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Congratulations to Grad Student Lexi Renfro!

A couple of weeks ago, Lexi Renfro won the CAH award for graduate scholarship, and this week, she won the 2017 University award for graduate student thesis, the Dale and Mary Jo Comstock Distinguished Thesis Award. This is the highest honor the University grants a graduate student, with only one being awarded per year.

Lexi's thesis was co-directed by Michael Johnson and Steve Olson, with Liahna Armstrong serving as the third reader and her mentor. Dr. Johnson nominated the thesis with these words, 

"Lexi brings multiple analytical angles to bear on literary representations of madness in Melville's and Poe's fiction both responsibly and elegantly. Her project demonstrates the enormous productive potential of combining historical contextualization with close textual analysis. In other words, by measuring the historical archive of the asylum reform movement of the mid-nineteenth century (e.g. common diagnoses, asylum operations, debates surrounding the insanity plea, etc.) against close readings of Melville's and Poe's fiction, Lexi demonstrates how their works both reflect prevailing conceptions of madness while also challenging those conceptions, especially where their moral implications are concerned. She goes as far as to argue that both authors anticipate, in certain ways, the epistemological shift that would come a few decades later with the advent of Freudian psychoanalysis.

It's a convincing and highly original project. Lexi did an impressive amount of research into the American asylum reform movement as she sought to better historicize her literary analyses. She dug deep into the archives, examining literary magazines published by asylum inmates, consulting the correspondences of both authors (to see if they had expressed opinions about asylum reform and the insanity plea), and looking at some of the many journalistic exposés written about asylum conditions during that period."

Congratulations Lexi!

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