Komornik explores her love of history

Undergraduate research and creative activities at Eastern Connecticut State University provide opportunities for students to work closely with faculty mentors on research or creative work.

Eastern student Emily Komornik of Shelton has been participating in an undergraduate research project related to her major. Her research during the summer of 2015 included accessing the Jonathan Edwards Collection at Yale University's Divinity Library. Komornik's major is history and English and is a member of the Class of 2016.

The foundation of her current research began her sophomore year after taking a historical methods course with history professor Caitlin Carenen. The final project for the class was a research paper based on a primary source document. Komornik chose to write about Jonathan Edwards' famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, due to her interest in religious history — the Great Awakening in particular.

"My thesis focuses on the rhetoric of two movements, the Great Awakening, a religious movement in colonial New England which lasted from 1737 to 1745, and the American Revolution. I explore how these movements compare in terms of the use of rhetoric, as well as the types of publications utilized as strategies for its use,” said Komornik. “So far, I have found that the propaganda of the American Revolution, including newspaper articles, speeches, pamphlets, as well as the sermons of the ministers of the Great Awakening, are both deeply rooted in appeals to emotion. Harnessing the power of language and linguistic persuasion has proven to be an important strategy for everything from propaganda to presidential speeches,"

She submitted her original project for consideration for the J. Eugene Smith Library Research Award Scholarship and won. At that point, Carenen and Komornik discussed expanding the research paper into an honors thesis. The proposal and literature review for her thesis was approved in April. Komornik plans to complete her work during the fall 2015 semester.

"Emily is extremely gifted and her project is an exciting and ambitious one. Even though it's set in the 18th Century, the question she is asking, ‘how does rhetoric inspire rebellion?’ has relevance for us today,” said Carenen. “As a historian of American religious history, I have helped Emily fine-tune her project and it's been a pleasure to work with her."

During the spring 2016 semester, Komornik will be writing a critical research paper as an independent study with English Professor Maureen McDonnell. The focus of the paper is three Shakespearian tragedies — Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear — and the interplay of Catholic ghosts and pagan representations throughout.

Komornik plans to present both research papers at Eastern's undergraduate research and art conference in the spring. She also intends to apply to other research conferences in the spring, including the Council of Public Liberals Arts Colleges (COPLAC).

After graduating in May 2016, Komornik is considering pursuing either a master's degree or Ph.D. in history, with an interest in publishing and archival work, or a law degree with a focus in employment or appellate law.

"My research has developed into a much more complex research topic than I started with, but if anything, my passion for the subject has grown,” she said. “I believe I am so interested in the primary documents of the Great Awakening and of the American Revolution because they inspired controversial, extreme rebellions. I am fascinated by the way that words can hold the power to influence people so profoundly.”