Sherman wins Center for Humanities' Iwanter Prize

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Sherman Sherman

Recent graduate Alexander Sherman (B.A.'15, English and Mathematics) has won the annual $2,000 Iwanter Prize, administered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for the Humanities for an outstanding interdisciplinary humanities-based senior thesis.

Chelsea Cornelius (B.A.'15, Philosophy and Religious Studies) Megan Ness (B.A.'15, History) received $500 honorable mentions.

Sherman's thesis, "Approximating Characters: The Waves and Fourier Analysis" traces a parallel between a branch of calculus called Fourier Analysis and Virginia Woolf's approach to characterization in The Waves, her most difficult experimental novel.

"The thesis is a brilliant and original piece of work, bringing together in a very creative and powerful way Alex Sherman's double major in English and Mathematics," says Hilldale and Virginia Woolf Professor of English and Women's Studies Susan Stanford Friedman, director of the UW-Madison Institute for Research in the Humanities, who directed Sherman's senior honors thesis. "I have been particularly excited to see the bridge he constructs between calculus  and literature--not only in Woolf's novels, but also as a methodology of reading that blends two very different ways of thinking."

Honorable mention winner Cornelius maps uncharted territory in religious studies, gender and women's studies, and critical media studies in her thesis, "Cyberspace as Sacred Space: Mapping Online Feminist-Religious Identity, Community, and Coalition Building." Cornelius examines how feminist and religious identity intersect with the culture of blogging.

Honorable mention winner Ness addresses a lack of information about childhood in ancient Greece by supplementing her historical research with art-historical and archaeological evidence to write "Children at Work: Childhood Labor in the Ancient Greek World."

"There is no published synthesis of this kind to my knowledge," says Assistant Professor of History Claire Taylor, Ness's advisor. "She has completed it to a high standard and has not shied away from challenging scholarly work."

The Iwanter Prize was established in 2000 by Sidney E. Iwanter (B.A.’71, History) to fill what he perceives as an "unfortunate gap" in rewarding the outstanding efforts of students in the humanities. The award is selected by the Center for Humanities director and two faculty members who serve on the advisory committee. Iwanter also reads every application.

"A well-rounded humanities education is the keystone to an informed electorate and a healthy society," says Iwanter.

Story by Megan Katz, Center for the Humanities