The Student Honors Papers collection represents exemplary work in English at Illinois Wesleyan University. The Ames Library is proud to archive many of these and other honors projects in Digital Commons @ IWU, the University's online archive of student, faculty and staff scholarship and creative activity.
by Adam Cady
In recent decades, key scholarship and projects have affirmed—at long last—the importance and independent literary quality of John Keats’s personal correspondence. And while creative endeavors like Tom Clark’s Junkets on a Sad Planet have further engaged Keats’s remarkable letters, none have gone so far as to audaciously assume a personal acquaintanceship with the long-dead Romantic. Uniquely processing a personal trauma which echoes Keats’s biography in numerous, intriguing ways, “Keatsian Correspondences: A Tragedy in Five Acts” does just that. Communicating a semi-autobiographical narrative via a phantasmal prose-poem and accompanying analytic preface, this project uses Keats’s letters—specifically, his lengthy September 1819, journal letter to George and Georgiana Keats—as a template and, with the necessary casualness of someone who has—in reality—voyeuristically probed the writer’s many revealing letters, is addressed directly, intimately, and improbably to John Keats himself.
by Johnny Whitfield
On the morning of November 20, 2014, my father, David Michael Whitfield, suffered a sudden and fatal heart attack. Before that, he lived a wonderful, invaluable life, in which he enriched and brightened up the lives of everyone in his various communities, whether it be with friends, with family, with business, or his neighborhood. Along with my mother, he taught my siblings and me what unconditional and irreplaceable love looked and felt like. He worked tirelessly for his family for most of his life, deciding only to step away from his work in order to ensure that he had time to spend with those he loved. After both his life and death, however, my life and the lives of all the people he had an impact on, of course, continue. This project explores the concept of grief, what sort of legacy is left in the wake of a major loss, and immortalizing memories of someone or something that is no longer there. Furthermore, in this preface, I will discuss the life and impact of my father, the tradition of elegy and elegiac writing, and how I engage with those two through my poetry.
by Kathryn Halford
Poetry is often a space for exploration and transgression. The poetic project In the Ripe and Ruin seeks to both question and transgress, targeting the difficult nature of bodies and their complications through maturation and tragedy. Bodies are conflicted spaces, sites of gendered experience, decay, and growth. The critical preface and 23 poems serve as an exploration of identity as a woman, as a writer, and as a person with an increasingly fragmented sense of home and belonging. This project attempts an experimentation with poetic forms, utilizing typographical and generic convergence as a standard practice. The divergent poems work to destabilize linear narrative, creating a simultaneity of progression and regression throughout the collection.
by Abigail Kauerauf
In We Need To Talk: A New Method for Evaluating Poetry (2018), Michael Theune and Bob Broad present a study that employs a version of their “Poetry Dynamic Criteria Mapping” (PDCM) methodology to empirically and inductively investigate the implicit criteria that went into the selection of poems. I employ a version of PDCM in my study. I coded and analyzed 752 poems from the past three years’ issues of nine creative arts journals from liberal arts institutions in the same academic conference. Two important patterns emerged: (1) the vast majority of the poems are outgrowths of confessional poetry: free verse, serious, introspective, and focused on emotion, and (2) few poems seem aligned with other values, including those espoused by avant-garde, slam, and socially and politically engaged poetry.
by Eva Kossmann
This novella is a way to relieve the guilt. My grandfather, whom I barely knew, passed away my freshman year of college. Through writing this novella, I have attempted to reconcile the guilt of never reaching out to understand this man—my father’s father. This novella is a fictionalization of the relationship between my father and his father, a Swiss-German man with bipolar disorder, and how these characteristics impacted their relationship. I explored the facets of memory in order to create the story I wrote, relying on my own memories and the memories of others close to my grandfather. By writing about this father-son relationship, I sought to understand who my grandfather was in attempt to rid myself of the guilt of essentially abandoning him in his final years. This novella is also to examine the preciousness of memory and to understand its importance to our understanding of who we are as individuals in this world.
by Ross Hettinger
To what extent is the world around us an extension of our mind? Conversely, how much a part of the world is our mind? These are complex questions to begin a critical preface with, especially a preface that is focused not on the issues of Theory of Mind, consciousness, or questions of body and mind, but rather fiction, genre and the ramifications of point of view. These are precisely the questions, however, that need to be considered at the very onset of an inquiry of this type. The connection between mind and world is at the heart of any question relating to narrative. Given to the author in creating a work is the monumental task of creating a world and all of the characters in it. Authors must constantly balance the realities of their world with the demands of their characters, and a chief way a writer communicates with the reader is through the point of view, which is the only conduit into the authorial world. The choice of point of view, therefore, is a supremely important one, and one in which there can be both convention and subversion, depending on numerous factors, including whether a story is considered genre or literary.
by Paxton Johnson
The project consists of a compilation of secrets, ranging from strange to unexceptional, in the form of poetry and short, poetic, prose pieces. Even our most public figures have private lives, and even within those lives, there are private thoughts unheard by even the most trusted ear. There is a constant struggle over how much privacy should be allowed, and people often advocate to spotlight everyone but themselves. Although everyone lives with shadows, it is still difficult to avoid passing judgement on others for their secrets and receiving similar responses upon revealing one’s own. This project examines what it is that people are so intent on keeping hidden, and why we feel, even under such similar pressures as others, that we must keep information so desperately shrouded. This project aims to consider the multifaceted nature of human secrecy and the humanity it provides.
by Jamie Kreppein
[Archives staff derived this excerpt from the author’s Preface.] I’ve heard the question “your dad’s a cop?” more times than I can count….So, this play is about the police. It’s about my family; for me, the two are hopelessly intertwined. I draw from my memories; I’ve written about moments with my family from the slightly foggy past and from the very real present. My family talks a lot—about politics, and race, and the police. My father is fixated on current events and issues, to the point of unhappiness, and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree….Many arguments in this piece unfolded as I was writing it, so all I had to do was record. I realized that I didn’t need to consciously tackle the big questions, like what it means to be a police officer in a society filled with opinions on the police, because my father is constantly monologuing….Fully fleshed monologues with arcs and movement and anecdotes. Maybe he’s always been like this. Or maybe I’m the first person to listen to him.
by Grace McGovern
[Archives staff derived this excerpt from the author’s Introduction.] To be queer is to be continually silenced and sanitized, both by yourself and others. Through my poetic project, “i pull the trigger and lilies fly out,” I am reclaiming those aspects of myself and forming my own expression of the self. There is a quietness to my work, a continual movement into a lyrical, ethereal space, a suspension of time where the contemplation of a possible action is emphasized, rather than the action. This stillness, this self-awareness, and constant feeling of “what-if” embodies the extent to which I contemplate my place as a queer woman in every space I occupy. By creating work centered on this self, and not needing a disclaimer for my queerness but also note needing to make it shout, I was able to craft my own queer identity. I have often felt on the margins in this respect; I was too gay for my straight friends and too “straight” in mannerisms and dress for my gay friends. By holding my identity in my own hands, I was finally able to mold something that is me, and that I am proud to embody. When you are queer, you often have to create your own space and your own identity. In this project, I have finally formed my own.
by Savanna Steck
[Archives staff derived this excerpt from the author’s Introduction.] My novel takes place in a multi-national, magical world… The story focuses on the opposing forces working in Alvera…The plot is shaped by the actions taken by the different characters to achieve their goals, and how these actions are motivated by the fictional world…Plot and world-building are not direct substitutes for each other. Rather, I began to think that the plot and world-building are complimentary support structures in a story that work together to create the foundation for a complex narrative. The plot is the super structure of the novel. It is the device that reveals how the character live and interact with the fictional world. The world is the base for the story, the physical setting that the action of the plot is rooted in. But the world functions in more than one way. It is the physical setting of the novel, a base for the story to grow out of, but it is also an active participant in the story. In fact, so active was my world that I began to think of it as a character. Just as characters in a novel have motivations and intentions fueled by their backstory that is shown through the plot. The characters in a work of fiction often interact with the world as they do with each other. This means that when the characters and world interact, details and events are aligning to create the plot of the novel. The fictional world helps to create parameters that give the events of the plot meaning, while the plot provides the overall structure to release the plethora of information that world-building and character development generates. The fictional world, thought of as a character, is another element in a world of fiction to help create characters’ intentions and motivations that furthers the plot of the story.