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Undergrads Present at Symposium

May 01, 2017

Seven English and Modern Languages undergraduates presented their research and creative work at the 6th Annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavor Symposium, Friday, April 28, 2017, on campus in the C. J. Davidson Center.


Clockwise: Bonnie Kennedy, Kennedy's Chapbook, Victoria Nakamura, Minhyoung Kang.Clockwise: Bonnie Kennedy, Kennedy's Chapbook, Victoria Nakamura, Minhyoung Kang.


Clockwise: Sarah Hartman, Erin McPhillip, Luke Meyer, Emily KrauseClockwise: Sarah Hartman, Erin McPhillip, Luke Meyer, Emily Krause


Full descriptions of projects along with faculty mentors are listed below.


John Milton and Sexism: Languages of Sex, Gender, and Maidenhead

 Erin Mckillip


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Erin Ashworth-King

Department: English and Modern Languages

Sponsorship: Faculty-Mentored Research Grant


John Milton’s canon is complicated with sexist language and misogynistic implications. My paper challenges the perception that Milton was decidedly sexist in that his canon overtly carries a sexist tone, yet Milton’s argument for female sufficiency is present and cannot be overlooked. Scholars have canvassed the prevalent sexual language the literary works of John Milton, unpacking Milton’s notions of sex, gender, and maidenhead, and rendering his work to be decidedly sexist. Yet, my paper, “John Milton and Sexism: Languages of Sex, Gender, and Maidenhead,” explores how Milton’s canon exposes, reinforces, and challenges these early modern perceptions of feminine sovereignty in Paradise Lost, the controversial Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, and The Masque at Ludlow (Comus). Milton covertly argues for feminine sufficiency that combats his own sexist language. I inform my study with greater knowledge of the structuralism of gender binaries and the religious implications of the Protestant Reformation by looking at Milton’s major works and criticism.

Out of my major project came a smaller paper that I will present at the 33rd Annual Conference on the Advancement of Women at Texas Tech University. My paper focuses on the demonic trinity, and I explore the ramifications of the relationship between Satan, Sin, and Death, and how their allegory is engaging for Milton. By also engaging Adam and Eve prior to the fall, their relationship in the garden, and sanctification of their sexual relationship, we see how Milton’s sexualized and gendered punishment is not meant for all women.


Re-Reading the Witch Hunts: An Examination of the Depictions of Women as Witches in Historical Documents, Drama, and Popular Culture and Their Connections with Feminism

 Sarah Hartman


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Gabriela Serrano

Department: English and Modern Languages


In this project, I will analyze English and American witch hunts and trials and how they are represented in theatrical drama, particularly in Caryl Churchill’s Vinegar Tom and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, as well as the relationship between witches/witchcraft and feminism, and how that relationship is portrayed and interpreted in today’s pop culture. By examining how women have been portrayed as witches in historical documents, drama, and pop culture, I argue that the label of “witch” placed upon women has evolved from a derogatory term used to enforce political oppression, to an empowering term that represents the spreading of strength and independence, especially in the feminist movement. To discuss my argument, I begin by examining witch hunts in Scotland and England, and the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, and use historical reports and documents to trace the events leading up to, during, and following England and America’s witch hunts and trials. Then, using historical background to frame the context of the plays, I analyze Vinegar Tom and The Crucible’s portrayals of the trial and the women accused of witchcraft. Lastly, a comparison between the witch hunts and trials and the plays demonstrates a connection between the term “witch” and the three waves of feminism, as well as how portrayals of witches and witchcraft in pop culture have been influenced by these waves and the negative portrayal of witches in previous historical documents and dramatic works.


Third-Party Education of Girls in Kinder-und-Hausmärchen

 Emily Krause


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Christine Muelsch

Department: English and Modern Languages

Sponsorship: Faculty-Mentored Research Grant


In this research, I am exploring the idea of third-party education in three fairy tales from the Grimm brothers’ Kinder- und- Hausmärchen. Using historical, cultural and biographical information, I will analyze the role and function of third-party educators in these fairy tales geared primarily toward bourgeois readers.

The French Revolution not only caused social change in France, but it also impacted the German states. Politically and socially Germans, and especially members of the German bourgeoisie, began to redefine themselves. The roles of bourgeois women changed, and hence, their education had to change, too.

This research analyzes Grimm fairy tales that exemplify the concept of third-party education of female characters as a means to create an ideal bourgeois woman, a concept that was not only promoted in the Grimm fairy tales, but that was also lived in the Grimm family. “Frau Holle,” “Snow White¸” and “Mary’s Child” all demonstrate the use of an outside party to educate a young woman in the art of domesticity and social responsibility. These fairy tales all present a reward and punishment education; the women who are obedient and productive are rewarded, while those who are obstinate and lazy are punished. Third-party educators become key instruments in the formation of the ideal woman as defined by nineteenth-century German bourgeois society.



“Fake” Memes: Rhetorical Similarities Found in Internet Memes and Fake News Stories

Victoria Nakamura


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mellisa Huffman

Department: English and Modern Languages


This research project explores how Internet memes are rhetorical devices used to inspire and propagate fake news stories. The creation and virality of fake news stories, stories published by fabricated news outlets that present false information as fact, has increased exponentially in the social media age. In 2016, fake news stories dominated Facebook newsfeeds, some articles reaching over a million shares and likes. Similar to fake news articles, memes are popular ideas, images, and videos which also spread rapidly through social media, and as they are shared, users remake and repurpose them. Internet memes are used primarily for comedic entertainment; however, they also confront political and social issues. For this project, I researched the most popular fake news articles from 2016 and then searched to see if any memes related to or addressed the article topics. I found that memes either perpetuated fake news articles or furthered their spread. I also found memes and fake news articles contained similar topoi, enthymeme, and Aristotelian appeals. Analyzing the rhetorical strategies employed by users to create “fake memes” helps consumers understand how fake news is spread and the part memes play in its propagation. In addition, once the pattern of these rhetorical devices can be identified, consumers can more easily differentiate between factual information and fake news.


Leveling of abstract words for general understanding

Minhyoung Kang


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen Cody

Department: English and Modern Languages

Sponsorship: Faculty-Mentored Research Grant


The proposed work aims to make a generalized understanding of abstract words in English for international students in ASU. Abstract words mean that words exist in thought but not having a physical existence like love. Many international students in ASU have similar problems in common. One of the problems is the recognition of these abstract words. Even native speakers have some variations in perception of abstractness. I would like to find the generalization of their perception of abstractness. If the conclusion can find significant leveling of abstract words, this research can contribute to much more sophisticated English learning tools for many newly coming international students.


The Necessity of Oscillation: Immersion in Video Games

 Luke Meyer


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kevin Garrison

Department: English & Modern Languages

Sponsorship: Undergraduate Faculty-Mentored Grant, Department of English & Modern Languages


Richard Lanham’s The Electronic Word introduced a binary model of discourse: he argues that a speaker engages in discourse through a “bi-stable oscillation” between the extremes of “AT” and “THROUGH.” A participant may either consider the discourse or participate in it, and will actually use both modes of interaction over time. This principle applies to complex “intertextual juxtapositions,” but it can also be observed in everyday conversation. This study uses video games to create AT, THROUGH, and control environments to determine whether an environment that oscillates between AT and THROUGH is necessary for discourse. Our primary findings showed that students were capable of creating AT/THROUGH oscillation if the situation requires, and that participant responses varied depending on whether the participant wanted simple “immersion” or an “objective” from an environment.


Hope and Hopelessness:

A Study of the Confessional Poets Sylvia Plath and Ann Sexton

 Bonnie Kennedy


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Julie Gates

Department: English & Modern Languages

Sponsorship: Undergraduate Faculty-Mentored Grant


Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton lived at the heart of the emergence of confessional poetry in the nineteen-fifties and sixties. The two women became friends while attending seminars given by Robert Lowell, a pioneer of the confessional movement. Sharing common experiences of mental illness, unhappy marriages, childbirth, and social pressures created a bond between them that significantly affected their poetry. Sylvia Plath tragically ended her own life at the age of thirty-one, as did Anne Sexton, eleven years later, at the age of forty-six.

It is my intention to comparatively study the lives and poetry of Plath and Sexton from the aspect of the effects of mental illness on their writing, specifically looking for the evidence of hope and hopelessness in their bodies of work. The process of this project will require that I write my original poetry even as I am studying theirs, and my goal is to create a comprehensive collection of fifteen original confessional style poems published side by side with short compositions about the connections and commonalities I discover between myself and these two women. The collection will be titled Good for the Soul: A Tribute to the Confessional Poets Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. I know that whatever I find in this process, whether or not I discover those things that propelled Plath and Sexton, I will most certainly expand my understanding of what propels me as a writer, as well as cultivate my skills as a poet.


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