On This Page
- Cover Art | Fernand Léger
- The Land After Time | Strickland '15
- A Dance of Spirits | Basu '13
- Gallium Nitride | Fox '15
- Dissertation Research | Hilmer '13
- Breathing Room and the Biomedical Narrative | Dickinson '13
- Symphonies and Sweet Potatoes | Granados '12
- Hitchcock Plays God | Gobioff '14
- Zombification and the Average Working Class in Shaun of the Dead | Wu '16
- The Importance of Being Bracknell | Huo '15
- The Execution of the Homosexual in Cather's "Paul's Case" | Moore '14
- Aztec Human Sacrifice | Young '15
- Re: New Political Violence Electronic Futures Market | Sordillo '12
- The Arms Trade | Dillon '12
- The Good Human and the Evil Koopa | Chen '16
- Where and Who are You? | Harmon '15
- From the Director | Paul Sawyer
- From the Editor | David Faulkner
- Discoveries Home
Discoveries | Spring 2014, No. 12
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Cover Art | Fernand Léger
The Land After Time | Strickland '15
Dunedin Strickland, Arts and Sciences ’15, is majoring in Comparative Literature. Obsessed with her image, Dunedin has always pretended to love books. Passing largely unnoticed by the critical community, she likes to fancy that she intimidates them, though upon closer inspection it becomes evident that she is schizophrenic and that it is actually her alter-ego that frightens people. She herself, as certain unnamed individuals could attest, is as sweet as autumn hon- ey. Her essay, “The Land After Time,” won the James E. Rice, Jr. Award for Fall 2011, having been produced for Carly Kaloustian’s Comparative Literature 1109 seminar “Writing Across Cultures: The Nobel Prize and World Literature.”
A Dance of Spirits | Basu '13
Pallavi Basu graduated in 2013 with a degree in Biology from the College of Arts and Sciences, heading off to Los Angeles to join Teach For America after graduation. In the future, she hopes to attend medical school, try all the tea in India, and publish a book of short stories. When Pallavi is not studying, she enjoys singing, cooking, and travelling. Her essay “A Dance of Spirits” was written for English 2880, “The Reflective Essay” with Professor Katy Gottschalk. The essay won the Knight Prize for Expository Writing for Fall 2011. Pallavi would like to thank Katy for all the invaluable guidance and for teaching her that personal writing need not be as daunting as it may seem.
Gallium Nitride | Fox '15
David Fox, Engineering ’15, is an Electrical and Computer Engineer- ing major. His James E. Rice, Jr. prize-winning essay (Fall 2011), “Gallium Nitride: the Superman of Semiconductors,” was written for Sarah Davidson’s First-Year Writing Seminar, Plant Breeding 1111, “The Art of Science Writing.” It was the culmination of re- searching how the Raytheon Corporation was developing uses for Gallium Nitride and finding, after a gracious interview, that his own Cornell advisor, ECE Professor J. Richard Shealy, was also studying this astounding material. David plans a career in audio hardware design and has already worked for several years at Telefunken Elek- troakustik, a maker of high-end microphones, and for this summer has been offered an internship in the Research and Development Department at PRS (Paul Reed Smith) Guitars. David is the Secretary of the Cornell Ukulele Club, and a luthier who hand-built his own ukulele and several other stringed instruments. David appreciates the Knight Institute’s recognition, the Adelphic Cornell Educational Fund’s generosity, and the mentoring of both Instructor Davidson and Professor Shealy.
Dissertation Research | Hilmer '13
Alexa Hilmer, Arts and Sciences, class of 2013, was a Biological Sciences major and Marine Biology minor from Cape Cod, MA. Growing up in a coastal community, she always enjoyed spending time at the beach and on the water. In high school, Alexa began working aboard whale watch vessels and fell in love with boat-based marine research, and whales in particular. While at Cornell, Alexa concentrated in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, selecting courses that emphasized marine biology and animal behavior. During the summers, Alexa enrolled in classes and worked at the Shoals Marine Lab, an island campus operated by Cornell and the University of New Hampshire. There, she was able to pursue her passion for field studies and thrived in the lab’s remote setting. Her essay “Dissertation Research: Mating strategies and reproductive success in North Atlantic right whales” was written for Dr. Walt Koenig’s “Advanced Behavioral Ecology” seminar Neurobiology and Behavior 4340. It won a Knight Writing in the Majors Prize for Fall 2012. She is thankful for the invaluable advice and revisions provided by Dr. Koenig and the course TA, Josh LaPergola. In the future, Alexa plans to attend graduate school for marine biology, focusing on whale behavior and ecology.
Breathing Room and the Biomedical Narrative | Dickinson '13
Ethan Dickinson graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2013 with a Math and Economics double major and a minor in Science and Technology Studies. His STS minor was what inspired him to take the Anthropology 2468 seminar “Medicine, Culture, and Society” that led to his essay, “Breathing Room and the Biomedical Narrative.” This essay won a Knight Prize for Writing in the Majors for Fall 2012. He is especially grateful to his professor, Lucinda Ramberg, and TA, Mariana Espinosa, for their clarity and assistance in an unfamiliar field. While at Cornell, Ethan was a Cornell Tradition fellow, member of the track and field club, and assisted with the nonprofit Muse America. Ethan currently resides in Boston, Massa- chusetts, where he works for an e-commerce retailer.
Symphonies and Sweet Potatoes | Granados '12
Anthony “River” Granados came to Cornell as an engineer in Materials Science, but quickly decided his interests in sleep and happness would make him a poor student in that field, and by the end of his first year had made his way into Classics. While his main area of study was Latin Epic, he also pulled together a second, pseudo-major in Hand-to-Hand Combat, studying everything from Filipino stick and knife fighting to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to Riflery and Marksmanship, as well as various courses in climbing and survival, and every class on the history of battle and military theory he could find. During the fall of his senior year he led the human resistance in the first campus-wide game of Humans versus Zombies, and had the distinction of being one of the last humans standing. The following spring, River returned as Patient Zero, the Zombie King, and led the horde in glorious battle. “Symphones and Sweet Potatoes: The Birth and Evolution of the Ocarina,” written for Kathy Selby’s Music 1466 “The Physics of Musical Sound,” won a Knight Prize for Writing in the Majors for Spring 2012. River, who graduated with the Arts and Sciences class of 2012, is currently an itinerant war- rior-poet, though he’ll be starting graduate school in the fall of 2014.
Hitchcock Plays God | Gobioff '14
Samantha Gobioff, Human Ecology ’14, is a Human Development major from Westchester, NY. Her essay, “Hitchcock Plays God,” written for English 2890, “Visions of the City,” won the Spring 2012 Knight Prize for Expository Writing. Analysis of such a complex and esteemed film was an exciting challenge for Samantha and she would like to thank her instructor, Elliot Shapiro, for all of his in- valuable advice and encouragement. Samantha is a Rights and Re- productions intern at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, as well as a research assistant studying the reasoning behind professional evaluators’ application of culturally responsive evaluation principles. After graduation she plans to attend medical school.
Zombification and the Average Working Class in Shaun of the Dead | Wu '16
You-Chi Wu, Arts and Sciences ’16, who also goes by Mason, plans to major in Chemistry and minor in both Biology and Inequality Studies. He has had an interest in chemistry since he was young, at- tempting to perform rudimentary chemical reactions at home when he was in grade school. More recently, he worked at a chemistry lab in San Jose State University. He is also deeply interested in ecology and the environment, stemming from his childhood home of Taiwan and many a summer afternoon spent hiking in the breathtakingly enchanting forests. He is also interested in social justice and is involved in environmental justice groups on campus, working to get the university to divest its endowment from fossil fuels. His dream is to apply his skills to make a difference in the world, whether by the betterment of human lives or the fight for environmental protection. Among his other dreams are being a published author whose novels get turned into movies, or being a popular vlogger on YouTube. His essay, “Zombification and the Average Working Class in Shaun of the Dead,” analyzes the zombie film as a critique on social class in today’s society, and won a James E. Rice, Jr. Award for Spring 2013. He would like to thank his instructor, Matthew McConnell (English 1168: “Cultural Studies”), for making the class a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
The Importance of Being Bracknell | Huo '15
Yuezhou Huo, Arts and Sciences ’15, is an Economics and Comparative Literature major and German minor. Born in Shanghai, China, she wants to spend her undergraduate years exploring the flexibility of a liberal arts education. She hopes to study abroad in Germany during her time at Cornell. Her essay, “The Importance of Being Bracknell,” written for English 1270, “Writing About Literature: Doubling, Disguise, and Deceit in Drama,” won the Fall 2011 Adel- phic Award. The essay was written in response to Camille Paglia’s article on Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Ernest. She would like to thank her instructor, Stuart Davis, for his valuable advice and patient guidance.
The Execution of the Homosexual in Cather's "Paul's Case" | Moore '14
William Thomas Moore, Arts and Sciences ’14, is pursuing a major in Religious Studies and a minor in Education. He approaches these academic fields as an anarcho-Buddhist searching for anti-oppressive ways to cultivate spiritual life within the context of the American Empire. Writing his essay, “The Execution of a Homosexual in Cather’s “Paul’s Case’” provided a rare opportunity for him to explore his loves of literature and queer theory. Many thanks are due to Daniel Radus (English 1170, “Short Stories”) for his elegant and compassionate facilitation of the class discussions that gave rise to this essay, which won a James E. Rice, Jr. award in Spring 2012. At the time of this writing, Tom is on personal leave from Cornell, attempting to locate a constructive balance between his academic interests, his community organizing work, his art, and his spiritual practice.
Aztec Human Sacrifice | Young '15
Nathaniel Young, Agriculture and Life Sciences ’15, is a Biological Sciences major from Buffalo, New York. Ecology and particularly ornithology are his primary academic passions, although he wishes he had more time to write amidst all of his science courses. His essay “Aztec Human Sacrifice: Primitive Fanaticism or Genius of Empire” which won the Fall 2012 Elmer Markham Johnson Prize, stems from an elementary school social studies project that trans- formed the topic into a morbid fascination, fused with a more recent general interest in anthropology and religion. Written for Anthropology 1157 “Of Spirit: Religion, Energy, and the Production of Knowledge,” Nathaniel would like to thank his instructor, Courtney Work, for dedicating her efforts towards improving his writing, be- sides conducting a truly exciting class.
Re: New Political Violence Electronic Futures Market | Sordillo '12
Nathan Sordillo graduated in 2012 from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. An Applied Economics and Management major from Nashua, New Hampshire, Nathan’s essay “Re: New Political Violence Electronic Futures Market” won an honorable mention for the Spring 2012 Knight Prize for Writing in the Majors. The essay, a chilling imaginary memorandum from the fictional president of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, was written for Christopher Barrett’s Applied Economics and Management 2000 seminar “Contemporary Controversies in the Global Economy.”
The Arms Trade | Dillon '12
John Dillon, who graduated from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2012, was a Biological Sciences major from Albany, New York. His essay “The Arms Trade: A Critical Look” tried to balance the economic and geopolitical benefits of the arms trade against its moral and political drawbacks in escalating violence. The essay was written for Charles Geisler’s Development Sociology 4810 seminar “Global Conflict and Terrorism” and won a Spring 2012 Neil Lubow Prize.
The Good Human and the Evil Koopa | Chen '16
Samantha Chen, Arts and Science ’16, is a Computer Science major from Walnut, California. She finds game design to be a fascinating subject and plans to enter video game design in the future. Her essay “The Good Human and the Evil Koopa: Designing Friends and Foes in Video Games” addresses the relationships between player age, character design, and violence in video games. The essay was written for Catalina Iricinschi’s Psychology 1140 seminar “The Power of Storytelling” and won a Spring 2013 James E. Rice, Jr. Award. Samantha thanks her instructor, Catalina, for her valuable guidance and support.
Where and Who are You? | Harmon '15
Rachel Harmon, Industrial and Labor Relations ’15, is from Champaign, Illinois. Her essay “Where and Who Are You: The Fragmentation of the Black Population in Ithaca,” an ethnographic history of a significant aspect of local African-American experience, was written for Catherine Koehler’s Anthropology 1129 seminar “The Rust Belt” and won a Fall 2011 Elmer Markham Johnson Prize.
From the Director | Paul Sawyer
College writing, it’s often assumed, has nothing to do with the real world. Compared to the serious work of government, the media, or the workplace, college essays, according to this view, belong to a genre of make-believe somewhere between athletics and exams. Students write to an assignment,imagine an audience who is always the course instructor, deposit the finished result for a grade, collect the credit, and move on towards graduation. The best they can achieve in this system is a stellar grade—the mark of possibly great potential, to be appreciated some day by parents or employers. This system may indeed give students excellent training and enrich their abilities to read and think and analyze; but viewed from a different light, it permits only one-half of a process, cut off at the very point where writing in the real world gets its purpose: the audience.
Discoveries not only represents some of the best writing done by Cornell undergraduates; it also completes the arc that began with an assignment by converting the graded essay into a form of knowledge. Knowledge is com- munication, a collective legacy shared by a community of readers; without readers, the most brilliant insights remain private possessions, deprived of the power to startle or move, to alter the thinking of others, to broaden their vicarious experience, or to change the world. As readers (the ultimate recipients), we complete the arc, but we can reverse it as well, reading back through the pages to the mind of the author but also to the teacher who assigned the paper and possibly coached it through several stages; to the fellow students who contributed discussions and the roommate who argued with it; to the texts it responds to; and to the writing program and its administrators. The myth of the solitary student writer producing a solitary “A” is only a myth; all writ- ing is social, though the college essay is typically the least so. By restoring the full social dimension to the essays it contains, this volume of Discoveries represents an end and a beginning: the culmination of many people’s efforts in the Knight Institute programs, as well as a starting-point—of further reflections, debates, and discoveries.
From the Editor | David Faulkner
The current issue of Discoveries incorporates prize-winning essays from the past two academic years. These exhibit a gratifyingly familiar range and diversity in terms of subject matter, genre, and voice, as well as representing the full spectrum of courses and colleges. It is a particular strength of Cornell’s cultures of writing that they encourage essays directed not only to “academic” readerships but to audiences beyond the university; in our writing courses, the authority to speak can derive from personal experience and imaginative empathy as well as hard-won scholarly knowledge. Dunedin Strickland and Pallavi Basu offer lyrical, autobiographical reflections on unique cultural experienc- es, while the next group of writers explores various styles of writing about the sciences, from the relatively formal genre of the research proposal (Alexa Hilmer), to the historical and ethnographic contextualizing of biomedicine (Ethan Dickinson) and acoustics (“River” Granados), to popular journalism explaining new discoveries to the general public (David Fox). We are especially pleased at the robust “science writing” elicited by Knight Writing Prize competitions. The committees who judge these prizes can testify to the depth and quality of submissions in all categories, a bench strength that can only be hinted at by the starting lineup appearing in these pages.
Of course, the current issue also amply reflects the literary, historical, and cultural analysis emerging from the humanities seminars that form the backbone of the First-Year Writing Seminar program. These include readings of popular films such as Vertigo or Shaun of the Dead (Samantha Gobioff and You-Chi Wu, respectively). Dramatic and literary criticism are represented by Yuezhou Huo’s essay on Oscar Wilde and Tom Moore’s on Willa Cather. Moore’s piece, an exploration of the homophobia both mobilized and critiqued in Cather’s fiction, makes an intriguing bridge to our final group of writers, all of whom investigate various forms of cultural, political, and racial violence. Nathaniel Young synthesizes ethnographic and archeological evidence to interpret the expansionist motivations behind Aztec ritual sacrifice; Nathan Sor- dillo devises a chilling fictional memorandum concerning a proposal for a fu- tures market in predicting terrorist incidents. Even if the violence in question remains only potential or virtual, enabled by the profit-driven ventures of the global arms trade or the video-games market, its ethical dimensions demand the kind of careful inquiry undertaken by John Dillon and Samantha Chen. Rachel Harmon’s research into the fragmentation of Ithaca’s African-Ameri- can community brings us full circle, moving back toward Strickland’s elegy for an Inuit identity disappearing under the pressure of technological moder- nity. To recover the silenced experience of history’s victims; to feel the tragedy of species extinction; to give voice to the wordless expression of dance, music, or visual tableau; to inhabit the mindset of an innovative researcher or an invented character—these are all extraordinary feats of imagination as well as of patient inquiry. If any single quality unites the essays in this issue, it must be the way that their impressive scholarship is tempered and enriched by deep human sympathy.