2012-2013 Symposium Abstracts

Spring 2013 - Student Scholarship Symposium Abstracts

Chelsea Kiehl - sophomore 
Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony: The Story that Lies Beneath

Pytor Tchaikovsky is known mostly for his ballets that include Swan Lake and the Nutcracker. But many have overlooked his extensive collection of symphonic works as well. By far his most controversial work, the Fourth Symphony, has been the subject of many a heated debate because of the different kinds of narrative archetypes that have been proposed for the piece and the question of whether a narrative exists within this specific symphony. I propose that the most helpful archetype to follow when interpreting the narration of this composition is viewing the piece as smaller stories or narratives not necessarily moving beyond the movement level, but using each movement as a different narrative with its own distinct idea. This enables one to view the entire symphony as a cohesive foundation or background to let these ideas form. This theory has been developed by looking at the definition of a narrative archetype and the reaction of music scholars in this field to the Fourth Symphony. Tchaikovsky’s highly controversial and public personal life contributes to this examination of the narrative, while his compositional style and inspirations from other composers play a factor as well.

Danielle Mueller - junior 
Looking Beyond the Allegory: The True Depiction of Race in X-Men
In 1963, the first issue of X-Men was published, introducing the Marvel Universe and the world to mutants, super-powered individuals born with amazing powers. Feared and hated by the world they have sworn to protect, the mutant X-Men are often interpreted as representing a variety of marginalized groups. Modern scholarship generally focuses on the Bryan Singer film series and mutants as representative of homosexuals and Jews. Despite the validity of these modern readings, this focus has neglected the depiction of race in the original X-Men comics and has reduced the racial message of X-Men to a simple allegory in which mutants represent the oppressed minority, the X-Men represent civil rights activists, and humans represent the oppressive majority. However, a close reading of X-Men comics from the 1970s and 1980s indicates that the series’ depiction of racial and ethnic minority characters complicates the simple allegorical reading. Although the series seems to emphasize diversity through an ethnically diverse cast of characters, X-Men’s exclusion of minority characters that identify with their cultural backgrounds, along with its emphasis on the cultural backgrounds of the Caucasian characters, presents a problematic picture of race in which sameness is valued over the diversity the comic supposedly advocates.

Fall 2012 - Student Scholarship Symposium Abstracts

Nathan Kelly - sophomore 
Stonewall Jackson and Religion: A Different Look

Since his death after the Battle of Chancellorsville, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson has risen to the status of a mythic folk hero, and has become the subject of much scholarship. Writings on Jackson encompass many aspects of his life, but within nearly all these writings his devout Christianity at least gains a mention. Within this paper Jackson’s religiosity is the main focus. However, unlike many works on the subject, which regard Jackson’s faith as a source of his fighting spirit and therefore success, this paper proposes that his religion often caused a detrimental overzealousness. While acknowledging his many successes, it is clear that there were instances in which religious fervor was a limiting factor in his generalship. Questionable personnel decisions and tactical orders were both examples of this. Piety caused him to overlook merits in personnel decisions. His belief that God would actively help him win battles through divine intervention because Jackson was devout led to more than one ill-advised advance. While many observers see Jackson’s religion as an asset, this paper argues that it was a source of shortsighted decision making that contributed to unacceptably high casualties and the demise of Jackson himself.

Patrick Slattery - senior 
Kant's Moral Theory as a Secular Foundation for Human Rights

Author Michael Perry suggests that the very idea of human rights is inescapably religious, and the philosophical foundations for human rights must, if they are to make any sense, be grounded in some religious conception of human sacredness. But there are two clear problems with this suggestion. First, it does not allow for a person to be an advocate for human rights and also non-religious, which poses a problem if we consider human rights to be truly universal. How can we claim that human rights are universal if they are not based on generally agreed-upon concepts or beliefs? Second, Perry's claim overlooks one prominent thinker whose theory stands independent of religion altogether: Immanuel Kant. Kant's theory rests upon the idea of an innate human dignity, and he claims that it is an irrevocable quality that every human being possesses. Nevertheless, Perry would attempt to discredit Kant's theory by saying that it is either essentially religious or fails to construct a viable foundation for human rights. In order to defend my claim, I will focus on two major points. I will first explain Kant's theory and prove that it is a viable justification for human rights. Then I will show how his theory bypasses both his and Perry's definition of religion and sacredness, thus providing a valid human rights foundation that does not presuppose any religious principles.