The Merrill Scholars program, which recently finalized its selections for the 2020-2021 year, allows students to explore historical and analytical research through looking at literary resources in Princeton University's Library Special Collections.

The Merrill Scholars program, which recently finalized its Scholars for the 2020-2021 year, allows students to explore historical and analytical literary research through looking at literary resources in Princeton University's Library Special Collections. This year's 2020 Merrill Scholars are IV Formers Esha Akhtar, Christine Cheng, Mac Dilatush, Kristen Li, Avigna Ramachandran, Amelia Roselli, Chelsea Wang, and Hannah Welsh.

The Merrill program is currently directed by English Master Marta Napiórkowska and assisted by English Master Margaret Ray. On the goals and importance of the program, Napiórkowska hopes that "students can think more broadly about literature" while engaging in historical, philosophical, and aesthetic conversations while exploring "cultural [and] social theory."

The program selects scholars dedicated to writing, research, and literature analysis, giving students the opportunity to develop original pieces of literature through independent projects of their choice. In addition, Ray says that the program looks for enthusiastic and curious students "with a demonstrated ability to work independently towards long-term deadlines."

"The goal is for each Scholar to write an original academic paper informed by archival research, informed by sources they can't get access to anywhere else," Ray said. She also hopes that Scholars are able to "write a mini-portfolio of creative work that they're proud of, to practice workshopping creative work by their peers, to make joyful and fascinating connections across disciplines, to make discoveries as part of their research, [and] to potentially write [their] first academic paper on some archival materials." Students study the comprehensive process of producing a paper through examining literary artifacts, analyzing sources, and finally producing their original work.

If the program is to be held virtually, Ray said, "It will probably just change the order in which we do things-which might actually be better, anyway. If our Scholars are able to come to the archives with an already-built-up background of reading they've done on their topic, they might have a better idea of what materials they want to call and what they want to look for in the archives."

The Scholars have also been looking forward to their studies in the Program. On her source of literary inspiration and hopes about her future project, Akhtar said, "When I think about the projects I'd like to do, I think about Jia Tolentino, who is a first-generation Asian writer. When I read her books it was such a unique experience because I related to her many identities; she was telling me things about myself I didn't even know until I read it…I'm really interested in further studying race and feminist theory and identities."

On what he hopes to get out of the program, Dilatush said, "I've alway really enjoyed reading literature, and I wanted to replicate it and emulate it-I wanted to contribute my own to literary canon [by] putting into words the things we feel and observe and can't quite describe in our daily lives, to make that almost empirical, something we can really clearly look at and visualize as opposed to just think."

On what she wants to do for her project, Wang said, "I would love to look at something that has to do with my own identity. I want to look at poetry as well because poetry is such a large part of my love for English, so I'd like to look at female writers or writers of Asian heritage or even LGBT writers...I look forward to having the freedom of working on an independent project and having the resources of the Princeton archives; it is such a rare opportunity that I am very excited for."

Roselli hopes to learn about analytical writing, the writing process, and the journey of a product from start to finish as she looks into Shakespeare's productions. "I hope that seeing the author's creative process will affect how I create [writing of my own]," she said.


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