English Honors Students

2023-2024 Cohort

Armoni Armour
Working Title: “Call Us What We Carry: An Introspective Look at the Objects of Grief and Mourning the Intangible”

Armoni plans to explore how contemporary Black poets like Amanda Gorman poeticize testimonies of mourning and grief as a way to resist abstract forms of violence and reassert the humanity of their respective communities. She will incorporate her own creative prose related to grief and mourning alongside critical analysis in her hybrid project.

David Edwards
Working Title: “The Photographic Death Drive in White Noise”

David is studying the presence of photography and television in Don DeLillo’s novel, White Noise. In particular, he is interested in the way these visual mediums are distinguished not only from the literary form of the novel, but from each other as well. In the distinction between the two, David hopes to explore how photography and television serve differing roles in postmodernity, especially with respect to consumption and death.

Kathleen Felli
Working Title: “Legacy: Jay-Z and the Black Capitalist Narrative”

Kathleen is writing a critical thesis that will focus on Jay-Z’s music and his portrayal of himself as an aspirational figure through a Black capitalist narrative. Her thesis aims to be intersectional, incorporating themes of masculinity and race to contextualize her analysis of the Black capitalist narrative.

Abby Gardner
Working Title: “Working Title”

Abby’s thesis takes a hybrid creative-critical approach to examine the ways in which love navigates the boundaries of entrapment and liberation through a literary lens. She will utilize narrative form and poetry interspersed with anecdotal criticism, drawing from writers like Roland Barthes, to explore love’s confinement and violation of these boundaries.

Chloë Holman
Working Title: “Radical Gestures: Black Feminine Resilience and Determination in Toni Morrison’s Fiction”

Chloe’s current thesis project explores the many ways that Toni Morrison creates space in which attentive readers can observe and trace another one of the most transformative themes in her fiction—the radical ethic of Black women’s self-determination in the midst of the virulent attack on Black life and Black love. Through The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Beloved, Paradise, and A Mercy, Chloe will critically analyze how Morrison presents Black feminine radical self-determination to propose a model of resistance to historical and systemic racial and gendered inequities that continue to limit life chances and opportunities for Black women and those they love.

Kevin Moreno
Working Title: “I LOVE TO HATE YOU”

In his creative thesis, Kevin plans to create a multi-media anthology consisting of prose, poetry and photography. This anthology intimately engages with the themes and imagery of Romanticism but through a queer lens and works to understand how the natural entangles itself with stories of love and hate.

Grace Rivers
Working Title: “Sylvia Plath: Voyeurism, Madness, and the Spectacle of Death”

Grace plans to study the sensationalization of death and female mental illness in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Subsequently, she will explore the voyeuristic cultural fascination with Plath’s suicide and the sensationalized media which surrounds her legacy.

Leila Sebastian

Working Title: “Missing Mothers: The Link Between Loss and Motherhood in Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter”

Leila is going to be researching the relationship between loss and motherhood in Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter. She plans to explore how the mothers in these texts experience a loss of their individuality as a result of their motherhood and simultaneously choose to make themselves lost to their children in order to reclaim this individuality. She wants to participate in a collective reimagining of motherhood as an institution through her engagement with these two novels.

Michelle Vassilev
Working Title: “Bound: Raising a Family in Communist Bulgaria”

Michelle is working on a creative project about her family’s experience living in Bulgaria during its communist years. She will conduct historical research on the time period, lead multiple in-depth interviews with family members, and examine the interplay of friendship and surveillance in communist Bulgaria. Ultimately, she plans to produce a creative-non-fiction work that combines personal family anecdotes with the political climate of the time.

Sophie Venter
Working Title: “Why do you like Miss Austen so very much?: Brontë, Austen, and 19th century female friendships”

This thesis will focus on Jane Eyre and Emma, specifically investigating the female friendships of both protagonists. Jane and Emma’s friendships will be studied as a mechanism for coming-of-age in both novels, through the lens of psychological security.

Josephine Wu
Working Title: “Toothless”

Josephine will study how the maternal body serves as a method of storytelling to negotiate the trauma of migration. Through a collection of short stories in the prose poetry form, she will infuse surrealist elements to portray the Chinese American experience of intergenerational trauma.

Cynthia Yu
Working Title: “Leaving the Loom: Penelope and the Modern Heroine”

Cynthia intends to explore the characterization of Penelope in twenty-first century feminist readaptations of Homer’s Odyssey. Her thesis project examines how reassessments of gender and power in the Homeric epic have led to the transformation of Penelope into the modern heroine. She will be incorporating depictions of Penelope from several genres in her resarch, including prose novels, graphic novels, poetry, and video games.

Past Honors Students

2022-2023 Cohort

Esohe Asuen
Working Title: “Feminine Intersectionality in 18th and 19th Century Literature”

In my project I’ll be exploring 18th and 19th century constructions of femininity and how they interact with other identities like race and class. I hope to look at how feminine expression is aided or inhibited by other identities and explore how subjects contend with the realities created by the intersection of identities. I’ll be looking at two principal works: Maria by Mary Wollstonecraft and The History of Mary Prince by Mary Prince.  

Lucas Balon
Working Title: “Partisan Review and the CIA: Compromised Criticism in the Cold War Era”

I am writing a critical thesis that centers on the following question: To what extent did the CIA’s funding of the Partisan Review alter the subject matter of the journal’s writing and intellectual freedom?

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Headshot of Caitlin Baskin.

Caitlin Baskin
Working Title: “Requiem for a Nightmare: Aesthetics of Addiction in Film and Television”

The critical portion of this thesis will focus on how drug addiction and substance abuse have figured onscreen amidst the American drug war and opioid epidemic, exploring how visual media is particularly suited to humanizing (or, conversely, to dehumanizing) the struggle of drug addicts. The creative portion (which is, by far, the smaller of the two) will weave together the chapters of creative analysis with poetry exploring my personal connection to the topic.

Sarah Conner
Working Title: “The Delusion of Daughterhood: Love, Guilt & Reparation

My honors project is a creative nonfiction portfolio of three essays drawing from themes in Madeline Klein’s writings on the psychology of mother and child. Using personal anecdote, literature and pop culture, my portfolio explores facets of identity including daughterhood, motherhood and the construction of a home. 

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Elizabeth Fortunato
Working Title: “Double Down

My creative thesis, currently titled Double Down, is an epistolary, medical mystery novella focusing on toxicology, and investigates of the trope of the doctor-as-detective– specifically, with the doctor leaning into the role of an amateur detective. Much of the process of figuring out a diagnosis or determining a plan of treatment already involves experimentation and detective work, which allows a physician to fall into that unique dual role. As the novella is told in an epistolary style, it will be composed in a variety of formats to provide the evidence and tell the story, including medical documents, emails, text messages, and audio transcripts. My inspiration has come from a lot of ergodic literature, and I hope to include the trademark elements of that genre, too, in my work, to create a unique story. 

Baker Fox
Working Title: “A.E. Housman: A Master of Language and Emotional Deflection”

My critical thesis, on A. E. Housman’s poetry, explores the following question: How does Housman use form, setting, manipulation of meter, and a variety of other poetic techniques to express himself in a world that was hostile towards aspects of his personality?

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Headshot of Kirsten Garino.

Kirsten Garino
Working Title: “Haunted Daughters: Storytelling, Generational Trauma, and the Female Gothic”

My thesis considers familial relationships, and especially mother-daughter pairs, in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Looking at storytelling and the freedom to narrate in combination with Gothic tropes like the double, I explore how these texts create identity and discuss intergenerational trauma. 

Audrey Hall
Working Title: “It Made Sense at One Point”

How does a Native American woman “Come home” when physically imprisoned?

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Zoe Hubbard
Working Title: “Celie: Author, Standardizer, and Linguistic Power”

My thesis explores how The Color Purple is rooted in Blackness as the standard frame of existence – in a subversion of literary norms, whiteness is peripheral and is subject to the scrutiny of a Black gaze. For example, the narrator and main character, Celie, writes in African American English (AAE), the standard language of the novel. When she must relay the speech of white characters, she standardizes and “corrects” it by converting it into AAE.

Brian McCrann
Working Title: “Calm Between Storms

In my prose-poetry project, I hope to address issues of past, present, and future through threading my own personal experiences on Cape Cod, Massachusetts with a portrait of the Cape as an environmentally unique place.  I hope to explore the Cape as it represents a convergence of rich history, change over time, and the impacts of climate change into the future. I ultimately hope that the project is both resonant and reflective of the personal and interpersonal effects of the dramatic environmental changes we are facing. 

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Headshot of Jimmy O'Meara.

Jimmy O’Meara
Working Title: “The American Artist

My fiction thesis (novella) explores the gradual dissolution of a relationship over the course of a month.

Max Paley
Working Title: “True Crime Podcasts: Origin, Form, and Features”

My thesis aims to provide a framework and models for one of the most popular media texts in contemporary culture: true crime podcasts. By tracing the origin of podcasts from 2004, to the release of the groundbreaking Serial podcast in 2014 (which launched the true crime podcast genre), and then shifting to an examination and analysis of the genre up to 2023, my thesis looks to add to the relatively limited scholarship on podcasts.

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Maeve Silk
Working Title: “Interiors and Architecture in 18th Century British Gothic Fiction: Catalysts for Character Interactions and Indicators of Change”

My thesis is examining interior objects and architecture in 18th and 19th century Gothic fiction, specifically focusing on the considerable role that these elements play in character development throughout The Mysteries of UdolphoA Sicilian Romance, and The Castle of Otranto,as well as considering the historical significance of incorporating this Gothic decoration in fiction.

Avery Van Natta
Working Title: “Reading an Epidemic: Exploring the Cultural Construction of AIDS/HIV Through Literature”

I intend to use a variety of literary and mixed-media sources, including works of fiction, memoir, and visual art, to consider the role of these texts in the socio-cultural understanding and remembrance of the AIDS/HIV epidemic and those impacted by it. My project will focus particularly on the urban gay male community in California, and will explore themes of silencing, community building, literature as historical record, among others. Additionally, I will examine and deconstruct AIDS discourse and consider the formal construction of the sources I work with.

Headshot of Avery Van Natta