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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

American Studies Senior Seminar Theses

THE AMERICAN STUDIES DEPARTMENT is pleased to present the titles and summaries of the theses written in this year's senior seminar. We are proud of all the great work they have put into their scholarship.

Lauren Godfrey's essay !Dale! explores the ways in which the
Latino culture is otherized in music videos that are performed by Latino pop artists. In this paper, Lauren offers a close and fascinating analysis of specific videos by the popular musical artists Bruno Mars and Pitbull; she argues Latino men are often depicted as violent while Latina women are sexualized.
In her essay, "What Are you?: The Identities and Experiences of Black/White Mixed Race Americans" Bethany Helen offers a compelling examination of the historical construction of race and racial categories in the United States, focusing on the identities and experiences of mixed-race Americans.
Kathleen Kane's paper entitled "Deselection in the Early Days of Peace Corps Training" addresses issues of race, gender, and class in the Peace Corps "deselection process" (whereby Peace Corps applicants were not selected or removed from the Peace Corps placement process. Kathleen argues that this was a fairly stressful process for Peace Corps volunteers (that involved, for example, psychological testing and observations) and those "deselected." The deselection process was also a contradictory ideological process that relied on normative understandings of race, gender, and class as the Peace Corps administrative officials sought to select and place volunteers they deemed "fit" for Peace Corps placement around the world. To develop her argument and paper, Kathleen interviewed former Peace Corps volunteers and examined primary and secondary sources.
Sarah Loschiavo's paper, THE GREAT ESCAPE, investigates the longstanding American fascination with the mafia and organized crime through an analysis of popular Hollywood
gangster films, focusing on two movies The Godfather and Scarface. In this paper, Sarah illustrates how gangster films produced stereotypes of Italian Americans and she also
argues that these films gave American citizens the vicarious experience of rebelling against society and the government.
Lucy Nieboer's "Through the Kitchen Window: Cultural Politics in the American Home as Seen in Cookbooks" offers a fascinating analysis of the gendered ideologies propagated
by American cookbooks. She offers a comparative analysis of cookbooks from the post-WWII period, an era known for cultural conservatism and a restrictive domestic ideology,
and the period after 9/11. According to Nieboer, " 9/11 sent popular American cookbooks of the early millennium into a tailspin of cultural-political regression," perpetuating norms
that we typically associate with the early 1950s.
In "Transformation of the Princess: How Gender Portrayal of Disney Princesses has Changed Over Time," Jennifer Rickert examines eleven Disney films, ranging from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in 1937 to Frozen in 2013. Jennifer argues that, although stereotypes persist in the representation of princess characters, gender roles in more recent films have become more expansive and flexible and the distinction
between masculine and feminine characteristics has become blurred.