Student presenting at Senior Symposium. Text reads: Humanities

Student Abstracts: Shattuck - Panel C


Jingyi Dai, Art History and Architectural Studies
Provenance of Capital with Harpies of the MHCAM and Its Monstrous Theme
Project advisors: Christine Andrews, Michael Davis

This project investigates the provenance of the sculpture Capital with Harpies in the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, explores its style that was prevalent in the Languedoc and Catalan regions along the pilgrimage routes toward Santiago de Compostela from the 11th to the 13th century, and considers how medieval spectators viewed and comprehended monstrous imagery in architectural environments.

Monstrous themes in architectural sculpture were common along the pilgrimage route, and capitals were previously known as fragments with no specific architectural context. However, my study shows that the harpy capital with its Central-North Spanish attribution can be more specifically located in Languedoc through examining monstrous capitals from Languedoc and Catalan regions. 1 My discovery makes it possible to evaluate the meaning of the capital within a set of images gathered from the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Musée des Augustines. I then reconstruct the capital’s possible architectural environment. To further understand the meaning and purpose of the capital with harpies, I consider capitals as decorated yet functioning structures within a larger architectural context and examine the harpy capital’s possible architectural surroundings. Specifically, I compare the harpy capital with those in situ to better comprehend the situations in which decorative capitals and the monstrous theme were used.2

The hypothesis is that the MHCAM harpy capital was possibly a cloister capital among an ensemble depicting imagined scenes and creatures. This suggests that harpies might have functioned as visual stimulants urging viewers to think about theological concepts with their wondrous – even horrifying – appearance. This conclusion goes a step further than existing scholarship exploring the moral and social meanings of monsters.3 Finally, I attempt to understand the monstrous sculptures within the context of prevailing schemes of classification. Though medieval scholars and viewers hope to scientifically understand these creatures as divine creations through bestiaries and sculptural programs, monster classification belies an inner tension: the meanings of monsters were fluid and viewer-site-dependent. If monster classification offered a rational way of approaching God, the peripheral visually agitating monstrous capitals might have served as the means that directed the audience towards the sacred by first distracting them from and then pushing them to the holiness in the center.
1 Walter Cahn and Linda Seidel, Romanesque Sculpture in American Collections (New York: Franklin,
2 "CENOBIUM Project", Cenobium.Isti.Cnr.It, March 20, 2022, https://cenobium.isti.cnr.it/.
3 Debra Higgs Strickland, Saracens, Demons & Jews: Making Monsters in Medieval Art (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 2003); Kirk Ambrose, The Marvellous and the Monstrous in the Sculpture of
Twelfth-Century Europe (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2017).
4 Robert Mills, Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015); Lilian M.
C. Randall, Images in the Margins of Gothic Manuscripts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966).

Rachael Amoruso, Classics and Italian
The Little Princess, the Witch, and the Broom: Translating Italian Children's Literature
Project advisor: Ombretta Frau

Bianca Pitzorno has crafted a career in storytelling for both children and adult audiences that has produced over 40 novels celebrated in many languages around the world. Despite her reputation as one of the most successful Italian authors of children’s literature with about one third of her books published in translation, Pitzorno has only recently begun to be translated into English by London-based publishers: in 2017 by Alma Books, which released The House in the Tree, followed by two more English translations in 2018 by Catnip Publishing, with titles The Littlest Witch and Lavinia and the Magic Ring. 1

I have translated Pitzorno’s A cavallo della scopa into English and present a translation titled Riding the Broom. This project pursues what initially drew me to Pitzorno’s work: a unique writing style that meets children at eye level with unsimplified language and the understanding that they, too, experience life’s critical issues and can benefit from honesty and respect in their literature.2 In this novel, readers see Pitzorno’s two primary female characters navigating class issues and relationships with authority figures.

My literary analysis seeks to investigate the importance of translating world literature for children. Furthermore, my experience as a translator is also an essential element of this study, for it has informed a further understanding of the text. A cavallo della scopa is full of learning possibilities, and has prompted me to consider the ways in which the literature we read as children fulfills and shapes us as we grow.
1 Lydia Kokkola, “Bianca Pitzorno,” Bookbird: A Journal of International Children’s Literature 50, no. 2 (April 2012): 32, doi:10.1353/bkb.2012.0035.
2 Melissa Garavini, “Bianca Pitzorno: Imagination and Feminism,” Bookbird: A Journal of International Children’s Literature 50, no. 4 (2012): 91-93.

Morgan Sammut, English
Writing Robots: Exploring Queer Identity Through Non-Human Entities
Project Advisor: Andrea Lawlor

In science fiction, often when there is a robot character, their narrative is all about them learning how to navigate the world and beginning to discover their own feelings. However, if a robot is meant to be a logical and objective being, they must redefine what emotion means specific to their experience and cultivate their sense of self – a narrative which is ultimately a queer one. My project is a hypertext prose piece from the point of view of a robot as they go through their day-to-day life alongside their creator, dealing with these struggles of identity and redefinition in a world that wasn’t made for them.

Ava Provolo, Spanish, Latina/o, and Latin American Studies
Fill Me Up: Developing a Comedy Television Series From Scratch
Project Advisor: Esther Castro

As a television screenwriter, I am always in pursuit of novel storytelling methods. The purpose of this project is to further hone my skills and discover how best to portray the realities of womanhood through a comedic lens. I first gained a better understanding of the screenwriting craft and the creative process by reading classic screenwriting books1 with a particular focus on ones written by women.2 I already had elements of my pilot script written but once I acquired more expertise from fellow women screenwriters, I began to develop the storyboard I have which consisted of outlining the major acts and beats that I wanted to include in the episode.

The bulk of my project was finishing the pilot script and creating the series bible--essentially a blueprint for the show, including in-depth analysis of characters and an outline of the major story arcs for the entire season--for the proposed show. Initially, I wanted to develop ideally the first few episodes of the show but upon further research, I discovered that it would be far more practical to create a show bible before diving into writing more of the show. The working logline of the show is: June, a mid-20s neurotic street musician, attempts to make more money to become a professional musician by creating a low-budget cooking/baking show with a friend-of-a-friend.

Overall, the goal of my project was to build on my foundational understanding of television writing, create a story arc for my show, and write a significant part of my show so as to enter my career post-graduation with a substantial portfolio of work. The critical-thinking skills I have developed over my time at Mount Holyoke were considerably helpful as I was able to represent the inherent intersectionality present in media in order to create a show that reflects the diversity of the human experience; I paid particular attention to writing a comedy that does not dismiss the experiences of marginalized groups, but rather brings them to light in a way that resonates with folks who often do not see themselves in comedic representations. My focus was especially on women (and women of color) who suffer from mental illness(es) as that is so rarely represented in television. Furthermore, by reading screenwriting books written by women, I was able to gain a more personal perspective on the industry and what it means to be a woman working in a male-dominate field.
1 Sandler, Ellen. The TV Writer's Workbook: A Creative Approach to Television Scripts. Delta Trade Paperbacks,
2 Carter, Judy. The Comedy Bible from Stand-up to Sitcom: The Comedy Writer's Ultimate How-to Guide. New York,
NY: Atria, 2019.

So Hess, Art Studio
Grounding Objects, Grounded Body: Exploring land history through environmental art & zine-making
Project Advisor: Gina Siepel

“Grounded Objects, Grounded Body” is an independent creative project exploring the artist’s somatic experience of environment in various California landscapes during the summer of 2021. In this presentation, So will explain their methods and experience of creating an interdisciplinary environmental art project that utilized many mediums from sculpture and photography to performance art and zine-making.

Using 100% natural, nontoxic materials to create small sculptures in-situ, So positioned and photographed these objects to their body to the land. Chosen sites were selected based upon the somatic experience of visiting them, with subsequent research into their ecological histories revealing the disturbed nature of many sites, prompting the artist to reflect on the melancholy of unraveling ecologies. So explored the experience of their colonized body in a colonized landscape, connecting the histories of colonization and environmental destruction.

This project exists in conversation with Ana Mendieta’s Silhuetas, aiming to use the body as a tool to subvert the canonical portrayal of landscape as pristine and passive. Instead of centering the documenting photographs on the human body with natural background, these photographs use the body and objects as conduits for exploring characteristics of these disturbed landscapes, from the dry heat of the cattle lands to the haunting overwhelm of eucalyptus-ivy groves.

So used found and biodegradable materials to create works that were installed in-situ and left to decompose over time, alike to Cecilia Vicuña’s temporal environmental installations, Precarios. 1 The fragile and temporary nature of this art practice reflects the fragile and temporary nature of our contemporary ecologies.

So will present these ephemeral experiences as documented in a zine titled Grounded Object // Grounded Body, a compilation of in-situ sculpture and performance photographs, process sketches, and reflective writings.
1 De Zegher, Catherine. “Ouvrage: Knot a Not, Notes as Knots”. The Precarious Art and Poetry of Cecilia Vicuña. University Press of New England, 1997.