Language and Culture Studies Theses Explore Gender, National Pride, Cities, and More

Seniors Present Their Research on Wide Array of Topics in Various Languages

Hartford, CT, April 30, 2015 – Earlier this month, students gathered in Hamlin Hall for presentations on subjects as varied as gender roles in French film and how social media fueled national pride during the 2014 World Cup. These topics and more are among the 29 senior theses written this year by language and culture studies students studying five different languages.

Marie Christner ’15, a German studies major, was among those students, presenting her thesis, "The Emerging Power of the Digitized World: The Portrayal of Germany’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Victory through Digital and Social Media," and its Subsequent Effect on German National Pride. She analyzed German social media content from the summer of 2014 alongside newspapers, magazines, and television, observing a pattern of increased national pride on digital outlets.

Jean-Marc Kehres, Karen Humphreys, Sarah Kippur, and Julie Solomon with senior French majors at the presentation of language and culture studies senior theses.
Christner found that the younger demographics on social media resulted in more statements of national pride, which in turn made traditional media outlets more permissive in reflecting those same messages. This has resulted in a new emerging nationalism in Germany, fueled by the country’s 2014 FIFA World Cup championship.

“Young people on social media provide a candor that other generations in Germany didn’t have,” she said. “This is no longer a generation that distrusts its elders and its country.”

Her classmate in German studies, Harry Lawrence ’15, looked back a bit further for his thesis, "Gender in Fairy Tales." Once evolving oral traditions that reflected the values of the day, many of the fairy tales we know today were written down by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. As a result, he said, their characters and stories reflect the expected gender roles of 1812.

“We’ve been stuck with these old patriarchal versions of fairy tales,” said Lawrence, explaining the literary tropes and distinctive characteristics that make fairy tales such a powerful form for teaching gender roles. That same form also can be successful in teaching new ideas about gender, Lawrence found, citing in particular Angela Carter’s 1979 collection The Bloody Chamber. In it, Carter uses the same familiar framework to present more contemporary ideas that are as influential and powerful as those penned by the Brothers Grimm.

Meredith Briggs ’15 and Kiely MacMahon ’15, both French majors, also examined ideas about gender. Briggs studied the work of photographer and writer Claude Cahun, whose Les Héroïnes subverted the traditional literary representations of women. MacMahon’s thesis, "Young, Pretty, and Gendered: Feminine Space in Film Adaptations of La Belle et la Bête and Barbe Bleue," addressed the evolution of gender roles through modern adaptations of classic French works. MacMahon argued that the characters remain subjected to patriarchy even in a feminine space; the sexualization of women by men is the catalyst for their maturation.

Hispanic studies major Dayana Aleksandrova ’15 looked at the history and evolution of the city of Barcelona in her thesis, "Barcelona, the Magnetic City: Oppression and Re-invention by a Tyrannical Government." Inspired by her time in Barcelona during an internship in the summer of 2014, Aleksandrova studied how the city came to be the center of culture and tourism that it is today.

After being largely shut down to the outside world in the 1930s, Barcelona was rebuilt and promoted by the Franco regime in the 1960s. Following the regime’s propaganda efforts, the city began to build an aura that attracted tourists and immigrants from around the world.

Aleksandrova was advised by Anne Lambright, associate professor of language and culture studies, and communicated remotely with Thomas Harrington, associate professor of language and culture studies, an expert on Catalonia currently teaching in Trinity’s Rome campus. Briggs and MacMahon were advised by Karen Humphreys, principal lecturer in language and culture studies; Christner and Lawrence were advised by Julia Goesser Assaiante, lecturer in language and culture studies. Though the students presented their research primarily in English, all 29 of their theses were written entirely in the world languages they studied at Trinity.