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Name: Jessica Freidly
Honors in: French
Hometown: Lancaster, PA
Title of project: Classical Mythology in French Literature
Abstract or brief description: This study focuses on ancient Greek tragedies featuring figures of classical mythology that have been rewritten by new playwrights since their original performance, specifically in France. The plays studied include Euripides’s Medea and Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex from fifth-century BCE Athens; Seneca’s Medea from first-century CE Rome; Pierre Corneille’s Médée and Œdipe from seventeenth-century France; and Jean Anouilh’s Médée and Jean Cocteau’s La Machine Infernale from twentieth-century France. This study examines the changes among the three or four different versions of the same story, and how these changes reflect changing cultural values and the philosophies of individual playwrights.
How did you get interested in your topic? I have always found classical mythology interesting, and I also love going to the theatre (although I personally suffer from stage fright!). When in the course of my French studies I learned how many French plays in the 17th and 20th centuries were based in classical mythology, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about this phenomenon and why these ancient stories are still relevent today and have been for thousands of years.
Do you intend to research your topic further, if so, how? I would like to go to graduate school, and so at some point I could definitely see myself coming back to this topic and these plays, and perhaps using the same methods to study some of the many other examples of French plays based on ancient plays.
How did you benefit academically by conducting research/participating in honors? One skill that I learned was how to manage a timeline for a project spanning almost an entire academic year, and it helped me learn to motivate myself to get work done before an official deadline was looming. It also helped with my research skills, and going in front of the exam panel helped me to gain some experience presenting and defending my work.
How has the department in which you studied prepared you for the future? It has given me a solid foundation not only in French language but also critical literary studies.
What advice do you have for other students interested in honors? Know that it is a lot of work--so don't let yourself wait till the last minute and try not to take too many other demanding classes at the same time, especially during the second semester. Most importantly, choose a topic that truly interests you so you don't get sick of it!