• Alyssa Byrum

CSA Day 2021: Student Spotlights in English

Interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.


Kaylee standing outside
Photo courtesy of Kaylee Kalaf

Kaylee Kalaf

Project title: "Shakespeare's Comedic Heroines Who Continue to Define Strong: Portia,

Rosalind, and Beatrice"

Please describe your research.

In my thesis, I explore the contemporary relevance of Shakespeare’s heroines today. I chose to compare three female protagonists from the comedies — Portia from The Merchant of Venice, Rosalind from As You Like It, and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing — because they have dominant roles in their plays and in this Shakespearean genre. By analyzing the characters through close reading, performance study and a review of the critical commentary, I discovered that each of these characters has a steadfast personality, extraordinary skills, sharp wit and potent knowledge. They use these traits to rebel against the patriarchy, educate the narrow-minded men of power they encounter and devise for themselves a more equal marriage than is typical for the period. My research concludes that the comedic heroines’ traits and actions qualify them as strong women for their time and as role models today.

What inspired your topic?

I was inspired while studying abroad in the UK. I went in summer 2018, because I knew "Literary London: Shakespeare" was being offered. I love Shakespeare, both reading the text and watching performances. In my time in London, the strong female characters stood out to me and I could relate to them easily. I knew my thesis needed to be something I would enjoy studying for an extended period, and upon watching and being inspired by the female protagonists of Shakespeare, I knew that I wanted to explore the strong women of Shakespeare.

How did COVID-19 impact your research process?

Thankfully I had checked out and obtained most of my print sources, but the few I needed help tracking down through ILL (interlibrary loan) were quickly delivered to the Carlyle Campbell Library for me to pick up. Since COVID-19 hit in the later part of my research, it worked out for me because I got to keep my sources for longer than normal.

Do you feel that this research or some aspect of what you’ve learned will apply to your future, whether in continuing education or in the working world?

Yes, I have found some inspiration and role models in these three women. I will be attending NC state for my Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies where I will be compiling my own area of study: Women and Ethical Business Practice. I am confident that my dedication and persistence to keep my writing, wording and analysis my own throughout the editing, submission and presentation components will help me in my concentration and in the working world.


Kali sitting outside smiling at the camera
Photo courtesy of Kali Ranke

Kali Ranke

Project title: “Trauma and Masculinity in Slaughterhouse-Five"

Please describe your research.

While working on my thesis project, I was conducting research in our English department with my thesis advisor and the head of the department, Dr. Fine. My thesis is based on the novel Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and it is about how the events of World War II and other traumatic experiences that the protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, endures negatively affect his psychological state and his understanding of his masculinity and how this leads him to use time travel and the alien planet Tralfamadore as an escape from his problems.

What inspired your topic?

I am an English major, psychology minor, and I am getting my 9-12 teaching licensure, so the subjects of literature and psychology are things that have always really interested me. I was able to combine both my interests in my research, which was the main inspiration of my thesis.

How did COVID-19 impact your research process?

COVID-19 essentially affected every aspect of my thesis. I started conducting my research during Spring 2020, which was when we first went online, worked on my thesis paper and finished my research during Fall 2020, and now I am submitting my virtual presentation to be included in CSA day during Spring 2021. The only way I've met with my thesis advisor has been virtually, on Zoom. The biggest impact, however, is CSA Day being almost completely virtual. Presenting my thesis in person, in front of an audience, was something I had been looking forward to since freshman year, but that will not be the format I present in. I am, in a way, grateful for its virtual format as I will be able to send my presentation to family members, friends and faculty members who otherwise would not have been able to see my presentation live, but I do feel like I am missing out. However, I completely understand and support the necessity of CSA day being online in order to be safe.

Do you feel that this research or some aspect of what you’ve learned will apply to your future, whether in continuing education or in the working world?

In my time spent working on my thesis, I learned a lot about how to find credible and reliable articles, sources and other forms of research, which I think is something I will continue to need the rest of my life. I was also able to delve into specific topics of Slaughterhouse-Five, which is a novel oftentimes taught at the high school level, so I think it may have prepared me for my future career as well.


Krista standing by Johnson Hall, holding her violin
Photo courtesy of Krista Wiese

Krista Wiese

Project title: “An Archetypal Analysis of the Characters in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Please describe your research.

Since its publication in 1950, C.S. Lewis’s debut children’s novel The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has enjoyed immense popularity and more recently has been made into a highly successful film by Disney. Because Lewis identified primarily as a Christian theologian, many readers, including some literary critics, label the work as straightforward religious allegory. It is important, however, to recognize that Lewis himself rejected an allegorical interpretation. Instead of looking at this work allegorically, I focused on the author’s successful deployment of Jungian archetypes through the contrasting characters Aslan and the White Witch. My analysis drew upon the works of critics who have taken a similar archetypal approach to the novel; in addition, I incorporated a reader-response approach in order to examine Lewis's narrative effects. Using these theoretical frames, I proposed that Lewis was able to engage readers more deeply in his story and impact them on a more personal level by drawing on the power of archetypal characters.Through an archetypal reading, I hoped to provide a richer and more nuanced reading that accounts for the novel’s enduring power.

What inspired your topic?

I love reading and writing fiction for children and young adults, so I knew that I wanted to focus my research on a book within that genre. Because The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is so well known and has so frequently been the topic of literary criticism, several English faculty recommended it as a topic for my thesis. The book has personal significance to me since I fondly remember my dad reading the Chronicles of Narnia series aloud to me before I was old enough to read the books myself. I read the series again in middle school and was a major fan of Disney's film adaptations. As for my decision to focus on archetypes within the novel, I have always been interested in myths and fairytales and the way certain characters and plots are repeated in works across different cultures and time periods. Part of this fascination stems from my religious background and my belief that pattern in the universe points to a creator. For this reason, I was both personally and academically interested in studying the ways that archetypes function in Lewis's well-known debut children's novel.

How did COVID-19 impact your research process?

COVID-19 did not impact my research project in any major ways. However, I did decide to complete my research over the summer of 2020 instead of beginning in fall of 2020 since COVID-19 cancelled all my summer plans. Because of COVID-19, I had the full summer free to focus on my thesis, and that turned out to be a wonderful thing.

Do you feel that this research or some aspect of what you’ve learned will apply to your future, whether in continuing education or in the working world?

I can honestly say that completing my thesis was life changing. This project made me realize how much I love researching and analyzing literature. In fact, for the first time, I began seriously considering graduate school, motivated by the desire to continue the kind of learning that took place while writing my thesis. My research project impacted my life in other ways as well. It helped me overcome my fear of research by strengthening my knowledge of the library system and MLA formatting. Completing the project gave me much-needed confidence as a writer and researcher and, as mentioned, motivated me to pursue future research projects. On a different note, my analysis of archetypes in literature and my study of the amazing life of C.S. Lewis also strengthened my faith by deepening my understanding of the connectedness of the universe. I feel that I am a more driven and knowledgeable academic and a more confident writer as a result of this research project, and I feel more prepared for whatever my future may hold.


Interviews compiled by Alyssa Byrum, Contributing Writer

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