ORCA Symposium 2017

ORCA grant recipients from the College of Humanities presented their projects at the 2017 ORCA Symposium.

PROVO, Utah (Oct. 13, 2017)—Each year, the Office of Research and Creative Activities (ORCA) funds research by undergraduates completed with the help of a faculty mentor. Many of these students have used this money as a way to create projects aimed for publication, presentation, and graduate school applications. For the fourth year running, the Humanities Center sponsored a symposium allowing humanities undergraduates to present the research they had completed with their ORCA grants.

The first to present was recent classics graduate Allen Kendall. His research focused on Jewish martyrdom literature and elements which predate the familiar Christian martyr narratives. Many scholars assume that Christianity was the beginning of the martyrdom genre, but the word “martyr” has etymological roots in Greece, where it was the name for witnesses who testified in court. Several texts from the Bible and Maccabees have a Christian martyr–like structure, with a firm believer of Judaism expressing his or her faith and suffering death as a consequence. Kendall breaks these narratives into two groups: true martyrdom texts, which result in the actual death of the martyr like the Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah, and near martyrdom texts, where the believer is sentenced to death but is then saved by divine intervention at the last minute, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He asserts that martyrdom was a common theme long before Christ, but convicted Jewish martyrs professed faith in the Law of Moses rather than a Savior.

Next to discuss her research was Rachel Casper, a linguistics student studying the grading practices of composition and TESOL teachers through eye-tracking data. Illustrated by her findings are these two groups’ varied approach to teaching English. Each group was presented with the same essay which exhibited errors that had to do with several parts of organization and grammar. Depending on which parts the teachers’ focused on, Casper could determine what errors each group of teachers noticed more. When grading a paper written in English by a non-native speaker, composition teachers tended to focus on organization, syntax, and word choice. TESOL teachers, however, looked for more broad, generalized errors and made grading judgements less harshly. Casper hopes that her research and others also looking into a similar vein will inspire more cross-curricular training for composition and TESOL teachers to overcome the weaknesses each discipline has when grading English work written by non-native English speaking students. For more on Casper’s research, read this article here.

Focused on reclaiming the lost writings of Native American poets and literary figures, Terence Wride presented his archival work with poems written by students of the Intermountain Indian School. This boarding school located in Brigham City was used for the oppressive socialization of young Native Americans from 1949–1984. The Intermountain Indian School was a federal project housing thousands of students who were subjected to a multitude of abusive and inhumane treatments. Wride hopes to change the narrative of Native American boarding schools by collecting and publishing poetry written by students showing their incredible resilience and strength. Rather than focusing solely on the oppression and horrible treatment endured by Native Americans, Wride hopes readers will celebrate these writers for their literary skill and important contributions to understanding Native American boarding school culture.

Heidi Herrera is also attempting to change narratives through her research. Her project analyzes the depictions of women in Guernica painted by Picasso in 1937. Guernica is a mural-sized illustrating the bombing of a basque village during the Second World War. Using women and animals as symbols of suffering, Picasso portrays the violence they experienced through fracturing the picture plane in the Cubist style. Picasso pulled from a Spanish tradition established by Goya of depicting horrors of war and ravages of the female body to inspire empathy and self-awareness in the viewer. However, unlike Goya’s more sympathetic depictions, Picasso is not sympathetic to the cause of women as some might think. He is instead, Herrera said, “just another man who has built his career on the suffering of women.”

Following Herrera, Gina Fowler presented on her summer spent archiving the works of Hildegard von Bingen. Von Bingen was an Austrian abbess in the twelfth century who is well known for her work in medicine, music composition, naturalist writings, and mystic descriptions. She wrote in Latin originally, meaning that her texts were also well-studied beginning in the twelfth century and she is arguably the first recognized female scholar to be studied extensively. Though her natural science texts and other works are well studied in Germany, very few papers written about her have been translated into English or made accessible online. Partnering with Robert McFarland and the Sophie Project, Fowler scanned many texts written about von Bingen to be available online, breaking an important accessibility barrier for scholars outside of Germany to read scholarship written about von Bingen’s works.

Heidi Pyper spoke last on her research of Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pietà, the pietà he worked on up until his death. This sculpture is particularly interesting because it was destroyed and recreated, with the body of Christ molded out of what used to be a different figure. Another striking feature is the nude, masculine leg of Mary, standing behind Christ, that a scholar has theorized was originally meant to be the leg of Nicodemus. Michelangelo was known to use Nicodemus as a guise for self portraiture, and so Michelangelo changing the figure from a self portrait to the female figure of Mary after the statue’s initial destruction raises interesting questions. Pyper suggests Michelangelo also intended the figure of Mary to be a type of self portrait, both he and Mary being creators who had formed the body of Christ. This idea would have been particularly potent at the point of the sculptor’s death when reflections on his salvation would have been particularly present.

Varied in scope and focus, these recipients highlight important research approaches that can be taken with an ORCA. Open to all undergraduates in the Humanities College, ORCA grants are a great way to work closely with faculty members to answer questions and further knowledge on any discipline-related subject.

Hannah Sandorf Davis (B.A. Art History and Curatorial Studies ’17)

Hannah covers events for the Humanities Center for the College of Humanities. She is a senior pursuing a degree in art history with a minor in art.

Picture from left to right: Terence Wride, Heidi Pyper, Heidi Herrera,Gina Fowler, Allen Kendall

Picture courtesy of the Humanities Center