And we’re back …

After a restful break between the semesters, the Ramonat Scholars have returned to campus and are ready for the second semester of the seminar. The fall course exposed them to a wide range of scholarship on nineteenth-century Catholic immigrants in Chicago. This semester, the Scholars will be researching and writing their own works of original scholarship. The spring semester is designed around the various stages of identifying a topic, locating sources, developing a thesis, writing an outline and a first draft, revising, and finally giving an oral presentation at the end of the semester. Each student has access to her or his own generous travel budget to help acquire necessary materials, to travel to archives, and to pay for lots of photocopies and digital images!

The students will be blogging every few weeks about their progress. As you will see from their recent blog posts, they have come up with a rich and varied range of research topics:

  • By studying Chicago’s Polish-American community’s response to the Polish independence movement over the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Andrew is hoping to uncover how ethnic nationalism manifested itself in immigrants’ religious, political, and cultural identities.
  • Bianca seeks to uncover the origins of the Levee District, Chicago’s original nineteenth-century Red Light district. How did such a distinctive feature of the modernizing city come into being in Chicago? What role did Catholic immigrants play in that process?
  • Brendan is interested in how Catholics navigated the growing commercial economy in late nineteenth-century Chicago as the city rapidly industrialized.
  • The Second Vatican Council transformed Catholicism for many Americans. Claire is interested in the way in which one very specific change, the forced removal of habits from women religious, affected the women impacted by it.
  • Despite being Chicago’s original Catholic community, French immigrants have loomed larger in past memory than in present representation within Chicago Catholicism. Dan wants to look beyond those ethnic groups – Irish, German, Polish, and Italian – than came to dominate the city to recover the place of the French within this urban community.
  • Nothing is more often associated with the immigrant experience than foodways. Guy is researching the role played by food and drink in the lives of Italian immigrants between 1870 and 1920, a dramatic period of migration.
  • George Cardinal Mundelein has long loomed charge over early twentieth-century Chicago Catholicism. Hector is intrigued by how we assess the man and his influence over the city.
  • What is the line between sanctity and sanity? It’s an important question, Maya contends, especially for women in the Catholic Church in the nineteenth century. Her study will focus on Catholic responses to hysteria.
  • Catholic literature boomed during the nineteenth century. Olivia is interested in how authors represented Catholic women and what those works had to say about idealized notions of Catholic womanhood.
  • The Haymarket Massacre was one of the most dramatic and contentious incidents in late nineteenth-century Chicago history, the subject of much press coverage. Shannon is interested in recovering the influences that shaped convicted anarchist August Spies and his wife Nina Van Zandt and how Catholics responded to these two complex individuals.
  • Chicago is a city of Catholic churches, but how did they come to look the way they do? Susie wants to dig into the architectural and interior design histories of churches in different ethnic parishes to think about questions of transplantation and hybridity.

Check back frequently to learn more about how their projects are coming together!


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