Campus / News / Student Research / January 19, 2011

Schnoes combines books and politics

Senior Helen Schnoes is a double major in Creative Writing and Political Science. She describes her Honors project, “Beyond Quality: Why Politicians Publish Books When Seeking the Presidency,” as being “interdisciplinary, but founded in poli-sci.”

The Knox Student (TKS): What are you working on?

Helen Schnoes (HS): What I did in the fall was I kind of developed a theory of why politicians publish books before or during their candidacy. I came up with four central hypotheses and now I’m testing them by reading these books. I’m fully reading books by the major party candidates in 2000, 2004 and 2008, so George Bush, Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama [and] John McCain. For each party in each year I’m going to look at an unsuccessful candidate, but only reading selected chapters—not as in-depth.

TKS: How did you come up with your project?

HS: I applied my sophomore year for a Ford Fellowship and I wanted to do something that combined both my majors. In high school and college, when I’ve been at home, I’ve worked at a bookstore. I saw these books being published and I wanted to take a look at their function in society, especially because they’re generally dismissed as bad and unimportant.

TKS: What makes your project important?

HS: Particularly in the study of political communication, there’s a lot of previous research on campaign communication and rhetoric. There’s not yet a lot of research acknowledging these books as part of the campaign communication, but it’s acknowledged in the media. Because it is happening and continues to happen, it’s important for the academic community to take account of it.

TKS: How are you balancing Honors with everything else?

HS: It’s hard. For this term, I pretty much had to develop my own syllabus to structure my reading. I’ll have to start locking myself in my Honors office to do that. Since you have to complete it, it kind of takes precedence over other things.

Maya Sharma


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