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College of Arts and Sciences Newsroom

UD students present masculinity in film research at conference in Chicago

By Ian Gouverneur ’19

Most students don’t come to college thinking they’ll present research at a national conference. However, in November five University of Dayton undergraduate students presented as a panel at the Midwest Modern Language Association (MMLA) conference in Chicago, discussing their research for English department Chair Andy Slade’s upcoming book about masculinity in the films of Joel and Ethan Coen, Be a Man and Other Bad Advice.

The students conducted their research during the summer and early fall through the College of Arts and Sciences’ Dean’s Summer Fellowship program, which provides undergraduate students an opportunity to conduct academic research under the direction of a faculty mentor. The program allows students to perform high-level research they may not have time for during the academic year.

While research can often be a singular and lonely process, Slade guided the students with a more unique approach. “One thing I like to do differently is, rather than a traditional one-on-one, we meet as a group,” he said. Slade met with the students for 90 minutes each week to share research updates and assist one another.

The students ranged from incoming sophomores to graduating seniors. “This affirms my belief that any student at any level who wants to do research is able to do it,” Slade said.

Students analyzed Coen Brothers films such as No Country for Old Men, Fargo and A Serious Man in order to explore the representations and issues with masculinity in each of these films.

“The Deans Summer Fellowship experience and conducting research under the guidance of Dr. Slade was far different than anything I had experienced in a traditional classroom setting,” said Griffin Quinn, a junior communication major from Chicago, who analyzed gender roles in the 1996 film Fargo. “I'm grateful for the opportunity to conduct independent research as an undergraduate and have free-reign on the topics I was exploring.”

Matthew Frazier, a junior philosophy and English major from Dayton, analyzed the use of the coin flip in No Country for Old Men.

“We all gained practice and understanding of academic writing procedures, we learned how to navigate and present at a conference, and we worked on our ability to compile our thoughts and our work into a text,” Frazier said.

The students presented their panel, “Masculinity as Protest: Undergraduate Research and the Coen Brothers’ Men,” on Nov. 15 at Loyola University Chicago. Frazier said it was well-received by the audience of teachers and scholars of literature, language and culture.

The conference presenters also included Alexandra Thiele, a senior English major from New Lebanon, Ohio, and Hunter Davidson, a sophomore philosophy major, Maineville, Ohio, who analyzed A Serious Man and No Country for Old Men, respectively.

In addition to the Coen brothers’ project, Dean’s Summer Fellowship student Cassidy Kylin, a December 2019 graduate with a degree in English from Springboro, Ohio, focused on the philosophy and function of hope in the works of author Flannery O’Connor. This work will contribute to Slade’s subsequent book project.

“The aim of this was to write an original, critical essay that can then be presented at MMLA” Slade said. “Our goal was to have the research be as authentic as possible.”

The experience opened the students’ eyes to their consumption of mass media.

“I had never thought about immersing myself in a film through the lens of gender studies prior to the presentation of this opportunity and I greatly enjoyed it,” Quinn said. “I hope to continue studying films independently and broaden my abilities to understand the concepts that filmmakers are portraying on screen.”

For more information, visit the Department of English website.

Shown above (left to right): Presenters Griffin Quinn, Hunter Davidson, Alexandria Thiele and Matthew Frazier.

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