Please join us in celebrating many of our graduating seniors on Tuesday, May 9 from 6-8p in the Swartz Center (adjoining Loughran Hall). Students enrolled in our Senior Seminar (ENGL 495) will be presenting their capstone research projects to faculty, friends, and family.
Abstracts of the students’ research are included below, for your reading pleasure.
Fostering Empathy through Modern Intersectional Poets Dean Atta and Rupi Kaur
To live responsibly in an interdependent world, empathy surely tops the list as a necessary quality a student must possess. By teaching modern poets who are multicultural or have aspects of intersectionality—the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender—within the formal education system, students and teachers alike would be able to unveil the inherent value of poetry within contemporary society. Fostering empathy through modern intersectional poetry within formal education system will help to alleviate the current social and racial tensions within the United States, as well as work to promote abstract and critical thinking. For example, Dean Atta, a homosexual black artist in his early thirties, and Rupi Kaur, an Indian-Canadian 24-year-old “Instapoet” are two modern intersectional poets that students should study in order to spark discussion on the current issues of gender identification, sexuality, body-shaming, violence, racism, and love in the twenty-first century.
Through their strong messages of cultural and sexual acceptance, Atta’s collection, I Am Nobody’s Nigger, along with Kaur’s collection, Milk and Honey, inspire readers to connect emotion and meaning to modern day issues. Therefore, these poets deserve their place in the standard curricula alongside traditional poets so that students may be equipped with enough empathy and understanding to enter into “the real world” with a love for diversity and variety of life. Especially with the current refugee crises here in the United States, and an increase in violence against and objectification of women, incorporating modern poetry that is relevant to students’ lives is extremely important for molding future social justice advocates and critical thinkers who can solve problems with an empathic mind.
Thomas A. Collins
Warren Peace: Leadership, Utopian Society, and the Hare Apparent in Watership Down
A warren, the underground home of rabbits serves as a sanctuary hidden from the potential threats of the natural world. Above ground, rabbits have many things to fear, a slew of predators eager to become the cause of their demise, one thousand enemies in fact, if the myth of the legendary rabbit El-ahrairah is to be believed. Animals, when injected into a fantastic world such as a fantasy novel, become far more than ordinary creatures. British author Richard Adams’ masterwork Watership Down magically teleports the reader to a fantasy world of displaced rabbits who seek a warren in which they can fully participate, while simultaneously offering invaluable lessons of inclusive community and a universal leadership model through the trials and tribulations of a fictional society in search of collective happiness.
From the violent world of Tolkien, to the looking glass of C. S. Lewis, fantasy novels mirror the export of consciousness that humans absorb during dreams as readers seek respite from their less extraordinary waking world. Whether based upon dreams, or the resultant nightmares, fantasy novels are engrained in society’s exploration of who they are and who they wish to become. Dreams, like the fantasy novels, have an uncanny way of rapping on the door of our subconscious, offering alternative imaginings to supplement the reality of human existence. Keeping in mind Albus Dumbledore’s advice to young Harry Potter “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” the correct approach to exploring the world of a fantasy novel is a careful one. Therefore, what lies ahead is not an exposition on dreams but an invitation to explore leadership within the incredible nonexistent boundaries of the fantasy genre.
Who Saw the Monsters? An Analysis of Perspective in Late Victorian Horror Novels
If seeing is believing, what happens when we cannot see, yet are expected to believe? In Victorian horror/gothic novels Dracula by Bram Stoker and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, there is no omniscient third person narrator who tells us exactly what is happening in the works; instead, multiple characters within the texts give their accounts of the action. The characters experience evil firsthand and embark on tremendous adventures to combat horror while the audience sits outside the pages, anxiously reading the lines from the characters’ perspectives. We read chilling accounts of the supernatural Dracula’s plans to create more vampires and puzzling observations of Dr. Jekyll’s duality of character; yet, due to the lack of omniscience, we readers are removed from the stories and must challenge ourselves to seek truth within the narratives.
Only through letters, telegrams, diary entries, and oral storytelling do the characters in these novels give their versions of what occurs in their respective worlds. The multiple communication media and the lack of omniscience resulting from the various narrators adds another layer of mystery to these works. Readers can read the story, but they are removed from the events due to the shifting perspectives and must constantly question the accounts they are given. In this paper, I will examine how this unorthodox use of perspective in Dracula and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde challenges the readers to pay close attention to the text in order to determine the truth of the action as well as how the authors’ use of perspective contributes to the horror and mystery of these works.
Harry’s Heroines: How the Female Character in the Harry Potter Series Nurture and Shape His Identity
The story of Harry Potter depicts the harrowing journey of a child on his discovery to find out who he is and where he belongs. Throughout seven novels, readers of all ages can experience the happiness, the sadness, and the terror surrounding the life of Harry Potter. Along with Harry, readers can attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; they can communicate spells and interact with fantastic beasts. However, Harry would not have been able to succeed if it was not for the role of women throughout these novels; these characters help Harry to succeed in a way that he might not have discovered on his own. Because of these women, Harry is able to learn what love is and experience the idea of family like he is never known before. In a story about a motherless hero, I will explore how the author, J.K. Rowling, includes women in Harry’s life that help nurture and shape his identity, allowing him to become one of the greatest wizards of Wizarding World.
All for One, One for All: Why the Three Musketeers Still Stick Together
The Three Musketeers was published in 1844. The Three Musketeers revolves around three of King Louis XIII’s guards and one young man aspiring to join their ranks. D’Artagnan, the lead character in The Three Musketeers, is interesting to the readers because he is not one of the three musketeers that the novel was named after. D’Artagnan’s character grows from the beginning of the novel as a young, Gascon to an admired and loyal guard of the King. The character is talked at with a lack of respect from his peers because of where he is from, how much money he has, and his age. D’Artagnan challenges his early labels by his own development throughout the course of the novel. As a reader, I question, why is it that the novel is named after three supporting characters instead of the lead? These characters, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, will prove to be equally important characters for D’Artagnan, allowing the reader to further understand the protagonist and his rise to becoming a hero. The very concept of overcoming social status is the force which motivates d’Artagnan to rely on his three friends.
The novel is set in the 1630’s in France, a time where the common people were confused about who the true ruler of the country was; King Louis XIII or Cardinal Richelieu. This heroic tale is set to take place over two hundred years before the novel was published. The novel is a period piece, sharing with the reader a criticism of France in these revolutionary times. Dumas places himself in the novel by recreating d’Artagnan as a hero with finite abilities. Much like d’Artagnan, Dumas himself had to persevere social oppression in order to achieve the success he met in life. After looking deeply into the characters, their position in society, and Dumas’ own personal experience, the reader will then be able to understand why this story has been adapted into twenty-four movies and a television series. Through a close reading of the novel, I will prove that even great heroes need help, especially if they are rising from nothing.
The Superhuman Power of the Written Word in Watchmen
Allow me to take you back to the year 1985, to an alternate world where Richard Nixon has remained president, tensions between the United States and Russia are at an all-time high, and superheroes are real. In the comic series Watchmen, costumed crime fighters exist but are unappreciated, unwanted, and forced into retirement. Writer Alan Moore’s fictional universe—crawling with crime and corruption, its people full of fear and frustration—is not so unlike our own.
Each character’s life is overwhelmed by media, which is a feeling our society knows too well. The news plays on every television, graffiti decorates the streets, and newspapers litter the sidewalks. This relentless exposure to media affects characters and readers alike, with each medium creating its own consequences. Readers are allowed into the heads of the characters through various means including journal entries, psychiatric notes, and an autobiography. There is even the opportunity to read another comic within the story alongside the character of a little boy. This comic parallels Watchmen’s world, which in return parallels our world.
In this paper I will discuss the impact literature and the media have on society in Watchmen, and how relevant this is to our society today. These institutions have the potential to educate and enlighten, yet they also alter the ways in which we perceive the world around us. I will argue that by providing insight into all of these different forms of media, Moore shows us how much control they have over our actions, and how greatly influenced we are by our exposure to them.
It May be Scary, but It’s Reality: A Discussion about Mature and Dark Children’s Literature
Not all children’s books are filled with thought provoking themes and pictures of knives. Fortunately, there are some children’s writers who are incorporating mature subjects within their books because they want to expose their young readers to the harsh reality of the real world. Writers Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman are known for writing books that contain more mature content which they present to their readers by using dark humor to make their readers comfortable with bad figures who commit awful acts, but also provide good figures to guide the child along the way.
For my paper, I will look at Dahl’s The Witches which is about a little boy and his grandma who work together to eliminate all of the witches in England, who are, simultaneously, trying to eradicate all of the children in England. Additionally, I will be looking at his well-known book Matilda about a young girl with secret powers, who is neglected by her parents, chastised by her cruel principal, but adored by her teacher who helps to further her intellect. I will also look at Gaiman’s Coraline which follows a young girl as she tries to discover herself and the “other world” she finds hidden behind a door in her drawing room. Further, I will also discuss Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which follows Nobody “Bod” Owens, a boy whose family was murdered by the man Jack, and his life in a graveyard being raised by ghosts as he is hunted down by the man Jack. Through these works, I will discuss how previous literary critics highlight the values or lessons and dark humor that both Dahl and Gaiman use in their work. However, they fail to underscore who teaches these lessons. Therefore, I will show how Dahl and Gaiman write about mature subjects that pertain to the adult world by using dark humor to allow their readers to be comfortable with the bad figures presented, but are ultimately guided by good figures who shows the readers hope.
Textiles and Talking: Heroines in the Work of Diana Wynne Jones
Heroes venture out on journeys; they are called to greatness and face great evil. They do not weave while there is action going on, or read books while their friend travels the globe, or sew while talking to inanimate objects, as the heroines in the novels of Diana Wynne Jones do. Heroes are supposed to be people such as Hercules, Odysseus, or Superman. They face danger after danger on their harrowing journeys. Heroes aren’t supposed to be Odysseus’s wife Penelope, beset by dozens of suitors who assume her husband is dead. Penelope weaves every day and unravels her work each night to delay them. She doesn’t go out and have a journey and she doesn’t slay any monsters, but during those ten years, Penelope remains constant. She uses her own guile and wit to trick over one hundred men.
The traditional image of the hero roughly conforms to the picture Homer paints. However, the heroines presented in the work of the British fantasy novelist Diana Wynne Jones suggest a different female hero, one modeled after characters like Penelope. Throughout her works, we see heroines who save the world and those important to them without following the traditional hero’s journey—they do great feats through feminine qualities and women’s work. These heroines stay in one place, they weave fabric, they sew and talk. Sophie in Howl’s Moving Castle, Tanaqui in The Dalemark Quartet, and Polly in Fire and Hemlock all use traditionally feminine modes in their acts of heroism. I argue that Diana Wynne Jones defines a new kind of hero for female characters, who do not follow the traditional hero’s journey and have female characteristics that are essential to their heroism.
Who are we? Where are we? Redefining the American Literature Canon World Wide
The classic American poem “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman begins, “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, / And what I assume you shall assume, / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you” (Section 1). At first this seems shockingly egotistical, but the last line softens that with an idea that is central to American culture: we are all ourselves, but we must be ourselves together. One way to represent this value is through American literature. To read the works of a country is to experience its people, its past, and its values. For students living in America, this is should be another layer on their greater understanding of the place in which they live. For students around the world, however, exposure to American literature can be crucial to their overall knowledge of the culture of the United States and how that culture interacts with, conflicts, and enlightens their own.
In exploring the idea of what American literature stands to represent, I will examine the state of the debate surrounding the American literature canon, what purpose it serves, and how educators reconcile that when planning what to teach. This will culminate in an exploration of one foreign country, Poland in this case, and how American literature can be used to enlighten a country that is currently embarking on a journey that has litered America’s past; Europe is becoming a place to immigrate to instead of from. All of this goes to show that while we may be seperated by time and distance from works of literature, they have a way of uniting us, even those outside the states.
Destiny or Not? The Debate of Fate versus Free Will in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear
A man is on trial for attacking another man. The defense attorney explains how the man was bound by fate to harm the other man and cannot be held responsible for something he had no control over. However, the prosecutor explains that the man was not bound by fate and was in full control of his actions. Who is right? Fate has long since been accepted as being the definitive guiding force of the world, yet that has since become challenged by the emergence of free will. Many writers have debated as to which principle is the true guide of human life, and Shakespeare is no exception. He has explored both through his many plays. These works, in particular the tragedies, all display aspects of fate and free will in some way or another. The tragedies all share common elements, such as the tragic and brutal deaths of their characters and fearsome struggles for power, both for political and personal reasons. These elements and their implementations have led to many scholars debating whether or not these actions are predetermined or caused by the willful intentions of their doers.
That is what will be the focus of my analysis. The three tragedies I will use for this analysis will be the tragedies King Lear, Macbeth and Hamlet. These tragedies were selected because of their similar elements, all dealing with the debate of fate versus free will, and contain characters that have traits debated for each side of fate versus free will. For this analysis, I will examine several aspects of the plays in order to establish that Shakespeare is saying how free will is the true guiding principle of life and that fate is merely limited to determining the ultimate end of everyone. In order to support this point, I will draw attention to several of the tragedies’ aspects, such as the portrayal of astrology, the changes that occur in the main characters and the use of supernatural elements. I will use these in order to prove how free will reigns supreme in Shakespeare’s works.
“A Cinderella Story”: The History of Fairy Tales and How We Perceive Them
If I asked you to think of the story of Cinderella, the first image that comes to mind is likely that of a beautiful, young blonde girl in a pale blue dress. As most people are aware, this is an image of the fairy tale’s usual main protagonist that comes directly from Walt Disney’s first ever adaptation of the tale from 1950. But what most people do not know is where the story came from and why this piece of fairy tale history has stuck around so long, there is a lot more to be gained from “Cinderella” when you look beyond the image Disney has built up over the last 67 years. Had you have been born in a different time or place, you might have known the character as someone quite different: Ye Xian, Cendrillon, or maybe even Aschenputtel, to name just a few.
In my paper, I will look closely at two different variations of “Cinderella” to show why a deeper appreciation for the fairy tale is needed in a world where the tale is still as popular as ever. The first of these two “Cinderella” stories is one of the earliest known variations of the tale that comes from ninth century China, and the second is a later, more well-known European variation from Charles Perrault; the variation that inspired Disney’s groundbreaking adaptation. Looking at these two variations is important to understand the “Cinderella” story as a more diverse, cultural tale, and as a tale with universal messages that have driven the story’s popularity for many, many years. By doing so, we can not only gain a deeper appreciation, but we can better understand our own society today and identify how a little bit of magic can connect us all.