Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies
Department Chair:
Greggor Mattson

Administrative Assistant:
David Divins

Department Email:

Phone: (440) 775-8923
Fax: (440) 775-6698

Rice Hall 29
10 N. Professor St.
Oberlin, OH, 44074

Leah Freed Memorial Prize - Fall 2008 Recipients

Leah Freed Memorial Prize - Fall 2008 Recipients

The Fall 2008 recipients were as follows:

Lindsay DuPertuis
Major: Art History

Project Title: Painted Cassoni in Private Spaces

Project Description:  This project centers on an artwork in the Allen Memorial Art Museum collection: Apollonio di Giovanni's "Battle between the Athenians and the Persians" of 1463. This painting, which was once the front panel of a chest (cassone), was made in Florence for the marriage of Caterina Rucellai and Piero Francesco Vettori. Stylistically, it is an interesting object of study because it looks so Gothic at a time when the Renaissance was thriving. Historically, it is interesting because it is embroiled in a dense web of connections that include important figures of quattrocento Florentine art, culture, and politics. Despite this, painted cassoni have often been overlooked by past scholars because they are pieces of furniture. Instead of hanging on the wall, they sat low on the ground and held possessions that the bride brought to her husband's house. The paintings themselves have been considered "decorative" and even "primitive". I argue that cassone paintings rightfully belong in the narrative of Renaissance art; they held a prominent place in a couple's bedroom, which was one of the household's most important spaces. Part of my paper will be a synthesis of existing research on cassoni, focusing on how they were valued by their owners in comparison to other art objects and how Apollonio di Giovanni fit into the art world of fifteenth century Florence. I will also include an analysis of the Oberlin panel, which will discuss the subject matter as a commentary by the bride's father, Giovanni Rucellai, to the new branch of his family.

Katherine Lauth
Major: Anthropology 

Project Title: Resistance in the Hills: Intersections of Gender, Sense of Place, and Activisim in Southern West Virginia

Project Description: The coal industry has dominated West Virginia's natural and cultural landscape for the past 150 years.  Since the development of the railway system, outside interests have exploited the state's land and people to gain control of the region's rich coal reserves.  Technology has accelerated the process of extraction and decreased the need for human labor, most recently with the practice of mountaintop removal (MTR).  Infiltrated water supplies and dust caused by blasting have led to increased health problems for coalfield communities, and the environmental damage is threatening the region's subsistent way of life.  The majority of the population is directly or indirectly dependent on the coal industry for income, making opposition uncommon.  However, there are environmental justice groups organizing against MTR, and the majority of the activists involved are women.  There are several reasons for this trend, ranging from the practical to the political.  Women's social roles are more often confined to the home, giving them more time to interact with community members and organize.  In addition, more women, and especially single women and widows, are not reliant on the industry for their livelihood.  Similar to women's participation in other environmental justice movements, many activists claim that their roles as mothers and caretakers call them to activism. This project examines why women have organized in greater numbers than men, considering the gendered social roles of Appalachia, women's relations to the coal industry, and senses of place.    

Amanda Shubert
Major: English

Project Title: Diaspora and Identity: The Baghdadi Jews of Mumbai and Kolkata

Amanda was awarded the Leah Freed Prize but had to turn it down in light of the tragic events in Mumbai.

Desirae Sweet
Major: Religion, Ancient Greek

Project Title: The Interpretive History of the Book of Esther

Project Description:  Although Esther is the title character of the biblical Book of Esther, readers have questioned Esther's legitimacy as a heroine since the story's emergence in the 3rd or 4th century BCE. Sexual politics and the identity of Hebrew women contrasted with that of foreign women are major themes throughout the book. In sharp contrast to the deposed Queen Vashti's open refusal to do the king's bidding, Esther works quietly and ingeniously through the extant power structure of the Persian royal court and ultimately succeeds in rescuing her people from imminent genocide. Successive reinterpretations of the story of Esther, including significant additions in the Greek version, reflect a shifting understanding of the "proper" role of women, and of Jewish and/or Christian women in particular. Using a tradition history approach, I will trace the midrashic and inter-textual development of this narrative, examining the Hebrew Massoretic text, the Greek Septuagint, the Aramaic Targums, and Jewish and early Christian commentary. I will also track the interpretive history of the Book of Esther through Hellenistic as well as Medieval and Renaissance art. The Leah Freed Memorial Prize Award will help fund my trip to Yale University, the only location outside of Syria that houses reproductions of frescoes from a 2nd century CE Syrian synagogue that depict scenes from the Book of Esther.