Michael “Cody” Rodefer '10

Hometown: Madisonville, TN
Majors: Computer Science & Mathematics
Senior Study Title: “Chaucer in Middle English Using Allegro and Alogg”
Advisor: Dr. Barbara Plaut

Thesis Abstract

As a computer science major and computer programmer, Cody Rodefer '10 can “talk” several complex programming languages, but what motivated him in his Senior Study was a language that hasn't been widely spoken in centuries.

For his project, Rodefer created a custom audio player that can play Geoffrey Chaucer's The Book of the Duchess and Canterbury Tales as narrated by MC English Professor Dr. Sam Overstreet. Taking Overstreet's wma files, Rodefer created a highly customized program that is easily extendable and can be modulated to play other works with relative ease.

The project originated with a suggestion by Rodefer's advisor, Dr. Barbara Plaut, who knew that her advisee had an interest in literature and knew that a professor in the building next door was recording his readings of Chaucer for student use.

Plaut, associate professor of computer science, believed there could be an opportunity for collaboration. Indeed, there was.

“I found the whole idea very refreshing for several reasons,” Rodefer said. “First, to see both disciplines of computer science and English literature come together because they complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. Also, this project was more than just theoretically based, so the idea of creating an actual working product motivated me even more.”

In the halls of Sutton Science Center, Rodefer is known fondly as the “Convention Defier”.

“Cody is a rule breaker, but in a good way – a way that shows his creativity and thirst for knowledge and new ways of doing things,” Plaut said. “I knew this [project] was a perfect fit for him because he has the right skill set and it interested him.

“The amount of technical knowledge, time and research involved in a project of this magnitude was going to be extensive because of all the problems that would have to be overcome, but I knew if anybody could do it, Cody could,” the professor added.

Rodefer said he loved the challenge.

In his four-chapter Senior Study, Rodefer details how he built an entirely new audio program that was capable of allowing users to access any line of Chaucerian text they wanted to hear, meaning the sound files narrated by Overstreet had to match up exactly with the numbered lines of text.

“I had to use components of three programming languages to create the Chaucer Audio Files. I incorporated a gaming program, Allegro, to load the sound, then to add a graphical element, I used Win 32 API, which created the graphical interface and made it user-friendly. I also had to find a non-proprietary media player and then figure out how to make it instantly accessible,” the student explained. “The biggest thing I learned from this project is how some hard-to-find or unknown commands usually make life a lot easier because when computer programs are written, they are not documented well, but if you learn what the codes mean, you can find the shortcuts.”

Overstreet said that Rodefer's project is important to the literary world (especially to students) because the Middle English of Chaucer is easiest to understand if one can hear it. Rodefer's audio player also allows a user to select any line of text he or she wants to hear rather than having to start from the beginning each time.

Another component of the project was taking the web-based audio files created and loading them onto a stand-alone DVD version that is marketable. To do this, Rodefer converted the files from wma to ogg.

Overstreet was pleased with the results and impressed by Rodefer.

“He is a delightful colleague, and I say this because we have formed a collaborative project,” the professor said. “It has been an honor to work with someone as savvy and interested as Cody has been.”

In the conclusion of his written thesis, Rodefer explains that because of changes in the Microsoft operating system, Overstreet's earlier, web-based version of the project, which ran on Windows Media Player, does not work with Windows Vista.

“I hope a future senior will pick this as a Senior Study project and make the web-based version independent by correcting the issues with the media player so operating system changes will not hinder its performance and compatibility.”

Rodefer completed his studies at MC a semester early and has already started his Ph.D. program in computer science at the University of Tennessee. His focus is on visualizing and using the Super Computer, Hydro-Jaguar, located in Oak Ridge, Tenn.


From the Prologue

From the Knight’s Tale