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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Department of English


The Department of English Honors Program is designed for English and American Literature and Culture majors interested in pursuing the extra challenges and rewards of the honors curriculum--a course of study that culminates in a substantial critical paper, the honors thesis. After the thesis is completed, the faculty advisor and a faculty reader review the thesis and award it highest honors, honors, or no honors.

Cover page of A Space for those Memories: The Cultural Memoirs of Eavan Boland and Doireann Ní Ghríofa

A Space for those Memories: The Cultural Memoirs of Eavan Boland and Doireann Ní Ghríofa


This thesis argues that the memoirs Object Lessons (1995) by Eavan Boland and A Ghost in the Throat (2020) by Doireann Ní Ghríofa epitomize how the memoir genre may record cultural memory as well as personal memory. Irish poets Boland and Ní Ghríofa highlight the ways in which the past permeates the present in depicting the repetitions and resonances between the lives of cultural predecessors, specifically the Irish women that came before them, and their own. They identify with these women on the basis of shared gender and national identity and construct attachments to these women through sparse or general historical records, oral storytelling, and personal writing and bolster them through fictionalization informed by their own experiences as Irish women writers. Boland and Ní Ghríofa predicate these relationships on the long-lasting, often traumatic reckoning between Irish conceptions of gender and nation. The relationship between these poets and their cultural ancestors is one grounded in postmemory, an understanding of cultural trauma as an inheritable, affective knowledge, passed through storytelling, that can be felt nearly as deeply as one’s own memories. Both of these memoirs probe the convergences and conflicts between women, literature, and history in Ireland, and, as Boland and Ní Ghríofa reach back into the past to make sense of their present moment, each sketches the Irish woman as uniquely positioned to reshape visions of the past by writing of the lived experience of themselves and their forebears.

Cover page of A War of Roses: An Examination of Tudor Mythography in Shakespeare’s First Tetralogy of History and George R.R. Martin’s, <em>A Song of Ice and Fire</em> Series

A War of Roses: An Examination of Tudor Mythography in Shakespeare’s First Tetralogy of History and George R.R. Martin’s, A Song of Ice and Fire Series


The matter of how much George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series drew from William Shakespeare’s First Tetralogy of History is a debate among critics and academic scholars. George R.R. Martin defends the darkness of his work with the claim of historical accuracy, particularly concerning the Wars of the Roses. What becomes overlooked is the influence of William Shakespeare’s Henry VI (Parts I, II, and III) and Richard III in the perception of the Wars of the Roses. A few critics accuse Shakespeare’s First Tetralogy of History of diminishing historical complexities to promote what is known as the Tudor myth. The Tudor myth is a form of realist mythography that takes historical figures and makes evil of them by painting them as larger than humans. They achieve this by generating discourses on supernatural creatures. The Tudor chroniclers then attach these discourses to historical figures like Richard III and Margaret of Anjou. Thus, academics often accuse Martin’s, A Song of Ice and Fire series of promoting a form of historical mythography. My thesis examines this reductionist framing of William Shakespeare and George R.R. Martin, specifically regarding Richard III and Margaret of Anjou and their parallels to Tyrion and Cersei Lannister. Despite the Tudor influence, Shakespeare and George R.R. Martin demonstrate how families and dynasties become forums for creating power. The construction of these powerful systematic forums ends up breaking people. My thesis will look at some of these characters who end up on the sidelines rife with anger due to the stark ethical schema of evil forced upon them.

Lividity in Pink


My thesis project is a video game.

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Cover page of Sadomasochism in <em>Jane Eyre</em>: A Psychological Exchange of Power

Sadomasochism in Jane Eyre: A Psychological Exchange of Power


At first glance, the concept of a sadomasochistic relationship seems to be relatively modern as its presence often co-exists with the practice of BDSM (Bondage, Discipline/Domination, Sadism/Submission, Masochism) in the 21st century. However, as this thesis argues, the nineteenth-century roots of the term demonstrate that the practice of sadomasochism is not only apparent in Victorian fiction but central to its discussions of power. By examining Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre, this thesis will explore the ways in which different characters in the novel gesture towards performing sadism, masochism, and sadomasochism in their relationships. The analysis of these practices will take place through a psychological lens, thus reflecting on how sadomasochism occurs in Jane Eyre as a psychological exchange of power instead of a sexual one. Furthermore, by looking at different institutions in Jane’s life, including Gateshead, Lowood School, Thornfield Hall, Moor House, and Ferndean Manor, I will investigate how they helped her come to terms with suffering, find pleasure in pain, and develop sadomasochistic desires.

Cover page of Evergreen



Evergreen is a collection of poems about many things: mothers, Korean women, tragic love, and trees, both evergreen and not. It traces a line through the women, real and imagined, who have shaped my family, and whom I deeply desire to know, because their lives have led me to where I am now. May these voices of dancers, musicians, court ladies, and others be a way to remember my ancestors, and more deeply and fully know myself.

Cover page of (Re)Creation



In this autofiction novella, a young Chinese and Korean-American girl goes to college with a strong protestant Christian background. Hoping to take more ownership of her faith, she joins Genesis Church, a hip Asian-American church in Los Angeles during her freshman year. She quickly makes friends, finding the community and sense of belonging that she’s always searched for and enters her first relationship with a Chinese-American student involved in the college ministry’s leadership. As this seemingly perfect Christian relationship progresses, her religious boyfriend pressures her sexually, while also blaming her for not preventing this “sin.” After painful experiences a therapist later defines as rapes, she finally leaves her boyfriend. The novella opens after she’s left the relationship; she goes to the church’s pastor and his wife, but their support is flimsy and non-committal. She seeks comfort from her family as well, but her parents are judgmental about her lapsed virginity. Her roommate, a non-believer, becomes her main source of support. The novella follows her recovery and her attempts to integrate the ideas she inherited from her upbringing about virginity, femininity, and Christianity, with the person she’s now becoming.

Cover page of Danielle



Danielle is a novella that explores the intense connection between a high school senior, Juno, and her teacher, Danielle Ohara, at a competitive Silicon Valley high school. Though their relationship remains an unconsummated friendship, their intimacy sends waves through their lives and the lives of those around them. Juno begins her senior year as an unknown nerd, but through her relationship with Danielle she gains admirers, popularity, and a profound connection unlike any she’s experienced before. Danielle’s identity as a lesbian also raises new questions of sexuality for Juno. However, the two are torn apart when other perspectives—a student who voices her disapproval of teacher-student friendships in the school newspaper, and another teacher who has a sexual relationship with his former student—force them to confront the appearance and impact of their dynamic. This novella takes place in 2018, after the MeToo movement had shone a light on the problematic nature of unequal power dynamics in sexual relationships. In this era, teacher-student relationships were widely viewed as problematic, even when the age of consent was not an issue; however, the boundaries of unconsummated relationships were and are still being negotiated. In top high schools where parents pay high tuition or property taxes to give their children an elite education, academic pressure often pushes vulnerable students to their teachers for comfort and validation. Danielle explores the boundaries of what is and is not appropriate at one of these high schools through Juno’s experiences with Danielle in her senior year.

Cover page of The <em>Bildungsroman</em> Transformed Magic, Memories, and the Unpredictable Movements of Growth in Young Adult Speculative Fiction

The Bildungsroman Transformed Magic, Memories, and the Unpredictable Movements of Growth in Young Adult Speculative Fiction


This thesis reconsiders the classic Bildungsroman coming-of-age narrative by looking at contemporary Young Adult speculative novels Legendborn by Tracy Deonn and Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim. Unlike the White male protagonist which the classic Bildungsroman centers around, these novels feature young women of color who, discover within a speculative genre, that they have magical capabilities. This thesis traces various directions of growth that complicate the idea of “growing up” by looking for moments that expose the characters as looking backwards within their memories, moving through time and space in unanticipated ways aided by magic, accessing a multitude of “selves” within, and making negotiations between their interior and exterior world. This paper will suggest that instead of following a linear coming-of-age trajectory, growth emerges in the texts as entangled, spontaneous, unpredictable, and inscrutable. In this case, the Bildungsroman provides a narrative structure to talk back to, or look around. I argue that these movements are made by a fragmented collection of “selves” that the protagonists embody, granting them an elusive quality, making their identities hard to categorize. The Bildungsroman classically follows a White heterosexual male character as they leave the shelter of home and integrate into society. My thesis intentionally shifts away from this model by reconsidering this narrative when it is applied to marginalized subjects and intervened by the presence of magic. In the end, my thesis argues that these protagonists evade static endings when we reconfigure the Bildungsroman as spontaneous, relational, and never ending, granting the characters potential and agency rather than assigning them a specific role in society. Here, I evade linearity in my own writing by discussing opinions within the footnotes and bringing poetry into each section to willfully undermine a voice of scholarly authority. Inspired by feminist writers who infuse their work with vulnerability and embodied approaches to the text, I delve into lived-experiences to express the fact that like these protagonists, my own personhood has stakes in how we reconfigure the Bildungsroman.

Cover page of “I’ve Never Heard Silence Quite this Loud”: The Complexity of Taylor Swift’s Neutral Star Text

“I’ve Never Heard Silence Quite this Loud”: The Complexity of Taylor Swift’s Neutral Star Text


Taylor Swift has secured her place as one of the most dominant stars in pop music by maintaining a diverse fanbase. I argue that she has achieved this diversity by constructing a neutral star image that is widely palatable and refrains from repelling certain demographics. Numerous things help form a star image, and Swift has particularly cultivated a neutral image across her music, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts, Netflix specials and documentary, interviews, and her apparent refusal to feud with other celebrities. This cultivated neutrality results in Swift’s star image being more complex and contradictory than her peers in pop music. Traditionally, people would not think of neutrality and complexity as interrelated. The Oxford English Dictionary defines neutrality as “an intermediate state or condition, not clearly one thing or another; a neutral position, middle ground,” and complex as “consisting of or comprehending various parts united or connected together; formed by combination of different elements; composite, compound. Said of things, ideas, etc.” Yet, Swift’s neutrality ironically makes her star image particularly multifaceted. These techniques contribute to Swift’s pop presence as an anomaly: unlike her peers, Swift’s neutral persona has allowed fans across the political spectrum to embrace her. I will look at her alt-right fandom and her young, queer fandom to compare and contrast their attraction to her. In this thesis, I will explore the sociopolitical complexity of star texts and the increased ambiguity that Swift’s strategies of neutrality have brought to her star image.

Cover page of “Between Gloom and Laughter”: Female Longing, Unhappiness, and Structures of Absence in the Works of Virginia Woolf

“Between Gloom and Laughter”: Female Longing, Unhappiness, and Structures of Absence in the Works of Virginia Woolf


This thesis begins by asking: How does Virginia Woolf contend with the positionality of the ignored woman within literary narratives, structures, and histories? What about the yearning, unhappy women that reside on the plot's edges of Woolf’s fiction, who find themselves displaced and suspended – by their own longing– from the narratives in which they reside? In a series of readings of Jacob’s Room, her first experimental novel but still one of her most undertheorized, I argue that while Woolf’s work uncovers this absence, she refuses to patch up its damage on literary history by merely filling it, or relocating these disappearing women back into our line of sight. Instead, she asks what limitless structure might arise from the discomfort of a woman’s heaving sobs. By laying out the truncated desires of the forgotten women who disappear from the novel almost as soon as they’re introduced, I demonstrate the narrative potential Woolf locates in the absence found by female characters who vacillate between abandoning their unfulfilling position in the marriage plot and untethering their desire from narrative altogether. What results is an examination of what is unwritten and how women absent themselves from a fixed narrative and time through reading and sleeping. Finally, through tears and laughter, I propose an argument that finds both the productivity and loss offered by disappearance and absence. Ending with “A Woman’s College from Outside,” a chapter cut from Jacob’s Room and published as an independent short story, I argue that Woolf’s reproduction of the very thing she critiques about literature, that is, this disappearance, becomes the site of queer possibility.