Department of English

Four Department of English students win Rapoport-Kings Thesis Scholarship

Fri, November 4, 2011
Four Department of English students win Rapoport-Kings Thesis Scholarship

The Department of English congratulates Jake Malone, Kathleen Burns, Raaan Robertson, and Emma Panico, English major seniors who have been awarded the College of Liberal Arts Rapoport-King Thesis Scholarships.  The scholarships each provide $2,500 in research support for students who are writing a thesis in one of the Departmental Honors Programs.  Fellows are chosen on the basis of several factors including academic record and quality of the thesis proposal.    


Jake Malone - “The Exhumation of History in Seamus Heaney’s Bog Poems”

My thesis is an examination of Seamus Heaney's metaphor of the bog as a memory bank that preserves archaeological artifacts and as bog bodies, such as the "Tollund Man."  I analyze Seamus Heaney as a poet-archaeologist who both exhumes these objects and archives them in his "bog poems"-- a series spanning Door into the Dark, Wintering Out, and North.  I incorporate museum studies to discuss the "uncurated" history within Heaney's bog landscape distinguished from the curated spaces of the museum, where the real bog bodies now reside.  I use the bog metaphor to talk about the deep time of Irish history and examine the bog poems as a record of historical allusion and lineage.  Then, I extend the definition of what Heaney terms the "bog poems" to include his revisitations to these sites in subsequent publications, and discuss changes in his depictions of the bog bodies.  My project also includes how environmental perception of the bog has changed over time through conservation movements to preserve them for their historical significance.



Kathleen Burns - “Landscapes of the Mind:  A Phrenological Reading of Nature in Jane Eyre

In my thesis, "Landscapes of the Mind: A Phrenological Reading of Nature in Jane Eyre," I examine how shifts in Victorian scientific discourse impact Brontë’s discussion of femininity in natural spaces.  In an era of emerging sciences espousing contradictory ideas of the individual’s relation to their environment, I argue that Brontë stages her struggle to define the “natural” female self in the gardens and moors of Jane Eyre.  In "Landscapes of the Mind" I perform a phrenological reading of these natural settings, which reveals that Brontë transforms the gardens and moors into liminal spaces that navigate the development and ultimate role of the female self in an unstable social ecology.  While previous scholars have largely interpreted landscapes in Jane Eyre as representations of the development of the self, their arguments have so far failed to incorporate Victorian psychological discourse.  My thesis will demonstrate that phrenology, as an interpretive lens, unlocks the significance of these natural spaces especially as it relates to gendered, Victorian issues such as mind control and the cultivation of the “natural” female self.



Raanan Robertson - “Linguistic Dilemmas, Uncertainties, and Solutions in the Lands of Gulliver”

My thesis, under the working title "Linguistic Dilemmas, Uncertainties, and Solutions in the Lands of Gulliver," intends to explore (by case study) the linguistic mood of English in the 17th and 18th centuries through visions of utopias, reform, and regulation.  For case study, I have chosen the works of Jonathan Swift, who writes immediately after an English trend of utopian projects for universal languages, and preceding a century-long endeavor by grammarians to codify the English language.  Using Gulliver's Travels alongside Jonathan Swift's wider corpus, I will trace the author's treatment of language as a vehicle for utopia, examining the relationship between sound, word, and meaning, and its composite effects on the physical and communal spaces Gulliver explores.  In light of his literary and political approaches to language, I will further examine Swift's visions and designs on the future of English, insofar as his works represent him imagining it.  The most salient document representing his thoughts on this subject (of questionable sincerity) is Swift's "Proposal for Correcting, Ascertaining, and Improving the English Language" written in 1712, which calls for an English academy of language similar to France's L'Académie française and Italy's  Accademia della Crusca.  Finally, I will apply modern linguistic theories and understandings of language change and variation to contextualize Swift's stance.


Emma Panico - “A Study of Empathy:  The Case of Bedside Manner in Sherlock Holmes

My thesis, currently entitled “A Study in Empathy: The Case for Bedside Manner in Sherlock Holmes,” explores the connection between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s crime novels and clinical medicine.  Doyle based his famous protagonist on Joseph Bell, a professor of surgery at the University of Edinburgh medical school where he matriculated.  The association between Holmes’ detection methods and efficient clinical diagnosis has been fairly well established, both in the realm of literary criticism and in courses being taught on the topic in premier medical schools, such as Northwestern University.  Critics have also highlighted the symbiotic nature of Holmes and Watson’s relationship.  Interestingly, these two readings have not been comprehensively assimilated, so Watson’s position in a clinical reading of the text is overlooked.  I argue that highlighting the role of Watson provides a revisionary reading of Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of the Four that decenters the detective and details the ways that the empathetic Watson represents effectual bedside manner.


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