Congratulations to our 2017 Rose Olver Prize Winners Margaret Banks and Ayoung Kim!
Margaret Banks '17
Department of English Honors Thesis
Unbecoming Black Girls in Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John and Ntozake Shange’s Betsey Brown
Abstract: The Black Female Bildungsroman is often studied in regards to its distinctions from the traditional Bildungsroman, which features a white male protagonist. The main difference cited by those such as, Geta Leseur and Pin-Chia Feng is the genre’s focus on the process of identity construction, which often remains unfinished and uncertain for protagonists at the novel’s close. However, there are few resources analyzing what this process looks like, especially for Bildungsromane focusing solely on the protagonists’ girlhood. My thesis explores this process further through a reading of Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John (1985) and Ntozake Shange’s Betsey Brown (1985). In the novels, the protagonists’identity construction occurs through a series of creative disidentificatory performances. I frame my understanding of disidentifications, a term coined by José Esteban Muñoz, as “unbecoming” or how Annie and Betsey unravel their mothers’ stringent scripts of black girlhood, while simultaneously creating their own. Such a process - a meticulous navigation of outdoor spaces, daring and dynamic friendships, and performances on parade floats and in coruscating scarlet fabric– entails a certain level of artistry. As such, my thesis concludes by categorizing Annie John and Betsey Brown as Künstlerroman, or the coming-of-age novel of an artist. Doing so gives back artistic space often denied to black girls and women, and emphasizes the wonder of Annie and Betsey’s characters – that even as the two undo, they create. That even as the definitions of black girlhood are limited daily, Annie and Betsey continue to expand them, all the while, fashioning wondrous pieces of art – themselves.
Ayoung Kim '17
Department of Political Science Honors Thesis
Toward the Right to Sexual Autonomy
Abstract: The dominant narrative in feminist academia and the public imagination is that anti-rape legal reforms from the 70s to the 90s have successfully addressed sexual violence. Yet, abundant qualitative and quantitative data not only confirm that the problem persists in wide scale, but also suggest that the current approach of exclusively relying on criminal law is far from conducive to victims’ long-term empowerment. While keeping criminal law as one option for women, feminists must develop an extra-criminal framework—one that does not stop at complementing criminal law’s shortcomings but goes beyond and fundamentally improves how we understand and respond to sexual violence. This thesis presents ‘the right to sexual autonomy’ as one way to accomplish these objectives. Specifically, this thesis articulates (a) what the right to sexual autonomy is and what its implications are; (b) how we can—and must—conceptualize the inability to exercise this right as a symptom of systemic inequalities; and (c) the political commitments needed to actualize this right. By both rejecting the dominant narrative of finished business and providing a concrete extra-criminal paradigm, this thesis reorients and reinvigorates our currently stalled discussion on sexual violence.