Department of English

Liberal Arts Honors Program Awards Four English Department Students with the Rapoport-King Thesis Scholarship

Sat, November 21, 2009
Liberal Arts Honors Program Awards Four English Department Students with the Rapoport-King Thesis Scholarship
From left to right: J. Hammond, J. Liew, K. Skinner, and N. Balli-Borrero

The Rapoport-King Thesis Scholarships honor Audre and Bernard Rapoport and Robert D. King, former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. Audre and Bernard Rapoport of Waco, Texas have provided an endowment that enables the College of Liberal Arts to provide scholarship and research support for those students who are writing a thesis in one of the Departmental Honors Programs the year they apply.

To be eligible for a Rapoport-King Scholarship, candidates must be a Plan I student and must be planning to write a senior thesis in one of the College's departmental honors programs. Fellows are chosen on basis of academic record, the quality of the thesis proposal, and financial need. As Mr. Rapoport has put it: the candidates should be "smart and deserving." Those chosen are awarded a $3,000 scholarship for the senior year.

This year, 15 awards were made of the scholarship in total, selected out of 53 applications.  The English Department Honors Program received 4 of those awards.  Congratulations to the winners and their advisors on this honor!


Kathleen Skinner, "Ships, Logs, and Voyages: Maria Graham navigates the Journey of the H.M.S. Blonde"

Thesis Advisor: Professor Lance Bertelsen

Maria Graham (later Lady Callcott) began as a travel writer, publishing her first book, Journal of a Residence in India, at the age of twenty-seven. Graham went on to write several other books chronicling her life experiences and observations in Italy, Chile, and Brazil. In 1825, John Murray commissioned Graham to ghostwrite the official record of the voyage of H.M.S. Blonde to the Sandwich Islands to convey home the bodies of the King and Queen of Hawaii, both of whom had died while on the visit to England. Working from the Captain’s log, journals and notes of the officers and other passengers, even interviewing the crew of the Blonde, Graham wrote, edited, and annotated the account, which was published as Voyage of H.M.S. Blonde to the Sandwich Islands, In the Years 1824-1825 (1826). Making extensive use of archival materials (particularly manuscript letters between Graham and John Murray at the National Library of Scotland), Skinner’s thesis will critically analyze Graham’s role in shaping the exclusively male narrative of the Voyage of H.M.S. Blonde.  Besides being an English Honors student, Kathleen works full time in the Office of the President of the University of Texas at Austin, where she serves as webmaster and special projects coordinator.


Norma Balli-Borrero, "Beware of Goblins:  Characterizations and Visualizations of Childhood in Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market"

Thesis Advisor: Professor Mia Carter

Norma Balli-Borrero’s interdisciplinary project, "Beware of Goblins: Characterizations and Visualizations of Childhood in Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market," brings together Christina Rossetti’s poem Goblin Market (1862) and digital animation in order to study the adult constructions of childhood found in the renowned Victorian poem and its many reinterpretations. Using history, psychology, and modern animation as a framework, Norma explores how Rossetti’s poem, which was expressly intended for adults, was re-imagined and interpreted by adults as an ideal narrative for children. In order to analyze fully the manifestations of the poem as a social text Norma will compare transhistorical representations of Goblin Market; she additionally plans to explore the potential of the poem as a visual piece by animating two shorts of the poem, one for “children” and one for “adults.” Norma’s thesis examines the ways in which children’s literature and literature about children express adult fantasies and negotiate desires and feelings that are considered impermissible in adult society. Norma Balli-Borrero is an English Honors and RTF major.


James Hammond, "The Darkness of Memory:  Race and Empire in Medieval Romance"

Thesis Advisor: Professor Geraldine Heng

James Hammond is writing three Honors theses: in English, Psychology, and Liberal Arts.  A member of the Junior Fellows program, he has received eight UT fellowships and scholarships, including the Undergraduate Research Fellowship, which enabled him to travel to Germany to study the statue of the Black St Maurice of Magdeburg Cathedral—an enigmatic African saint that has puzzled art historians for centuries—in the context of the identity of the city of Magdeburg and its citizenry.  A former U.S. debate champion in oratory, he has been accepted into Teach For America (which saw 30,000 applications this year), and plans to attend law school.  His English Honors and Liberal Arts Honors theses are both directed by Professor Geraldine Heng.  Although blackness in the Middle Ages is commonly believed to signify sin and death, a few medieval romances appear to complicate this signification by featuring black-skinned figures who behave benevolently toward white European Christians. James Hammond's English honors thesis interrogates three such romances – The King of Tars (c.1330), The Sultan of Babylon (c.1450), and Morien (c.1270) – and explains how the pseudo-tolerant treatments of black figures in these texts function as models of cultural subordination and control. He argues that these romances, which emerge following the failures of the Crusades, provided Latin Christians a means to (re)stage the colonialist fantasy of crusading success. James's work promises to yield crucial insights into the political and cultural significance of romance during the Middle Ages, and will help to clarify how race was conceptualized in this period.  For a recent television interview with James Hammond see:


Jean Liew, "Weakness in Hunger, Strength in Recovery:  Anorexia and the Feminist Struggle in Villette"

Thesis Advisor: Professor Carol MacKay

Jean Liew is double-majoring in Biology Honors and English Honors, and she plans on attending medical school next year.  Entitled "The Body with its Bones Laid Bare: Achieving Embodiment through the Anorexic Narrative in Charlotte Brontë's Villette," her thesis extends postmodernist feminist critiques of Brontë's protagonist's anorexia, contending that the course through anorexia that Brontë paves for Lucy Snowe eventually leads to Lucy's recovery.  Jean adapts the scientific concept of "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" to argue that the evolution of critical discourse on anorexia and the female body can be mapped onto the textual body, which is, in the case of Villette, Lucy's narrative of the progression of her illness.  Ultimately, Jean claims that Lucy becomes embodied and gains subjectivity because her experience of anorexia grants her an understanding of the conflicts which occur at the site of the body.  Jean has been conducting research in the Marvin Whiteley laboratory of UT's Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Department for the past two years, and she has worked as a volunteer at both Fairview Hospital in Cleveland and the Austin State Hospital.  The recipient of many UT and external scholarships and fellowships, she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.  Her English Honors thesis is being written under the direction of Professors Carol MacKay and Diane Davis.


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