The Department of Classical Studies is proud to announce that three of our undergraduates have won an LSA Honors Award this semester!
The LSA Honors Program selects graduating Honors students, nominated by their department of Honors major, to receive awards for producing outstanding senior theses or projects or for overall excellence in their discipline. These honorary awards, established by alumni and friends of Honors, are named for respected individuals, many who have made important contributions to their field of study.
Click on each below to expand and read about their theses and comments from faculty.
Shannon Burton has received the Terrence McDonald Award for "the finest thesis which made substantial use of archives or museums." Shannon's thesis, Feeding the Roman World: A Reevaluation of Granary C65 from Karanis, was directed by Arthur Verhoogt. David Stone was the second reader.
In his nominating letter, Arthur Verhoogt writes:
"Shannon is among the most mature students I have worked with during 20 years of teaching at the University of Michigan. I have never taught her in a class setting, but from her sophomore to senior year I have mentored her in various research projects, first under the umbrella of the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), then as an independent study, and in her senior year as she wrote her Honors Thesis. Intellectually, I rank Shannon in the top 5 percent of undergraduate students, and in her capacity of carrying out innovative research already at the undergraduate level, I rank her in the top 2 percent. Shannon can work independently and, in dealing with masses of unpublished data kept in museum and library archives, has a superb grasp of what is important and what is not for the research question at hand.
Shannon’s Honors Thesis, Feeding the Roman World: A Reevaluation of Granary C65 from Karanis, is an intellectual tour-de-force that is hardly ever seen on the undergraduate level.
Shannon’s Honors Thesis is a model for how careful archival research and collecting of sources, combined with the right amount of historical imagination, can lead to interesting and exciting discoveries, also on the undergraduate level. This is what undergraduate research should be all about."
In his nominating letter, David Stone writes:
"One thing that I really admired was the growth that I witnessed in Shannon’s progress toward through the writing process. Her first chapter, submitted in November, was a largely descriptive account of Egyptian history, geography, and archaeology. This was a necessary step that Shannon had to take to familiarize herself with the material, but in subsequent chapters, she learned how to identify problems and questions, research them, and present the data in an interesting fashion. Thus, the whole thesis documents nicely Shannon’s process of growing as a researcher, and her chapters three and four represent high-level undergraduate scholarship."
Catharine Fennessey has received the John J. Kennedy Award for excellence in writing and scholarship...with preference for students working in literature or poetry." Catharine's thesis, Transformation of Terence in Hrotsvitha’s Dramas, was directed by Donka Markus. Ruth Caston was the second reader.
In her nominating letter, Donka Markus writes:
"Edifying Entertainment in Hrotsvitha’s Dramas is an impressive piece of scholarship that showcases what a master of synthesizing information Catharine is. It is a complex thesis, combining source analysis of Hrotstvitha’s plays, analysis of her reception of Terence, and a broader contextualization of her as an author, educator and monastic figure within the historical and cultural context of her times. I was very impressed with the systematic approach Catharine had to her thesis writing and especially with her structured approach to the gathering of secondary sources. She created an annotated list of scholarly works on her topic and deftly applied references to multiple scholarly works even within one paragraph in her thesis. She is very well grounded in Hrotsvitha original texts, knows her dramas well, translates the Latin with accuracy and skill, and draws on multiple sources for in-depth analysis of her dramas. When she started the project, she knew very little about Terence, but with the guidance of Ruth Caston, found the best scholarship on him, read it and skillfully drew meaningful and insightful parallels between Terence and Hrotsvitha. Thus, her thesis is grounded in a Roman author from the early period of Latin Literature, and in a medieval female playwright. She skillfully teases out the various aspects of gendered discourse in the analysis of a female author who uses an ancient male playwright as her model. This gives Catharine’s thesis an amazing breadth and a chronological scope that spans more than a thousand years. Despite this broad scope, the thesis is well-focused and successfully sheds abundant light on the ways in which Hrotsvihta’s plays offered both education and entertainment to their contemporary audience."
Emma Reck has received the Patricia Kennedy Award for excellence in writing and scholarship. Emma's Thesis, The Acceptance and Rejection of Non-Normative Identities in the Ancient World, was directed by Ian Fielding. Aileen Daas was the second reader.
In his nominating letter, Ian Fielding writes:
"Since my appointment at Michigan in 2016, I have supervised several senior theses that draw attention to the agency of women in the society of ancient Rome, but I have not put another student forward for this prize before now. The reason I feel strongly about nominating Emma is that her study of attitudes towards intersex and other gender-non-conforming individuals in the ancient Mediterranean world, more effectively than any other piece of work I have examined in ten years of advising undergraduate research, combines scholarly excellence with an important social message.
Emma’s persistence with her project, in spite of [aforementioned] difficulties, demonstrates her deep commitment to highlighting the experiences of individuals who exist outside the traditional binaries of sex and gender, and have thus been confined for the most part to the margins of history.
Since completing her thesis before the beginning of the current term, Emma has been taking pre-medicine courses in preparation for applying to medical school. The motivation, independence, resourcefulness, and intellectual sophistication she showed in completing her thesis leaves me in no doubt that she has all the attributes necessary to succeed in her chosen career. I hope she will succeed—not least because it is important that the doctors of the future are able to understand the needs of patients who do not conform to the anatomical paradigms they have studied in textbooks. I am sure she would make a worthy winner of the Kennedy Prize, and I am very happy to give her my highest recommendation."
In her nominating letter, Aileen Daas writes:
"Emma should be lauded for choosing a theoretically challenging but timely topic that looks at how the gender binary has always been inadequate for capturing the full range of sexed and gendered experiences. Emma was on a steep learning curve with this project in that she not only had to come to grips with navigating outdated English translations of Greco-Roman texts that impose normative gender identities on gender queer characters/persons but also had to familiarize herself with current gender theory to describe trans and intersexed phenomena. I was impressed by the fact that she realized how inadequate core feminist scholarship in classics is for thinking through how the categories gender and also sex (which tends to be essentialized in this scholarship) are culturally inflected. This realization would be a mature insight for any younger researcher, not to mention an undergraduate. Her first thesis chapter offered a powerful critique of the gender binary that was informed by current trans scholarship that has yet to be widely integrated in pre-modern gender scholarship.
I want to end by emphasizing how highly I think of Emma’s commitment to integrating what she learned through the course of her thesis writing to her prospective career as a doctor. I consider it a success for the humanities when we show successfully how humanistic thinking has cross-disciplinary, real world impact."