This year's departmental nominees for the university-wide Distinguished Scholar Award were Kelsey Grashoff and Joanna Falk. Both Kelsey and Joanna are honors students, producing significant work within the fields of masculinity studies and the poetry of Sylvia Plath. Both have taken on challenging courses within and outside of the department; both have drawn on various disciplines in their cultural analyses.
Kelsey worked with Professors Kavita Daiya and Antonio López on an Honors thesis titled "Performing Masculinities: Queer Subversions in Iron Man Comics, 1963-2008." It examined the representation of queer and normative masculinities in Iron Man Comics. The thesis makes an important contribution to the fields of American popular culture and gender studies, insofar as it complicates recent understandings of how comic book cultures represent normative conceptions of American masculinity. Exploring several narrative arcs in the series historically, spanning sites as far apart as Vietnam, Afghanistan and the United States, Kelsey's thesis persuasively argues for a more complex understanding of the queering of masculinity in Iron Man comics.
Joanna worked with Professors Margaret Soltan and Antonio López on "Clearing a Path to Plath: Exploring the Effects of the Plath Reader Stereotype and Dispelling Inherited Plath Memes." Joanna considers the various forms of Plath-mythologization which have tended to obscure the sheer literary value of her poetry and prose. She looks at reader response, feminist, and psychoanalytical approaches to Plath, and contributes to the important effort to see Plath as a poet first, rather than as an icon.
Along with their challenging intellectual commitments, both have found time to contribute not only to GW's campus culture, but to the larger world. Joanna has established a summer camp for children with cancer; working with academics from institutions all over the United States, Kelsey has given her time and talents to the American Writers Museum Foundation.
The department congratulates Joanna and Kelsey for having been two out of twelve nominees from GW's senior class across campus for this important award. We are proud of their remarkable accomplishments, and we look forward to following their impressive careers in the years to come.