Spring 2016


“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 

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Emily Tuttle

Managing Editor
Katie Weng

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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

Graduate Student Reader 
Elise Auvil


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