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Outstanding humanities graduate students receive Hall Center research awards

Thursday, June 26, 2014

LAWRENCE – The Hall Center for the Humanities has recognized several outstanding humanities graduate students with dissertation research and writing awards. The awards are part of the Center’s significant level of support for graduate research.

Angela Moots, a doctoral candidate in French and Italian, and Claire Wolnisty, a doctoral candidate in history, have been selected as the recipients of the Richard and Jeannette Sias Graduate Fellowship in the Humanities for 2014-15. The two winners will each spend a semester in residence at the Hall Center.

The goal of the Richard and Jeannette Sias Graduate Fellowship is to provide the recipients with one intensive semester to make significant progress on the dissertation. The fellowship also seeks to expand the Fellows’ experience beyond a single disciplinary focus by providing the opportunity for interaction with the Hall Center’s interdisciplinary cohort of faculty and public fellows. The Fellowship is made possible through a gift from Richard and Jeannette Sias of Oklahoma City, for whom the award is named.

Moots’s dissertation project, titled “Perceptions of Syncope in Medieval French Literature: The Function and Cultural History of Fainting,” examines the narrative and dramatic functions of syncope, or fainting, in medieval medicine and Old French literatures. Fainting, Moots said, excites interest because of the spectacle it creates and the way it enriches narration. Incidents of fainting create pauses in the text that highlight certain events and characteristics, externalize emotions and sufferings, dramatize illnesses and unveil hidden love. Her dissertation looks at examples of syncope from the earliest appearances of fainting in medieval French literature beginning with the 11th-century hagiographical text "La Vie de Saint Alexis" and continuing to the 13th-century Arthurian prose romances of the Vulgate Cycle. Interestingly, the evolving and increasing role of syncope in literature coincides with the increasing popularity of medical learning, treatments and herbals during the High Middle Ages.

Moots received bachelor's degrees in French and biology from the University of Arkansas in 2006 and began her doctoral program in French literature at KU in 2009. She is the co-editor of Chimères: A Journal of French and Francophone Literatures and Cultures, and she has presented at the Mid-American Medieval Association Conference and the International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Wolnisty’s dissertation project, “Austral Empires: Southern Migration to Central and South America, 1845-1877,” focuses on the thousands of white southerners who left the southern states to migrate to Latin American countries from 1845-1877. She argues that southern migrants and filibusters from states such as Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas grappled with questions about American identities as they left the geographic confines of the United States during the Civil War ra. Wolnisty intends to examine the movement of people from the American South to southern countries to highlight the networks between the Civil War-era United States and Latin America, as well as to include Latin America in her discussion of the South’s object of becoming a beacon of racial truth for the world.

Wolnisty received her bachelor's in history from Creighton University in 2010, a master's degree in American history from KU in 2012, then began her doctoral program in 2013. She has several published entries on the Kansas City Public Library Project Civil War on the Western Border, and she recently served as a panel commentator on “Rescuing Voices from Critical Conflicts in the Nineteenth Century” through the History and American Studies departments at Creighton.

In addition to the Sias Fellowships, four outstanding graduate students were selected for Graduate Summer Research Awards. The awards offer summer support for graduate students engaged in humanistic dissertation research and writing. The goal of the awards is to make possible full-time dissertation work for the months of June and July.

The four winners:

  • Pooya Naderi, sociology, “Suicidal Masculinities; Social Control from Above, Below, and Within since 9/11”
  • Claire Wolnisty, history, “Austral Empires: Southern Migration to Central and South America, 1845-1877”
  • Kenton Rambsy, English, “Mapping African American Short Stories, 1889-2014”
  • Jaclyn Miller, history, “Financing the Frontier: Bankers and the Development of the Central Great Plains, 1870-1941.”

The four students organize the Interdisciplinary Graduate Research Workshops during the academic year following the summer of support, where they will present their own work. The Hall Center will post workshop meeting dates on its website. The Graduate Summer Research Awards are made possible by the generous support of the Friends of the Hall Center.