Jennifer Park
Honors College, Class of 2011
Major: Linguistics


Research Mentors:
Dr. Peter Manning, English

Dr. Ellen Broselow &
Dr. Marie Huffman,
Linguistics

*Did you know?: Past Honors College creative senior thesis projects include: composing a film score, examining medieval costume/dress, and choreographing a dance sequence based on protein interactions?


"Epic battles, people dying, blood everywhere, all these weeping women, etc... But you can take specific lines that have all of that going on but they’re not in the midst of all the obvious clashes. I write lyric poetry. I usually try to be more understated, and subtle. So that was hard to reconcile with the overt drama of it all. How do I write something without making it be over the top? "

"...it’s just so easy for me to truly be engaged with it and to feel the personal connections— because it is a project that I designed. And poetry, no matter how literary it gets, is still personal."


Interview: read more >>

Researchers of the Month: past features


 

 

Researcher of the Month

About Jenny

JennyPark Half the battle of completing the Honors College senior thesis is developing a good project and finding a good mentor. “What do I love enough to devote this amount of time to it with a framework figured out by me?

For Jenny Park, the turning point was listening to that inner muse and deciding to embark on a creative thesis project comprised of writing poetic responses to the Iliad. Enlisting Dr. Peter Manning, Professor of English, as her advisor also proved providential for her success! Since last September, when she first began auditing Prof. Manning’s course on the " Epic and its British Romantic Heirs" (English 390), Jenny has been deeply engaged in creating lyric poetry responses to the Iliad, and has already penned ~80 poems in response!

HectorslaysAchilles

While she’s been documenting her interactions to the Iliad, and reading a wealth of related secondary criticism, Jenny has also most recently been working on stage two of her thesis, a cultural and literary prose analysis of this enduring epic. Jenny will be presenting her project at the annual URECA Celebration in April, as well as the Honors College Symposium in early May. The experience of having such an encouraging mentor cannot be overemphasized. Jenny reflects:He is really such a wonderful, insightful and encouraging person. I didn’t know him at all when I first asked him to be my mentor. And it turns out that he really is the best! He’s really just fantastic. I’ve been writing poetry for a long time. But I’ve never had my poetry discussed extensively. And that’s pretty much what happens every time that I go in. Prof. Manning starts doing literary analysis on my poetry, pointing out how the poems work, and the different ways that they interact with each other. He’ll also connect them to bigger ideas. … I feel so good every time I work on my thesis, and every time that I meet with Prof. Manning about what I’m doing.”

Asked about Jenny’s senior thesis accomplishment, Prof. Manning comments: “Jenny read Sappho, like her, a woman lyricist provoked by and responding to the largely masculine world of epic. We met every two weeks to go over the poems she wrote, and I am not being hyperbolic when I say that her work is dazzling; the poems are wonderful as poems in themselves, and as shrewd commentaries on the original." Here is a sample.

Hector Speaks to Deiphobos

Brother, this was the saddest dream of all
when I dreamt you stood beside me
outside the city walls, by the springs
where once the women washed our clothes
to shining, in the days before the sun dimmed
and all the white linen grew drab, and the gold
tarnished, and the city walls themselves
rotted in the eternal grey rain. . . In days gone by
Brother, you stood beside me, and together
we fought. I threw the spears, but without you
there would have been no weapons. And without you,
when I woke, there was no weapon in my hand
when the saddest dream slipped away like smoke,
having betrayed me into an even sadder
reality, where the rain poured down as I stood alone
and weaponless before the towering Achilles,
and suddenly heard Athene's cackle in my ear.
Brother, I looked for you, suddenly lost,
far from you, so far trom our city, but
I found only the void, and mocking words,
and a spear like a tree, like a hurtling comet,
and darkness. When I closed my eyes, I saw
you again, Brother, and then even that dream
dissolved in the silver rain.

-Jenny Park (fall, 2010)

A Linguistics major (with a minor in Computer Science), class of 2011, Jenny has been a motivated Honors College member since she arrived from California nearly 4 years ago. Since 2009, Jenny has served as a research assistant working with Drs. Ellen Broselow and Marie Huffman of Linguistics on an experimental research project which investigates perceptual phonology through a particular example in Japanese loanword adaption. Jenny was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year, and plans to apply to graduate programs in linguistics next year.

Jenny's facility with language may stem in part from learning Japanese at a young age while living in Tokyo, and later, Kobe, Japan. She also studied Latin throughout high school. Born in Redwood City, California and a graduate of Menlo Atherton High School, in Atherton, California, a primary passion for Jenny is creative-writing, ever since senior year of high school when she was fortunate to take a particularly inspiring, creative writing class with a particularly inspiring teacher, Ms. Angelone. Her writing skills also won her an essay contest prize in Writing 102, during her freshman year at SB. Other hobbies include: cooking; hiking, biking and being outdoors; and theology (Bible study). Below are some excerpts of Jenny's interview with Karen Kernan, URECA Director.


The Interview

Karen: Tell me about your project, how you got started.
Jenny: For the Honors College thesis project, I was thinking initially I should do something in Linguistics (my major), perhaps something in combination with computer science (my minor). But then I thought, this is my only chance to do some kind of creative poetry project. And I really wanted to do a poetry project!
Prof. Manning was one of the people that I wrote to. Fortunately for me, he accepted me as his student! He was teaching a course last semester on the epic. And together, we worked out an honors project for me on the Iliad. My original intention was to write poetry responding to the Iliad in the fall semester and edit it as I went along (maybe write one or two poems for each book), and then do the Odyssey in the spring. But as the project evolved, the Iliad became my whole project. I ended up producing three to five poems for each of the books of the Iliad (there are 24 subdivisions), which gave me a corpus of about 80 poems.

That's a lot of writing!
Prof. Manning then encouraged me to write some kind of analytical paper as well. And I decided I really liked that idea. So this semester I have a stack of books I’m reading on the Greek culture, style of literature, etc. I’m also planning to read some other works of literature that are in the same genre … Prof. Manning has recommended some great books. It’s been a major learning experience.

What’s your history or relationship to the Iliad? When did you first read it?
I actually first read it this past fall. But I’ve been immersed in classical literature for awhile; I had read the Odyssey back in 9th grade. And I took Latin all throughout high school. We read the The Aeneid and translated it. And throughout my childhood I read a lot of Greek myths.

Tell me about the process of writing in response to the Iliad.  
I read through the whole epic at the beginning of the semester. Then the rest of the semester, I would reread the selection that I was going to be responding to, and go through and underline the lines that stood out to me. And in some cases, there were broader ideas that were either beautiful or striking or disturbing to me. And I would respond. I’m coming from a creative writing background of this free-writing idea, that you get some kind of prompt and start writing, and whatever happens, go with that and then go back and edit afterward.

You’re not necessarily constrained by a particular form?
No, it’s definitely more free verse. I tend to play with indentation and things like that. I think also the diction has been really affected by the translation that I’ve been reading.

Which translation did you use?
I used Lattimore’s. It's a stricter translation and has a bit of a foreign feel since he tries to preserve word order and other aspects of the original Greek text. We read Lattimore’s translation of the Iliad, and then Fagles’s translation of the Odyssey in the epic class. Fagles is very accessible. There’s lots of space on the page, lots of stanza/paragraph breaks, and colloquialisms — whereas Lattimore fills the whole page, and all the lines are the same length. He doesn’t break them anywhere. The only breaks you get are from one book to the next. So it’s much denser reading experience. But that made it a lot easier in a way for me to feel like I was producing something of my own that had this texture, when I was writing my responses.

You produced a lot! Are there some that were more difficult to write, because of the topic?
All of the poems toward the very end of the book have been harder to write because the subject material is already very, very dramatic. Epic battles, people dying, blood everywhere, all these weeping women, etc  … But you can take specific lines that have all of that going on but they’re not in the midst of all the obvious clashes. I write lyric poetry. I usually try to be more understated, and subtle. So that was hard to reconcile with the overt drama of it all. How do I write something without making it be over the top?

Do you have a favorite?
One poem that comes to mind is about an instant where Achilles is chasing Hector in circles around Troy. The chase is going on and on, until finally Athena puts an end to it by deceiving Hector. She takes on the form of his brother and tells him that they will stand together against Achilles. It's this horrible moment of treachery because Athena is really on Achilles's side and she only wants to trick Hector into getting killed. I wrote a poem about this that I like, from Hector’s perspective.

What was it like to be mentored by Prof. Manning?
He is really such a wonderful, insightful and encouraging person. I didn’t know him at all when I first asked him to be my mentor. And it turns out that he really is the best! He’s really just fantastic. I’ve been writing poetry for a long time. But I’ve never had my poetry discussed extensively. And that’s pretty much what happens every time that I go in. He starts doing literary analysis on my poetry, pointing out how the poems work, and the different ways that they interact with each other. He’ll also connect them to bigger ideas. “So-and-so writes about this in such and such a book. You should check out this book…” Or, “in this line, I feel you like you pull out themes x y z.” When he says it, I think: Yes, that is what was going on in my mind. But I couldn’t have told you that if you’d asked me. I feel so good every time I work on my thesis, and every time that I meet with Prof. Manning about what I’m doing.

What’s difficult or challenging about doing the thesis project?
I think one of the things that’s hard is that it’s self directed. And you effectively have to pace this giant project yourself. But it’s been going really well for me because I counted off, there’s this many books, this many weeks, here’s what I have to get done in this time….

It helps that you're so organized. Do you feel you’re in a minority here at SB—doing a NON-science capstone project?
I’m in a major {Linguistics} that straddles the arts/science boundary. You’re doing analytical scientific thinking and research. But you’re also dealing with language and you’re dealing with human behavior. There’s this sociological component going on. I have to say I don't really feel like a minority here. Maybe that’s because of Honors College. I have this group. A lot of them are science, premed…still, we all do this coursework that’s more humanities-focused. The Honors College core curriculum is seminar-based. There will be philosophical readings, or historical readings, psychological readings… And there are also the mini-courses that are meant to get you out of your subject area. Partly because of that, and partly because of the particular friends that I have, it doesn't feel at all out-of-place for me to be doing this kind of project. It's been a really great experience.

What do you learn from doing a capstone thesis project that you wouldn’t learn from regular coursework?
That self-directed aspect, that’s been the big thing. It’s true that you can get a lot out of any class if you put in the effort and if you approach it with the right attitude. Some subjects or formats (seminars) of classes make it easier to have it affect your life, and your thinking. With this project, though, it’s just so easy for me to truly be engaged with it and to feel the personal connections— because it is a project that I designed. And poetry, no matter how literary it gets, is still personal. It’s dealing with my emotional reactions. Even if they’re emotional reactions to this ancient piece…they’re still very much mine. That can happen in any academic context. But it’s much easier to make that happen in this self directed project that’s dealing with something I’m directly interested in.

Do you spend a lot of time relating the poetry to contemporary/ historical contexts?
It comes in a little bit. But that’s not my main focus. I’m dealing more with timeless questions ...Definitely my context as a contemporary American female impacts my reading of it and my reactions. There's also the religious aspect. As a devout Christian, my view of God is very different from the perspective on divinity that shows up in the Iliad. In particular, there are a lot of questions about free will and the nature of being human. How secure are we as humans? Can we trust authority? Is divinity reliable? What is the nature of this world? Is it a good place?

What are your plans for after you graduate?
My plan is to take a year off and then apply to linguistics graduate programs.

Has doing a thesis project helped prepare you for graduate school?
Certainly there’s that self directed aspect to it. Having to be able to evaluate your work, and pace yourself as you go along, has been valuable. But also, my linguistics research (since 2009) has also been helpful in what it’s like to be a grad/PhD student. I’m spending consistent time with these students. So I regularly get glimpses into the life of a master’s student, a PhD student and a professor by being there at all these meetings and working on the research project.

What helped train your ear for poetry?
The background in classics definitely shapes me. And partly, a familiarity with language. I lived in Japan as a child. I studied Latin. If I had grown up mostly reading English poetry, I would probably feel more constrained by rhyme which I pretty much never do.
Another factor has been the study of linguistics, just in terms of thinking about the ways that you can pull language apart. I think a lot of times you might not really get a systematic explanation of how the different poetic devices work when you’re taking an English class or writing class. It may not be something you consciously think every time you write initially …but if you do linguistics, or you take a psychology of language course, which I did last semester, you get a sense of the mechanisms going on in your brain.

You’ll be continuing to write, after after you graduate?
Definitely. It’s a huge part of just how I experience life and process the experiences I go through. I've kept a journal for a long time. A lot of times, what goes into that will be the seeds of poems that I will go back to and write out later.

Are you excited to share your poetry & analysis, at the Honors College Symposium?
I’m a little nervous. But I am excited about it too! Some of my friends are poets also. Up to now, I’ve just been showing my work to Prof. Manning, my sister, and sometimes my fiancé. I’m not sure how it will go. Also, a lot of the poems are very closely tied to the Iliad. They mean a lot more if you know the story that they’re referencing.

Technically, as a poet, do you improve by writing so much, by being so immersed in it?
I never had such an immersive writing experience before this. I’ve always written poems when I felt the need to but I never have been regularly producing this many poems .... It was also really nice to give myself permission to have all those emotional responses to the Iliad, instead of trying to keep in mind what the author meant all the time.  That's kind of my usual mode of reading: to try to get into the author’s mind. But that can be a constraint.

You mean, writing has helped to focus you on your perspective, your reactions?
Exactly. I’m paying extreme attention to all the ways I react — which is not something I normally do . My poetry professor was talking, the other day, about how we have this environment where focus is being constantly eroded...all the technology coming out allows us to do multiple things at the same time with phones that can do a hundred different things, etc. So especially in this environment, it’s really beneficial to have something that makes you sit down and really concentrate. Translation for me is one of the things that does that – where you really really focus, line by line, word by word, and analyze everything. At the end, you have such a deeper relationship with the text than you would if you read somebody else’s translation. And writing this response in poetry to the Iliad has done that for me also. It’s opening up my reactions, and challenging me to look at them instead of just letting them pass by, and moving on.

It’s great that you are able to capture your responses, in your poetry, to the Iliad. And it will be interesting to re-read later on.  Quite a unique thesis project!
It is different than what you do in a typical analytical paper. In those cases, you’re trying to be professional, to distance yourself. This is the opposite. What’s hard is getting used to being exposed, showing your work, something that comes out of your deepest self. I think we all fear exposure. But it’s been a great experience, very much because Prof. Manning is so nurturing. I’m so glad that I actually decided to do this, a creative project, instead of being afraid of doing something that's not stereotypically 'productive.' I knew all long there was this Honors thesis, and that I had the option to do a creative topic. That was an idea that was present. But I didn't decide on this project until last summer. Especially at a big university, with all the requirements for different things, you sometimes don’t really get the much opportunity to think about what am I actually interested in. That’s part of what’s really valuable about this project too. What do I love enough to devote this amount of time to it with framework figured out by me?