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Rio Grande Faculty Present at International Conference on Welsh Studies

August 13, 2012

Two University of Rio Grande/Rio Grande Community College faculty members presented research projects in Wales this summer. The two faculty members are Beth Brown, Ph.D., and Heather Duda, Ph.D. Their research papers were accepted at the International Conference on Welsh Studies, which was held in Bangor, Wales in July.

It is quite an honor for a university to have one faculty member represented at the conference, and Rio Grande is proud to have the work of two faculty members accepted to the Welsh studies conference. Brown and Duda have both previously served as the Madog Faculty Fellow at Rio Grande, and spent a great deal of time researching Welsh cultural and history projects. The Madog Center for Welsh Studies at Rio Grande sponsors the Madog Faculty Fellow program each year. The program allows faculty members to research topics related to Welsh or Welsh-American history or culture. Brown, who is an English professor at Rio Grande, served as the Madog Faculty Fellow during the 2003-2004 school year. She focused on a different research topic at that time, but it led into her interest in her newest research paper, “It surpassed my Idea: Samuel Johnson and Hester Thrale in North Wales.”

Brown explained that in 1774, Samuel Johnson traveled with his friends, Henry and Hester Thrale to North Wales. Johnson and Hester Thrale both kept diaries of the trip that provide interesting views into life Wales at the time.

“The diaries show two very different perspectives of the ordeals of late 18th century travel and of the castles, copper works, mountains, waterfalls and people these travelers encountered. Mrs. Thrale tended to focus on the people and houses, while Dr. Johnson took careful note of where and when church services were conducted in Welsh,” Brown said. “Taken together, the diaries offer an oblique view of 18th century English attitudes toward Wales and the Welsh, and raise complex questions of Welsh identity in a Welsh-born associate of the English literary establishment.”

Brown’s paper examines the writings of Johnson and Thrale, and looks at issues such as cultural assimilation and identity. Duda, who is an assistant professor of English, presented her paper, "An Assassin, A Baker, and An Inept Newspaper Maker: An American Explores the Welsh Film Industry.”

Her research project involves several different aspects and questions. “How can a country whose media is controlled by another country ever hope to establish an independent film identity? This is the question that has focused my Madog Fellow research this year,” Duda said. “What started out as a project about language and filmmaking in Wales has become a two-part examination of the Welsh film industry in general.” The first part of her study focused on the formulation of the Welsh cultural identity.

“For the last decade, Welsh critics have struggled with the issue of whether or not there is a clear Welsh cultural identity and, if so, is this identity being reflected in theater, film, and television,” she explained. The second part of her study focused on the struggle of a small, independent film industry within a larger, “Hollywoodized” global film economy.

“If Welsh filmmakers can, indeed, construct a distinct Welsh identity, will those films reach the global audience, or are international film distributors only releasing films that follow a Hollywood formula?,” Duda asked as part of her project.

For more information the two research papers, or for more information on the Madog Center for Welsh Studies, call Jeanne Jones Jindra at 1-800-282-7201. For additional information on the Madog Center, as well as information on the wide range of academic programs offered on Rio Grande’s scenic campus, log onto www.rio.edu.