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It is a pleasure to introduce the second volume of The Paper Shell Review, a literary journal conceived by University of Maryland undergraduates with the aim of showcasing the best of undergraduate scholarly and critical writing. As Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Dirda noted last year, an undergraduate journal devoted to such writing, and not to poetry and ficition, is somewhat unusual, especially because most undergraduates regard poetry and fiction as more creative forms of writing. But anyone reading the essays in this journal will see how artistic scholarly and critical writing can be. To write well about literature, you need to engage the words of authors creatively, and you need to be aware of just how challenging it is to offer fresh prerspectives on literary works that in many cases have long critical histories. The undergraduate authors in this volume are fully up to the challenge. 

The essays presented in The Paper Shell Review's second volume work with a range of critical approaches, and are united by their close attention to literary works themselves. Four of the essays are written by students from the mid-Atlantic (two by University of Maryland students and two by students up the road at The Johns Hopkins University), with the fifth essay demonstrating the journal's new global reach (the author is from the University of London). In terms of chronological sweep, we move from Shakespeare to Laura Esquival, or, to put this another way, from Claude Fretz's account of Shakespeare's subversion of genre to Toyin Ola's account of Esquival's subersion of the partiarchal history of magical realism. Gwen Kelbly shows how different readings of Hamlet emerge from the first two quartos, and she rejects the claim that one quarto version is better than another. For those who suspect that there's a fine line between criminals and defense lawyers, I recommend Emily Johnson's capacious study of the figure of the defense lawyer in eighteenth-century British fiction. Finally, Daniel Baldwin offers a new sympathetic reading of the often negatively-viewed Silla in Paule Marshall's Brown Girl, Brownstones

It is difficult to start up a literary journal, and it is even more difficult to sustain the effort after the excitment of producing the first volume. You need committed editors and exceptional writers, and The Paper Shell Review is fortunate to have both. Looking ahead to 2013, there are even greater challenges, for like everything else in the humanities these days, the journal may need new sources of funding (there are talks of budget cuts). I would encourage admiring readers to consider making a donation when the editors begin their work on the third volume. 

Robert S. Levine

Department of English, University of Maryland

Journal Information


Sohayl Vafai

Managing Editor

Rebecca Shin

Layout Editor

Laura Pavlo

Editorial Board Leader

Stephanie Knauff

Editorial Board

  • Abby Shantzis
  • Allison Hartley
  • Amanda Ostria
  • Dean Delasalas
  • Evan Higgins
  • George LaValle
  • Gwen Kelbly
  • Kathleen Harrelson
  • Kelley Sullivan
  • Matt Desrochers
  • Megan Perry
  • Michael Gregory
  • Robert Wolfe


Thank you to the Student Government Association and the English Department at the University of Maryland, College Park for their generous support and contributions without which this journal could not have been published; the Chair of the English Department, Kent Cartwright, and the Director of English Undergraduate Studies, Thomas Moser, for their continual support and advice from when the journal was an idea to its completion; Laura Edwards Gordon for her invaluable advice on all aspects of the journal; the English Undergraduate Association for laying the ground for the journal and bringing it to fruition; the Associate Director of English, Kevin Remmell, for creating The Paper Shell Review website; the Graduate English Organization for its advice and help attaining graduate advisers; Elizabeth Choy for her excellent and speedy editorial support and suggestions for changes in essays; Anne Bowden for her legal support and help creating the journal’s contributor’s agreement and copyright notice; Assistant Director of English Undergraduate Studies, Jennifer Dunsmore, and Professors Sandy Mack and Christina Walter for their support and encouraging students to submit essays; Robert Levine for providing the introduction to the journal; and anyone else who supported the journal.

Additional Information

Although The Paper Shell Review accepts papers from its editorial staff members, the members are split into separate groups so that an author's paper will not be reviewed by his/her group. Within The Paper Shell Review, the groups have no interaction with one another whatsoever. Before any paper is submitted to the editorial staff, all identifying information is removed.

To maintain the integrety of papers submitted from outside of the United States, we accept the citation styles used at whatever school from which a paper is submitted. 

Spring 2012 Essays

Considering Another Side Essays

General Essays