Graduate Student Spotlight


Scott Bonham


Chatino Anthology


Magdalena Welch

Scott Bonham, Mary Griffin, and Magdalena Welch

It gives us an immense pleasure to end 2021 with a shout-out to our MA faculty and students!

We have a record number of MA graduates this Fall, and each one of them has engaged with the Humanities in an interdisciplinary, creative, and original way. Congratulations to Scott Bonham, Mary Griffin, and Magdalena Welch!

Together they showcase the breadth of our program, they exemplify the full range of our wonderful student body, and with their projects, they highlight the complementary strengths of our faculty.

Please read below the fascinating projects that they brought to our program and that they promise to share with the world at large. We, in the Humanities Graduate Programs and in the Department of Comparative Humanities, are so proud of you!

Scott Bonham, an Associate Professor of Physics at Western Kentucky University, took the unusual challenge to join our MA program in 2018 to become a student again! He took classes in Humanities, Philosophy, Sociology, and Linguistics and completed his MA in Humanities this December. His Directed Study Project was titled “Comprehension of and Engagement in Socio-scientific Issues” and was directed by Professor Elaine Wise.

This project involved creating an interdisciplinary course, which he is currently teaching at WKU seeking to help students develop their capacity to think about socio-scientific issues (origins, climate change, race, technology, etc.) in an interdisciplinary way in order to develop evidence-based arguments that could bridge cultural and social differences. To design his course, Scott studied the “original” controversy of heliocentric vs. geocentric models of the cosmos—and in particular Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Chief Two World Systems—to explore the different social, cultural, and scientific dimensions of such conflicts.

This is what Scott Bonham had to say about his experience in the Humanities MA program:

“The best part of my experience was being able to interact with faculty in a wide range of subjects and develop new ways and complementary ways of thinking about things. After two decades of teaching physics, it helped me get out of an intellectual rut.

“The thing the program gave me that is particularly meaningful is an intellectual breadth, both in my own knowledge and understanding, and also having the academic credentials to teach courses that study both culture and science.

“One of the great things about the MA in Humanities at the University of Louisville is that it is a very flexible program that allows one to take a wide range of classes, which means that it is fairly easy to tailor the program to fit one’s professional goals.”

Mary Griffin is another champion of our program. A retired teacher, she joined our MA program in 2019 with a wealth of experience which she shared generously with her fellow students. She took courses in Humanities, Women’s and Gender Studies, Linguistics and Endangered Languages, and completed her MA in Humanities with a Directed Study Project entitled “Documenting a Spoken Language: Encountering Chatino in an Endangered Languages Course” directed by Professor Hilaria Cruz. Mary’s project complemented another project, led by Dr. Cruz, to publish a collection of children’s stories in an indigenous language. The stories were created in Dr. Cruz’s course in Endangered Languages in Fall 2019. The project resulted in the first published anthology of children’s stories in Chatino, a project that has the important goal to revitalize the Chatino language, an indigenous language spoken in Oaxaca, Mexico. Mary’s critical essay makes a compelling case for writing children’s narratives with and for speakers of Indigenous and minority languages.

Mary had this to say about her experience in the Humanities MA program:

“As a non-traditional student, the best part of my experience working towards a MA in Humanities was challenging myself to read more, becoming more confident in communicating ideas, and learning how to integrate what I knew from my non-academic life and work experience with what I was learning in courses taken here. My thinking has matured and become more sophisticated. My culminating Directed Study Project allowed me an opportunity to work closely with Professor Hilaria Cruz in a project to create and publish six Chatino language children’s books.”

Magdalena Welch completed her MA this Fall in record time, having blended the BA with the MA through the Accelerated Study Option! Her Directed Study Project was titled “Modern American Culture: America Through a Gothic Window” and was directed by Professor Michael Williams. In her project, Magdalena explores a new interdisciplinary way in which American Modern Culture can be taught in higher education—through the lens of the Gothic genre. She designed a course that would give students a more rounded consideration of the role of the Gothic in American culture through the use of an interdisciplinary methodology. While working on this project, Magdalena was also able to “try out” her approach by teaching several classes within a Humanities Modern Culture course.

Here is what Magdalena had to say about her time in the Humanities MA:

“During my experience within the Humanities MA program, I was not only able to form meaningful relationships with faculty members across the different departments of the Arts and Sciences, but I also found strong support systems and made lasting friendships with the other graduate students in the Humanities Graduate Programs. Not only does the Humanities department provide a well-rounded education that extends beyond the world of the classroom, but it culminates in deep interpersonal relationships, creates a compassionate environment for education, and champions empathy and diversity. This MA program is one I will continuously recommend to other students.”

Kelly Hill

Dr. Kelly Hill’s dissertation is a historical novel titled A Home for Friendless Women that reimagines the lives of the women who lived and worked in the Louisville institution by the same name in the late nineteenth century. The critical portion of her dissertation is a lyric essay titled “But What Was She Wearing?,” which explores the problematic ways Victorian and contemporary society discuss women’s clothing, bodies, and sexuality.

As a graduate student, Kelly was an intern at the Filson Historical Society, as well as the graduate research assistant for the Jewish Studies program. During her time in the program, she published short stories and articles in both literary and academic journals and delivered various lectures, most recently at the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum. When she’s not writing or reading about Victorian women, Kelly can be found spending time with her husband and two teenagers.

Jordan Neumann

Jordan Neumann completed his MA in Humanities the fall of 2020, concentrating in philosophy and religious studies—particularly Buddhist studies. His directed study project was titled “The View of No Views: Doxographical Distinctions between the Svatantrika and Prasangika Schools of Nagarjuna’s Madhyamaka ‘Middle Way’ Philosophy.” This work explored the philosophical distinctions between two subschools of thought that were developed throughout time by early Indian and later Tibetan philosophers and practitioners within the Madhyamaka system of philosophy, as founded by the early Indian Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna.

Lauren Olson

This May, Lauren Olson completed her MA in Humanities with a linguistics concentration. Her directed study project, “The Pulaar Poetry of Kaaw Elimane Touré: A Voice Intervening in History to Restore the Human Dignity of a Nation,” won the 2020 Grady Nutt Award for Most Creative MA Project in the Humanities.

While working in Mauritania as an English teacher, Olson learned French and also Pulaar, a language spoken by many Afro-Mauritanians. Pulaar is a variety of the Fula language, which is spoken across the Sahel region of West Africa by approximately thirteen million people. There, Olson learned of the widespread atrocities that were committed against Pulaar speakers and other Afro-Mauritanians in 1989.

Her MA project examines these events through poems written by a witness to this tragedy, Kaaw Elimane Touré, who memorializes its victims and condemns its perpetrators through poetry.

Eric Shoemaker

Eric Shoemaker

Eric Shoemaker is a second-year student in the Humanities Ph.D. Program and a University Fellow. He is a poet, a translator of Federico García Lorca, and is working towards a dissertation focusing on magical poetics and the creation of community and lineage through writing.

Eric’s work explores praxes including anamnesis, bibliomancy, and other poetic strategies as embodiments of magic in creative writing.

A paper Eric wrote for one of his courses at U of L is being published in the journal Signs and Society in November: Congratulations, Eric!

After After Lorca: Anamnesis and Magic between Jack Spicer and Federico García Lorca
Signs and Society
vol. 7 no. 3, Fall 2019

This essay first came into being as my seminar paper for Dr. Susan Ryan’s Cultural History of Authorship course in Fall of 2018. Dr. Ryan was integral to the development of this paper and I cannot thank her enough for helping get this to publication. After the seminar draft was completed, I presented the paper at the Kentucky Philological Association Conference in Pikeville, Kentucky in the spring of 2019 and then was awarded the Maddox Prize from the University of Louisville’s Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies for the paper. I presented the essay, now fully evolved, at the award ceremony and finalized the submission to Signs and Society shortly thereafter.

Treva Hodges

Treva Hodges

Treva Hodges began her graduate studies in the fall of 2015.  In addition to completing her Humanities Ph.D. coursework, she completed requirements for graduate certificates in Women and Gender Studies and Public History. While working on her degree Treva was the recipient of the Celeste M. Nichols research grant (Fall 2016), the Anne Braden Institute Social Justice Research Paper Graduate Award (Spring 2017), and the Carolyn Krause Maddox Prize for top graduate paper in Women and Gender Studies (Spring 2018). Treva’s dissertation explores the cultural relevance of the traumatic captivity narrative of Cynthia Ann Parker, an Anglo woman who entered into a kinship relationship with her Comanche captors before being returned to her Anglo family twenty-four years later.

Treva lives happily with her husband and many furry and feathered friends in southern Indiana and has put her academic career search on hold temporarily in order to run for Mayor of her home city. She hopes to graduate in August, 2019 and win in November.

Erin O’Reilly

Erin O’Reilly

Erin O’Reilly is a Humanities Ph.D. candidate who is working on her dissertation entitled Anxiety and the Book: How Shakespeare and Cervantes Negotiate the New Printed Word. Erin is one of the twelve graduate students across the country selected to participate to the 2018 Dissertation Seminar for Scholars of the History of the Book in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, presented by the prestigious Center for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

The seminar is open to graduate students in the early stages of the dissertation process, who have written at least a prospectus or first chapter, and class meetings will be tailored to each student’s research project. The seminar is led by Dr. Adam Hooks of the University of Iowa, who specializes in Shakespeare and early modern printing, and Dr. Michael Johnston from Purdue University, who focuses on late medieval England and the manuscript book.

Nadeem Zaman

Nadeem Zaman

Nadeem Zaman graduated from the PhD in Humanities at U of L in 2017 with a creative dissertation, a historical novel entitled In the Time of the Others, set against the backdrop of the civil war of 1971 that led to the birth of Bangladesh as a nation.

After a year spent in Dhaka, Bangladesh, teaching and doing archival research for his fiction, Nadeem's debut novel is here and is being released by Picador India: congratulations, Nadeem!

Bamba Ndiaye

Bamba Ndiaye

Bamba Ndiaye, a doctoral candidate in the Humanities Ph.D. Program, won the 2018 Barbara Harlow Prize for Excellence in Graduate Research at the University of Texas at Austin's 18th Annual Africa Conference with a paper entitled "African American Evangelic Missions and Social Reforms in The Congo: The Activism of Reverend William Henry Sheppard."

His paper analyzes the impact of African American missionaries on the African continent following the Second Great Awakening of the late 19th century. Bamba's essay demonstrates how Sheppard (who settled in Louisville at the end of his life) became an entrusted ally of the Congolese peoples during his time in the region (1890-1910). Additionally, the paper highlights Sheppard's use of photographic images and attention from the press to publicize Belgian atrocities in the Congo. These actions galvanized Pan-Africanists throughout the African Diaspora, who began denouncing the Belgian empire and advocating for justice on behalf of the Congolese peoples.

See a list of finalists

Treva Hodges

Treva Hodges

Treva Hodges is a Humanities Ph.D. student working on traumatic captivity narratives and their persistent appeal in the American imaginary. Her research focuses on the narrative of the life of Cynthia Ann Parker as a case study.

Treva has been invited by a descendant of Cynthia Ann Parker and the Quanah Parker Society to participate in a memorial service in Parker's honor in April 2018 at the Pease River site, the site where Cynthia Ann Parker was taken back into Anglo-American custody.

Next September, Treva will present her research at the National Cowboy Symposium co-organized by the Quanah Parker Society. She will have the opportunity to receive feedback from the Comanche tribal members who are direct descendants of Cynthia Ann Parker as well as from other historians.

Photo of Sarah Moffett

Sarah Ivens Moffett

UofL School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies recognized Humanities Ph,D student Sarah Ivens Moffett in the January 2018 spotlight.