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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 Songs of Enlightenment: In Collaboration with Light

Songs of Enlightenment: In Collaboration with Light


This compilation of poems represents a new school of thought, postrevisionism. The goal of postrevisionism is to show the unity of all things through various found fragments of civilization, time, humanity, creation, nature, and generally all aspects of consciousness as a unified collection. These poems express this principle of unity as a whole. The poems reference artifacts and structures that symbolize consciousness and experience. Found artifacts represent the ephemeral structures that, form eternity, instill meaning. The overall collection contains and refers to found pieces in history, self, nature, and spirit, and unifies them through the transcendental feeling of a unity of one, illustrated through scientific principles of diffracted energy and various references to poetry, writing throughout time, and spirituality in creation. The principle of unity can be found in religions all over the world and is especially poignant in Hinduism and Buddhism, the concept that we are all one, and that the difference of others is an illusion of self, the difference of the world, the spinning wheel of consciousness, connected by its many spokes at the center. This is the essence of Jesus’ teaching that God is everything and in everything. This same principle is implicit in Einstein’s theory of relativity, the fact that the nature of all matter is energy. All matter is one energy. Through the principle of diffracted energy, fragments take the form of light and though stemming from one source, like light before entering a prism, these fragments are experienced as multiple colors beyond the prism.

Cover page of Mother, May I Please Have Some More: Melancholy, Maternity, and the State

Mother, May I Please Have Some More: Melancholy, Maternity, and the State


This thesis returns to the neo-slave narrative genre to disrupt melancholic historicism by focusing on the consistent thematization of maternity. Previous scholarship has recognized the primacy of reproduction in these narratives, but have primarily read it in two ways. First, as an attempt to recover enslaved women’s acts of insurgence or, secondly, to show the fraught possibility of motherhood under slavery. However, I attend to maternity as a formation inflected by contemporary racial and gender reproductive politics. I ask two questions: How do understandings of the neoslave narrative as wholly invested in the antebellum past obscure their epistemic and narrative interventions in the present? What does it mean when maternity becomes an unhistorical means to track differences between antebellum and postbellum state disciplinary formations? In what follows, I connect the neo-slave narrative’s use of speculative temporality to late twentieth century legal discourse curtailing black women’s reproduction. Using Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (2016), I show how black maternity can be used as a vehicle to evaluate contemporary government programs’ utilization of a discourse of care as a proving ground for reproductive coercion. Ultimately, by returning to what history is inflected in the neoslave narrative genre, this project aims to reanimate literary studies of slavery. Namely, by showing how the genre also looks forward to changes in the political economy rather than only back to the antebellum past.

Cover page of Have You Eaten Yet?  Stories

Have You Eaten Yet?  Stories


Have You Eaten Yet? Stories is a fictional short story collection about Chinese food. Before I anger Chinese cuisine experts, I acknowledge that my featured dishes are not “authentic.” I write about transplants, fusion, and junk food. My characters are similarly Chinese-adjacent. They are westernized, conflicted, longing to return to China, or declare independence from it. Their stories expand upon the canon of immigrant kitchens and frugal home-cooking. I needed these stories, ones that reflect Chinese identity as global and varied and human. With President Trump’s references to coronavirus as “the Chinese virus” and discrimination against Chinese restaurants, this representation felt more important than ever. “Dim Sum Days” is a traditional short story for a classic Cantonese brunch, featuring mother-daughter relationships and nods to Joy Luck Club. “DTF” mimics a text conversation and touches on millennial absurdism and hookup culture at Din Tai Fung. “Be Water” explores the violence of the Hong Kong Protests, the intersections of political and private life, and the comfort of cha chaan tengs. “White Rabbit, Sour Plum” covers an immigrant’s first 25 years in America with vignettes and multiple perspectives. My po po begins our phone calls with “Have you eaten yet?” Chinese grandmothers say this interchangeably with “Hello.” Food is a language of love for our people. When we talk about food, we talk about so much more: love and craving, identity and history, family and sacrifice. I chased these themes in my stories. As with most recipes, I followed my gut and tongue.

Cover page of Milton and Empire: Satanic and Edenic Colonization in Paradise Lost

Milton and Empire: Satanic and Edenic Colonization in Paradise Lost


Within Paradise Lost are numerous themes of early European colonialism: Satan as an imperialist aggressor, Adam and Eve as peaceful settlers, and Eden as a literal New World. Dissecting these themes tends to beg the question whether John Milton supported his country’s colonialism or not. The duplicity in the poem’s colonial parallels suggests that what support Milton may have had was conditional; in the poem, Milton condones Adam and Eve’s colonialism, but not Satan’s. Satan’s colonialism may very closely resemble that of the Black Legend Spanish, but this paper will approach it differently. This thesis will suggest two colonial readings of Paradise Lost : the first, that Satan’s conquest of Eden resembles Oliver Cromwell’s conquest of Jamaica; the second, that Adam and Eve’s settling in Eden resembles the Puritan settling of New England. These two readings create two distinct models of colonialism as Milton understood them: an imperial model, and a settler model, respectively. Through historical examples and evidence from the poem, this paper will argue Milton’s support of the latter model in favor of the former, as well as examine his stakes in writing colonial literature.

Cover page of Kingly Infirmity and the Remedy: The Importance of Counsel in Thwarting Divinely Ordained Incompetence

Kingly Infirmity and the Remedy: The Importance of Counsel in Thwarting Divinely Ordained Incompetence


This thesis examines the influence of the divine right theory in George Peele’s The Love of King David and Fair Bethsabe , and the way that ineffectual monarchs are protected under this theory. The early modern period was heavily influenced by the divine right theory, as well as the Protestant theology that undergirded much of everyday life. I look at Peele’s play through the lense of Protestant theology, and show that Peele does adhere to the traditional orthodoxy by condemning those who disobey and rebel against their monarch. However, as much as Peele’s work is a product of his time, his play raises the issue of what to do with a weak monarch, who must nonetheless rule due to divine right theory. He puts forth an answer to this theoretical issue by way of the counselor, someone who is able to correct and criticize a weak monarch, without being considered damned for their disobedience or rebellion. I put forth that the disobedience and rebellion that is apparent in Peele’s counselor, although subverting from traditional orthodoxy, are necessary in the success of David’s kingdom.

Cover page of Disabling Charlotte Smith: A Marxist, Crip Theory Analysis of Class, Gender, Labor, and Disability in Romantic Poetry

Disabling Charlotte Smith: A Marxist, Crip Theory Analysis of Class, Gender, Labor, and Disability in Romantic Poetry


This thesis analyzes the correlations between labor, class, gender, and disability in Charlotte Smith’s poetry, while specifically using a Marxist frame of analysis in conjunction with contemporary disability studies theories to argue for the structural determination of her laboring position. As she continues laboring from this position that is determined by her status as a working-class woman writer, Smith becomes disabled, and the manifestations of her disability change over time. In addition to her need to write constantly to survive, Smith was caring for twelve children without her husband (who was in debtor’s prison) present. As a result, Smith’s labor needs to be analyzed not only from a laboring-to-survive framework, but also in conjunction with the reality that she needed to constantly transition between working to survive and providing emotional and care labor for her children with very little assistance. By using an intersectional analysis to see how these systems of oppression impacted Smith’s lived experience—namely gender, class, and disability-based oppression—I hope to argue for the presence of a systemic process by which Smith becomes disabled, and that this process results in a near inevitability of disability often times. At the same time, however, I will posit disability as a positive identity, and fight strongly for disabled people’s validity whether or not they have a medical diagnosis, as these diagnoses always need to be defined in terms of access, rather than being considered the only avenue through which disability is possible.

Cover page of Troublesome Minorities: Questioning Assimilation in <em>The Reluctant Fundamentalist</em> and <em>Home Fire</em>

Troublesome Minorities: Questioning Assimilation in The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Home Fire


Cultural discourse has long proposed assimilation as the method for the social and political incorporation of immigrant populations in the West. The model minority myth is perpetuated as a success story of Asian immigrants achieving the American Dream, of finding success through hard work and trademark American determination, while marketing the perceived silence and patience of the minority as honorable traits. However, these ideals are insufficient and problematic as they ignore the challenges immigrants and their descendants face in the post-9/11 era and promote deep set notions of race and associated categories. In order to better understand the incorporation of immigrant communities in the new century, we need to deconstruct and reevaluate the collective memory of mainstream western societies for their own myths of cultural and hegemonic superiority. We must study these societies as ethnic, as equally rooted in tradition as immigrant communities are accused of. Exploring English literature, specifically works by South Asian Muslim writers on the post-9/11 western diaspora, and analyzing how Muslims negotiate an identity under various pressures reveals a more “humanist” understanding of these communities. Considering novels like The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Home Fire alongside theoretical works such as Orientalism by Edward Said, White by Richard Dyer, and Omi and Winant’s racial formation theory offers a much more nuanced discussion on the racialization of Muslims after 9/11 through policing and surveillance, and the resulting isolation of the community into fundamentalisms and binaries.

Cover page of Invisible Labor in the Medieval World

Invisible Labor in the Medieval World


This thesis explores invisible labor, which is a contemporary term, as written in Old English literature. This thesis contends that invisible labor refers to labor that is ignored, underpaid, oftentimes spans across social hierarchies and is socially constructed. The first part of this thesis goes into the contemporary understanding of invisible labor, how this understanding leads to recognition of invisible labor in Old English literature and shows that this labor is not gender specific. The second part of this thesis goes into peace-weaving as invisible labor, which had been culturally considered women’s work and economically devalued, as depicted by the actions of Wealhtheow when she serves mead and speaks up for her sons in Beowulf and heroic actions of killing Holofernes by Judith in Judith. The third part of this thesis explores peacemaker as invisible labor, as depicted by Wiglaf serving “water” in Beowulf, Widsith taking Ealhhild to her new king in Widsith, Constantine taking advice from the Angel as depicted in Cynewulf’s Elene, the soldiers standing by King Athelstan and defeating the Scots in “The Battle of Brunburgh,” and the men being faithful to AEthelred against the Vikings in “The Battle of Maldon.” In analyzing invisible labor as depicted in Old English literature, what may be viewed in contemporary terms as “ordinary” work of service that is easily dismissed and unrecognized, will bring insight into how invisible labor was seen in Old English literature.

Cover page of Violent Rapture in the Age of Comfort: Mapping Chardinian Convergence in O'Connor's South

Violent Rapture in the Age of Comfort: Mapping Chardinian Convergence in O'Connor's South


The body of scholarship regarding Flannery O’Connor generally falls into one of three camps: biographical or historical readings of her work that attempt to either characterize a period of her life or ascertain her political beliefs, using her stories to reveal religious allusions that show her attempt to reinforce Christian morals, or, finally, readings engaging with a generally Girardian framework to show her criticism of Christianity itself. Biographical documents show O’Connor’s lifelong devotion to the Catholic faith, which, for many readers, problematizes the subversive prevalence of violence and blasphemous imagery in her body of work. However, these perspectives overlook the immense impact that 20th-century French Jesuit theologian and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin had on her work, especially during her final years. As my argument will show, O’Connor critically responds to Teilhard de Chardin’s theory of convergence in a way that anticipates the later theories of French anthropologist René Girard regarding the social connections between violence and religion. Using the theories of these two thinkers in conjunction with discourse from the tradition of kenotic Christology, (a line of theological thinking which assumes that God partially or totally emptied himself of power when incarnating as Christ), I analyze four recurring stylistic devices that illuminate O’Connor’s own original theological framework: setting, pedagogical encounters, disfigurement, and the role of violence in relationship to revelation.