End of Term Conference

Tuesday, May 2, 2017 

refreshments and set-up 12-12:15

Panel 1: Readers Remaking Texts 12:15-12:40

Candace Rohr, “What’s So Great about Gatsby? : Identity and Race in the Great American Novel”

Abby Stahl, “Letter to Lucy”

Grant Pigeon, “Metacriticism in House of Leaves, or, How to Put Together an Absurd Jigsaw Puzzle without a Box”

Panel 2: Texts in the World 12:45-1:10

Will Simmons, “The Wolf in Business Clothing”

Lauren Langston, “This Type of Chigurh Isn’t Sweet”

Logan Richey, “The Significance of Normalized LGBT Relationships in More Than This”

break for more refreshments 1:10-1:20

Panel 3: Reading through Style 1:20-1:45

James Weitzel, “Poe’s Appeal to Those Isolated in a Modern World”

Gabbi Simpson, “The Socioeconomic Implications of Race in The Help

Ella Webster, “Magic Tricks and Mirrors: Trauma and Fragmented Memory in In the Lake of the Woods


Harrison Makris
Paper Proposal
The Power of Words in Cloud Atlas
It probably goes without saying, but time is a pretty big when it comes to concepts. Even if it is narrowed down to only include human history and narrowed down even further to include only recorded human history, that only reduces time to at least ten thousand years — which is still a terribly large amount to fathom the totality of. It’s also impossible to know the true history of even that ten thousand year time period in its totality because over that time much would obviously be left unrecorded, but also what would be recorded could only be done so from a perspective limited by the bias of the record-keeper, the culture informing that record-keeper, and societal rules that govern what could be record or not. Cloud Atlas is a multi-narrative novel that tells the stories of six separate individuals as they each experience a particular moment in history with perspectives spanning from a 19th century American notary at the height of Colonialism to the 25th century as society tries to rebuild following an apocalypse, or to be more specific the several social upheaval that built into humanity being relegated to the most remote regions of the earth. Though each of there characters are kept apart by time, they manage to remain in communication with each other through the use of the artifacts they leave behind — journals, movies, novels, video, even the spoken word — these stories all survive the passing of the individual to influence and inspire people to continue their own survival and to create their own stories. A significant theme that persist through Cloud Atlas is “recurrence”, that notion that events will keep happening in accordance with the human nature to dominate and prey on other humans and how the human desire to create and use those creations to form community that stands in opposition to that and that while neither will ever “win”, because they are two instincts that seem to be present in all of humanity across all of time and culture, through each iteration and enough time, human progression happens. It should be stated though, that the novel itself implies that progression isn’t technological or even cultural in nature, but moreso meant as in the progression of the human spirit as it is built on by the words and works of others.
Throughout my essay I will provide examples from the book of characters learning or communicating this as a didactic lesson to themselves or other, usually shortly before their own death because in some ways the book seems to argue for a collectivist philosophy that emphasizes the death of one individual can sometimes be beneficial for another so long as their ideas survive — and sometimes that other is the reader themselves because as a postmodern novel, Cloud Atlas is very aware of the fact that not only that it is a novel, but that it is a novel built on the the tropes and genres of other work. I will explore how these genres influence each story and what it means to be a multi-genre novel, calling on primarily Keppler’s article on Cloud Atlas as an “Experimental World Epic” as well as how the nature of Cloud Atlas being a story about and built from stories across genres to create a cohesive work translates to how both the characters manage to communicate across time and how that structure contributes to the theme of stories and words being the critical to the understanding of history overall.

Poe’s Appeal to those Isolated in a Modern World

Edgar Allan Poe’s 1839 short story “The Fall of the House of Usher” provides an example of his universal appeal of terror to connect with his audience. Poe’s tale provides an alternative to audience that feels an isolation. The unnamed narrator in the tale navigates a path of uneasiness and unknown circumstances. One approach to Poe’s work focuses on his ability to control an emotional perception in his reader’s to entertain their desires. Another similar critique determines that these reactive perceptions are successful by being shifting extremes of emotional responses. The unnamed narrator is bombarded with these emotional shifts when he enters the house. His isolation and unnerving experience between Roderick and Madeline shows Poe’s ability to create emotional extremes. Poe’s appeal to those unsatisfied with Romanticism’s unrealistic positivity in the unknown of industrialization in the 19th century is called by some scholars Negative Romanticism. Negative Romanticism appears as a counter to modern society in other cultures such as early 20th century Japanese writers unsatisfied with the nature focused literature of Japan. But how does Negative Romanticism and these techniques of catering to a reader’s tastes connect with Poe’s mass appeal. To understand this I looked outside America to research Poe’s popularity in Chinese and Japanese Literature.

Other scholars focus on Poe’s appeal in a post 19th century world as an outlet for those that feel isolated in the industrialized world. My research project will focus on Poe’s popularity correlating with his use of human qualities of terror, sadness, and isolation in the unknown of his works. I will examine how these elements appeal to an audience that feels isolated and unconnected to the modern world. My research will attempt to find a relevance between Poe’s work and his popularity among those discontent with the other literary outlets. I will use the struggles of Poe’s life and his failures in his time as well as his financial problems as an example of his personal discontent. I will use this to relate to his world’s appeal to others discontent with life. I will use my research of Poe’s influence in China during its different periods of struggle with modernization in the early 20th century, the rise of communism, and the modern 21st century and China’s place as an economic superpower. I will also examine Poe’s influence on Chinese horror stories to directly correlate this appeal and popularity. As mentioned earlier with Japan being an outlet for Poe’s appeal, I will also examine the various works and how Poe’s popularity influenced these writers. I will argue the connection between his appeal and his ability to entertain and provide an alternative in a the uneasiness of the industrialized world I hope to find a connection between his use of Negative Romanticism and his popularity among foreign and domestic audience’s as well as the writers of China and Japan. In the end I hope to see Poe as more than a “Gothic” writer and


Magic Tricks and Mirrors: Trauma and Fragmented Memory in In the Lake of the Woods

Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods follows the story of Vietnam veteran and failed politician John Wade around the time of his wife Kathy’s mysterious disappearance. Over the course of the novel, the reader is forced to question whether Wade was capable of killing the woman he loved and simultaneously learns about Wade’s traumatic involvement in the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. A brutal slaughter of hundreds of innocent civilians, the My Lai massacre was the catalyst that turned Wade’s already troubled past into an outright descent into PTSD. What makes the story of Wade’s mental illness even more affecting is the narration style of the novel. Many critics of this novel emphasize the importance of the narrator, who reveals only that he is investigating the case of Kathy’s death and communicates with the reader through footnotes, dropping subtle, dread-inducing hints about what could have occurred without ever disclosing what truly did happen. This urges and even requires the reader to come to their own conclusions, giving them a sense of being stranded by the narrator and necessitating that they carefully investigate each detail of often seemingly irrelevant evidence presented to them, from excerpts from magicians’ handbooks to quotes about long-dead presidents to pieces of the court hearing on the My Lai massacre. Furthermore, the narrator repeats dark, disturbing symbols and gruesomely graphic flashback scenes throughout the story, as well as retelling memories multiple times with slightly different endings in each retelling. This is interpreted by many critics as intentionally mirroring the mind of a person who suffers from PTSD, as if to give a reader some semblance of the feeling of what it is like to be haunted by a mental illness such as PTSD.

As mentioned earlier, critics mainly approach this novel from a stylistic perspective, focusing especially on the narration style and the impact that it has on the reader. I intend to utilize and expand upon this approach but to also put it in a psychological context. In my research, I studied not only how critics argue that the narrator demands that the reader come to their own conclusions and generates a representation of PTSD, but also how psychological scholars are working to understand PTSD. In particular, I focused on psychological reports concerning the impact of PTSD on anger, in an attempt to further comprehend whether murder would be possible on Wade’s part, and on the interrelationship between PTSD and fragmented memory. Fragmented memory was an especially important part of this, as the fragmented narration style reflects that particular aspect of PTSD. Because my research had two branches – the stylistic and the psychological approach – I plan to lay it out accordingly. I will begin with an introduction to John Wade as a character, focusing on his difficult childhood and his time in Vietnam, and focus on his memories of the My Lai massacre, as this was such an important factor in his mental breakdown. I will continue to introduce the novel, highlighting the narration style and then discussing the methods that the narrator uses to make the reader come to their own conclusions about whether Wade killed his wife. I will rely primarily on Marjorie Worthington’s “The Democratic Meta-Narrator in In the Lake of the Woods” to provide support for my claim. The next section will highlight how the narration style represents PTSD, using several examples of how the narrator reflects each aspect such as flashbacks, intrusive memories, and fragmented memories. Here, I will provide a more in-depth explanation of what each of these is with support from several scientific studies on PTSD, including an article by Oscar Gonzalez I, “Anger Intensification with Combat-Related PTSD and Depression Comorbidity”. Additionally, I will include the arguments of several other critics on how the narration style reflects PTSD, some of which support my claim and some of which I do not fully agree with but will interact with to support my overall claim. Finally, I will conclude by drawing the reader’s attention to a quote from the novel which is very brief but which points to the theory that Wade, forever obsessed with magic tricks, could have been committing a “disappearing act” in his wife’s, and later his own, disappearance and that perhaps there was a completely different outcome from the one that the reader or even the narrator could imagine. This will hopefully draw the reader’s attention to the unsettling nature of the novel as a whole and the idea that, no matter what conclusions the reader may come to, the true ending will ultimately forever be unknown.

Project Proposal- The socioeconomic implications of race in The Help

My subject stems from issues surrounding Katherine Stockett’s novel The Help. The 2009 novel takes place in civil rights era Jackson Mississippi where a young white society girl and aspiring writer named Skeeter, interviews the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent white families. Only one black maid named Aibileen will talk at first. But as the pair continue the collaboration, more women decide to come forward and share their stories of walking in white households. Surprisingly the problems that I found have little to do with the content and more to do with the dialogue structure, and the contrasting portrayal of black bodies versus white bodies. Stocketts portrayal of black dialect culture have raised concerns over the socioeconomic implications attached to it.

My research topic highlights the issues with how drastically different white and black characters in the novel are portrayed. Many critics have noticed problems with the way that Stockett depicts her black characters. All of the black characters in the novel speak in thick and child-like dialogue that is inconsistent with African American Vernacular English. However, it is not impossible to be black in the 1960’s and speak (at least partially) Standard American English (SAE). Stockett’s narrow portrayal of African American speech only prolongs negative stereotypes of African American Culture. Interestingly though, the only characters that speak almost perfect SAE in the novel are the white characters. This is also problematic because given the Mississippi setting, some of the white characters would inevitably have a “southern drawl” or speak some southern slang. These points raise questions concerning Stockett’s methods for creating the dialogue in the novel. She has stated that she wrote the African American speech the way she remembered it, which might be taken as showing little regard for African american culture when writing a novel about African American culture. She could have consulted AVVE standards, or created more diversity in the speech of her black characters. This creates a problem because only one single, and largely inauthentic view of African American dialect and culture is being represented.

As far as structure goes, I will mainly focus on how speech and dialogue marginalizes Stockett’s black characters, and then I will briefly add how black characters are marginalized even more so, by the descriptions of their physical appearances. In my first body paragraph, I will reference an article that focuses on the dialogue aspect, and what it means in terms of shaping identities. I will make an example of the linguistic analysis in the article. I’ll do this in order to show the reasoning behind the claim that the black characters dialogue paints an inaccurate and offensive portrayal of African American culture. The linguistic analysis also shows inaccuracies in white character’s dialogue, a point that highlights the problems with neglecting class influences. My second body paragraph will highlight my second article source. The content is similar to that of the first, and therefore builds upon it. It also adds how dialogue is not the only factor marginalizing black characters, it’s also the descriptions of their bodies. The article notes this by quoting from the book itself, and I will use those examples to strengthen the argument.

Step 7 Project Proposal Extra Credit

Candace Rohr

What’s So Great about Gatsby? : Identity and Race in the Great American Novel

       F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby revolves around the demise of its enigmatic protagonist, Jay Gatsby, and through Nick Caraway, the narrator, readers explore the lavish lifestyles of high society in 1920’s America. Published in 1925, The Great Gatsby’s incorporation of recognizable social trends, like the popularity of jazz music, juxtaposes the daunting social issues plaguing American Society in this era. Although Fitzgerald avoids direct reference to “traditional” America’s issues with racism and classism, the context that Fitzgerald creates for his protagonist reveals conflict within American society’s understanding of identity. Conventional analysis of the central themes in The Great Gatsby focus on Gatsby’s struggle with identity and the novel’s portrayal of an “American Dream” and the “American Hero”; these approaches to the text showcase Gatsby as a self-made man that symbolizes the emergence of a new generation of wealth in America. Scholars further this reading by highlighting Fitzgerald’s allusions to money throughout the novel; citing the diction, personification, and imagery Fitzgerald uses for the “green light” that Gatsby associates with Daisy Buchanan, orthodox analysis focuses on the role of wealth in American identity. Despite the scholarship and recognition modern audiences have of The Great Gatsby as a valuable text in American Literature, recent analysis’ spotlight on race within the novel offers a fresh examination of Jay Gatsby’s identity crisis.

            The research of scholars analyzing the text for racial significance suggests Fitzgerald bases Gatsby’s characterization on the assimilation tactics of ethnic minorities. Academics consider the growth of ethnic immigrants and minorities in 1920’s American society to link Gatsby’s desire for high society’s respect to ethnic groups’ desires for acceptance into society. In my evaluation of race within The Great Gatsby, I suggest the novel’s lack of ethnic minorities highlights the significance of ethnic characters; I claim Jay Gatsby’s imitation of ethnic minorities’ assimilation tactics reveals the influence and accessibility of ethnic groups to members of white minorities in 1920s America. I will form this argument by connecting the Buchanans’ classism against Gatsby to the racism against ethnic minorities; by introducing Goldsmith’s article that focuses on the ambiguity of Gatsby’s origin, I will reveal the similarities between Jay Gatsby and the protagonists of passing narratives. After analyzing Goldsmith’s claims, I will introduce and further Kirby’s assertion that minorities share the same experiences in societies despite living in different contexts. For my analysis of these authors’ claims I will use close readings of The Great Gatsby that reference traditional America’s fears about integration and inclusivity of minorities. In addition, I will include the racist ideologies that Tom Buchanan promotes throughout the novel to show the elites’ fears of assimilation. I will also address scholars like Thompson and Lewis that believe Gatsby attempts to racially pass into high society. Building on these two scholars’ claims I will suggest the rejection ethnic minorities face from traditional fuels minorities’ desires to assimilate into high society groups as they are seeking acceptance. Focusing on scenes that compare Gatsby’s success to the success of other minorities, I will reveal the relationship Caraway builds between Gatsby and ethnic characters to show the relatability ethnic groups offer white minorities.

Step 7 Extra Credit Project Proposal

Lauren Langston

This Type of Chigurh Isn’t Sweet

Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel No Country for Old Men presents conflicting ethical values as presented by the main characters. Discord is specifically showcased through the trouble created by the antagonist, Anton Chigurh, and how his malevolent actions create internal battles for other the characters. One central person affected by Chigurh’s crimes is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. The Sheriff is a representation of a classic law-abiding citizen who holds the law to the highest degree. His county is safe and small, not much interrupts daily life of the people in Odessa, Texas. When resident Llewellyn Moss accidentally gets involved in a drug deal gone wrong, the Sheriff is confronted with Chigurh who is sent to hunt down Moss. This forces the Sheriff to look at his town and the people within it in a completely new light. Chigurh faces the Sheriff with the realization that people are not as good as he once believed they were and that not even the law can stop evil from knocking on your door.

There have been numerous essays written on the conflicting morals of the Sheriff and Anton Chigurh. If readers simply skim through No Country for Old Men there seems to hardly be any relationship between the Sheriff and Chigurh because they never meet face-to-face. However, if read thoroughly it is obvious that everything Chigurh does is a catalyzes the Sheriff’s outlook on life and his understanding of humanity. In my paper, I plan to add to the discussion on the connection between Chigurh’s crimes to the Sheriff’s ethical beliefs. I will start by talking about why morals are so crucial to his outlook on Chigurh’s transgressions and how his time as the Sheriff of Odessa county also plays a role in this. I will then go on to discuss how Chigurh’s immorality affects the Sheriff and conflicts his perception of people and the law that he is defended for so long. I will use essays from The Cormac McCarthy journal that have helped me to understand why the Sheriff was so deeply affected by Chigurh and how this reiterated just how much of a villain our antagonist really is. I will use these essays to reinforce my point that throughout the course of the novel, Chigurh indirectly (but also drastically) changed the Sheriff’s perspective on people and forced him to realize that not everyone follows a moral compass that keeps them from doing wrong. Chigurh does things to people that make the Sheriff look outside of his small-town for the first time in life to see that the law cannot stop some people from doing awful things. I will argue that it is everything that Chigurh stands for and represents that takes the Sheriff out of Odessa and into a reality that is hard to swallow, one where good does not always triumph over evil.

Feb. 28th: Introduction to the Wife of Bath

Having already read both the tale and the prologue of the wife of bath, what biographical detail does Chaucer provide in the introduction that informs, or if any, contradicts the character we have seen so far? Or,  what information does Chaucer give about the wife’s social status that might inform on why she’s embarking on a religious pilgrimage?

Feb 21: “The Problem of Defining Sovereynetee in The Wife of Bath’s tale”

On page 91, Thomas says, “The knight does not assume sovereignty by having his desires fulfilled, for what is his desire in control of? Do you agree with this? Thomas continues, “Is the knight’s desire not, instead, controlled by an illusion fabricated by someone else?” Who do you think holds the greatest/absolute sovereignty, the knight, or the wyf? Or do they both in some way hold sovereignty, just different forms of it?