Learning Portfolio Reflection Post

I ‘m Lena, a freshman student at Parsons. My major is still undeclared, but I’m into fashion and communication design.


In the Senimar class, what I did for Bridge 4 was a research paper about the status change of female performers in circuses from the 1800s to the 1950s. The project required us to have a comparison of two time periods on any subject related to the circus, so I looked for changes that occurred in circuses throughout history. The research process was not successful at first because a potential thesis was either too broad to be interesting or too narrow for me to find enough supporting materials. For example, animal abuse in the circus is a topic that has been talked about for millions of times, so it would be boring.


When I was worried, I got unexpected inspiration from the Studio class. Professor assigned a historical figure to each student and asked us to do a oral presentation of that person. Mine was a woman called Maria Spelterini, one of the daredevils in the history. She was a tightrope performer who crossed the Niagara River Gorge on a single rope, and she not only did once but 5 times. I suddenly thought that brave women can be a topic. I did research on Google books, and then found that female performers actually experienced a great change in their status, and this was consistent with the women’s circumstances in the society as a whole. Therefore, I decide to connect the circus with some political elements, such as Women’s Rights Movement. I eventually wrote the paper from multiple perspectives, including female performer’s brave acts, creative innovations, active engagement into public affairs, etc.


This project helped me understand the history of circus, which I have never approached before, and the significance of women in human’s progress. I also learned about different roles and characters in the circus, which is very interesting, and they can inspire me in other projects in the future because the circus itself has a mysterious, artsy feeling. I also studied the techniques of doing research. A crucial thing is that I have to know what the source focuses on before reading it, or it will be a waste of time. I wish to learn more about researching in Integratives 2.

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