Alpha Chi Research Spotlight: Hannah Ray

All around the country, Alpha Chi members are producing extraordinary scholarship across disciplines. We’ll be spotlighting some of their most compelling research projects in the coming months. Let their work be your inspiration.


Name: Hannah Ray

Institution: Gardner-Webb University

Major: English

Class Year: 2018


Q: What is the title of your project?

A: “Now Memories: The Present Realized through Nostalgia for the Past”


Q: What was your research question?

A: My original research was birthed out of an interest in two of my favorite plays, Our Town and The Glass Menagerie. As I began to look into the literary criticism surrounding these plays, I found that many scholars looked at nostalgia in them. As someone who tends to be very nostalgic, I found this interesting, and asked originally, “How do post-war American dramas deal with change and trauma through nostalgic themes?” As my research progressed, however, I realized there were deeper issues and questions embedded in the topic of nostalgia, which eventually led me to broaden this question and ask instead, “How can nostalgia be used as a productive means for literary critique and cultural worldview examination in a text?”


Q: What did you learn?

A: I learned that the term nostalgia itself has undergone extreme changes in definition, which has caused it to be classified as everything from a diagnosis of physical illness to a dangerous political agenda. My argument, however, is that at its core, nostalgia is a phenomenon of human emotion that occurs when people recognize that what they want in the present is something that has been lost from their past. When this emotional longing for the past occurs, people often turn to art, literature, music or film to process that longing, and through examining these texts, critics can find out what specifically a culture feels is missing in the present that they long for in their past


Q: Why does it matter?

A: Nostalgia is something that impacts both the individual and the collective. It is crucial for both individuals and societies to face what they are nostalgic for, because it may reveal underlying or subconscious issues with the present. It is also important to recognize it in terms of a larger conversation surrounding social justice. Does the collective nostalgia of a society actually portray nostalgia by every group and subculture, or just the traditionally dominant culture? What are individual subcultures and groups nostalgic for? Analyzing nostalgia instead of immediately glorifying or demonizing it allows us as both individuals and a society to locate areas where we may be lacking and searching for fulfillment, and then move forward from that into the present.


Q: What’s next?

A: This summer I will be starting an internship in Arlington, Texas, with Seed Company, a networking and marketing firm for Bible translation groups, like Wycliffe Bible Translators. My goal is to continue writing, specifically in a capacity that allows me to tell individuals’ stories from around the world. I am passionate about linguistics, translation work, and helping others to recognize the importance of multiculturalism, and I hope to make this my career through journalism and storytelling.