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Torre Puckett

Headshot of researcher Torre Puckett
Graduation Year:
Spring 2017
“If realizing that English majors could do research was a surprise, it was even more of a surprise to discover that my research could help me travel.”

Torre’s undergraduate research has taken her off campus to study the archives of author H. P. Lovecraft.

Faculty Supervisor: Dr. Elizabeth Richmond-Garza, English, Comparative Literature and Human Dimensions of Organizations
Briefly describe your research project.
My English honors thesis centers on the works of H. P. Lovecraft, a short story writer considered second only to Poe in the American horror tradition. My project proposes a temporal model for his fiction that can reconcile all the seemingly disparate ways time is treated, utilizing both serious modern science and such concepts as immortality and resurrection. Basically, I attempt to answer the question of how time works in his stories. Many of Lovecraft’s papers, letters, and drafts are available at the John Hay Library at Brown University, so I traveled there to conduct research on these materials to help inform my thesis.

Describe the tasks you engage in as part of your work.
Conducting research in an archive is a painstaking process. It isn’t like using a library; normally you only have a finding aid (a kind of catalogue of what’s in a collection) to work with, and have to manually comb through it, looking for things that might be relevant. In order to work with these rare and sometimes delicate materials, you have to sit in a special room and use special procedures to preserve them—I’ve had to place books in book stands to preserve the spine, for example, or turn the pages of a particularly crumbly manuscript with a special card. My favorite thing to look at are drafts, because reading them lets you see the conscious decisions that the author has made about what he would add, exclude, or emphasize in moving from draft form to the final product.

Describe what you thought college might be like before you came to UT. Did you consider research when thinking about college?
No, I had never considered research before I got to college. I’d always considered English as one of the unlucky subjects not conducive to serious, hands-on research; I thought all that we could do was read books. I was very glad to be proven wrong, though! In recent decades the field of archival research has grown, and at UT we have one of the best archival research centers in the world, the Harry Ransom Center. Right now is a great time to be a researcher in the English discipline, and I was very lucky to end up at a school that encourages undergraduate research even though I never sought out that opportunity.
How did you get involved with your research project?
I was introduced to archival research through a Liberal Arts Honors class taught by Dr. Elon Lang, which teaches students how to use the resources available at the Ransom Center and other libraries on campus to conduct humanities research. I instantly fell in love with it, so when I began working on my honors thesis I knew that I wanted to incorporate archival research into my project. My thesis advisor, Dr. Elizabeth Richmond-Garza, encouraged me a lot in this. I applied for a Rapoport-King Thesis Scholarship, received it, and used it to fund my trip to Brown University.
Do you see your project connecting with your plans for your future?
Absolutely. I plan to go to graduate school someday, and working with archival materials is something graduate students, professors, and researchers often do in order to conduct research. Even beyond that, however, working with archives has done more to improve my writing than any other experience. It helped me to learn to formulate my own questions and that, in turn, has taught me a lot about my own passions and interests.

What is the most interesting or surprising thing you’ve gotten to do for this project?
If realizing that English majors could do research was a surprise, it was even more of a surprise to discover that my research could help me travel. Since I began conducting research, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Dublin, Ireland to present a paper I wrote based on Ransom Center materials, as well as to Brown University in order to conduct research at their archival library there. It was really gratifying that people were not only interested in my work, but were willing to encourage me and invest in it.

Research Week showcases the exciting work of undergraduates across campus and highlights opportunities for students interested in getting involved. Co-sponsored by the Senate of College Councils and the School of Undergraduate Studies, Research Week takes place in the middle of April each year. Take a look at the online schedule of events to find out more about Research Week events.