Best in Show 2013

Calhoun, Joshua. The Word Made Flax: Cheap Bibles, Textual Corruption, and the Poetics of Paper.”PMLA 126.2 (2011): 327–344. Print.


Made of recycled clothes, slaughtered animals, and felled trees, Bibles in Renaissance England were filled with visible traces of ecological matter, remainders that remind one that words on a page are thought fused with—and inflected by—matter. This essay places Henry Vaughan’s poem “The Book” in a broader conversation about the poetics of paper: the rhetorical effects of the varied colors and qualities of paper used in the production of the vernacular Bibles that transformed reading practices in Renaissance England. Historical writers and readers, who were directly involved in a flax-to-rags-to-paper economy, recognized and commented on the natural resources from which cheap, widely distributed Bibles and other texts were made. Further, this essay models a reading strategy that attends to the natural history of books, to both the function and the form of the organic matter used to mediate human ideas. (JC)

Ronda, Margaret. “‘Work and Wait Unwearying’: Dunbar’s Georgics.” PMLA 127.4

(2012): 863–878. Print.


This essay argues that the georgic poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar offer his most incisive

representations of the hardships faced by African Americans after Reconstruction. Written in

the context of Jim Crow laws, vagrancy statutes, and other coercive means of restricting the

mobility of southern blacks and extracting compulsory labor from them, these poems present the

hard agrarian work characteristic of the rural Black Belt. They confront the pervasive rhetoric

of racial uplift through labor, popularized by Booker T. Washington, that dominates American

social discourse on race in the late nineteeth and early twentieth centuries, by revealing the

negative freedom of black agrarian labor. At the same time, these poems assert the humanity and

blamelessness of African Americans in the face of institutional racism. The essay aims to recast

Dunbar’s legacy by turning attention from his dialect poetry toward his georgic analyses of the

uneven modernization of racialized labor. (MR)


MacArthur, Marit J. "One World? The Poetics of Passenger Flight and the Perception of the Global." PMLA 127.2 (2012): 264-282. Abstract. Web. 14 Sept. 2012.



The poetry of passenger flight, especially in the early years of the jet age, is exceptional in illuminating the perceptual, affective, and ethical confusions of the global perspective. Offering readings of James Merrill’s “Flying from Byzantium,” Elizabeth Bishop’s “Night City,” Amiri Baraka’s “The Nation Is like Ourselves,” and Derek Walcott’s “The Fortunate Traveller,” this essay integrates theoretical grounding in the phenomenology of flight (speed, distance, time, and perspective), the legacy of Romantic landscape meditation in contemporary poetry and the evolution of the literature of flight, and relevant historical background about the development of commercial air travel. The passenger’s view in the period when flight was no longer thrilling and not yet tedious is a peculiarly apt trope for the difficulties of imagining the global and of registering the conundrum of globalization—in its most basic sense, time-space compression—from its repercussions in our private lives to the greatest humanitarian challenges of our time.




Watkins, Clive. "Wallace Stevens: 'The Doctor of Geneva'." Wallace Stevens Journal 32.1 (2008): 73-92. Abstract. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 14 Sept. 2012.



This article critiques the poem "The Doctor of Geneva" by Wallace Stevens. This poem shows his writing style as formal, allusive, metrical sophistication, comical, and rhetorical. It is the combination of these styles all wrapped together that makes it an alluring and easy to read poem. It was said that it is not necessarily the ideas that make a poem good but it is the words that are used, as the words are what the reader sees and can relate to.