Abstracts

Melissa Alexander
Sarris Balcerzak
Kathleen Bosse
Gwen Brown
Jane Fox
Alex Jabre
Stephen Jewell
Trisha Makley
Jacob Mercer
Sarah Nimmo
Lydia Rogers
Tori Rowley
Danny Schoen
Bizzie Shanahan
Sterling Shaw
Campbell Tuel
Alana Yurczyk
Corey Zielinski


Women of Feeling: Understanding Austen’s Marginalized Heroines
by Melissa Alexander

Jane Austen’s works do not fit into the traditional “rise of the novel” narrative, showing very few real similarities to late-18th and early 19th century literature alike. The new, emerging idea of the Romantic novel, that is, novels that show similar characteristics to Romantic poetry during the period of 1780-1830, might offer a place for Austen in her literary moment. The importance of characters’ inward experience of emotion during the period of the Romantic novel is currently very rarely thought of. Through studying Austen’s two most misunderstood heroines, Fanny Price (Mansfield Park) and Anne Elliot (Persuasion), this essay seeks to raise Austen as a model for the emerging period of the Romantic novel because of Fanny and Anne’s “inwardness” in relation to their emotions, and also stress the importance of “inwardness” as a key marker for Romantic novels. Tying together conversations from Sentimental fiction, the “rise of the novel,” the Romantic novel, and the experience of emotion, this essay seeks to raise the readers’ esteem of Austen, her lesser-known works, and her importance as an author during her own time.
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The Man Behind the Curtain: The Emotion of ‘Oz’ in Ian McEwan’s Atonement
By Sarris Balcerzak

Ian McEwan’s Atonement poses a challenge to critics such as Brian Finney, Kathleen D’Angelo, and Peter Matthews who struggle to explain the novel’s unorthodox ending. The reader learns, only in the twilight hour of the novel, that everything they had just read was written by a character in the story and that the happy ending they believed to have happened, did not. Martin Jacobi calls direct attention to the levels of misreading and the necessity to reread. This essay seeks to name the feeling that results from this type of novel. It argues that much like The Wizard of Oz is revealed to be someone less grand and unexpected, McEwan employs the same sort of reveal of Atonement’s true narrator. The discomfort that the reader feels after being led to believe one version of the story will henceforth be referred to as “feeling ozzed.” This essay argues that despite the negative connotation one may associate with being tricked, actually yields quite positive results in that it seeks to challenge, humble and enlighten a class of high literary intellectuals.
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Tris Prior, Selfless Female Hero: How The Protagonist of The Divergent Trilogy Satisfies Society’s Hunger for Positive Female Role Models
by Kathleen Bosse

Abstract: The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth is a young adult dystopian novel that has become a cultural phenomenon and evoked polarizing responses. In an effort to understand why, this essay pulls from scholarly research about dystopian fiction – specifically young adult dystopian fiction and the conversation concerning how women are portrayed or represented in these novels – along with the scholarly exploration of women as heroes. Lori Campbell’s discernment of four characteristics of the “female hero” in modern fantasy is used to analyze the female protagonist, Tris Prior. I argue that this results in Tris fulfilling her role a site of influence on the reader because she is a role model of true virtue and femininity, a believer in human dignity and equality, a teacher of the truth of selflessness, and a beacon of hope. Therefore, an understanding of Tris’s role as a female hero and the way she serves as a site of influence for readers provides clues about the way the trilogy responds to a need in society and therefore has been a cultural success despite the polarized reactions to it. Society is hungry for examples of strong females who can serve as role models, and literature such as The Divergent Trilogy can provide readers of all ages with this fully-formed female character who is much more complex and desirable than the stereotypical female.
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Children of Aristotle: 1930’s children’s literature through an Aristotelian lens
by Jane Fox

Children’s literature is known for reflecting changing society at the time its written and Munro Leaf’s Ferdinand and Watty Piper’s The Little Engine that Could are no different. This essay examines these two works for children, written in the midst of the Great Depression, a time when unhappiness was so widespread, by applying the concept of happiness defined by Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics. Both of these works are affected differently by the feelings of 1930’s American society, and they have shed light on the ongoing discussions of both the purpose of children’s literature, and the lasting effects on children. This essay explores what it means to be happy in The Little Engine that Could and Ferdinand and argues why it’s more compelling to engage these texts with Aristotle, rather than solely the historical context through applying the virtues outlined by Aristotle to a close-reading of the lessons taught by the two aforementioned primary texts.
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If it Makes you Happy: The Disadvantage of Happiness in the Works of Todd Solodz
by Alex Jabre

The depiction of happiness in film is a contemporary topic being discussed by academics and critics alike. In the films of Todd Solondz, the themes of happiness and personal satisfaction are touched on, but in twisted and disturbing ways. The basic plot of his film Happiness (1998) deals with a wide cast of characters trying to find happiness in their lives, although they do so at other peoples’ expense. His film Storytelling (2001) also deals with the idea of finding self-satisfaction through other people’s misery and humiliation. There are multiple reasons why this is the case for Solondz’s characters in both films and my thesis will try to reveal these reasons. I want to explore why the characters in Happiness and Storytelling are only able to find happiness through taking advantage of others.
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Slave Narratives: A Look at Empathy
by Stephen Jewell

Harriet Jacobs’ slave narrative Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl offers an insight to struggle, human oppression, and female slavery, yet there is no literature examining the empathetic emotional response drawn from audiences and what factors enable Jacobs to elicit this response. Comparing male slave narratives, specifically Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and Jacobs’ narrative, this essay highlights the differences in male and female discourses and the responses their discourses elicit. Further, this essay utilizes the work of D. Rae Greiner to review the role of sympathy vs. empathy in realist novels, and the work of Morgan Winifred to examine how gender affects these emotional responses. This essay argues that Jacobs’ Romantic style draws a deeper connection with the audience, and therefore elicits empathy compared to meer sympathetic slaves narratives that came before her.
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“Everything was on fire”: Disgust and the Environment in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road
by Trisha Makley

Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is known for being a bleak, post-apocalyptic novel, and is typically studied as a work on the human condition. The Road is acknowledged as an ecocritical text by many critics, but it has yet to be analyzed through both an ecocritical lens and an affect theory lens. This paper analyzes how The Road creates environmental and violent disgust in readers, and then explores if disgust is effective in orienting readers toward the environment. McCarthy’s stark imagery and poignant prose create The Road’s landscape, weather, people, and depictions of death as frightening and disgusting. He frequently uses violent images as descriptors of the new world that contrast with the vibrant descriptions of the old world. This essay argues that the creation of both environmental and violent disgust forms The Road as an ecoapocalyptic novel that effectively moves readers to a greater respect for nature and fear of environmental disaster.
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The Mystical Experience as a Vehicle to Joy in “Song of Myself”
by Jacob Mercer

Many critics have taken note of the mystical leanings in Walt Whitman’s poem sequence “Song of Myself.” Some critics, such as Augustus Hopkins Strong, find Whitman’s use of a mystical self as detrimental to his poetry; while others, such as James E. Miller, see his mysticism as being crucial to the poem’s sustained relevance. Incorporating this critical conversation with that surrounding constructions of happiness in the nineteenth century, I assert a direct and correlative relationship between mysticism and joy in “Song of Myself.” In this paper, I argue that the mystical experience is a vehicle to joy in Whitman’s poem sequence, whereby the speaker frees his self from the restrictions of ego consciousness and is greatly rewarded with happiness in cosmic consciousness. I rely on Evelyn Underhill’s definition of the mystical experience as “a conscious relation with the Absolute.”
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The “Right” Way to Read: Book Clubs, Literary Culture, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road
by Sarah Nimmo

Book clubs, although popular today, have been accused by the “literary elite” of reading and discussing books in a way that is too emotional and not sufficiently academic. With the advent of the book club discussion guide and the creation of Oprah’s Book Club in 1996, these ideas are being challenged in a way that they never have before. Oprah’s Book Club made “highbrow” literature accessible to the public, while the discussion guide allows book clubs to navigate an emotionally difficult book in a more conventionally intellectual way. This essay examines The Road by Cormac McCarthy as a case study of this phenomenon. McCarthy’s novel, chosen for Oprah’s Book Club in 2007, is high in cultural capital and an emotionally challenging read, producing a confusing affective response in readers that I refer to as distress. This distress emerges from the dual experience of empathy toward the main characters and revulsion at the wasted, post-apocalyptic world these characters inhabit. I contend that discussion guides not only make “highbrow” books such as The Road more accessible to the public, but do so in a way that aids the “average reader” in navigating an emotionally difficult book through a more intellectual reading.
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Authenticity of Emotional Response in Fitzgerald’s Delusional Characters
by Lydia Rogers

Scott F. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has often been discussed as a text that comments on the delusional mentality of those living in America during a time of economical destitution the 1920s. However, there is a lack of conversation about the delusions that exist on a more interpersonal level for the characters. This essay examines the existence of delusion in Fitzgerald’s characters’ personal perceptions and social relationships and demonstrates how the characters’ emotional responses shed light on the authenticity of their delusions. This essay looks at particular emotional moments in the text and analyzes the particular emotional responses and behaviors that are being displayed by the characters to determine their authenticity. I argue that, by exploring the sincerity of emotional responses, for example, determining if they are performed and projected or natural and internal, allows us to get a deeper look into the sources and severity of their delusions and shed light on how Fitzgerald intended his readers to perceive his characters.
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The Representation of Happiness by Means of Individuality in the Poems of Shel Silverstein
by Tori Rowley

Shel Silverstein is known for his influential children’s poems that offer unique, and often whimsical, settings that entertain young audiences. This essay analyzes how Silverstein uses individuality and nonconformity in his poems to teach his readers that happiness is a result not of attempting to fit into society’s standard of happiness, but rather the standard that individuals create for themselves. By analyzing Colonial America’s children’s poetry in the popular Puritan text The New England Primer, and Emily Dickinson and Carl Sandburg’s late eighteenth and early nineteenth century American poetry, this essay demonstrates how a clear shift was made from the message projected to children in early poetry to the message Silverstein delivers to readers in his mid-twentieth century poetry. Early children’s poetry was heavily influenced by religion and the notion of keeping order, resulting in a person’s opportunity to go to heaven and achieve ultimate happiness, while Silverstein’s poetry encourages children to march to the beat of their own drum in order to discover their own meaning of happiness. Silverstein’s unique mindset of his time has carried on to modern-day poetry, showing that his idea of happiness is still being taught today.
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Rumination on the Nature of Freedom and Walking: A Thoreauvian Analysis
by Daniel Schoen

Esteemed transcendentalist Henry David Throeau’s essay Walking illustrates a method one may undertake in order to attain self-fulfillment by means of walking with and amongst the wilds, detached from society. This essay offers a textual analysis of such an idea whilst challenging the very strict set of rules that Throeau places on self-fulfillment in favor of a more adaptable understanding. Though Thoreau, and many other transcendentalist writers make steadfast claims to walking in the wilderness being the only way to escape society’s grasp and open one’s mind, a slew of other writers from different walks of life have their own theories on how self-fulfillment may be achieved as well. Theories involving walking, meditating, and more are incredibly common-place and backed up by intelligent claims as well. By searching for the common qualities found within a host of theories, this essay offers a theory of compromise between these different ideals. A compromise that promotes one’s mental state and goals as opposed to any type of practice, location, or rule set.
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Coming Out of Staying In: Issues with Happiness and Sexuality in Fun Home
by Bizzie Shanahan

Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Fun Home, describes her unique experience in a multigenerational queer family. Alison, through her attempts to uncover her father’s true self, questions not only the generational difference between her father, Bruce, and herself, but the paths towards which people attempt to find happiness. While scholars such as Sara Ahmed and Heather Love explore the ways individuals, queer and straight, attempt to find happiness, Alison’s attempts to find Bruce’s happiness after his death lead her to question if the hetero-normative path towards happiness, or the paths allowed to homosexuals, leads to happiness at all. This essay closely follows her search into her father’s past and her assent into adulthood for a means of happiness, only to discover and argue that what is labeled as normal is an unacceptable path towards happiness.
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Disgusted with Depression: A Look into the Mind of Holden Caulfield
by Sterling Shaw

J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye has been critiqued and dissected for over half a century due to the relatable thoughts and emotions of its teenage everyman, Holden Caulfield. But while many have speculated into the character’s obvious bouts with depression, no one has introduced the element of disgust into the conversation. Drawing on the work of psychologist Silvan Tomkins as well as scholars William Miller and Robert Wilson, this essay opens up that subject for discussion by evaluating the semantics of both disgust and depression, analyzing their uses in the novel, and delving into the culture surrounding the time period. Through Caulfield’s experiences with both the physical and mental effects of depression, he is unable to distinguish one emotion from another while telling his story. This essay explores the root of this language and discovers why Caulfield can’t help but call everything “depressing.”
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From William to Wes: How Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom plays homage to William Blake’s Political Poetry
by Campbell Tuel

William Blake’s collection of poems Songs of Innocence and Experience offers societal criticism and opens a discussion on the boundaries between childhood and maturity. These poems, when juxtaposed, point out unlikely influences on indie filmmaker Wes Anderson’s work, particularly in his 2012 film Moonrise Kingdom. I argue the extent to which viewers are overlooking Anderson’s films and how his work draws on the Romantic tradition of social critique. In addition to incorporating traditional concepts of Romanticism like childhood, nature, relationships, etc., Anderson’s films expose flaws in how readers and viewers theorize the gap between innocence and experience. Anderson is famous for his whimsical sets and quirky characters, but this essay explains Anderson’s role as an unlikely political filmmaker and its influence on the 21st century.
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 Wicked Lies: The Changing of Political and Social Commentary through Adaptation
by Alana Yurczyk

Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West explores the world of Oz through a brand new adaptation, often providing strong feminist and political critiques of both fairy tales and contemporary society alike. In an attempt to bring the fascinating world created by Maguire to a larger but different audience, Stephen Schwartz adapted the novel into the musical Wicked, coupling some discussion of political dissonance with upbeat dance numbers. However, some of the most unique qualities of Maguire’s work are eliminated in the adaptation, causing for more stereotypical characters and situations and a decreased focus on strong feminist ideals. By causing this shift in focus, the audiences of Wicked, despite seeing a beautifully crafted musical full of strong women, are presented with a story emphasizing friendship and learning about who you are from others, whereas Maguire’s novel focuses on the strength found in independence and free-thinking. Moreover, Maguire’s Elphaba, who is a political instigator and an outlaw, is glossed in such a way as to make her concerned with her popularity and with how a man thinks about her in the musical. In this way, the young girls who see Wicked are being told that instead of a woman standing up for a cause she truly believes in, she should hide her beliefs in order to protect who she is. I argue that this message, despite being outwardly more progressive than most of popular culture, is still a step backwards from Maguire’s powerful, free-thinking, and unapologetic women.
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“I’m with you in Rockland:” Madness, Howl, and the Problem of Postmodern Affect
by Corey Zielinski

Allen Ginsberg’s renowned poem Howl depicts madness in various lights. On one hand, madness works as a “description” of the capitalist-driven American society Ginsberg detested. On the other, madness is the name given to the rebellion of Ginsberg and his fellow Beat writers against this society. This essay uncovers how these competing depictions of madness are at work in the postmodern age and, particularly, what they reveal about the state of affect that Fredric Jameson argues has become flat and depthless. By taking the work of Sara Ahmed’s affect theory of Happy Objects as a critical lens, this paper will reveal that, despite the postmodern “waning of affect,” Ginsberg’s Howl offers the hope and possibility for a return to a more fulfilling state of affect that existed before the divide between reason and unreason in which madness was “the truth of the human laid bare.”
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