for South Dakota Mines, and the STS faculty are hard at work in their classes and enjoying meeting students! We are teaching classes on Environmental Ethics & STEM (HUM 250 with me), Computers in Society (HUM 375 with Dr. Erica Haugtvedt), E-sports (HUM 376 with Dr. John Dreyer), History and Philosophy of Science (PHIL 335 with Dr. Michael Hudgens), Terror & Horror (ENGL 392 with Dr. Laura Kremmel), and Licit and Illicit Drugs (SOC 411 with Dr. Kayla Pritchard) – plus many others! As this list of courses indicates, STS covers a lot of ground. It needs to, given its promise to study science, technology, and society, and there are countless ways to approach the field and the topics it includes.
In addition to Environmental Ethics & STEM (mentioned above), I am also teaching Connections: Humanities & Technology (HUM 200) this semester, which is a great illustration of what the STS major is all about. Since the course description and title are pretty broad, I’ve narrowed things down to focus on the following big questions:
1. How do we communicate with each other? 2. How do we design and build the places we live?
In response to these questions we will explore communication technologies from paper and books to social media, film, and robots, and we will consider urban design issues like curb cuts and plumbing, historical and contemporary ideas about what a home looks like, and what the city of the future could look like.