The exhibit, Maria Elena Walsh and the Art of Subversive Children's Literature, recently installed just outside the entrance to the Plaza Cafe, introduces the 2011-12 FARA project of Alina Dunbar, a WCAS junior and member of Chapin Humanities Residential College. FARA, for those unfamiliar with it, stands for "Fellow Assistant Research Award," a program of Northwestern's residential college system. It pairs a Northwestern undergraduate with a res college faculty fellow to work collaboratively on a genuine faculty research project.
Under the direction of Jeff Garrett, Associate University Librarian for Special Libraries, Ms. Dunbar's project has been to research the prominent Argentinian writer for children, Maria Elena Walsh (1930-2011), specifically her adaptation of Carrollian nonsense in the novel Dailan Kifki. The thesis under investigation has been that nonsense fiction was used by Walsh as an undetected but effective instrument of subversion to criticize the patriarchal, authoritarian regimes that dominated the political life of Argentina during her lifetime.
Alina conducted her research both at Northwestern University Library, using the Hans Christian Andersen Award Archive in Special Collections, and at the International Youth Library in Munich, a journey for which she was awarded an Undergraduate Research Grant. She will be traveling to Argentina this summer to develop her project into a Senior Honors Thesis, also with substantial university support.
Great thanks for their contributions to this exhibit go to Nora Davis of the NUL Preservation Department and to Sara Stigberg, Special Libraries administrative assistant, and of course to the Office of Residential Colleges and its director, Nancy Anderson, for their continuing support of the FARA program--and projects such as this one.