Sewanee Senior Theses 2009

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    Crossing Over: Racial Passing and Racial Uplift in Nella Larsen's Fiction
    (2009-04-28) Karly, Beavers
    Fundamental to the American myth is a juxtaposition of the “civilized†or “superior†majority with the “inferior†other. By classifying African Americans as inherently different from and inferior to whites, the white majority justified the enslavement and, later, the political and social oppression of black Americans. Our concept of race relies heavily on the visible differences between whites and African Americans. Interracial couples posed a threat to the socially constructed color line almost immediately, producing offspring who did not fit under the simple label of black or white. Although legally considered African American because of their “Negro blood,†some individuals found it possible to pass for white. Passing began long before emancipation, but it became a prevalent topic in African American fiction during the early twentieth century. Nella Larsen in particular explores the idea of passing in her two novels Quicksand and Passing. As her main female protagonists search for their true identity within a racist and patriarchal society, they struggle with DuBois’s idea of “double consciousness.†Within the African American community during the early twentieth century, middle class blacks sought to uplift the race through upholding and exemplifying white middle class values. Larsen’s characters are thus trapped in a complicated system that rails against social inequality while it espouses the oppressive structures of the dominant white culture. From various newspaper articles and book reviews, one sees a varied reaction to passing within the African American community. For men, racial passing rendered them more effeminate in the eyes of black Americans. Larsen focuses more on the experiences of black women, who found themselves forced into an oppressive domestic role in an effort to uplift the race and reaffirm the masculinity of black men.
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    Effects of exurbanization on avian and macroinvertebrate diversity in Sewanee, Tennessee
    (2009-04-29) Casey, Jordan
    The fastest growing form of development in North America is exurbanization, defined as low density housing development beyond suburban areas. The effects of exurbanization on biodiversity are complex and depend on the degree of habitat modification. Many studies have concluded that avian diversity increases with moderate levels of exurbanization. However, native species richness declines and exotics proliferate with high levels of exurbanization. The mechanisms that cause changes in bird diversity are relatively unknown. We investigated the relationship between bird diversity and macroinvertebrate food abundance over an exurban gradient. Macroinvertebrates serve as valuable bio-indicators due to their prominence in terrestrial ecosystems, but there are few studies that examine macroinvertebrate diversity in reference to exurbanization. We used the Cumberland Plateau, a biodiversity hotspot in North America, in Sewanee, Tennessee as a case study to assess how birds and macroinvertebrates vary over an exurban gradient. Much of the land on the Cumberland Plateau is privately owned without zoning restrictions, so the potential for unrestricted exurban growth is high. To determine avian diversity, we used point counts with visual and acoustic detections at fifteen exurban and fifteen forested points during the summer of 2008. To assess macroinvertebrate diversity, we used sweep netting, soil core samples, pitfall traps, and caterpillar frass samples at the same sites. Bird species richness, bird abundance, and macroinvertebrate taxa richness had significant negative correlations with canopy cover. Conversely, bird species richness, bird abundance, and macroinvertebrate taxa richness had significant positive correlations with impervious surface cover. Overall, avian and macroinvertebrate diversity increased over an exurban gradient. There was a weak negative correlation between insectivorous bird diversity and macroinvertebrate abundance. Detrended correspondence analyses (DCA) revealed high correlation between avian community composition and exurbanization but little correlation between community compositi on of macroinvertebrates and exurbanization. According to a stepwise linear regression, bird abundance is best modeled by macroinvertebrate abundance from pitfall traps and habitat type. Thus we can conclude that exurbanization has a multidimensional impact on biodiversity. While avian diversity demonstrates an unambiguous increase with low-density urbanization, macroinvertebrate diversity varies depending on site-specific factors.
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    Ecofeminismo: El valor intrínseco de la naturaleza y de la mujer en Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y La mujer habitada
    (2009-05-04) Casey, Jordan
    En la literatura latinoamericana, la tierra tiene un papel prominente. La gente autóctona depende de los recursos naturales para sobrevivir, e históricamente, existe un choque entre el hombre y la naturaleza que es inevitable. Los movimientos ambientales sugieron en el siglo XX; por eso, la naturaleza es especialmente importante en la literatura moderna, y así nació la ecocrítica. Además, había un incremento de voces femeninas en las obras ambientalistas debido a la conexión íntima entre la degradación de la mujer y la naturaleza. Este movimiento mundial creó el concepto de ecofeminismo. Dos obras modernas y ecofeministas que se enfocan en la mujer liberada son Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así nació la conciencia, compilada por Elizabeth Burgos, y La mujer habitada, por Gioconda Belli. Estas novelas tienen muchas semejanzas: las dos discuten la lucha contra injusticias sociales y políticas, la liberación de la mujer, y la conexión entre los indígenas y la naturaleza. En sus novelas, Burgos y Belli destacan los valores intrínsicos de la naturaleza, demostrando una conexión más profunda con la tierra. Además, las autoras representan esta relación con la tierra específicamente en el contexto de la veneración del poder femenino e indígena. A través de Rigoberta y Lavinia, el ecofeminismo surge como una proclamación del valor intrínseco de la naturaleza y la mujer.
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    Mulhall, Film, and the Importance of Self-Reflexivity
    (2009-04-30) Nelson, Matthew
    In On Film, Stephen Mulhall examines whether and in what sense film can be understood as being a form of philosophy. Mulhall grounds his exploration of the relevant issues in the ideas and approach of Ludwig Wittgenstein, examines the Alien series of films with this approach, and explains how they exemplify the ways in which film can be understood as doing philosophy. Specifically, he argues that the degree to which a particular film is self-reflexively engaged with the contextual conditions of its own existence—genre, place in film history or director’s filmography, etc.—determines whether a film can be said to be doing philosophy. Thomas Wartenberg and other philosophers of film have objected to Mulhall’s conception, arguing that it is too limited and is essentialist, in seeming contradiction to Wittgensteinian ideas. I will show that these concerns are justified, and will argue that Mulhall misconceives of the nature and importance of self-reflexivity in film and philosophy and that, in doing so, he creates a confused picture of the philosophical status and possibilities of film.
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    Hero Henry: Heroism and Antiheroism in John Berryman's Dream Songs
    (2009-05-06) Arthur, Amy
    In capturing his own experiences and confronting his own pain, Henry suffers for his readers. In his “Preface to Leaves of Grass,” Walt Whitman makes a statement to which Berryman certainly would have assented: “You shall stand by my side and look in the mirror with me” (2201). When a reader does see his or her own life reflected in the work, these words become reality. Just as Henry pays for his father’s transgressive death in a song reminiscent of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, Henry becomes our savior as he suffers so that we, too, might be healed. In this sense, the antiheroic elements of Henry’s life are necessary to his heroism. If he was not one of us, he could not save us by leading us back to ourselves in his Songs. Thus Henry’s work of drawing us into his experiences becomes a heroic act as he challenges us to consider our own lives.