Hugo and Hepburn honored in student’s presentations

For the past 10 years, Geneseo Recognizing Excellence, Achievement & Talent Day has been giving students the chance to share their areas of interests with others on campus. Usually, students give one presentation on a topic of their choice, but English education major junior George Goga has too many topics that interest him. Goga gave two presentations at G.R.E.A.T. Day on Tuesday April 19, each on very different subjects: Victor Hugo and Audrey Hepburn. In his presentation on Victor Hugo, he focused on the author’s famous 1831 gothic novel, Notre-Dame de Paris—more popularly known as The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Most will recognize the story from the 1996 Disney movie of the same title, but Goga managed to ignore this overused cultural reference and focused on the novel itself. After briefing the audience with a summary of the novel, Goga jumped into his main argument: Can the cathedral itself be considered the main character of the novel?

Goga’s answer to this question is yes, the Cathedral of Notre Dame can be considered the main character of the novel, rather than Quasimodo, who most assume to be the protagonist. Goga’s reasoning behind this interesting and intriguing hypothesis is that the cathedral “breathes through [Hugo’s] pen.” In other words, Hugo personifies the Cathedral of Notre Dame to the extent that it becomes a living, breathing character, keeping an eye on all that is transpiring under its roof.

Goga closed his first presentation with a comparison of the Notre Dame Cathedral with Hugo himself. He argues that both are creators of their own stories, which make them essentially immortal through memory.

In a slight change of speed, Goga embarked on his second presentation of the day. This time, he addressed Audrey Hepburn’s cinematography. Written out on the board beside the presentation was a Hepburn quote: “I don’t want to be alone; I want to be left alone.” This quote demonstrates the fine line that Goga walked in his argument of how Hepburn’s hidden feminism is established in her films.

Goga attacks the concept of the “cupcake film,”—a film made by women, for women—which has stereotypically feminine themes. Many believe that Hepburn’s films can be classified as cupcake films because of their fantastical romance storylines. Goga disputed this by pointing out that love doesn’t make a movie a cupcake film.

Using one of her earlier films, Roman Holiday, Goga proved that Hepburn used her films—particularly shots that involve works of art—to advance her feminist beliefs, rather than to just tell love stories.

Focusing on a small scene in Roman Holiday that revolves around the legendary Mouth of Fear in Rome, Goga asserts that the presence of the ancient artifact allows Hepburn’s character to level the playing field. Instead of having to prove herself to her male co-star, she forces him to prove himself to her. Goga revealed to his audience that it is in this moment that we realize that emotions are not gender specific, but are equally felt by everybody.

It is truly commendable for a student to complete not one, but two G.R.E.A.T. Day presentations in the same year. What’s more is that he was able to do so without compromising either of his projects. Each presentation, though vastly different in content, was fascinating and presented insightful ideas. If you have had the pleasure of meeting Goga in the past, you will know that it is impossible for him to deliver a presentation—or two—that is anything less.