The senior seminar–referred to as the Capstone Experience in the McDaniel Plan–serves as a chance to apply what they have learned in classes in their major to a larger project. The project varies depending on the program of study; some majors will work on a research project and show their findings at a poster presentation, while others will focus on writing a paper and an oral presentation. During my Spanish senior seminar last semester, we spent the semester reading Don Quixote and wrote a paper on the book at the end of the semester.
For the English major, students can choose to do their project with either a literature focus or a rhetorical/creative focus. This year, the literary projects took the class in the fall and presented their papers in December. Projects ranged from analyzing the dystopian elements in The Hunger Games to a study on the effectiveness of using spoken word poetry in the classroom.
The people working on rhetorical and creative projects are working with Dr. Dobson this semester. Those doing creative pieces are writing memoirs and personal essays while the rhetorical projects use theory to analyze arguments and discourse patterns. Some examples of rhetorical analysis projects include a study of female beer bloggers and a project on worldmaking at Disney World.
I am also conducting a rhetorical analysis, and my general focus is breast cancer discourse. I picked this project because I was disturbed at how breast cancer discourse has become pink and cute (look at the Avon/Komen walks) or more about saving breasts than saving women (think Save the Ta-Tas and how that applies to women who have had mastectomies).
My research led me to The SCAR Project, a photography initiative in which the photographer David Jay photographs women under 40 who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Unlike many other projects, it exhibits the range of emotions that women feel during breast cancer, and it doesn’t include only what is called The Official Breast in breast cancer discourse–a patient who is white, straight, married, etc. The project includes a book, a blog, a documentary, and social media accounts. I’ll be using all of these documents to analyze to what extent The SCAR Project panders to traditional breast cancer discourse, and to what extent it qualifies it or carves out a new space for people to look at the disease.
I’m in the researching and outlining stage currently, and the best part about this experience is that I am fully engaged whenever I sit down to research and draft. The writing and learning is self-directed, but I also have great support from Dr. Dobson. It feels great to apply the rhetorical theory that I’ve learned in the past few years and apply to to analyzing a subject that I find supremely interesting.