Senior Theses

Topics and Guidelines

Every IPH senior undertakes a senior thesis project. In fall of their junior year, students consult with their faculty advisors about potential thesis topics. The following spring, our majors will enroll in a Thesis Prospectus Workshop to develop their thesis topic and produce a feasible thesis proposal under the guidance of IPH faculty. The first semester of their senior year, students will enroll our Senior Thesis Tutorial course and meet regularly with their thesis mentors. By early spring, students will have a full draft submitted to their advisors and will defend their work later that semester.
 

 Thesis Topics

2017

No Harm Intended: What Empathetic Virtual Reality Can Do To Personal Identity (Jin Seok Park)

I am interested in virtual reality and its potential, especially as the "ultimate empathy machine". I am also interested in how virtual reality's ability to build empathy in people may unintentionally lead to subtle changes in their personal identities. In order to understand these ideas together, I look into the philosophies of David Hume and Edmund Husserl, whose respective ideas on personal identity and empathy provide gateways through which we can understand better the potential of virtual reality, be it good or bad.

A History of the Sixteenth-Century Limoges Enameled Casket in the Saint Louis Art Museum (Joyce Zhou)

My thesis examines a sixteenth-century enameled casket from Limoges in the collection of the Saint Louis Art Museum. Little is known about the casket: it was only exhibited for a few months after it was acquired in 1988 and had only been surveyed in an informal setting by two museum professionals. Through reconstructing the casket’s artistic attribution, date of production, intended function, owner, and original format, my thesis explores how sixteenth-century French nobles used decorative objects to further their political, economic and social goals. I infer that the enameled plaques were part of an earlier casket that has deteriorated over the years and that the casket was commissioned by a member of the sixteenth-century French nobility and presented as a marriage gift from one spouse to the other. Using the casket as a starting point, my work examines how early modern decorative objects implicate the motivations for noble art patronage and the gender roles within aristocratic marriages. In what ways were aristocratic women viewed, controlled and appeased in the process of producing a legitimate male heir? Beginning with connoisseurial strategies that put the object at the fore, the thesis then expands to make claims about the social value of art.
 
Origen for or against Plato? An Analysis of Origen of Alexandria’s Engagement with Non-Christian Philosophy (Natalie Runkle)
 
Origen of Alexandria’s (185-254 CE) careful exchange with contemporary philosophical schools allowed him to establish a body of Christian thinking in the midst of his eclectic intellectual environment. Nevertheless, as a result of this active philosophical engagement, much of Origen’s work sparked controversy during his lifetime and after his death. His ideas continue to fuel lively debates today, specifically in regards to his status as a philosopher, a Christian, or some combination of the two. In my thesis, I analyze how Origen reconciles the existence of non-Christian intellectual traditions in a world that he thinks God has providentially organized. Origen’s view of God as the source of intellectual activity raises important questions: Where do non-Christian philosophies come from, and why does God allow them to exist? Should a Christian reject them, ignore them, or study them? Could they even be true? By examining Origen’s multifaceted assessments of what Greek philosophy does well and where it falls short, I endeavor to elucidate his complex and conflicted relationship with non-Christian thought.


2016

Beauty Pageants and Soap Operas: How Cultural Actors Have Mobilized Images of Women to Align Turkish Identity Alternatively with Secular and Ottoman Values  (Oya Aktas)

I am interested in identifying how women were used to mold a Turkish national identity by focusing on two moments: the establishment of the secular Republic in the 1920s and 1930s, and the rise of the Islamic AKP in the 1990s and 2000s. I examine these changes through a focus on cultural productions that were particularly active in shaping the Turkish consciousness at these two moments. Although I have not yet determined which cultural productions best encapsulate the each historical moment, I will be conducting archival research in Ankara and Istanbul to answer this question. With this investigation, I hope to reveal the fluidity of Turkish identity, and how women become essentialized to facilitate shifts in identity.

The Politics of Restaging under Authoritarianism: Spanish Golden Age Drama in Chile During the Pinochet Regime, 1973-1990 (Leora Baum)

I am studying the performance of Spanish Golden Age drama in Chile under Pinochet, 1973-1990. I will examine the resurgence of classical Spanish theatre in this period as both a product of and a response to a political environment in which artistic production and educational structures were thrown into crisis. This research is grounded in the analysis of two productions of Calderón de la Barca's 1635 play La vida es sueño, one in 1974 and one in 1988, as a representation of how classical drama functioned in Chilean society at the beginning and end of the regime.

Diarrhea, Death, and Discrimination: 19th-Century Cholera and the Exacerbation of Racial, Political, Economic, and Social Tensions in the British Empire (Riva Desai)

The disease narrative has long been a useful tool for writers to encode social and cultural anxieties via the deterioration of the human body. But how does a disease narrative escape its medical confines and serve as both a social and moral commentary? And how does a certain historical moment specifically construct a disease narrative, or at the very least shape the way in which the disease is understood? My thesis will explore the causative agents, the process, and the consequences of characterizing and contextualizing disease via various forms of representation in a particular time period. By comparing cholera’s representation in both European and South Asian contexts, I hope to reveal the racial and ethical implications associated with the disease and how these came about in relation to the time period’s colonial veneer. Throughout my paper, I would allude to the concept of a disease narrative model and how my analysis of cholera can serve as a case study for the way in which representations of diseases can be specifically constructed to serve as a vehicle for the amplification of pre-existing anxieties and the reinforcement of certain social barriers and hierarchies.

Religious Conflict and the Politics of National Education in Nineteenth-Century Britain 1833-1902 (Katie Engsberg)

My thesis looks at the ways in which British religious leaders of the 19th century helped to shape the structure of the emerging state school system so that the religious education (RE) in those schools would most benefit non-Anglican religious communities. Specifically, they wanted pluralized and nondenominational RE in locally-directed board schools and denominational and free RE in religious schools. My questions include the following: How did British religious leaders mobilize their communities for or against certain policies? How did Parliament engage with the desires of these communities? How did the finalized laws affect the religious communities that influenced their creation?

Hollywood’s World War II: Confronting the Americanization of the Holocaust through Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” (Rory Heller)

The Jester and the King: Understanding the Role of the Nabokovian Textual Commentator (Cassie Klosterman)

I am investigating the culture of textual manipulation (e.g. the addition of commentary, or excerpting a portion of a text) through Nabokov's Pale Fire. Nabokov’s Pale Fire is a fertile ground for observation of these phenomena first, because Nabokov’s literary criticism and theories are well documented, second, because Nabokov wrote Pale Fire at a point in his career when he was actively contributing to the culture which he was critiquing, and third, because Pale Fire itself is a work deeply invested in how external speculation of completeness functions.  I plan to examine Nabokov's criticism, the work of Pale Fire itself, and the life of Pale Fire after Nabokov’s death.


2015

David, Josiah, and Henry VIII: Politics of Reformation Kingship in the Image of the Old Testament (Samantha Rogers)

I studied the development of Old Testament kingship as a political language in the time of Henry VIII, and the role that it played in the emerging discourse on ecclesiastical and secular authority. By examining a range of visual and textual sixteenth-century sources, I trace the shift in biblical models throughout the early English Reformation, as the models of David and Solomon slowly gave way to Josiah and Hezekiah. Such an investigation reveals the shifting landscape of biblical hermeneutics in the English Reformation, together with the change in traditional conceptions of kingship.


2014

The Use of Indigenous Lenses: Using Traditional Chinese Medicine to Determine the Health of the One-Child Policy in China (Ben Chu)

A Presidency in Perspective: Richard M. Nixon’s Oratory (Will Dobbs-Allsopp)

Personal Responsibility and Agency: Franz Kafka’s Answer to Marxist Alienation (Taylor Docking)

Manipulative Education: The Role of the Jesuits in the Sino-French Cultural-Political Encounter (Sarah Haik)

Waking Up from the American Dream: An Exploration of a Government’s Obligation to Ensure Equality of Opportunity and the Empirical Effect of Socioeconomic Segregation on Economic Mobility in Contemporary Urban America (Sean Janda)


2013

Doubly Conscious: Understanding Gender in Virginia Woolf and Nella Larsen, Anna Applebaum

"Breaking" News: How New Media Dismantled Broadcast Television News, Julia Kellman

Active, Disorienting, and Transitional: The Aesthetic of Boredom in the Multimedia Works of Nam June Paik (1932-2006), Eugene Kwon

Confining the Cosmos: State Sovereignty in Near Space, Daniel Michon

Reading the Real Biblioteca del Escorial: Dangerous Books, Readers, and Populations, Sophia Nunez

Futurism and the Feminine: Understanding Futurist Gender Dynamics between Rhetoric and Theory, Donald Steinburk


2012

W.B. Yeats at the Fin de Siècle: The Construction of a National Symbolic and the Historical Imagination of Decay, Natalie Amleshi

Acting Out the Rabbinic Script: The Legal Position of the Androgynos in Rabbinic Literature, Philip Gibbs

Causality As Explanation and Experience in Illness Memoirs, Gabrielle Surick


2011

Wagner in England: Literary Modernism and British Musical Culture,  Stuart Fraser

Flaubert and DuCamp in Egypt: the Signs of Exoticism,  Laura Jensen

Agency in Psychoanalysis,  Zac Levine

The Emergence of Entrepreneurship: Economic Heroism in Weber, Schumpeter, and their Contemporary Heirs,  Dan Merriam

On the Town: Sartorial Class Struggles of the Marlborough House Set, Stephen Pulvirent

The Ethics of Inability: Akrasia in America,  Eric Rosenbaum

Meat Art: Carnality and Coagulation in the Paintings of Soutine, Marc, Nitsch, and Bacon,  Nathan Stobaugh


2010

Alchemizing the Past: The Historikerstreit and the Future of German Identity, by Tom Butcher

The Case of Moll and Portia: Cross-Dressing and Desire in Early Modern City Comedy, by Shelby Carpenter

German Nationalism Through Berhold Auerbach's Deutscher Volks-Kalender, by Erika Deal

Guess Who's Coming to Shabbas Dinner?: Changes in the American Jewish Family and the Implications of Jewish Sustainability, by Deva Estin

Obesity in the United States, by Whitney Howland

From Principe to Duce, by Andrew Hiltzik

The Second Essay in the Genealogy of Morals, by Evan Kuhn

Maman: Three Contexts, by Emily Silber

Which Real? by Dennis Sweeney


2009

Subversive Song: Operatic and Literary Portrayals of Music and Marriage by Nell Cloutier

Libidinal Learning: Understanding Power, Desire and Transference in Student-Faculty Consensual Relationships by Emma Cohen

The Politics of Patronage: Context, Contradictions and Motive in Machiavelli by Ben Sales


2008

History of Rhetoric: Merlin in the Historiographic Tradition of the Twelfth Century by Ami Mehta

Affect, Subjectivity, Critique: A Reading of David Lynch's Mulholland Drive by James Duesterberg

"Obligations to the Their New Homeland": 48ers, Tejanos, and the American Slavery Debate by Emma Eschenfeldt


2007

ndividualism, Economics & Revolution: Socioeconomic Ideology in Revolutionary France and America by Andrew Paul Schupanitz

Expanding the Membership of the Revolutionary Nation: Germaine de Stael's Considerations on the French Revolution and Helen Maria Williams's Letters from France by Christina Skelley

"Sweet Songs Among the Flowers": Gender and Religion in Aztec Literature, 1500-1585 by Lindsay Christina Stanley

She's Always a Woman to Me: Determining Woman's Existential Situation through Memoir by Emily Schultheis

Understanding Varthema: Islam and Travel Narrative in Early Modern Italy by Jessica Pryde


2006

The Crosscurrents Between Vandalism and Art: The Social and Aesthetic Functions of Graffiti by Deena Atkinson

Consequences of Philosophy: John Dewey and the Progressive School Superintendent by Robert Gross

Risk Regulation: A Mixed-Government Proposal by Austin L.C. Thompson