Undergrad Research: American Studies Honors Symposium Thursday, 4/19

Today, we continue our recent trend of featuring undergraduate excellence by sharing with you more details about the American Studies Honors Symposium this Thursday, April 19, from 5 – 7pm in Burdine 436A:

This symposium will showcase the remarkable research of our undergraduate honors thesis writers in the Department of American Studies. Part One–consisting of three papers–will explore diverse topics related to Texas and its borderlands, including research on hydraulic fracturing; state educational standards in the social studies curriculum; and  an analysis of the drug war in Mexico and local efforts to resist violence with art and social activism. Part Two–comprised of three papers–will examine various modes of creative expression, ranging from rock-and-roll and its unlikely alliance of Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg, and Walt Whitman; boy choir schools and coming of age narratives in American culture;  and sport, Jack Kerouac and the creative process. Each presentation will be approximately ten to fifteen minutes in length. After each panel, there will be a discussion with the audience. There will be a short break between panels, as well as a reception after the panels are completed.

Kelli Schultz, “Our TEKS: A Theatrical Exploration of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills through Thornton Wilder’s Our Town”

Julie Reitzi, “Making Due and Making Change: Women and Youth of Ciudad Juarez Respond to the Drug War”

David Juarez, “Beating the Score: Jack Kerouac and the Sometimes Fantastical World of Baseball”

Miriam Anderson, “Just the Fracks: Hydraulic Fracturing in a Culture of Contradicting Proof”

Laci Thompson, “Always On a Tightrope: The Power of Contradiction and the Beauty of Rock Music as Seen Through the Work of Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg and Patti Smith”

Alexandria Chambers, “Rob(b)ed Boys: Employing Fiction to Introduce the Choirboy School Upbringing into the American Coming-of-Age Discourse”

We hope to see you there!

Undergrad Research: On Jack Kerouac and Sports

Kerouac, Kerouac

I have a confession to make: I am addicted to Jack Kerouac, and I’m pretty damn happy about that fact.

Since my junior year of high school, when I first picked up a copy of On the Road (leant to me by one of my favorite teachers, Amelia Bligh), I have been obsessed with his life and works, and those of his associates—Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso, Cassady, Snyder, etc. I think my extensive collection of over seventy Beat-related books can attest to that fact, not to mention the posters, the albums, and the films.

What always amuses me is that I didn’t react to On the Road the same way that most people do. I’ve heard stories of people reading it and suddenly wanting to pick up a rucksack and hit the road. I respect anyone who can just get up and go like that, but that’s not really my style. I hate driving.

No, when I first read that book, I wanted to hit the road in a different way; I wanted to explore it mentally, psychologically. I was passionate for the movement of Kerouac’s prose as it hurtled down the page. There’s nothing like being on the road, but there’s also nothing like hearing people talk about it as sincerely, as hauntingly, and as mythically as he did. The road I wanted to experience was literary, not literal.

It’s been five years and I’m still on the road with Kerouac. I’ve read nearly all of his novels, most of his poetry, and chunks of his short stories, correspondence, and journals. I’ve also read several biographies, watched documentaries, and explored analytical studies and interpretations of his works. It hasn’t always been a pleasant ride: the more time you spend with a person, the more you discover their faults and weaknesses. Kerouac was a troubled man, not unlike the other writers and artists he encountered. There were times when I had to step back and reevaluate my appreciation of him, my adoration. Even now, reading and hearing about his dismissal of his only daughter, his hate-filled rants about his wives and his friends, and, of course, his alcoholism, I wonder if I should stop the car and find a bus station somewhere.

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