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.

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.

(Un)dress and (Dis)empowerment): The Relationship Between Women and Dress from the Cavaliers to the Romantics
by Elashik A. Kimberly '93

References to women and their dress continually recur in British literature, especially predominant between the mid-seventeenth century (the Cavaliers) and the early nineteenth century (the Romantics). Clothing, or lack thereof, becomes one means for male authors to write about women. In John Milton's Paradise Lost (1667), Robert Herrick's "Upon Julia's Clothes" and "Delight in Disorder" (1648), and John Keats' "The Eve of St. Agnes" (1819), the authors undress the individuals to render them vulnerable, often weaving eroticism and voyeurism into their examinations. Other works, such as Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock (1714) and Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders (1722), detail the temporary power contained within the manipulation of attire, but reaffirm the patriarchy's ultimate control by reclaiming women's limited influence. Finally, the essays and conduct manuals prevalent in eighteenth century England directly detail the immense importance of dress imposed upon women by the patriarchy. Wetenhall Wilkes' religiously-based A Letter of Genteel and Moral Advice to a Young Lady (1740) and John Gregory's social view in A Father's Legacy to his Daughters (1774) offer repressive guidelines to women regarding their attire. Set against these numerous "feminine ideals" are Mary Astell's A Serious Proposal to the Ladies. for the Advancement of their True and Greatest Interest (1694) and Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), essays which uncover various fallacies of the period, including the fashion preoccupation, and call women to nurture their mind rather than their dress. Whether women are dressed or undressed, empowered or disempowered, pious or ornamental, the close link drawn between women and clothing by male authors falsely defines femininity and restricts a woman's value to her physical beauty.

Eating Away: A Study of Women's Relationship with Food in Literature
by Sheila Bauer '93

Women struggle against a male dominated structure to grasp control and shape their own identities. In her analysis of the "feminine mystique," Betty Friedan states "It is my thesis that the core of the problem for women today is not sexual but a problem of identity -a stunting or evasion of growth" (Chernin 17). Friedan is correct--many women cannot define the boundaries of the self and, further, cannot find an identity within the larger social structure to claim for themselves. These three issues--self, autonomy, and identity--are interwoven as causes behind the development of eating disorders.

Alcohol Advertising: Freedom of Speech v. Social Responsibility
by Reona Jack '91

In Illinois, 10% of the population, or approximately 800,000 citizens, meet the criteria to be classified as problem drinkers; nationally, one out of four children comes from an alcoholic home; and, alcohol plays a role in nearly half of America's murders, suicides, and accidental deaths, claiming at least 1,000,000 lives per year.' Not only do these statistics add up to social problems but they also reflect an increasing economic cost to society. Estimates of the cost of alcoholism and alcohol abuse reach nearly $117 billion a year, considering premature deaths, reduced work effort, and treatment.

Mediating Between the Mediums: The Changing Shakespearean World
by Rebecca Ewert '91

Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream has been described as "poetry, ritual, ballet, and circus rolled into one" (Bryden 17). Encompassing so many different mediums of performance and human experience, these various levels incorporated the realms of words, music, movement, and spectacle as integral parts of Shakespeare's production. Music was, of course, by the sixteenth century an accepted addition to the spoken language of the plays. Louis Elson, for example, writes that "[a]11 performances of [Shakespeare's] epoch were preceded by three flourishes of the trumpets," and it was only after the third flourish that the curtain was drawn and the prologue spoken (318). In addition to boasting the inclusion of such incidental music which, admittedly, played a decidedly subservient role to the action on stage, Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream dignified the role of music by incorporating it directly within the drama. Where incidental music occurred as background effects (i.e., fanfares or dance music), as entertainment between scenes, or as a postlude to the play itself, stage directions within Shakespeare's play specified the need for music to be performed in conjunction with the action on stage, to reflect the actual text.

George Elliot: A Conflict of Heart and Mind
by Janet Polsgrove '75

It is the purpose of this paper to explore this continuing conflict within George Elliot and the various resolutions of the conflict which she achieved.