Spring 2020 English Capstones
[ Seminar in Fiction Writing | Seminar in Literature | Seminar in Poetry ]
Engl : Seminar in Fiction Writing, Dr. Jason Skipper
Capstone Title: “How to Love a Diver”
Bio: Summer Ash is a graduating senior with a major in English and a minor in Communication. She is a co-editor of Saxifrage and captain of the debate team. Next fall, she will be attending Colorado State University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program with an Emphasis in Fiction Writing. Her hobbies include writing, reading, tweeting, playing with her cat, and amateur mycology.
Excerpt from “How to Love a Diver”:
I had thought that our life here would be simple, a cool, slick stone, but now it’s been turned over, and this whole mess of ugly things has scuttled out from underneath. Cops, reporters, locals with hero complexes, divers, and relatives kept appearing and disappearing from the landscape, in turn both natural and completely unexpected. I was tired of it.
I couldn’t bring myself to do anything. The world spiraled around me. Everything outside of the cabin was a whirlpool. Everything inside was still, as quiet as it was only two weeks ago when things were right and Vy was here. I couldn’t even move to make coffee. Thinking of her was all I could do, and I couldn’t cry anymore, so I just sat, still.
I considered the potential value of the mollusk as the diver had asked me to. I tried to approach it scientifically, objectively. When we study other things, like sea creatures, aren’t we really seeking to learn not about them, but about ourselves? The question is then, to assess its real value: what do we have in common with the mollusk?
Capstone Title: “Beast”
Bio: Natalia Giovengo is an English major with an emphasis in Fiction Writing. When she has writer’s block, she walks dogs, plays video games, or finds pizza to eat. When she doesn’t have writer’s block… No, she always has writer’s block, but she has become good at pushing through it.
Excerpt from “Beast”:
I had fangs the size of dimes, but even when I had Nancy Stein right up against the gum-covered brick wall behind my favorite 7-11, she didn’t notice them. This was in part because I’d learned, after many botched feedings, to curl my lips just-so around my fangs. But she was also seventeen, the kind of high schooler who roamed the streets with cut-off shorts and noticed very little. I was slow-ageing (though looked about twenty-three), the kind of stranger who hung out around shady joints and talked to beautiful girls at night.
And I was a vampire. A hungry one. But Nancy Stein didn’t know that. All she knew was my long black hair, my deep-set eyes, and gossip.
Capstone Title: “They Were The Type of Friends That Took Naked Photos Together”
Bio: Jamie Kresl was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She is excited to start her future as another cog in the capitalist machine.
Excerpt from “They Were The Type of Friends That Took Naked Photos Together”:
They were the type of friends that took naked photos together. Excuse me, nude photos, there’s a difference. Aesthetics of a room in a stranger’s apartment would cause them to scurry out of their thrifted, Prada bucket hats and their vintage mechanic’s jumpsuits, the ones with paint stains on the breast and embroidered name tags that read JERRY or JEAN. Whipping their brassieres off without hesitation, and stomping out from their Calvin Klein boxer shorts, skin would touch skin. There was no shying from gaze, crossing of arms, or covering of testicles. Crouched among genitals and posing alongside butt cheeks, the flash of the camera would awaken their features. The blank white wall behind them absorbing their shadows. There wasn’t an ounce of shame among them.
They were the people you wanted to be, the friends you wanted to have.
Capstone Title: ``Shifting``
Bio: Madison Shewman is graduating from PLU with degrees in English and Psychology, along with a minor in Norwegian. She was raised in Alaska and regularly seeks out the wilderness to inspire her writing. After PLU, she plans to keep writing on themes such as environmentalism, family dynamics, and empowerment.
Excerpt from “Shifting”:
When the doorbell rang, Mason was up to her elbows in suds, trying to wrangle Claude without him nipping her with his needle-sharp teeth. The doorbell rang twice more before she managed to open the door and paste a polite smile on her face. “Hello, Mrs. Wesson,” Mason greeted her neighbor, a squat little woman with a perpetual sneer. “Can I help you?”
“Yes,” Mrs. Wesson sniffed. “I’m hoping you might. Have you seen my sweet little Remington around? He’s been missing for several days.”
Mason’s stomach dropped. Her mind flashed to the little pieces of fur and rotting meat she’d found strewn around the backyard the day before. Remington’s collar had been among the debris. Up until now she had hoped she’d been mistaken, that the carcass she’d buried hadn’t actually been Mrs. Wesson’s yappy little wiener dog. But now there was no doubt. And she couldn’t tell Mrs. Wesson that she had last seen Remington in little pieces, because then she would call the police, and the police would take Claude away. Mason couldn’t bear that.
Capstone Title: “Flowers for April”
Bio: Olivia is a current junior at PLU working toward a degree in English with an Emphasis in Writing and a minor in Music. Using writing as a medium, Olivia works to capture the many complicated messes that push people to their limits and force them to grow and adapt. In a world that rarely feels like it is meant for her, she writes, more than anything, to understand and to be understood.
Excerpt from “Flowers for April”:
I’ve seen a lot of beautiful things in my life. In fact, I’ve sort of made it my purpose to search for beautiful things, to immortalize them on memory cards and hard drives. My trusty little Sony a5100 isn’t the fanciest piece of equipment, but it makes miracles nevertheless. In eighteen years of stumbling my way around my little world, I’ve met people, grown with them, loved them, and lost them. There are things I’ve seen that I’ll never get to see again. Just like anyone else, I’ve made memories that I never want to forget. That’s why I take photos. Sure, it sounds really deep when I talk about it like that, but I think everyone takes pictures for those reasons. It’s just that not everyone realizes it.
I’ve seen sunrises and sunsets, leaves in a million different shades of autumn, the first snow of November, gray beaches and white beaches, and still, I’ve never seen anything as beautiful as April. I swear to God, every time I look at her I see every piece of scenery that’s ever taken my breath away all over again.
Believe me, I know it’s nauseating. But I’ve long since given up on trying to shoo away all the mushy-gushy poetic bullshit. I’ve felt all of this, every cliche bit of romantic pining, for years now. It’s just what she does to me. She’s too… good. She’s so overwhelming that I forget myself when we’re together. It scares me a little, to tell the truth. I don’t know what part of it is the scariest: the crazy-intense feelings beating around in my chest, the idea that she might not feel anything for me, the fact that she’ll be hundreds of miles away from me in less than 24 hours, or-
“Was that good?” She’s standing in front of me, notebook in hand with her hazel eyes bearing into mine.
“… Sorry, what?” I ask dumbly, sitting up straighter at the foot of her bed.
Engl 452 : Seminar in Literature, Dr. Solveig Robinson
Victorian Social Problem Novels
This Spring, nine English Literature majors came together to examine how Victorian writers grappled with the social and environmental challenges of their age. By the 1840s, the industrial revolution had fundamentally changed the British way of life, marking a dramatic break from a largely agricultural and rural past and leading to an increasingly industrial and urban future. These changes not only changed the landscape, but they also destabilized relationships between rich and poor, employers and workers, and men and women.
A new body of literature emerged at this time, one focused on the contemporary social and political issues that arose out of this changing world. The “Condition of England” or social problem novels of Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Kingsley, and others, along with poetry and essays related to these issues, helped to raise middle-class readers’ awareness of the plight of the working classes and of women and to make the novel a potent force for reform.
Our intense, semi-weekly roundtable discussions of Victorian literature were suspended in early March as the coronavirus disrupted life at PLU and around the globe. But we persevered with our work, continuing to discuss Dickens’s novels in online forums and to refine research topics. Capstone project drafts were workshopped online and sharpened in focus and argument. Despite the challenges of working much more independently and under less than ideal circumstances, my students have generated passionate and engaged new works of literary criticism that explore issues of gender, class, industrialism, economics, materialism, and compassion.
I am exceptionally proud of this fine group of students for their courage, their grace under pressure, their dedication to scholarly endeavor, and, especially, their fierce love of literature. It is has been a genuine pleasure to work with them this semester, and I am delighted to introduce them and their Capstone projects to the greater community:
Capstone Title: “Business and Fiscal Failures in Dickens’s Little Dorrit”
Capstone Title: “Gender Perspectives in Alton Locke and Mary Barton and How They Influenced Social Change”
Capstone Title: “Lace and Symbolism: The Natural and Unnatural in Charlotte Tonna’s The Lace-Runners”
Capstone Title: “How Women Have Portrayed Women in Victorian Novels: Gaskell and Eliot”
Capstone Title: “Gender and Social Sphere Dynamics in Shirley”
Capstone Title: “Mental Manipulation in Dickens’s Little Dorrit”
Capstone Title: “Caroline Sheridan Norton: On Factories and Romanticism”
Capstone Title: “Ruth’s Rising: An Introduction to Victorian Fallenness”
Capstone Title: “Creatures of Habit: Manufacturing an ‘Unnatural Humanity’ in Dickens’s Social Problem Novels”
Engl 427: Seminar in Poetry, Prof. Rick Barot
Capstone Title: “Boundaries”
Bio: “Miya Beckman is an English major with a double minor of German and Religion. They were born in Tacoma, Washington, but now reside in Roy, where there are more cows than people.”
A front door made out of aluminum or vinyl stood
in front of the girl. The ten year old didn’t know
what doors were made out of. What mattered
was the fact that her grandma was locked outside,
and her little legs and fingers couldn’t reach the
high lock at the top of the door.
She was eleven when her older sister used
her upper body strength to set the white wood closet
doors against the opposite wall to where they should be.
The thin wall just as white, but not as wood. She watched her
sister with intent, scared that the fifteen year old would
leave again to Arizona, a hot desert that was perfect for
teen angst. The girl learned that doors could
be ripped from their hinges.
Flash forward another year to a collision in a small condo.
The father and she were playing, joking, breathing happiness.
She pressed her fragile body to the pliable door,
her sweaty hand clutched the doorknob. Her father
accidentally pushed too hard, her hand was crushed
between the mocha wall and the golden door knob.
Age fourteen was when she used doors as shields
in a house that was guarded by climbing trees.
The house built on a slant, the loose lock on her bedroom
opened by itself to let some fresh air in. Nothing big
happened here, but over time her brain became
infested with what her therapist would call depression.
Eight years later, her bedroom was in a place called Roy.
Her door still white, but came with vibrant purple paint sprinkled
along the edges. The door guarded a haven for the woman.
A haven filled with art from comic book conventions
and amber string lights. The lavender vanilla candle
burned as the woman curled into a fetal position.
She breathed steadily while the splattered door watched.
Capstone Title: “Weaving”
Bio: “Dejan Ann Kahilināʻi Perez is a current senior who is completing her college experience with degrees in English and Women’s & Gender Studies and minors in Norwegian and Native American & Indigenous Studies. Originally from Honokaʻa and Waimea on the Island of Hawaiʻi, her poetry and academic work derive their strength from the inspiration that comes from being raised in a place that is as complex, haunting, and culturally rich as Hawaiʻi is. After PLU, she hopes to continue to write both creatively and academically.”
I sit at home waiting for the call.
The mynah birds have gone to sleep.
The coquis, though, they are up,
echoing their names from the bushes
around our island home. These frogs
survive by the word invasive, meaning
they take lives and only give
back their own by thousands.
Our feathered relatives in their bellies,
our plant relatives carrying their eggs.
On the porch, I sit and wait for a voice
that isn’t a claim to territory, but life.
A child is resisting its birth, resisting earth
staying in an aunt on a hospital bed an island away.
There is something about the first baby
in a decade that keeps you awake, listening,
praying, stomaching what you can of dinner–
I feel like a child again.
A child so lost without a father, or mother,
or other children to ask the whys and
how’s that supposed to work? when the
backyard chickens peck at their own eggs
and act like gods as they unweave the worm
lattices in our soil, disrupt decay, caw challenges
and wager away their headdresses and
their bones, knives at their mouths, when all they do is
end as puddles of their own molt.
I think of the child, swimming away
from ground and deeper in the red thalassic of
his first home. He knows, I think,
that on the ground, this island is a cock-pit
and only the well-fed cocks fight. And then there’s us,
our ancestors brought ships with frogs
to our ancestors with soil and story.
We have both the ground and ocean
in our veins. We thank them by finding
the highest place to leave a plate and chain
the names of the departed to get full on
peppered fowl and heaps of long grain.
The altar can be the backroom water heater
or with the yellow-pill bottles atop the fridge.
I will teach him, I promise, before the call comes,
to never eat the found-plate. Instead, to eat only
what is given. As he eats at our dinner table,
he will know it is not a heroic act
to eat only what is offered to you.
When the child comes, no one can wait.
I receive a photo of mom holding him, his handprints
on her gown like red chrysanthemums, his mouth
open for air.
Capstone Title: “Acorn Caps”
Bio: “Levia Roskopf is an English writing major with an emphasis on poetry and fiction. They’re from Tacoma and have been writing since they were in elementary school.”
Are you still Trans?
No one asks the ocean if it is still water. No one asks the trees if they still need to photosynthesis. I am what I am, in the past, present, and future. I’m a force of nature, the endeavor to categorize me is fruitless. Tides will keep following the guidance of the moon. Trees will keep growing. I will keep existing.
What’s your birth name?
To assign me a name was a fool’s errand my mother took up, as pointless as naming a hurricane or a stray cat. Does it matter what the name is of the winds that tear apart your home, or raze your fields? Would it make you feel better to lose all you love if you slap a pretty name onto the calamity? This is what you do, when you ask my birth name. You ask to know the name given to a disaster, but instead you will know the name that the disaster has carved into the earth.
Why did you decide to be trans?
I decided in the same fashion that the stars decided to arrange themself into constellations, which is to say: I did not decide. I simply happened, the same way the universe simply happened. Not by will or deliberate actions, but by the beautiful chaos and coincidence that has miraculously made the elements you have neatly organized into the periodic table.
What’s in your pants?
In my pocket, I have a handful of acorn caps. The curious little remnants of something larger. Every fallen acorn is a possible tree or a possible meal. This is how all life is, it will either grow or be taken by others for their own growth. To be an acorn cap, is to be a witness of this trade off. Have you ever asked yourself which you will be? The sapling born from an acorn, or the life sustained by the consumption of said acorn?
What are you?
I’m the tides that gently kiss the shore, and the rains that flood your basement. I’m the trees that shade your garden, and fall into your roof. I’m the wind that cools your face, and twists and turns so fiercely I’ll propel your car two states away. I’m the stars that light your sky, but remain so painfully indifferent to your plights. I am the oak, the acorn, and the life that has been sustained by the acorn.
Capstone Title: “Nomenclature”
Bio: “Nick Templeton grew up in Spokane, WA, surrounded by family who taught him how to find music for every part of life. He is graduating from PLU with majors in English and Hispanic Studies, as well as a minor in Printing and Publishing Arts. When Nick is not reading on a park bench or writing somewhere near a window, you might find him in the woods, accompanying the song of a chickadee on guitar or violin.”
There are days when the music is in everything, each breath a perfect chord.
There are days when, lost in the chaos of possibility, pattern blends to dissonance.
Ernie Ate Dynamite. Good Bye, Ernie — a little heuristic my father
taught me. A farewell cleft by passing tones. The first of many patterns.
I will pluck until my fingertips grate away, a fine sand stuck to the body,
until nothing is left of us but the dust we were patterned after.
Song in standard, song in an open tuning, songs woven from strings
in each cross-stitch of the fingers’ picking, patterned things.
Spot the difference between ornithology and chord-naming — Yellow-throated
Laughing Thrush. B7 Diminished Fifth. See, now, how ornately this bird is patterned?
Hollow body, hand-crafted. Indian Rosewood fingerboard. Neck of lacquered spruce.
The grooves left by fingernails on the cedar-patterned face.
Guitar he gave her as a gift. Canadian craftsmanship. Same as the lumber
they foraged for the house, logs criss-crossed at the corners. Same wood she chose
for the burial. Cedar coffin. C-Sharp Minor. Intersecting pattern of it all.