Tuesday, September 9, 2014

URSP Student Georgia Wood Researches the Influence of Dante on Morrison

Over the course of my undergraduate studies, I have become interested in how texts influence and speak to each other in a variety of ways. It’s fascinating how works written hundreds of years ago can be found hidden within the novels we read in the modern day. In a course on Dante’s Inferno, I learned his influence permeates into many contemporary novels and other mediums of art. After discovering that some critics believe Toni Morrison’s trilogy responds to the Divine Comedy, I decided I wanted to investigate the connections between the two to see if the claim rings true. Through the URSP program and the support of my mentor Professor Kristina Olson, I have been able to research the overt, and not-so-overt, influence of Dante on Morrison to consolidate into a literature review that will later be turned into an article.

On a weekly basis, I work with either primary or secondary texts in order to strengthen my argument by seeing where others have been previously. As I am creating a literature review, I find both the strengths and the weaknesses in the articles to find where research is lacking in the current critical conversation. In addition, I have been working with the texts to find my own connections between the works. This week, I have begun to add these personal assertions to the established criticism. For example, the two intermediate works, Dante’s Purgatorio and Morrison’s Jazz, include images of birds. Dante dreams of an eagle that lifts him, and Morrison draws on that image within her novel to showcase the range of potential for her characters’ mobility, physically and otherwise.  As I hope to continue my studies in graduate school, this project has provided me the valuable opportunity to learn the research process under the guidance of a supportive mentor. At the beginning of this project, I struggled with how I could say anything that had not been said before. I’ve learned now the importance of research to the academic world, and how discovering information that has not been said only opens the door to more.