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University Communications

April 17, 2003
La Salle Students Perform Independent Research

La Salle Student W. Thomas McAllister Conducting Independent Study on "Literary Representations of the Holocaust"

The literature about the Holocaust has two points of view. One side maintains that to fictionalize the Holocaust is to trivialize it. On the other hand, there are those who claim fiction is the only way to get people to understand and comprehend such a terrible event.

W. Thomas McAllister, a Writing Major at La Salle University, is conducting an independent study to analyze and examine both sides of the argument. To do that, he will review Holocaust literature (both fiction and non-fiction) and examine its underlying historical, political and economic factors. McAllister's project seeks to determine what is the role of the creative writer in providing an essential understanding of the Holocaust.

"I had the opportunity to teach him once, and he is a wonderful student, very dedicated and talented," said Dr. Marjorie Allen, a La Salle English professor who will oversee McAllister's work.

McAllister's interest in the Holocaust began when he took an earlier course with Dr. Allen. "I went from knowing almost nothing to learning a lot about the Holocaust," he said. When the opportunity came to prepare his proposal for an independent research study, he immediately thought of the issue of fiction vs. non-fiction.

"Learning more about the Holocaust made a profound impression on me," he said. "Reading the disturbing testimonials of the survivors is something you cannot forget easily. We have not finished yet with this study, but I am inclined to say that creative writing is the most appropriate way to represent such horrible events."

La Salle Student Joshua Schneiderman Conducting Independent Research on Mysterious American Author Thomas Pynchon.

Thomas Pynchon is an enigma covered in a mystery veiled by anonymity. He is among America's most significant writers. The challenge of Pynchon's enigmatic reputation and the aura of mystery that surrounds him caught the attention of Joshua Schneiderman, a senior English major at La Salle University, who is conducting an independent study during this semester on Thomas Pynchon's five novels.

One of the purposes of Schneiderman's study is to prove if the early evaluators of Pynchon were correct in their assessments of him. Schneiderman's faculty mentor is Brother Gabriel Fagan.

The project consists of a long paper based on Schneiderman's readings of five novels, evaluating the author's place in novels of absurdist literature and searching for a common theme in Pynchon's novels.

Pynchon is one of most difficult of contemporary American writers. He achieved recognition for his 1963 novel, V, and his subsequent works, The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity's Rainbow, Vineland and Mason &Dixon.

"He is also noted for being one of the world's most famous literary recluses," added Fagan.

"Pychon's work attracted me because I like challenges, and if you read his work, you will see that he writes about intriguing issues, like paranoia and revelation," said Schneiderman. "I have been intrigued by his intentionally unintentional mystique. He's worth the effort."

La Salle Student Jason Ager Conducting Independent Research on Poetry of German Author Else Lasker- Schüler

As an exiled writer, Else Lasker-Schüler went to great lengths to rescue her memories from Germany, which was a constant test of her resilient soul.

A poet, writer, and artist, Lasker-Schüler was an influential member of the Berlin artistic community that emerged in the first years of the 20th century, creating and fostering innovative and experimental poetry, literature, theatre, and art.

Fascinated by the passion of Lasker-Schüler's writings and by the tragedy, loss, and feeling of betrayal that characterized her life, Jason Ager, a junior German major at La Salle University, is conducting an independent study this semester on the poetry of the author.

Ager is examining Lasker-Schüler's unceasing notion that Jerusalem was the promised land for her and her people. She also felt that neither Germany nor Palestine was the place she would call home.

Ager's study requires him to write an essay on the image of Jerusalem in Lasker-Schuler's poetry. He is reading Lasker-Schüler's work in German and exploring the images related to the term "Jerusalem."

Dr. Bernhardt Blumenthal, chairman of the Foreign Languages Department at La Salle, will assist Ager with this project. "Jason will put together an essay that will be original, creative and informative," said Blumenthal. "Lasker-Schüler was one of many sophisticated, cosmopolitan Jews who took part in and helped give birth to German Expressionism, creating and fostering innovative and experimental poetry, literature, theatre, and art."

"Jason is a very good student of German," said Blumenthal. "He has the ability to appreciate German poetry."

Ager said, "I became interested in Lasker-Schüler's poetry last semester, because I had to write a 55-page paper dealing with Austrian-Jewish authors and their new sense of identity in the exile, and Lasker-Schüler was one of them," said Ager.

"Her literature captivated me because even though her audience wanted her exterminated because she was Jewish, she still wrote for them, trying to reach them," said Ager.

Many of Laker-Shüler's poems dealt with love. Her lyrical, expressionist poems are well known, but her other literary works, such as novels and plays, are unfortunately often ignored.

Ager, 21, chose La Salle because he attended La Salle College High School, and coming to La Salle was a "natural progression of my student life. Also, I felt comfortable being around campus, and I like the educational program of this university," said Ager. He is captain of one of the school's intramural rugby teams, a member of the La Salle cheerleading squad, and is in the University's Honors Program.

"I am enjoying this research project. I love the German culture, and this is so far is a stupendous project," said Ager.

Lindsay DeMuth Conducting Independent Research
on the Development of Emotional Perception in Infants

Is it possible for an infant to know what their parent is feeling by the look on their parent's face? Most parents would say that their child can tell the difference in their mood by their expression. But for scientists trying to prove this, getting evidence is difficult.

Three La Salle University students are helping to get this evidence by watching films of young children to see if the infants' perception of their parent's emotion expressions can be verified.

The La Salle students, Lindsay DeMuth, of Cape May Court House, along with Jennifer Higgins and Jolene Westraad, are conducting an independent research project focused on infants' perception of their parent's emotion expressions.

De Muth and the other students are working with Dr. Diane Montague, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at La Salle, who has been doing research about understanding infants' perceptions of other's emotion expressions.

"I am quite excited about involving La Salle students in my research program," said Montague. "Student research involvement is an important part of the educational experience at La Salle and is essential for those students who are interested in gaining acceptance to graduate school. Lindsay, Jennifer, and Jolene are learning about infant development while gaining valuable research skills as they engage in this project."

"As part of the project, they are observing videotapes of infants who participated in a study of intermodal perception of the facial/vocal expressions of their parents and unfamiliar adults" Montague said.

"Previous research on infants' visual attention to others' expressions has demonstrated that infants as young as three and a half months of age look differentially at the expressions of familiar adults, particularly those with whom they have had greater involvement," said Montague. " The current project is designed to gather data on infants' own emotional responses to the filmed expressions to provide converging evidence of infants' abilities."

This semester and next summer, DeMuth will be reading journal articles and research materials, and analyzing films of babies interacting with their parents. She will use this information to write a paper for her independent study.

A junior majoring in Psychology, DeMuth has taken a previous class with Montague, and found herself fascinated in "how the human body develops and the depths of the human mind."

"I was interested in obtaining experience with the various phases of the research process, and Dr. Montague had mentioned she was recruiting students to gain experience by participating in her own ongoing research. I really enjoyed her class, so I decided to join in this research study," said DeMuth.

"This is an unique opportunity to learn and to test my skills—very different from a regular class. I have found the research stage very frustrating, but I am learning from my errors and finding new ways of doing things. Also, having Dr. Montague is helping a lot," DeMuth said with a smile.

She became interested in La Salle after taking a tour of the campus and she immediately "felt part of the community."

"La Salle is a great place where you can get individual attention and have a fabulous learning experience," said DeMuth.

DeMuth is Vice-President of Internal Affairs for the resident Students Association; a member of the Judicial Board; a Peer Educator and she belongs to the Health Occupation of Students of America. She is also a member of the Gospel Choir, the Honors Student Board, and is a member of "Los Niños," a community service trip that will travel to Mexico this summer to assist needy children.

-Raysa Francis