Christian Litsey, an English major at IUPUC, was awarded the Second Prize for the IUURC Best Undergraduate Research Project at the Indiana University Undergraduate Research Conference, hosted virtually by the IU Kokomo campus on December 11, 2020. Litsey is the first IUPUC Liberal Arts student to win an IUURC award, and only the second IUPUC student to win in the conference’s 26-year history.
The Indiana University Undergraduate Research Conference (IUURC), established in 1994, is dedicated to promoting undergraduate research, scholarship and creative activity, in all fields of study, which is performed in partnership with faculty or other mentors as a vital component of an Indiana University undergraduate education at all nine campuses. Each year the IUURC Steering Committee invites a distinguished speaker to focus on a topic that would be of interest to all undergraduate researchers. Undergraduate researchers deliver oral or poster presentations, and engage in roundtable sessions where they discuss their research procedures and findings.
Litsey’s presentation paper, Mechanisms of Control: Literary Findings on the Ways Patriarchy Maintains Intellectual Power, analyzes literature by women and illuminates the various ways that patriarchal societies control the intellectual opportunities of women. Through the works of Amy Lowell, Gertrude Stein, and Zora Neale Hurston, Litsey reveals the three-part systematic control of the mental freedom of women that exists in a patriarchal society, namely the dictation of the social narrative; the establishment and enforcement of gendered roles that are expected to be acted out; and finally, the promise of violence for women who deviate from those expectations.
“No one has argued what Christian has argued with this particular set of texts, and his synthesis of feminist theories and important poetry and prose by women is impressive,” said Dr. Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick, who sponsored Litsey’s research project.
Litsey’s research included working closely with the output of 14 theorists and 42 women writers, spanning multiple genres. He wrote five separate papers, culminating in the paper presented at the conference, which required him to formulate a creative, substantive, responsible, and original thesis and argument.
Goodpeed-Chadwick provides insight into the challenges undergraduate literature students have when it comes to research and writing. “It's challenging for students in literature to assert themselves as scholars because there is a long apprenticeship that happens, beginning when one declares a major as an undergrad in literature and progressing through to candidacy for graduate degrees. And yet the type of work that Christian is producing has the earmarks of original scholarship that is relevant to the landscape of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in tandem with literary studies.”
For his part, Litsey is ecstatic not only to have seen the research through to completion, but to be recognized for the work he has done. “It’s encouraging to be recognized for the work put into academic research. For students like me who are looking to attend graduate school, getting the kind experience and feedback provided by the IUURC reinforces the importance and vibrancy of the academic community,” Litsey said. “Winning one of the top spots out of such a deep and diverse field of projects was an affirmation of all the work that goes into research, and the conference gave me confidence to continue pursuing higher academic goals.”
For more information about the IUURC, go to https://undergradresearch.indiana.edu/share-your-research/iuurc.html.