The Hanna Holborn Gray Fellowships offer funded independent research in the humanities. We're highlighting the research of this year's fellows in a series of online profiles.
Ella Kotsen ‘23, English
“Ruth Moore’s Quietside and the Power of Island Voices”
Abstract: My research focuses on the traditionally working-class area of Mount Desert Island, Maine known as “the Quietside.” Using the literature of famed local female and queer author, Ruth Moore, I will examine the legacy of both Moore’s literature and the storytelling that preserves the local community. I will be using American Literary Regionalism to describe some of the topics that make Moore’s work relevant on a grander scale in the literary field. I hope my research will show examples of real-life documented stories on the island, histories of the past, and how that affects an increasingly developing spatialized environment of Mount Desert Island through oral and written interviews with the local population. I aim to explore the dynamics of the increase in tourism and the methodology of writing about delimited, traditionally working-class communities that Ruth Moore so brilliantly wrote about.
Was there anything surprising about the work you did?
Before I started my research I saw more of a clear divide between the informal and formal questions that were guiding my topic. However, once I was on the island I realized that it was the informal interactions I had with community members—in the supermarket, in the public library, or neighborly conversations on the porch that sparked some of my most interesting findings. The kindness of folks when you tell them that their stories mean something to you and the openness in sharing these generational stories have created long-lasting bonds that I plan on retaining for the rest of my life. There is also a lot of merit in just listening to folks, and through that formal setting of listening and collecting stories for this research project, I learned some invaluable life lessons. Not only did my human-subject interactions, therefore, aid my research, but it created lifetime relationships and bonds that I did not expect.
How will you use your research in future studies?
I plan on writing my senior thesis on the topic of my research, Ruth Moore. All of the oral stories I collected along with the literature review can be used in my project. Additionally, now I am able to go beyond my summer research and focus on the genre of American Literary Regionalism as a whole. I am able to explore more authors who come from a similar tradition and compare their impact to Moore’s. Works from authors like Sarah Orne Jewett or Mary Ellen Chase serve as comparative authors to Moore’s realistic portrayals of the Maine coast during the 20th Century.
How did you choose your topic?
I chose my topic after working an internship at the Tremont Historical Society Museum and Country Store. During my time there, I became fascinated with the local regional author Ruth Moore. Beyond my fascination with her literature, I found a social connection to histories and stories of island life in realms outside fiction— a comparative analysis that seemed inevitable to me. Thus, I went back to Bryn Mawr, knowing I wanted to use their infrastructure and resources to prod out more stories and connections between the two which is what this fellowship allowed me to do.
The Hanna Holborn Gray Fellowships offer funded independent research in the humanities. Each summer, Bryn Mawr College awards up to 15 students a summer fellowship of $4,500 to undertake an independent research project in the humanities or humanistic social sciences. The research may either be the beginning of the senior thesis or a project that stands alone, but is relevant to their intellectual interests and must be supported by a faculty advisor.