Austin Culver: Representations of the Devil
Majors: Humanities and Rhetoric
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Activities: Writing Consultant at the University Writing Center, Polymathic Scholar, President of UT Rhetoric Society, and Part-time Percussion Instructor.
Fun facts: I spent two summers as a Drum Major for a DCI drum corps, and performed in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. I’m also a lover of all things Oscar Wilde and Neil Gaiman, and an avid gamer.
1. Why the Humanities program?
When exploring the possibility of undergraduate research, I often noticed that I would be limited to taking relevant courses within one major, with some references to other departments where possible. When I was introduced to the Humanities program, I was immediately impressed by its amazing level of customization with regards to an individual’s research interests. It also places students in an atmosphere of like-minded individuals who are challenging what is possible through the pursuit of their passions, which is an inspiring crowd to be a part of.
2. What led you to your research interest?
Since an early age, I have always been more interested in villains than heroes. The machinations of Saruman’s mind were always harder to riddle out than Gandalf, and the Evil Queen captivated me in a way that Snow White never could. It always seemed to me that the depth of a well-made villain's character was far deeper than their heroic counterparts. They facilitate an engaging and often passionate discussion in their viewership, because everyone has an opinion on morality. This lifelong preoccupation with the perception of evil led me to my research interest: Representations of the Devil in Film. Film is a prevalent medium for modern storytelling, and what more lively and conflicted character could one find than the symbol for evil itself?
3. How has the Humanities program contributed to your experience at UT?
I have met an array of professors throughout my research who have not only opened doors to areas of study that I may not have discovered otherwise, but who also opened my mind to different perspectives; different ways to approach the same problem. I also find comfort in the intellectual and physical environment the program facilitates. It's nice to be able to bounce ideas off peers from class to class, while also having a quiet lounge in which to read amidst the bustle of campus life. 4. What has been the best part about your Humanities project?
The best part of the program has to be that I have the opportunity to get so excited about what I'm researching. Passion is an essential element of my life, and for any program to allow me to look with such freedom into a passion that I have only ever been able to pursue in my free time is more than I could have imagined. The hardest part is the research itself. On the one hand, I’m able to explore a diverse catalogue of classic and modern texts, which are all fascinating in their own right. On the other, I have to resist the urge to go down every rabbit hole I find (which I'm still guilty of). Another difficulty is everyone assuming I'm a Satanist. Which I'm not.
5. What are your future plans?
I plan to attend graduate school and eventually become a professor. The opportunity to further this research, as well as research in Rhetoric, is quite appealing, but I also love teaching. I have had the unique opportunity to teach a variety of subjects for the last nine years, ranging from composition to percussion. It is something that I could see myself doing happily for the rest of my life.