University Writing & Research Conference Program Fall 2016

Mon, 24 October, 2016 10:00am

Session F1: Playing Queer(ly): The LGBT Community in Movies and Music

10:00 a.m. (Ames B101)

Matthew Dynes- “Assimilation and Liberation Movements in Queer Musicians”
   Professor Matthew Riley

Sweeping policies used to integrate gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people into the mainstream have provoked thoughts of the United States living in a post-gay society, one where a queer person has little progress to strive for in terms of benefits under the law. Unfortunately, many of these legislative protections have not borne fruitful results in terms of de facto equality, where gay people compromise their identities in order to achieve and maintain success. The tradeoff of reconciling incremental nationwide policy change with the loss of a solid queer identity has left the LGBT community divided into two groups, those who believe in liberation from a straight hegemony, and those who wish to continue assimilating into heterosexual values and cultural norms. Musicians that fall under the LGBT umbrella may often times make concessions with their identity in the ways that queer political movements compromised theirs. Other times, LGBT artists can reject normalization through their musical content, image, and way of performance. My research points to the disparity of publicity and success between assimilationist queers and those who choose to liberate their queer identities.

Virginia Polik- “More than Weight: A Look at Dallas Buyers Club's Portrayal of the AIDS Epidemic”
   Professor Gordon Mantler

This project examines the choices the film Dallas Buyers Club made, their purpose, and how that affected its depiction of the AIDS crisis. The film Dallas Buyers Club depicts the struggle of real-life Texan cowboy Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey) throughout the height of the AIDS epidemic. The film shows us Woodruff’s difficulties in obtaining lifesaving drugs due to a slow, unresponsive government and how society reacted towards those with HIV/AIDS. However, in choosing to represent this epidemic through a straight man’s experience, Dallas Buyers Club narrows its scope and reveals current audiences’ attitudes unwillingness to confront the gay community’s involvement and own hardships without a heterosexual surrogate.

Session F2: Responding to Impaired Worlds

10:00 a.m. (Ames B201)

Bhavya Pathak- “Earth Guardians: Giving Children Purpose Through Climate Change Activism”
   Professor Lindsay Jacoby

Contrary to what some may believe, climate change is an issue in our day and age that is undoubtedly prevalent. Although some argue that the effects of climate change may not be affecting the people now, it is an issue that the current youth of today will have to face.

Sadly, it is the youth of today who are taking initiatives to make a difference in climate change, and clean up the mess that adults have started. Through this research piece, I examine a specific youth activist group called Earth Guardians and analyze their recruitment strategies. I further make the extension that youth join youth activist organizations to find their sense of identity.

Alexis Sandler- “Running Through: A Perspective to Change by Disability”
   Professor Abby Wilkerson

Adjusting to a mobility impairing disability creates physical, social, and emotional challenges in adapting to and recovering from injury. This ethnographic exploration of disability will discuss the social and emotional impacts of adjusting to life with a physically limiting injury as well as the societal understanding of disability in general. Specifically, this research will use an autoethnographic approach to analyze accessibility, the effects of injury on sociability, and the psychology of sports injury. The goal in examining the social construction of disability is to garner a greater understanding of the encompassing effects of mobility impairment and to encourage positive changes to accessibility and social attitudes to better accommodate disability.

Session F3: Winning Trophies, Losing Innocence

11:30 a.m. (Ames B101)

Isabel Restall- “Winning Trophies, Losing Innocence: Sexualization and Youth Pageantry ”
   Professor Dr. Caroline Smith

In my paper, I analyze the sexualization of young girls, specifically in youth pageantry. I look at this issue through the lens of “The Lolita Effect,” a concept which describes the harmful and delusional set of myths about girls’ sexuality that pervade our culture. Youth pageantry reinforces these harmful myths by narrowly defining and exploiting the sexuality of young girls. In youth pageantry, girls win trophies by performing a specific show of sexuality, which is defined not by the contestants, but by the patriarchal society at large. My paper discusses how the film Little Miss Sunshine offers a poignant critique of this culture, while also offering an alternative and subversive expression of sexuality.

Session F4: Political Cross-Roads and Purposes 

11:30 a.m. (Ames B201)

Peak Sen Chua- “Bangsa Malaysia: The Unfinished Formation of National Identity”
   Professor Susan Koenig

Malaysia is at a crossroads - a competitive authoritarian government threatens the constitutional monarchy/parliamentary democracy that the nation was built on in 1957. Many of the policy and constitutional factors that have led to the degradation of race-relations, economic growth, democracy, and transparency were made during the Mahathir Era (1981-2003). While analyzing Mahathir's seminary work, the enigmatic "Malay Dilemma" I examine the causes and results of past ethnic conflict and the prospects for the end of this conflict or the continuation of it.

Isabela Mourino Aoun- “Deconstructing Hugo Chavez's political discourse”
   Professor Rachel Riedner

The purpose of this paper is to critically analyze how Hugo Rafael Chavez used a particular political discourse to maintain power and construct a collective national identity by assessing the role that each of these three elements— cultural symbolism, populist ideology and public image had during his government in general and his presidential campaigns in particular. This paper does not aim to determine whether Chavez was a good or bad president for Venezuela. I am more concerned with analyzing the historical, social and political circumstances that allowed this political phenomenon to occur in the first place. In order to do so, I will be analyze the public towards which Chavez’s political discourse is directed to: “the people”, as well as those who are excluded from the category of “the people”. Taking into account that there are different lenses through which this subject can be analyzed, I have decided to focus on the usage of mass media and propaganda to set a double-discourse that allowed Chavez to create a bond with those who elected him and therefore maintain his power.

Session F5: The Influence of Anxiety

11:30 a.m. (Ames B207)

Jacob Ramos and Rebecca Hurd- “The Culture of Youth and Anxiety: An Ethnographic Study”
   Professor Prof Abby Wilkerson

Anxiety is a condition that affects an estimated twenty-five per cent of teens and thirty per cent of all teenage girls; the goal of this paper was to gather ethnographic information about experiencing anxiety as a college-bound senior in high school. This information should open a dialogue about the prevalence of anxiety among our youth, especially those in the queer community, as well as providing firsthand experience and coping techniques for teens that feel isolated because of their anxiety.

Interviews with our respective participants and a careful qualitative analysis of their experiences culminated in our essay. Through our research and analysis, we have identified three major binding factors among the participants: pressure to succeed, familial tension, and conflict with identity. We have found strong correlation between increased commitments and the level of anxiety experienced by our participants. Our candidates also found solace and understanding within the queer community which has helped them to accept themselves and relieve their anxiety. Our conclusion identifies various coping mechanisms that our participants have employed in order to mitigate the effects of their anxiety along with various studies on the subject and an analysis of how students fit into the aforementioned studies

Session F6: Dissecting Humor That Dissects Life

1:00 p.m. (Ames B101)

Matthew Whitmoyer- “When Satire Meets Moral Foundations: The Colbert Report’s Appeals to Moral Foundations in its Satire”
   Professor Michael Svoboda

In an attempt to discern if Colbert’s satire moves beyond mere mockery and becomes a political satire dependent on conservative values and morals, as defined by Haidt, Graham, and Nosek, I attempted to discern whether or not the persona of Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report appealed to moral foundations, and if so, to which foundations in particular. I analyzed 21 video clips from the show that addressed key issues that liberals and conservatives disagree over, through Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory in order to determine the existence and nature of the appeals. After confirming the existence of conservative moral appeals, I further interpreted the results in respect to Moral Foundations Theory and literature on Colbert and satire in order to discover the significance of the appeals. As a whole, the paper garnered a better understanding of moral foundations and of Colbert’s dependence on the conservative foundations in his satire, and assessed the implications of the appeals, particularly on how they influence the satire and their part in critiquing the media.

Maria Cortes- “Internet Humor: The Biggest Inside Joke Ever”
   Professor Bernadita Yunis

My research paper is about internet humor as an essential component of digital culture that demonstrates cultural diffusion while simultaneously preserving culture. Through the connection that the user has with certain humorous artifacts such as memes and videos it allows the user to individualize through self-identifying with a specific joke and characteristic while connecting with others that relate to the joke as well. Therefore, in this paper I researched how social media humor functions in self-identity while unifying groups.

Session F7: Surveilling Democracy

1:00 p.m. (Ames B105)

Charlotte Ouellette- “Democracy in a Post-Apocalyptic World. A question of morality in The Walking Dead Fandom”
   Professor Katherine Larsen

The AMC series, The Walking Dead, is set within a post-apocalyptic world in which the characters are forced to grapple with zombies and their own humanity in order to survive. An ex-police officer leads the group, representing the form democracy took before the apocalypse. Throughout the seasons this democracy twists and turns, morphing to create forms of democracy that are much less recognizable to the viewers. These changes manipulate and distort the morality of both of the characters and the viewers. I argue that the form democracy takes directly influences the humanity of the characters within the world of The Walking Dead. However, through viewing instances in which democracy during war time suffers, alternative forms of democracy are necessary in order to protect one’s own community. Using fan based reactions to highlight this necessity and comparing these insights to current politics, it is clear that the leadership within The Walking Dead mirrors America’s own in a subtle yet distinctive way.

Swetha Kareti - “Voter Surveillance, Computation Politics and the Harmful Implications for Democracy”
   Professor Jee Yoon Lee

This research will focus and analyze trends in voter surveillance. Using data statistics, recent examples, and academic articles, I discuss the type of data gathered, the sources from where that data is collected, and how this surveillance contributes to computation politics. I explore how the issue of micro-targeting of the electorate actually inhibits the democratic process, and disincentivizes the voter from becoming informed. By exploring how the databases that store this data lead to the creation of campaign and media strategies that produce effective results, I explain why it is problematic that political parties do not make the information they collect or the strategies based off that information public, or at least accessible to the people who have had their information taken. I conclude my paper by discussing how this systematic storage, collection and targeting of data makes the democratic system inherently less democratic.

Session F8: Women Who Live in White Houses of Cards

1:00 p.m. (Ames B201)

Brooke Bell- “The West Wing and Women: Feminism in the Iconic Television Show”
   Professor Susan Koenig

The West Wing and Women: Feminism in the Iconic Television Show analyzes the intent versus the result of feminism and the treatment and writing of women in Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing. The famous show that ran 1999 to 2006 documents the Bartlet Administration, that depicts liberals as the heroes of a moral code and Republicans as their adversaries. The staff of the show preaches a feminist moral code, yet in practice and outcome much of the writing and character development falls short of reaching feminist ideologies. By analyzing core female characters, including episode analysis, this essay compares the difference between Aaron Sorkin’s written words and the tone and actions of the show.

Session F9: Women and Gender in Pop Culture

1:00 p.m. (Ames B207)

Chi Tran- “Murdering the Salad:  Women and Food in Comedy Satires”
   Professor Niles Tomlinson

The relationship between food and women has woven into the fabric of deep and complex gender politics. Recent TV comedy satires such as Inside Amy Schumer and 30 Rock starring Tina Fey have made breakthrough achievements to crack the chain lock on women’s appetite. The sights and sounds of female characters in these series eating food to an excess deserve in-depth scrutiny as symbolic empowerment of women. I will focus on three particular episodes: “Sandwich Day” starring Tina Fey, “Last Fuckable Day” and “New Body” by Amy Schumer. In these moments, Liz is portrayed as food obsessed, often talking about meals, shoving food into her mouth unrestrainedly to gratify her own appetites, while Amy often eats in strange public situations in which gender constructions are allocated. By examining sociocultural contexts and carnivalesque visualization of those representations, I explore how the appetite for food represents women’s freedom in these comedy satires.

Samuel Rosin- “The Future Volvo Driving Soccer Moms of Boogie Nights: Examining Paul Thomas Anderson’s Successes and Failures in Minority Character Construction”
   Professor Gordon Mantler

With 1997’s Boogie Nights, director and screenwriter Paul Thomas Anderson built a world paradoxically full of exotic erotica and simplistic human nature. My analysis of Boogie Nights consists of case studies on the three characters most representative of the film’s overarching argument, Don Cheadle’s Buck Swope, Heather Graham’s Rollergirl, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Scotty J. These characters, all secondary to the film’s main plot developments, provide the basis for Anderson’s argument that societal outsiders join the pornographic industry in an to build a stable family unit. Buck, Rollergirl, and Scotty J attempt to use this tool to force the existence of stable, American Dream dictated lives. They instead find pornographic industry prejudices to be warped versions of greater American prejudices.

My case study will answer four specific questions for each character. What is each character’s greater significance in light of Paul Thomas Anderson’s overarching thematic intensions? Does Anderson effectively subvert and negate the 1970’s and 1980’s porn culture stereotypes? Do the characters’ 1990’s influenced features harm their overall developmental and emotive potentials? And finally, can Buck, Rollergirl, and Scotty J each function alone as successful documentations of history?

Session F10: Framing Climate Change in the Media

2:30 p.m. (Ames B101)

Ambika Nair- “From London to Beijing, International Newspaper Coverage  of the 2016 American Presidential Elections”
   Professor Michael Svoboda

American presidential campaigns are not isolated domestically in terms of their press coverage. Countries all over the world have an interest in the American vote, because of the influential political and economic role the US plays in international affairs. As a result, the US maintains a comparatively significant presence in the news coverage of other countries. This study analyzes the significance of American elections to other countries by measuring the physical presence of the topic on the front pages of foreign newspapers, as well as the content/language using political discourse analysis. The study expected and found both geographical and political correlation with the significance of American elections in a country’s media; that is, if a country is a strong ally or enemy of the US, or is geographically close to the US, there will be a stronger likelihood that the American elections have a larger presence in the country’s press coverage. We consider the implications of various international perspectives on US elections for foreign policy and diplomatic relations.

Reganne Rapp- “Framing the Debate: How Media and Politicians Shape Public Opinion on Climate Change”
   Professor Professor Jacoby

Climate Change is often discussed in a very limited way in politics and media in order to sway public opinion in one way or another. In this paper, I will examine how President Obama has talked about climate change on CBS with regards to public health in order to galvanize the public into taking action on the issue. I will look in particular at how and what questions the interviewer asked and the reason they chose these questions, and in what way the President responded/how effective his arguments were in terms of relating issues to the public.

Session F11: Understanding Visual Culture: The Meaning and Influence of Dutch Paintings

2:30 p.m. (Ames B105)

Vanden Patel- “Behind the Beggar's Eyes: Understanding Charity in the Dutch Golden Age ”
   Professor Rachel Pollack

An ugly truth existed within the 17th Century Dutch Golden Age: society was marred by uneven wealth distribution and incessant poverty. The purpose of this essay is to reveal the daily hardships of the common beggar, but more importantly, to discern the motivations behind members of the upper class in choosing whether or not to help alleviate poverty through charitable acts and institutions. A careful analysis of paintings and engravings of this period, coupled with historical migratory documents and first-hand accounts, yields a deeper understanding of the Calvinist, Catholic, and civic approaches towards almsgiving. To what degree were the established classes willing to cede their hard-earned profits to geographically distant, marginalized groups? Does a merciful Christ weigh equally the Protestant work ethic and the lazy act of begging? These lines of thought form the fundamental ideology and social stigmas relating to charity—perceptions that even 400 years later, still largely ring true.

Jonathan Shirley- “A Provocative Enigma”
   Professor Rachel Pollack

The Crouching Aphrodite, attributed to Diodalsis of Bithynia, is the most commonly appropriated figure of the female nude in western art. Her appeal stems primarily from both the inherent dynamism and modesty of her pose. Peter Paul Rubens employs her stance in his piece Lot and His Daughters, where the left-most woman is crouched with one hand covering her breasts and the other performing some type of action. In the early 20th century, the stance of the Crouching Aphrodite was reproduced so often that it was no longer recognized, such as with Man Ray’s photograph of his wife Juliet where he was inspired by a soft pornography magazine and had no intention of referring to antiquity. Fernand Léger was attracted to her replication and it inspired his painting Nu sur Fond Rouge (Nude on a Red Background) due to his interest in American businessman and mass production. His other objective was to remove the sexuality of the female nude, which stemmed from his hatred of the post-Renaissance tradition of the nude that he associated with hedonistic bourgeois art. With another approach, Jeff Koons took the Crouching Aphrodite and removed her timelessness by resting a blue gazing ball upon her leg, representing the infinite, where her plaster cast is not. The underlying meaning of her pose has remained an enigma to artists and leaves us incapable of ascribing a definitive meaning to her provocative pose, giving this iconic sculpture the power to be reimagined by each new generation of artists.

Session F12: Feeling Art: Creating Lasting Audience Identification

2:30 p.m. (Ames B109)

Grace Schaub- “Synesthesia and the Art of Music and Visual Performance”
   Professor Wade Fletcher

The composition to music has the ability to transcend visual art. A form of visual art, such as a ballet, exhibits a vision of fluent movement that is perfectly assimilated to the music being played. Music itself is a complex phenomenon and mode of art. Many forms of art are not easily interpreted; however, when it comes to the musical composition to the ballet Swan Lake, there exists a distinct correlation between the tone and flow of the music and the movement of the dancing that has the ability to stimulate the senses in extraordinary ways. There exists a real phenomenon called synesthesia, a neurological condition where the senses cross, and the stimulation for one sense mixes with another. For example, one could have the ability to visualize letters and numbers as specific colors or relate sounds to certain shapes and textures. The combination of musical composition and visual art, such as ballet, can stimulate a certain response similar to the phenomenon of synesthesia. If one listens to the score of Swan Lake without actually seeing the dance being performed in front of one’s eyes, one can still visualize an image that flows, glides, and wisps around, resembling the graceful movement of a delicate swan. Humans experience things through the senses everyday, but art has a tendency of stimulating the senses in ways that stray from normalcy and open the mind to interpretation.

Sarah Gillespie- “Still Flying: Audience Identification and Why Firefly is Still Here”
   Professor Professor Katherine Larsen

There have been many TV shows classified as “cancelled before their time” that are eventually forgotten. Firefly, a show that aired 11 out of 14 episodes before cancellation, is not one of those shows. In fact, the fandom has not only survived, but thrived in the years since the show’s cancellation and subsequent movie, Serenity. Using Tony Wilson’s “Play of Identification,” I analyze pieces of fanfiction in relation to an analysis of some of the themes and characters from the show itself to argue that the audience’s ability to identify with the show and its characters is the foremost cause of the Firefly fandom’s sustainability.

Key Words: Firefly, Serenity, fanfiction, identification

Session F13: Voicing Identity: How People of Color Find their Voice in the Public Sphere

4:10 p.m. (Ames B101)

Carolina Fuentes- “My English is not very good-looking”
   Professor Ms. Bernardita Yunis

For many incoming Latinx immigrants the expectations, realities and future uncertainties when arriving to the United States play an integral part in deciding whether or not they learn English. Expectations consist of having the ability to integrate to the American culture, and being able to find a job that is capable of sustaining an entire family. In contrast, reality proves that most of incoming Latinx immigrants surround themselves in communities that speak their mother tongue and the only place which they use or practice English is at their jobs. Finally, they are left with uncertainties for the future of whether they will be able to balance between their Latinx traditions and the new American culture.

Maggie Kritzberg - “African American Women: The Struggle for Voice and Power”
   Professor Rachel Riedner

This research paper takes a close look how African American women have historically been excluded from participating in political, public discourse, and how their exclusion is connected to a history of racism and oppression throughout the United States. By first focusing on an interaction of Hillary Clinton and a Black Lives Matter protester named Ashley Williams, I jump into discussing many, deeply engrained issues regarding black women’s exclusion, including racial, gender and economic inequality. By also talking about the complexities of black women’s intersectional identities and the development of their own voice, I use different sources that discuss a range of hurdles that black women have faced in simply striving to participate and add their ideas to the conversation. Despite my exploration of how racism and stereotypes have harmfully perpetuated in our society and continue to do so, I also explore how African American women have been able to build their own, unique political identity- one built on determination, perseverance, and seeking out new powerful ways of expression. Furthermore, I touch on how they have used more formal political methods but have also taken more unconventional routes to gain more representation in politics to this day.

Session F14: Pathos on Display: Exhibits that Draw Emotion

4:10 p.m. (Ames B105)

Isabella Hyun- “Visual Analysis of Images from the Gaza Water Crisis: Examining the Relationship Between Climate Change and Sociopolitical Conflict through the Public Health Frame”
   Professor Lindsay D. Jacoby

According to a U.N. Report from July 2015, 95 percent of water in the Gaza Strip is presently undrinkable due to high levels of contaminants and chemicals. As a result, the vast majority of Palestinians living in the Strip have their public health placed at serious risk due to the impurity of the available water supplies. The extremity of the Palestinians’ social vulnerability is a direct result of Israeli military occupation practices in Gaza, including military assaults and inadequate public infrastructure. Unfortunately, the global issue of climate change is only expected to compound the water crisis through expected sea level rise, decreased precipitation, and increasing temperatures. Gaza Water Scarcity – Consequences, a series of images of Palestinians taken between 2009-2010 for the project Climate Change by NOOR, brings awareness to the issue of public health in Palestine by showcasing the public health problems caused by Israel and climate change unto the residents of Gaza. Through their portrayal of the exacerbation of Palestinian climate vulnerability due to Israeli military occupation, I argue that the images communicate a correlative relationship between climate change and sociopolitical conflict within the public health frame.

Alexander Snouffer- “The Beauty behind the Brains”
   Professor Dr. Rachel Pollack

This essay examines the Antikythera shipwreck through an analysis of both the artifacts that were found both in the initial and subsequent excavations of the shipwreck. Specifically, this paper analyzes the current research surrounding the Antikythera Mechanism and why it overshadows many pieces of monumental works of art such as the Antikythera Youth. Furthermore, the significance of the shipwreck as a whole, as well as specific artifacts that under any other circumstance would be better known is researched. Not only are the artifacts discussed, but also the methodology of the archeological process of recovery. In this analysis, different sources from antiquity are combined to discuss the creation of astrological devices in conjunction with the Antikythera Mechanism. Not only are sources from antiquity discussed, but modern research is analyzed, such as the use evolving technologies and methodologies that allow for a visual representation of what the Antikythera Mechanism could have appeared in reality. Finally, I begin to critique the modern ways in which art and science are portrayed, by specifically examining the recent Power and Pathos exhibition and the National Gallery of Art. This essay goes beyond the norm of merely analyzing the Antikythera Mechanism as a singular artifact by combining and analyzing many other important artifacts that were once lying next to one another. 

Session F15: Tweeting the Movement: Articulating Race and Gender on Social Media

4:10 p.m. (Ames B109)

Alexis Wing- “#EverydaySexism, #BlackGirlMagic, and #YesAllWomen: Why the World Needs Twitter Feminism”
   Professor Bernadita Yunis

In a statement of 140 characters or less, hashtags within tweets have the potential to generate huge impacts as they reach a wide range of individuals. With the recent development of social media as a platform to promote the feminist movement, an arguable fourth wave of feminism is materializing as global connections among feminists have shifted the motives of the movement to focus more on intersectionality within feminism, recognizing that it includes the fight against sexism, ageism, classism, and racism. The most meaningful defining factor of this arguable fourth wave is the acknowledgement that feminism and social justice are not mutually exclusive movements, and the fact that action via social media platforms can and does have a positive impact in addressing and advancing these issues within feminism. Through an analysis of several leading hashtags on Twitter, including #YesAllWomen, #BlackGirlMagic, and #EverydaySexism, it is clear that Twitter feminism is positively impacting the feminist movement by allowing activist voices to connect on a global scale and have their ideas exposed to a larger audience. However, limitations regarding toxicity and accessibility which exist on this platform must be addressed in order to maximize its effectiveness.

Simone Cowan- “The Role of Passive Racism in Advertising”
   Professor Professor Fletcher

Passive racism can take on numerous forms, for example jokes or certain behaviors. Since often times it is unconscious, the racist act goes unnoticed by the person committing it. Also, it is important to keep in mind that passive racism is subtle and not overt, so there is not substantial awareness of it when it occurs. This unawareness of passive racism when it occurs is dangerous because it is seldom addressed or corrected, which then causes it to occur more frequently. The use of passive racism within advertising is problematic because since it is subtle it is often not addressed and continues to get used, as well as furthers racial ideologies. On April 2, 2016 Gap Kids released an advertisement on Twitter that sparked a huge controversy. The only African American girl in the ad is young and short and placed in the middle of the picture, with an older, taller Caucasian girl standing next to her with her arm resting on the African American girl’s head. The belittling of African Americans through passive racism in advertisements counter African Americans’ continuous fight for equality in America and detract from the progress that they have made thus far.


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