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Bibliographies and Abstracts: A Project in Finding Conclusions and Trends in Essays Related to Race, Gender, Literature and American Studies

Nina Jacinto ('08), Kyla Wazana Tompkins

My summer research has been focused around finding, reading, and abstracting possible secondary sources for Professor Kyla Tompkins, whose work focuses on the relationships between objects and the body, eating and racial politics, gender and domestic space, in 19th century American literature. After brainstorming a list of journals related to topics of gender, food, race, and American Literature, I began creating detailed bibliographies for relevant essays, completing “American Literature,” “American Literary History,” and “Signs: Journal of Women and Culture in Society.” After spending ten weeks taking notes and documenting the main points and arguments of approximately two-hundred and fifty essays, I concluded that there are many various trends emerging from the interdisciplinary field of American Studies. For example, the work done on 9/11 raises questions and concerns about the racialization of the Arab in the United States, as well as points out the historical tendency to look at the nation as a feminized body; the intersections of race and gender presented in American literary analysis appear the strongest with regards to antebellum literature: slavery and the body, the concept of eating the figure of the Other, and miscegenation, can all be traced in antebellum texts; finally, there is extensive scholarship being created regarding the language and framework used in American Studies.
Funding provided by: SURP (NEH)

Other Minds, Meter, and the Idea of Spirit

Adam Plunkett ('09), Aaron Kunin

When we read a poem, the rhythm of the words is essential to the words’ meanings. This rhythm distinguishes poetry from other forms of non-metrical discourse. Yet, what is the precise relationship between meter and meaning, rhythm and sense? Does this relationship depend on conventions of form that have been largely outmoded? These were some of the questions I was considering when I began my research project. My goal was to begin to establish a way of writing critically about meter that was neither impressionistic nor trivial – the former conveying only my own impressions of the poem, the latter refusing to even answer the question. In order to accomplish this, I had to ask a more fundamental question, not about meaning but about the meaning of meaning. A way to ask this ontological question is the following: when I read Sidney’s masterful “Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,” does “my” refer to myself or to Sidney? In my paper I argue that the only tenable answer is that ‘my’ refers to both and, furthermore, that poetic meter both enables this ambiguity and signifies so acutely because of this very ambiguity.
Funding provided by: SURP (NEH)

Covert Justice: One Town Living Racial Equality 100 Years Before the Civil Rights Movement

Noah Munn Rosenberg ('08), Valorie Thomas

In Covert, Michigan, in the late 1800s, black and white people lived and worked together to a degree that was extremely progressive for the time. Though African-Americans were at most nine percent of the town’s population and owned about three percent of the land, the average acre of land owned by blacks was almost two and half times more valuable than that owned by whites. Therefore, I hypothesize that African-American economic power in Covert was the foundation of racial equality, examples of which abound. For instance, a black man was elected Justice of the Peace, a position in which he oversaw an integrated, yet predominantly white, group of constables. A white census taker preserved de facto racial integration in the schools by omitting the races of children of African-American descent. Based on primary sources, including maps, pictures, and census records, my project seeks to elucidate this unique town's history and honor the work of its inhabitants. In conjunction with my research, I wrote an original, feature-length screenplay entitled "Covert," which gives a dramatic depiction of life in the town and the struggles faced by the townspeople.
Funding provided by: SURP (NEH)

Research at Pomona