4 Students at ASU Undergrad Symposium
April 25, 2018
Four students who were mentored by faculty in the Department of English and Modern Languages presented recently at the Spring 2018 ASU Undergraduate Research Symposium. Descriptions of their research projects are provided by the students below:
“A Sun That Leaves No Shadows”: Camus’s Philosophy in Fiction
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mark Jackson
This project examines the relation between Camus’s fictional and philosophical works, utilizing as primary texts the philosophical monograph Myth of Sisyphus, the novel The Stranger, and the play Caligula. Camus considered these works deeply connected by themes of the Absurd, the conflict between the human desire to find meaning and order in the world and the reality of a world lacking these attributes. In portions of Myth of Sisyphus and many shorter critical essays, Camus analyzes works by Kafka, Dostoevsky, and similar writers; the methods he utilizes provide a blueprint for what Camus considered effective fiction. I investigate how faithfully Camus follows either a conventional blueprint or the one he presents in constructing his own literature and analyze the effect of this permutation. I conclude that, in The Stranger, Camus’s narration confuses readers looking for a coherent novel; in Caligula, Camus similarly avoids accepted conventions of dramatic structure. Regarding Camus’s personal standards, The Stranger again finds difficulty in matching: it matches a character study more than a novel. Caligula also sees issues with Camus’s standards: the philosophical themes are far more explicitly discussed than Camus approves of in his critical writings. I argue that this apparent contradiction between Camus’s criteria and literature serves a purpose: readers expecting a novel or a play coherent with Camus’s oeuvre or with novels and plays, in general, are confronted with the Absurd.
The Portrayal and Roles of Women in Postcolonial Literature
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mark Hama
This research focuses on the experiences and roles of women as they are portrayed in Postcolonial literature. By analyzing selected works of postcolonial literature, this study seeks to develop a working concept of the long-lasting political, economic, and cultural effects of colonialism and imperialism as it concerns women portrayed in postcolonial works. Looking at the gendered history of colonialism, with emphasis given to the colonial histories of Africa, India, and the Caribbean, there is a stark contrast between the typical European ideal and the representation of the ‘colonized’ or ‘native’ female. The seeming necessity to protect this European ideal from the sensuality or savagery associated with a native woman is a constant theme throughout Postcolonial literature. The traditional roles and practices taken up by women, sometimes seen as distasteful by European standards, could be considered a form of rebellion against colonial rule. However, this theme is approached with varying levels of authenticity, success, and prejudice. By studying the differences in postcolonial literature’s attempts to define the roles and experiences of women, the difficulties that arise from historical ethnic conflict and racism can be further analyzed and refined. The misrepresentation, underrepresentation and conflicting portrayals of women in Postcolonial literature provide a wealth of interest and an in-depth understanding of the influential roles that European imperialism and colonialism within history.
The Death of Chiron: Finding Peace in Assisted Suicide
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mark Jackson
Most people know of great Greek heroes like Achilles, Hercules, and Jason. However, many are unaware of the Centaur, Chiron, who trained those heroes and many more. This research discusses the development and cultural perceptions of savage Centaurs and how Chiron differs from them.
This information provides a foundation for the translation of Chiron’s myth to the format of a screenplay. I explore how Chiron’s myth is relevant to today’s political and social climate particularly with regards to political divisiveness and ethical issues arising in modern medicine.
A Fight for Tolerance and Acceptance: Magnus Hirschfeld’s Research on the LGBT Community in the Weimar Republic
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Elisabeth-Christine Muelsch
Today, Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) is celebrated for his revolutionary research on sexuality and transsexuality. He is recognized as one of the first vocal advocates for LGBT rights and for the decriminalization of homosexuality. He was the founder of the lnstitut fur Sexualwissenschaft (Sexology Research Institute), which provided vital services to the LBGT community during the Weimar Republic (1919-1933). My study analyzes, in particular, the impact Hirschfeld’s research had on the following sections of the population in Germany’s roaring twenties: the scientific community, law enforcement, and the general public. My research shows that he left a long-lasting impression on the scientific community. He was the first to investigate homosexuality as a natural occurrence and he proved to be more influential than Albert Moll and Sigmund Freud. Hirschfeld had a close relationship with the police. The Homosexuellen Dezernat (Department of Homosexuals) sought his expertise and advice in an effort to curtail blackmail and prostitution. The friendly relationship he maintained with the police benefited the LBGT community, allowing it to feel relatively safe and accepted. Hirschfeld’s publications and educational pamphlets aimed at educating the general public about homosexuality. The popularization of his research improved the public’s attitude toward homosexuals. The more tolerant climate allowed an increasing number of publishers to print LBGT magazines that were both educational and entertaining. LBGT bars, dance halls, and restaurants flourished, suggesting that the 1920s became one of the most liberated periods in Germany’s LBGT history.