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The Constellation Edition

The Constellation Edition


Asked to interpret the theme “Constellation,” this year’s cohort of FrameWorks Fellows took to the task with customary determination. That they conceived, researched, drafted, presented, redrafted, and edited a publication quality article amidst the demands on an undergraduate academic year is testament to their fortitude. All the more remarkable, then, is the variety of creative approaches you will find in this, the fourth issue of FrameWorks: A Journal of Undergraduate Research in the Interdisciplinary Humanities.

Some of writers treat constellations literally. For example, Adriana Lopez Cagijas grounds her thoughtful critique of the 2019 remake of Disney’s The Lion King in her disappointment that Mufasa does not appear to Simba in the form of a constellation as he did in the beloved 1994 film. In grappling with the significance of the meteoric iron dagger find in Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus, Skyler Houser looks to the place of the sky in Ancient Egyptian belief systems.

Some writers treated the theme metaphorically. For Nine Abad, the Santo Niño de Cebú serves as a north star, “a symbol to connect [Filipinos] to their heritage and worship practices both at home and in the diaspora.” Isha Merchant sees a north star in the Bollywood “item song:” “a way [for the South Asian Disapora] to orient themselves towards a nostalgic idea of ‘home.’”

Other writers put the idea of constellations to work as theoretical conceits, a way to give shape to the relationships between seemingly distant, tangentially connected ideas. Alivia Mayfield argues for an historiographi- cal approach to Alexander the Great that accommodates his complexity and inconsistency. For her, aspects of his character are “like the tesserae of a mosaic, or [stars of] a constellation.” For Kalena Holeman, vernacular translations of Dante’s Inferno establish “unexpected ligatures” across time and space, orienting Ralph Ellison and Derek Walcott, as well as other writers of the Black diaspora, to each other. Adolfo Salazar characterizes the holistic treatment plans of curanderas, practitioners of Mexican folk medicine, as “constellation[s] in which the body is but one estrella.” Curanderismo is different to allopathic medicine because of its integrated approach to “various other estrellas such as the patient’s emotional, mental, social, and spiritual well-being.”

We are proud to publish each of the ten pieces written by the 2022/2023 FrameWorks Fellows and hope you enjoy reading them. Many thanks to them for their hard work and to their mentors for their time and support.

This issue of FrameWorks is dedicated to the brilliant Audrey Gale Hall, an alumna of the FrameWorks program (2020/2021) and a generous advisor to the 2021/2022 cohort. Audrey passed away on February 9, 2023 at the age of 22; an incalculable loss. As a further tribute, we are republishing her in- cisive and urgent piece “Daughter of Breaking: Sexual Violence as Political Economy in Judge 19,” this time under her chosen name.

The Immunity Edition

The Immunity Edition


There is a sense of urgency about the essays in this, the third issue of FrameWorks: A Journal of Undergraduate Research in the Interdisciplinary Humanities. It is hardly surprising, given the times we live in and the theme we asked our undergraduate researchers to address: this is the “Immunity Edition.”

Our 2021-2022 cohort of FrameWorks Fellows thereby took on a complex task. Consider the journey the idea of “immunity” has been on in the public understanding over the past few years. Before COVID-19 made us pay closer attention, many of us may have understood “immunity” to suggest a state of impermeability or invulnerability. News cycles have since clarified that immunity can wax and wane and that viruses mutate again and again. With even fully vaccinated and boosted individuals susceptible to breakthrough infections, the idea that we can be fully immune now seems naïve. In addition, the legal and moral connotations of “immunity” (etymologically speaking, they predate the biomedical usage) have also received their share of airtime in the political and social tumult of the last few years.

Because the idea of “immunity” is something of a moving target, our Fellows had to approached it with discipline and ingenuity. Each of the articles contained in this issue uses immunity as a critical frame for careful, deliberative reflection. The result is a volume of undergraduate research and writing that speaks to the value of the interdisciplinary humanities: they offer us space and structure to slow down, to gather up our ideas and impressions, to organize our thoughts, and to do our best to understand world and our place in it in all its careening complexity.

For obvious reasons, the pandemic inflects much of the work that is printed here, with several articles addressing its social and cultural implications. Sarah Gawlik reads Oedipus Tyrannos to better understand the epistemological stakes arising from a collective crisis of biological immunity. Saamiya Syed questions the idea that we live in “unprecedented times” by considering the 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia as a microcosm of the present. Guadalupe Lombera argues that Paula Mendoza’s Immigrants are Essential installations – memorials to undocumented essential workers who died during the pandemic serve as a critique of anti-immigrant rhetoric that seeks to “immune” the United States from “foreign pathogens.”

Other FrameWorks Fellows consider immunity in its moral or legal as- pects. Esraa Wasel uses Medea’s seeming immunity from punishment in Euripides’ famous play as the basis for a discussion of moral character as a pretext for sentencing of convicted criminals. Angela Jardina considers the first installment of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather trilogy as a reflection on the rhetorical and political power of “family” to justify morally questionable actions. Ada Cinar examines the moral solipsism of rugged individuals in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men.

Finally, two FrameWorks Fellows use immunity as a metaphor to describe forms of artistic integrity. Akanksha Bhatia argues that Ken Garland’s “First Things First” manifesto played an important role in ensuring that the artistry and civic value of design (especially graphic design) was not completely overwhelmed by its commercial function. Elizabeth Spencer takes us through the movements of Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony, detailing Shostakovich’s and Yevtushenko’s critiques of the Soviet Union, at great risk to themselves and their careers.

As in previous years, each of these essays and the volume that contains them speak to the work ethic and endurance of FrameWorks Fellows, their faculty mentors, the Editorial Board, and numerous members of the Honors College staff. This third issue of FrameWorks: A Journal of Undergraduate Research in the Interdisciplinary Humanities is a testament to a collective effort of which, it is my fervent hope, each individual contributor is immensely proud.

The unknown Edition

The Unknown Edition


When we decided on the theme “Unknown” in early 2020, we thought it would be a stimulating prompt for our second cohort of intrepid undergraduate FrameWorks Fellows. 2020 was a presidential election year, after all. With information bubbles and targeted social media campaigns tailoring facts to biases, the divisions between belief and knowledge blurred. At such times (or so the pundit class tells us), dogmatic conviction projects strength, and un- certainty suggests weakness. Early in 2020, “Unknown” seemed a provocative countermand to the excess of “knowledge” to which the presidential election – surely the biggest story of the year – would subject us.

Little did we know.

If 2020-2021 was defined by anything, it was our collective state of “un- knowing.” As the pandemic raged, individuals, families, communities, nations, the globe were thrown into flux or, as Leonard Wang persuasively argues in this issue’s first article, a state of “liminality.” For many, the unquestioned underpinnings of daily lives – the safety of the very air they breathed – came to resemble shallow veneers, the mere semblance of order. And then George Floyd’s murder inflamed America. And then the election results were contest- ed. And then the Capitol was stormed. And then Winter Storm Uri brought Texas to its infrastructural knees. At such times (or so many of us have come to appreciate of late), it takes strength to live without certainty, without the answer; to live in the unknown.

This, the second issue of FrameWorks: A Journal of Undergraduate Research in the Interdisciplinary Humanities, attests to that strength. The writers featured here are themselves exemplary: each of their quality pieces was writ- ten at a very challenging time. Their interpretation of the theme is diverse, but there is an urgency to their collective voice. They remind us that the disorientation of the last year was extraordinary for its ubiquity, but that for many people, uncertainty has long been the rule rather than the exception.

So, Rana Mohamad’s tender essay details the shadow body existence of migrant women. Austin Kelly Mitchell invokes the humanity of a woman who is left unvoiced by Judges 19, a text in which she is traded, brutalized, and disarticulated. Morgan Thomas directs our attention towards the ways the triumphs and violence of the civil rights era continue to reverberate in the bodies of those who lived them. Rani Nune draws on the devastating last days of Henrietta Lacks’s life to think through the historical power imbalance between imperious physicians and African American women. Lauren Rochelle critiques the corporate exploitation of intimate Vodou faith practices developed, in part, under conditions of enslavement. The articles of Anna Mayzenberg and Erin Satterwhite anticipate escalating climate crises, examine the limits of unreflexive Western sustainability models, and gesture towards the radical potential of alternative perspectives.


The Wall Edition

The Wall Edition


Scaffolding and Parapets: The Interdisciplinary Humanities in Divided Times
“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offense.” - Robert Frost

Walls have served as metaphors for as long as literature has been writ- ten down. Just 11 cuneiform lines into Tablet I of The Epic of Gilgamesh, the first known recorded poem, we learn that great King Gilgamesh “built the rampart of Uruk-the-Sheepfold” (11; tablet 1). Uruk is not, of course, a literal sheep pen, but an early Bronze Age city. Uruk’s rampart (a broad stone wall that surrounds a city, typically with a parapeted walkway) protects its people from the predatory wilds.

Uruk was one of Mesopotamia’s – and the world’s – first attempts at urbanization. Early residents of Uruk would have decided that the benefits of living as a concentrated collective within their walls outweighed the freedoms of a more dispersed agrarian existence. The rampart, made possible only by collective effort, is therefore a symbol of advancement, strength and safety: “[ c]limb Uruk’s wall and walk back and forth! / Survey its foundations, examine the brickwork! / Were its bricks not fired in an oven?” (18-20; tablet 1). But the advantages of living behind the wall come at a tremendous cost: submis- sion to Gilgamesh, “the shepherd of Uruk-the-Sheepfold” (71; tablet1) whose “tyranny grows harsher” by the day (69; tablet 1). Uruk’s rampart, in other words, simultaneously safeguards and confines its residents.

Perhaps as an inevitable feature of having two sides, then, walls have long been depicted as contradictions made manifest. The same wall can be sublime in its vastness and despised for its impassability. It can serve simultaneously as a symbol of humanity’s ambition and excellence as well as its capacity for cruel and capricious division. A wall may represent a nation’s pride and steadfastness one day and be dismantled the next in celebration of resistance and change.

Given this ambivalence, perhaps the best possible perspective of any wall is astride it, or from its vertex. Homer understood this. In the Iliad, the ramparts of Troy repel the Achaeans for ten years. They are so secure that Trojan families thrive within even as Argives and Trojans alike perish in great number in the brutal war without. In Book IV Hector, the greatest Trojan warrior, returns to the city and finds his wife Andromache and their infant son Astyanax observing the battle from the ramparts. Fearing Hector’s death, Andromache begs him not to return to the battlefield. Hector, obsessed with winning glory, refuses. Dressed in full battle armor, he reaches for Astyanax. The boy recoils:

screaming out at the sight of his own father,
terrified by the flashing bronze, the horsehair crest,
the great ridge of the helmet nodding, bristling terror – so it struck his eyes. (559-562)

It makes sense that Homer should situate this episode on the great wall of Troy. It divides wholly unlike realities. What cannot be seen from either side is readily apparent from its heights. Astyanax’s scream is the perfect dissonant note; what is glorious on the battlefield is simply terrifying within the familial sphere.

It is precisely because walls evoke seemingly incommensurate perspec- tives that they are a fitting focus for the inaugural edition of FrameWorks: a Journal of Undergraduate Research in the Interdisciplinary Humanities. These are partisan times to which civil discourse often feels anathema. Too many of us live in media bubbles that affirm things we already think we know. We have fallen into habitual disagreement with perspectives other than our own, rather than listening to them to learn, understand, and empathize. We accept as self-evident the superiority of our side of the wall and disdain whatever lies on the other side, though we cannot see it and may even have no interest in doing so. As the French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault remarked, it is the work of critical inquiry to flush out “familiar, unchallenged, unconsidered modes of thought” and to “show that things are not as self-evident as one believed, to see that what is accepted as self-evident will no longer be accepted as such. Practicing criticism is a matter of making facile gestures difficult” (154).

To be a humanities scholar is to distrust that which seems obvious. It is to search for the best possible perspective from which to know ourselves and each other in all our contradictory complexity and nuance. To such ends thinkers and scholars before us have directed diverse and nuanced methodol- ogies at innumerable interests. In doing so, they built disciplinary traditions, some unique but mostly (especially in the age of interdisciplinarity) shared. All humanities scholars must contend with these traditions. History, perfor- mance studies, literary studies, ethnic studies, classics, art history, women’s and gender studies, philosophy (and so forth and so on) – all have established approaches that may be embraced, critiqued, imbricated with others, deconstructed, modified, rebuilt, and maybe even eventually rejected and replaced with new traditions. But they cannot be ignored. They are the scaffolding

(perhaps “framework” is a more appropriate word) that elevates our perspectives and the the parapets that keep us from falling.

Having their articles published in FrameWorks makes the inaugural cohort of FrameWorks Fellows contributors to the interdisciplinary humanities. Their work now plays a role in the incremental evolution of the best possible perspectives by which to know ourselves and each other. Just as importantly, their work has set the standard for future FrameWorks Fellows. That standard may one day be exceeded, but what is built in the future has its foundations between these covers.

It should not be forgotten that it takes tenacity to work through the messiness and fluidity of the writing process and to commit your thinking to a permanent, highly visible medium. There can be few published writers who have not feared the opinions of the readers they court. If you’ll forgive a misappropriation of J. Alfred Prufrock’s words, to write for publication is to anticipate “eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase, / [...] formulated, sprawl- ing on a pin, / [...] pinned and wriggling on the wall” (Eliot 5). Fearing just that, it is easy to get caught up, like T.S. Eliot’s intractably irresolute narrator, in a stultifying cycle of “decisions and revisions that a minute will reverse.”

And so, we applaud you, FrameWorks Fellows. Your commitment and courage is evidenced by the fact of your work’s publication here. For more than a year, you have researched, interpreted, deliberated between, and formulated ideas with care. You have endeavored to be precise in your arguments, accurate with your language, and judicious in your tone. These skills and virtues will stand you in good stead in the interdisciplinary humanities, as they will us all in these divided times.


If you have any questions, email Max Rayneard