Category Archives: Papers

Senior Thesis Profile: Gillian Reinhard Talks Turandot and Tripod

By Brendan W. Clark ’21

Editor-in-Chief 

Gillian Reinhard ’20 is the President’s Fellow in History, the Department’s inaugural Chatfield Fellow, and a senior thesis writer. History@Trinity’s Brendan Clark sat with Gillian to ask her a few questions about her thesis and her experience with the History Department.

Gillian Reinhard ’20, History Major, poses with her Tripod history scrapbook. Courtesy of Brendan Clark ’21. 

Gillian Reinhard ’20 outside of the Forbidden City, the palace in Beijing. Courtesy of Gillian Reinhard ’20.

  1. Describe your research topic in two minutes or less.

I am looking at the 1926 opera Turandot, by the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini. The first part of my thesis concerns how different cultures portrayed exoticism and embraced Edward Said’s concept of Orientalism. I am applying what I have learned in the first chapter to look specifically at how British audiences perceived Puccini’s opera when it arrived in London a year later, again from the perspective of Orientalism. The relationship between Britain and China is a unique one, with a long, complicated history, and I am hopeful that an analysis of this opera can shed light on this relationship.

  1. What specific aspects of your academic career at Trinity and your personal historical interests led you to select this topic?

Firstly, I have studied Mandarin Chinese since middle school and had the opportunity to study abroad in Shanghai during the fall of my junior year. My experience abroad truly shed light on the concept of Orientalism in the West. Also, I read Orientalism, by Edward Said, in my first-year seminar “Arabian Nights” with Associate Professor of History Zayde Antrim. That text has shaped much of my academic work. I decided to look at it through the lens of opera, as it has always been a quirky interest of mine.

  1. How has the History Department assisted with your research and what does your designation as “Chatfield Fellow” offer you?

I feel that taking the courses “What Is History” and “History Workshop” have solidified my passion for complex understandings of history, as well as confidence in my research abilities to undertake a lengthy paper. The Chatfield Fellowship is named in memory of Jack Chatfield ’64, a Trinity alumnus and beloved professor. Chatfield was also a part of the Tripod while a student, which makes it especially meaningful to me, as I have been Editor-in-Chief for four semesters. The Chatfield Fellowship provides a research fund for a student undertaking thesis research. I am currently in the throes of research for my chapters on Britain and am hoping to plan a trip to London in January, which would not be possible without the fund.

  1. What challenges have you come across as you have commenced work on your thesis?

In the context of my own thesis, operatic studies are generally consigned to the realm of musicologists. One of the great things about opera, however, is that it is a wholistic art form: thus, I have been able to research costumes, libretti, settings, press releases, etc. So. although many of the secondary sources focus on the music, I have been able to examine closely primary sources and illumine more of the story. Having confidence in yourself to undertake such a significant project is also very important.

  1. What else are you up to in the world of history?

Great question, Brendan! I am working with you and other members of the department on the Trinity Bicentennial History Project. I am fascinated by Trinity’s institutional history and feel that it is our duty to become more informed about our past. Being on the Tripod has given me a front-row seat to how history is preserved and remembered at the college. As we approach two-hundred years, it is something we should be proud of, but also recognize requires deep contemplation. I love reading old issues of the Tripod and I have spent several years documenting its history, collecting clippings and writing a narrative of its past in a binder.

  1. What is your favorite aspect of the Tripod’s history?

Oh gosh, there are so many! It is incredible to look at the list of Editor-in-Chiefs of the Tripod and realize that for over fifty years of its existence, it was run entirely by men. The first female Editor-in-Chief was from the Class of 1973 and she did a great job! Additionally, the Tripod has a fascinating past: in the 1920s, the Tripod’s Editor-in-Chief was suspended for writing an editorial critical of Dean Troxell, under the administration of then-President Remsen Brinkerhoff Ogilby. It would be crazy to imagine that happening today!

  1. What advice would you give prospective history majors?

I think history is a great major! It has taught me how to write well, think critically, and argue effectively. For me, it was a no-brainer to complete my degree with a second major in International Studies. I would encourage students to explore their options and always say “yes” to academic opportunities.

  1. If you could be one figure from history, who would it be and why?

I would be Elizabeth I at the beginning of Shakespeare’s career or at the defeat of the Spanish Armada. I love the Tudors!

The History Department’s Senior Thesis Presentations of 2018

By Gillian Reinhard ’20

Contributing Writer; History Major 

On Wednesday, May 2, thesis writers from the class of 2018 presented the culmination of their year-long research projects with topics ranging from Russian Communist influence in twentieth-century China to studies of the environment on the New England coast. Each thesis is the result of countless hours of independent study and serves as a significant achievement for a history major.

The first presenter, Elenore Saunders, introduced her thesis titled “The Bluefish, an Unsolved History: Spencer Fullerton Baird’s Window into Southern New England’s Coastal Fisheries.” This project examined the bluefish, a species of fish that has historically been tied to the disease epidemics of indigenous populations in early America. Ms. Saunders also explored the negative stigma placed on the species and historical comparisons of the fish to wolves.

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The Parliamentary Practice of the “Putting Out of the Wig”

By Brendan W. Clark ’21

Editor; History Major

I wrote this not as an assignment but for publication here after being inspired by the mention of this practice in my Parliamentary Debate class with Professor Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre. What started as a search for an answer became an exhilarating six-hour review through the annals of British parliamentary history. 

Lord North, the Prime Minister of Great Britain during much of the American Revolution and the notorious culprit of the removal of Ellis’ wig.

On the evening prior,[1] the question was posed in a general sitting of History 270: Parliamentary Debate, a course duly held under the tutelage of one Dr. Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre, a professor of British History, inter alia, at Trinity College, as to the ambiguity of the nature of Parliamentary tradition surrounding the “putting out of the wig,” as it is so-called in the Parliamentary tradition.[2] Ergo, it stood within my earnest desires and in keeping with the general station of my inquisitive character to endeavor to establish, through scholarly review and research, the history of this unique practice. It is my hope that the forthcoming may provide an answer to this most perplexing and under-researched historical oddity in Parliament.

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The Frailty of Historical Truth: Learning Why Historians Inevitably Err

By David Lowenthal “How tiresome are the endless anecdotes about [William Best] Hesseltine, his seminar, and his students,” wrote Wisconsin editor Paul Hass.1 Yet the unsung historiographical lessons that seminar imparted to me and others richly merit recording. By scanning our mentors’ publications in skeptical depth, students learned that hidden bias always skews evidence, that secondary sources are ipso facto unreliable, and that myriad minor errors betoken major sins. Still more, they learned that even paragons do not have enough time, patience, or probity to prevent all such lapses and avoid their egregious epistemic consequences. Historians ever stumble on feet of clay. How tiresome are the endless anecdotes about [William Best] Hesseltine, his seminar, and his students,” wrote Wisconsin editor Paul Hass.1 Yet the unsung historiographical lessons that seminar imparted to me and others richly merit recording. By scanning our mentors’ publications in skeptical depth, students learned that hidden bias always skews evidence, that secondary sources are ipso facto unreliable, and that myriad minor errors betoken major sins. Still more, they learned that even paragons do not have enough time, patience, or probity to prevent all such lapses and avoid their egregious epistemic consequences. Historians ever stumble on feet of clay. At the University of Wisconsin from 1932 until his death in 1963, Hesseltine was a renowned chronicler of the Civil War and its aftermath, whose “commandments” on historical writing are still often cited. His anathemas forbade the passive voice, the present tense, designating persons by their last names only, and quoting from secondary sources. He inveighed against the rising tide of pompous impedimenta: “do not discuss thy methodology”; “write about thy subject and not about the documents concerning thy subject”; “fight all thy battles in the footnotes.” And––pertinent in today’s Wiedergutmachung spate of apology, tempting historians to turn moralist—”thou shalt not pass judgments on mankind in general nor … pardon anyone for anything.” 2 A retrospective celebrant prized Hesseltine’s “strange blend of pacifism, anarchism, Menckenism, Calvinism, and sheer naked perversity.”3”

[From The Art of History column in the March 2013 issue of Perspectives on History]