Rachel Branson
Rachel Branson '14 double majored in English literature and international studies. 

Student Research Spotlight

"Carving the Perfect Citizen: The Adventures of Italian Pinocchio in the Soviet Union and the United States"

Rachel Branson '14

For her honors project, Rachel followed the narrative transformation of the plot of The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi from text to film as well as cross-cultural modifications. The narrative maintained its basic structure and story in each version (Italian, English, Russian), while still including significant changes that make the tale relevant and important for the pertinent culture. 

Fairy tales at once confront prominent sociocultural issues while simultaneously performing a didactic function. In Pinocchio, each incarnation includes an ideological message, whether it's to be a moral and good little boy in the Italian text or in the American Walt Disney movie, or to be an ideal Soviet citizen, as depicted in the Russian text and film. 

Rachel received a Phi Beta Kappa Liberal Arts Scholar Award for her paper. She is a graduate teaching fellow and Ph.D. student in comparative literature at the University of Oregon. 

Student Research and Honors Projects

The University encourages qualified students to pursue projects of original research under the guidance of a faculty member. Students should discuss their interest in Research Honors with their academic advisor in order to determine whether they qualify.

Students may seek Research Honors in their major field (or in another field in which six course units will have been completed prior to beginning the Honors Project) provided that a cumulative grade average of at least 3.25 overall and 3.50 in the field in which honors are sought has been maintained.

A student's intention to attempt Honors Research must be declared to the Associate Provost by October 1 of the student's senior year. Independent study credit may be earned for work associated with the completion of an Honors Research project. The assent of a faculty member willing to serve as project advisor is required for participation.

A project hearing committee made up of faculty appointed with the consultation and consent of the student will review the completed project and determine whether or not honors shall be granted.

The Student Honors Papers collection represents exemplary work in English at Illinois Wesleyan University. The Ames Library is proud to archive many of these and other honors projects in Digital Commons @ IWU, the University's online archive of student, faculty and staff scholarship and creative activity.

Blood and Magic: A Novel of Artiagom
by Ross Hettinger

To what extent is the world around us an extension of our mind? Conversely, how much a part of the world is our mind? These are complex questions to begin a critical preface with, especially a preface that is focused not on the issues of Theory of Mind, consciousness, or questions of body and mind, but rather fiction, genre and the ramifications of point of view. These are precisely the questions, however, that need to be considered at the very onset of an inquiry of this type. The connection between mind and world is at the heart of any question relating to narrative. Given to the author in creating a work is the monumental task of creating a world and all of the characters in it. Authors must constantly balance the realities of their world with the demands of their characters, and a chief way a writer communicates with the reader is through the point of view, which is the only conduit into the authorial world. The choice of point of view, therefore, is a supremely important one, and one in which there can be both convention and subversion, depending on numerous factors, including whether a story is considered genre or literary.

I Heard a Little Birdie Softly Screaming
by Paxton Johnson

The project consists of a compilation of secrets, ranging from strange to unexceptional, in the form of poetry and short, poetic, prose pieces. Even our most public figures have private lives, and even within those lives, there are private thoughts unheard by even the most trusted ear. There is a constant struggle over how much privacy should be allowed, and people often advocate to spotlight everyone but themselves. Although everyone lives with shadows, it is still difficult to avoid passing judgement on others for their secrets and receiving similar responses upon revealing one’s own. This project examines what it is that people are so intent on keeping hidden, and why we feel, even under such similar pressures as others, that we must keep information so desperately shrouded. This project aims to consider the multifaceted nature of human secrecy and the humanity it provides.

Blue Life
by Jamie Kreppein

[Archives staff derived this excerpt from the author’s Preface.] I’ve heard the question “your dad’s a cop?” more times than I can count….So, this play is about the police. It’s about my family; for me, the two are hopelessly intertwined. I draw from my memories; I’ve written about moments with my family from the slightly foggy past and from the very real present. My family talks a lot—about politics, and race, and the police. My father is fixated on current events and issues, to the point of unhappiness, and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree….Many arguments in this piece unfolded as I was writing it, so all I had to do was record. I realized that I didn’t need to consciously tackle the big questions, like what it means to be a police officer in a society filled with opinions on the police, because my father is constantly monologuing….Fully fleshed monologues with arcs and movement and anecdotes. Maybe he’s always been like this. Or maybe I’m the first person to listen to him.

i pull the trigger and lilies fly out: a collection of poetry
by Grace McGovern

[Archives staff derived this excerpt from the author’s Introduction.] To be queer is to be continually silenced and sanitized, both by yourself and others. Through my poetic project, “i pull the trigger and lilies fly out,” I am reclaiming those aspects of myself and forming my own expression of the self. There is a quietness to my work, a continual movement into a lyrical, ethereal space, a suspension of time where the contemplation of a possible action is emphasized, rather than the action. This stillness, this self-awareness, and constant feeling of “what-if” embodies the extent to which I contemplate my place as a queer woman in every space I occupy. By creating work centered on this self, and not needing a disclaimer for my queerness but also note needing to make it shout, I was able to craft my own queer identity. I have often felt on the margins in this respect; I was too gay for my straight friends and too “straight” in mannerisms and dress for my gay friends. By holding my identity in my own hands, I was finally able to mold something that is me, and that I am proud to embody. When you are queer, you often have to create your own space and your own identity. In this project, I have finally formed my own.

Lady Gray: The Beginning of a Novel
by Savanna Steck

[Archives staff derived this excerpt from the author’s Introduction.] My novel takes place in a multi-national, magical world… The story focuses on the opposing forces working in Alvera…The plot is shaped by the actions taken by the different characters to achieve their goals, and how these actions are motivated by the fictional world…Plot and world-building are not direct substitutes for each other. Rather, I began to think that the plot and world-building are complimentary support structures in a story that work together to create the foundation for a complex narrative. The plot is the super structure of the novel. It is the device that reveals how the character live and interact with the fictional world. The world is the base for the story, the physical setting that the action of the plot is rooted in. But the world functions in more than one way. It is the physical setting of the novel, a base for the story to grow out of, but it is also an active participant in the story. In fact, so active was my world that I began to think of it as a character. Just as characters in a novel have motivations and intentions fueled by their backstory that is shown through the plot. The characters in a work of fiction often interact with the world as they do with each other. This means that when the characters and world interact, details and events are aligning to create the plot of the novel. The fictional world helps to create parameters that give the events of the plot meaning, while the plot provides the overall structure to release the plethora of information that world-building and character development generates. The fictional world, thought of as a character, is another element in a world of fiction to help create characters’ intentions and motivations that furthers the plot of the story.

Pimping Caterpillars: Select Constructed and Conscious Performances of Black Masculinity from the 'Minstrel' to the 'Real Negus'
by Anastasia Lowenthal

I am no expert in black masculinity. As a white female from a small, predominantly white town, I cannot claim to understand what it is like to grow up as a black man in America. However, I believe that I, and many others, can come closer to understanding some of today's complex black masculine identities through the history of constructions and conscious (re)constructions of images of black masculinity. There are countless routes that could have been taken, and admittedly, so much more that could be said about countless images of black masculinity, including those I have represented. The few constructions that I have chosen I believe are representative of the most popularly white-consumed images of masculinity of the nineteenth through the twenty-first centuries. An entire book could be written on the representations of black masculinity, and it still may never be defined. But that is what makes it interesting - the ways in which it has transformed over time, sometimes in compliance with and sometimes in reaction to white perceptions of black men. In studying selected instances of restrictive, white-constructed representations of black masculinity such as the "Uncle Tom" and the "minstrel," the "Real Nigga" who rejects white society and retaliates by expressing his power and prowess can be more deeply understood. Looking at Staples's and Lamar's criticisms of gangsta rap reveals some of the downfalls of N.W.A's "Real Nigga" identity, which, although revolutionary, was in many ways a performance of minstrelsy that satiated the American fantasy of the young black "gangsta" as the brute. The more self-aware identities that Staples and Lamar represent provide an insight to the ways that black men are viewed by modern society. They demonstrate the ways in which their ever-shifting identities influence and are influenced by the communities in which they live and the outside world's perceptions of them.

The Cloud Neighborhood
by Kristina Dehlin

While writing these poems, I thought critically about my existence and the existence of others in ways that were both difficult and enlightening for me. I was definitely altered, but to have such an effect on anyone else is a large undertaking. It feels a bit like a one-sided relationship that the world I have interacted with for this project (that is, the specific poets and locations I studied) will likely never interact with me. My hope with this collection, however, is that I can draw the attention of my readers to some of the issues that concerned me and inspired my writing. I want them to question their own place in the world-- how they got here, how stuck they are in it, how they do and should feel about it--and furthermore their ability, willingness, or necessity to empathize. I want to alter their thoughts for as long as I have their eyes on my work. If I am right about this collection's theory on the unbreakable connection between the world and the individual, then that will be enough to start changing our small place in the world.

by Michael Wettengel

Landfall, Part 1, consists of the first nine chapters of a much longer story (thirty-three chapters in all) that is a prequel to Garamoush, a novel I have published through Amazon in both eBook and physical format. Landfall tells the story of a near-sighted man named William and his infertile wife, Orla living in the city of Harbiton. Despite being a fantasy novel, the narrative closely follows William and Orla's attempts to feed themselves and avoid being entangled in the war that their country is currently in. Alistair Steinholt, the soon-to-be lord of Harbiton soon attempts to contract William to work for him, which forces William to start choosing between morality and practicality. However, while plot and characters are important, what I have conceptually undertaken with Landfall is just as important to me. A lifelong devotee of the fantasy genre, I have strived to make an novel that belongs to that genre while instilling in the genre a much greater sense of realism-in effect, creating a hybrid of fantasy and realism. While I am not the only author to have taken on such a quest-George R. R. Martin is one of the greatest contemporary authors to have done so recently-my work, too, does this. Here, I will show how I make my hybrid by offering the contours of the fantasy genre and discussing how that genre does not adhere to the dictates of realism, which, for me, is largely defined by subjectivty, complexity, and uncertainty. And then I will demonstrate how Landfall offers an engaging, and in some particular ways unique, blend of fantasy and realism.

by Mack Rivkin

One of the most difficult obstacles I faced while working on this collection of writings was articulating exactly what this project is. It is, on the surface, a Research Honors Project, defined by Illinois Wesleyan University as "an opportunity for qualified seniors to engage in a significant research project under the guidance of a faculty advisor" ("Office of the Provost"). In my preliminary Research Honors proposal, I declared my intention to concoct a capstone project which, through ecopoetics, would honor my four years of study in the fields of Environmental Studies and English. I wanted to utilize my skills in creative writing, mainly poetry, to continue exploring complex human-environment relationships and eventually give insight to my readers through vicarious exploration.

Thank You for Calling
by Colleen O'Connor

It seems absurd, sometimes, that I answer a suicide hotline when I still struggle to manage my own recurrent mental illness. Many mornings, I wake up with depression curled on my chest like my fat cat, and confuse the crushing weight for a collapsed lung. I am not always sure how much longer I will be able to keep rising before my body gives up on breath. I make lists of reasons why I should stay alive, go to work, and read them aloud to strangers in my most supportive voice. I dream about faceless children loading guns underwater and imagine the first time a caller kills herself while on the phone with me. I worry about whether I will be able to get a job, pay the rent, afford my prescriptions. I buy dry shampoo, too tired to wash my hair. After hours in the trenches of writing, I sometimes look at my lover and startle, as if just realizing that he has been here all along, as if I had been watching a stranger wash the dishes and make me breakfast. I take my medicine. I make the bed. I write these poems.