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“I’m researching a relatively unexamined topic,” says Lisa Vislocky, a senior from Staten Island, N.Y., and a graduate of St. John Villa Academy. “It’s really forced me to question why I think there are connections between the Canterbury Tales and the Black Death of 1348 and to reevaluate my support to make sure that such connections exist.”

Marquis Scholar Lisa Vislocky’s passion for literature has inspired her to pursue departmental honors in her minor course of study, English. She is researching connections between Chaucer’s depiction of characters in The Canterbury Tales and the shift in Europeans’ perceptions of doctors, members of the clergy, and women’s status after the Black Death.

Vislocky is doing her research under the direction of adviser Carolynn Van Dyke, professor and head of the English department, whose areas of specialization include medieval literature, the English language, women’s studies, and computer science. Van Dyke has mentored other honors students, including Carrie Leder ’98, who examined the representation of women in Chaucer’s poem The Legend of Good Women.

“Although she’s a math major, Lisa wanted to pursue an honors English thesis,” Van Dyke says. “The math department was very accommodating and allowed her to rework her schedule.”

Vislocky is pleased at the prospect of offering new contributions to the scholarship on a literary classic.

“I have already taken about nine English classes and I thought it would be a greater challenge, a natural step, to take on such a self-motivated project,” Vislocky says. “I’m researching a relatively unexamined topic. It’s really forced me to question why I think there are connections between the Canterbury Tales and the Black Death of 1348 and to reevaluate my support to make sure that such connections exist.

“I am considering pursuing a graduate degree in English and thought that writing a thesis would be a good experience for me and would help me decide whether research in English is the path I’d like to take,” she continues. “I am unsure what I’d like to study while at grad school, so I am in the process of looking for a job in publishing. My research this year has helped me realize how much I enjoy English literature and has sparked my interest in studying literature more intensively sometime in the future.”

No matter what the future brings, Van Dyke says, Vislocky will find herself well-prepared.

“To pursue two separate disciplines really opens up a lot of options for Lisa,” says Van Dyke. “Her math background is certainly a great asset. She has many talents and an unlimited desire to learn, and to have those quantitative skills will give her more exact and precise analytical abilities.”

Vislocky is pleased with the education she has received.

“I’ve had some great experiences and opportunities here because of Lafayette’s small size,” she says. “It’s a definite advantage intellectually.”

Another Side of Lisa

As a participant in the EXCEL Scholars program, in which students collaborate closely with faculty members on research projects while earning a stipend, Lisa assisted Clifford A. Reiter, professor of mathematics in his research on chaos and crystallographic symmetry.

As R.A. coordinator, she works with Lafayette’s student residence hall staff, consisting of nine head residents and more than 50 resident advisors. She is also member of the student committee that played an instrumental role in the opening of Gilbert’s, the College’s newest late-night coffeehouse and student hangout. She’s a math tutor and staff writer for The Lafayette, the College’s student newspaper.

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