Decoding the Self
About The Study
FYS asks students to uncover new knowledge in a variety of ways, melding methods of discovery that are typically thought of as separate and self-contained. Anna’s project is an excellent example of the uniquely insightful and meaningful work that can be accomplished when the boundary between “academic” and “creative” work is breached. This kind of exploration is non-traditional in the sense that it is not what Ernest Boyer called the “scholarship of discovery”—in which traditional research uncovers new knowledge—but instead what he termed “scholarship of integration,” in which insights from different disciplines are synthesized into something greater than the parts.
Anna’s piece, in short, brought together things that were already in her mental library, but the process of bringing them together resulted in something wholly new. Considering the somewhat rote process of Shakespearean text analysis as a form of investigating the Self leads her to wonder about undertaking the same process self-reflectively. How, in short, does character analysis work when the characters are ourselves? In the course of answering this question, she uncovers insights into perception and misperception, interpretation and the limits of interpretation, and the ability of the truly self-aware to address the limitations they find in themselves.
This compelling line of inquiry is ably embodied in the visual work that appears here. The image of a woman stands at the center of a flurry of text analysis, both distinct from and yet framed by it. The viewer is invited to consider the border between words and self, and the ability of analysis to uncover what lies below. As Anna notes in her Rationale, we should be better prepared to analyze ourselves because we know our own back-stories; and yet that knowledge usually serves to make more complex, more difficult, the process of analysis. With Shakespeare, her Study makes plain, we are often left to uncover a character’s self, but at least we are guided by a set of “scansion, stereotypes” and other rules imposed from without.
Anna first proposed this idea for her Study with some trepidation. It was a path she thought might be interesting, but was worried that nothing would come of it. It is clear from the results that something very intriguing did occur, thanks to her bold decision to forge ahead and think about things she already knew in a wholly unanticipated way.