Dual MA English and Children’s Literature Fall 2018
BA English, UC Berkeley 2013
Advised by Sheldon George
The women in Jean Toomer’s short story sequence Cane seem oddly indistinct. While some critics, like Cherene Sherrard-Johnson and Michael J. Clark, have read this indistinctness as a lack of characterization on the part of Jean Toomer, other critics like Barbara Foley and Sally Bishop Shigly have suggested that Fern is written to be understood metaphorically. Although such readings of the women in Cane offer insightful allegorical readings of characters, like Fern, such readings often overlook the interactions between the unreliable narrator and the addressed (implied male) audience influencing this figurative representation.
In my project, I aim to add to and complicate the existing Cane scholarship by analyzing narrative filtration. I posit that the narrator of “Fern” misperceives and purposefully distorts his impressions of the titular character in order to gain favor with his addressed (male) audience. Like Clark, I will examine the narrator’s religious idolization of Fern. Like Shigly, I will examine how this type of metaphorical representation objectifies her. However, I will take Shigly and Clark’s analyses a step further in arguing that the narrator may be attempting to justify his own failure to court Fern and sabotage his addressed reader’s chances with her. When we choose to mold Fern into a metaphor, without a grain of doubt, we are guilty of following the narrator’s misleading direction. And, like the narrator, we fail to truly understand her.
To ensure a dialogue with the most recent scholarship, I will present at this year’s NEMLA in the panel “Vile Bodies: Modernism and the Human Form.”
Reconstructing the Pap Smear: Consent, Accommodation, and Renegotiation of Patient Power in the Age of #MeToo
BA Sociology, ‘18
Advised by Dr. Valerie Leiter
My Hazel Dick Leonard research fellowship explores the barriers to care faced by survivors of sexual violence, particularly in regard to yearly gynecological exams. Pap smear exams have been shown to mimic experiences of abuse and potentially result in retraumatization for survivors, who consequently report avoiding annual care. Physician-patient power dynamics shape experiences of retraumatization, and can silence patients while constraining access to care. Thus, the interplay of power and gender in doctor-patient relationships is of specific interest to me. Furthermore, my research evaluates the importance of consent and power sharing in sexual healthcare, as opposed to traditional models of physician control. Using a qualitative approach consisting of semi-structured interviews, I compare the practices used on college campus health centers to those endorsed by established violence recovery programs.
The national conversation on sexual violence and access to reproductive care reveals a general distrust in women and in those who utilize gynecological care services. Healthcare access is a central topic surrounding sexual violence, but long term care is rarely discussed. This begs the question: what measures, if any, are used in routine gynecological care settings to mitigate potential trauma? Can doctors shift the power dynamics inherent to the U.S. healthcare system through increased power sharing with patients? This project seeks to understand the constraints to care that exist at the patient level, as well as the barriers to accessing trauma-informed training at the provider level.
HDL funding has allowed me to create crucial real world applications for my research. I plan to use the funding to attend the Planned Parenthood Sex Educator Training, in order to gain a background understanding of reproductive and sexual health. Furthermore, I intend to organize a trauma-informed care training for campus health center practitioners in the greater Boston area. This single session training seeks to connect campus healthcare providers with knowledgeable trauma-informed care trainers, providing both initial exposure to trauma-informed care concepts and connections for ongoing efforts to integrate such practices.
Participating in HDL has allowed me to explore the significance of power, gender and trauma to healthcare and wellbeing. In the future, I hope to work in the field of maternal and child health, combining my passions for research and reproductive health education. I am confident that this research will create a strong foundation for future projects.
Fashioning Nationalism: Revolutions in Women’s Kimono at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
MAs in History and Library Science (Archives) ’18
Advised by Laura Prieto
In the 1890s and 1900s, as Japan’s industrial modernization and military efforts were proving successful, a backlash began against some Western innovations. This backlash was aided by Japanese beliefs in their racial superiority and cultural purity; a renewed sense of pride in the culture, traditions, and values of Japan included a return to wearing kimono for middle- and upper-class women.
In an earlier seminar paper, I show that the reestablishment of the kimono as appropriate for these women, as well as the changes in designs on kimono, were connected to rising nationalism. For example, a stylized arrow motif was very popular during this time and had clear associations with militarism. I further argue that women’s wearing of kimono was an entrustment of Japanese culture to women. For my HDL project and history Master’s thesis, I intend to build on my previous findings to examine what agency women themselves had in their return to kimono.
I used the HDL research stipend to travel to Tokyo, Japan in August, 2017. In Tokyo, I visited and conducted research at Bunka Gakuen, a prestigious Japanese school of fashion. At Bunka, I was able to meet with several professors, as well as the curator for the attached Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum. With their support, and the assistance of Professor Noriko Ishii at Sophia University in Tokyo, I was able to shift my project’s focus appropriately, examine several primary sources, and develop my bibliography of Japanese scholarship.
Following the conclusion of the HDL program, my goal is to publish a shortened version of my paper and present my project at a conference while I consider pursuing a PhD.
My HDL project focuses on the study of Bollywood heroines, a subject that has been an integral part of my childhood and adolescence. I will be analyzing the progression of diasporic womanhood and femininity, as well as the choices and agency afforded to them in negotiating courtship and marriage. In Bollywood films that depict the diaspora, the heroine is often portrayed as a symbol of nationalism, a representation of the homeland. A central tenement of my project will be an in depth analysis of the 2001 Karan Johar film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, and its relationship to Indian society and Bollywood at the time of its release. Half of the film takes place in India and the other half takes place in London, a popular locale for films depicting women or families of the diaspora. The two female protagonists each represent traditional Indian womanhood and femininity and a more westernized version of the same thing.
I will build on this analysis by discussing the 1995 classic, Dilwale Dulhania Leh Jayenge. I plan to look at the heroine, Simran, and discuss the ways in which her character begins to push back on the traditions enforced by her father. All in all, I plan to look at how the body of the postcolonial, diasporic heroine becomes a battleground of sorts for this tug-of-war between tradition and modernity.
I plan to use my funding to purchase research materials and travel to conferences.
Feminist Theory and Classical Literature: Teaching The Odyssey Through Gendered Interpretations of Classical Literature in Contemporary Adaptations and Critical Scholarship
MA, English Literature, Simmons College ‘18
Advised by Renée Bergland
In Classical literature, women’s bodies, agency, and voice are often thematically central; yet Classical scholarship—still a predominantly androcentric and male-dominated field—is often silent about these integral themes and very few courses on ancient literature bridge interdisciplinarily between Women’s and Gender studies and Classics. For my HDL project, I have designed a college-level course to that end, including a syllabus of interdisciplinary critical readings and classical literature, unit plans and daily lessons that engage directly with these themes, and a series of assignments aimed to encourage students to critically approach the classics that have become so pervasive in western literature and culture.
I have also written two companion pieces to this portfolio—a rationale for teaching literary theory along-side Classical literature, and a defense of graphic novels in a literary curriculum. In the defense, I discuss how this course—that culminates with a study of contemporary renditions and reception of Homer’s The Odyssey – would benefit from the inclusion of graphic novel adaptations of The Odyssey (I propose integrating Tank Girl: The Odyssey (Hewlett and Milligan) and ODY-C (Fraction and Ward) into the syllabus). In these challenging texts, themes of gender, sexuality, and patriarchy are more readily accessible for student analysis due to the explicit visual components and the potent brevity of the comic genre.
The generous funding through HDL has allowed for the purchase and study of a significant number of recently published translations and graphic novel interpretations of The Odyssey. Having this opportunity to fully pursue this project and allow curiosity to propel my research has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I hope to someday teach this class using the course’s completed portfolio of materials in an advanced high school or college level classroom.
The Criminalization and Medicalization of Homosexuality: The Connections Between Iterations of Fascism and Conversion Therapy
MA, GCS '18
Advised by Sarah Leonard
My research project and thesis directly addresses how LGBTQ people are colonized by institutional practices of conversion therapy. Grounded mainly in Foucault’s theories around sexuality and institutional power, I will be conceptualizing how sexuality functions under fascist regimes in order to draw connections to our current socio-political climate under the Trump/Pence regime. Practices of conversion or “reparative” therapies on LGBTQ individuals stem from a long history of resentment coming from those who have a profound hatred for anyone that subverts the gender hierarchy. Under fascism, sexuality is crystallized further into microchasms intended to be altered or eliminated to serve the ultimate need of the institutions of power.
Coming from an academic background in sociology, women’s studies, and cultural studies, I am excited to be working with the HDL Scholarship and Research Seminar in order to bring my research to the next level. In March 2018, I will be presenting my thesis at Oxford University in England at The Human Body and WWII Conference, in which I intend to use my HDL funds for. In addition, I will also be presenting my work in Chicago this spring. I would not be able to travel internationally and nationally without the support from this HDL Scholarship and Research Seminar.
Upon completion of my master’s degree, I hope to be accepted into a PhD program where I can continue to pursue my research and expand upon my intellect.
Sherry is a student with a unique educational background. Having started her undergraduate education at Brandeis University in 2007 with the original intention of studying computer science, she left after her freshman year to serve in AmeriCorps. Rather than return to school after her term of service, she instead worked in non-profits and then with children with special needs for several years.
In 2013, Sherry discovered she loved to code after taking a course though codecademy.com. In 2014 she decided to attend a coding bootcamp in the Boston area, afterwards spending a year coding for startups and then two years as a software engineer at the Clinical and Translational Science Center at Harvard Medical School. She is now finishing her undergraduate degree in computer science and pursuing research in women, education, and technology.
Her Hazel Dick Leonard fellowship is hopefully the first step in a long career in research and academia. She is currently looking into the question of why fewer women study computer science in college whereas numbers-wise, more women are attending coding bootcamps. She intends to use this research to improve STEM outreach for younger girls as well as a way to recruit more women into computer science once they are older.
The preliminary findings of her research have been accepted into the student research competition at the 2018 SIGCSE conference (sigcse2018.sigcse.org) where she will be presenting a poster. This is hopefully the first of many conferences she will be participating in.
Zebrafish Research: The Effects of Eavesdropping on the Social Dynamics of Zebrafish
BA Biology ‘18
Advised by Maria Abate
Eavesdropping is a social tuning mechanism used by zebrafish to adapt their behaviors based on relevant information obtained from others that could impact their Darwinian fitness. I am working with Professor Abate and my partner Ashmita KC in the Simmons College fish lab to work on a project involving this topic. We would like to look at how eavesdropping will affect a fish's’ actions after being able to observe an anxious fish in a novel tank, and whether or not this anxious behavior will decrease because they were able to make observations. We will also analyze if there are differences in the reactions between genders. Eavesdropping helps us to understand what social beings fish are, and personally makes me see how intelligent they are when they are adjusting their own behavior based on visual information.
This research is interesting to me because it helps give me an insight on gender studies in animals. With the HDL funding we are able to do more in depth research on zebrafish, a topic I have had yet to explore in my college career. I have previously focused more on chemistry based research and am excited to work incorporate my final senior research project in with such an exciting biology topic. With my HDL funding I will be purchasing more zebrafish to add to our current small population and several husbandry supplies to measure the water’s chemical levels, to ensure all the fish are being raised under identical conditions, and other specific items, like a one-way mirror to adhere to a tank.
Reiterating Totalitarianism: Imagining Dissidence within the Sex/Gender System
MA in Gender/Cultural Studies ‘18
Advised by Jo Trigilio
Crucial to the formation of power and politics is the organization of bodies. Tracing the ways in which bodies have been constructed for specific political purposes illuminate the negotiations between conceptions of sex, gender, and sexuality. Further, it is necessary to reveal the totalizing ways in which all aspects of daily life are categorized and organized to reach these political means.
My project analyzes the ways in which our society classifies, enforces, and produces categories of sex, gender, and desires as akin to that of totalitarianism. As a mechanism of socio-cultural and political power totalitarianism recasts all aspects of human life as in accordance with its own political goals- primarily obedience. My hope is that in creating a tangible framework for understanding our political reality when it comes to sex, gender, and sexuality we might begin to reimagine actions against it. Through my research I find that instances of coalition, of organization, and of action against such a regime can only be understood as madness. It is this madness, shared by the marginalized, that might inform communities of political action and resistance.
I have used my HDL funds for a majority of my research. I have been able to purchase supplies and books, as well as travel to conferences in Albuquerque, Savannah and Chicago. This travel has particularly inspired me in that it has allowed me to discuss my work with other scholars in my field from across the country and build a network of helpful and supportive colleagues.
I hope to continue this work throughout my academic career and look forward to applying to doctoral programs in feminist studies in the near future.
Educating with Awareness in the Trauma & Adult Learning Context: The Teaching Upstream Study
Health Professions Education Doctoral (HPED) Program, ‘18
Advised by Becky Thompson
My research for the Hazel Dick Leonard (HDL) Seminar program is the Teaching Upstream Study, which seeks to uncover the social and pedagogical processes that take place in trauma-informed adult education. I am completing this project for my dissertation research. The purpose of the Teaching Upstream Study is to explore how adult education professionals in Massachusetts become trauma-informed and to develop a new theory of how trauma-informed education takes place in adult learning.
This project is a qualitative study that utilizes feminist social research principles, face-to-face interviews, and grounded theory methodology to examine the social and pedagogical processes for trauma-informed and resilience-oriented education in adult learning.
Adult education is offered in the United States (U.S.) and many other countries worldwide to provide language learning, increase literacy, and improve numeracy. In the U.S., these services are known as adult basic education (ABE), high school equivalency (HSE), and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). The urgency of contemporary global issues around inequality, conflict, human migrations, and a refugee crisis overtaking that which directly followed World War II has illustrated far-reaching implications on the presence of trauma in adult learning. In addition, two decades of research show that adverse health and learning outcomes are directly linked to traumatogenic exposures, including poverty and violence.
Historically, adult education programs have been highly complex, gendered, racialized, and traumatized spaces given their origins as anti-poverty initiatives steeped in the tradition of liberal education and social justice. Despite evidence of increased trauma exposure levels among adult learners, very little research exists on adult education professionals and the ways in which they address the needs of the adult learner population in practice. This project is significant to the field of research because it is timely, interdisciplinary, and engages a critical gap in the scholarly literature. The new theory of trauma-informed education that emerges from the study will be constructed from adult educator perspectives and experiences.
I was inspired to work on this project because of my experiences as a learner, teacher, and as a student of Dr. Becky Thompson, whose work in the field of contemplative pedagogy, anti-racist activism, feminist research, and trauma and resilience-focused teaching has built bridges, crossed boundaries, and opened crucial conversations.