"Transcending Body: Lucretius, Whitman, and the Atoms In Between"

Written to complete my honors graduation requirements, my undergraduate honors thesis provides an intensive look into the contextual and theoretical bonds that intertwined Lucretius's De Rerum Natura with Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.

The striking correlation between the two grandiose poets is twofold: Lucretius and Whitman both reflect on the three main focuses of atomic foundation, love and the duality of the sexes, and the soul's place in the afterlife; in addition, both Lucretius and Whitman wrote during times of political turbulence and social growth in Ancient Rome and America respectively. As I suggest in the preface of my thesis,

Perhaps there is something to be said about the way in which the mind tends to contemplate the grand, comprehensive notions of existence, in the face of such paramount political and social transformations. This is what draws Lucretius and Whitman together: both poets, living in the midst of nations in progress, turned toward the universe, its ever-reaching and infinite grasp, and the human situated within it.

The historical context that encompasses my thesis owes its inception to the generous CURIAS Grant that I received from Penn State, one given to undergraduates whose theses focus around American history. This scholarship provided me an opportunity to travel to Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and to study its vast collection of Whitman letters, manuscripts, and journals. To utilize archival and special collections research in an undergraduate paper is an uncommon and unique experience, and one that I will never forget.

In addition to the financial support of the CURIAS Grant, I also had the literary and academic support of John Marsh, Penn State's resident Whitman scholar. In the year during which I wrote my thesis, Dr. Marsh and I held several meetings to discuss my chapters and progress. It was incredibly beneficial to have a scholar and lover of Whitman by my side, supporting my  endeavors in research and writing.


After completion of my thesis, I was nominated to present my work to a jury of Penn State's librarians and faculty, and I was ultimately awarded second place for the Outstanding Undergraduate Thesis Award. The award annually recognizes the use of superior research and library resources by honors students throughout the course of their theses.

I was honored to be recognized at the graduation reception alongside the other two nominees.

In addition to the Outstanding Undergraduate Thesis Award, I also earned the English department's Henry Sams Award for Best Analytical Honors Thesis.

"Transcending Body: Lucretius, Whitman, and the Atoms In Between" can be read here, at its permanent location in the Schreyer Honors College electronic database.

April 2014 — April 2015

Independent Study with Latin Poetry

In order to further my rigorous studies of Ancient Latin, a peer and I took part in a semester-long independent study with our first and favorite Latin professor, Pamela Cole. Although focusing primarily on the works of Catullus and the shifting of his poetic tones, we also tiptoed into some of Ovid's Amores. We individually translated between 100 and 250 lines of poetry each week, and came together once a week to review and discuss the material.

January 2014 — May 2014