undergraduate research

For general information, see our humanities research page.
For more undergraduate student examples, see English honors student thesis projects and English undergraduate research symposium abstracts.

Student Profiles

The undergraduate students featured below offer some examples of independent research they've conducted under faculty mentorship. These profiles are designed to provide you with a few examples of specific research among the very vast array of possible projects.

Jonathan Armoza

"My research as an undergraduate helped build my skills as a scholar and has guided me on my path to graduate study. Classes in American literature, Critical Theory, Linguistics, and Rhetoric were critical in developing my academic interests, but it was only through independent study that I was able to take those interests and develop highly specialized research and knowledge.

An interest in 19th century American culture and folk tales led to my first independent research project under the guidance of Dr. Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges. In this paper I explored the diasporic evolution of marital-preparatory discourse found in Acadian-Cajun folk tales. I was surprised to see that focused research on the Acadian diaspora is quite sparse. As I found out, even after a century of institutionalized study in a field, some of the information a new researcher may recover is quite recondite. And in the case of working across disciplines, one often has the chance to create entirely new modes of thought on subjects that may have been visited by scholars many times over.

The English Honors program also yielded several opportunities for research. Through an honors seminar with Dr. Laurie George, I researched the practice of transcendentalist friendship as it was seen by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, and was able to discuss the appearance of this phenomenon in Jon Krakauer's modern work, Into the Wild.

Pure background research is another avenue that often yields valuable information to shape further critical insight. In Dr. Thomas Lockwood's honors seminar I took it upon myself to look into the history of tobacco, and how it has been perceived and used, particularly in forms that were sniffed. In Dr. Colette Moore's language ideology class, I investigated the official English movement in the United States, and particularly in the state of Arizona. (As a result, I imagine I now know more about official language movements than most of their proponents and opponents, and more about snuffboxes than most field-trained tobacconists.)

All of my studies culminated in a fifty-page honors thesis on Herman Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street." With the advice of several of my past professors and the supervision of Dr. Lockwood, I examined the anaphoric nature of Bartleby's statement, "I prefer not to," by placing it under the lens of linguo-philosopher J.L. Austin and rhetorical theorist Kenneth Burke. With the additional aid of contemporary rhetorical theorists and insights from critics like Giorgio Agamben, Walter Benjamin, and Henri Lefebvre, I was able to describe how meaning is conveyed and how perception is built in Melville's narrative. But in order to more meticulously analyze the text of "Bartleby," I also wrote a computer program to take a statistical accounting of the frequencies of its word usage.

Each of these research projects contributed to my understanding of not only writing, but of communication itself, as it occurs at the level of the sentence all the way up to the level of narrative. I have also been given the chance to present my findings at several academic conferences thus far. The research methodology I developed has led me to consider future work that mixes literary theory and the digital humanities, which, alongside nineteenth-century American literature, is now my intended area of study for graduate school."

BA in English: Language and Literature, 2011
UW English Department Honors
Pursuing a PhD in Digital Humanities at McGill University, Montreal, beginning autumn 2013

John Kimball Woolley Scholarship 2010
Undergraduate Research Travel Award, 2010

DH (Digital Humanities) Commons Workshop, Modern Language Association, Seattle, Washington, January 2012.
“From France to Acadia to Louisiana,” Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association Conference, Scripps College, November 2011.
“From France to Acadia to Louisiana,” Undergraduate Research Symposium, University of Washington, May 2011.
“Transcendental Friendship in Modernity,” National Undergraduate Literature Conference , Weber State University, March 2011.

Jordan Augustine

“My project was conducted as a part of the 2012 Summer Institute in the Arts and Humanities, which focused on the study of Borderlands as a paradigm for interdisciplinary research. I took as my border the emerging division online between the Social web and the Anonymous web, between the spaces where communication is tied to "real life" identity and spaces where communication occurs anonymously. I specifically examined the ways in which communicative space in sites the Social Web like Facebook comes to function to commodify speech, in contrast to spaces in the Anonymous web like 4chan (http://boards.4chan.org/b/) which resist this trend. I studied the community and signifying practices of 4chan's random board /b/, finding that although the fundamental anonymity and ephemerality of communication on the board free up participants to be racist, sexist, homophobic, and generally malevolent to degrees unseen in the Social web, these same conditions create a space for truly free speech (in both the monetary and behavioral sense), creating a novel mode of signification and a space for subversive political consciousness in the process.

This experience really opened my eyes to a new level of scholarship and showed me that intellectual curiosity and scholarly work, both in English and interdisciplinary study, don't have to be bounded by the pages of the literary canon, but can extend to new forms of communication usually thought of as insignificant (or, as in the case of 4chan, morally corrupt)."

BA in English: Language and Literature, 2014
UW English Department Honors

Mary Gates Research Scholarship, Summer 2012
UW Summer Research Institute in the Arts & Humanities, 2012

"NSFW: The Subversive Cultural Logic of Anonymous Online Culture," UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, Seattle, May 2013

Hilary Roseann Bowen

"My research deals with the tropes of representation and identity in a performance art piece created by DV8 Physical Theatre called The Cost of Living. This piece challenges conventional frames of representation through movement. Each vignette highlights the structure of the framework used, reminding the viewer that the chasm between audience and performer is neither permanent nor insurmountable. What if being part of an audience meant instead of sitting on the opposite side of the chasm from the performers, it were an invitation, a potential connection point for entering into someone else’s frame. What if representation of others or ourselves were not limited to words? Alito Alessi, founder of DanceAbility International says, “language developed out of the body and every body speaks.” (Blum 7:54). The self-performance of the cast in The Cost of Living creates a commentary on the framing of identity, questioning how we look and how we choose to be looked at. Each vignette shows the characters interacting and framing each other through movement and dance. This self-performance is true of every person, not just the characters in The Cost of Living. Every person interacts with others through movement, whether that is body language, performing dance on stage, or dancing in a social setting. Dance is not a metaphor for how humans interact with each other. We do dance. This physical communication draws attention to the border that separates self-representation and social identity teaching us to navigate the choreography of everyday life. "

BA in English: Language and Literature; Dance, 2015
UW English Department Honors
Phi Beta Kappa

Honors and awards:
Dean's List
Mary Gates Leadership Scholar

Read an article about Hilary's dance performance in UW Today.

Merzamie Sison "Mimi" Cagaitan

"My research conceptualizes the female body as a borderland that is grotesque after being wounded and divided. I synthesize works by Anzaldua and Bakhtin to project an image of a female body that bleeds when grated against transnational forces and subjected to processes of dynamic change. This representation allows the grotesque female body to be in continual engagement with “acts of becoming”, and places it in a profoundly ambivalent position between the processes of renewal and decay. In my thesis, I invoke Hall’s diasporic identities to further argue that the never completed quality of the female body points to a profound discontinuity stemming from trauma induced by slavery, transportation, colonization, and migration. I critically analyze the experiences of fictional female characters in order to trace a mobile trajectory that begins with the female body’s forced transportation; continues with its wounding from displacements; and ends with its transformation. I want to uncover how the constant movements of the female body come to mold not only a body that is grotesque but also a mind characterized by a diasporic identity. I hypothesize that the female body’s porous quality and ability to overcome boundaries is what allows it to “live sin fronteras” and “be a crossroads.” "

BA in English: Language and Literature, 2013
Magna Cum Laude
UW English Department Honors
Teaching in Korea on a Fulbright Fellowship 2013-14

Arts & Sciences Dean's Medalist, 2013
Fulbright Teaching Fellowship 2013-14
Ronald E. McNair Scholar 2011-13
Mary Gates Research Scholar 2012-13
MacRae Undergraduate Grant for Peace, Reconciliation, and Conflict Resolution 2012-13
Academic Excellence Award 2012
Early Identification Program (EIP) Presidential Scholar 2012

"Soft Slips of Flesh: The Female Body as a Place of Sexual Violence, and Site of Economic, Social, and Cultural Exchanges," UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, Seattle, May 2012
"Transcending Fractured Geopolitical and Metaphoric Borders: The Mobile Trajectory of the Grotesque Female Body’s Transformation from Object to Subject," Harvard University National Collegiate Research Conference, Cambridge, 2012
"Behind the Veils of Industry: The Filipina Mail-Order Bride as the Ultimate Western Male Fantasy," UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, Seattle, May 2013

More information about Mimi's research experiences can be found in the July 2013 issue of Perspectives.

Alexander Catchings

"My experiences in the English department over the last three years have allowed me to develop an unshakeable passion for research in African American literature. My research interests include African American literature on identity, personhood, biracialism, and intra-communal class interaction. During my freshman year I wrote a piece of counter-criticism to Chinua Achebe’s work on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Achebe takes issue with Conrad’s use of racial epithets to describe Africans in the novella, deeming Conrad “a thoroughgoing racist.” I was curious about Achebe’s interpretation of the use of epithets, so I read the Conrad novella four times, notating all forty-six instances of these racial markers. I then evaluated the contexts and tones of the passages containing the epithets, and found trends in Conrad’s use of each particular term that confounded Achebe’s label of Conrad as a “thoroughgoing racist.” My research on the Achebe project incorporated literary, historical, and anthropological investigation—at times I was researching the history of the word “savage” and at others reading firsthand accounts of early 20th century imperialist documents. Through this project I discovered the appeal of English’s interdisciplinary nature.

In my junior year I acquired two brilliant mentors: Professors Habiba Ibrahim and Sonnet Retman. The two of them worked closely with me as I wrote an extended research paper examining Paul Beatty’s novel The White Boy Shuffle and Trey Ellis’s Platitudes. My research centered on how both authors employed black stereotypes and “traditional” black literary forms in their fiction to show the fissures of African American community and identity. Both narratives highlight main characters that struggle with being “traditionally” black as they reach adulthood. I honed in on how the authors employed black stereotypes to affect the perception of their characters’ authenticity, and related this to real life.

As I wrote the thirty-page research paper, my mentors gave me an abundance of resources to guide the development of my text, and I grew accustomed to reading upwards of ten separate scholarly publications to aid in the penning of just a couple pages of my thesis. The tremendous amount of reading I have done the last two years has improved my processing and comprehensive skills to a level where I can comfortably read and annotate two novels in a week. I hope to consume as many texts as possible in the upcoming year to really broaden my literary scope and be well-conditioned for the amount of reading in graduate school."

BA in English: Language and Literature, 2013
UW English Department Honors
Pursuing a PhD in English at UC Berkeley beginning autumn 2013
U.C. Berkeley Chancellor's Graduate Fellowship 2013

Mary Gates Research Scholarship 2012-13
UW Library Research Award honorable mention 2013
Thomas A. Lederman Humanities Award 2012
Princeton Summer Research Fellowship 2012
Rutgers Summer Diversity Institute 2012
Eilert Anderson Scholarship 2012
Ronald McNair Research Scholarship 2011
EIP Presidential Scholarship, 2011-12
Costco Diversity Scholarship 2008

"Pastiche and Humor in the Neo-Slave Narrative," UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, Seattle, May 2012
"Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes: The Integrated Audience's Gaze on Black Performance," UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, Seattle, May 2013

More information about Alex's research experiences can be found in the Spring 2013 issue of English Matters.

Alexandra Deem

My research seeks to include the histories of slavery and colonialism in the critical conversation that has arisen around the theories of “biopolitics” advanced by Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben. In constructing a framework of biopolitical theory, I also bring in work by Hannah Arendt and Walter Benjamin, both of whom, though not traditionally understood to be biopolitical thinkers, were involved with similar questions regarding the possibility of a modern politics that designated life itself as the primary concern of the State. I approach this project through a reading of two fictional representations of slavery and colonialism: Hermann Melville’s Benito Cereno and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Taking as a central point of inquiry Foucault’s discussion of power relations that are “both intentional and non-subjective,” I develop the term “intent” to characterize the paradoxical exercise of a biopower which takes as its end the furthering of life but employs as its means the destruction of entire populations. To theorize how Benito Cereno and Heart of Darkness expose the movement of intent, which has definite direction but could not be said to derive from a distinct causal agent, I apply Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of the literary carnival. My analysis seeks to biopoliticize Bakhtin’s concept so that, in addition to a destabilization of life’s hierarchical social relations, the two novels can be seen as enacting a disruption of life’s regularization under biopolitics. I argue that Benito Cereno and Heart of Darkness can be read as models of “biopolitical carnival,” and relate them through a discussion of the micro-manifestation of intent at the level of narrative and the macro-manifestation of intent in the form of a distinct politics. The biopolitical carnival represents, in my work, both the indispensible contribution of the literary text to envisioning biopolitical intent and the expanded historical scope of theories of biopolitics.

BA in English: Language and Literature, 2014
Cum Laude
UW English Department Honors

Honors & Awards:
Mary Gates Research Scholarship, 2013-14
Annual Dean's List

“Human Labor, Divine Vision, and Apocalypse in William Blake’s The Four Zoas, Milton, and Jerusalem,” Comparative Literature Undergraduate Research Conference, University of California, Berkeley, May 2014.
“Counter Histories in GŁnter Grass’ The Tin Drum and Walter Benjamin’s Berlin Childhood Around 1900,” UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, May 2014.
“Disjunctive Symmetry: Duality and Resistance in The Tin Drum,” Northwest Undergraduate Conference on Literature, University of Portland, April 2014.

Alejandro Guardado

"In 2007, filmmaker and journalist Christopher Redmond co-founded the Burundi Film Center in eastern Africa. This non-profit organization allows Burundian filmmakers and other citizens to engage with cinematic art forms and communicate their culture through film. Furthermore, the BFC opens avenues for Burundian artists to explore the significance of some cultural themes, such as family relationships and sexuality, in their works. My research focuses on the cultural themes presented in these films as they arise from a perspective on war and trauma. A close reading of these films requires a careful and critical analysis of the narrative and imagery onscreen. This method allows me to analyze each film with a focus on particular images, dialogue, and narrative elements. My close readings of these films aim to offer explanations and conclusions on how war and trauma inform these cultural productions. This methodology benefits my research because the subject of war and trauma is not always overt in these films. Theoretical works that inform my analyses come from Judith Butler’s work on vulnerability and affect, and David Eng and David Kazanjian’s work on mourning. I analyze these texts in relation to the BFC student films that I discuss in my research. To conclude my research, I offer a thorough discussion and explanation of how these cultural productions contribute to Hutu-Tutsi cultures and to the nation of Burundi. Specifically, I aim to provide insight on the implications of film-making practices in Third World countries."

BA in English: Creative Writing, 2013
Magna Cum Laude
UW English Department Honors
Now pursuing graduate work in film at the USC School of Cinematic Arts beginning spring 2014

Honors & Awards:
Ronald E. McNair Scholar 2012-13
Academic Excellence Award 2012
Annual Dean's List

"Cinema of Loss: Exploring the Role of War and Trauma in Burundian Films," UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, Seattle, May 2013

Brian Hardison

"My independent study has consisted of a close examination of several sets of late eighth century Anglo-Saxon linked Latin glossae collectae preserved in Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, Vossianus Latinus Quarto 69 that treat upon non-biblical texts. In particular, my work has focused upon the relationship of these word-lists to the famed seventh century school of Archbishop Theodore and Abbot Hadrian at Canterbury in an effort to gain insight into the nature of the manuscripts taught by the magisters there. Working to reconstruct the contents of the library at the Canterbury school and some portion of the pedagogical tradition found there strikes me as a particularly fascinating problem and one which I hope to help unravel. Over the course of the project, I have conducted extensive research concerning the texts represented by the fragments preserved in the glossae collectae, reviewed existing scholarship regarding the school at Canterbury and the texts studied there, and have consulted with my mentor, Dr Remley, at least once a week to review and discuss my findings.

Participating in an independent study has had a significant impact upon my academic career and has enriched my experience within the English department at the University of Washington. As a member of the 2010-11 English Honors cohort, the work that I conducted as part of my independent study formed the foundation of my Honors thesis."

BA in English: Language and Literature, 2012
Summa Cum Laude
UW English Department Honors
M.Phil in Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic, University of Cambridge, 2013
Pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Washington beginning autumn 2013

UW Arts & Sciences Research Award, 2011
Mary Gates Research Scholarship 2011
Roger Sale Scholarship 2011
UW Library Research Award, 2011

“Text and Context: Examining the Gildasian Glosses Preserved in the Corpus Glossary (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 144),” Sixty-seventh Annual Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association Convention, Vancouver, WA, October 2013
“Glossing Intent: Issues Related to Critical Editions of the Corpus Glossary (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 144),” ReVision: Editing Across Disciplines, University of Edinburgh, July 2013
"The Arrival of the Saxons: An Examination of the aduentus Saxonum Traditions," Twenty-Sixth Annual National Undergraduate Literature Conference, Weber State University, March 2011.
"Contexts of Colonization: The Literary-Historical Treatment of the Anglo-Saxon Settlement," Twelfth Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, University of Washington, May 2011.

"Coding Gender: Performance and Gender Identity in a Synthetic World," intersections, Winter 2012.

Salwa Tabassum Hoque

"My research explores Lawrence Chua's novel Gold by the Inch and discusses how the text aids in understanding the neocolonial relationship of developed countries, especially the West, with Southeast Asian countries i.e. the subjugation and suppression which operates in a veiled and masked mechanism that is present in the region through certain schemes and systems. The novel reveals the subjugation by unmasking the implicit mechanism through a counter narrative. It exposes an opening to understanding inequality and a hierarchy of power in postcolonial Southeast Asian countries with specific attention to Thailand and Malaysia. The paper explores how the novel can be read as a theory of biopower in enforcing indirect domination in Southeast Asian countries, and reveals the system that allows a form of neocolonial subjugation through the creation of disposable lives in neoliberal practice"

BA in English: Language and Literature and Communications, 2014
UW English Department Honors

Honors and awards:
Dean's List

Robin Jeffrey

"Through the English Honors Program, I was able to explore an area of research that I was passionate about. My two mentors in the process, Professor Thomas Lockwood and Professor Tom Foster, encouraged me to delve deep into topics that were not simply the popular topics of the day in English Studies, but topics that had room for expansion and original thought.

In the end I submitted a thirty-two page honors thesis which explored the science fiction figure of the “Fembot” through feminist theory and computer theory, while simultaneously drawing parallels to both literary criticism and film/television criticism. Professor Foster helped me sift through various scientific papers and theories, well out of my comfort zone as a traditional language and literature major, and understand the texts I was reading as interdisciplinary. I found that the essays of great mathematical and computational minds like Alan Turing and John Searle had as much to say about the human condition and belief systems as essays by Lisa Nakumura and stories by science fiction greats like Thomas Burger. Professor Lockwood then helped me carefully construct my research and articulate the meaning and form of my findings.

Put quite simply, the independent research I pursued widened not just my concept of “language and literature,” but my concept of the interconnectedness of the world in which we live."

BA in English: Language and Literature, 2011
Cum Laude
UW English Department Honors
MLIS in Library Science, University of Kentucky, 2013

“A Radical Notion: Feminism and the Figure of the Fembot,” Twenty-Sixth Annual National Undergraduate Literature Conference, Weber State University, March 2011.

Jessica Jungwirth

“My year-long independent research project aimed to understand how multilingual international students at the UW experience tacit remedial language policies, and more specifically, how these policies affect students' learning strategies and long-term goals. With an ethnographic approach, I conducted interviews, administered surveys, and performed background research to situate student experiences within UW admissions and language proficiency policies, contextualizing it within larger issues in composition studies and U.S. higher education.

This research project was an extremely valuable aspect of my undergraduate education because it gave me the opportunity to apply various classroom theories from rhetoric and composition, globalization studies, and cultural anthropology in a hands-on and personally relevant way. The chance to try my hand at academic research, work with some amazing advisors, Sareeta Amrute, Jennifer Halpin, and John Webster, and present at conferences has confirmed my love of the research process and furthered my interest in pursuing an advanced degree.

As the starting point of my research, The Odegaard Writing & Research Center deserves a mention here. The OWRC granted me amazing opportunities to establish rapport with my study participants and provided me with a supportive community of willing and thoughtful readers and listeners. Many thanks to the OWRC and its tutors!“

BA in English: Language and Literature; BA in Anthropology: Globalization, 2011

Tia Vall Spinoza Scholarship, 2009-2010
Undergraduate Research Program Conference Travel Award, 2011

“Tutors as Participant Researchers: How ELLs Taught Us Better Ways for Supporting Writing and Learning,“ Undergraduate Research Symposium, UW, May 2011
“Facilitating the International Flow of Ideas: Exporting Writing Center Findings on ELLs Across the Institution,“ International Writing Centers Association Collaborative, Atlanta, GA, April 2011
“Risky Business: Improvising Models for Institutional Collaboration,“ Pacific Northwest Writing Centers Association, Monmouth, OR, May 2010

Noah Lee-Engel

"I am interested in examining the ways in which authors who self-identify with colonized sites position themselves - and the communities in which they are members and for whom they might be said to speak as proxies - as agents whose decisions and actions express subjectivity and ethical force. I will begin with Lisa Lowe's analysis of narrative as “an apparatus of European colonial rule," Audre Lorde's prescriptive assertion that “the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house," and Frantz Fanon's claim that “decolonization is always a violent event." A productive analogy may be drawn, I think, between the material violence that, in Fanon's estimation, the colonized must perpetrate upon the bodies of their oppressors in order to achieve liberation, and the figurative violence wreaked upon the corpus of the realistic aesthetic by decolonial authorship. This latter type of violence is most easily apprehended — in literary works, at least - in the various instantiations of that phenomena I will term “narrative transgressions” - e.g. the metaleptic intrusion of the until-then hypo-diegetic character Pucha at the end of Jessica Hagedorn's Dogeaters, or the similarly abrupt and equally enigmatic narrative interventions of Half-a-Crown in Sol T. Plaatje's Mhudi. If, as Lowe argues, modes of representation can be deployed as instruments of imperial initiative as effectively as military force, then the kind of narratological 'violence' just indicated might function tenably as an effective response to the oppression of an imposed or colonizing aesthetic. If, as Fanon claims, “Decolonization is truly the creation of new men...The 'thing' colonized becomes a man through the very process of liberation," then it is through such a praxis of violence that the colonized write themselves into the world, and incarnate a self capable of destabilizing that rupture or absence Homi Bhabha calls “the 'partial' presence” of the “colonial subject.""

BA in English: Language and Literature; BA in Philosophy, 2013
Summa Cum Laude
UW English Department Honors
UW Philosophy Department Honors

Honors & Awards:
Rutgers English Diversity Institute 2013
Phi Beta Kappa

Melanya Materne

"My research as an undergraduate centered on the intersections between high school English language arts and English as a post-secondary field of study, between literature and rhetoric, composition, and critical thinking. During Winter 2012, in Frances McCue’s Honors course on teaching, I researched the new and widely adopted Common Core State Standards and the influence they will have on the arts in education. I conducted interviews with English Language Arts teachers in the Shoreline district in order to get a sense of how the Common Core was functioning “on the ground” in its first year of implementation, and if the standards changed the ratio of literary and informational (non-fiction) texts they assigned and taught. From this research, I learned how teachers negotiate between their personal philosophies of teaching and the expectations of administration and government, and concluded that although the Common Core would not likely change the amount of literature taught in the English Language Arts classroom, it might very well change the way educators framed literature’s relevance, usefulness, and relationship to skills such as composition, argumentation, and critical thinking.

During spring quarter 2012, I investigated this possibility as part of the research for my 32-page honors thesis and Undergraduate Research Symposium presentation. After performing a close analysis of the Common Core State Standards, I discovered that the Standards made the following assumptions about literary texts: they are not argumentative texts, they therefore cannot be used to teach students how to analyze and produce effective arguments, and they are therefore largely irrelevant to the Standards’ central goal of promoting College- and Career-Readiness. As a scholar of the humanities and an interdisciplinary writing tutor, I suspected that these assumptions were problematic and extended my research to investigate 1) the way postsecondary institutions framed literature’s relevance, usefulness, and relationship to skills such as composition, argument, and critical thinking, and 2) how a high school English Language Arts teacher could productively incorporate literature into the teaching of composition, argumentation, and critical thinking. After analyzing relevant academic literature from scholars of postsecondary education, composition, and literature, I concluded that the context of knowledge-production in postsecondary institutions demands not only the ability to write arguments, but also the habit of thinking argumentatively about everything, including literature. As a response to the discrepancy between how the Common Core and postsecondary institutions frame literature’s relevance and usefulness, I concluded my thesis by sketching out a theory for using a rhetorical framework to bridge the apparent gap between literature and argumentation.

On the whole, my undergraduate research allowed me to explore the issues I care about most as an aspiring high school English Language Arts teacher and enriched my understanding of why the study of literature matters."

BA in English: Language and Literature, 2013
Magna Cum Laude
UW English Department Honors
Pursuing an MIT in secondary teaching at the University of Washington beginning spring 2013

Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellowship 2012
Fritz Scholarship 2012
Tia Vall-Spinosa Sullivan Scholarship 2012
Thomas A Lederman Humanities Award 2011
Bank of America Endowed Scholarship 2011

"Literature in the Common Core State Standards: A Critique," UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, Seattle, May 2012

More information about Melanya's research experiences can be found in the Spring 2013 issue of English Matters.

Samuel Pizelo

"My research focuses on the antebellum period of the American Republic, and the transition of American knowledge into a modern episteme (invoking Michel Foucault). I encounter this broader goal through a focus on the modern observer, and the social networks within which it is situated. More specifically, I examine the organization of empirical knowledge around the observer in what I term “spectrality” (with a nod to Marc Guillame and Jean Baudrillard)—the phenomena that occur on the topography of the eyes, from the diffusion of the spectrum of light to the appearance of specters in hauntings. I do this through the readings of a number of cultural objects; a painting by American artist John Quidor, the gothic-romantic texts of Charles Brockden Brown and Nathaniel Hawthorne, the spiritualist writing of Robert Dale Owen, the technology of the combination daguerreotype/stereoscope, and a daguerreotype taken of a dead child (a common practice at the time). To collide these disparate cultural objects, I use Bruno Latour’s Actor Network Theory (ANT), an action-focused bottom up approach of social analysis. By taking this more holistic approach, I noticed that the antebellum Republic exhibited a preoccupation with representations of spectrality in Art, scientifico-cultural disciplines (such as Mesmerism and Spiritualism), and technology. It is my contention that this Actor Network of spectrality emerged to enclose the anxieties of subjective vision within language, natural science, and the mind, and sought to regain fixity of truth for the modern subject."

BA in English: Language & Literature, 2014
UW English Department Honors

UW Library Research Award, 2014
Novaris Award for Innovation, Harvard University NCRC, 2014
Mary Gates Research Scholarship, Winter 2014
Undergraduate Research Leader, UW Undergraduate Research Program, 2013-2014
Elizabeth Kerr Macfarlane Humanities Award, 2013
Mary Gates Research Scholarship, Summer 2013
UW Summer Research Institute in the Arts & Humanities, 2013
Eilert Anderson Scholarship, 2013
Edith K. Draham Scholarship for Fiction, 2013
Charlotte Paul Reese Fiction Award runner up, 2013

"Flirting with Nash: Performing Capital and the Politics of Forgetting in Techno-economic Games," Theater, Performance, Philosophy Conference: Crossings and Transfers in Contemporary Anglo-American Thought, Paris-Sorbonne University, June 2014
"'Born Dying': Cultural Futures, Social Space, and the Reproductive Economy in Southern African AIDS Narratives," Comparative Literature Undergraduate Research Conference, University of California, Berkeley, May 2014
"'Born Dying:' Cultural Futures, Social Space, and Reproductive Economy in Southern African AIDS Narratives," UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, Seattle, May 2014
"Dissembling the Social: Following HIV Through the Social Body," National Collegiate Research Conference, Harvard University, Cambridget, January 2014
"Biopower and Heterology: An Examination of Protest and Resistance through the Photographs of Abu Ghraib," UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, Seattle, May 2013

McKenna Princing

"Fairy tales have their origins in folklore, usually the kinds of “old wives’ tales” that were primarily told and circulated by women. In the Victorian era, retellings of those tales became popularized by the likes of the Grimm brothers and Andrew Lang, and for decades Disney princess movies have been embedded in popular U.S. culture. Fairy tales, then, are historically associated with ideals of femininity, yet they usually do women a disservice by portraying them in stereotypical ways that conform to female gender norms.

Because of their being naturalized in U.S. culture, however, fairy tales can be reclaimed to challenge the female gender norms they traditionally espouse. My research examines this dynamic between pop culture, women, and fairy tales, looks at some recent examples of feminist female characters in fairy tale retellings — from Gail Carson Levine’s award-winning novel Ella Enchanted, to the currently popular ABC television show Once Upon A Time — and argues that reclaiming fairy tales is essential to the ongoing women’s rights movement, and that fairy tales therefore ought to be taken more seriously within the academic community as powerful agents of social change."

BA in English: Language and Literature, 2013
Cum Laude
UW English Department Honors

Honors & Awards:
Society of Professional Journalists' Regional Mark of Excellence Award 2013

William Connor Smith

"Since of the release of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games novels--and their subsequent film adaptations--the series has become a popular literary and cinematic phenomenon to young adult as well as adult audiences. This diverse spectatorship speaks to the way in which the story of The Hunger Games resonates profoundly with our contemporary moment, begging the question: what are we to make of popular fascination with this specific representation of violence? Though this question has drawn much attention from literary and film scholars attempting to understand The Hunger Games as the violent object of its own critique, I argue that previous scholarship on Collins' work has largely presumed a definition of violence that frames itself as distinct from the political continuity of which it is a part. In contrast, the intent of this paper is to read The Hunger Games toward a critique of violence itself as a contested site of cultural meaning—the conflict of which is played out on the aesthetic topology of popular spectacle. In this reading, The Hunger Games presents a unique opportunity to examine the nature of violent spectacle not simply as another violent work of fiction, but as the very medium through which violence is defined and propagated. Specifically, I intend to inductively work toward the claim that the aesthetic, spectacular form of The Hunger Games reproduces a necropolitical logic of death and survival not only in its manifest content, but also in our temporal and affective experience of that content as embodied subjects of its logic."

BS in Computer Science, 2014
UW English Department Honors

Honors and awards:
Thomas A. Lederman Humanities Award, 2013
Phi Beta Kappa
Dean's List

Danielle VonLehe

Thesis: The Dialectical Photograph: Redefining the Historical Process Using the Photography of Eugène Atget.
"Although working in separate mediums, the theorist Walter Benjamin and the photographer Eugène Atget found in the image sphere the tools necessary for collective political action. My thesis applies characteristics of Walter Benjamin's theory of the dialectical image to selected photographs by the late 19th-early 20th century photographer Eugène Atget. I define the primary characteristics of the dialectical image - an intuitive moment that results in historical understanding - as the following: unique temporality, ur-form, cognitive suggestiveness, and visceral affectivity. Supported by photographic criticism from Roland Barthes, John Swarskowski, and Annette Kuhn, I merge these characteristics with that of Atget's photographs to show how the photographs emancipate their objects from aura, allowing the images to be read as dialectical images. This is an active gesture that questions both how interpretation of selected photographs as dialectical images reacts against the misconception of the historical process as progressive and, further, how the photographic medium on a broader level is able to represent history and the present moment as actuality. I argue that, if the problem of the historical process is that aestheticism, as exemplified by Paris in the mid-19th century, hides the true decay and/or stagnation behind the emblems of progress, then the image is a way to penetrate reality and unveil the historical process as an unprogressive one."

BA in English: Language and Literature, 2015
BFA in Art: Photography, 2015
UW English Department Honors

Phi Beta Kappa, 2014
University of Nevada Reno Undergraduate Research Institute, 2014

"Emily, 2014," Visual Arts & Design Showcase, University of Washington Undergraduate Research Syposium, Seattle, 2014.

For additional examples, see Past Honors Students' Thesis Projects and UW English Major Research Symposium Abstracts.

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