2012 Abstracts

February 9, 2012, Student Scholarship Symposium

Novels in the Internet Age: Contemporary Fictional Literature’s Adaption to the Characteristics of the Internet Medium -  Senior Tyler Gegg

One hundred and fifty years have passed since the American Civil War rocked the United States. In light of this anniversary, the need to have an accurate understanding of the war has never been higher. The image of the blood-soaked battlefields of 1861 to 1865 has ingrained itself into the American psyche. We, as Americans, automatically form associations with battles such as Gettysburg, Shiloh, or Antietam, so infamous are they in our history. Conventional wisdom holds that the battles were so horrifying and so bloody because the way the battles were fought was outdated. Battlefield tactics were more or less equal for both sides but these tactics are perceived as unable to fight a modern war. Conventional wisdom holds that the armies of both nations marched in rigid lines, shoulder to shoulder, moving within hardly a few hundred yards and before firing into each other. However, this is not the complete picture. This paper seeks to examine how Americans fought became more modern and decidedly American. It examines subtle, but profound advances in conventional warfare and two strikingly modern, unconventional military forces, the guerrilla and partisan-raider, in an attempt to illustrate American ingenuity and adaptation.

Guns, Guerrillas, and Raiders: The Myth of Tactical Stagnation and the American Civil War Soldier - Sophomore Will Scupham

Living with the Internet has changed the way we see everything else, the literary arts included. Authors have been trying to understand the effects of digital media on the human experience and on their own media from at least as far back as postmodernism, and some have even left behind traditional books for electronic and multimedia literature.  This project examines how efforts in these literary areas along with characteristics and perceptions of the Internet medium have been finding expression (and a wider audience) in the traditional print novel, both thematically and visually. The project will present visuals of pages from some of the best examples of this expression and show how novels like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close can adapt to our changing perceptions without abandoning what makes literature great. It seeks to show that literature can come to terms with new perceptions created by the Internet medium – a medium that considers motion, comparison, and experience just as important as form and content – without becoming unrecognizable.


November 3, 2011, Student Scholarship Symposium 

Re-interpreting Don Giovanni: Modern Audiences and Mozart's Masterpiece - Senior Christopher M. Burrus

Since its premiere in 1787, Mozart and Da Ponte's Don Giovanni has captivated audiences with its dark themes and ambiguity. The opera has enjoyed a rich breadth of interpretation and audience reception, made particularly evident in the last century by elaborately staged productions and film adaptations. Though Don Giovanni continues to be one of the most popular operas of the western world, scholars have yet to examine the modern methods and interpretations which have sustained that popularity in the last fifty years. This thesis argues that modern audiences of Don Giovanni have moved away from a focus on the supernatural, in favor of an exploration of the complexity of human relationships and the pervasiveness of evil in human nature. It explores modern audience reception of the opera by first settling on a basic model of interpretation based on the libretto, and then examines how that model is reinterpreted in three critically acclaimed contemporary productions. The paper especially compares how modern concerns shape performances of the final statue scene of Act II, in which the Commendatore drags Giovanni to divine retribution. It concludes that while modern audiences expect and enjoy a traditional approach to the main character's damnation, they prefer a production which highlights the human psychology of the work rather than the theology.

Honor in Death: A Historical Study of Japan’s Contemporary Issue of Suicide - Senior Amber Will

The Japanese government has struggled with high suicide rates for the past few decades, and there is no clear end in sight. The highly industrialized country has continuously been listed in the top ten for national suicide rates alongside countries facing severe economic crisis, political instability, and social oppression. While sociologists have assumed that the economic recession of the 1990s caused the spike in rates, as the economy in Japan improved its suicide rate has failed to decrease. Thus, in order to better understand the reasoning behind suicide in modern Japan, it is necessary to look for other social factors that may impact suicide. To explore this cultural phenomenon, the evidence suggests that traditional Japanese culture has praised the act of suicide as an honorable deed for oneself and one’s family. Historical studies into the lessons of samurai and Kamikaze culture shine an important light on the present situation. Specifically, these historical and cultural foundations of honorable suicide remain rooted in the mindset of the Japanese people allowing for high rates every year. These historical precedents may account for the fact that governmental programs against suicide have failed. Until programs specifically target the notion of honor in suicide in Japanese culture, little progress can be made.