Leonard Gadicke’s thesis, “Monkish Monist Mockery: Religious Language in J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey,” analyzes the work of famous author J.D. Salinger through the lens of religion. Gadicke noticed the references to religious texts in Salinger’s work and took the opportunity to analyze their significance. “When I began researching the topic, I found that virtually no scholars had dug into the role various religious scriptures played inside Salinger’s work,” said the English major. “I thought I should be the first!”
Gadicke learned that much can be discovered in literature when approaching it from a religious perspective. The religious undertext in Salinger’s work can open up entirely new discussions in academic settings. “Rather than condemning him as quintessential high school reading material, we can find so many more layers of sophistication in his work,” said Gadicke.
The first thrust of Gadicke’s thesis was to point out that far more diverse religious philosophies were active in Salinger’s work than had been previously discussed. Salinger drew from various branches of Hinduism, Zen, Medieval Catholicism, and Greek Orthodox Mysticism, just to name a few. The philosophical musings in Franny and Zooey revolve around a 19th-century Russian Orthodox text, The Way of the Pilgrim. “Salinger’s book mirrors the Russian work on a number of dimensions: the interactions between characters, the narrative structure, and strategies of spreading the author’s philosophical ideals,” Gadicke explained.
Gadicke was advised by Professor of English Gus Stadler, who helped him through every step of the thesis-writing process.
“I’m so thankful to him for taking the time to read draft after draft of my developing thesis,” he said. “Since it’s such an unusual topic, my idea actually raised a little bit of skepticism when I first proposed it last fall. But with Gus’ steadfast support, it ended up blossoming into a unique and rigorous piece of writing—one I could be proud of.”
What are your plans for the future?
I did the pre-medical track during Haverford and am prepared to go to medical school, but first I want to find work in some of my other passions, namely illustration and animation. This summer, I’m storyboarding for the first time for a feature film. Haverford and my thesis have given me so many opportunities to explore different topics and ways of thinking for which I’m so grateful.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I just want to thank all my professors for supporting my learning in so many disciplines at Haverford. As students, we focus a lot on the grinding and studying we have to put into college. But our hard work only benefits us because we’re provided with so much guidance all four years. Thank you especially to Lou Charkoudian, Maud McInerney, Mark Stein, Gus Stadler, and Walter Smith, among many others, who all challenged me and helped me to develop so much as a learner these past four years!
“What They Learned” is a blog series exploring the thesis work of recent graduates.