Seeking the Answers

American Studies Symposium poster 2017

Ninth-annual American studies symposium features original, varied research

by Katya Hrichak '17

For the ninth year in a row, senior American studies majors gathered to present original, individual research they have been conducting since the fall. The research symposium, which took place in the Stern Center Great Room from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 4, is just one part of a two-semester sequence in which senior majors work toward writing a thesis on a topic of their choosing.

Associate Professor of American Studies Jerry Philogene said that the department holds the symposium each year to celebrate its students while giving feedback to shape their research and writing going forward. Isabel Lang ’17, whose research focuses on the speeches of the first African American congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm, called the symposium “a true example of the time the department puts into its students.”

This year’s symposium covered a variety of topics through five different panels: childhood and resistance; fantasies of illusion: representations and the oppositional; power, politics and the reckoning of institutions; popular culture, conflicting representations and media realities; and agency and the manipulation of culture and consumption.

Matthew Wenz '17 presents his research on the construction of masculinity in WWE performances. Photo by Wes Lickus '17.

Matthew Wenz '17 presents his research on the construction of masculinity in WWE performances. Photo by Wes Lickus '17.

Matthew Wenz ’17 felt the benefits of presenting at the symposium. “It’s been a great opportunity to gain input from my peers and professors, who are all bringing their own experience and expertise,” he said. He also noted being able to gain public speaking experience while talking about a subject he’s interested in, namely the construction of masculinity in WWE performances, was rewarding.

Brian Thomas ’17, who presented on white wedding rituals performed by same-sex couples, explained that the wide range of interests presented is not specific to only the symposium, but to the major itself. “American studies is truly an interdisciplinary department that gives students the tools to analyze anything,” he said. “[It’s] a place for those who ask questions about what others take for granted and have the curiosity to seek out the answers.”

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Published March 10, 2017