The Humanities Research Scholars Program (HRSP) offers rising juniors in Columbia College the opportunity to pursue an independent research project in the humanities or humanistic social sciences*, while receiving guidance from a faculty member in developing analytical and investigative skills. HRSP is designed to help students learn from one another and from leaders in the academic and professional world, and to support the Scholars in their intellectual growth and professional trajectory.
HRSP Scholars attend a six-week summer program that provides training in research methods and strategies, and that engages them in discussion of larger questions that emerge through the process of conducting research. Discussions are directly related to their research projects, and are supplemented by workshops, training sessions, and conversations with guest speakers that expose Scholars to a range of skills and resources that will enhance their current research and future professional pursuits. Students meet regularly with faculty mentors and supervisors at their relevant research institutions, and receive additional guidance from graduate students (and, in the future, alumni of this program), which will allow scholars to benefit from ‘near-peer’ mentoring and networking.
Through this program, HRSP expects Scholars to discover exciting and meaningful ways to better understand a specific topic in the humanities, and also the reasons why the lessons found in the works of the humanities are crucial to our understanding of the world and our place within it.
This program will coincide with Summer Session I. On-campus housing and a stipend are provided.
To apply, click "Start Your Application" above and complete and submit all required application materials no later than the deadline provide. The letter of recommendation should be submitted directly to firstname.lastname@example.org by your recommender no later than the internal deadline as well.
Candidates for the Humanities Research Scholars Program should meet the following criteria:
- Current sophomores in Columbia College (at time of application);
- In good academic and disciplinary standing, with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.3;
- Willing to commit to performing research for the first six-week summer session for approximately 25-35 hours per week and to attending seminars, training sessions, advising sessions, and other meetings;
- Committed to participating in a College-wide symposium to present their research findings and to share their research with the broader community, as described above.
- Majoring in one of the following eligible fields:
Anthropology and Archaeology
Geography and Population Studies
Film, Cinema and Media Studies (theoretical focus)
Musicology and Ethnomusicology
Foreign Languages and Literatures
Performance Studies (theoretical focus)
Philosophy and Political Theory
Religion and Theology
Sociology (qualitative focus)
Theater (theoretical focus)
SUMMER RESEARCH PROJECT
The six-week summer program will consist of a combination of being trained in research fundamentals and conducting individual research (disciplinary or interdisciplinary). Proposed research projects should in some way consider questions and problems of today—existential, ethical, political, disciplinary —and the way(s) in which material resources (historical, cultural, literary, archival—to name but a few) give students the resources to grapple with these questions.
Individual research may take place at the variety of libraries and archives and laboratories at Columbia University (including, for example, the “September 11, 2001 Oral History” archive or the Columbia University and Slavery Project), but may also take place at cultural institutions in the New York City area (for example, the New York Historical Society, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Urban Democracy Lab, New York Public Library, etc.).
Prior to the beginning of the program, students will meet with supervisors to solidify the research project and to make connections with a main site of research.
The first week of the program will bring together the cohort of students to meet with one another and to work intensively with librarians and faculty at Columbia to develop an understanding of research approaches. During the remaining five weeks of the program, students will pursue their individual research projects under the mentorship of faculty members, as well as supervisors at the relevant research institutions, while continuing to receive training in research skills and approaches.
RESEARCH SYMPOSIUM AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Scholars will present their research at the Undergraduate Research Symposium in the following fall semester, in the form of a poster presentation. The event (which coincides with Family Weekend) is open to the entire Columbia community, including faculty.
In addition to the Research Symposium, students are encouraged to make their research available to the broader community. They will have the opportunity to make podcasts, to write up their research for journals, to develop academic articles, and to produce e‑portfolios and blogs and other digital projects. These formats will help students develop ways to translate their research for various communities, sparking opportunities for discussion, debate, and dialogue. Furthermore, Scholars will consider and convey the relevance and significance of humanistic expression in the challenges of our day.
Sample Humanities Research SUmmer scholars Abstracts
Curious about how you might talk about your research interests in the application? Check out these examples, developed by previous HRSP Scholars!
Usman Dan Fodio’s Justification of the Fulani War
Dotun Adegbite (HRSP'21)
This research project analyses Usuman dan Fodio’s doctrinal justification of the Fulani War to his followers and opponents, examining the various religious, political, economic, and ethnic factors that constituted that justification. Islam had been introduced into Hausaland several centuries before dan Fodio was born, but with varying degrees of penetration. Gobir, the Hausa emirate which dan Fodio inhabited at the time of the jihad, was a syncretist state that combined traditional and Islamic practices. This situation was not unique to Hausaland, as evidenced by the letters between Askia Mohammed Ture and Mohammed al-Maghili in the 15th-century Songhay Empire. For Dan Fodio and his followers, this mingling of Islamic and pre-Islamic practices was unacceptable, and syncretist rulers were accused of a broad range of injustices in religion and public policy. With growing tension between the syncretist government and Dan Fodio’s community of followers, Dan Fodio led his followers out of Gobir, sparking the open conflict between his community and the surrounding emirates. However, as warfare between fellow Muslims was strictly prohibited under religious law, Dan Fodio produced a vast corpus of writing defending the actions of his community and justifying the jihad to his followers and opponents. While religious law and the question of Muslim identity forms the basis for his justifications, closer analysis reveals political, economic, and ethnic motivating factors, all of which are examined through this study.
Project Abstract & Title: The Aristotelian Literary and Moral Framework
Gabrielle Epuran (HRSP'22)
Aristotle’s Poetics and Ethics are foundational for both literary theory and moral philosophy. While writers and critics alike have used the former to understand fundamental concepts of literature such as plot, character, mimesis, and theme, Aristotelian notions of happiness, “the good life,” moral character, and intellectual virtue have greatly influenced the whole of Western philosophy. Many theorists have noted how The Ethics and The Poetics share common understandings of fundamental terms such as “nature,” “technique,” and “reason,” but little work has been done to investigate how these concepts function similarly within these texts. Through a textual analysis of The Nicomachean Ethics, The Poetics, and secondary work done by Stephen Halliwell, Pierre Hadot, and others, Gabrielle argues that the proper formation of the good life and the proper formation of the Greek tragedy share common structures. This consistency indicates that Aristotle’s moral framework and literary theory not only complement each other in the use of common concepts but necessitate each other in Aristotle’s creation of a universal system. These conclusions may serve as a greater explanation for why literary conventions imply moral frameworks and how modern literary theories in opposition to Aristotelian poetics have arrived with the shift against Aristotelian virtue ethics.
The Ambiguity of Contagion: Encrypted Plague Narrative and Antisemitism in The Siege of Jerusalem
Rosa McCann (HRSP'21)
For scholars working on the medieval period, the parallels between the American experience of the COVID-19 pandemic and the European experience of the Black Death epidemics of the mid 14th century are self-evident. In both cases, the vilification of racial and ethnic minorities and the rehearsal of deeply ingrained societal prejudices shaped cultural attempts to understand contagious disease as a foreign threat. Often dismissed as no more than a blundering expression of violent antisemitism, the fourteenth-century epic The Siege of Jerusalem is in fact a particularly complex example of how European xenophobia intersected with anxiety surrounding the Black Death and its aftermath. Detailed textual investigation reveals The Siege of Jerusalem to be loaded with plague imagery. The poem’s central event, the siege of the city of Jerusalem by Christians intent on revenge for Christ’s crucifixion, functions as a metaphor for the quarantine of dangerous, infectious bodies. It takes no great imaginative effort, however, to align the invading Christians with the Black Death itself, laying siege to the city just as plague lays siege to the body’s defenses. In this respect, the relationship between plague-related imagery and apparently opposed religious identities turns out to be more ambiguous than we might first imagine. On the one hand, the poem plays into the antisemitic dogma of the time by presenting a narrative which blames Jewish communities for the outbreak of plague and seeks to justify their persecution. On the other hand, Jewish people throughout the text act as proxies for plague victims, deserving of sympathy from the poem’s largely Christian readership. This instability or ambiguity – which resists easy resolution, represents an attempt to reckon with the chaos and trauma of plague events, which threw into question the simple binaries of medieval society: self and other, Christian and Jew, besieger and besieged.
Bearing the Weight: The Physical Poem and Material Metaphor of Venantius Fortunatus
Julien Ken Ange Roa (HRSP'22)
This research project contextualizes the production and poetics of Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus’ acrostic figure poems, Carmina 2.4 and 2.5, in which (usually) rubricated versus intexti, intertextual verses, produce the appearance of two variations of abstract cruciform shapes within a field of text. Fortunatus, an Italian born, Latin poet and hymnographer of the Merovingian court in 6th century France, and the poems are illuminated by his own literary and epistolary corpus as well as by the pertinent poetic, visual, and theological trends from sources of influence on the author and the cultures in reception of his works. This entails an examination of Fortunatus’ prose letter about his only other acrostic, comparisons to gemmed cross reliquaries, textile analogs found in late antique Coptic tunics, art historical studies of Merovingian semiotics, a survey of the Merovingian social landscape, and, most importantly, a close investigation of the acrostics themselves in light of all the preceding aids. If Fortunatus is an ‘occasional’ poet, that is a poet whose works are often driven by events and occurrences, then the occasion associated with the two acrostics is the arrival of the first relic of the True Cross to Northern Europe, which was brokered by Radegund, a queen-turned-abbess, and her patronage of Fortunatus himself. As such, the True Cross as a relic, a physical object, a narrative subject, and semiotical progenitor as well as Radegund and her abbey will be keys to unlocking the full range of interpretive registers of the iconotexts. The objective in this paper is to recreate the 6th century experience of primarily 2.4 such that the especially potent material register that Fortunatus impregnates the acrostics with may be accessibly related to the modern viewer, of course while arguing that his own authorial habits, the common visual and lexical rhetoric of his contemporaries, and the liturgical-devotional possibilities of the relic may have worked to invite such a peculiar type of poem. From the materiality, both literally and symbolically, the utility and efficacy of the cross-object, particularly in the liminal, parchment-textile form observed in 2.4 and 2.5, will be highlighted and demonstrated as existing on the basis of the enabling power of the Cross-symbol.
At the Intersection of (Pseudo)science and Mass Politics: American Eugenics and Italian Fascism
Aiden Sagerman (HRSP'22)
The American eugenics movement played a central role in the scientific and political landscapes of early-twentieth-century America. In recent decades, historians have begun to examine this movement more carefully, often emphasizing the relationship between American eugenicists and the Nazis in the decades before WWII. The connection between American eugenicists and Italian fascists, on the other hand, has gone comparatively unexamined. At a glance, these two groups were strange bedfellows: the American eugenicists were aristocratic conservatives who despised mass politics and believed Italians to be racially inferior to their “Nordic” cousins; the Italian fascists were a revolutionary populist movement who, unlike the Nazis, had no theory of Nordic supremacy. But despite this, the American eugenicists were infatuated with Italian fascism. Throughout the interwar years, they corresponded with officials in Mussolini’s government, praised fascist governance in their published works, and attended conferences hosted by Il Duce himself. In this project, Aiden Sagerman attempts to discover what drew the American eugenicists to the fascist political model, with an eye towards the conflict that arises at the intersection of (pseudo)science and mass politics. Through analyzing published works, personal correspondence, and official documents, he uncovers the relationships between four prominent eugenicists and eugenics donors and key figures
Translation, Gender, and Domesticity: The Hidden Creative Labor of Zenobia Camprubí
Molly Wagschal (HRSP'21)
Zenobia Camprubí (1887-1956) was one of the most prolific Spanish translators of the 20th Century. The most extensive and notable of her translation endeavors consisted of translating the entire works of Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) from English to Spanish, leaving an undeniable influence on Spanish culture and literature. Despite the success of these translations in the Spanish-speaking world, Camprubí has been largely neglected in the field of Iberian literary studies, and is often referred to solely as the wife of Nobel Prize-winning poet, Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881-1958). Likewise, although a number of scholars have recognized Camprubí’s collaboration with Jiménez on the translations of Tagore and have studied her life, there has been no thorough investigation into Camprubí’s theory of translation. How did she conceive of the act of translation? Why did she seem to undervalue her own contribution to these translations? How did factors such as gender play a role in her erasure from Iberian literary history? In this project, I attempt to construct Camprubí’s implicit theory of translation, drawing from her published Diarios, epistolaries, lectures, and articles. Informing my project with theoretical texts on gender and translation, literary theory, and translation theory, I argue that, for Camprubí, translation served more as a form of domestic labor than as crucial, creative work. Although Camprubí may have been complicit in her erasure from Spanish literary history by understating her own role in the translations, I intend to analyze the socio-political factors beyond her control that contributed to this erasure. As I explore in my project, gender and translation have historically been intertwined, and I analyze the role that gender played in Camprubí’s—and other women translators’—marginalization from literary history.
Discursive Injustice: Maintaining Sexism Through Language
April Wang (HRSP'22)
For humans, speech dominates social interactions. What we say simultaneously informs and is informed by what we know—this interplay of discourse and knowledge reveals an inextricable link between our concepts of the world and what we say about them. In the philosophy of language, speech act theory posits that every utterance constitutes an action in the social world. An inherently collaborative project, speech requires a speaker and listener who, in an interaction, continuously define and redefine their relationship. Through speech, individuals have the agency to negotiate their material social statuses within a local context.
The interplay of speech and knowledge plays out on a larger sociopolitical stage. Discursive practices develop in tandem with larger structures of power: local uses and patterns of language reflect and reinforce social concepts of gender and systemic-level power relations. This project seeks to uncover how structural power imbalances manifest in the speaker-listener relationship through a listener’s preconceived understandings of gender and her interlocutor’s social status. Discursive injustice, wherein a speaker fails to exercise agency over her speech and status, produces a form of micro-level silencing that is intertwined with larger, often invisible, systems of power. Through a survey of feminist philosophical literature, from the initial rise of academic feminist philosophy in the 1970s to contemporary discussions of linguistic sexism, this project uses conceptual frameworks from the philosophy of language to analyze the relationship between gender oppression and speech.
2023 cohort HUMANITIES SUMMER Research SCHOLARS
2023 Cohort Humanities Summer Research Scholars Bios
Hannah Halberstam CC'25
Hannah is a history major who is slowly consolidating my interests into the history of the relation between place and identity. On campus, she is a member of the Athletics Spirit Band, the Klezmer Ensemble, the Cu SLAM!, and Housing Equity Project. Outside of academics, Hannah enjoys writing fiction, learning facts about reptiles, and going for walks in riverside park with my friends.
Hannah's research will be looking at the life and writings of Virginia Gildersleeve, the dean of Barnard College from 1911 to 1947, to analyze her feminism, support of women's romantic friendships, and antisemitism, and the effects of these on students at Barnard College. Her attempts to include certain groups and exclude others based on Jewish and sexual identity categories at this time offers insight into a particular moment of shifting societal meaning in regards to these same categories. Analyzing Gildersleeve's opinions, and students' reactions to the expression of these opinions, helps illuminate this moment, and gives us an understanding of the ways in which shifting meaning of identity was reflected on the Barnard-Columbia campus during this time.
Rainier Harris CC'25
Rainier Harris is sophomore at Columbia interested in becoming a playwright one day. He is an English major with a background in journalism and making radio.
Rainer's project aims to research acclaimed playwright Jeremy O. Harris, specifically how his work can be placed in the legacy of experimental Black playwriting.
Samuel Klein Roche CC'25
English and Jewish Studies
From Boston, Samuel is studying English and Jewish Studies at Columbia, prior to which he spent two years living in Israel studying in a traditional rabbinic seminary. He loves living in New York City, learning new languages, discovering the best restaurants and watching good movies.
Samuel's project is an exploration of the early manuscripts of Shneur Zalman of Liadi, a key intellectual and spiritual leader in the Hasidic movement, a Jewish spiritual revivalist movement which began in the late 18th century. Samuel will examine his treatment of eros and gender in these texts and compare his teachings with those of earlier generations of Hasidic thinkers as well as his other written works. He intends to establish a chronology of these manuscripts to track the development of key elements of Shneur Zalman's theology.
Mira Mason CC'25
Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and English
Mira Mason is a sophomore in Columbia College studying English and Gender Studies. They are interested in the structure and historical development of transmisogyny. Their work has appeared in the Gadfly, The Columbia Review, and The Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism.
Mira is researching Julian Eltinge, a prominent silent film actor, Broadway theater star, and vaudeville star famous for his female impersonation. Despite his prominence as a national celebrity in the 1910's and 20's, Eltinge and his gendered performances have recieved little critical attention. Mira's project seeks to analyze Eltinge's carreer in order to understand how his trans-femininity fitted into contemporaneous understandings of gender and how that shaped our modern understandings of trans-femininity.
Olivia Ruble CC'25
Ancient Studies and Visual Arts
Olivia Ruble, originally from Indiana, is pursuing a degree in Ancient Studies with a concentration in Visual Arts. Outside of class, Olivia writes and illustrates for Columbia’s undergraduate satire magazine, The Federalist, and is also an editor for the Columbia Undergraduate Journal of Art History. In her free time, Olivia enjoys making pottery, teaching swim lessons, and listening to music before it becomes cool.
Olivia’s project will examine how the image of Daphne, the Greco-Roman mythological nymph-turned-laurel, is reimagined through art in the 21st, 20th, and 19th centuries. Myth-tellers (and re-tellers) have often used the tale of Apollo and Daphne to illustrate the opposition between chastity (Daphne’s preference) and the pleasures of the flesh (Apollo’s aim). This project seeks to understand how each artist has interpreted the mythologically-perverted narrative of Apollo and Daphne in their unique historical contexts, as well as provide further insight into how each work may be informed by the artists’ contemporary concerns regarding sexuality and authority.
Janus Yuen CC'25
Janus is a history major at Columbia College with wandering interests in classics, religion, and anthropology. Besides these preoccupations he is also a geography nerd, milk tea connoisseur, and wikipedia junkie. His ideal state is watching Minecraft redstone videos on Youtube while snuggled under his favorite blanket.
At the turn of the 20th century, the population of New York City exploded, driven by immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe and by Afro-Americans from the South. Janus' project seeks to understand how these communities and the religious institutions they imported (Catholic parishes, Orthodox synagogues, African Methodist Episcopal churches, etc.) interacted with the city at the heart of the American commercial revolution—specifically whether, how, and to what extent these theologically diverse congregations reacted to the emergent consumer culture and its radically individualist ethic. At stake was these religious communities' ability to provide their members moral guidance in the midst of this new, disorienting, commercial capitalist world.