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Daria Szkwarko ’06 (Berkeley Heights, N.J.)contributed to the writing of a French critical edition and English translation of a major literary work of the late medieval and early Renaissance period.

She collaborated with Olga Anna Duhl, associate professor of foreign languages and literatures, who is producing a critical edition of La Grant nef des folles (The Great Ship of Foolish Maidens), one of the most influential books of early modern Western civilization. Editions Champion, Paris, a leading publisher in the area of early modern French literature and culture, will publish Duhl’s work.

The research is part of Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, in which students assist faculty with research while earning a stipend. The program has helped make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate in EXCEL each year go on to publish papers in scholarly journals and/or present their research at conferences.

La Grant nef des folles is a French version of Ship of Fools, an allegorical poem written in 1494 by Sebastian Brant that satirizes the follies and vices of late medieval society. Originally written in German, Ship of Fools was so popular that it was soon translated into Latin, French, Dutch, English, and Low German. Ship of Fools stimulated both the development of vernacular cultures and the rise of humanism and the Reformation, according to Duhl.

The original text lost its poetic richness when translated into middle French and subsequent printings of the book took it further from its original form. Duhl created a more accurate French translation and studied the psychological aspects of the book.

A neuroscience major and French minor, Szkwarko used her talents in both fields.

“I transcribed the Latin text and compared it to the middle French version. Then I analyzed the theoretical aspects of cognitive faculties,” she says.

A pole vaulter and captain of Lafayette’s track and field team, Szkwarko explains that the book delves deeply into descriptions of the five senses.

“I investigated the hierarchy of the senses and I learned a great deal about the senses and how they were portrayed during the Middle Ages,” she says. “I discovered that several aspects of society during this period, such as religion, influenced the way in which the senses were portrayed, and often, individuals considered some senses to be weak or evil.”

“This work was a serious attempt to show what was known about people and their behavior,” says Duhl. “It was the first of its kind and helps us understand the history of ideas.

“[Daria] brought a scientific background to the project. Her research on the psychological aspects of modern cognitive theories was a great contribution to the final outcome.”

In addition to applying her scientific background, Szkwarko improved her French and learned middle French, which differ significantly.

“A big challenge was understanding the text because the typeface has changed through the years,” she says. “Symbols were different and it was hard to find information on what we were looking for because the translations happened so long ago.”

Duhl explains that the invention of the printing press created different type styles. Combine the different type with the multiple translations and the project became a significant investigative exercise.

The multi-disciplinary aspect of the work particularly appealed to Szkwarko.

“Professor Duhl was a wonderful mentor and she has encouraged me, both in and out of the classroom, to complete research that includes both of my disciplines,” she says. “I am very grateful for my EXCEL experience because I think that it is very rare for an undergraduate to have this type of research opportunity.”

“The EXCEL program is really state-of-the-art,” adds Duhl. “Where else would an undergraduate have the opportunity to undertake such a multi-disciplinary project? Daria had the opportunity to expand her scientific knowledge of cognitive theory, she learned translations and improved her French, and she will be better able to understand the history of humanism and feminism.”

Szkwarko is a student athletic trainer for Lafayette Sports Medicine, director of member development for Alpha Phi sorority, volunteer for Sharing Caring (adults with dementia) in Easton, and was a photographer for The Lafayette. She won the James F. Bryant ’40 Excellence Award, given each year to a junior student who meets standards of excellence by demonstrating high academic achievement, lettering in at least one varsity sport, and showing noticeable and noteworthy evidence of community service. Szkwarko graduated from Governor Livingston High School.

As a national leader in undergraduate research, Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Thirty-nine students were accepted to present their research at this year’s conference.

Categorized in: Academic News