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English & American Literatures

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“In an incomplete world, we depend on closure for our very survival,” writes Scott McCloud. What does it mean to continue on after the world has already ended? In post-apocalyptic fiction, survivors attempt to find meaning in a husk of a world which has suffered an unspeakable catastrophe. This project explains how the post-apocalyptic narrative structure confronts fears of trauma and loss. I will first outline how various postmodern theorists have approached the topic, before explaining how different narratives across media have played the premise out in fiction. From the mushroom cloud of Fallout Games to the zombie of Dawn of the Dead, representations of post-apocalypse posit a frighteningly unresolvable world and tap into the important question of how we tell stories.

People

Michael Suen
Researcher

Alison Byerly
Sponsor, Provost & Executive Vice President; Professor of English & American Literatures

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Early twentieth-century lyric poet Edna St. Vincent Millay was, at the height of her career, a literary celebrity treated as a major poet. Today, her poetry remains marginally popular but largely unstudied in literature classrooms. This presentation considers Millay in a cultural and hisorical context, discussing her complex relationship to Modernism, critical reactions to Millay over the course of the twnetieth century – ranging from New Critic John Crowe Ransom’s attack on Millay’s poetic and intellectual capabilities, to feminist critics’ attempts to reclaim her from obscurity – and the phenomenon of literary celebrity, particularly for women writers.

People

Carla Cevasco
Researcher

Brett Millier
Sponsor & Reginald D. Cook Professor of American Literature

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This presentation deals with a portion of my senior ENAM thesis, which focuses mainly on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, by Tom Stoppard. The specific portion that I presented at the Symposium examined Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead‘s relation to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and to my knowledge is the first sustained and in-depth comparison between the two works. My presentation examines the precise nature of the relationship between the two works, as well as how events within Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead modify and enrich our understanding of Hamlet. Within Stoppard’s play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern feel they have no free will; however, we can perceive the overall causes and effects of events in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead because of our prior knowledge of Hamlet and in that way can recognize the limits and contradictions of both predestination and free will.

People

John Goerlich
Researcher

John Bertolini
Sponsor & Ellis Professor of English and Liberal Arts

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Although early literature of Maryland and Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay reflected the first settlers’ unbridled consumption of resources, as the twentieth centuries due to habitat loss, overfishing, and pollution, literature, specifically an emergent genre of children’s and young adult literature, demonstrated a shift from entitlement towards stewardship of the Bay’s resources. Authors of children’s and young adult literature increasingly encouraged youth, either didactically or through metaphor, to value the Bay’s resources, protect the health of the Bay, and persuade others to become stewards of a healthy Chesapeake for future generations. This presentation will examine the transformation of Chesapeake Bay literature, and explore how these children’s and young adult works color the growing environmental education movement in the Bay region.

People

Laura Williams
Researcher

Daniel Brayton
Sponsor & Assistant Professor of English & American Literature

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This project examines how the figure of the split mother in folk tales has changed over three historical eras. First, it focuses on two oral tales originating in the Early Modern period: “Hansel and Gretel” and “The Juniper Tree.” It also looks at Lucy Lane Clifford’s “The New Mother” (1882) and Neil Gaiman’s novel, Coraline (2002). The project examines the cultural and historical anxieties involved in this Good Mother/Bad Mother split. Finally, it questions whether today’s notion of the unattainable ideal mother continues to reflect the prejudices of the Early Moderns and Victorians.

People

Emily Culp
Researcher

Elizabeth Napier
Sponsor & Henry N. Hudson Professor of English and American Literatures

Marion Wells
Sponsor & Associate Professor of English and American Literatures

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This project examines the continued success of The Jerry Springer Show. Does the show promote the inclusion of the “other” in the American social order or is it a profit-seeking mechanism that proves only to further uphold a hierarchal American social structure in which some are excluded? By viewing scholarly articles on the talk show format, footage from The Jerry Springer Show, and other critical works in American Studies, I set out to prove that The Jerry Springer Show uses coded mechanisms to create the illusion of a democratic forum which promotes oppositional culture and challenges social norms. This, in turn creates a “participatory illusion” that veils the underlying profit-based motivations of the show. The goal is engaged viewers that question the motives of a seemingly un-refined format, “cheap amusements.” What is the show telling us about American society, and how is its shaping of perspective relevant to how we function as a society?

People

Carl Culicchia
Researcher

Michael Newbury
Sponsor & Professor of American Studies and English and American Literatures

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As arguably the most famous playwright that Russia has ever produced, Anton Chekhov has written works that have been read and performed on an international level since their first publication in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His literary genius has helped to further the genre of realistic theatre with a tragicomedy of simultaneous humor and melancholy unique to his plays. In comparing three contemporary dramatic literature adaptations of Chekhov’s play Uncle Vanya to the original (Sam Holcroft’s Vanya, Howard Barker’s Uncle Vanya and David Mamet’s Uncle Vanya) I will prove that Chekhov’s particular use of tragicomedy creates a human universality that dramatists try to emulate to this day, while each individually adjusts the test to fit his own distinctive writing style and vision for the plotline. This comparison asserts that classic works of dramatic literature contain an isolated universal human element that compels playwrights to create modern adaptations.

People

Cori Hundt
Researcher

John Bertolini
Sponsor & Ellis Professor of English and Liberal Arts

Scene from Sam Holcroft’s Vanya performed as part of 10-Minute Plays during the 2011 Spring Student Symposium.

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This Fall marks another step in the cooperation between the Department of Classics and the Theatre Program, as they collaborate on a series of events this year that center on Euripides’ Hecuba. First produced in the 420s BCE, when Athens was at war, this tragedy is set in the harsh aftermath of the fall of Troy in the mythical past. Showing the plight of the captured women and their courage in the face of the worst suffering, Euripides weaves a gripping tale of greed, murder, political manipulation, and revenge. What do students think today of this play and genre of theater, its relevance and place in both cultural and theater history? How are Hecuba’s themes being discussed in a modern classroom from two different disciplinary angles? How do those different lenses bring to light new inferences on an ancient form?

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