Double major in English and history, undergraduate Kathleen Skinner, is winner of University Co-op Award
Skinner is one of five students to win the George H. Mitchell Award for Academic Excellence which comes with a $2,000 prize.
Posted: April 30, 2010
"I am honored and delighted to have been selected as a Mitchell Award finalist," Skinner says. She plans to use the award to continue her research at the National Library of Scotland (home of the John Murray Archive) and the Bishop Museum of Hawaii next summer.
Undergraduates must have achieved outstanding academic records and made a significant contribution to their field of study. Skinner's thesis inquired into the authorship of the travel narrative, Voyage of H.M.S. Blonde to the Sandwich Islands, In the Years 1824-1825 (1926).
English Department Professor Lance Bertelsen, the Iris Howard Regents Professor in English Literature, nominated Skinnner, "because it was clear from her work in my honors seminar, as my undergraduate research apprentice, and in producing the honors thesis that she was capable of researching, analyzing, and organizing with the competence of a trained academic," he said.
"The thesis brought all of her research skills and background knowledge to a topic remarkable not only for having not yet been claimed by a professional academic, but because of its conjunction of geographical and editorial trailblazing," Bertelsen said. "Its very genesis is a tribute to Kathleen’s ability to discover neglected but highly significant information and subjects."
The book was ghostwritten by early nineteenth-century British travel writer Maria Graham. It was published by John Murray as the official record of the H.M.S. Blonde's voyage to convey home the bodies of the King and Queen of Hawaii, both of whom had died while on a state visit to England.
Skinner made extensive use of archival materials—particularly manuscript letters between Graham and John Murray at the National Library of Scotland. Her thesis critically analyzes Graham’s role in shaping the exclusively male narrative of voyage of the H.M.S. Blonde by uncovering Graham’s primary sources and juxtaposing them against the final book.
Graham's correspondence with Murray reveals a professional writer keenly aware of the complexities of such a project. And Skinner's close literary analysis of Graham’s edits, annotations, and additions—as well as her other writings—expands upon these observations.
She traces how Graham's particularly feminized vision revises and synthesizes journals, interviews, and other information provided by the Blonde's crew into a larger narrative. It is a narrative that also reveals her own concerns and opinions about the rapidly changing political culture, economy, religion, gender and social hierarchy of the Hawaiian Islands in the 1820s.
Besides being an English Honors student, Skinner works full time in the Office of the President of The University of Texas. She is the webmaster and special projects coordinator. Earlier this year, she also received the Rapoport-King Thesis Scholarship for her thesis.