2010-2011 Honors Student
Name: Kate Brueningsen
Honors in: English
Hometown: Bethlehem, PA
Major(s): English, French (Medieval Studies minor)
Title of project: The Consciousness Aware of Itself: Gothic Doubling and the Dissolution of the Enlightenment Model of the Self
Abstract or brief description: In the eighteenth century, Enlightenment philosophy began to dominate the academic world of Western Europe. Emphasizing rationalism, individual autonomy, scientific inquiry, the application of scientific method to social issues, and the superiority of human reason to nature, Enlightenment thinkers formed a model of the individual and his/her personality as inherently rational and unified, positing that man is capable of fully controlling himself and his surroundings. In doing such, contemporary thinkers pit the individual against the social and the scientific against the enigmatic. Philosophers of the time embraced emerging scientific advances with a revolutionary fervor, applying the new principles of scientific inquiry to the self and to the social. Philosophers such as John Locke and William Godwin argued that humankind is capable of constant improvement because reason is our governing attribute. Where the Enlightenment contributed to success in other domains, namely scientific and political, it was not so successful in asserting the fully rational, unified self. This failure seems to have been reflected in the literature of the era. Gothic writers of the nineteenth century repeatedly bring into question the Enlightenment model of the unified self through the use of character doubling. Such doubling presents the argument that the individual has aspects inherently irrational, the suppression of which can cause a violent division in the personality, thereby deconstructing the rational model of the self. In order to address this issue, this paper examines works of literature such as Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, William Wilson, and The Picture of Dorian Gray to examine how Gothic doubling reveals the flaws inherent in the Enlightenment model of the self.
How did you get interested in your topic? I originally wanted to combine Medieval Studies and studies of Gothic Literature. However, in the course of my research I found myself more attracted to the latter, specifically the concept of doubling. In exploring the purpose and function of the double within the literature, I became interested in the idea of looking for the historic and philosophic roots, the reasons why the double emerged in the Gothic period.
Do you intend to research your topic further? If so, how? I intend to further explore the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in English literature at the graduate level in my Masters dissertation.
How did you benefit academically by conducting research/participating in honors? The Honors program has definitely better prepared me for my graduate studies and given me a sense of academic confidence and independence that I feel will be very valuable to me in my future endeavors.
How has the department (or faculty advisor) prepared you for the future? The English Department at Moravian College has challenged me to view literature through various lenses, exploring the historical, psychological, and political motivations behind a work, as well as how the more formal aspects of writing such as grammar and structure can greatly impact the work's reception. Being taught and guided by faculty who are genuinely passionate about what they teach also has fostered my love for literature.
What advice do you have for other students interested in honors? Don't overestimate yourself. The Honors program does not have to be overwhelming if you pace yourself and set realistic goals. I'm the kind of person who normally took five classes per semester, plus leadership and club activities, plus holding down a job on the weekends, but I knew that if I was undertaking a large research project, I had to make room for it. You're not superman. Don't take on more than you can handle, and allow yourself time to relax every once in a while.