Thursday, June 23, 2011

Map Maker Visits the Institute

UTSA English Professor Bridget Drinka drawing a map.
 Ok, technically speaking, Bridget Drinka is a professor of English at UTSA, the chair of the department in fact. Technically speaking.

But give her a board and a marker and ask her a question about how to get from *here,* anywhere in the world that *here* is, to some other place *there* where the history of English or sociolinguistics is or was, and you will witness Professor Drinka transforming herself into a map maker of sorts. She'll sketch images, draw lines to connect points, and then provides keys (or additional sources) at the bottom to make sure you find your way.

Actually, relatively speaking, she hardly uses the marker and board. She mostly produces her maps -- virtual maps -- with hand gestures, movements from one side of the room to the other, and through interestingly woven travel narratives.

Yesterday, Professor Drinka met with our Fellows during the early afternoon. She gave us a few glimpses of the routes that the English language (or languages) traveled across the Atlantic to North America. She discussed ground-breaking and innovative research studies that scholars had done focusing on distinct language practices in the United States.

We were so engaged with the presentation and the questions that we had for Professor Drinka that we somehow neglected to ask her about her development as a scholar, her day-to-day life as a professor, what it's like being a department chair. We were simply too curious about the lessons and researching findings that she was sharing.

We wanted to know how one speech pattern got from here to there and exactly why this person or that person talked like this and that while others talked in different ways. Professor Drinka would listen to the questions and take a few moments to consider different routes of answers. Then, each time, she began to do what seemed to come natural: she responded by making maps.

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