Undergraduate’s Literary Interests Earn Her Marshall Scholarship

A woman with glasses in a dark shirtMadeline Fox, a senior undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh Honors College and the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, is a 2021 Marshall Scholarship winner.

The scholarship is given each year to intellectually distinguished Americans for postgraduate study in any field at any university in the United Kingdom. Fox is the first Pitt recipient of a Marshall Scholarship since 2013.

“The Marshall Scholarship is a remarkable honor—one that affords the nation’s most talented students a chance to broaden their experiences and education,” said Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “I know that Madeline is up for this challenge and that her University of Pittsburgh family remains excited to follow and celebrate her continued success."   

Fox, who is majoring in English literature, classical civilization and philosophy as part of her Bachelor of Philosophy degree at Pitt, has chosen the University of York in York, England, to be her place of study for one year. There, she will continue her studies in medieval literatures and languages for a Master of Arts.

A love of literature and arts

Fox’s interests in literature and the arts began when she was younger. “I always have a book to read,” said Fox. “But I didn’t really expect to be interested in medieval literature.”

“My parents were always avid readers. Being in that environment and having books available made me grow to love the literary experience throughout high school and that expanded in college,” she said.

On a whim, she took a class as a first-year student at Pitt devoted to Geoffrey Chaucer’s classic literary work “The Canterbury Tales,” and became interested in medieval literature and culture. From there, she continued her studies and has been active in clubs on campus such as the Mock Trial Organization and the Mediterranean Archeology Club.

She was also a teaching assistant for the undergraduate Intro to Shakespeare course, a student ambassador for the Honors College and will next semester be an assistant editor for the Global Antiquities Journal. She is currently a Latin tutor through Pitt’s Department of Classics. Fox has also been playing piano for over 13 years and worked in Pitt’s Department of Music, writing social media posts for the Jazz and Culture journal, as well as announcements for the department.

“The arts are really important on campus. They create such an immersive culture and experience,” Fox said. “Pitt has truly created an excellent experience for me. The diversity in interests really creates a culturally friendly environment for students.”

“Madeline’s unique academic studies in classical civilization and philosophy coupled with her research on medieval literature is an outstanding example of the rich opportunities within Pitt Honors for students to explore the intersection between different disciplines both inside and outside of the classroom. I am excited about the work she will do in graduate school and congratulate her on this impressive accomplishment,” said Audrey J. Murrell, acting dean of the Honors College.

“Pitt has had nine winners of the Marshall Scholarship, one of the most competitive and most prestigious awards in the U.S., since our first applicant won in 1984. It is a testament to Madeline's academic seriousness and the ambitiousness of her work that she has been awarded this scholarship,” added Aidan Beatty, a scholar-mentor in Pitt’s Honors College.

Fox hopes to complete her PhD in English and work in research settings to study literature and humanities from the Middle Ages. She said much of what transpired in medieval society can be applied to today’s societal challenges.

“It’s important to contextualize literature I’m studying through the mindsets of societies that surrounded the literature when it was written. For example, knowing Thomas Aquinas’ beliefs and how they were implemented through the Middle Ages plays into how I contextualize the literature I’m reading,” she said. “With COVID-19, we can look back at works written during times of the Bubonic Plague and see how society acted back then.”

Like most students, COVID-19 has affected some of Fox’s academic plans. She was scheduled to present her research at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in May and at four other University of Pittsburgh-based conferences, but they were canceled or postponed until further notice. In July, she was funded by Pitt’s Honors College to travel to London for two weeks to study a manuscript at the British Library.

Studying at the University of York for the Marshall Scholarship will be the first time Fox has traveled outside the U.S.

“It is crucial that I take my education and my research one step further by learning in the place that inspired and created the literature I study,” she said. “While I have had an excellent education in medieval literature in the United States, studying the literature of the Middle Ages while surrounded by remnants of medieval civilization in York is something that I very much look forward to.”

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