Honors in the Arts Cohort 2016-17

Honors Students

Josh De Leon

JOSHUA DE LEON | This Brown Body is a Vessel

BA International Relations, Minor in Creative Writing

Project Statement

Filipinx Americans are the second-most common Asian American group in the United States, and the legacy of Filipinx diaspora overflows with a vibrant, fraught, under-appreciated history. From the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, in which thousands of Filipinos were transported from the islands to mock villages for bystanders to gawk at, to the sun-drenched fields in which bachelor laborers picked crops and organized for farm workers’ rights, the story of Filipinx peoples in America is one of migration, imperialism, activism, resilience.

Through a collection of poems and scattered prose, I seek to investigate and do critical and artistic justice to the tapestry of experiences that make up Filipinx America. During this process I am taking a Tagalog class for the first time and these discoveries in language, coupled with poems exploring the myriad intersections in Filipinx American narratives, help define a project that is equal parts academic research, artistic flourishes, and personal discovery.

Photo by Galen Oback
Photo by Galen Oback
Jen Ehrlich

JENNIFER EHRLICH | Beyond Red Waters

BA English

Project Statement

Families are people connected by blood and history. Beyond Red Waters, a work that is at once memoir, history, illness narrative and biography, will tell the story of two generations of Ehrlich women—my grandmother and me, illuminating how suffering and survival impacted my family over three generations. It will explore how history unspoken can consume while trauma shared can heal. My grandmother’s suffering in the Holocaust left ripples that shaped my father’s life in mid-century America and his destructive reaction to my mysterious illness almost fifty years later. His fury at being unable to help his sick child, an anger inherited from the suffering and helplessness of his parents, boiled over in our home with a searing heat that I couldn’t understand—a fire inherited from his home in which so much had been lost but nothing was ever spoken of.

Beyond Red Waters will weave together the narratives of my grandmother’s survival as a Jew in Nazi occupied Europe—becoming “the other” in the town of her birth—and my inexplicable chronic illness—bringing an all consuming isolation in contemporary New England. As my teenage body betrayed me, and my grandmother’s gave way to old age, we communed via letters over loss and survival. Combining creative writing, history, Jewish studies, and narrative medicine, my vision is a book that transcends conventional genres of suffering to show that how legacies of pain forge strength to survive the impossible. This book will explore how the love and connection of a family engenders the strength to survive when one’s body, community, and very life is threatened beyond imagination.

Photo by Ash Ngu
Photo by Ash Ngu
Ouree Lee

OUREE LEE | material intimacy

BA Film and Media Studies, Minor in Theater and Performance Studies

Project Statement

material intimacy is a multimedia, interactive installation that re-contextualizes smartphone tasks in outdated objects. Building on themes of intimacy, materiality, and fragmentation, this piece is a response to users’ relationships with their phones and how this has altered their perception of space. Since the age of the telegraph, communicative technologies have transcended spatio-temporal bounds. The mobile phone now offers several different modes of communication along with countless other capabilities and applications. This installation foregrounds the physicality of these quasi-magical powers and aims to reconfigure the user-object relationship.

Peter Lessler

PETER LESSLER | Retrieval

BS Mathematical and Computational Science, Minors in Creative Writing and Public Policy

Project Statement

“More and more this was happening now: Harwick alumni, after seven or eight years far from the island, independent, reinvented, and often unreachable, suddenly sought each other out, or at least became open to reunion—they moved in with each other or back to the region or sometimes both, often rapidly growing close to people whom they had hardly known as classmates or who hadn’t attended the school at the same time at all, as if the Harwick experience was singular to the point of isolation, as if four years on the island carved a hole in people that they eventually became desperate to fill.”

Retrieval is at once a campus novel and a multigenerational family saga. It centers around the Harwick School, a quasi-public boarding school on a foggy island in the Pacific Northwest. This setting informs the atmosphere: remote, misty, temporally nebulous, tectonically unstable, and—as the novel progresses—vaguely dangerous.

Thematically, Retrieval is interested in many things, including ahistoricism, romantic obsession, narrative psychology, and the haunting power of memory.

Photo by Ash Ngu
Photo by Ash Ngu
Matt Libby

MATTHEW LIBBY | The Machine

BS Symbolic Systems, Minor in Creative Writing

Project Statement

The Machine is a two-act stage play about poetry, academia, and the quest for artificial creativity. An acclaimed poet-turned-professor with a severe case of writer’s block is approached by a tech magnate with a strange proposition: he wants to design a computer program that will create works replicating her poetic voice – in other words, a machine that can write her poetry. This sends the poet through a journey of self-discovery, as she struggles with her identity as an artist in academia, with a tragedy in her recent past, and with the question: what does it mean to lead a creative life? Bringing together concepts from dramatic writing, cognitive science, computer science, and philosophy, The Machine is an ode to what’s innately human in an increasingly technological world.

Photo by Galen Oback
Photo by Galen Oback
Sri Muppidi

SRI MUPPIDI | Small Talk

BA Economics, Minor in Creative Writing

Project Statement

Small Talk is a novella about an Indian-American family based out of New York City during the 2007-2009 Recession. Told from varying viewpoints and interspersed with flashbacks, Small Talk provides an account of each family member's unique perspective, giving a multifaceted view into the family's financial struggles and their resilience through the crisis. As the Recession unfolds, the family is forced to confront issues that they hadn't anticipated, pushing them to question their identities and what it means to be American.

Photo by Galen Oback
Photo by Galen Oback
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ADAM SCHORIN | The Raubachs

BA American Studies, Minor in Creative Writing

Project Statement

The Raubachs is a novel-in-progress about an American Jewish family descended from Holocaust survivors. The book's characters include a middle-aged, divorced hedge fund manager who spends his days writing impossibly crude limericks, a teenage punk band on tour in modern-day Poland, a mother who suddenly despises her two-year-old son while on vacation in Israel, a Holocaust survivor suffering from dementia who finds himself interrogated by his living room furniture, and an obnoxious drag queen living in Berlin in the near future. The novel examines how individual identities may be carved in the relief of family narratives, how people and places inherit the trauma of the past, and how the revival of Jewish life in Poland and the loss of the last generation of Holocaust survivors may change our understanding of the Holocaust. Next year, I will continue working on the novel while living in Krakow, Poland.

Photo by Ash Ngu
Photo by Ash Ngu
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LILA THULIN | Motherland

BA Human Biology, Minor in Creative Writing

Project Statement

Motherland is a compilation of vignettes examining heritage, home, and inheritance through two separate but complementary lenses - family stories and genetics. In the chronological narrative, which is punctuated by pieces exploring genetic concepts, I tell the story of my grandmother, Bettina: her emotionally absent, expatriate socialite mother; her childhood in World War II-era Southern Italy; and her immigration to San Francisco at age fourteen. These events have reverberated through our family, with four generations of women all navigating fraught relationships with our mothers and calling the same Bay Area sky-scape home. The questions inherent in Motherland are: Where, and from whom, are we from? How are ideas about gender roles and motherhood passed on? How do culture and religion dilute or evolve within a family over time? And how does the science of genetics make sense of or provide metaphors to help us understand our inheritance? In examining the parallels between and discrepancies among the women in my family's experience, Motherland aims to track these watermarked, trans-generational questions through science and story.

Photo by Ash Ngu
Photo by Ash Ngu