Elle Rothermich

Class of 2019

Hometown: Ridgewood, New Jersey

What is your College Scholar project?
I often joke that I am majoring in storytelling, though narrative is the foundation of my College Scholar project. Looking across the Government, English, Philosophy, and Feminism, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (FGSS) departments, I intend to make an intense study of one question: How does the dominant Western narrative shape political space? While the U.S. is deeply split along numerous ideological fissures, it still promulgates a cohesive narrative of Western (that is, broadly, European and American) hegemony. This artificially dominant story has a profound impact on the character of the global political order, shaping how and when nations interact with each other as well as which people are recognized as having stories worth telling. I was greatly inspired by the novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 2009 Ted Talk "The Dangers of the Single
Story" in which she warns that accepting one narrative as the sole truth has far-reaching consequences: "Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story and to start with, 'secondly'."

After completing a survey of narrative as a concept, I hope to discover what certain ideas associated with Feminist political theory - specifically the production of space, the power of narrative, and alternate conceptions of the self - can tell us about the way the current political order is constructed and sustained.  Ideally, I will then to use this research to explore policy alternatives that allow those political actors silenced within the dominant Western narrative to “tell their own stories”.

What are your most important extra-curricular activities?
Aside from various small service, writing, and theatrical projects, I serve as treasurer for Quodlibet, Cornell's undergraduate medieval society. We work to dissipate the popular "dark ages" conception of the medieval era through our annual lecture series and film screenings. I am also an editor for Ezra's Archives, Cornell Historical Society's undergraduate research journal. 

Talk about any summer internships or programs you’ve attended.
In order to continue my research into narrative as a concept and feed my passion for theatre, I studied on a Shakespeare course at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in the summer of 2017. The course gave me the wonderful opportunity to discuss a number of new, politically charged productions with members of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the wider theatre community, which greatly informed the direction of my research. 

What do you dream of doing after graduation?
I hope to tell stories and, more importantly, help others tell theirs. To this end, I wish to pursue graduate study in acting or a dual degree in human rights law and political science.