Menu

Home of the Human Experience

You are here

Current Undergraduate Fellows

Holly Dayton

History, and Theater & Performance Studies

“The Perseverance of Performance: Theatre on the West End during the First World War”

Advisors: Priya Satia, Leslie Hill

Holly Dayton is an undergraduate majoring in History, with a minor in Theater and Performance Studies. Her academic interests are in the realm of cultural history, specifically in Europe in the early twentieth century. She enjoys exploring how everyday people have engaged with the arts—with visual arts, with theater, with music—at different points in history, and how a study of those art forms can tell us more about the people of that time. In her extracurricular life she is passionate about supporting the creation of theater; she has interned with two regional theaters during her summers and is currently serving as Ram's Head Theatrical Society's Executive Producer. Additionally, Holly serves on the Executive Boards of Herodotus, Stanford's undergraduate history research journal, and Cap and Gown, the Stanford women's honors and leadership society. In her spare time, Holly loves making oatmeal, going to the gym, and doing the Lindy Hop at social dance events.

What is the focus of your current research?

I am studying performance on the London stage during the First World War. Even though the First World War was a time of austerity in London, those on the home front continued to attend (and spend their money on) the theater during the war – as just as much as they had before. My research examines why this was the case, looking at manuscripts of plays, as well as programs, posters, newspaper articles, and reviews. My research seeks to examine what audiences found appealing about this theater and how, by studying it, we can come to better understand the society on the home front at that time.

What drew you to this topic?

As a theater practitioner and a theater administrator myself, I know how much making theater is a business, and how people attend the theater for very different reasons. I wanted to investigate how individuals engage with the theater socially and aesthetically, as well as economically, at one particular point in time. As for this particular time and place, I read a history of cultural life in France during the occupation in the Second World War, and that sparked my interest in broadening that line of cultural history into a different country and a different war.

How are you conducting your research?

Last summer, I received a Major Grant to go to England and do primary source archival work. I spent three weeks in England, divided equally between working in the British Library in London and in the Theatre Collection of the University of Bristol. I coordinated with librarians and archivists to make the most of my short time there, and the manuscripts, programs, and other documents I was able to see and record during that trip are the core materials on which the argument of my thesis is based. 

What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?
People might be surprised to learn that London residents of all different classes went to see the same theater during this era! The musical revue, the most popular form of West End performance at the time, drew its audience from the working class, middle class, and even partially from the upper class. This is a boon for me, as it means that I can make relatively broad arguments about how the theater from this era reflects contemporary London culture across classes.

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?
Firstly, it isn't valuable to study this topic because the theater from this time is "good" theater. It is not - it is fluffy, brutal, and sentimental, in turns, and few pieces of what we would recognize as "good" text emerge during the war. But this topic is valuable to study because it reveals how real people (and large numbers of them) spent their time and money during a time of economic stress and social hardship. To study theater is to study the culture that yielded it, and can provide us with a new lens to better understand those people and the world in which they lived. 

How is your honors thesis impacting you academically and/or personally?
I appreciate it because I am able to stake my claim as an independent scholar by describing a project that I created, researched, and am writing on my own. This project has enabled my growth into the identity of an “academic scholar,” and I hope that it yields work I can use in my future academic career!

Liz Fischer

English, and Computer Science/Digital Humanities

“The Book in the Age of Digital Reproduction”

Advisor: Elaine Treharne

Liz Fischer is majoring in English with minors in Computer Science and Digital Humanities. Her academic interests are primarily focused in book history and medieval England, as well as web development. She hopes to continue her education in medieval studies and information science after Stanford. She is a passionate crafter and gamer, and believes everyone should try painting along with Bob Ross.

What is the focus of your current research?
I am working on a digital scholarly edition of Stanford's copy of Matthew Parker's "A Testimonie of Anitquitie," printed in 1566. It is a translation of an Old English homily by Ælfric into Modern English, and marks the first time Old English appeared in print. Our copy is additionally interesting owing to its being bound in medieval manuscript leaves. I am thinking and writing about how digital editions can take full advantage of the medium rather than hosting what could be a print edition online, and how one creates an object-oriented edition rather than one focused primarily on coming to a definitive text.

What drew you to this topic?
I took a class last spring called "The Digital Middle Ages" where we explored digital approaches to medieval studies. In that class, I found myself disappointed with a lot of the digital editions I was seeing. Stanford had just purchased our "Testimonie" when I was tossing around thesis ideas, and my advisor suggested I look at it before it left for conservation. I am not normally interested in print, but this book is perfect: the text itself is an edition, and the book as an object crosses media (manuscript and print), making my project an edition of an edition that adds yet another media into the mix.

How are you conducting your research?
I'm working with my advisor to learn good editing practices, and am reading the few books I have found on the specific subject of digital editing. I am also reading about thing theory (a branch of critical theory that focuses on human-object interactions), text technologies, and traditional editorial theory. I am very much still in the reading phase. I am also finishing OCR (optical character recognition) and transcription of the now-digitized book. Soon I'll be able to start coding the skeleton of the web app, using a MEAN stack (MongoDB, Express.js, AngularJS, and Node.js).

What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?
That this is a very new field. At least that was a surprise to me. Computers and the internet have been around for long enough now that I thought, when I was starting out, there would be plenty written on a theory of natively digital editions, and that there would be a decent number of editions putting that theory into practice.

How is your honors thesis work impacting you academically and/or personally?
It's a lot of work, doing a project at this scale while keeping up with other school work. It's stressful but I love it. I like being able to spend a long stretch of time on something I care about, to contrast with the break-neck pace of the quarter system.

Michael Gioia

History, and Modern Languages

“The Abbé Claude Fauchet and the French Revolution”

Advisers: Keith Baker, Dan Edelstein

Michael Gioia is a senior majoring in History and minoring in Modern Languages. He is focusing on European intellectual history from the Enlightenment onwards, and is completing an honors thesis on the life of Claude Fauchet, a French cleric and revolutionary. Michael serves as both a history peer advisor and the Editor-in-Chief of the History Department’s Herodotus journal, and is also a Managing Editor at The Stanford Daily

What is the focus of your current research?
I am working on an intellectual biography of Claude Fauchet, a French revolutionary and cleric. Fauchet and other revolutionary priests present a conundrum for historians: how did these figures manage to remain committed republicans and men of the church when these two groups were in violent conflict? By studying Fauchet’s writing and intellectual lineage, I hope to explain how he maintained these beliefs simultaneously. 

What drew you to this topic?
As an intellectual historian, I have always been fascinated by the French Revolution: both due to its relationship with the intellectual upheavals that came before, but also because of its looming presence in subsequent political thought. The role of religious revolutionaries seemed to be a particularly thorny question, with room for further scholarship, and Fauchet offers a very compelling biography: after climbing the ranks of the French church, he became an ardent republican, helping to lead the Charge on the Bastille and then serving in the National Convention. 

How are you conducting your research? 
I reviewed Fauchet’s writings, including pamphlets, letters, and sermons, and also examined the writings of his interlocutors. While some materials are available online, I also spent part of last summer conducting archival research in Paris for the project, visiting the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the French Archives Nationales. 

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?
This research opens the door to re-evaluating the relationship between church and republic in France. These two bodies have sometimes been seen in dialectic, but my thesis may complicate that relationship.

How is your honors thesis impacting you academically and/or personally?
I am considering a career in academia, and working on this thesis has reinforced my desire to continue down that path. In addition, it has tremendously bolstered my research and writing skills, and I have gotten to practice my French in the process!

Ben Musachio

Slavic Languages and Literatures, and Philosophy

"Isaiah Berlin, Boris Pasternak, and Anna Akhmatova: Meetings that Troubled the Twentieth Century"

Advisors: Lazar Fleishman, David Holloway

Benjamin Musachio studies Slavic Languages and Literatures (with a concentration in Russian Languages and Literature) and Philosophy. He previously examined the American conservative reception of Doctor Zhivago as a predictor of future internecine conflict within conservatism. His current thesis on Isaiah Berlin’s post-war understanding of Soviet Russian literature deepens his interest in 20th-century Soviet literary history. Outside of his studies, Ben loves to travel, especially in Eastern and Northern Europe. The charming streets of suburban Riga, Latvia hold a special place in his heart. Rehearsals for various choirs take up most of Ben’s free time. He especially enjoys contemporary choral music penned by Baltic and British composers. 
 
What is the focus of your current research?
My thesis offers a reading of Isaiah Berlin’s diplomatic reports, which contain myriad observations about the state of literary life in post-war Soviet Russia. I put other western accounts of modern Soviet letters into conversation with Berlin’s account, to emphasize the audacious, revelatory character of Berlin’s report. This sort of comparative, historical examination will offer a fine-grained understanding of Berlin’s intellectual development, as well as the evolving Anglo-Soviet cultural relationship in this period.
 
What drew you to this topic?
During my third year of undergraduate study, I spent the autumn in Oxford and then the winter/spring in Riga. Riga was Berlin’s birthplace, while Oxford became his primary place of work and home. I noticed the geographical affinity and decided to investigate possible intersections between Berlin’s life and Russian poetry. It didn’t take me long to find out about Berlin’s seminal meetings with genius poets Boris Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova in Soviet Russia. The personalities involved are gigantic, and the historical period (Russia immediately following WWII) is volatile. A perfect recipe for fascinating research. 

How are you conducting your research?
I ventured into the Sir Isaiah Berlin Papers in the Bodleian Library at Oxford early on in the research process. This study does not rely heavily on archival bounty, but I hope to incorporate as much as is relevant and revealing. Mostly, I am reading very closely Berlin’s reports on Russian culture. Forming a deeper understanding of Anglo-Soviet relations (literary, cultural, and also political) is essential. Readings of contemporary histories in addition to comparative study of post-WWII diplomatic documents augments my research.
 
What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?
The Soviet Union was a remarkably closed society, especially under Joseph Stalin. An incredible number of factors fell into place so that Isaiah Berlin could report on Soviet Russian literature “from the inside,” as it were. Berlin was a) a native Russian speaker, b) a brilliant conversationalist, c) interested in, but relatively ignorant of, Russian literature, d) stationed in Moscow as a diplomat, and e) enterprising enough to seek out candid conversations with Pasternak, Akhmatova, and other writers in an atmosphere of strict political control. His insightful diplomatic reports about Soviet literature and culture would have lost their perceptive power if even one of the above circumstances were to be excised. 

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?
Much ink has already been spilled about Isaiah Berlin, his life, his thought, his Russian identity, etc. But actually very little has been said about his understanding of Russian literature and specifically his activity as a diplomat in the Moscow Foreign Office. My scholarship works to fill this gap and thus contribute to a more fine-grained understanding of Berlin, who was the very definition of an influential public intellectual. Readers will (hopefully) also come away with a grasp of the radical contingency of this post-war moment in the history of Anglo-Soviet relations. 

How is your honors thesis work impacting you academically and/or personally?
Working on this thesis has brought me into closer intellectual and personal contact with my advisors, Lazar Fleishman, David Holloway, and David Hills. They are all generous minds and spirits. The thesis also provides my senior year with a comforting arc. It allows me to sit with a single topic for months; this cuts against the undergraduate culture of quick production, facilitated in large part by the frenetic pace of the quarter-long course. It will further give me a taste of the life of research as I contemplate graduate study in Slavic literature. 

Victoria Saenz

Iberian and Latin American Cultures, and International Relations 

“From Nova Cançó to Today: A Cross-Temporal Analysis of the Language in Catalan Popular Music”

Advisor: Joan Ramon Resina

Victoria Saenz is an undergraduate majoring in Iberian and Latin American Cultures and International Relations. As an overtly curious traveler who spent seven months studying abroad in Spain, first in Barcelona and then in Madrid, Victoria’s interests focus on the role of political states in creating and maintaining a meaningful cultural identity. She has explored the themes of nationalism, Spanish and Catalan history, and languages while studying abroad and since returning. She is now completing her honors thesis in Iberian and Latin American Cultures with Joan Ramon Resina as an adviser. Victoria can often be found making banana bread in Bob’s kitchen, asking strangers if she can pet their dogs, and hiding away in the archives of Hoover Tower. 

What is the focus of your current research?
My current research looks at the role of language in popular music in the Catalan-speaking regions of Spain. I am comparing the importance of Catalan popular music during two musical movements. The first is known as la Nova Cançó, which emerged at the end of Franco’s dictatorship (when the Catalan language was still illegal). I am comparing this with the popular music of today, focusing on its role in the current independence movement. I am looking at music as a tool for building a collective consciousness, identity, and memory. I am also interested in the threat that globalization poses to cultural identities around the world and what role institutions, state and non-state, should play in ensuring these identities and their heritage is protected. 

What drew you to this topic?
After studying in Barcelona for a semester, having arrived with hardly any knowledge of Catalan history, culture, or language, I fell in love with the city and its people. I joined a castellers (traditional Catalan human-castle building) group at the university where I was studying, which allowed me to learn the language and get a deeper understanding of the people’s history and identity. Part of this identity was manifested in the music festivals that were so common around Catalunya, "terra de músics, país de festivals" (land of musicians, country of festivals”), many of which had a political aspect. Seeing the extreme contrast with the American music scene, I wanted to explore more deeply what role music had in Catalan politics, culture, and identity. 

How are you conducting your research?
My thesis is based on my own fieldwork, historical research, and interviews with people who work (or worked) in the music scene. I spent last summer in Catalonia, attending music festivals and concerts on the weekends and conducting interviews and spending days in the libraries on the weekdays. 

What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?
What surprised me most starting on this project was the amount of anti-capitalism and anarchism that I found in some of the groups. A lot of them are anti-establishment in a way that you would not see in the United States in popular music; young people go to their concerts and enjoy their music like any other concert I’ve been to, but things tend to be more politically or ideologically charged. This also made the concerts more “fun,” because people were there to express something that was truly meaningful to them, not just drink and dance the night away. 

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?
In my view, this topic is important for two reasons. First, in our increasingly globalized world, a smart cultural policy that helps to produce more educated, interested, and involved peoples who are conscious and proud of their identity will be central to maintaining diversity and democracy. While Catalonia is a special case, the example it sets of a progressive, tolerant society with cultural pride can be applied anywhere in the world. Secondly, music is a great art form to focus on, as it appeals to the unconscious, is universal, and therefore can play a strong role as a social and political tool.

How is your honors thesis impacting you academically and/or personally?
My research experiences have led me to become more critical of the role that music can play in politics, and it is a field that I hope to continue studying, along with other types of cultural expression, as I progress through my career as an academic. On a personal level, I’ve discovered many artists that I probably would not have otherwise through this project. Now, listening to artists that sing about different realities in all time periods has become a favorite pasttime of mine. 

Alina Utrata

History and Law, and Human Rights

“The Impact of the ICTY on Bosnia: Society and Memory under International Justice Regimes”

Adviser: Norman Naimark

Alina is an undergraduate majoring in History and the Law, with a minor in Human Rights. For the past four years, her studies have focused on situations of mass atrocity, laws of war, humanitarian intervention, and transitional justice. She is specifically interested in how international justice mechanisms affect societies in the aftermath of conflict. Alina has worked at the Asian International Justice Initiative in Phnom Penh, the Balkan Institute for Conflict Resolution, Responsibility, and Reconciliation in Sarajevo, the State Department’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau in Washington D.C., and the WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice on campus.

What is the focus of your current research?
My current research is focused on evaluating the impact of international courts on societies through the specific case study of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Since the ICTY was established in the 1990s, the international community has ascribed various positive functions to international tribunals, including facilitating reconciliation, peace and stability, truth-telling, and accountability. I think war crimes trials also play an invaluable role in providing a forum for societies to come to a “historical reckoning” about the past and impose a cohesive historical narrative to transition out of conflict.  

What drew you to this topic?
During my time at Stanford, I have studied many cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. These are some of the worst moments in human history, and I have found myself wondering—what happens after? Even after successful humanitarian interventions, communities that experienced mass atrocities are still left broken, devastated, and traumatized by horrible violence. And I don’t know how you witness your family, your friends, and your country being torn apart by war—and then one day, wake up and be expected to work hand in hand with people who yesterday were your enemies. How do communities who have suffered mass atrocity put themselves together again? How do you live with the people who have committed horrible crimes against you and your family? This is initially why I began studying transitional justice mechanisms and spawned my interested in the ICTY and Bosnia.

How are you conducting your research?
There are a variety of sources I will examine for my thesis. Much of it is based on research I conducted on perceptions of the ICTY during a summer researching in Bosnia and The Hague. These include interviews with civil society, academics, and court officials as well as Balkan media, political rhetoric, and some opinion polling. Additionally, I am comparing the ICTY with the effects of war crimes trials (including the Nuremberg trials, the Eichmann trials, the ECCC, etc.) and literature on the historical purposes and impact of transitional justice. 

What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?
I think most people believe that international justice only dates back to the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi leaders after WWII. In fact, international or internationalized trials have been used by states for centuries! Arguably, one of the first international war crimes trials dates back to 1474, when Sir Peter von Hagenbach was tried by members of the Holy Roman Empire in Breisach for atrocities committed serving the Duke of Burgundy. (It was also one of the earliest precedents for prosecuting rape as a war crime.) Parts of the Hagenbach Prosector’s statements are credited with being the first “proto-formulation” of crimes against humanity. 

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?
I think the fact that we see, now and historically, war crimes trials being used to address post-conflict situations points to something fundamental. Why have war crimes trials? Why not just execute vanquished foes? Why not just call for revenge? Why is there this push, among victorious states and victims alike, to see the people who wronged them on trial? I think it demonstrates that there is an important emotional component to post-conflict reconstruction to consider when thinking about transitions from conflict to peace.   

How is your honors thesis impacting you academically and/or personally?
I am incredibly excited to write my honors thesis this year, and find all the stories and insights I uncover absolutely fascinating. It’s also very exciting to think that I have studied something long enough to be able to contribute to the discourse around it—and even if only my advisor and my grandmother read my thesis, I will have at least impacted someone’s thinking about international tribunals! 

Alyssa Vann

Comparative Literature, and Computer Science (Masters)

“The Ocean in Caribbean Literary Imagination”

Advisers: José David Saldívar, Héctor Hoyos 

Alyssa Vann is majoring in Comparative Literature and pursuing a masters in Computer Science. She focuses on Caribbean literature and is interested in Digital Humanities projects. As a past Chappell-Lougee Scholar, she worked on a project attempting to interpret poems with Virtual Reality. She is currently working with faculty at Columbia University and Barnard College on the In the Same Boats project, mapping the geographical movements of 20th century Caribbean intellectuals. In addition to being a Hume Fellow she is also a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. 

What is the focus of your current research?
My current research focuses on comparing how the authors Nancy Morejón, Lorna Goodison, Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, and Edwidge Danticat write about the ocean. Each of these authors describe the ocean as a site allowing for both connection and disconnection for those in diaspora, and as a womb-like home that is also a sacred, ominous kingdom of the dead. Through my thesis, I am exploring these contradictions and considering how these allow the ocean to be used as a counter-monument for Caribbean memory. 

What drew you to this topic?
I am interested in comparing works written across the Caribbean from islands with different geographies, languages, and histories. I am particularly interested in works written by Caribbean women. The ocean occupies a central place in the works of Caribbean writers and theorists, and I am interested in how these women portray such an important site.

How are you conducting your research?
My research is mostly focused on reading primary works by Nancy Morejón, Lorna Goodison, Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, and Edwidge Danticat. In addition to reading primary works, I am reading criticism focused on each of these authors, learning about Afro-Caribbean religious beliefs, and engaging with theories, like Paul Gilroy’s theory of the black Atlantic and theories of counter-monuments, to help put the works of these authors in conversation.

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?
In my view, the Caribbean is fascinating. The ocean literally and figuratively links the Anglophone, Hispanophone, and Francophone Caribbean. As such, it serves as a useful microcosm for broader studies of diasporic peoples around the globe. Thinking about the ocean allows us to question the extent to which the Caribbean itself can be conceptualized as a region despite its differences. 

How is your honors thesis work impacting you academically and/or personally?
I personally enjoy reading each of these authors and find refuge in their works. My honors thesis is allowing me to explore my own fascination with the Caribbean through these authors, and think about my own identity and relationship to the ocean as a woman of Caribbean descent.

Alex Zivkovic

Art History, and Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity

“Queering the Underwater World: The Intimate Gaze of Jean Painlevé”

Advisers: Margaret Cohen and Richard Meyer

Alex Zivkovic is a senior studying Art History and Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. On campus, he has worked as a writer and editor at The Stanford Daily and is currently the Visual Arts Editor at The Stanford Arts Review. Over the course of his time at Stanford, he has performed research on political campaign advertisements, residential racial segregation, and the experiences of LGBT alumni. His academic interests now focus largely on fin-de-siècle and modernist visual culture; however, he has also presented conference papers about queer motherhood in science fiction, and the documentaries of Jacques Cousteau.

What is the focus of your current research?
I am examining the scientific films of a marine biologist, Jean Painlevé, specifically focusing on his films from the 1920s and 30s. Much of the research on Painlevé situates him as a documentarian with oblique references to his contacts with the Parisian Surrealists. There is almost no scholarship performing visual analysis between his work and that of these artists, which I wish to rectify. Painlevé’s science embraces the strange and I will argue that he draws on stylistic conventions from Expressionist horror film and Surrealist photography in order to queer the underwater world. 

What drew you to this topic?
I first heard of Jean Painlevé in Margaret Cohen’s comparative literature course, "Imagining the Oceans." His films were intriguing since they focused on strange mating rituals of sea animals, but it took me a year to seriously consider writing my thesis on him. I was reading a feminist critique of the Surrealists and I saw how similar his images were to contemporaneous Surrealist photography. When I juxtaposed a film still of an octopus with a nude portrait by Brassaï, I realized I needed to write about this comparison since it was too rich and bizarre to ignore.

How are you conducting your research?
My research operates at the intersection of several different fields of study, so I’ve been reading about the history of scientific representation, nature documentaries, the close-up in film, queer theory, and 1920s Surrealist journals. Over time, I’ve found more and more images I wish to compare and have been building my argument through these previously undiscovered comparisons.

What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?
First off, they may be shocked by how weird the underwater world is. I use the word “queer” in my thesis because these animals are incredibly strange but also non-normative. Many of the animals he records have kinky, violent sex or reversed gender roles (for instance, male sea horses are the ones that give birth). The fact that this is all real is shocking. But more interestingly, Painlevé manages to engage with “surrealism” not through fiction, but by showing off what really exists out there, under the sea.

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?
While this thesis will focus primarily on one scientist, his work speaks to the ways in which science and art are compatible since he draws on art photography discourse to create his scientific images. Painlevé preserves a sense of wonder and intimacy in his scientific approach since he truly gets to know these animals and conveys that love on film, particularly in his close-ups. This has implications for how science is conducted, written about, and filmed even today since he allows emotions to enter his objectivity without clouding facts.

How is your honors thesis work impacting you academically and/or personally?
Something I’ve been fascinated with is the concept of (plural) modernisms. For instance, the writings of Virginia Woolf and contemporaneous work from the Harlem Renaissance share a commitment for literary experimentation, but manifest different threads of literary modernisms. Similarly, this project shows me a plurality of surrealisms. For instance, there is Painlevé’s unique blend of science, reality, and wonder, but he gathers that from different thinkers and artists he knew. Some of his contemporaries rejected science outright and wanted to live in an inexplicable universe, while others thought science could not explain things completely, so wonder still could live on. I wish to continue pursuing how these different, yet parallel, philosophies manifest in science, art, and literature, and hope to do so in a doctoral program one day.