Now in its fourth year, The Paper Shell Review continues to provide undergraduates the opportunity to develop scholarly and professional skills associated with the critical and historical study and analysis of English literature. Indeed, since the essays are written, selected, edited, and published by undergraduates, this volume adeptly displays the skill with which these emergent scholars practice and promote research in the humanities.
The exponential growth in submissions since 2013 reveals the importance of this journal to undergraduates and their mentors. To assemble this volume, editors drew upon work sent from public and private universities and colleges large and small around the US and Canada.
Taken together, these five essays provide a lens into many facets of literary history, since they range from Beowulf to Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice to seventeenth-century pastoral poetry, on to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century black women writers addressing both British and American audiences, and then to the twentieth century and William Faulkner’s Light in August. They share an effort to place these literary texts in context with the authors’ times, refracted against our twenty-first century concerns with race, gender, and economic conditions.
These young scholars juggle the evidence available from the literature, from other scholarly readings, and from the historical record, and render arguments of their own about how readers today understand these literary works that continue to inspire us. Indeed, this volume operates almost as an audio clip of awakening, increasingly authoritative, critical voices. Its goal is to kindle within you, the reader, your own contributions to these conversations.
Associate Director, Center for Literary Comparative Studies
Department of English, University of Maryland
Graduate Student Reader
- Michael Lawrence
- Emily Tuttle
- Greta Boller
- Nicole Choi
- Brady Fauth
- Shannon Goff
- Anna Johnson*
- Luke Johnston*
- Allison Hartley*
- Theresa Park
- Maya Pottiger
- Michelle Rosinski
- Chaviva Ruffer*
- Madeline Wilson*
Editorial board members with an asterisk (*) provided additional editorial support.
My deepest thanks to…
William Cohen, for encouraging English undergraduate communities like this one,
Thomas Moser and Karen Lewis, for their reliable support and encouragement,
Amy Merritt, for her invaluable advice and assistance,
Lauren Friedman, for her cheerful assistance with the website,
John Prince & co., for having once again brought our journal to print,
Karen Nelson, for writing our lovely introduction,
The Center for Literary and Comparative Studies and the Student Government Association, for providing our funding, without which the journal could not be printed,
The English Undergraduate Association, for friendly collaboration,
The editorial board members, for dedicating their valuable time to reading and analysis,
Monica Parks and Shane Goodhue, for their reliability and ideas,
Emily Tuttle and Michael Lawrence, for their eagerness to lead,
Laura Pavlo, for her responsiveness and expertise,
Sohayl Vafai, for founding this wonderful journal,
Jamie Lee, whose success as last year’s editor-in-chief propelled me forward,
and, finally, to The Paper Shell Review’s editorial leaders of tomorrow.
Spring 2014 Essays
Exploring Reciprocity in Faulkner’s Light in August
Among the most intricate of William Faulkner’s works, Light in August (1932) dramatizes not only the economic and racial conditions of the post-bellum South, but also the fraught search for meaning that was so central to the modernist project. In exploring these themes, critical discussions of the novel have often focused on the split psyche of Joe Christmas.
Race, Gender and Jessica: The Problem of Conversion in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice
Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice confronts readers with the question of religious conversion, a complicated issue that runs throughout the play. When the Prince of Morocco comes to win Portia, he says, “I would not change this hue/ Except to steal your thoughts, my gentle queen” (2.1. 11-12). The word “except” suggests that, in the event that Portia were to require it, the Prince would in fact “change his hue” or convert his blackness into some fairer shade.
Shifting Shepherds in the Poetry of Marvell, Milton, and Herbert
Throughout much of Western literature, the shepherd has endured as a versatile and complex poetic figure. In his subsistent relationship with nature and distance from the urban, the shepherd has traditionally functioned as a lens and mouthpiece through which history’s poets have examined and voiced their social criticism.
The Hidden Voice: An Examination of Female Black Authorship in the Nineteenth Century
How does one articulate a slave’s continual pain? Which compositional medium best conveys a lifetime of misery? What last-minute omissions can a publishing company make to encapsulate the emotional onslaught felt by millions of voiceless sufferers? With all things considered, can the written word ever authentically illustrate a life enslaved?
The Women of Beowulf: Power and Duty in Anglo-Saxon Society
“Hwæt wē Gār-Dena in geār-dagum / þēod-cyninga þrym gefrūnon, / hū ðā æþelingas ellen fremedon” translates to “So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by / and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness. / We have heard of those princes’ heroic campaigns” (ll. 1-3). Thus begins the Old English poem Beowulf, which offers one of the few remaining glimpses of Anglo-Saxon culture.