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.

"Who is't can read a woman?": Shakespeare's Cymbeline and the Renaissance Woman
by Nicole Williams '98

At the end of Shakespeare's Cymbeline, the villainous Iachimo unravels the sordid details ofhis scheme to convince Posthumus that he has "enjoyed the dearest bodily part of [his] mistress," and Posthumus is struck with the horrible realization that he has commanded the murder ofhis innocent wife (1.4.40-1). Referring to his wife as a "temple / of virtue," Posthumus laments that he has destroyed Imogen's physical body, a holy space that contained a pure and righteous spirit. To his great relief, he discovers moments later that his wife is still alive and that the beauty ofboth her body and her spirit has not been marred.

Misery and Madness?: The Irish Face in Modern Irish Drama
by Rob Mawyer '98

The primary point of this paper is to examine the Irish face as it is seen in these dramas, analyzing how it functions as a symbol of the identity of Irish manhood. On one level, the Irish face reflects the traditional stereotype of the Irish hero: pathetic, drunken, crazy. It incorporates everything that is detestable about being Irish. However, it is also a shield, representing a strength that is not initially apparent. The Irish face establishes a distance from the misery and emptiness of life, a distance that underscores both the isolation of the character and the inner strength that allows him to persevere. In this sense, the Irish face works as both face and mask--Ioyally representing the awful, the pathetic qualities of the character while obscuring something deeper, harder, more admirable underneath.

Expressions of Divine Order in the Canterbury Tales
by Nicole Buscemi '97

The expression of divine order permeates much of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The methods used in the attempt to express divine order vary greatly, most notably from the "Knight's Tale" to the "Second Nun's Tale." In the "Knight's Tale," Theseus operates within the hierarchy of the patriarchal feudal system. Situated at the top of the human chain of being, Theseus tries to duplicate the "ordre" which he finds embodied in the works of the Firste Moevere (3003). Destruction and containment are used in these attempts at bringing about order which are characteristic of male attempts to impose order on that which seems chaotic. Theseus' construction of the lists epitomizes an attempt to establish order through this mode. Although Theseus thinks he understands his place in this hierarchy, he oversteps his authority and tries to place himself higher in the hierarchy than he belongs. Rather than recognizing his place as above his subjects but under God (or the Firste Moevere of his final speech), Theseus equates himself with the divine. However, since Theseus is human, he cannot fully understand the divine plan and as a result, his attempts at ordering do not achieve the desired effect.

Sexuality and the Balance of Power in the Canterbury Tales
by Sarah C. Zumdahl '97

When examining ideas on the sexuality of Chaucer's characters, one cannot help but come across the work of Alfred David. In his bookTheStrumpet Muse, David studies selected Canterbury tales from the perspective of New Criticism, analyzing various sexual attitudes expressed in the separate tales. In this paper I appropriate a basic concept of David's and use it to my own feminist critical purposes, adding significantly to David's core idea. Throughout the following study of sexuality and power in the Canterbury Tales, I use "sexual natural" to define a certain state of human sexuality. While the term is my own, the idea is drawn from David's general argument on the "comedy of innocence"(95).

Adult Attachment Style and Attitudinal Assessment of Preferred Timing of First Marriage
by Elizabeth J. Arthur '97

The study assessed the factors contributing to expected ages of marriage in two student populations that are presumed to differ in academic achievement and goals. A primarily goal of this study was to describe the influence that adult attachment style has upon a person's expected age at marriage. A secondary goal was to explore other social and goal-oriented influences on timing of marriage in the two populations. There were no significant differences in attachment style for men and women. The more Avoidantly a person ranked, the later the age at which they expected to get married. University students' ideas about marriage were more influenced by educational goals than the community college sample. There were significant differences between men and women in expected age at marriage and the degree of influence of certain goals. It was found was that the community college students considered themselves to be adults at a younger age than the university group and ideally wanted to start a family at an earlier age.

Descent into Chaos: Ways of Reading St. Thecla
by Betsy Phillips '96

I find reading a hypertext akin to finding shapes in a cloud. One minute, the cloud clearly looks like two people in a row boat, then the wind blows and the cloud becomes a dinosaur. In a hypertext, just when an incipient shape presents itself in the text, then one clicks the mouse, and that meaning can completely change. In fact, unlike a cloudy sky, in which the context of the clouds, the sky, remains the same, the whole context of the text can change. Trying to analyze a particular hypertext, then, could be likened to trying to convince a friend that the cloud I see really does look just like a dinosaur. Even if she does see the same cloud, which I can never be sure of, she might not see the dinosaur; she may see an Indy car, instead. With all the opportuity for confusion, I understand how a little guidance or insight might be helpful for a reader drifting around in my text, St. Thecla: A Woman in Translations.

The Living Metaphor of Orlando: Duration, Gender, and the Artistic Self
by Michele L. Herrman '95

Virginia Woolf knows from the beginning what Orlando learns in the end: to be an artist is to be a living metaphor-a self which is not static and discrete, but evolving and "capable of others," to quote Cixous (Laugh, 345). In Orlando, Woolf represents the realization of the artistic self as a "creative evolution" through time; Orlando experiences time as a duration, unlike her peers, which separates her from society and its moment-to-moment constitution of self through gender, allowing her to experiment-with gender masquerade and develop the sensibility with which she can create metaphor.

A Legacy of Love
by Jennifer Shurtleff '95

The paper that I am presenting is a bit unconventional. It is a narrative and historical piece which tests many of the theoretical claims I have been studying over the past two years. I took three courses important to this work: one on the women pioneers who settled the American frontier, another on the relationship of gender to genre, and I am currently studying the creation of self in autobiography. After studying different theories on women writers and the experiences of women pioneers, I decided to test the things I had learned by writing my own story.

Order and Orderlessness in Gravity's Rainbow: A Dialectic
by Richard A. House '94

Gravity's Rainbow is a notoriously unreliable text. The perspectives of the strange narrator and various characters give an account of the novel's events that is clearly problematic in terms of the degree of "reality" that can be ascribed to various episodes: fantasies, hallucinations, and paranoid delusions are often indistinguishable from the events which may cause them or to which they may refer. To an unusual degree, then, the fundamental plot-question-"What happens?"-becomes a point of depa.rt"u!e for a sort of textual metaphysics. Often, arguments about the significance of passages may be upstaged by arguments about the plot itself: what "really" happens and what is illusory? The reader faces the same difficulties that plague the characters: all seek knowledge of, or at least a coherent theory about, the fictional world of which the characters are inhabitants and the reader is a curiously stationed observer. Definitive answers are impossible; Pynchon's work revels in its ambiguities. However, Gravity's Rainbow is spectacular in the vastness of the fictive world it creates and chronicles, prompting a tremendous array of claims about the ways in which it functions. Thus, it seems appropriate to inquire into questions which are as fundamental in Pynchonian metaphysics as in the IJreal" world. Probably the most important question is the one of whether or not ultimate order exists. Is the world of the novel orchestrated, ordered, or structured by some outside-the-System force or basic organizing principle, or is it characterized by randomness, with each event falling into a universal Poisson distribution?

Demythifying Melville: Charles Johnson's Middle Passage and the Nightmare of Slavery
by Rachel Palencia '94

When I first picked up Middle Passage, I was struck by an odd sense of familiarity, for having read "Benito Cereno" that same year, I immediately noted a connection to Melville. I became curious to determine not only the nature of that connection but also how an analysis of it might enhance an understanding of Johnson's text. I asked myself: "Why does Johnson deliberately choose to retell Melville?" A few reasons immediately suggested themselves: because Melville represents the canon of classic American literature and because he is an American writer who has adopted the 'European perspective of the empire. Moreover, Charles Johnson, in telling the story from the point of view of a freed slave, is trying to revise a portion of the canon of slave narratives, and, by doing so, construct an alternate view of American history as well as an alternate history of American literature.