Randolph-Macon College student Madeline Monk ’16 is an English, history, and Latin major and political science minor. English and history have long been favorite subjects, and Monk recently discovered a passion for Latin. This summer, she is combining all three interests in a research project.
Monk is participating in R-MC’s Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, which offers students the opportunity to conduct 10 weeks of full-time, original research under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Monk’s project is titled The Influences and Preoccupations of Middle English Romances.
“I’m reading a lot of Middle English romances, to get a feel for the conventions of the genre and the issues they seem to be concerned with,” explains Monk, who is working under the mentorship of English Professor Amy Goodwin. “I’ve also been reading criticism on the romances, dealing with a variety of different factors like the importance of place, class, and governance.” She divides her time between primary texts and criticism to ensure that she has enough exposure to the source material to be able to evaluate those arguments and form her own opinions.
“The more time I spend reading the romances, the more I appreciate the nuanced way these works represent and redefine the traditional ‘knight in shining armor rescues the damsel’ paradigm that makes up the most persistent romance residue in popular culture,” says Monk, who meets regularly with Goodwin to discuss the research. “SURF is giving me a taste of real, unalloyed research, and I’m also being entrusted with a certain amount of independence and a responsibility to deliver a final product, which is helping me prepare for adult life.”
Monk says Goodwin has helped her by recommending texts, giving advice, and encouraging her to stretch the scope of her studies.
“She is so enthusiastic, and she has urged me to consider SURF not just as a summer project, but as a means of broadening my mind and acquiring a better grasp of English as a vast and dynamic field of study,” says Monk.
“Madeline’s work ethic is truly inspiring,” says Goodwin. “She has been devouring medieval romances, reading them in Middle English. Medieval romance is a broad and versatile genre. Medieval romances—perhaps most famous for Arthurian Legend—also can rework in fiction the history of England, France, and Britain; they retell classical works and myths, and may involve the supernatural, a device that may allow an author to explore difficult social or political problems. Madeline has been developing an expertise in this complex genre that would not have been possible in a traditional course. It has been fun for me to meet with her to talk about her readings, to learn from her, and to see her make connections among her other interests in history, the classics, and American and English literature.”
Inspiration and Gratitude
Monk, a Presidential Scholar and a tutor in the Higgins Academic Center (HAC), says the R-MC faculty have helped her find her niche and follow her passions.
“Classics Professor Cathy Daugherty instilled in me an enduring love of the Roman language and culture,” she says. “Greg Daugherty, the Shelton H. Short III Professor in the Liberal Arts, is helping me navigate the requirements of the Latin major. His Greek History class was a delight. I remember with particular vividness the day he brought in a nine-foot-tall hoplite spear and hovered it beside my head for three minutes while he lectured.” Monk credits History Professor Anne Throckmorton’s enthusiasm with “helping me fall in love with the Renaissance.”
Monk looks forward to what the future holds.
“English, history, and the classical world are so deeply intertwined I have no doubt I will use aspects of my majors and my minor in whatever career I choose,” she says.