Kristen Okun is a May graduate of the School of Arts and Sciences who majored in Art History. Under the guidance of Professor Haruko Wakabayashi in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, she completed an Interdisciplinary honors thesis, titled “Narrow Road of Ivy; Representing The Tales of Ise during the Edo Period.” The thesis examined visual representations of one of the most famous chapters from the classical Heian period (794-1185) literary work,The Tale of Ise, whose popularity was revived during the Edo period (1600-1868). The thesis explored a number of critical issues around the Tale of Ise and Edo period art: the rise of classicism during the Edo period and how that affected the world of art; the changing iconography of a specific chapter in the Tale; relationship between text and images/poetry and painting; and the shaping of visual representations by format and function of the objects. Okun's selection of works covered a wide range of media (hanging scroll, fan painting, screen painting, printed book), and allowed her to demonstrate her ability to critically analyze primary works from all of the above perspectives, yet her choice of one specific chapter kept her thesis well-focused and in depth according to Professor Wakabayashi. Okun's research was based on translation of primary sources (The Tales of Ise and poems and text inscribed on the paintings), academic secondary sources, and viewing by appointment of the selected works in the storage collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The Henry Rutgers Scholar Award recognizes graduating seniors who have completed outstanding independent research projects leading to a thesis in their major field of study or interdisciplinary thesis. The awards are offered across all departments of the School of Arts and Sciences, representing the highest achievements of the students. The Department of Asian Languages and Cultures is very proud of Kristen Okun's achievement.