Amanda Figueroa ’11
American Nonbelief: Roots of Atheism in the History, Philosophy, and Literature of the Modern Period
In the years leading up to World War I, American religious attitudes were shifting away from strict devotion towards a more secular society. However, years later, at the close of World War II, religiosity in the United States was at a new high. Examining history, philosophy, and literature throughout the modern era provides insight into the shifting purpose and fervor of religion in America, as affected by the two World Wars, developing technology, European philosophy, and other influences. Although the roots of nonbelief in America were present throughout this time frame, this work finds that rather than follow European counterparts towards a less religious society, United States culture adapted religious fundamentalism for use as a defining characteristic of what it meant to be American in the last half of the twentieth century.

Jennifer Leedom ’11
From Orphan to “Other”: An Examination of Nineteenth-century Literary Orphans
Orphans abound in literature, from fairy tales to comic books. This paper examines the special case of nineteenth-century British orphans, specifically Charles Dickens’s Pip from Great Expectations, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and Emily Brontë’s Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. The analysis relates the novels to the historical realities of being an orphan in the nineteenth century; from this context a theory emerges which proposes that these characters were meant to represent more than simply orphanhood. By contrasting the relatively “normal” orphan state of Pip to the more isolated states of Jane and Heathcliff, it becomes apparent that the Brontë novels may actually be representing the “other” with their characters, showing how society alienates those perceived as threatening because of their “otherness.” With this examination, the novels stand as powerful instances of how literature can expand the scope of human empathy.