Student Art for All to See

As many of you already know, these are the weeks of the Senior Thesis Art Exhibitions. WOW! Kari and I have caught the first two weeks, and we are mightily impressed by the creativity, engagement and power of the work across a variety of media. Just today we saw installation, video, architecture, painting, drawing and mixed media.

Zilkha Gallery

Last week we were surprised and delighted by this Amy Schapp installation.

Amy Schapp installation


As one of my Wesleyan teachers used to tell me, “Don’t deny the pleasure any longer.” Next week’s exhibition opens on Wednesday, and you can reserve a time to see the work here.

Spring Break Thesis Writers -Final Update

It’s that time of year again…lots of Wesleyans are on the road for spring break but many  seniors are busy all across campus getting their honors theses into shape to meet those April deadlines. Tina Jung, for example, is working on issues of history and memory for her thesis. Her work is based, in part, on oral interviews. Katherine Malczewski is focused on Ida, A [Performative] Novel and the Construction of (Id)entity. Katherine delves into Getrude Stein’s definitions of identity versus entity through an analysis of the novel, the writer’s personal letters, and lectures.

Colin O’Connor is working on philosophical and literary constraints on anarchist literary production in contemporary Germany. Siri Carr is working in her COL thesis on concepts of “the little” in children’s literature. Sarah Esocoff‘s COL thesis is doing a painting thesis called “Strangers,” while Dexter Blumenthal is writing on food practices in contemporary Paris.

Paul McCallion’s thesis in Science in Society is called “Doctors Without Answers: Limits, Challenges, and Dilemmas of Humanitarian (Bio)medicine, and Doctors Without Borders” while Adin Vaewsorn’s work is entitled “Towards a Holistic Understanding of Obesity and Anti-Obesity Interventions Among African-American Women.” Both are going beyond biomedical models to look at larger social and economic forces.

In English, Ronnie Alvarado is writing a scholarly thesis on the influence of liberal and neoliberal theories of childhood and education on children’s fantasy literature during two golden ages of the genre — working title: “Fantasies of Education.”

Dandara Catete is doing a sculpture thesis exhibition entitled “Amorfo” consisting of several sculptures, each of which partially joins two full-scale mattresses to suggest the ambiguities of merging yet maintaining distinct identities in a romantic relationship.

David Stouck’s thesis, provisionally entitled “Cultural Osmosis in the Modern Chinese Music Industry, is based on his writing and recording of a series of Chinese rap/hip-hop songs. The College of East Asian Studies folks tell me he’s getting help with the research from several Wes students.

I’ve just touched the tip of the thesis iceberg…getting information from deans and colleagues. If you’d like me to include others, just email or comment on this blog post.


These recently came in from Neuroscience and Behavior:

Matan KoplinGreen is working on how EEG’s might be used to help train those seeking to reduce anxiety. Neha Shafique is aiming at a “Quantitative Description of Heterogeneous Lipid Membrane Dynamics.” Ellen Lesser is working on “Diet and Motivation: effects of prenatal and lifetime exposure to junk food,” while Simone Hyman compares stigma and schizophrenia in Gujarat, India and Middletown, CT. Sam Rispaud also works on schizophrenia, asking how neurocognitive function relates to changes in functional outcome.

UPDATE: And these from Astronomy:

Sam Factor took his first astronomy class in the fall of his senior year, and graduated last spring with majors in physics and computer science.  This year he graduates with an MA in astronomy and an impressive thesis that includes an analysis of planet-forming potential in an environment similar to where the Sun is thought to have formed.  Sam’s experience at the intersection of physics, computer science, and astronomy has made him a very effective researcher and, after only one year as an astronomer, his thesis marks a significant contribution to the field of planet formation research.

Jesse Lieman-Sifry has been working since his junior year on understanding the last gasps of gas giant planet formation.  Jesse has done beautiful work on not one but two separate projects with the newly-operational ALMA telescope in Chile, the most powerful and versatile radio telescope ever built, and has been a guest observer at the Submillimeter Array in Hawaii.

Dilovan Serindag is using observations from the Kepler Space Telescope to characterize the atmospheres of planets around other stars.  He developed and coded his own modeling algorithm to measure the phase changes as these planets orbit around their stars.  These planets orbit in just a matter of days, and the analysis that Dilovan is doing can tell us the temperature of the planet and how reflective its atmosphere is.


Rachel Leicher is combining in vivo genetic approaches using budding yeast cells with in vitro DNA binding studies to gain a fuller picture of the functions of H’1, a basic structural component of our chromosomes. Veronica Birdsall is studying protein-DNA interactions to address questions of recognition and specificity in the case of an architectural DNA-binding protein, Integration Host Factor. Derek Frank  is using spectrocopy studies to probe the structure of DOH-N2O, a weakly bound van der Waals complex. Rotational spectroscopy is shown as a powerful technique to investigate the structure of gas phase complexes and the chemistry of weakly bound systems. Erin Cohn is exploring degradation of lignin, a paper industry waste product, and the most abundant aromatic compound found in nature. The products of its degradation by enzymes could be utilized in the generation of biofuels.

Emma Kemler is working on a project examining how to define and measure citizenship within the context of higher education in Argentina and in Middletown. Alison Goldberg is writing a psychology thesis on anti-Semitism and the relationship between physical and personality stereotypes of Jewish individuals. Kate Weiner’s “Reciprocity: Community-Making at East New York Farms!” uses creative non-fiction and a variety of disciplines to explore how community is cultivated in the context of urban agriculture. Christian Hosam‘s African American Studies thesis is entitled “Linked Fate in Asian America: Promise, Pitfalls, and Practice.” Christian looks at the concept of linked fate, identifying the ways that the extant literature actually reinforces stereotypes of the “apolitical” Asian American because it assumes that linked fate is necessarily correlated with increased levels of political engagement. Kehan Zhou, writing in CSS and Economics, analyzes alternative currency movements, in particular crypto-currencies, and in particular Bitcoin, concentrating on the supply of and demand for cryptocurrencies, how cryptocurrencies work, and the operation of the markets for crypto-currencies including pricing fluctuations, security issues, and possibilities for arbitrage.

Grace Herman-Holland‘s directing thesis examines the relationship between performers and audiences during kabuki’s golden age, identifying elements of a highly engaged spectatorship with the potential to inform contemporary theatrical practices. The Wesleyan cover band Love Hotel furnished music for her production of “Skyfall,” which was performed in the ’92 Theater the weekend of February 26-28.
There are plenty more theses out there, and lots of recitals coming up as part of the work. The first senior thesis art exhibition opens at the Zilkha Gallery on Wednesday, March 25!


No Break for Thesis Writers

Every March the campus empties out, and as the New England winter slowly gives way to spring, most students get a break before the mad dash to the end of term. But each year I am reminded of the seniors who remain behind, in the libraries or in science labs, in studios or just hiding in some quiet corner…writing, calculating, thinking, editing, and generally burning the midnight oil as they prepare senior projects.

I can’t help but think back to writing my own thesis on psychoanalysis and politics. This was one of my most important intellectual experiences, and the fact that I’m still teaching Freud in the spring (next week, in fact) points to the impact that focused research and writing can have. It may also point to my own lack of intellectual progress.

In any case… I put out a call on Twitter and also to the academic Deans to hear about the subjects on which seniors are working. This list is not representative…just a collection from those who sent me information. But look at the range of topics. Here’s what I’ve received:

Ariella Axelbank (advisor: John Finn), “The Lack of a National Theater in the United States”
Lucy Britt (Sonali Chakravarti), “Political Reconciliation and Forgiveness in Post-Genocide Rwanda”
Grace Powell (Doug Foyle), “US Drone Strikes in Pakistan and Yemen”
Chloe Rinehart (Jim McGuire), “Conditional Cash Transfers in Ecuador: Obstacles to Uptake”
Andrew Trexler (Joslyn Trager), “War Making and State Development in the Contemporary Middle East”
Jeremy Edelberg (Abigail Hornstein), “Corporate Bond Liquidity and Credit Spreads”
Mari Jarris (Ulrich Plass), “Theory, Empirics, Revolution: A Three-Dimensional Approach to Subverting Authority”
Bohao Zhou (Brian Fay), “Cosmopolitanism: A Pragmatic Attitude of Self-Growth”
Max Bigman (Jolee West, Joyce Jacobsen), “An Algorithm for Reform: The Potential Impact of Blended Learning on American Education”
Katie Deane (Studio Art),”In-Out, In-Out”
Joshua Neitzel (Francis Starr), “Stability of DNA-linked Nanoparticle Lattices”
Paul Hanakata (Francis Starr), “Unraveling the mysteries of the Polymer Thin-Film Glass Transition” (This thesis has already led to two publications!)
Peter Martin (Marty Gilmore), “Modeling and Analysis of Potential Martian Brines”
Lisle Winston (Scott Holmes), “Examining the role of histone variant H2A.Z in chromosome dynamics”
Matthew Donahue (Jill Morawski), “On Being Second Guessed by a Machine: A Reevaluation of the Bogus Pipeline”
Alec Harris (Elizabeth Willis) is writing a creative thesis that consists of poems about economics. He is an econ/English double major.
Anya Morgan (Rachel Ellis Neyra) is writing about zombies in American film and Haitian literature.
Emily Weitzman (Clifford Chase and Lisa Cohen) is writing a creative non-fiction piece about her experience with Sister Asya, a midwife, and other Muslim women in Kenya.
Aron Chilewich (Courtney Weiss Smith) is writing about the novels of Ben Lerner(not Marcus, as I had written), the much acclaimed author of contemporary experimental fiction.
Elizabeth Clayton (Kari Weil) is writing on the literary genealogy of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Taylor Steele (Amy Bloom) is writing about how food in its various states is connected to our experiences and desires.
Ethan Tischler (Mary-Jane Rubenstein),”Emptiness and Wholeness: Untangling the ‘Realities’ of Tibetan Buddhism and Quantum Physics”
Nathaniel Elmer (Architecture), “Beat Space”

In Romance Languages and Literatures I’ve head about the following:

Elle Markell is writing a thesis in Spanish about Argentinian writer César Aira.
Sarah Dash, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Fascist Ideology in the Kitchens of a Nation”

Christina Norris will produce a radio podcast in the format of “This American Life” to explore the public reception and consumption of the media portrayal of terrorism following the March 2012 terrorist attack in Toulouse, France, and the Boston Marathon tragedy a year later in April 2013.

Two more in NSB from Matt Kurtz:

Rachel Rosengard, “Comparing two methods for improving verbal memory in schizophrenia”

Rachel Olfson, “Methods for Remediation of Theory of Mind (ToM) Deficits in Schizophrenia”

Sarah Mahurin reports that Elsa Hardy (AfAm, Hispanic Studies) is writing a thesis on cross-cultural exchange between child care providers and their employers.

Sarah Sculnick (English) is writing on the urban literary regionalisms of Gwendolyn Brooks (Chicago) and August Wilson (Pittsburgh).

In General Scholarship:

Maggie Feldman-Piltch, “Enforcing the Human Rights Obligations of Organizations”

And from FGSS, certainly a contender for best title:

Ella Dawson (Robert Steele), “Girl Has Sex, World Doesn’t End: Reconceptualizing Feminist Erotica”

That’s already an impressive list, but there are lots more theses being written, drawn, and performed. I apologize for not having a more complete list, but if you are so inclined…just add titles to to comments below.

Theater and Music Theses Enliven the Campus

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing one of the many fine student productions presented by the Theater Department at the Patricelli ’92 Theater. Claire Whitehouse ’14 adapted Matilde Mellibovsky’s Circle of Love Over Death and created A La Ronda, a play that focuses on the Madres de Plaza de Mayo. Claire spent months in Argentina and was deeply impressed by the women who refused to forget “the disappeared,” and showed amazing resilience and courage in their struggle for social justice. The ensemble (Connie Des Marais ’17, Helen Handelman ’16, Grace Herman-Holland ’15, Aileen Lambert ’16, and Dominique Moore ’14) was terrific in this moving portrait of the will-to-remember and the effort to turn individual mourning into collective action. The faculty, Stage Manager (Alma Sanchez-Eppler ’14 — who recently presented her own production) and production team must be very proud. Bravo to all! The play continues through Saturday night… And stay tuned for great thesis theater through the rest of the semester.

Nathan Repasz ’14 will be giving a recital tonight at 7 pm as part of his senior thesis. Drums will be at the core of the concert. Throughout the semester there are powerful recitals by our amazingly talented students, and I only wish I could attend more of them.

This weekend performances are waiting for you! Don’t deny yourselves the pleasures they bring!! THIS IS WHY.

Senior Thesis Artists Are Awesome!

The Senior Thesis Exhibitions have begun! I just came back from the Zilkha Gallery where I was so impressed by the intensity, humor and high level of skill evident in all the work on display. Congratulations to Allison Kalt, Ilyana SchwartzAnna ShimshakTiffany Unno and Christina You.

Here’s just a taste of what’s on display:

Ilyana Schwartz – “figures”


Christina You – “YOU and me”
Allison Kalt – “SSRI (paintings)”









This must be why.  THIS IS WHY. 

Spring Break and the Theses Writers are Hard at Work

Every March, faculty and students find the two weeks without classes a welcome breather before the intense rush toward finals and the end of the semester. For a group of determined seniors, though, the March break is crunch time as they prepare their senior theses. And there are many faculty who are working harder than ever as they read drafts and discuss final strategies with their honors students. March may come in like a lion and leave like a lamb (we hope) from the perspective of the weather, but for folks slaving away in their labs in Shanklin and Hall Attwater, or their carrels in Olin, or in the studios of the CFA, March is a key opportunity to bring projects closer to completion.

Sam Ebb, who I know as an active representative on academic matters from the WSA, is writing about compulsory voting, and why it may be a solution to solving the problem of economic inequality, misrepresentation, and the role of big money in the US. I wonder if Sam thinks we should try compulsory voting at Wes. Like Sam, Elizabeth Williams is doing a CSS thesis. Prof. Elvin Lim reports she is writing about the evolving role and involvement of the coal industry in the West Virginian economy, exploring the accumulated, path-dependent effects of the industry during its highs and especially its lows on the state’s post-industrial economy.

Michaela Tolman has been working at characterizing the types of neurons made by mouse and human embryonic stem cells, both in a culture dish and after transplantation to the mouse hippocampus. Under certain conditions we can generate inhibitory interneurons, which may be useful for suppressing seizures in mouse models of temporal lobe epilepsy, or so Laura Grabel tells me!

Like Amy Bloom, I’m a big fan of writer and musician Jason Katzenstein. Jason is writing a graphic novel, entitled Close To Me, about anxiety and love, both familial and romantic. How romantic is hairstyling in the Ancien Régime? Dean Andrew Curran tells me about another CSS thesis, by Eliza Fisher, who is studying the rise and consolidation of absolutism under Louis XIV and XV and the simultaneous creation of consumer culture. Her goal is to identify what the history of hairstyles in Bourbon France can tell us about the economic, sexual, and to a certain extent, political culture of the era. How cool is that?

Speaking of cool topics, Kari Weil told me about these COL theses: Samantha Januszeski is cooking up an analysis of the raw food movement in “You are what you eat”: An ethnographic study of Raw Foodism. Kyra Sutton is using her critical theory acumen to think about identity and religion in Islam’s Turn on the Couch: Psychoanalytic Theorizing of Muslim Identity in France. Ethan Kleinberg tells me that Savannah Whiting (Sociology and Romance Languages) is comparing the ways that Algeria figures in the work of Derrida and Bourdieu. Tobah Aukland (COL) is exploring Jewish art collectors and dealers in Paris from the late 19th century through Vichy in relation to issues of Franco-Jewish identity.

Jessica Wilson is finalizing curatorial decisions for her photography thesis exhibition. Jessica is interested in portraits of imitators. Nick Kokkinis (Math and Studio Art) is working on a painting senior thesis that Tula Telfair has described to me as post-minimalist. All I know is that post minimalism takes maximum effort!

Steve Collins reports that “the 16mm theses filmmakers are all tucked inside the editing rooms finishing their films.” Here are a few of his descriptions: “Ethan Young‘s black and white horror film is a nail-biting tale of a very scary house and some trauma that occurred there. It didn’t hurt the atmosphere that the crew found bags of sheep and goat carcasses in the abandoned house they were filming (they reported them to the police). Jenna Robbins is making a film about a young office worker struggling with her fantasies of perfection in order to find true love. Gabriel Urbina is editing and recording his score for his musical/hostage film, a classic Wesleyan genre mash-up combining gun-play with tap-dancing. And Chris McNabb is putting his deadpan wit and precise filmmaking into the final editing of Driven, his comic/melancholy tale of a suburban Dad pushed to his brink.”

Driven…and they call it a break….


Jennifer Tucker, who is organizing some lunch-time presentations by Wes students at the Allbritton Center later this term, wrote in from a research trip in England. She told me about the fabulous thesis of Aria Danaparamita, who will be presenting her work at a conference at Yale at the end of March. Aria’s title is British Borobudur Buddha: Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, Orientalist Antiquarianism and (Post colonial) Development in Java.

Sara Mahurin, who is a visiting professor in English and African American Studies, writes about the following students: “[…]; Alex Kelley is writing a fascinating creative thesis comprised of “vignettes” — meditative micro-narratives from the perspective of an aging biology teacher, each taking for its starting point some species of animal; Alex Wilkinson is writing about legacy and liminality in Faulkner.”

James Gardner’s thesis is a historical analysis of Afro-Germans from the 1800s to modern day. It focuses primarily on Germans of African descent, their history and the reactions to their presence during three main eras of modern German history. James writes that “my research is a reaction to racism and discrimination that I noticed Afro-Germans faced during my recent study abroad in Berlin and work with one of the women who spearheaded the Afro-German identity movement in the 1980s, Katharina Oguntoye.”

I’m happy to add more names and topics for the next several days…

Katja Kolcio just wrote in with this good news:  Elena Georgieva who finished her thesis on the  connection between science and dance at Wesleyan, just won an American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Honor Society Undergraduate Award for excellence in academics, research, and outreach (granted to only sixteen students every year).  She is presenting her thesis  to the Annual ASBMB Meeting in April 2013.  She also presented her work at the Harvard Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Research Conference in January.  Congratulations to Elena!



Artful Weekend, Artful Weeks Ahead (don’t forget to THINK BIG!)

It’s the season for senior thesis writers to be burning the midnight oil. In a couple of weeks these projects will be handed in to advisors and multiple readers, and then it will be the faculty burning the oil as we carefully read through the arguments, stories, proofs, and poems on which  students have been working for the last several months.

Many students preparing recitals, plays and exhibitions have already had to complete their work so that it can be scheduled for performance and display. Yesterday I checked out the student senior exhibitions in the Zilkha Gallery, and boy was I impressed! My first impression was of Sienna Perro’s subtle yet disturbing photographs of funeral homes. Her sober approach to the material only heightened the emotional power of the work. I had a chance to chat with Kuan-lin Huang about his wonderful installation. Kuan-lin used sculpture, sound and projected images to call to mind the tension between individuality and submergence in the group. I didn’t meet the other artists, but I was mightily impressed by the architectural installation (Gil Sunshine), the magically realist painting of family correspondences (Elizabeth Chabot), and the minimalist cartography installation (Johnny Tan). I think the work will be up for a short part of Sunday afternoon (April 1). The next wave of senior exhibitions opens on Tuesday.

My afternoon on Saturday was enriched by a marvelous concert that was part of Sam Long’s senior thesis in music and environmental studies. Sam’s band, The Honey and the Sting, played original music composed in response to the Connecticut River Valley.

The music was gorgeous, and the lyrics were smart, funny and evocative. Jess Best 12, Mel Hsu ’13, Howe Pearson ’12 and Gemma Smith ’12 gave heartfelt and compelling performances. Although I know the band members had originally wanted to perform outside (with bike-generator powered amplification), the vibe in the Chapel was just right.

Some mighty vibes these days in Memorial Chapel. Last week’s Think Big lectures featuring an all-star faculty line-up was exciting, provocative and fun. Joshua Levine ’12 and his comrades Hannah Vogel ’13, Jack Hoskins ’12, Max Nussenbaum ’12 and Maxwell Hellmann ’13 did a fabulous job organizing the event.

Don’t they look like they are thinking BIG? Pictured here are Leah Wright, Rich Adelstein, Mary-Jane Rubenstein, Matt Kurtz, Jeanine Basinger and John Finn. In their 9 minute talks, the profs talked about what engages them most as researchers and teachers. I had a great time moderating the event. There will be more pics and videos posted soon.

Taiko drumming seems to be happening at various places on campus this weekend. And last night I also got to hear a staggering performance by Dylan Griffin ’12 of Schubert’s Impromptus and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Listening to Dylan play, I was so happy to be at a university at which student performance is so seriously accomplished and so highly valued!


Winter Research…More Work in Progress

In my last blog I wrote about several senior thesis projects on which Wes students have been working. Here are some others:

In art history, Erika Siegel is writing a history of Frederick Law Olmsted’s landscaping plan for the Capitol grounds in Washington, a plan much influenced by the Civil War.  Anne deBoer‘s thesis combines her majors in art history and environmental studies.  It is on the use of water technology in recent major works of Sir Norman Foster, with an emphasis on how Foster’s architectural designs deal with questions of sustainability.

The CSS seniors have, as is often the case, an eclectic crop of senior projects. A couple of years ago I read Chan-young Yang’s excellent CSS thesis on Francis Fukuyama’s understanding of civilization and history, and now Nick Quah is examining Fukuyama on the idea of a transhuman future. While Nick is pointed toward the future, Han Hsien Liew is doing a thesis (with history) on medieval Islamic political thought. Kathlyn Pattillo is writing on the role of the South African teachers’ union in educational reform, while Charmaine Chen is studying blogging and political change in China. And I was surprised to find a CSSer writing a film, but that’s what Mac Schneider is doing. His screenplay is about the trial of Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver.

In history, Rachel Tretter is working on Judeo-Christian ascetic traditions and fasting in early modern Europe. BJ Lillis is writing on native American identity in New England, while Aaron Forbath is working on settlers on the Plains. Moving much closer to the present, Jisan Zaman‘s thesis looks at  contradictions in US foreign policy during the Bangladesh War, focusing on the relation of the State Dept and the White House/NSC.

And here are three English department theses that could easily fall under the rubric of history or American studies – with two  looking at recent Wesleyan history. Harry Bartle is working on the connection between Ralph Ellison and Lewis Mumford and their comparable reactions to the transformation of New York City in the 1940s. Bridget Read is using the archive of Wesleyan Professor Fred Millett, who taught here from 1937-1958, to examine larger trends in American history and questions about what it means to tell a true story about the past. Caroline Fox is writing on Race and Student Radicalism: Wesleyan, 1989-1990. Her essay is based on numerous interviews and archival research, and it is sure to produce a fresh understanding of that turbulent time.

In economics, Gil Skilman reports that there is a “bumper crop” of a dozen honors theses writers this year. More than anybody in the department can remember! Here are just two from that stellar group: Ali Chaudhry is doing an econometric analysis of something that governments often don’t willingly reveal:  whether they are following a fixed or freely floating or managed floating exchange rate policy. Zachary Nguyen is studying the financial economics puzzle of why mergers and acquisitions leading to greater corporate diversification persist despite the fact that such diversification typically leads to lower stock values.

Of course, I’ve only mentioned a smattering of the projects being done as capstones this year. There are dozens more students preparing performances, working in labs, writing poems, stories and plays and many are helping each other out. In film, for example, most seniors are part of a crew on at least one film other than their own, and collaboration is a feature of much of the best work we see each year. I am hopeful that team capstones will be featured more prominently in future years.

A few nights ago, walking Mathilde around the Center for the Arts, I stumbled across some students taking a break. Sculptors, painters, printmakers and photographers are already working late into the night to prepare for their senior shows. And faculty artists, too, are burning the midnight oil. David Schorr has a show opening at the Davison Gallery in February, a show that will then open at Mary Ryan Gallery in Chelsea. Kari and I ran into David last night at the opening of Tula Telfair’s amazing painting exhibition, Out of Sight: Imaginary Landscapes at Forum Gallery in New York. We saw many colleagues at the gallery, and several students were there to celebrate the work of a great teacher and extraordinary artist!




Built Exclusively for Delight
The Chemistry of Time

Break? What Break? Research Continues…(Part One)

In early January each year, many students (and more than a few parents) start wondering about the length of the Wesleyan winter break. The holidays are over, and yet the semester won’t start for another few weeks. Although the campus is quiet (and just now, very cold), there are students in the library, the gym and the science labs already hard at work. The winter sports teams have been playing and practicing as they get ready for intense conference competition, and science research continues regardless of whether classes are in session.

And then there is that special class of students busily working on their senior theses and essays. Though most of these won’t be due until April, the winter break is a crucial time to make significant progress on challenging research topics. I’ve asked around for some examples of theses and essays in various sectors of the curriculum, and here is a sampling. I’ll be adding more later in the week.

In Theater, Sarah Wolfe is working on a thesis project entitled “The Role of Women in the War Play: Euripides The Trojan Women.”  In her essay, Sarah explores how adaptations of The Trojan Women have been used as anti-war plays in America, and she did her own adaptation with the play Lift Your Head, which was staged in December.  Emily Steck examines “the world’s oldest profession” by focusing on female transgression and agency through the lens of the whore in the performances of Lydia Thompson and the British Blondes, Mae West, and Annie Sprinkle.

In Literature, Laura Bliss is writing about Wallace Stevens’s late poems, especially those collected in Transport to Summer. Laura combines creative non-fiction with more traditional literary critical analysis to explore the way Stevens treats the idea and experience of summer. This sounds particularly good right now!  Brianna van Kan is writing a thesis about the underground culture of jazz in the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s.  She will bring together all three of her majors (Russian, COL and Music) for this project. Christopher Wade is doing a poetry thesis that involves translation, literary analysis, and poetry writing, focusing on two major Russian poets. Matthew Alexander is translating Lost Modern Love, a postmodern play by Lord Schadt that he will also direct in a spring production.

In Music, Alan Rodi has written (that’s right, it’s finished) an opera about Mao Tse Tung. The characters are Mao, his wife, and a peasant couple who are trying to be good revolutionaries. Sean Curtice is  composing a piano concerto in the style of Mozart, and writing a paper about the Mozart piano concerti. Lana Lana is writing a big paper on Amir Pasaribu, the first modern composer of Indonesia, in the sense of writing a distinctive music that combines European techniques and instruments with Indonesian techniques and instruments.

In philosophy Sid Issar is writing a comparative study of Spinoza and Bhagavad Gita. In Science in Society, Kelsey Vela is doing an empirical study of the ways that experimental psychologists report on the race of their subjects. Erin Kelly is using case studies to examine the evolution of federal drug regulations in mid-twentieth century America and the influence of these regulations on contemporary medicine. Chris Russell is examining the standards of justification applied to the evidential uses of forensic technologies in criminal and civil trials.  Charlie Hanna is examining the introduction and reception of the most recent class of sleep medications, given FDA approval in 2001. He is charting the FDA approval process, the subsequent experimental and empirical reports on the medication, patients’ responses and media coverage.

As I said, this is just a sampling of some of the impressive work our students are doing for their capstone projects. I’ll be adding more examples that the Deans collected later in the week.

Approaching the Finish Line

The last week has been a whirlwind of opportunities to see some of the best of student work at Wesleyan. I’ve enjoyed seeing the senior theses art exhibitions as they’ve gone up in the Zilkha Gallery (and there’s a greatest hits version now), and it is fun to see the work of this term’s drawing and painting students in their work spaces. Tula Telfair’s students will have work on display today, and the photography exhibition of work collected for Wesleyan by the late Puffin D’Oench continues in Davison Gallery through Commencement. The Davison collection is one of the jewels of our Center for the Arts, and we recently hosted the Friends of the Davison for a reception at the President’s House. The group raises money to acquire new works of art, and they have really helped keep the collection an important resource for the university. You can check out their blog.

I strolled over to Russell House last week to listen to the writing prize winners read from their work. It was a revelation, and I was deeply moved by the stories, essays and poems I heard. The pride and affection of the writing faculty for their students was so clear, as was the support of our ever-growing community of writing students!

There has been lots of film, music and dance across the campus over the last several days, and Kari, Sophie and I were fortunate to witness much of it. From Rent to African drumming and dance, from a cappella groups to Mark Slobin’s Yiddish theater production, I’ve been hearing and seeing some stunning performances.

Tomorrow our finals begin, and I think I’ll be hearing a lot of tapping on computer keyboards as students write and faculty grade exams and essays. Good luck to all!