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.

Responding to Romanticism
by Valerie Higgins '08

My vision was aided by the fact that this course on the Romantics encouraged me to engage with the material in ways that were both critical and creative. In addition to critical essays and papers, one assignment required that students keep a notebook of personal responses to course readings. The seeds for the essays in this project were planted and germinated in that assignment. Thus, it was my creative and critical reactions to the work of the Romantics, combined with the creative and critical works of the Romantics themselves, which provided me with examples of a different kind of engagement with texts, illustrating the possibility of a response that was both visceral and reflective, emotional and intellectual, imaginative and theoretical.

Much Ado About Nothing's Criticism of the Renaissance Patriarchy
by Kristen Zomparelli '07

Conventional beliefs during the Renaissance still supported unchallenged patriarchal rule. Male domestic treatise writers as well as male educators during the Renaissance prescribed silence as a necessary virtue for the ideal woman (Hull, Women 23). The most common rationale for women's silence was religious, and men used Biblical examples - such as the story of creation, the story of the Fall, and the Proverbial descriptions of the good wife - to support their beliefs in women's silence (Kelso 3). Men also prescribed obedience, chastity, and domesticity for women as a strategic method of preserving men's limitless, unchallenged power (Hull, Women 23). Men kept women marginalized and silent to prevent any disturbances or threats to the patriarchy.

Raiding the Archive: A Study in the Veneration and Visibility of the Lindisfarne Gospels
by Rebecca Welzenbach '07

The Lindisfarne Gospels (LG), also known as BL MS Cotton Nero D.iv, an eighth-century English Gospel Book, has been revered since its creation for its unique illuminations and its Anglo-Saxon gloss of the Latin gospels. The codex has changed hands many times, surviving Viking attacks, the Norman Conquest, and the tragic biblioclasm associated with the English Reformation. This study examines the way that three owners of the manuscript have understood and negotiated the balance between protecting the LG and sharing its treasures with pilgrims and scholars. I explore the methods and motives of the eighth-century monastic community that produced the LG; the Jacobean librarian, Sir Robert Cotton; and London's British Library. Although growing collections, impressive buildings, and advances in digital technology suggest that present-day scholars have increased accessibility to rare books like this one, librarians enshrine the LG today in almost the same way that medieval clergy did.

Stepping through the Thin, Crackly Crust of the Present: Historians, Biographers, Novelists and Jack Burden
by Lindsay A. Theisen '07

From the back of my copy of All the King's Men I learned that Willie Stark is an important part of "our collective literary consciousness," and that he is as memorable as Holden Caulfield or Huck Finn. This statement is both interesting and suspect, because Willie Stark is neither the focus of the novel nor its most compelling character. Apparently, though, charismatic politicians are infinitely more engaging than well-spoken, introspective, and witty writers - at least to some of Robert Penn Warren's peers. Despite Jack Burden's position as the protagonist in the novel, any simple plot summary of All the King's Men will focus upon Willie Stark's career and demise. Willie resonates with readers: he is not so specific as to preclude our memories of real politicians (particularly Huey P. Long, upon whom he is based), yet not so vague as to blend into the communal lull of characters we've encountered. So while Burden may be our narrator and interpreter, the focus of his attention is Willie, forcing the politician to the foreground. We follow Jack's gaze - sometimes home to his mother, sometimes back in time to his adolescence, but always toward the capital and Willie - and can only view history through him. The novel is, then, almost a fictional memoir by Huey P. Long's assistant, as it contains information about his boss, his job, and his personal life. The most compelling moments of the novel emerge when these three intersect, and when Jack attempts to interpret their implications. History is made through such attempts, and even if Jack is a fictional character, his insights ring clear in our world as well as his.

"Spirit of Health" and "Goblin Damned": The Ghost of King Hamlet as a Symbol for the Religious Ambialence in England during the Religious Reformation
by Bridget O'Connor '06

A mysterious apparition appears during the opening scene of Hamlet, paradoxically seeking revenge and eternal peace. The Ghost of King Hamlet, unlike the supernatural spirits in most of Shakespeare's plays, is one of the most significant characters in Hamlet because he is the catalyst that sets the play in motion. Without him, Hamlet would never have known the truth about his father's death and would never have embarked upon the mission to kill Claudius. Because the Ghost's role is so pivotal to the plot, it was essential that the Elizabethan audience believed that the Ghost was real in order for the play to be successful. However, due to the cultural and religious beliefs at the time, this was no easy feat for Shakespeare to accomplish. England was in the midst of the Religious Reformation, swinging back and forth between Catholicism and Protestantism - two religions with two very different beliefs about ghosts. Remnants of both religions are present in Hamlet, and as a result, a lengthy debate over the Ghost's true religious affiliation has ensued over the centuries since the play was written. However, I believe that the Ghost of King Hamlet cannot be defined as wholly Catholic or Protestant, but rather serves as a symbol for the religious ambivalence present in England during the time it was written.

and I will open and close my petals
by Molly M. McLay '06

I have found that poetry provides not only a space for the articulation of voice, but also a space for vocal play. Unlike spaces containing singular, masterful voices, poetic space can be poly-vocal. Much more than the voice of a critical essay, the voices of poems can dream, argue, create, question, collide, sometimes all at the same time, in new and relevant ways. While some poems function with linearity and mastery-they make arguments and stick to them--others employ a more sensing, associative language. Some navigate the space between such states, or take on both at the same time, and still others combine a multiplicity of voices, becoming a mess, but a productive one.

if: Poems from the Unstandardized Perspective
by Douglas Pietrzak '05

When I was about six years old, I used to read a new sports book every week. The protagonist was always a five to twelve-year-old boy who was slightly dorky and had a minor quirk. Maybe he counted the number of seams on a baseball every morning, had an imaginary pet goldfish, or only wore blue shoes. He was also imaginative and interested in sports, most often baseball, but sometimes soccer. The boy usually went through a series of trials -raising money by painting a fence, helping his grandparents move to a new house, or teaching his little sister to ride a bike -before he could be part of a team. The boy and the team would then face even greater challenges. The personalities and working styles of teammates - like Jimmy, the great hitter, slick dresser and poor loser, Jorge; who liked to pretend his glove sucked in baseballs when he played outfield and often fell asleep; and Keyshawn, the great, but shy runner and fielder, but poor batter - clash until the team would eventually learn to use their differences to forge a strong new group identity. This bond allowed the team members to achieve greater individual performances, thereby compelling the team to exceed all expectations and win a championship trophy. In these books, I related to the struggles the team had to endure throughout the season and learned this lesson: the greatest teams were those that did not ignore their diverse elements and instead recognized the importance of every individual and adapted the dynamics of the team to take advantage of these differences.

My Little Force Explodes: A Re-creation of the Assembly of Emily Dickinson's Fasicicle 18
by Katie Brokaw '02

It is hard to recall my exact first encounter with Emily Dickinson. In some ways, I feel as though I have always known her. I remember quoting A word is dead! When it is said, / Some say. / I say is just / Begins to live / That day to my Junior High language arts class. Throughout the years, Dickinson has grown with me, in me. In the summer of 2000, I began an independent study focusing on ED's fascicles. It was during that summer that I chose to focus on F.18, by virtue of the fact that it contains "After Great Pain," a poem which is the quintessence of my fascination with ED. I came to see this fascicle as a microcosm, a distilled version of ED's personal crises and her crucial relationship with the world.

The Power of Perception and Origin Myth: Reconsidering the Origins of the Arthurian Legend
by Rae Marie Marotta '00

Ashe insists that the link between Riothamus and Arthur lies within the writings of Jordanes, a Gothic historian; Gregory of Tours, a Frankish historian; Sidonius Apollinaris, a Gallo-Roman author; and William, author of the Legenda Sancti Groeznovii (Lacy and Ashe 47; Ashe, "Ancient" 310-11; Ashe, Discovery 54-57). In the mid sixth century, Jordanes wrote the Gothic History, where he explained that the Britons answered the Roman Emperor Anthemius' request for aid when confronted with a Gothic threat in Gaul. However," Euric, King of the Visigoths, came against them with an innumerable army, and after a long fight he routed Riotimus, King of the Britons, before the Romans could join him" (qtd. in Ashe, " Ancient" 310). Defeated, Riothamus fled toward Burgundy.

From Literal Path to Transcendent Journey: The Pilgrim's Movement Throughout Inferno
by Shelley Manning '99

In his "Letter to Can Grande," Dante attributes the concept of polysemy, which means "many levels," to his poem. l In the letter, Dante states: "For the clarification of what I am going to say, then, it should be understood that there is not just a single sense in this work: it might rather be called polysemous, that is having several senses" ("Letter" 99). This concept not only applies to the mUlti-layered construction of the Divine Comedy but also to its interpretation. Although most critics rely upon the "Letter," I find his defense of hierarchical interpretation in the "Four Levels of Interpretation" more useful. The combination of polysemy and hierarchical interpretation is key to this study of the poem.