Elizabeth Searles


"Passing as a Double-Edged Sword: Safety and Threat Through Loss of Community"

Faculty Mentor(s): Prof. Ashvin Kini

Elizabeth, on her experience in the English Honors Program:

The English Honors program has been very helpful into growing into my own sense of confidence in my writing and research abilities. While I’ve always had fun doing both, I never thought that I had it in me to do something so extensive and technically difficult. Being around professors and peers that are just as passionate as me, feeling strongly about their work and being prepared to have conversations about it, has been a lifechanging experience and has only contributed further to my love of English and literature. Being able to look back and see the sheer amount of work I have completed—and felt good about—in these past two semesters has made me more proud of myself than I’ve ever been before.

Abstract: Passing is the means by which someone will purposefully hide their identity in order to blend in with others, often acting as a source of protection from the threat of targeted violence or a way to gain necessary resources within society. However, while passing may provide this safety for some, it may also result in the loss of community that marginalized groups are able to uniquely find amongst themselves, brought together by similar background and shared experience. In examining Nella Larsen’s Passing and Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain,” this paper will establish the ramifications of this loss—especially in consideration to racial identity, queer identity, and the intersection that exists between the two. In considering these nuances in passing, both explicitly and implicitly presented in the texts, I will be able to substantiate my claim of passing as a form of erasure.

13th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium | April 7th 2023 | Florida Atlantic University

Elizabeth Searles

Bio: Elizabeth Searles is an English and Psychology major at Florida Atlantic University. Her English Honors Thesis is on the act of passing. She is interested in exploring the ways in which personal identity influences relationships and sense of self. She lives on 5 acres with 40 animals whose relationship definitely inform her own personal identity.