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“We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us!” 

Which is plainly the Gospel according to the estimable John Keats, from a letter written to his friend John Hamilton Reynolds on December 27, 1818. I.e., Art tends to have meaning, but it must never carry the whip hand, can never be too accessible, to insistent, too confident. Its truth must come as naturally as the leaves to a tree. 

Which means that meaning is something devoutly to be wished, tinkered with, and brought to book by clever and hard-working scholars. So look in these pages for five young minds wrestling with some inventions hidden in plain sight among texts new and old. From Ben Jonson and two Thomases --Dekker and Middleton-- in the 17th Century; to John Keats in the 19th Century; to Virginia Woolf in the early 20th; and on to Michael Chabon and Tao Lin today. 

Genna Godley worries her way toward understanding the nature of reality by questioning its veracity in digital form versus its sensible, tactile, visual and memorial state. Her main text for this anatomy lesson is Tao Lin’s Shoplifting from American Apparel (2009). Elizabeth Dean busies herself with unpacking what the 17th Century and some of its playwrights thought about beauty and cosmetics and the act of “taking the pencil out of God’s hand,” as John Donne saw it. 

Jonathan Offenberg, considering a notion of a shared public unconscious, manages to locate in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves (1931) not just a dark view of colonialism and the wilting British Empire, but also a sense of pressing-on-and-hoping-for-the-best. Apparently, you can have your cake and eat it too. Or can you? Similarly, Luke Brown uses the milieu of the comic book and magic tricks to take on board Michael Chabon’s picaresque tale The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay (2001). 

At the end of the day, Sofia Crepsi de Valldaura brings us back to Keats and to his amazing Negative Capability, which is all about juggling. Juggling contradictory and sullen ideas, and making them behave. This is what the intellectual life is all about. Asking the question, What does this –play, poem, novel, love letter, tweet, tattoo—mean in the deepest sense? To ask such a question –just as our five young scholars have—is a hopeful act. Consider them stood before the palace of wisdom: 

“Behold, they stand at the door and knock.”

Michael Olmert 
Department of English, University of Maryland 

Journal Information


Emily Tuttle

Managing Editor

Katie Weng

Layout Editor

Katie Weng

Cover Design

Rachel George

Graduate Student Reader

Elise Auvil

Reading Group Leaders

  • Theresa Park
  • Jessica Thwaite
  • Emily Tuttle
  • Katie Weng

Editorial Board

  • Lauren Baker
  • Nick Brown
  • Genna Godley
  • Paige Goodwin
  • Katherin Koman
  • Hannah Meshulam
  • Kat Mullineaux
  • Ashling O'Connell
  • Jonathan Offenberg
  • Chidinma Onuoha
  • Theresa Park
  • Heather Seyler
  • Jessica Thwaite
  • Sarah Trunk
  • Emily Tuttle
  • Radhika Tyagi
  • Katie Weng
  • Keith Wise


My deepest and sincerest thanks to. . .

Kent Cartwright, Thomas Moser, and Karen Lewis, for their continued support and encouragement of the English Undergraduate community and journals such as these,

Elise Auvil, for her invaluable advice and assistance as we welcome her to the Paper Shell Review family,

Phylicia Nance, for her time and assistance throughout the year,

John Prince, Billy Woods, and company, for once again brining this journal to print,

Michael Olmert, for his kind words and our beautiful introduction,

The Center for Literacy and Comparative Studies, the Student Government Association and the Pepsi Enhancement Grant, for providing us with this year's funding, without which this journal could not exist,

Stylus: A Journal of Literature and Art, and our fellow English Department organizations for friendly collaboration and teamwork,

The editorial board members, for dedicating their time every week to reading, analyzing and participating in the wonderful discussion that makes what we do possible,

Katie Weng, for her expertise, energy and boldness of vision,

Theresa Park and Jessica Thwaite, for their profound dedication and eagerness to lead,

Rachel George, for offering her own time and talent in creating our beautiful cover,

Sohayl Vafai, for founding this wonderful journal,

Jamie Lee, Megan Cooley-Klein and Michael Lawrence, whose success and strength of leadership have and continue to inspire me,

All the submitters and writers who give us the opportunity to read their amazing work year after year,


And finally, to all future editors and friends of The Paper Shell Review. May your love of literature and dedication to its mission carry this journal for years to come.

Most sincerely,

Emily Tuttle

Editor-in-Chief, 2015-16

Spring 2016 Essays

General Essays