Spring 2011


Undergraduate magazines are usually founded because emerging poets and fiction writers need a place to publish their early work. From a few stapled pages read mainly by proud parents and a few friends, the young authors hope to graduate, so to speak, to the literary quarterlies and from there to The New Yorker and a prize-winning hardback collection from Knopf. That’s the theory, anyway.

The Paper Shell Review is a little different. Given that ours is still, as Randall Jarrell called it years ago, “an age of criticism,” this new journal is devoted to scholarly and critical essays. In this inaugural issue one can read about the image of the outlaw in modern Irish literature, the use of punctuation in Emily Dickinson’s poetry, questions of ethnicity and sexuality in Kate Chopin’s fiction, and the impact of British acquisitions in Italian painting on the creation of Walter Pater’s The Renaissance. Those, by the way, are just four of the contributions, but already one sees the range and variety of interpretative approaches adopted by these youthful scholars: the analysis of themes, explication de texte, new historicism, the tracing of influence.

Besides their worth as thoughtful pieces of criticism, such essays also demonstrate the vitality of college English study in the 21st century. The 1950s practiced formal analysis; the 1960s grew excited over myths and archetypes; the 1970s took up Marxism, structuralism and deconstruction, and in the 1980s feminism, queer studies, and other forms of cultural theorizing enlarged our horizons. But during the past 20 years literature departments have shown, quite reasonably, that all these approaches can enrich our understanding of a familiar classic or provide useful ways of shaking up the canon. Of course, love still lies at the heart of all criticism: The good reader is first enraptured—by a poem, story or piece of prose—and that inchoate feeling of delight begets a desire for deeper understanding. The greater the text, the more variously it can be apprehended and appreciated.

Let us welcome, then, The Paper Shell Review as a new forum for young literary scholars. These papers and essays demonstrate that in 2011 serious research, hard thought, and careful critical analysis are all very much alive and kicking.

--Michael Dirda

Michael Dirda is a Pulitzer Prize-winning literary journalist and the author of several books about books, including Readings, Bound to Please, and Classics for Pleasure.

Essay Information

Submit essays using the Paper Shell Review Submission Form

Journal Information

Sohayl Vafai

Managing Editor
Rebecca Shin

Layout Editor
Laura Pavlo

Layout Consultant
Grace Toulotte

Editorial Board Leader
William Harris

Editorial Board
Emily Gorman
Amanda Ostria
Abby Shantzis
Susaana Harris
Stephanie Knauff
Sarah Greenberg
Robert Wolfe
Deanna Wright
Katie Harrelson
Lindsey Anderson
Evan Higgins
William Burch
Johnnie Simpson

The following graduate students advised the journal:
Stephanie Clarke-Graham
Elizabeth Choy
Catherine Bayly