Rodney DeaVault '07, alumnus
Rodney DeaVault ’07 chose English as his major while also pursuing a certificate in theater and dance. After four sleep-deprived but happy years of dancing, acting, costume design, stage-managing and directing, plus photography, calligraphy and chairing two social organizations, he points out, “I can honestly say I did everything I set out to do at Princeton.”
DeaVault is currently earning a doctoral degree in English at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he is specializing in children's literature. He says his senior thesis on J.M. Barrie’s original “Peter Pan and Wendy” put him on his current course.
When DeaVault began planning the thesis, he discovered how Princeton’s cross-disciplinary approach to learning would offer him a great opportunity. While writing and producing a full-length adaptation of Peter Pan for his theater and dance thesis project, Deavault’s English thesis started to come together as an analysis of the process. Also leading the production was Nicole Greenbaum ’07, a chemistry major and theater and dance student.
DeaVault's research for the production was extensive, even taking him to England during the summer of 2006. Already participating in an archaeological dig in Bordeaux, France, for an anthropology course, DeaVault used a $500 thesis grant to travel to Barrie’s places of inspiration in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, London.
“The play was very relevant because Wendy is entering a new stage of life, as are college seniors,” he says. “I centered the show around Wendy’s imagination and view of Neverland. She’s the main character; she changes as she falls in love with Peter Pan and gradually becomes more of a mother figure. The house underground becomes like the nursery, showing that she’s basically recreating her own family with new people.”
DeaVault says he plans to revisit Peter Pan for his doctoral dissertation. "Several years out of Princeton, I see the work in a different way than I did as a senior. I am excited to see what I am drawn to in it now."