Three Hilo students
From left: Emily Burkhart, Alexander Coley, Kiaria Zoi Nakamura

Three English majors from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo presented their original papers at a prestigious research symposium hosted by Johns Hopkins University.

Emily Burkhart, Alexander Coley and Kiaria Zoi Nakamura (co-author of this story) applied to present their research virtually at the Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium under the guidance of Kirsten Møllegaard, professor and chair of the UH Hilo English department.

“This symposium was a wonderful opportunity for Emily, Alexander and Zoi to showcase their work in a national context and to gain experience as presenters in a large-scale academic setting,” said Møllegaard. “Their participation in the Johns Hopkins symposium demonstrates the strength and relevance of the skills they’ve acquired in their undergraduate studies at UH Hilo.”

All three students are graduating this spring and spent months preparing, revising and practicing for their presentations, which premiered April 24–25. This unique opportunity granted them the chance to share their research and findings to other students and scholars across the country and world.

Emily Burkhart

Burkhart is a double major in English and gender and women’s studies. Her presentation was part of a larger project she is finishing up for her gender and women’s studies capstone project, “It is So Much Easier to Despair: Whiteness and Narcissistic Despair in Popular Cli-Fi.” Cli-Fi refers to climate fiction literature, which focuses on climate change and global warming.

“The aim of the project is to complicate widespread understandings of the Anthropocene (a proposed geological epoch reflecting climate change) and ultimately argue that white-authored climate fiction perpetuates settler colonialism by erasing various Indigenous interpretations of climate change,” Burkhart explained.

Alexander Coley

English major Coley’s project, “Body Politics: Traditionalism and Adaptation in Titus Andronicus,” centers on an analysis of traditionalism in Shakespeare’s ghastly Roman tragedy, Titus Andronicus.

“My project presents three instances in which the play’s protagonist, the titular Titus, furthers his family’s anguish by blindly enforcing Roman law and tradition,” Coley said.

Pulling from independent feminist and historical analyses, his project built a case against uncritical acceptance of tradition. Coley added, “In my conclusion, I highlight that traditionalism is not only dangerous, but futile, as the play’s end ushers in an era of change.”

Kiaria Zoi Nakamura

Nakamura is majoring in English with a minor in performing arts and a certificate in educational studies. Although she also focused on the works of Shakespeare for her presentation, “Reflective Relevance: A Contemporary Examination of Shakespeare’s Othello,” Nakamura took on a different approach to better understand how to read, analyze and teach his works in the classroom.

“Shakespeare’s works are woven into the fabric of nearly every English subject classroom, being the most cited author within the Common Core English Language Arts Standards,” said Nakamura. “However, with growing efforts to decolonize the curriculum, the question as to whether or not Shakespeare ought to be on the chopping block, is regularly revisited.”

For more go to UH Hilo Stories.

—Story by Kiaria Zoi Nakamura and Susan Enright