Albert Cavallaro, a 2015 graduate with majors in History and English, has won the inaugural Adeline Hoffman Prize for his essay “Western (Mis)perceptions of Tsar Ivan IV Vasilyvich the “Terrible”: Depictions of Ivan IV’s Reign by Western Writers from the 16th to the 21st Century Alongside 16th-Century Works of Western European Political Thought.”
Published in this year’s Journal of Student Scholarship, Cavallaro’s essay argues that sixteenth-century Russian Tsar Ivan IV has been misrepresented by the West as “The Terrible” even though his policies and actions differ little from those of contemporary European rulers and political theorists.
“Albert’s essay represents TCNJ undergraduate research at its best,” said David Venturo, Professor of English and Editor of the Journal of Student Scholarship. “[It] gracefully masters sixteenth-century and modern sources as he compellingly counters the popular western perception of Ivan IV as a tyrant.”
Cavallaro was inspired by classes and conversations with Associate Professor of History Roman Kovalev, which led him to reconsider how our beliefs are influenced by larger sociopolitical ideas.
“Russian history is a subject which I believe has been especially misrepresented in the U.S. and the West in general due to the aftereffects of the Cold War, the common conflation between Russia and the Soviet Union, and the modern-day, mutually antagonistic political relations between the U.S. and Russia,” Cavallaro said.
Cavallaro considers it an “incredible honor” to receive the Hoffman Prize, He hopes his essay demonstrates not only how Russian culture has been warped by Western perceptions, but also how history is a dynamic subject that merits constant reevaluation.
“I feel like people can have negative perceptions of history because they view it as inherently static, almost as if it is a list of dates and battles and nothing more,” Cavallaro said. “One of the things I wanted to show with my essay is how fluid and active history can be, and how our depictions of the past are molded by the exigencies of the present.”
The prize was established in 1979 after Adeline Hoffman ’28 in order to celebrate exceptional undergraduate research and writing. This is the first year the prize has been adapted for the Journal of Student Scholarship, which plans to recognize a student publication annually with an award of $1500.
Tom Kozlowski ’16