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English Education & English Writing: Capstone Presentations

English 471: Advanced Research & Composition
Capstone Research Presentations

Fall 2017

On Wednesday, November 15, 2017, in Speed Library, six Writing and English Secondary Education majors in ENG 471: Advanced Research & Composition presented their Capstone research projects to an audience of students, faculty, and staff. Representing the broad research interests among the class and a variety of methodologies, the students chose the following topics: 

                           - Poetry and song in Tolkien                                                                    - Super Bowl advertisements

                           - Perceptions of abstinence in college students                                   - Hip hop lyrics and depictions of Presidents

                           - Letter writing behaviors in college students                                      - Gendered discourse in Millennials on Tumblr

Rings, Oliphaunts, and War

One could not travel countless miles without encountering people, stories, and poetry – neither could the characters of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Language is a natural human faculty; to author a narrative that is not imbued with non-conversational communication would be to create a vague, perhaps hollow story. Poetry and song explore the unique breadth of language, employing myriad rhetorical devices to create a presence that is so richly imbued with physical, emotional, and intellectual energy that the reader is able to encounter themselves in response to it; thus, I situate my discussion of Tolkienien song and poetry atop knowledge of Tolkien’s language theory, deliberating as to the precise usage of song and poetry within The Two Towers. To a philologist like Tolkien, blending song and poetry to enrich relationships and intensify detail was a natural element of story; I found these elements to range from deep lamentation to trivial amusements, proving Tolkien’s foresight in regards to the authenticity of his narrative. Poetry and song have the ability to preserve and bind our solitude, creating connection within the realization that others too connect and relate within poetic boundaries – to what degree do our encounters parallel those of the inhabitants of Middle Earth and what can we learn from their expressive compositions?

"Standing by My Choice"

College is the self-proclaimed land of choice. From the mundane to the momentous, the choices students make can be an expression of their beliefs, a product of their environment, or simply a result of their preferences. One to which all three of these qualities may apply is the choice to maintain sexual abstinence or not. Few studies have researched the small yet growing population of abstinent college students in Christian university settings and their emotional responses to their virginity. Despite obvious religious influences, other factors such as family ties, self-control, unwilling partners, and disinterest toward sex have been shown to push students toward abstinence as a social norm. Students’ emotional responses to their virginity may also push them away from or pull them toward abstinence; the more negatively one feels, the more likely they’ll engage in risky sexual behavior. In researching Mississippi College students, an online survey was administered to the residential student population. Results showed that no matter the reasons students expressed, religious influences were present. Most students associated positive emotions with their virginity, implying many students feel positively toward religion dictating their personal choices in some way, whether directly or indirectly. As a result, student resource centers at Mississippi College can better guide students in recognizing and evaluating their emotions as they affect other personal choices. Additionally, students can become aware of the role their emotions play in making life decisions.

To Write or Not to Write, That is the Question

Research and personal experience show that society has recently begun to accuse college students of not writing letters or even knowing how. This project will determine to whom and why Mississippi College students write (or not write) mailed letters based on the reputation of Mississippi College supporting a community mindset. Surveys were given to three different classes and then coded for patterns between why students write or don’t write letters and their ages, majors, and gender. The results of this project will help to determine if the art of letter writing is fading as quickly as society believes. Through the survey, students will become more aware of the benefits of letter writing and determine whether or not Mississippi College breaks the common stereotype.

Beer, Football, and American Values

Anheuser-Busch (A-B), the world’s largest beer producer, has exclusive rights to advertise alcohol during Super Bowls aired on Fox Network. During 2017’s Super Bowl LI, A-B produced four commercials that took up a total of 3.5 minutes of air time and cost at least 17.5 million dollars. Such massive spending suggests this company’s confidence in their commercials’ ability to appeal to a variety of audiences through the use of many marketing tools. My goal in this study was to determine what those tools were. I used Critical Discourse Analysis with a values-based marketing perspective to determine how 2017 Anheuser-Busch Super Bowl commercials appeal to and reflect the values of the American public. I began by creating transcripts for each of the four commercials, focusing on the dialogue, characters, and settings depicted throughout. I then coded for how these elements (dialogue, character, setting) in each commercial fit into Fujioka’s list of values found in American media, which includes self direction, power, physicality, heritage, achievement, and happiness (Fujioka 360, 362). Through my study, I found that Anheuser-Busch commercials rely on tools such as humor, familiarity, and masculinity to depict values that make their products relatable to everyone in the American household.

Hip Hop and Political Discourse

Hip Hop is a genre of music with a rich history of advocating for political consciousness: it can be used as a tool to impact people and instigate action through lyrics. However, very little research has been conducted regarding how artists describe political figures and what the implication for these descriptions might be. To better understand the political impact that music can have on the public and to help investigate the implications for music as a platform to spread ideas and beliefs, this study explored how Hip Hop artists’ lyrics described presidential figures Donald Trump and Barack Obama during their presidencies. To collect the necessary data, I used 60 Hip Hop songs which contained Barack Obama’s or Donald Trump’s name and coded for moments where the president was described, labeling them as positive, negative, or neutral. I also used Critical Discourse Analysis to find emerging codes as they revealed themselves throughout the process. The emergent codes revealed many factors which contributed to what aspects the artists talked about regarding the presidents, including: presidents’ politics, power, racism, and intelligence; they also showed how artists depicted their view of the president through terms of profanity, connection, violence, and reprimands. Although most artists referenced president Trump negatively, there were mixed results with how Hip Hop artists depicted president Obama. These trends within the study help us to better understand how artists can use music as a platform for political discourse, and how the views of artists can impact how listeners view those in power, as well as their political decisions. The lyrics’ raw, honest opinions of both presidents help us to understand what members of the hip hop nation, and, therefore, many of the hip hop voters, value and fear in their leaders.

Because Cotton Swabs are "For Building"

Tumblr is a wealth of discourse full of diverse discourse communities that have seldom been studied, especially regarding controversial topics and clever linguistic styles: gender and sarcasm. In order to research this, I asked “How do Tumblr users discuss gender stereotypes through sarcastic responses to aggressively gendered products?” I collected data from Tumblr’s blogs and general search results looking at “gendered products”—the exemplification of gendered marketing and gender stereotypes in a community of socially-conscious millennials. 34% of the texts contained some form of sarcasm across various product categories with the greatest numbers of products promoting masculine stereotypes with sarcasm supplementing a sense of incredulity in sarcastically extending the stereotype. These results begin to reveal an understudied social media site and an undervalued generation which discusses critical social issues in an era of discourse on social media sites. With such products and stereotypes alive and well, how can we ignore the clever and biting complaints of a conscientious generation?