Incite, Volume 15

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incite Journal of Undergraduate Scholarship Volume 15 2024 Longwood University


incite Journal of Undergraduate Scholarship Volume 15 2024 Longwood University

Longwood University

Incite Faculty Advisory Board

Corey Call

Mark Kostro

Steven Hoehner

Hua “Meg” Meng

Greg Mole

Benjamin Topham

Sarah Porter

Timothy Ritzert

Erin Waggoner

Erin Wallace


David Whaley

Cover Images

Connor Thompson

incite Journal of Undergraduate Scholarship Volume 15 2024
Printed by Worth Higgins & Associates, Richmond, Virginia on recycled

94 “unsex me here”: Lady Macbeth’s Performance of Female Masculinity by Tristan Marowski

104 Monstrosity, Queer Desire, and écriture féminine in Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla by Emma Moore

114 The Surfaces of Loathsome Beauty in The Picture of Dorian Gray by Pearl Siff

INCITE JOURNAL OF UNDERGRADUATE SCHOLARSHIP 1 contents 2 Introduction Dr. Amorette Barber Director, Office of Student Research 3 From the Editor Dr. Hannah Dudley-Shotwell 3 Artist’s Statement Connor Thompson 6 On Mentorship Dr. John Miller 7 The Meat of the Matter: Alien, Human, and Animal in Terry Bisson’s “They’re Made Out of Meat” by Emily Steffenhagen 18 “Please REBLOG!”: An Ethical Analysis of Doxxing, Internet Vigilantism, and Racists Getting Fired by Emily Robertson 29 Journaling: Paper Has More Patience Than People by Luis Fernando Dos Reis
The Effects of Climate Change on the Archaeological World by Emily Farmer
Lowered Seat Height Does Not Impair Wingate Performance in Untrained Cyclists by Samuel Villa, Robert Allison, and Zachary Chessor
of Robotics by Megan Borden
59 Intentions, Interpretations, and the Paradoxes of Asimov’s Laws
by Austin Burnett
68 How Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists Define and Defend Women’s Spaces
79 The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson by Larry W. Grant, Jr.


Longwood University strives to develop citizen leaders and a crucial aspect of this endeavor involves active participation in independent or group research and creative inquiry projects. Engaging in research and inquiry not only fosters a culture of curiosity and scholarship but also equips students to tackle the unsolved problems of the future. Moreover, it enhances critical thinking and deepens their understanding. Students who go beyond the classroom to develop their scholarship improve their communication skills, build their determination and perseverance, develop creativity, practice problem-solving, cultivate a sense of shared purpose by working for faculty mentors and peers, and foster intellectual independence. Ultimately, students experience a profound sense of accomplishment upon completing a substantial research and inquiry project. While Longwood students often have multiple opportunities to contribute to research and inquiry projects, publication in Incite, Longwood’s undergraduate journal of scholarship, is

considered a crowning achievement in a student’s development of their personal scholarship. This carefully curated volume showcases the finest student work at Longwood University, reflecting exceptional academic achievement. Each article represents the dedication and collaborative efforts of both student authors and their faculty mentors.

On behalf of the Office of Student Research and the three academic colleges involved in this publication, I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the student authors who submitted their work to be featured in Incite.

I also express appreciation to the faculty members who guided students through the research and inquiry process, as well as the Incite faculty board and editor for their tireless efforts in bringing this exceptional volume to fruition.

I hope you enjoy reading through this volume of Incite and that you come away with an appreciation of the extraordinary accomplishments of the students included in this collection.


from the editor

Welcome to the latest edition of Incite: Journal of Undergraduate Scholarship, a testament to the vibrant and inquisitive spirit of Longwood University’s undergraduate community. This year is my first in the position of editor, and the onboarding process has been an enriching learning experience. Dr. Amorette Barber, Director of the Office of Student Research, has been instrumental in guiding me through the nuances of this role, dedicating her time and expertise to ensure the continued success of Incite. I extend my deepest gratitude for her generosity in sharing knowledge and offering guidance.

On behalf of everyone who has worked on Incite, I also offer a heartfelt thanks to the folks at Greenwood Library for funding and facilitating the digitization of previous volumes of Incite going back to 2008. Jamie Krogh spent hours in this work and made the digital versions available to readers on Digital Commons. Taylor Tharpe also set up an excellent new online system to streamline the submis-

sion, review, and revision process for students and faculty. I also thank Dr. Lara Smith (Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs), Dr. Roger Byrne (Dean, Cook-Cole College of Arts and Sciences), Dr. Chris Kukk (Dean, Cormier Honors College), Dr. Sara Neher (Interim Dean, College of Business and Economics), and Dr. Angela McDonald (Dean, College of Education, Health, and Human Services) for their continued support of undergraduate scholarship at Longwood.

As we unveil this collection of research and scholarly endeavors, it’s important to recognize the journey each piece has undertaken from conception to publication. Each submission reflects hours of meticulous research, critical thinking, and a relentless pursuit of knowledge. The faculty mentors who worked closely with our contributors were integral to this process. These mentors guided their mentees through the intricacies of academic research, helping them refine their arguments, enhance their methodologies, and articulate their findings. This mentorship is crucial not only for the development of the publication but


for the growth of our students as scholars and thinkers. Our review process underscores the collaborative spirit of our academic community. Faculty members on our editorial board have devoted countless hours to reviewing submissions and offering constructive feedback. Their expertise and dedication ensure that Incite remains a platform for high-quality undergraduate scholarship at Longwood. I would also like to offer enormous thanks to David Whaley (Design Director), the talented designer behind the visual presentation of this edition. His creative vision and meticulous attention to detail have been invaluable.

Incite collaborators are also excited to recognize the exceptional contributions of our students and mentors through our awards program. These accolades, decided with the help of our faculty board, celebrate the outstanding scholarship that defines our journal. Congratulations to all our award winners and to every student and mentor who has contributed to this edition. Your work continues to inspire and challenge us.

As you delve into the pages that follow, we encourage you to engage with the research and ideas presented. Each piece not only represents academic achievement but also invites dialogue and further exploration. Let us celebrate the spirit of inquiry and the collaborative effort that brings Incite to life.

Thank you to everyone who has played a part in bringing this edition to fruition. Your dedication to fostering undergraduate scholarship at Longwood University does not go unnoticed.

Cormier Honors College; Department of History, Political Science, and Philosophy


artist’s statement

I am an artist who specializes in photographic and imaging mediums. I am also preferential to black and white photographic techniques for its incredible depth despite its simplicity. I am interested in people and how they interact with each other. Specifically, I capture my studio guests in vulnerable moments where they are told to contemplate a time they feel a strong emotion. The subject is engulfed in black further emphasizing their isolation when experiencing a strong emotion. What drives me is learning what drives others. I create my artwork for myself but also for all the people who love to people-watch.

I have found inspiration from my photojournalism work recently. I have been learning more about creating stories with my photographs and how my artwork can impact others. I am deeply inspired by the works of artists like Richard Avedon, Chris Hondros and Steve McCurry. While I may not agree with some of the sentiments of certain photographers I admire, I still enjoy their work. I enjoy it when photographs come together to fill a story. My recent publications with The Farmville Herald have shown me what my work can do when I put the work in. The next step is to do the work on a larger scale. Physically larger scenes similar to the work of Gregory Crewdson.

My scenes are lit with multiple strobes and light modifiers to engulf the subject in darkness while keeping them lit. I use external lighting very often in my work to give it a more cinematic feel. My work also covers more technical methods like photogrammetry and projection mapping. I have a technical background in computer repair and troubleshooting that I bring in to my photography through technical know-how.

Untitled, Stephan by Connor Thompson, 2023 featured on front cover
Woman on Fire by Connor Thompson, 2022 featued on back cover

on mentorship

Longwood’s encouragement of undergraduate research is one of the distinguishing characteristics of our university. The opportunity to mentor students like the authors whose research is published in the following pages is among the highlights of teaching here.

Mentorship is slightly different from teaching, though. Like the character in Homer’s Odyssey from which the word is derived, mentoring young scholars or artists suggests encouraging and counseling them versus more conventional instruction. As Mentor tells Odysseus’s son Telemachus, “some things ... will be suggested to you by your own instinct, and heaven will prompt you further.” It’s among the greatest privileges to support someone fulfilling their intellectual and artistic interests. The chance to work with Incite authors also invites reflection on genealogies of mentorship, the recollection of people whose guidance positioned me to provide the same to students. This leads me, if permitted to impose upon you,

the authors and readers of Incite, to ask that you also consider paying it forward.

After you have established yourself in a new career or in graduate school following commencement, or even if you have some time until graduation, please look for opportunities to mentor new colleagues and fellow students. Their success and fulfillment can be the greatest reward that professional and scholarly life has to offer.

Congratulations on your success, and best wishes for the future.


The Meat of the Matter: Alien, Human, and Animal in Terry

Bisson’s “They’re Made Out of Meat”

Faculty Advisor: John Miller

Department of English and Modern Languages



Posthumanist theory aims to explore what defines the “human.” Similarly, in Terry Bisson’s short story “They’re Made Out of Meat,” the definition of humanity is repeatedly brought into question. Theorist Steven Best applies posthumanism to animals, arguing that humans defy existing proof of animal intelligence and emotion in order to reassert their own superiority. The alien/human relationship in Bisson’s story parallels the real human/animal relationship described in Best’s theory, ultimately inviting readers to question the validity of human superiority over

animals. Through the Othering of humanity, and therefore the reader, the story encourages a change in mindset regarding how we define animals and ourselves.

Science fiction has provided nearly endless interpretations of the alien, yet rarely is an understanding of the concept of “alien” the real objective of a text. In true human fashion, our ideas of the alien usually have far more to say about ourselves than the outside universe. The fiction of contemporary American author Terry Bisson—novels and short stories both—play with these tropes of science fiction in ways


that are unique to the genre. Bisson’s “They’re Made Out of Meat,” for instance, is a snippet of a conversation between two aliens who are never described or identified as they debate the existence of humans. They are incredulous that a species, let alone one that appears to be sentient and capable of creating technology, could be made entirely of “meat.” Through the nonhuman perspective of their conversation, it becomes clear that humans are far from the superior species that they have historically assumed themselves to be. In the end, though the aliens do accept the possibility of sentient meat, they decide to leave without contacting humanity—ironically noting how lonely existence must seem to a species that believes it is unique and alone in the universe. Bisson’s constant Othering of humanity as “meat” confuses common privileged definitions of the human.

Steven Best’s posthumanism illuminates how the story’s alien/human relationship is analogous to traditional human/animal relationships, a comparison that compels readers to reconsider widely-held anthropocentric beliefs.

In summary, posthumanist theory aims to complicate the criteria that have traditionally distinguished the privileged position of the human—

such as humans being capable of reason, of emotion, or of complex thought. Critics Stefan Herbrechter and Ivan Callus have synthesized various approaches to posthumanism. They state that the purpose of posthumanism is “to project an otherness to the human, to sympathise and empathise with a position that troubles and undoes identity while struggling to reassert what is familiar and defining” (95). This “struggle” is the key feature of the theory; contrary to the implication of the name, posthumanism does not necessarily aim to redefine humanity, but rather to question existing definitions. A text can create an idea of the Other that is “understood as a threat or promise [and] is a product of human anxiety and desire” centered around how “human” is defined (Herbrechter and Callus 97). Texts present critical questions—what does it mean to be human? Whether or not there is an answer, or what the answer is, becomes less relevant than the process of questioning existing definitions. To Herbrechter and Callus, “it is the anxieties and desires involved in the process of drawing boundaries ... that become the object of critique” (96). The attempt to characterize humanity reveals humans’ often-erroneous concept of their relation to the universe and their need to perpetuate it.


Posthumanism lends itself to science fiction by the nature of its focus on nonhuman beings, whether monster, alien, or technology. Because of this, much posthumanist criticism has centered on its relationship to science fiction. Ralph Pordzik outlines several examples of the use of the Other in science fiction to reflect the fears or aspirations of humanity. He explains that “as a literary genre, [science fiction] seems particularly suited to come to terms with the difficult issues raised by posthumanist theorists; it evokes both the terrors and the pleasures of radical change and transformation” (157). Once again, posthumanism is not about the final definition, but rather the process of interrogating definitions. Pordzik also highlights the repeated role of nonhuman beings within science fiction as tools—“the idea of otherness as determining the self-image of humanity” (144). In each of his examples, the alien/monstrous/ technological is used to illuminate the criteria of “human,” a distinctly posthumanist quality. Pordzik sums up the primary effect of this method as “this ongoing ‘questioning of humanism,’ this breaking away from anthropocentric idealism” (148).

In the context of animal studies, a related field of theoretical inquiry, this “anthropocentric idealism” that

Pordzik mentions becomes particularly relevant. Theorist Steven Best explores the anthropocentric relationship of humans and animals, arguing that humans have, historically, repeatedly resisted proof of animals having “human” qualities. He categorizes this resistance into four main historical moments when human mindsets have shifted to maintain anthropocentric beliefs and “restore philosophical order” (4): the proposal of the heliocentric universe (by Copernicus and Galileo), the creation of the theory of evolution (by Darwin), the distinction of conscious and unconscious thought (by Freud and Nietzsche), and the development of artificial intelligence. In each instance, the way humans differentiated themselves from the nonhuman was dismantled, and “human identity comes into question in disturbing ways” (Best 8). Best assesses this phenomenon in the present day when, as he explains, current research exploring animal communities is once again destabilizing the concept of the nonhuman. In areas of biology, intelligence, and emotion, it has been demonstrated that animals function similarly to humans (or vice-versa). Best argues that we cannot keep ignoring this evidence while claiming a “progressive” mindset, both politically and ethically.


Best also draws a connection between this pattern of “speciesism” and other forms of discrimination: “[U] only a few decades ago, scientists and philosophers looked upon animals with a similar crudeness, ignorance, bias, and a discriminatory speciesism as illicit and menacing as colonial racism” (24). Both share similar justifications of the alleged inferiority of the Other in order to separate or define the self. It is no coincidence that at least one scholar notes that Bisson’s “They’re Made Out of Meat” has colonial undertones, analogous to a posthumanist reading (Briedik).

One of the most effective ways that Bisson addresses the concept of humanity is how it is portrayed as the Other, which compels readers to view themselves from an outside perspective. Several stylistic choices contribute to this effect. The lack of any narrator is the most prominent stylistic choice; it has a crucial effect in how readers experience the story by denying them the context to completely understand the characters’ conversation and by situating humanity as a lesser being. The first spoken lines—“‘They’re made out of meat.’ ‘Meat?’”—establish the speakers both as nonhuman beings intelligent enough to converse and as decidedly not meat (Bisson). In the next few lines,

readers learn that the aliens (a word used henceforth for ease of distinction) abducted humans and “probed them all the way through” to determine they were entirely meat (Bisson). In this line alone, the reader is immediately Othered by both the apparent technological superiority of the speakers and the flippant description of human experimentation. Several other exchanges, such as the questions “How can meat make a machine?” and “Do you have any idea of the lifespan of meat?” (Bisson) repeatedly diminish humanity. Through the immediate belittlement of human intellect, the story seems to suggest that any outside context would be beyond the human reader’s comprehension, even if it were offered. Even in the rest of the universe, humans are still the outlier—the aliens mention a number of non-meat beings that they clearly consider superior. The final diminution is when the uninterested aliens choose to leave humanity alone for good: “[W]ho wants to meet meat?” (Bisson). Humanity is ostracized by the two speakers for every imagined difference. Using only dialogue gives the readers no insight into the rest of the universe, so they’re also separated by their lack of knowledge; the text makes no attempt to fill in missing information or things that are not familiar,


effectively reducing them to the position of animal—criticized, objectified, and given no chance to assert their own worth.

Yet for a complex civilization, the language that the alien scientists use is remarkably colloquial, not the technical jargon one might expect from the stereotypical, advanced science-fiction lifeform. Their speech is jarringly relatable, challenging the idea that friendly, casual communication is exclusively human. With phrases like “omigod” and “[s]pare me,” as well as the assertion that the probed humans will be seen as “crackpots” (Bisson), the speakers seem practically human. One is left with the contradiction between how the speakers talk (human) and everything else learned about them (decidedly alien). This intentional contradiction makes readers confront a question: If language and camaraderie is not exclusively human, then what is? The rest of the story at various points rules out technology, communication, learning, emotion, and reason, leaving almost nothing that can be used to define humanity in difference to the aliens. Though readers perceive the way the aliens speak as human, the aliens certainly do not consider humans to be similarly sentient; they scoff at the idea of “conscious meat” (Bisson).

So while the language leaves readers feeling not dissimilar to the speakers, the inverse is not true; the speakers outright reject humanity regardless of their similarities.

The critical word “meat,” included upwards of thirty times in the barely three-page story, has two major effects: it emphasizes the speakers’ demeaning tone and defamiliarizes the readers with themselves. The aliens could use any number of other words—carbon, biological matter, even flesh—but only “meat” is crude enough to sound like an insult. There are a number of instances where it is combined with another word with degrading comedic effect; humans are described as “thinking meat,” “singing meat,” “[c]onscious meat,” “[l]oving meat,” and “[d]reaming meat” (Bisson). This sounds ridiculous, even to the reader, yet there is the undeniable fact that humans are exactly that— conscious meat—contrary to the distinctions that humans have customarily drawn between themselves (as conscious beings) and the animals that they consume as food. The strongest instance of this defamiliarization occurs when the aliens describe human communication: “Meat sounds ... They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat” (Bisson).


Again, this explanation is objectively true. This defamiliarization of communication as something ridiculous puts humanity in the position of an animal Other.

The brief descriptions of other creatures in the story accentuate humanity’s role as an outsider contrary to its privilege in the conventional human-animal binary. The more skeptical alien offers explanations for humanity being meat, but each possibility raises more questions for the reader than it answers: “Maybe [humans are] like the Orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage,” or “the Weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside” (Bisson). Later, they go on to make contact with “a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star” (Bisson). The story never explains how a creature can be only partially meat, how a brain can be made of plasma, how consciousness can exist in the hydrogen of a star. The text makes it difficult to understand these descriptions; human readers feel Othered again by their lack of knowledge, much in the way that the status of animals has historically been diminished because of their alleged lack of intellect. Each example is entirely outside of humans’ understanding of sentience, so the

reader becomes skeptical of the potential truth of these claims. Yet the irony is that this is exactly how the alien speakers see humanity—so undeniably different as to be incredible. Just as the aliens think that humans cannot exist because they are made differently, the reader finds themselves not believing the existence of the other beings because it doesn’t fit into a human understanding of the universe. Bisson thus expertly invites the reader to recognize the exact prejudice they’ve been experiencing throughout the story. By emphasizing humans’ lack of understanding of the universe, the story both questions humanity’s alleged superiority and highlights how humans have historically occupied the judgmental position of the aliens—and the consequences of this viewpoint.

This Othering of humanity is the basis for the parallel between the alien/human relationship and human/animal relationships. The way that the aliens treat and view humanity in “They’re Made Out of Meat” is strikingly similar to Best’s account of how humans differentiate themselves from animals.

Though “humans have a need to feel wholly other to animals and machines, to be radically unique in their reason and self-consciousness, and to exist as stunningly singular in


their possession of free will,” Best systematically disproves each trait that has been ascribed to humans alone (8). The same refutation of “human” traits can be seen in Bisson’s aliens.

One of these traits is the use of speech. Best names a number of animals, including dolphins and prairie dogs, that have been shown to use a form of language. Yet humans tend not to define it as such because it is different from their own—a mindset that Best claims is “question-begging and provincial in its definition of language and communication” (18). In the story, the aliens do exactly the same, acknowledging the presence of language but mocking the way humans speak as “altogether too much” (Bisson 2).

Similarly, humans ignore evidence of biological similarities. Genetic evidence suggests that chimpanzees, which share at least 96 percent of their DNA with humans, should be part of the same Genus, Homo (Best 12). Despite this evidence, chimpanzees and other great apes are still seen only as animals. In the story, the alien speakers acknowledge multiple species that are partially meat which they seem to respect as much as themselves. Yet humans, who are fully meat, are somehow

different enough for disdain and separation. They use the same denial (or willful misinterpretation) of evidence against humans that humans have always used against animals, and similarity is ignored in favor of invented difference.

The abilities to reason and to feel emotion are another example of this. Though humans do not normally see animals as capable of either, Best proposes that the difference between human and animal is more like a spectrum of various factors than a binary. Countless studies “document the breadth and depth of animal complexity and intelligence,” and as a result, scientists have begun to “[abandon] Cartesian mechanism, behaviorism, and speciesist dualism” (Best 14). Mammals even “possess a limbic system and neocortex, the functions that enable human beings to experience emotions and have abstract thoughts” (18). Yet, like Bisson’s aliens, humans tend to disregard the intelligence of the animal Other simply because it is exhibited differently. The aliens mock the idea of “thinking meat,” even as they accept that “[t]he brain does the thinking. The meat” (Bisson 2). In both cases, thinking can apparently only take one form, a surprisingly close-minded view for the species that considers only itself capable of critical thought.


Both humans and the aliens use choice rhetoric to justify their apparent superiority. Though there are innumerable instances of animals showing what we would normally consider emotion, Best explains that these behaviors are intentionally recategorized to fit within “behaviorism” or the idea that actions only come from instinct. For example, “scientists re-describe the love a chimpanzee might experience as ‘attachment formation,’ the anger of an elephant as ‘aggression exhibition,’ and the aptitude of a bird as ‘conditioned reflex’” (Best 13). The only thing separating these from “real” emotion or intelligence is the language that humans use to define them. The aliens use the exact same strategy when describing humans, especially their speech, which is redefined as “flapping their meat at each other” (Bisson 2). In both instances, recontextualizing the shared qualities of the Other allows the being to legitimize their prejudiced beliefs or actions.

Most of all, the story reflects Best’s claim that “every criterion of alleged human uniqueness” fails when put to the test (19). Community, emotion, problem-solving, speech, culture—all can be found in the nonhuman animal to some degree, even if it takes a different form than it does within humanity. And as Bis-

son’s story unfolds, the same is true. It is nearly impossible to differentiate humans from the speakers in any meaningful way. The way the aliens speak, joke, and think is intrinsically “human,” and even their acknowledgment of their own cruelty is ironically familiar. Nonetheless, they still view humans as lesser beings, relying on the manipulation of language and illogical differences to maintain their position of privilege. Best asserts that to be truly progressive, a complete change of mindset must occur in which humans reject binary thinking and acknowledge the existence of animals as complex beings equally deserving of the respect humans claim for sentient life. This Othering of animals is hard to disentangle from how humans define themselves, yet the experience of reading “They’re Made Out of Meat” defies the human/animal separation by putting the reader into the role of Other. Even the word “meat,” the keystone of the story, recalls the way humans most often use animals: as food. Humans have become “objects rather than subjects,” a position normally occupied by animals (Best 7).

By putting the reader in the perspective of the animal, the story underlines how the value of a creature is relative and the distinctions that uplift “superior” species are no more than the persistence of biased, anthropocentric thinking. Humanity is


now the animal in the binary, and the absurdity of the divide is made clearer from the bottom.

The final line of the story confirms humanity’s fate. Having decided to not contact Earth and moved on in the conversation, one alien says, “They always come around.” The other responds, “And why not?

Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the universe would be if one were all alone” (Bisson 3).

By making this statement right after choosing not to contact Earth, they imply that humanity is not even worth this kind of sympathy; the aliens exhibit the very “vanity, arrogance, error, and pomposity” that Best condemns humans for (4).

One cannot read the story without being placed in the position of Other, and one cannot be the Other without questioning what actually makes them so. When there is no clear difference, we realize just how artificial the presumed uniqueness of humanity is. We cannot both deny the aliens’ claims that humans are lesser and maintain human superiority over animals when both divisions operate in precisely the same manner. The story encourages us to create “sane, ethical, ecological, and sustainable life ways” (Best 1). We must understand the lack of difference that underlies the aliens’ relationship to us and our relation-

ship to animals, and begin operating “from an ethic of respect and connectedness to all sentient life” (Best 1). And even though we may initially accept the aliens’ final claims, humans are not alone—but rather surrounded by a myriad of species, undeniably similar to ourselves in every way, that we just don’t acknowledge as worthy.

Works Cited

Best, Steven. “Minding the Animals: Ethology and the Obsolescence of Left Humanism.” The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, vol. 5, no. 2, 2009, pp. 1-30.

Bisson, Terry. “They’re Made Out of Meat.” 1991. Massachusetts Institute of Technology,

Briedik, Adam. “Colonial/Imperial Discourses in a First-Contact Narrative: Terry Bisson’s ‘They’re Made of Meat.’” Polish Journal of English Studies, vol. 8, no. 1, 2022, pp. 43-65, cddb2560ca4080.

Herbrechter, Stefan and Ivan Callus. “What is a Posthumanist Reading?” Angelaki, vol. 13, no. 1, 2008, pp. 95-111, 10.1080/096972508 02156091.

Pordzik, Ralph. “The Posthuman Future of Man: Anthropocentrism and the Other of Technology in Anglo-American Science Fiction.” Utopian Studies, vol. 23, no. 1, 2012, pp. 142-161, 10.5325/utopianstudies.23.1.0142.


Please REBLOG!”: An Ethical Analysis of Doxxing, Internet Vigilantism, and Racists Getting Fired

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kristopher Paal Department of Communication Studies



With the rise of right-wing extremism in the United States in the past decade, people have turned to online chat rooms and social media platforms to spread raciallycharged hate. To combat this online hate, so-called “internet vigilantes” have taken it upon themselves to punish these online racists with real-life consequences. In Racists Getting Fired (And Getting Racists Fired), a blog on Tumblr started in 2014, contributors post people’s racist remarks, their personal contact information, and their employing company’s contact information to get them fired from their jobs

(Stroud & Purcell, 2018). The Tumblr blog poses a communication ethical dilemma because contributors to the blog must decide whether their actions are morally right. To determine the responsibility of the moral agents in this scenario, I use the situation, analysis, and decision (SAD) formula for moral reasoning. This model of moral reasoning is often used by media professionals to determine the ethicality of one’s decision and provides context for the situation of the case, an analysis of the situation, and the decision of the rightness of the moral agents’ actions (Day, 2006). After considering relevant competing principles, external factors, key stakeholders,


and ethical theories, I ultimately decide the actions of the moral agents (contributors) are ethical.


After the police officer who shot and killed an 18-year-old unarmed black man was not indicted on November 23, 2014, a Tumblr user started a new online blog named Racists Getting Fired (And Getting Racists Fired) (Razek, 2020; Haggerty, 2014). Three months earlier on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, a police officer named Darren Wilson told Michael Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, both of whom were walking in the middle of a two-lane street, to walk on the sidewalk. Brown and Johnson refused and got into a verbal altercation with Wilson, who subsequently fired two shots at the teenagers from his vehicle. When they tried to leave, Wilson exited his vehicle and fired another 12 shots, six of which hit Brown when he turned to face the officer. After Wilson shot and killed Brown in “selfdefense,” his body was left in the road for about four hours ( Editors, 2020). Because residents of Ferguson argued that Brown’s body was mistreated, protestors began to smash car windows and loot and burn local stores (“Timeline,” 2019). Brown’s murder and Wilson’s sub-

sequent acquittal prompted people to share their sentiments about police brutality, Brown’s murder, and race online.

The purpose of the Tumblr blog, Racists Getting Fired, reflects its name: to get people who share allegedly racist comments on social media fired from their jobs. The creator and original moderator of the blog wanted an online forum where people could expose those who were posting racist comments about Brown and the growing Black Lives Matter Movement. The blog gained 40,000 followers in a few days and over 15,000 submissions in the first eight hours (McDonald, 2014). According to the blog’s moderator, Racists Getting Fired has many success stories as followers of the blog have “gotten” hundreds of alleged racists fired from their jobs. To showcase these successes, the blog has a subsection named “gotten” (McDonald, 2014). Some critics speculate that the blog is successful not because employers care about protecting their employees and customers from discrimination, but because they do not want their businesses to be perceived as racist (McDonald, 2014). If their businesses are perceived as racist, employers assume that they will lose customers and thus lose profits.


The process contributors to Racists Getting Fired use to get alleged racists fired is called doxxing. Doxxing is the intentional sharing of someone’s personal information online without their consent. This can include home addresses, phone numbers, family members’ names, and job locations (Nguyen, 2023). In the case of Racists Getting Fired, users most commonly share the names of alleged racists and the names, locations, phone numbers, and email addresses of their employing companies (Stroud & Purcell, 2018). People dox others for myriad reasons, including revenge, online conflicts, and “the joy of stirring up trouble” (Social Media, 2023). Because it can be hard to remove information posted on the internet, there are many short- and long-term consequences to being doxxed. These consequences include harassment online and offline, lost friendships, physical violence, loss of job, public shaming, and more (Social Media, 2023). Since the internet is ever-changing, it is hard to regulate doxxing. There are currently no federal laws against doxxing, and although it is a form of cyberbullying, only 11 states have passed legislation making the act illegal (Social Media, 2023).

people have been wrongly impacted by the efforts of Racists Getting Fired. For example, Brianna Rivera’s ex-boyfriend created a fake social media account for Rivera, where he shared racist posts and comments. He then posted the fake account and its racist comments to Racists Getting Fired, where Tumblr users threatened Rivera and posted her employer’s contact information. However, users quickly discovered that Rivera’s profile was fake and demanded that the moderator remove the post. Rivera did not lose her job in this scenario, but her name and reputation were tarnished (Stroud & Purcell, 2018). Now, the moderator of Racists Getting Fired reviews all posts before they are added to the blog and contributors must include links to corroborate their claims (McDonald, 2014).

Although the blog has had successes regarding their goal, some

As of November 2023, Racists Getting Fired is still thriving with thousands of likes, shares, and comments on each post. From screenshots of racist comments directed at an Indigenous woman on Tinder to home addresses of all the United States Supreme Court Justices, people are still using the blog to dox those they deem as racists. Although new posts to the blog seem to be declining, the blog will surely continue to serve as a vehicle to expose alleged racists.


Ethical Dilemma

Racists Getting Fired presents several ethical dilemmas involving one’s right to privacy, freedom of speech, and internet vigilantism.

To this end, I pose the question: Is it ethical for contributors to Racists Getting Fired to post alleged racists’ employers’ information online and contact employers to get them fired? The moral agents in this situation are the contributors to Racists Getting Fired, which includes Tumblr users who post information on the blog and call employers to complain about the racist comments. Contributors must decide if it is morally right to get alleged racists fired from their jobs, most likely causing myriad consequences for all stakeholders.


To determine whether Racists Getting Fired contributors’ actions are ethical in, it is crucial to examine the competing principles, key stakeholders, and ethical theories related to the case. First, I discuss the competing principles of choosing the individual versus community and justice versus mercy. Next, I explain the external factors to the case, including right-wing extremism and white supremacy. Then, I examine the impacts of the ethical dilemma

on four groups of key stakeholders, including the alleged racists, contributors to Racists Getting Fired, alleged racists’ families, and employers of the alleged racists.

Finally, I apply critical theory to the situation to illustrate various ethical approaches one may use to determine the ethical responsibility of the contributors to the blog.

Competing Values and Principles

According to Rushworth Kidder (2009), there are only right-versusright choices in an ethical dilemma. Different from right-versus-wrong choices, right-versus-right choices encompass the decisions one makes based on their “basic, core values” (Kidder, 2009). Otherwise stated, one must weigh fundamentally right values and principles to make a decision; thus, there is no wrong decision, only a well-reasoned one. I use two of these competing principles to analyze the ethical dilemma Racists Getting Fired poses, which are individual versus community and justice versus mercy.

Individual versus Community. First, I will discuss the pros and cons of the competing principles of the individual versus community. In ethics, these two competing principles are considered in a


situation where one must decide to look out for the individual (the moral agents) or group of people (Kidder, 2009). The individuals in this case are the contributors to the blog; the community encompasses everyone else, including the alleged racists and others who have stakes in the situation. Contributors may feel compelled to expose alleged racists for their own sake, which can include the desire to feel a sense of accomplishment when a person is “gotten,” or fired. Moreover, contributors’ efforts to expose online racists help ensure that they are not interacting with alleged racists, thus making contributors feel safer doing daily activities. Alternatively, contributors may experience violence from the people they expose. They may be targeted online by being doxxed by the alleged racists they previously exposed, putting contributors and their families in danger.

The benefits of exposing alleged online racists depends on the community in focus. For the purpose of this case, the community refers to the general public. Exposing and reporting alleged racists to their employers helps members of the general public ensure that they do not surround themselves with racist people. Additionally, exposing these racists may persuade them to

change their ideology, ideally making the United States safer than before. Alternatively, the public may be put in danger if the exposed racists become violent. For example, the number of hate crimes committed against people of color may increase.

Justice versus Mercy. Second, I will discuss the pros and cons of the competing principles of justice versus mercy. These competing principles are used to determine whether a person (the moral agents) should choose to show compassion to someone for what could be a mistake or punish someone for their actions (Kidder, 2009). Pursuing justice would be beneficial to people of color who work with the alleged racists because it would help ensure their safety at work. Moreover, successfully exposing online racists would make people aware of the possibly dangerous people around them. On the contrary, pursuing justice may destroy the alleged racists’ careers, especially if the people accused of racism were framed. This may also put the alleged racists’ families at risk, for example if the racist person lives in a single-income household.

Showing mercy for alleged online racists, though, gives them another chance to become educated about


institutionalized racism and social justice. The alleged racist may be uneducated or ignorant about how their online rhetoric is harmful and may want to change. Showing mercy also allows those who are framed by others, like Brianna Rivera, to prove their innocence and keep their jobs. Alternatively, if contributors show mercy, then the alleged racists may continue to post their online hate and influence others to adopt their ideologies. Additionally, their online hate may evolve into real-life violence against minority groups.

External Factors

External factors are the real-life situations related to a particular situation that existed before the dilemma and will continue to exist afterwards (Day, 2006). In this case, right-wing extremism and white supremacy are directly relevant to the massive amounts of hate speech and racism found online and why doxxing is a popular response. Both encompass several forms of discrimination against others, including racism, sexism, xenophobia, and antisemitism. Although such extremism has existed throughout the history of the United States, it has increased over the past two decades due to the mainstream use of social media.

Contemporary right-wing extremists utilize online forums, chatrooms, and social media platforms to share their values, recruit members, and organize demonstrations to advance their cause: spreading hate. For instance, the violent and deadly Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, where white supremacists came together to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue, was planned exclusively through chat rooms and conference calls via online platforms (Sankin & Pham, 2017). Additionally, according to the Anti-Defamation League, extremists’ online usage has created new subgroups of the movement, including incels (involuntary celibates) and conspiracy theorists (e.g., QAnon believers) (2023b). One way right-wing extremists and white supremacists spread hate is through online hate speech. Hate speech “refers to offensive discourse targeting a group or an individual” based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or other identities (United Nations, n.d.). Not all people who post racist content online are considered extremists or white supremacists; however, the widespread existence of the groups offers an explanation as to why it feels “normal” to find hate speech on online platforms.


An understanding of the stakeholders impacted by Racists Getting Fired is crucial to making a well-reasoned decision regarding the case. Stakeholders are the various groups of people who have interests in the outcome of an ethical dilemma. I examine the potential impacts of the blog on the alleged racists, contributors to Racists Getting Fired, families of the alleged racists, and minority groups.

Alleged Racists. The most prominent group of stakeholders in this dilemma are the people who post racist comments online and whose information subsequently gets added to Racists Getting Fired. Because their personal information and employers’ information are posted to the blog, the alleged racists face the possibility that Tumblr users will contact their employers to expose their online racism. When this happens, employers sometimes fire or suspend the alleged racists from their jobs. This would likely jeopardize their career aspirations and way of living, possibly impacting their ability to pay rent, buy groceries, or find another job.

Contributors to Racists Getting Fired. The second group of stakeholders relevant to this case are

contributors to Racists Getting Fired. Since these are the people posting contact information online and calling employers, they face the possibility of being targeted by the alleged racists in retaliation for getting fired from their jobs. Contributors may also feel responsible for pushing for societal change, starting with exposing the alleged online racists.

Families of the Alleged Racists. The families of the alleged racists who are posted on Racists Getting Fired are also impacted in this situation. Since every family dynamic is different, the alleged racist may have, for example, brought in the only form of income to their family. Thus, other family members may have to search for jobs to help sustain their family, assuming the alleged racist is not able to find another job. Moreover, if the alleged racist is fired from their job, there is a possibility that they may become hostile toward family members, which can include cases of domestic violence and child abuse. The family’s safety is also at risk because their home address, names, and phone numbers may also be posted to Racists Getting Fired, making them targets for harassment as well.

Minority Groups. Fourth, minority groups are impacted by the actions


of the alleged racists and posts on Racists Getting Fired. Doxxing the alleged racists may influence them to remove their hateful posts online and stop posting altogether. Since online content affects people’s “psychological states” and hateful rhetoric can impact one’s mental health, this could be beneficial to minority groups (Saha et al., 2019). Alternatively, once doxxed, the alleged racists may express their frustration and anger through physical hate crimes against a minority group, subsequently endangering the wellbeing of a significant number of people.

Application of Ethical Theory

Application of ethical theory to the ethical dilemma of Racists Getting Fired allows further understanding of the moral choices made by the contributors to the blog. I will apply three ethical theories to the situation: Kantian ethics, utilitarianism, and virtue ethics.

Kantian Ethics. Kantian ethics encompasses the categorical imperative, which is when someone does something for the betterment of society without personal gain (Rachels, 2003). According to Kantian ethics, ideally, contributors to Racists Getting Fired get alleged racists fired for the betterment of society,

not personal gain. However, some critics believe the contributors are motivated by a sense of accomplishment and receive dopamine once an alleged racist is “gotten” (McDonald, 2014). In this situation, the contributors may expose people for two reasons: first, to ensure that others are not surrounded by racist people and second, to feel accomplished. If the contributors expose these people to gain a sense of accomplishment or dopamine, then they are experiencing personal gain, thus their actions are not ethical according to Kantian ethics. However, a maxim of the categorical imperative is that one’s actions must follow the rule of universal laws, which is when one creates the rules another must follow and must determine if they would be okay following the same rules, while remaining truthful (Rachels, 2003). Contributors’ actions would be ethical according to this maxim if they expected to be exposed for their hateful online rhetoric if they ever decided to share such sentiments.

Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is when the decision made is the one that results in the greatest good for the greatest number of people (Neher & Sandi, 2006). Because Utilitarianism is subjective and must be quantified, there are many ways the theory can be applied to the


contributors’ actions depending on one’s definition of “good.” In this case, I define “good” as the number of people who would be safe from alleged racists’ online rhetoric. If contributors expose alleged racists through Racists Getting Fired, then they may stop posting on social media out of fear of being posted on the blog again. Social media platforms may also remove the racists’ posts depending on the platforms’ guidelines. Thus, if contributors are able to keep the greatest number of people safe from being exposed to online hate, then their actions are ethical according to Utilitarianism.

Virtue Ethics. Virtue ethics, created by the ancient Greeks, is the idea that a person would not knowingly do bad things. The theory states that one’s character and virtue are more important to a decision than the outcome and that one must find the golden mean. The golden mean is the middle between two extremes, which is the virtue that should guide one’s decision making (Neher & Sandi, 2006). In this situation, one extreme would be not exposing anyone for their online conduct while the other extreme would be doxxing everything about everyone. A virtue that should guide contributors to the blog according to the golden mean of virtue ethics is moral responsibility.

Contributors may feel a sense of moral responsibility to police and ensure online forums are safe for all people, which may influence them to dox alleged racists. If the contributors genuinely want to reduce the amount of racial hate found on online platforms and ensure people experience consequences for their actions for the greater good of society, then their decision to expose alleged racists is ethical regardless of the outcome. Furthermore, the contributors’ actions are ethical according to virtue ethics even if people experience bad consequences. Overall, depending on the character and motivation of the contributors to the blog, then their actions are ethical according to virtue ethics.


Upon thorough analysis, it is ethical for contributors to Racists Getting Fired to expose people for their racist comments online. Guided by Utilitarianism, contributors’ actions to protect themselves and members of the general public are ethical because their actions will have the most positive outcomes for the greatest number of people. For example, in fear of being doxxed again or experiencing further consequences, alleged racists may stop posting racist comments online altogether or retreat to private


chatrooms with others who share the same sentiments. Although the latter presents different problems, this would reduce the amount of hate found on online platforms, thus limiting people’s exposure to hateful comments and rhetoric when online. Although the alleged racists and their families may be negatively impacted regarding money, reputation, and potential violence, they are only few of the many stakeholders impacted in this scenario. Kant’s categorical imperative in this situation is trivial because even if contributors experience personal gain, they still have the ability to positively impact society. Moreover, it is unlikely that all contributors to the blog would be okay with being doxxed if they accidentally or intentionally posted offensive comments online in the past. Similarly, virtue ethics are unsuited for this case as the outcomes of Racists Getting Fired are important to the contributors, as illustrated by the aforementioned “gotten” section of the blog. Contributors may be well-meaning, but the purpose of the blog is to positively impact other members of society by exposing racist people and getting them fired from their jobs.


In conclusion, after consideration of the situation of Racists Getting

Fired and an analysis of the competing principles, external factors, key stakeholders, and ethical theories related to the case, I argue that the actions of the contributors, or moral agents, are ethical. Because online hate speech is continuing to rise and over 52% of Americans reported to have experienced online hate in 2023, Racists Getting Fired may continue to expose alleged racists for years to come (Anti-Defamation League, 2023a). Although the actions of contributors to the successful Tumblr blog may evolve to account for the everchanging digital community, their goal will surely stay the same: Continue to dox online racists and get them fired.


Anti-Defamation League. (2023, June 7a). Online hate and harassment: The American experience 2023. clid=CjwKCAiApaarBhB7EiwAYiMwqmGiRu8 AwTVTjJcp7N0bYJ3s_DN8FvtnP6HiQ_ Oy8nRT3KNMqAqJqhoC9oYQAvD_BwE &gclsrc=aw.ds.

Anti-Defamation League. (2023, November 15b). Right-wing extremist terrorism in the United States. report/right-wing-extremist-terrorismunited-states.


Day, L.A. (2006). Ethics in media communications: Cases and controversies (5th Ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson-Wadsworth.

Haggerty, M. (2014, December 2). “Racists getting fired” and the desire to do something about Ferguson. NYC Studios. articles/racists-getting-fired-and-desire-dosomething-about-ferguson. Editors. (2020, August 6). Michael Brown is killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. History.

Kidder, R. (2009). How good people make tough choices: Resolving the dilemmas of ethical living. New York: Harper Collins.

McDonald, S. N. (2014, December 2). ‘Racists getting fired’ exposes weaknesses of Internet vigilantism, no matter how well-intentioned. The Washington Post. 12/02/racists-getting-fired-exposes-weaknesses-of-internet-vigilantism-no-matterhow-well-intentioned/.

Neher, W. W. & Sandi, P. (2006). Communicating ethically: Character, duties, consequences, and relationships. London: Pearson.

Rachels, J. (2003). The elements of moral philosophy (4th Ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill. Razeck, R. (2020, July 30). Missouri police officer who killed Michael Brown faces no charges. CNN. 07/30/us/ferguson-missouri-michael-browndarren-wilson-no-charges/index.html .

Saha, K., Chandrasekharan, E., & Choudhury, M. D. (2019). Prevalence and psychological effects of hateful speech in online college communities. National Library of Medicine. MC7500692/.

Sankin, A. & Pham, S. (2017, August 31). In chat rooms, Unite the Right organizers planned to obscure their racism. Reveal.

Social Media Victims Law Center. (2023, August 28). What is doxxing?. ng/.

Stroud, S. R. & Purcell, A. (2018, December 5). “Some of my best friends are internet vigilantes.” The University of Texas Austin Center for Media Engagement.

Timeline of events in shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. (2019, August 8). Associated Press. d1fc62.

United Nations. (n.d.). Understanding hate speech.


Journaling: Paper Has More Patience Than People

Faculty Advisor: Kerri Cushman

Department of Art


Artist’s Statement

This piece unites the realm of journaling and the idea of body adornment. Research bolstering journaling’s role in alleviating anxiety and depression underscores the significance of this project. This piece features a half-shirt adorned with a symbolic journal nestled in its pocket, embellished with poignant quotes—some derived from anonymous sources—emphasizing the significance of journaling. Accompanied by a pedestal-mounted book posing the question, “What are you grateful for?” the work fosters engagement. Crafted from abaca, a type of banana plant fiber, and cotton, this piece emphasizes the essence of paper and highlights the portability inherent in journaling. This endeavor aims to shed light on the diverse benefits of journaling and ignite broader recognition and adoption.

on the following pages.

Photographs of Luis Fernando Dos Reis’ work appear

The Effects of Climate Change on the Archaeological World

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Ravi Darwin Sankar

Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences



The goal of this paper is to examine the relationship between archaeology and climate change. Ever since the industrial revolution, humans have been putting more and more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere that in turn are accelerating the rate of global temperature rise. This is having a dramatic impact on the health of our planet, causing a loss of biodiversity, sea level rise, extreme weather events, etc. Archaeology is a field that is heavily reliant on the physical remains of previous human activity, and the majority of our data is collected from the Earth. Anywhere there are humans now, there is likely archaeological data from past human occupation. That means that the problems

we are facing in society today from the impacts of climate change are also impacting these archaeological sites.


The world is changing and will continue to change at unprecedented rates as a result of climate change. Rising sea levels are devouring coastal sites, melting ice is causing ancient organics to decompose and rot away, desertification is blasting away the already sparse remains of ancient civilizations, increased rainstorms are resulting in devastating erosion and loss of artifacts, and droughts are causing underwater sites to be exposed to the elements (Curry 2009). All of this is leading to the destruction of the future of archaeology. Archaeology is the


study of human history through the analysis of artifacts and other physical remnants of the past (Boudreau 2023). Anywhere where there were humans, remnants of their occupation will be present in the archaeological record. Because of this, archaeological sites face a myriad of environmental changes that threaten to put these cultural heritage sites at risk. Archaeologists can’t stop global warming and climate change, but they can work to make dealing with it a priority. This paper will address the effects of climate change using archaeological case studies in various climatic locations to demonstrate the startling effects of climate change all over the world and explore what humans can do to help slow the decay of these valuable resources. The categories this paper will examine will include archaeological sites situated in permafrost and glaciers, underwater sites, wetland sites, and sites that are facing the effects of desertification and erosion.

First and foremost, it is important to put into context the situation that our planet is currently in as a result of global warming. There has been a roughly two degrees Fahrenheit increase in temperature worldwide since the pre-industrial era (18801900) (Lindsey 2023). This may not sound like a lot, but even a slight

deviation in temperature drastically affects weather patterns, intensifies the melting of snow cover and sea ice which contributes to sea level rise, and damages sensitive biodiversity such as coral reefs (Bennett 2016). The amount of future warming the Earth will experience is dependent on how much carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses are emitted into the atmosphere. Currently, human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, add about 11 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year (Lindsey 2023). According to the Fifth U.S. National Climate Assessment (2023), if yearly fossil fuel emissions continue to increase, then models predict that by the end of the century, global temperatures are likely to be five degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 1901-1961 average and may jump to as much as 10.2 degrees warmer. How does this apply to archaeology? A majority of archaeological sites have been maintained based on the corresponding climatic variables in that area. If those climatic variables are altered, then the environment will no longer be stable enough to continue to preserve the artifacts in that area. For example, global warming has acted as a catalyst for Arctic change. The Arctic is underlain by continuous permafrost. Permafrost is permanently frozen soil


(Marshak 2019:136). If the permafrost containing the preserved body of a prehistoric animal melted, that organism would once again be exposed to bacteria and resume the process of decay. If humans didn’t come across it in the relatively short period between exposure and decomposition, then valuable data that could have been collected from the soft tissue would be lost forever. The decomposition of that organism will also release more carbon dioxide or methane gas into the atmosphere, contributing to the cycle of global warming.

Glacial Sites

While retreating ice and snow makes artifacts available for discovery, it is also a race against time as exposure to the elements threatens to quickly destroy them. The Qajaa Kitchen Midden site in Greenland is an example of an archaeological site that is currently in the process of becoming at risk from climate change (Elbering et al 2017). Researchers from the Department of Conservation and Natural Science and the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management in Denmark used data collected from various meteorological instruments over the course of 5 years to support their hypothesis that climate change and sea level rise have

had a negative effect on the preservation of a coastal archaeological site in Greenland. The results of this study show that the Qajaa Midden is not currently endangered by the risks of sea level rise, but that the warming climates are affecting the permafrost that the site is located on and will cause eventual movement of in situ objects due to hydrothermal erosion.

The predicted models that the study developed stated that the site will likely face the harms of climate change within the next 40 to 50 years. This is the case for a lot of sites in cold climatic areas. As temperatures increase, the depth of the active layer of permafrost, or the layer that thaws during the summer, will increase. This is significant because it exposes previously frozen soil layers to “accelerated erosion, freeze/thaw and wet/dry cycles, and increased microbe activity (Elbering et al 2017).” Studies from northern Alaska, northwestern Canada, and Siberia have provided evidence that the destabilization of permafrost is leading to severe erosion and terrain change, which has had dramatic effects on the preservations of archaeological sites (Hollesen 2018). In Auyuittuq National Park Reserve, Canada, twenty-four out of the forty-eight archaeological sites are categorized as “high


risk” from soil disturbance (Solsten and Aitken 2006). There are at least 180,000 known archaeological sites documented in the Arctic. Very few of these sites have been investigated, and little is known about their current state of preservation (Hollesen 2018). Sadly, many of these sites will face damage and completely disappear in the near future, before their stories can be told.

As the glaciers retreat, glacial archaeologists like to joke that they’re the only ones benefiting from the effects of climate change (Lidz 2021). The cold and wet conditions of glacier sites have led to extraordinary long-term preservation of archaeological material, particularly organic material, and their locations have led to a lack of modern development, leaving these artifacts relatively undisturbed (Hollesen 2018). From human bodies, to horses, to hunting gear, all sorts of finds have been uncovered in this ancient glacial ice. One example of a remarkable find from a glacial location was Otzi the Iceman, a 5,300 year old mummy found in the Italian Alps. His body provided a wealth of information about the prehistoric lifestyle, and his remaining tissue was imperative in understanding his final hours and cause of death (Witze 2011). Because of the remaining soft

tissue, archaeologists were able to determine what his last meal was, when he ate it, collect samples from his organs, and analyze his cells and DNA. (Witze 2011). Glacial preservation has led to phenomenal finds like Otzi that have expanded our knowledge in a way that wouldn’t be possible in many other terrains. With climate change occurring at an increasing rate, it is very important for archaeologists to work to rescue these one of a kind artifacts before they degrade. Groups like the Glacier National Park Ice Patch Program in the U.S and Secrets of the Ice and the Glacier Archaeology Program in Norway work to collect and document these artifacts (Widdhington 2023).

Between 2011 and 2023, the Glacier Archaeology Program has recovered 4,000 artifacts over sixty six glacial sites, including bronze age shoes, horseshoes, skis, leathers, and textiles, and are responsible for 90% of Norway’s glacial finds (Widdhington 2023). The goal of this program is to rescue as much historical evidence as quickly as possible in an attempt to save artifacts and the stories they share. From the archaeologists perspective, it’s an interesting dilemma, because the melting of this ice has allowed for these artifacts to be found and learned from but it also


puts them at risk for decay. According to the co-director of the Glacier Archaeology Program, when the program first started, they were mainly finding Iron Age and Medieval artifacts, from 500 to 1,500 years ago, but now, because the ice is melting more, they are uncovering artifacts from older and older time periods (Lidz 2021). He stated that “the mountain ice is retreating, and the finds are getting older; with greenhouse gasses already in our atmosphere, we estimate that 60 to 80 percent of the ice in our mountains will disappear” (Widdhington 2023). Glaciers can lose between millimeters a year to fifteen meters a year, which contributes to sea level rise that affects underwater archaeological sites and wetland sites (Sankar 2023).

Underwater Sites

Underwater archaeological sites are deeply impacted by climate change and sea level rise, as they are situated where a majority of these climatic changes are taking place. According to UNESCO, throughout human history, there have likely been over three million shipwrecks on the ocean floor (Bennett 2016). As these shipwrecks lay on the seabed, they don’t remain barren, but instead become part of a dynamic ecosystem (Hester 2018).

They become a place where life can flourish and are a habitat for a variety of species. Long term threats to these sites include sea level rise, changing temperatures, ocean acidification, and changes in the ocean’s circulation. Depth changes, even small ones, can lead to a change in water temperature, and in turn may affect the species that are able to survive there. For example, in Florida, some species of seagrasses aren’t able to survive below thirty feet; anything further down is too cold for them (Florida Museum 2023). In a lot of shipwrecks in Florida, seagrass acts as an anchor, holding the sediment and the fragile timber in place (Hester 2018). If the sea levels rise and this seagrass dies, then we risk upsetting the delicate balance that is keeping a site intact. Ocean acidity will also affect the chemical make-up and the ecosystems of sites. As the oceans absorb more carbon dioxide, they become hotter and more acidic (Short 2018). This is a problem for underwater sites because slight changes in the pH levels can result in associated chemical changes that will cause degradation of protective coats such as concretion (Hester 2018). Concretion is a byproduct of rust interacting with saltwater and other organisms and is predominantly found on iron wrecks. It can protect a site from corrosion for


years, but since it is calcium carbonate it is very sensitive to changes in acidity. According to studies done by Cardiff University (2018), the pH of the ocean is expected to get to less than 7.8 in 2100 compared to the 8.1 it is today. This may not seem like a lot, but just a 0.1 decrease pH units represents a 25% increase in acidity (Short 2018). Based on this data, the protective layers on these sites will likely vanish in the coming years.

Immediate threats that are posed to these sites are storm surges and extreme weather, which has increased in frequency due to climate change. A violent storm crossing right over a shipwreck can rip it to shreds, or at least rip off any covering and expose timber or other weakened materials to strong winds and currents.

One mitigation effort that has attempted to prevent this destruction is the reburial of underwater sites.

A good example of this is the HMS Fowey at Biscayne National Park, Florida. In 2014, to cushion the wreck against a hurricane or storm surge event, the National Parks Service had partially reburied the HMS Fowey with 13,000 sandbags filled with local sediment (Marano 2015). The following year a storm rolled through and dispersed all the sediment, but the ship remained undamaged. Studies conducted by

the Facility of Forest Sciences in Sweden on reburial of shipwrecks in marine sediments looked at the long-term impacts reburial had on wood degradation. Wood samples were buried in Marstrand harbor at three different depths, the lowest being forty-three centimeters, and analyzed over the course of thirtysix months. After three years, the wood samples on the seabed were completely decomposed, whereas the ones buried forty-three centimeters in the sediment showed significantly less decomposition. This study shows that reburial is a simple and efficient method for long-term preservation (Björdal 2007).

A large problem faced by underwater archaeology is limited funding and resources. The excavation and workforce for these sites costs a tremendous amount of money, and conservation of underwater resources is extremely expensive due to the special processes needed to prevent waterlogged artifacts from degrading as soon as they reach the surface (Chen 2022). If someone brings an artifact to the surface without the proper conservation methods, it loses equilibrium and becomes destabilized, and it is likely that the artifact will crumble before it can be properly retrieved. If wood


is removed without proper care, it faces the effects of drying, where the wood will shrink and crack, and ultimately lose its viable DNA of interest for analysis downstream (Blackburn 2013).

Sometimes an artifact is not taken out of the water because of the high likelihood that it will not survive the stabilization process.

Other times, the site is too robust and would be better studied in the water. In 2001, UNESCO proposed that in situ preservation of sites such as shipwrecks be the primary principle for the “Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage” (Chen 2022). Again, the problem with this is there’s a very limited amount of researchers and research being done into underwater archaeology. There is a very small percentage of shipwrecks that have been surveyed, excavated, and conserved compared to the amount that have been identified.

For example, the director of Maritime Heritage at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that “there are an estimated 4,300 shipwrecks within NOAA’s fourteen National Marine Sanctuaries. Of these, 432 have been dived on and surveyed. And these are shipwrecks within a mapped area set aside for preservation” (Bennett 2016). Many sites have only been documented

to avoid future shipwrecks and collisions, and future archaeological endeavors at these sites is not even a thought.

Wetland Sites

Wetlands are among the most important ecosystems on the planet, both because of their rich supply of fossil fuels and their flourishing ecosystems. Wetland archaeological sites are often particularly informative to the archaeological record, due to their remarkable preservation environments for organic materials (Mattheisen 2022). Wetlands are being destroyed at startling rates, and it’s estimated that over half of the world’s wetlands have been destroyed, mainly within the twentieth century (Van D Noort et. al 2002). Their loss has been accompanied by the loss of valuable archaeological information and destruction of the archaeological record. In England it is estimated that 80% of the country’s wetland monuments were damaged or destroyed as the result of human efforts to remove wetlands (Van D Noort et. al 2002). Along with human activity, such as wetland drainage, peat cutting and wastage, water extraction, and the conversion of wetlands into habitable land, the effects of climate change have furthered the loss of archaeological


information. Like all the previous archaeological locations covered in this paper, wetland artifacts have very specific conditions that allow for their organic matter to stay preserved. When the environment becomes unstable, those artifacts also become unstable. Increased precipitation rates and increased temperatures have escalated the likelihood of droughts and floods, and a greater availability of oxygen has led to microbial degradation of buried remains (Mattheisen 2022). Furthermore, if waterlogged archaeological material is not kept permanently wet, it will experience shrinkage and lose its scientific value. Wetland excavations are expensive, and it’s very difficult to raise funding to fully investigate these sites without the assistance from a developer. Thankfully there has been a push for the preservation and reclamation of wetlands as a result of an increased awareness of their value, which in turn benefits the archaeological community (Mattheisen 2022).

In recent years, wetlands have been targeted by rehabilitation and restoration programs aiming to restore previously drained and degraded wetlands and prevent further damage to the ecosystem (Davies 2023). These programs are working to improve a variety of

wetland attributes such as carbon sequestration, hydrology, flood mitigation, and biodiversity. According to the United Nations (2023) $154 billion is currently being spent a year on wetland restoration, and they are hopeful that this figure will be more than $384 billion by 2025. While the restoration of these environments generally benefits the current human population, it is also beneficial to the archaeological community as it determines the best method to prevent the further destabilization of archaeological material. Predicting and modeling the effects that climate change will have on wetland archaeological material is extremely complex, and based on the current state of knowledge, the effect that climate change will have on wetland archaeology can only be ascertained using detailed local/regional climate predictions (Mattheisen 2022).

Small changes in areas such as soil moisture content, oxygen levels, temperature, and pH levels are all variables that can affect the preservation of archaeological material greatly, so it’s important for archaeologists to monitor these sites. Two wetland archaeological sites in England, the Sweet Track and Glastonbury Lake Village sites, were monitored between 2016 to 2019 to document how climate change was affecting the immediate area (Brun-


ning 2020). These sites were located 10 km apart, and owing to an increase in warm dry weather, scientists expected to find extremely low water levels throughout the summer. The findings, however, demonstrated that while the summer ground water level at Glastonbury was approximately 0.3m lower than normal, the water level at the Sweet Track was the same as previous years (Mattheisen 2022). This is an example of how complex wetland hydrology can be, and why it’s necessary to take actual measurements at a site rather than relying on assumptions about weather and climate. Repeated site visits and continuous monitoring can be used to establish long-term trends, and having this field-based data not only raises awareness of preservation problems but facilitates possible mitigation strategies.

Sites Facing Desertification and Erosion

Desertification is the gradual transformation of temperate land into deserts, typically as a result of drought, deforestation, or poor agriculture (Marshak 2019: 1279). Over one third of the land on Earth has fallen victim to desertification, and it’s estimated that twelve million hectares are turned into desert every year (Slavikova 2019). Deser-

tification can wear down archaeological sites and bury them under sand dunes. This is a big problem in North Africa and the Middle East, where temperatures are predicted to rise by four degrees Celcius within the next thirty years (Metcalfe 2022). Increasing temperatures due to climate change can cause an increase in droughts in these desert regions, which in turn will increase the amount of arid land and fuel desertification. It’s a never-ending cycle. Desertification is often an overlooked problem in archaeology because shifting dunes and sand covering archaeological remains can lead to the misconception that the burial of these sites is protecting them from further climatic damage (Curry 2009). It is the opposite. Sand can quickly destroy remains, both from the weight of the dunes and because of the destructive winds that heighten the erosion of vulnerable sites. The soft sandstone ruins of Musawwarat esSufra, an important pilgrimage site of the ancient Meroitic Kingdom, were once decorated with elaborate reliefs, hieroglyphs, and a myriad of colors. In the early 1960s, a mission to uncover buried reliefs and reconstruct the temple’s collapsed walls took place, but that soon proved to be a mistake as the exposed walls quickly suffered from severe wind erosion (Curry 2009). In the face of


desertification, not much can be done to prevent the burial of these sites besides working to prevent climate change and the occurrence of droughts overall. Archaeologists in these areas have instead opted to document as many of these affected sites as possible before they are claimed by the sand. The Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa Program at Oxford University, has worked to make a database of over 330,000 endangered sites across twenty countries available to the public (Metcalfe 2022). The Zamani Project, over the course of fifteen years, has documented over 250 archaeological structures across eighteen countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia (University of Cape Town 2021). Programs like these are a good alternative when full-scale conservation projects are not an option.

Erosion is the final factor that will be discussed in this paper, and it is a factor that will be relevant at almost any archaeological site. Erosion is the grinding away or movement of the Earth’s surface materials by moving water, air, or ice (Marshak 2019: 144). This is very important to the field of archaeology because so much of the interpretation of a site is based on the way the artifacts are situated in relation to

each other. When erosion occurs, that in situ data is lost and with it, valuable information about a site. In the southeastern United States alone, sea level rise and erosion are expected to impact 13,000 known coastal sites (Anderson 2017). In some parts of Alaska, as much as a mile of coastline has eroded over the past eighty years, and with it, the entire archaeological and fossil record (Lidz 2021). A popular example of a site facing coastal erosion is Jamestown in Virginia, which was the first successful English settlement on the continent of North America. The James River has already eroded the western portion of the settlement, and it was believed that the original fort was already underwater until excavations began in 1994 (O’Brein 2022). Because of sea level rise and erosion, it is estimated that within the next 35 years a majority of the fort and surrounding area will be underwater. Another prime example of the effects of erosion on a coastal site is the Channel Islands in California. The Channel Islands are a critical link to the study of how humans came to settle in North America (Curry 2009). There are about 10,000 years of documented human settlement on these islands, which were previously connected by dry land when the sea levels were much lower. Now rising sea levels, wind, storm surges,


waves, and erosion are threatening the last few remaining rock shelters.

Adobe sites are especially prone to erosion, as they are mud bricks carved from natural clay deposits that have been left to the elements (Hathaway 2009). Moisture is a major driver for damage of adobe structures. The intensity and duration of rainstorm events contributes to the severity of erosion and the occurrence of structural collapse at these sites (Hart 2023). In the American Southwest, adobe structures are being heavily impacted by climate change. Research conducted by the National Park Service (2017) states that “temperatures in the Southwest may increase by four to ten degrees Fahrenheit, compared to temperatures between 1960 and 1979.” This will cause an increase in arid land and an increase in severe drought events, and it’s predicted that when rain does fall, it will likely come in the form of extreme precipitation events. As climate change is causing the increase in powerful weather phenomena, it’s important to look at conservation methods that will protect these sites from further degradation. In 2023, researchers from the US National Park Service used data collected from adobe test walls and rain shower simulators to evaluate the effectiveness of unamended

earthen wall treatments (caps, patches, and encapsulation coats) to protect against rain showers of different intensities. The data concluded that patching was not a sustainable method to prevent erosion on its own, and that the erosion of the surface area in adobe walls was less significant in areas protected by the cap and encapsulation methods (Hart 2023).


In the current climate crisis, archaeology is in a very delicate period given the effects of climate variability. As a result, efforts need to be focused on protecting and utilizing these sites before they are destroyed. There are unfortunately too many sites worldwide and not enough money, people, or time to effectively study and manage them equally. Archaeologists are typically aware of sites but may have no statistically valid, replicable method of prioritizing resources. This is where the benefits of predictive modeling can act as a catalyst to site investigation and management. Archaeological predictive modeling is defined as “the practice of building models that in some way indicate the likelihood of archaeological sites, cultural resources, or past landscape use across a region”(Yaworsky et al


2020). When predicting the threat climate change poses on archaeological sites, there are three immediate concerns that need to be addressed.

1. What is the current threat and where is the greatest vulnerability?

2. Where is there potential for the threat to have an impact on the study area?

3. What do the observed conditions indicate about the threat?

Applying predictive modeling to cultural resources will help determine the feasibility of preservation priorities (Rose et al 2018).

Every archaeological site provides a unique insight to the people of the past, and every site deserves to be preserved and understood for future generations to explore. With our climate on the verge of collapse, it is even more vital to collect this data in the race against time. Overall, funding and resources are huge problems in the archaeological community; many people don’t care about the preservation of these sites and the history they hold. Conservation, preservation, and research are expensive for any type of archaeology, whether it be underwater or terrestrial. More research must be

done in regards to climate change and its effects on archaeological sites, and hopefully in the future more archaeologists and climate scientists will develop new methods of conservation that can best protect and preserve these sites.


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Lowered Seat Height Does Not Impair Wingate Performance in Untrained Cyclists

Villa, Robert Allison, and Zachary Chessor

Faculty Advisor: Laura Jimenez

Department of Health, Recreation, and Kinesiology



Previous research has demonstrated that saddle height significantly impacts cycling performance, affect-ing power output, pedaling efficiency, and injury risk. However, there is little research into the effects of lowering seat height by half of the standardized height on power output and fatigue index during the Wingate Anaerobic Power Test. Conducted for the purpose of comparing the impact of standardized seat height (SSH) and lowered seat height (LSH) on participants’ performance metrics during the Wingate Anaerobic Power Test, this experiment sought to analyze the outcomes. Thirteen partici-

pants signed up to perform two separate Wingate Anaerobic Power Tests at SSH and LSH respectively, less than two weeks apart. Seven participants completed the two tests and had their peak power output (PPO) in Watts (W), mean power output (MPO) in Watts, minimum power output (Min-PO) in Watts, and fatigue index (FI%) measured. The power output data came from the Wingate Protocol Software and the fatigue index calculated with the formula ((PPOMinPO)/PPO) *100. The findings demonstrated no significant difference in PPO (SSH 570.14±123.35W; LSH 579.71±164.34W; p=0.82), MPO (SSH 435.86±113.08W; LSH 435.00± 131.43W; p=0.95), and FI% (SSH


34.12±18.70%; LSH 41.82±12.99%; p=0.14). There was a significant difference in Min-PO (SSH 366.29± 109.03; LSH 330.43±98.02; p=0.02).

The results of the study do not support the hypothesis of lowered saddle height significantly affecting power production. The data suggest the reduction in seat height lacked adequacy to yield meaningful results.


We would like to thank Dr. Laura Jimenez (Longwood University) for providing the equipment and lab space utilized for this study. We also acknowledge the utilization of AI tools (ChatGPT and SciSpace) to aid in the structuring of and preparation for this paper.


Cycling is a popular and widely practiced form of physical activity, sport, and transportation, offering numerous health benefits and economic advantages (Blondiau et al., 2016; Fishman, 2015; Gössling & Choi, 2015; Götschi et al., 2015).

However, injury risk and performance in cycling can be significantly influenced by various factors (hydration status, footwear, etc.), with saddle height potentially being a variable that may have a major

impact on cycling performance.

Optimal saddle height could affect a cyclist’s power output, pedaling efficiency, comfort, and risk of musculoskeletal injuries. As cycling continues to gain popularity in different populations around the world, understanding saddle height adjustments and its implications is important for both recreational cyclists and competitive athletes (Pucher & Buehler, 2017).

As with any moderate intensity activity, cycling can result in injury to participants. An improperly configured bicycle can lead to lower limb injuries and back pain in cyclists of any skill level (Silberman, 2013). \The most common lower limb cycling-related injuries are overuse injuries of the knee, such as patellofemoral pain syndrome (Schwellnus & Derman, 2014). Many studies have shown that knee pain is common in cyclists with improperly configured bicycles; some of the most common causes include incorrect saddle height and positioning forward or backward on the saddle (Bini & Di Alencar, 2014; Bini et al., 2013; Schwellnus & Derman, 2014). This could be because these variables impact knee angle and knee joint forces during cycling. A study by Bini et al. (2013) looked at the way saddle positioning forward or backward affected patellofemoral


(PF) and tibiofemoral (TF) forces in the knees of competitive cyclists. This study found that compression forces were unaffected by the changes while tibiofemoral shear forces increased in the backward position (Bini et al., 2013). These findings may indicate that changes in saddle positioning affect knee joint kinematics more so than knee joint forces.

In cycling, the athlete utilizes aerobic and anaerobic functions throughout their motions. This may include bursts of power that use quick sources of energy, such as anaerobic glycolysis, or utilizing oxygen in energy creation for long coasting efforts by activating the oxidative phosphorylation process (aerobic). With the utilization of a thirty second Wingate test, anaerobic functions are the main priority, especially regarding peak and mean power (Smith & Hill, 1991). Wingate tests give a quick result in economy and performance and do not last too long or reach the point of discomfort or increased injury risk. In relation to seat height changes, this can either benefit or hinder the power output the athlete can produce. Changing the seat height can greatly change the performance of a short cycle sprint with different knee angles. For example, one study determined that small

changes in saddle height at submaximal intensities caused decreases in cycling efficiency, increased oxygen consumption, and significant changes to lower limb kinematics in cyclists (FerrerRoca et al., 2014).

While mean power output is in favor of a lower degree in knee angle and leg extension, upward adjustments of the seat give peak power output with higher variability wherein some athletes perform better compared to average seat height. With this change in peak performance and knee angle differences, some muscle group activation periods were better as well (Moura et al., 2017). Gross efficiency in cycling is also impacted when adjusting the seat height. The efficiency in an athlete was found to be significantly lower with the seat height adjusted below standard (Ferrer-Roca et al., 2014). The alterations in knee extension, flexion, and range of motion induced by variations in seat heights may actively influence performance, enabling the identification of optimal adjustments that facilitate athletes in competing and performing at their max.

In order to develop a valid experiment, the authors investigated different methods of setting seat height. First, the Hamley method


sees the length of the inseam multiplied by 1.09 (Millour et al., 2019a) with the inseam measured from the lower part of the ischium to the floor.

Another common method is the Greg Lemond method. This method sees the inseam multiplied by .883 summed up with the crank length. According to Quesada et al. (2016) the crank length is the furthest (lowest) point of the revolution. In one experiment utilizing this method, findings showed it to be most beneficial for female cyclists. It was not found to be better than self-selecting seat height. There was no mention of a beneficial seat height adjustment for male cyclists (Encarnacion-Martinez et al, 2021). One of the most commonly used methods of determining ideal seat height for riders, called the Holmes method, measures the knee angles at the 6 o’clock position (as if the pedal arm was the hour arm on a clock) on the bicycle (Quesada et al., 2016; Swart & Holliday, 2019). There are two main methods for measuring this knee angle in cyclists: static measurement, which takes place in a stationary pose, and dynamic measurement which utilizes motion capture software while the cyclist is riding. To reduce overuse knee injury risk, many studies suggest that knee angle at the 6 o’clock position

while cycling should be between 25°- 30° of knee flexion with static methods and between 30°-40° with dynamic methods (Millour et al., 2019b; Quesada et al., 2016).

There are some problems that these methods do not address. They do not address the bike itself. The investigators did not examine the positioning of the handlebars in relation to the rider. Subsequent investigators could look at the handlebar positioning and how that affects performance, injury risk, and economy. Adjustments like this could change the riding quality and performance of a cyclist. These studies would help generate novel methods for adjusting bicycles.

The purpose of this study is to determine if structural adjustments to a bicycle can have an influence on performance in untrained individuals. The results of this study may bring awareness to adjusting the seat to an ideal height so riders can get the best possible power output while also maintaining an efficient and comfortable ride.

During the preparation of this work, the authors used ChatGPT in order to create a structured outline for the paper. The authors further used SciSpace to do an initial summary of articles they identified from data-


bases to aid in their understanding of some of the more complex language during their reading. All of the content of this manuscript is the original work of the authors as part of a Research Methods class project.

Methods Participants

This study received approval by the Longwood University Institutional Review Board. All participants signed informed consent forms. The investigators employed random recruitment on Longwood University’s campus to solicit participants for the study. Participant recruitment took place through a flier with a QR code to collect contact information.

A total of 13 participants (three males; ten females), average age 18.77 years (SD = 1.12), signed up to take part in the experiment. Of those 13, seven participants (two males, five females) completed both of their trials. The participants were of varying fitness levels. Exclusion criteria for the study included: being unable to get on and off a bike without the need of assistance, presence of any major cardiovascular concern that restricted their ability to conduct the Wingate, and not being students enrolled at Longwood University.

Wingate Protocol

The Wingate Protocol is an Anaerobic Power test. The test consists of 30 seconds of supramaximal cycling (i.e. the subject will pedal as hard and fast as they can) against a resistance of 7.5% percent of the rider’s body weight in kilograms (kg). The software controlling the test has a 20 second lead in period at 100W (a moderate intensity), the participants pedal normally, then the resistance drops for a three second countdown, at which point the participants pedal as hard and fast as they can, after which, the 7.5% body weight resistance starts instantaneously, and the participants maintain their effort for 30 seconds.


The participants’ weight was obtained for the Wingate calibration. Then they completed a five-minute self-paced warm-up on the Monark 828e, Sweden. After the five-minute warm up, the participants hopped on the Wingate bike. Depending on which trial the participants were on, they took part in one of the two experimental conditions. The experimental conditions were a standardized seat height (SSH) and lowered seat height (LSH). The standard seat height condition had the seat aligned with the greater trochanter of the femur as the participant stood next to


the bike. After appropriately adjusting the seat height, measurements in centimeters (cm) were taken from the base of the seat shaft to the top of the neck of the seat.

The lowered seat height condition halved the SSH. The participants took part in the SSH first and were closely for adverse reactions in the ten minutes following the test.

Once the time passed, they scheduled their next trial (LSH) for roughly one week later.


Equipment utilized in this experiment consisted of an Ergomedic 828 E Monark bike for the warmup and a Velotron Wingate bike (Velotron Quarq 2023) for testing.

The Velotron connected to a laptop running the software to record the power output results. The program utilized was a program that comes with the purchase of the Wingate bike called “Velotron Software” and ran through a Dell book laptop to gather results. The assessment of the participants weights in order to correctly calibrate the test for each participant utilized a SECA digital scale. Adjusting the seat height utilized a tape measure.

Since the adjustment we were testing was half of the standardized seat height, the LSH came from taking the SSH and dividing it by two.

Data Collection

The data collected in this study included participants’ peak power output (PPO) in watts (W), mean power output (MPO) in watts (W), minimum power output (Min-PO) in watts (W), and Fatigue Index (FI%). The peak power output is the highest power output achieved during the test (this occurs in the first five seconds of the test). The mean power output is the sum of the power output throughout the test divided by the total time of the test (30 seconds). Minimum power output is the lowest power output achieved during the test (this will most likely take place during the last five seconds of the test). The fatigue index is the rate at which the participants power output declines during the test. The fatigue index is the difference between PPO and Min-PO divided by their PPO. A higher FI indicates a more rapid decline in power output and suggests a lower ability to maintain power output over the 30-second test duration. Conversely, a lower FI implies better fatigue resistance. All of the data collected from this study stayed on a password protected laptop in a locked laboratory. The investigators will retain all gathered data until May 2024.


Statistical Analysis

Statistical analysis took place within Microsoft Excel. Examinations of participants’ performance metrics utilized means and standard deviations (SD). A series of two-tailed, dependent T-tests utilized for each seat height. Data were reported as means plus/minus standard deviation, and alpha specified at 0.05.


Peak Power Output

Based on the data collected during the two trials, the P-value for PPO was 0.82 which is not statistically significant. As shown in Figure 1, the mean PPO achieved by the subjects with standardized seat heights was 570.14 (SD = 123.35), and the mean for the adjusted seat height trial was 579.71 (SD = 164.34). This represents a non-significant 1.65% average decrease in PPO for the adjusted seat height trials.

Mean Power Output

Based on the data collected during the two trials the P-value for MPO was 0.95 which is not statistically significant. As shown in Figure 3, Mean MPO for the standardized seat height trial was 435.86 (SD=113.08) and for the adjusted seat height trial 435.00 (SD = 131.43). This is a nonsignificant .02% average decrease in MPO for the adjusted seat height trials.

Fatigue Index & Minimum Power Output

Based on the data collected during the two trials the P-value for FI% was 0.14, which is not statistically significant. As shown in Figure 4, Mean FI% for the standardized seat height trial was 34.12% (SD = 18.70%) and for the adjusted seat height trial 41.82% (SD = 12.99%). This is a non-significant 18.41% average increase in FI% for the adjusted seat height trials. As shown in Figure 5, there appeared to be a trend of FI% increase in the majority of the subjects with two significant outliers. The P-value for Min-PO was 0.02,rect which is statistically significant. As shown in Figure 2, Mean Min-PO for the standard seat height trial was 366.29 (SD = 109.03) and for the adjusted seat height trail was 330.43 (SD = 98.02). This represents a significant 10.85% average decrease in Min-PO for the adjusted seat height trials.


The objective of this study was to assess how lowering seat height would affect measures of performance for untrained individuals during a supramaximal Wingate test. The main results of this study demonstrated that lowering the seat height by half of the saddle shaft length compared to the standard


height resulted in no significant findings for peak power output, mean power output, or fatigue index but a significant impairment of the minimum power output for each cyclist.

Peak Power Output

The findings of this study support the idea that PPO during a Wingate test does not change significantly in untrained individuals. The seat is one of the simplest adjustments that can alter how a cyclist pedals by changing the range of motion for the lower limb joints (Hazrati & Azghani, 2018). The assumption is that the four quadriceps muscles (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, and vastus medialis) are stretched more at the top of the movement based on the perceived change of knee angle with lowered saddle height. The length tension relationship states that changes in length of a muscle, whether stretched or contracted, will affect force production. This makes sense when you take into consideration the sliding filament theory and actin/myosin overlap. The sliding filament theory expresses that tension production happens at the overlap between actin and myosin in the sarcomere and that there should be a predictable relationship between sarcomere length and the overlap

between thick and thin filaments (Powers et al., 2021). So, as a muscle stretches, fewer cross bridges can form between the actin and myosin filaments in the sarcomere because the overlap between the two becomes smaller.

A study by Moura et al. (2017) analyzed anaerobic performance and muscle activity of competitive cyclists during Wingate tests conducted at three different seat heights. The findings of the study demonstrated that both the raised and lowered seat height conditions resulted in increases to the cyclists’ peak power output, with the largest difference appearing in the raised condition (Moura et al., 2017). Comparatively, for untrained cyclists the assumption was that peak power output would remain the same or even decrease during a similar test due to their lack of familiarity with cycling at any seat height. The findings of this study support the idea that PPO does not significantly change with lowered seat height in untrained cyclists.

Mean Power Output

The findings of this study support the idea that MPO also does not significantly change with lowered seat height in untrained individuals. Different factors such as the stance the rider takes on the bike along-


side the seat height may affect power production and maintenance, though the current literature demonstrates mixed results across experience levels.

In a study conducted by Kadlec et al. (2022), the investigators measured different power production and fatigue characteristics in mountain bikers utilizing different stances during a Wingate anaerobic power test. The principal finding of this study was that, in the seated position, the cyclists produced significantly lower Average Power (W), Relative Average Power (W·kg-1), and average cadence (RPM) than both the standing only and combined conditions (Kadlec et al., 2022). However, in a different study, investigating a less experienced group of recreationally active individuals the investigators found no significant differences in absolute and relative peak power, absolute and relative mean power, or fatigue index in either the seated or standing positions (Costa et al., 2021). The findings of these studies demonstrate that the experience level of the individual riding the bike can make a huge difference in their performance with different stances and suggest that different positioning impacts experienced individuals more than inexperienced individuals.

Fatigue Index & Minimum Power Output

The findings of this study suggest that lowering the lowered seat height during a Wingate test has little impact on the participants’ FI%. However, the findings also showed significant reductions in Min-PO which, when considered alongside the PPO and MPO findings, should mean that the participants were fatiguing more during the test. While the fatigue index findings support the current representation in the literature, there is little research including minimum power output as a variable in the discussion of fatigue, making comparison difficult.

Many factors contribute to FI% changes in high intensity work. One of the more prevalent theories mentioned in the literature is that metabolic characteristics such as muscle fiber type are the biggest factor in FI%. Muscle fiber types and their distribution in the working muscles are often attributed to FI% during anaerobic testing (Carr et al., 2015). Wingate tests require the use of fast twitch (FT) muscle fibers. FT muscle fibers are responsible for more powerful contractions that only last a few seconds. It is possible that the participants, who for the most part didn’t participate in anaerobic style training, do not


have a high distribution of FT fibers, which result in lower total power outputs and potentially higher fatigue rates. With less FT muscle fibers available, the participant may have lost power sooner than if they had trained for this cycling intensity. Another theory presented in the literature is that anthropometric characteristics such as height and weight are more important to FI% than metabolic factors. One study investigated the factors influencing cycling time to exhaustion. The findings showed that while metabolic factors were still of importance, femur length correlated better with time to exhaustion (Basset et al., 2014).

Future Considerations

Utilizing the greater trochanter as the reference point for establishing the normalized seat height could pose some issues. Since all of the participants were of different shapes and sizes, there may be a challenge with finding the greater trochanter, to further ensure proper normal saddle height adjustment, utilizing the widest part of the hip would be sufficient rather than a palpation for the greater trochanter.

In order to confirm the muscle recruitment pattern, utilization of an Electromyography (EMG) machine may provide greater insights.

The EMG would track muscle firing patterns while cycling. Investigators might then merge the Wingate graph with the EMG to illustrate how the motor unit is firing as time elapses. An EMG could also help determine the speed of those contractions while cycling. That could present possibilities of relating speed of contraction to pedaling speed.

Collection of the revolutions per minute (RPM) for future versions of this study may also be beneficial. Assessing RPM for each participant may be useful when comparing power production and fatigue index. Future studies may assess participants’ RPMs to determine if they are able to pedal fastest in either of the two conditions. Then look at how well they can hold speed. The participants’ ability to hold the speed at a specific seat condition would determine which seat condition is ideal.

By lowering the seat height, joint angles could potentially change. The use of a Goniometer would assist with the collection of knee and ankle angles. Knowing the angles would open this study to experiments that look at range of motion. Where this type of study may find some issues include: if the participants have any


injuries, inclusion, and exclusion of participants with injuries in the knee, hip or ankle joint.


In future investigations, it is important to employ the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale for evaluating participants’ exertion levels during the tests, given apprehensions regarding the potential skewing of data due to potentially inadequate effort. The absence of data makes it challenging to understand whether participants exerted maximal effort during the test.

Another concern with this study was the sample size. The results would be stronger and give a better idea of the true effects of lowering saddle height if the sample size were larger. Twenty or more participants would be more ideal for this study. More participants would allow some outliers with a lower chance of data becoming skewed by outliers.

The participants were not explicitly told to remain seated throughout the entirety of the trials. Despite receiving the same cues, some of the participants changed stances slightly at times during the two tests, which may have impacted their performance. To fix this, future

replications should have the participants perform the test in a fixed seated position.


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Intentions, Interpretations, and the Paradoxes of Asimov’s Laws of Robotics

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Sean Barry

Department of English and Modern Languages


The theory of literary interpretation proposed by the New Critics in the 1940s contains many similarities to the early science fiction publications of Isaac Asimov. Isaac Asimov’s work I, Robot thus utilizes the New Criticism literary structure in a manner that is largely overlooked. Instead of telling a story of robots out of control, Asimov tells a story of control lost through misinterpretations of human intention.

I argue that if we look at the repeated paradoxes that Asimov dramatizes, where machines interpret ambiguities in the Laws of Robotics in a manner contrary to human intentions, but nonetheless consistent with the text of those laws, we will see that Asimov tells stories in which human creators

lose control of interpretation without becoming the victims of their technology. Evidence throughout the short stories of the I, Robot collection suggests a successful usage of paradox to question the role of robots in human society as one that can be unpredictable despite good intentions.

This paper will argue that Isaac Asimov’s short story collection I, Robot bears surprising affinities with the theory of literary interpretation promoted by the New Critics. Asimov published the stories collected in I, Robot, between 1940 and 1950, revising and linking them with a frame narrative for their publication as a book-length work. His stories thus coincide with some of the most significant publications of the New Critics: W.K. Wimsatt and


Monroe Beardsley published “The Intentional Fallacy” in 1946, while Cleanth Brooks’s The Well Wrought Urn, was published as a monograph in 1947. But if these works were produced in close proximity, the focus of the New Critics on intricately crafted poetry versus the low prestige of Asimov’s science fiction in its early publications has largely obscured the connections I will argue for in this essay. Just as the intentional fallacy says a work should not be judged solely on its success in abiding by the author’s intent, the robots in Asimov’s work must not be judged simply on how they follow the Laws of Robotics. The most important Law being Law One: “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” I argue that if we look at the repeated paradoxes that Asimov dramatizes, where machines interpret ambiguities in the Laws of Robotics in a manner contrary to human intentions, but nonetheless consistent with the text of those laws, we will see that Asimov tells stories in which human creators lose control of interpretation without becoming the victims of their technology. In terms that are surprisingly consistent with the dictates of the New Criticism, Asimov treats mid-century readers afflicted

by a condition he calls, “The Frankenstein Complex.”

Just as Freud’s account of complexes is of pathological beliefs that have their origins in repressed desires and fears, Asimov’s “Frankenstein Complex” is the unconscious fear of mechanical men and the fear that mankind’s creation will ultimately turn on him. Discussions of the “Frankenstein Complex” frequently focus on Asimov’s intentions. For instance, Patricia Warrick proposes that Asimov intends to alleviate these fears through the creation of benevolent robots who will always be subservient to man because they are programmed with the Laws of Robotics. Contrary to Patricia Warrick, Gorman Beauchamp argues that although Asimov intends to cure the complex, he ultimately reinforces it through inconsistencies that suggest the Laws of Robotics have been violated. In a similar vein, Lee McCauley applies the Laws of Robotics to current-day robotics labs, arguing that despite Asimov’s intent, the ambiguities within their structure make them impossible to implement, suggesting that we cannot expect the robots within Asimov’s works to abide by them either. However, I argue that by focusing too much on the success of the Laws in subverting the “Franken-


stein Complex,” these critics reduce the overall impact of Asimov’s work. I propose that by applying the framework of the New Critics, it is evident that Asimov instead masterfully employs literary paradox throughout I, Robot to demonstrate that, despite human inability to foresee robot misinterpretations of human intent, humans do not become the victim of their creations. The work is not just about the robots but rather a thought experiment on intentional fallacy evident through the robot’s different interpretations of the laws despite what their creators intend. This does not necessarily suggest a failure in the “Frankenstein Complex,” but rather highlights language ambiguities that lead to interpretation problems.

I suggest we focus not on Asimov’s intent, but on the Laws and the paradoxical way in which they are followed to find the solution for “Frankenstein Complex.” This becomes evident in Isaac Asimov’s third short story of the I, Robot collection, “Reason.” “Reason” centers around the recurring characters of Donovon and Powell. In Asimov’s universe, Donovon and Powell are expert robot technicians sent to investigate robots who are seemingly not following the Laws of Robotics. In “Reason,” Donovon and Powell

are working on a space station with the new experimental robot model, the QT-1. The QT-1 robot model undergoes testing to eventually replace human labor on the space station. However, the new robot model, Cutie, which Donovan and Powell build, possesses a unique ability. Powell remarks that Cutie is “The first robot who’s ever exhibited curiosity as to its own existence–and I think the first that’s really intelligent enough to understand the world outside” (Asimov 58). This human failure to predict the abilities of its creation alludes to Cutie’s pseudo-rebellion later in the story. I argue Asimov thus plays with the idea of intention, working with New Criticism’s ideas of intentional fallacy to demonstrate Cutie’s ability to interpret the Laws in his own way, making the original human intent behind the laws less significant. Cutie further exemplifies this when he proclaims that he is intellectually superior to humans, reasoning that humans could not have created him because of his intellectual superiority. Cutie kicks Donovan and Powell out of the control room in what initially seems to be an instance of the “Frankenstein Complex” in action. However, Cutie shocks Donovan and Powell when he still does his job, despite kicking them out of the control room and refusing to listen to their orders.


When they confront Cutie, they realize he has a different understanding of the intent behind the laws, allowing him to interpret them differently, yet still follow them. Powell and Donovan are finally capable of understanding how he is disobeying their direct orders. Powell remarks,

As a matter of fact it accounts for his refusal to obey us. Obedience is the Second Law. No harm to humans is the first. How can he keep humans from harm, whether he knows it or not? Why by keeping the energy beam stable. He knows he can keep it more stable than we can, he insists he’s the superior being. So he must keep us out of the control room. It’s inevitable if you consider the Laws of Robotics (Asimov 78).

I suggest Asimov criticizes the “Frankenstein Complex” by using Cutie to illustrate that even when it seems like the creation is turning on its creator, it is not. Gorman Beauchamp, however, remarks that Asimov’s “mechanical creations take on a life of their own, in excess of their programming and sometimes in direct violation of it … at worst, they can develop an independent will not susceptible to human control—like QT-1in ‘Reason’” (87). Yet Beauchamp fails to see Asimov’s use of paradox in the story. While

Cutie appears to directly contradict the Laws of Robotics, he is actually just interpreting how to follow them differently, ultimately still maintaining a strict adherence to the Laws at first invisible to the humans. It is the ambiguity behind the Laws that allows for this to occur. Cleanth Brooks says, “We recognize and value its use of ambiguous symbol and paradoxical statement. Indeed, it might be maintained that, failing to do this, we shall miss much of its power and even some of its accuracy of statement” (Brooks 125). Beauchamp misses the power of Asimov’s use of paradox, dismissing it entirely as a failure in Asimov’s ability to refute the “Frankenstein Complex” when he is instead purposely playing with the ideas of intention in the work itself.

The last story of the I, Robot collection brings the debate of the “Frankenstein Complex” to the forefront of the reader’s mind. Beauchamp and McCauley focus on this, contesting that Asimov goes against his intent in subverting it. However, critics fail to recognize the true complexity of “The Evitable Conflict.” Not only does it have the most ambiguous ending in Asimov’s I, Robot collection, but it is also one of the most paradoxical in subverting the “Frankenstein Complex’s” fears. “The Evitable Conflict,” as the


last I, Robot story features robots at their most advanced. It involves Susan Calvin, an expert robot psychologist specializing in the Laws of Robotics. Susan Calvin tells stories of robot advancement throughout her lifetime, creating the frame narrative that connects the stories in I, Robot. In “The Evitable Conflict,” the world is split into four regions, and their economy is run by supercomputers known as The Machines. The world coordinator, Stephan Byerly, notices that The Machines have made small economic mistakes. Byerly develops his own “Frankenstein Complex,” believing these mistakes could mean the end of humanity itself, and consults Susan Calvin for help. Susan, however, says she can’t help because The Machines are so advanced, suggesting, “Perhaps roboticists as a whole should now die, since we can no longer understand our own creations” (Asimov 246). The Machines thus depict an example of the creation surpassing the original intent behind their creation. Yet, they continue to adhere to the Laws, in an extremely advanced manner that their creators can no longer predict or understand. In a fashion agreeable to the New Critics’ ideas for literary structure, Asimov once again employs paradox. This is further evident when the First Law changes to state that

The Machines cannot harm humanity. This change further ambiguates the Laws, creating misinterpretations that go against the original human intention behind them. Humanity is so dependent on The Machines that their first rule is to protect themselves for the good of humanity. This makes the apparent mistakes Byerly detects purposeful machinations of The Machines rather than malfunctions. The Machines now control every facet of humanity to eliminate conflict.

Susan states, “‘The Machines will deal with them as they are dealing with the Society, —having, as they do, the greatest of weapons at their disposal, the absolute control of our economy.’ ‘How horrible!’ says Byerly, ‘Perhaps how wonderful!’ says Susan, ‘Think, that for all time, all conflicts are finally evitable.

Only the Machines, from now on, are inevitable!’” (Asimov 272).

I suggest this ending to the I, Robot collection is purposefully ambiguous, leaving the reader questioning whether it is good or bad for robots to control humanity.

For Susan, it is a good thing, whereas for Byerly, it is not.

Yet, the robots are ultimately still adhering to the laws, even if they control humanity to do it.

This functions to depict a paradoxical deeper truth that aligns with the theories of New Criticism.


Furthering this with perhaps the most alarming and overt example of language interpretation producing ambiguity within the Laws of Robotics is the I, Robot short story “Escape.” I argue this is the most paradoxical story within the I, Robot collection, surpassing “The Evitable Conflict.” In fact, it first appears in the August 1945, Pulp magazine Astounding Science Fiction Volume 35, under the title “Paradoxical Escape.” This story centers around a supercomputer robot called The Brain and includes Susan Calvin, as well as Donovon and Powell from the earlier short story “Reason.” In “Escape,” U.S. Robots is attempting to beat its competitor Consolidated in the creation of the first successful hyperspace drive. However, Consolidated feeds their supercomputer an equation for the hyperspace drive, and it breaks the supercomputer. Consolidated sends the equation to U.S Robotics in an attempt to sabotage and break their supercomputer, The Brain. Susan Calvin and scientist Alfred Lanning theorize that Consolidated’s supercomputer encounters a dilemma with the Laws of Robotics and is unable to solve the hyperspace drive equation as a result. Alfred Lanning himself states that The Brain cannot supply a solution to an equation when the solution involves the death or injury of

a human being (Asimov 177). So when they feed the equation to The Brain in an attempt to ensure it does not malfunction, Susan Calvin, tells it “When we come to a sheet which means damage, even maybe death, don’t get excited. You see, Brain, in this case, we don’t mind— not even about death; we don’t mind at all. So when you come to that sheet, just stop, give it back— and that’ll be all. You understand?” (Asimov 180-181). However, The Brain shockingly produces a solution, something it should not have been able to do, as Alfred Lanning and Susan Calvin earlier noted that any solution would be in direct violation of the Laws of Robotics because it would require harm to human beings. The Brain should have either given the sheet back or malfunctioned entirely, like Consolidated’s robot, yet it does not. This leaves Susan Calvin incredibly wary, thinking The Brain will malfunction at any moment if someone says the wrong thing to it. She orders no one to speak to it until she figures out what happened.

The first half of this short story presents another clear example of the human inability to predict the actions of their creations, despite their intent. Where the intent behind Susan Calvin’s request does not matter, because The Brain


interprets it in an unpredictable way she now has to solve. Susan falls victim to Wimsatt and Beardsley’s ideas of intentional fallacy because the intention behind her request to The Brain no longer matters when his language interpretation produces ambiguity within the Laws of Robotics. Ultimately, allowing Asimov to weave a complex interplay between intention, interpretation, and language ambiguity in a manner agreeable to the New Critics.

In the second half of “Escape,” Asimov not only furthers his display of language ambiguities and their interference with the Laws of Robotics, but he also masterfully utilizes paradox. The story picks up when Donovon and Powell come to the space station in preparation to test the hyperspace ship The Brain builds with its solution. At the time, Alfred Lanning and Susan Calvin are unsure if the ship is done, but allow Donovon and Powell to board it and look around. However, The Brain makes the ship take off while they are on it, shocking everyone on the space station. While Susan Calvin frantically attempts to figure out why The Brain sent the ship off, Donovon and Powell, realizing the ship has no manual controls, are left to the whims of The Brain while floating through space with an unknown

goal. However, Susan soon discovers that The Brain’s dilemma focuses on the hyperspace or interstellar jump when another scientist Bogert figures out that “The interstellar jump is not instantaneous–not as long as the speed of light is finite. Life can’t exist ... matter and energy as such can’t exist in the space warp. I don’t know what it would be like—but that’s it. That’s what killed Consolidated’s robot” (Asimov 195). Thus, Susan now knows exactly which part of the equation is responsible for the death of Consolidated’s robot and must now carefully ask The Brain how he solved this part of the equation, without causing him to malfunction entirely. Meanwhile, Donovon and Powell realize the ship is moving faster and suddenly Powell says “Something broke loose and whirled in a blaze of flickering light and pain” (Asimov 197). He then experiences a series of horrific visions about death and hell before coming back to his body and asking Donovon “‘Greg,’ he whispered in what was almost a sob, ‘were you dead?’’ (Asimov 197). Thus, it becomes evident that solving the hyperspace drive equation involves both pain and a momentary death for humans, something that The Brain cannot talk about lest he malfunction entirely. Susan Calvin finally realizes how The Brain was able to


solve the equation and says, “But I had depressed the importance of death of humans to The Brain—not entirely, for the First Law can never be broken—but just sufficiently so that The Brain could take a second look at the equation (Asimov 203). Thus bringing it back to the beginning of the short story, Susan herself is inadvertently saying that The Brain interpreted her earlier statement about death in a way different than she intended. Its interpretation of her language produced enough ambiguity within the Laws of Robotics to allow it to momentarily “break” a law. Not only that, but I argue that allowing for the death of humans, however temporary, is perhaps the clearest example of a robot paradoxically following the Laws of Robotics in all of Asimov’s I, Robot stories. It directly goes against everything the First Law says, simultaneously breaking it yet still following it at the same time, because in the end Donovon and Powell are fine. Yet, this small apparent breakage of the Law introduces several possible problems, just as the small change to the First Law introduces problems in “The Evitable Conflict.” Beauchamp and McCauley would argue that this breakage of the Law is the “Frankenstein Complex” in action. However, I believe Asimov is instead showcasing the important role

language misinterpretation can play in perpetuating these complexes.

Overall, I argue that by missing Asimov’s use of paradox and ambiguity, critics miss what Brooks would call subtlety and accuracy in Asimov’s work, rather than error or confusion. Not only does Asimov use paradox to question the subconscious fears of the “Frankenstein Complex,” but he also uses it to criticize intention. Human intention underlies the very Laws that make up the stories in I, Robot, and it is essential that we do not dismiss this. After all, Susan Calvin asserts the robot’s positronic brain “is built by humans and is therefore built according to human values” (Asimov 177). Yet this creates irony when humans still cannot even predict the actions of their own creations. Furthermore, the robots illustrate ways in which language interpretation can create ambiguity, in something that is not purposefully created to be ambiguous. By using New Criticism to look at the Laws of Robotics, we can judge the robots on their actions. I, Robot presents robots who initially seem to contradict the very things they were intended to do, yet I argue this adds deeper nuance to Asimov’s work. These stories exemplify that something can be successful as a work even when it may go against its


intention. Because ultimately, the robots still protect humanity, even if, by the end of I, Robot, they now control it.

Works Cited

Beauchamp, Gorman. “The Frankenstein Complex and Asimov’s Robots.” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, vol. 13, no. 3/4, 1980, pp. 83–94. JSTOR, 24780264 .

Beardsley, Monroe, Wimsatt, William. “The Intentional Fallacy.” In The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 3rd, Edition, M.W. Norton & Company, 2018, pp. 1195-1210.

Brooks, Cleanth. The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry, Harvest Book Harcourt, INC. Orlando, 1947.

McCauley, Lee. “The Frankenstein complex and Asimov’s three laws.” Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence: Pdf. Memphis, 2007 Papers/Workshops/2007/WS-07-07/ WS07-07-003.

Warrick, Patricia S. “Ethical Evolving Artificial Intelligence: Asimov’s Computers and Robots.” Isaac Asimov. Ed. Joseph D. Olander and Martin Harry Greenberg. New York: Taplinger, 1977. 174-200.


How Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists Define and Defend Women’s Spaces

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Hannah Dudley Shotwell Cormier Honors College Abstract

Since the emergence of sexchange surgeries in the 1970s, there has been a major upset in how women’s spaces are defined and guarded. Trans-exclusionary radical feminists have adopted a variety of reasons to exclude transgender women from a spectrum of women’s spaces. These spaces exist in an array of ways, from physical to rhetorical, and each is accompanied by different justifications for excluding trans women. This article explores TERFs’ reasoning to warrant their exclusion of transgender women. Many TERFs believe that by including and accepting trans women, they are lessening the chances of cisgender women being recognized within society. TERFs suspect that society’s conflation of

transgender women and cisgender women will cause them to experience greater oppression at the hands of the patriarchy.

When Olivia Records hired Sandy Stone in 1976, no one predicted the extreme reactions that would follow. Olivia Records is a collective that was founded by ten radical lesbian feminists in 1973. The collective was so tightly knit that the women lived together and pooled their income. It was founded by the Furies, a well-known radical lesbian separatist group. Lesbian separatists emerged as a subgroup of feminists during the 1970s and became known for their attempts and displays of withdrawing from mainstream society. Many had no interest working alongside women who were in heterosexual relationships,


fearing that these women would hold them back from achieving their goal: a life free of the consequences of male superiority. A very important distinction many lesbian separatists were keen to impress upon outsiders was that they had withdrawn themselves from the patriarchal society on their own terms. They argued that every aspect of a women life—education, economics, etc.—was affected by the patriarchy. Sociologist Arlene Stein observed that separatists encouraged the complete exclusion of men by “deprecating heterosexual relationships and by generating a culture and vocabulary that valued and even idealized lesbianism.”1 The goal of creating a new society was to provide women with a space free of inferiority to men.2 Lesbian feminists like the Furies believed that the creation of separatist collectives was not only a job, but also a way of life.

Olivia Records gained popularity among feminist movements during the 70s and was particularly important to lesbian activists because it offered a space that was devoid of men and not particularly welcoming to heterosexual cisgender women. When the Furies founded Olivia Records, they realized that because women had been financially dependent on men for so long, they

often severely lacked the skills that they needed to begin and maintain businesses.3 Sandy Stone was a transgender woman. Before Stone began presenting as a woman, her opportunities to build technological skills, including working alongside rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix, were probably only available because she was presenting as a man. Stone, who had identified as a man for nearly 40 years, had been allowed and encouraged to build a career in music production. This was an opportunity that many cis women would not have been privy to due to gender discrimination within the workforce. Once hired at Oliva Records, Stone’s skills were crucial in keeping the business running smoothly.4

Shortly after Stone began working for the collective, Olivia Records started receiving letters that questioned their decision to employ Stone. The letters accused the collective of being deceptive and not upholding their promise to work solely with women. The letters were blatantly transphobic and accused Stone of “taking work away from women.” Olivia responded by asserting that Stone had relinquished her privilege of being a male and now experienced the oppression of being a woman, a lesbian, and a transgender individual: “Because


Sandy decided to give up completely and permanently her male identity and live as a woman and a lesbian, she is now faced with the same kinds of oppression that other women and lesbians face.”5

Although the women within the collective were not deterred by the fact that Stone was transgender, it angered a swarm of TERFs, or trans-exclusionary radical feminists. Many TERFs were concerned that Stone had not identified as a woman for her entire life, which differentiated her from the cisgender women within the collective. This alliance between a transgender woman and a lesbian separatist group was a catalyst for many TERFs to publicly reject transgender women as legitimate women. Focusing on TERF’s actions towards Stone can help researchers to identify some of the most raw and blatant displays of exclusion that many transgender women have faced for decades.

In 1977, nearly two dozen TERFs co-authored a letter to Olivia Records, blatantly expressing their concerns regarding Stone’s employment.6 They stated, “When we did discover the truth about Stone and tried to discuss this with you, we were told that you considered him very much a woman … This was very painful to hear and indicated

a great lack of respect and love for women and our struggle.”7 They felt betrayed and conned into working alongside a collective that had such opposing views. From the TERFs’ perspective, Olivia’s acceptance of Stone went directly against the core values of lesbian separatism. This is because the TERFs viewed Stone as an individual that embodied the patriarchy, regardless of Stone’s gender identity.

In an interview with historian Cristan Williams, Stone recalled one of the many times she faced violent threats from people angered by her association with Olivia Records:

We [Olivia Records] had organized this tour and we had gotten a letter telling us that when we got to Seattle that there was a separatist paramilitary group called the Gorgons. The Gorgons were a group of women who wore camo gear, shaved their heads and carried live weapons. We were told that when we got to town, they were going to kill me.8

When the Gorgons arrived at the concert, security confiscated their weapons and Stone narrowly avoided a violent confrontation. This encounter was the final straw for Sandy Stone, who left the collective soon after.9


The demands for Sandy Stone’s removal and disaffiliation from Olivia Records illustrate one of the many ways that late twentieth-century TERFs tried to guard spaces that were designated as “women only.” TERFs do not view transgenderism as legitimate and often seek to undermine transgender women’s identities. The violence and threats that Stone, and in turn Olivia Records, faced at the hands of TERFs indicated how passionate TERFs felt about protecting these spaces.

Radical feminist author Janice Raymond designated an entire chapter in her 1979 book The Transsexual Empire to addressing her disapproval of lesbian transgender women.10 Although the chapter did not specifically name anyone, it was clear that it targeted Sandy Stone. In the chapter, Raymond wrote about her very extreme generalizations about trans women. She stated that “all transsexuals rape women’s bodies” and “transsexuals merely cut off the most obvious means of invading women so that they seem noninvasive.” She went on to clarify that “rape, although it is usually done by force, can also be accomplished by deception.” Her assertion that transgender women “cut off” something can be interpreted as the removal of physical genitalia. Raymond accuses trans women

of trying to convince the public that by physically removing something that makes them biologically male, they have limited their ability to rape or pose a threat to cis women. She argued that this was simply a distraction to hide the fact that trans women were still forcing their way into women’s spaces, in an act of metaphorical rape. Raymond also said that “accepting transsexuals into the feminist community is only another rather unique variation on the age-old theme of women nurturing men.”11 She accused trans women of preying on the sympathetic and gracious nature that had been instilled in women since birth and insinuated that the Furies were simply falling victim to that by employing Sandy Stone.

By analyzing the motives of TERFs, researchers can identify more subtle ways that trans women have been expelled from women’s spaces. The areas that TERFs are striving to protect are vast. Some interpret this very literally and are adamant about protecting physical spaces like events intended to be “women-only.” The most notable and controversial spaces that are included in this conversation in the twenty-first century typically include bathrooms and gendered sports. However, I argue that the spaces TERFs seek to protect


extend far past the physical, and into rhetorical spaces, policing how transgender women are shuffled into generalizations, and opinions about women as a whole.

One of the goals of feminism is to dismantle the patriarchy, thereby creating a society that frees all members from the constraints and limitations of it. Lesbian separatists and TERFs are both known to be vehement opponents of the patriarchy. The patriarchy is the system that western society has adopted which allows men to hold most of the power, while excluding and oppressing women. Both lesbian separatist feminists and TERFs have historically been adamant that women needed spaces, both physical and rhetorical, where they can exist free from the burdens of the patriarchy. This is necessary because it allows women a space where their gender does not automatically make them an inferior entity.

In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, it has become increasingly common for transgender women (and other people on the queer spectrum) to seek a gender identity that does not force them into the binary. However, TERFs view the spectrum of gender identities as a strict binary,

which is made up of only men and women. Consequently, TERFs view transgender women as men that are attempting to invade women’s spaces. TERFs are also looking to protect rhetorical spaces, such as the language used to describe and refer to women. For example, in 2020, author J.K. Rowling criticized the term “people who menstruate.” This demonstrates how TERFs often oppose gender-inclusive language in scenarios that they view as only affecting cisgender women.

Physical spaces that are labeled as women-only may seem like a straightforward solution for TERFs, because by their rationale, these spaces only admit cisgender women. But cases such as Sandy Stone’s employment at Olivia Records indicate just how difficult it would be to unanimously agree on whose admittance was allowed. A well-known example of this conundrum played out at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival in 1991 and 1992. MichFest was a huge, lesbianrun event advertised as for women only, hosted with the intention of creating an environment where women could artistically express themselves, free of men. In 1991, the leaders of the festival enforced the exclusion of Nancy Burkholder, a trans woman. An interview with radical lesbian activist Janis


Walworth, a friend of Burkholder, reported that many lesbian separatists were opposed to trans-exclusive practices. She recalled that the Leather Dykes, a popular and influential lesbian separatist group at the time, blatantly disapproved of the trans-exclusionary policies enforced by the festival. Walworth said “the Leather Dykes were trying to convince our folks to not leave the festival. They said that they would provide bodyguard protection for our group in their camp.” The opinions of attendees were split, with some women advocating for Burkholder’s inclusion, and others insistent that her removal was necessary.12

Jean O’Leary’s comments directed towards well-known drag queen

Sylvia Rivera at the Gay Pride Parade in 1973 offer a glimpse into another facet of TERF ideology. O’Leary was angered by Rivera’s presence at the parade, and announced to the crowd that “A man, Sylvia, got up here and caused a ruckus.” In Jean O’Leary’s case, her exclusionary beliefs stemmed from the fear that trans women would stunt the expansion and progression of cis women’s rights.

In an interview with Making Gay History in 2023, O’Leary admitted that her comments were hurtful but stressed that her anger stemmed

from frustration with drag queens. She said that she was originally protesting the drag queens attending the festival as entertainment. She felt that they played into the harmful stereotypes that many feminists were trying so hard to break down.13

O’Leary maintained that her comments were not meant to be directed towards trans women, but towards the performers who were insulting cis women. Additionally, these statements were clouded by the fact that many people identified as transgender, crossdressers, and drag queens interchangeably. Therefore, it is hard to decipher exactly which expression of identity

O’Leary was frustrated with. Drag queens and transgender women often purposefully imitated traits that were commonly associated with cisgender women. Many feminists, such as O’Leary, thought that the traits most often imitated were attributes that cis woman felt oppressed by, such as donning excessive amounts of makeup and opting to act as the subordinate partner.

Many well-known transgender women went to great lengths to portray themselves as similar or nearly identical to cisgender women. They were eager to assimilate into the character of a woman living within a patriarchal society.

For example, in 1963, trans woman

Hedy Jo Star wrote, “I wanted the


sensual feel of lingerie against my skin, I wanted to brighten my face with cosmetics. I wanted a strong man to protect me.”14 Star was more than willing to play the role of the damsel in distress. She was longing to live as a woman was expected to live, fixing her appearance for the approval of men, and submitting as a weaker entity. In 1930, Lili Elbe wrote immediately after surgery, “Now there was only a perfectly humble woman, who was ready to obey, who was happy to submit herself to the will of another.”15 Like Star, Elbe yearned to play the role of the subservient gender. These statements give the impression of transgender women willingly positioning themselves as victims of the patriarchy. However, these statements can also be seen as an effort to rectify personal gender dysphoria and neatly tuck themselves into the dichotomous gender roles.

Despite the efforts of women like Star and Elbe, trans women were not wholly accepted into the binary, even by some feminists. TERFs denied their validity as women and insisted that trans women would always truly be men. By continuously emulating these qualities, some feminists thought that many drag queens and transgender women, such as Star and Elbe, per-

petuated these oppressive stereotypes that were established by the patriarchy. Feminists, especially TERFs, felt that this negatively affected the public portrayal of women as a whole. While it is common for transgender women to embody these expectations that cisgender women are trying to break free from, TERFs often feel that trans women simultaneously possess traits of men that are undeniably present, such as acting superior to cisgender women. Robin Morgan, a very outspoken TERF, said, “Then what but male style is happening when we accept the male transvestite who chooses to wear women’s dresses and make up, but sneer at the female who is still forced to wear them for survival?” Morgan also used this example to highlight the element of choice that cis women will never have.16

A great number of TERFs feel that by identifying as “women,” trans women are occupying a space within that rhetorical identifier. Their exclusion focuses more heavily on the room, both literal and metaphorical, that trans women occupy, rather than how the perception of that space was altered by their inclusion. I argue that jealousy plays a significant role in this exclusion. Many TERFs are envious of


transgender women for having the choice of being a man when it was most “convenient.” Alternatively, they believe, cisgender women do not have the privilege of stepping outside of their patriarchally defined roles. TERFs generally agree that trans women will never fully be able to understand the pain that cis women endure. Janice Raymond said that “a transsexually constructed lesbian-feminist is a man, and not a woman encumbered by the scars of patriarchy.”17 This suggests that Raymond defines women as people who have endured the same abuse and consequences of the patriarchy. She believes the patriarchy trains women to adopt a caregiving role to serve all men and that women have a moral responsibility to cushion and aid the lives of the men around them, with no reward or incentive other than male approval. Lesbian separatists often associated the patriarchy with anyone who took an active role in upholding or submitting to it. Alternatively, TERFs have adopted a more literal definition and believe the patriarchy is present in anyone who has ever been designated male, regardless of whether the individual continues to instill and perpetuate this system.

In 2020, Rowling said that she respected “every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them.” This suggests that Rowling does not have a problem with the fact that transgender people are striving to feel comfortable within society. Her objection arose when a trans woman identified as a woman in the same way a cisgender woman identified as a woman. She feels the need to defend spaces that feminists have worked so hard to eradicate male presence from. Based on her publicly published opinions, Rowling sees the personal identifier “woman” as a space that needs defending. The same conclusion can be drawn from O’Leary’s comments. She was not in opposition to the transgender visibility at the Gay Pride Parade but felt that the presence of drag queens took something away from cisgender women’s progression.

Some TERFs even claim to be proponents of transgender rights.

I argue that TERF’s biggest complaints are drawn from the fear that if transgender women were accepted as women, then it would result in some type of loss for cisgender women. In 2015, political scientist, Sheila Jeffreys, stated that “The protection of a category of men to express their ‘gender’ should not conflict with womens’ right to protection from discrimination


as persons of the female sex.”18

Jeffreys argued that the lumping of women’s discrimination on the basis of sex, and transgender women’s discrimination on the basis of gender does not mesh in a cohesive or productive way. It is the comparison of apples and oranges and does not allow either group to be heard to their full potential, because there are certain issues that are specific to each group. After the Dobbs decision, reproductive justice advocate Loretta Ross said that “using gender-neutral language around pregnancy, abortion and sex discrimination is as damaging as using colorblind language around race discrimination because it fails to identify the targets, the victims and the specificity of the oppression.”

Ross seems to claim that there is such a thing as being too inclusive, because it weakens our ability to grasp who is really enduring oppression and discrimination. Many feminists have come to a crossroads about how to best approach the language they use when discussing issues that affect a subgroup of people. One path is to use genderinclusive language, but this runs the risk of decreasing the awareness of how severely sex-based this restrictive discrimination really is. On the other hand, some feminists choose to speak specifically about how this is harming cis women,

but this leads to the exclusion of trans men, trans women, and non-binary people.

Situational variation makes it difficult for feminists to construct consistent and unanimously agreed upon criteria for qualifying as a woman. Unfortunately, the sacrifices some feminists make in order to be all-inclusive may be in vain. For example, feminist authors Carrie Baker and Carly Thomsen assert that many twenty-first century legislators who pass abortion bans are doing so with a mindset that does not even acknowledge the existence of a spectrum of gender identities.19 TERFs strongly oppose trans-inclusion because they feel it invites the opportunity to be further oppressed within a space that should be free of patriarchal oppression. By excluding trans women, TERFs feel that the needs of cisgender women will be more visible, and issues of feminism will be more unified. Unfortunately, regardless of how visible issues may be, legislators’ blatant disregard for the spectrum of gender identities makes it nearly impossible for legislation to properly address everyone’s needs. The harsh reality is that if feminists do not create spaces that allow for the inclusion of trans women, then it is unlikely anyone else will.



1. Arlene Stein, Sex and Sensibility: Stories of a Lesbian Generation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 73.

2. A.M. Valk, “Living a Feminist Lifestyle: The Intersection of Theory and Action in a Lesbian Feminist Collective,” Feminist Studies, 28(2) (2002): 303–332, ; Julie Enszer, “Rethinking Lesbian Separatism as a Vibrant Political Theory and Feminist Practice,” 2014 2013/10/Enszer-Rethinking-LesbianSeparatism.pdf.

3. Enszer, “Rethinking Lesbian Separatism.”

4. Felix Moore, “How a Feminist, Lesbian Collective Defended Trans Rights in 1970s La.” PinkNews, April 24, 2023. ; Bonnie Morris (2015) Olivia Records: The Production of a Movement, Journal of Lesbian Studies,19:3, 290-304, DOI: 10.1080/ 10894160.2015.1026699; Enszer, “Rethinking Lesbian Separatism.”

5. Marti Abernathey, “Transphobic Radical Hate Didn’t Start with Brennan: The Sandy Stone-Olivia Records Controversy.” TransAdvocate, August 24, 2022. n_4112.htm.

6. Cristan Williams, “How Terf Violence Inspired Camp Trans,” TransAdvocate, January 17, 2020. how-terf-violence-inspired-camptrans_n_14413.htm. ; Autumn Sandeen,

“Equivocation and Lies in Lisa Vogel’s August 18th Statement,” TransAdvocate, June 26, 2018. equivocation-and-lies-in-lisa-vogels-august18th-statement_n_14444.htm.

7. Sandeen, “Equivocation and Lies.”

8. TCP, “Sex Essentialist Violence and Radical Inclusion: An Interview With Sandy Stone,” The Conversations Project, February 15, 2016.

9. Moore, “How a Feminist, Lesbian Collective Defended Trans Rights.”

10. TCP, “Sex Essentialist Violence.”

11. Janice Raymond, The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male (Teachers College Press, 1994), 110.

12. Williams, “How TERF Violence Inspired Camp Trans.”

13. Carly Thomsen and Carrie Baker “The Importance of Talking about Women in the Fight Against Abortion Bans,” Ms. Magazine, June 23, 2022.

14. Sandy Stone, The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttransexual Manifesto, 1987, 6, https://

15. Ibid., 7.

16. Morgan, Robin. Essay. In Lesbianism and Feminism, Synonyms or Contradictions?, 15, 1975.

17. Raymond, The Transsexual Empire, 103.

18. Ruth Barrett and Sheila Jeffreys, “Transgender Equality Versus Women’s Equality: A Clash of Rights?” in Female Erasure:


What You Need to Know about Gender Politics’ War on Women, the Female Sex and Human Rights, ed Ruth Barrett (Tidal Time Publishing) 2016: 57.

19. Thomsen and Baker, “The Importance of Talking about Women.”


Abernathey, Marti. “Transphobic Radical Hate Didn’t Start with Brennan: The Sandy StoneOlivia Records Controversy.” TransAdvocate, August 24, 2022.

Barrett, Ruth, and Sheila Jeffreys. “Transgender Equality Versus Women’s Equality: A Clash of Rights?” Female Erasure: What You Need to Know about Gender Politics’ War on Women, the Female Sex and Human Rights, Tidal Time Publishing, LLC, 2016.

Bonnie Morris. “Olivia Records: The Production of a Movement” Journal of Lesbian Studies, 19:3, (2015) 290-304, 10.1080/10894160.2015.1026699.

Enszer, Julie R. “Rethinking Lesbian Separatism as a Vibrant Political Theory and Feminist Practice.” 2014. wgs/files/2013/10/Enszer-Rethinking-Lesbian-Separatism.pdf.

Moore, Felix. “How a Feminist, Lesbian Collective Defended Trans Rights in 1970s La.” PinkNews, April 24, 2023.

Morgan, Robin. “In Lesbianism and Feminism, Synonyms or Contradictions” West Coast Lesbian Feminist Conference, 1975.

Raymond, Janice G. The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male. Teachers College Press, 1994.

Sandeen, Autumn. “Equivocation and Lies in Lisa Vogel’s August 18th Statement.” TransAdvocate, June 26, 2018.

Stein, Arlene. Sex and Sensibility: Stories of a Lesbian Generation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Stone, Sandy. “Sex Essentialist Violence And Radical Inclusion: An Interview With Sandy Stone.” Interview by TCP. The Conversations Project. February 15, 2016. http://radfem.

Stone, Sandy. The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttransexual Manifesto. 1987.

Thomsen, Carly, and Carrie N Baker. “The Importance of Talking about Women in the Fight Against Abortion Bans.” Ms. Magazine, June 23, 2022. 2022/06/23/women-abortion-bans-inclusive-language-pregnant-people/ - :~:text= We become much less self,misogyny of anti-abortion laws.

Valk, A. M. “Living a feminist lifestyle: The Intersection of Theory and Action in a Lesbian Feminist Collective.” Feminist Studies 28(2), (2002): 303-332. 10.2307/3178744.

Williams, Cristan. “How Terf Violence Inspired Camp Trans.” TransAdvocate, January 17, 2020.


The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

Faculty Advisor: Dr. David Coles Department of History, Political Science, and Philosophy

President Abraham Lincoln began Reconstruction in late 1863, when he issued his Proclamation of Reconstruction. By doing so, he understood that some level of political and societal change was necessary in the South. The plan was altered by Lincoln’s assassination, which placed Vice President Andrew Johnson in charge of the post-war period. Johnson’s impeachment was, in part, shaped by the many disagreements and personal attacks he aimed at Republicans. The new Congress passed laws limiting presidential power, such as the Army Appropriations Act and the Tenure of Office Act. The latter stated that officials confirmed by the Senate required senatorial consent to be removed.1

In 1868, after Johnson removed Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War, the House of Representatives impeached the president with 11 articles involving abuses of power.

Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, however, was not justified under the act. As there was no legal precedent the act, it was fundamentally flawed. Also, impeachment was done to showcase opposition, but not to completely remove the president.

The principle of cabinet secretaries advising the president cannot be expressly found in the Constitution; however, it does state that the president “may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices.”2

This power, like Article III establishing the courts, allows Congress to establish departments within the executive branch; the advice received is up to the discretion of the president.3 President George Washington established the cabinet, which included key figures such


as Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. They provided insight from their own perspectives and through their understandings of their departments. They met to advise Washington on various issues including foreign policy and the financial plan. Thus, Washington set the standard on which departments ought to be filled with secretaries and their various roles within government. Washington’s cabinet members and subsequently all future secretaries, unlike those in other nations (such as Great Britain), did not hold any position in the legislature.4

The departments in which Jefferson and Hamilton served were established by the first Congress, by representative James Madison. Within the debates of “the Bill for establishing an executive Department,” Congress debated whether the president or Congress ought to be given the authority to remove appointed officials. 5 These debates, conducted by Madison and Elbridge Gerry centered on the balance of power between the two branches.6 Some representatives, who recently fought in the Revolutionary War, feared the president having too much power. In what has become known as the Decision of 1789, the House voted on the president’s

power to remove cabinet officials, and the vote came down to 34-20 in favor.7 The bill was then sent to the Senate for passage, and a similar debate transpired; however, the Senate was evenly split. Therefore, Vice President John Adams, as leader of the Senate, broke the tie, arguing that removal was an inherent part of the president’s “appointment power.”8

President Andrew Johnson was familiar with the actions of previous presidents, and he used them to justify his own. This is evident from an interview conducted with the New York World magazine on March 7th, 1868 in which he was asked about the trial. In this interview, Johnson read three letters from the papers of then President John Adams in which Adams asked Secretary Timothy Pickering to resign.9 Pickering refused, and Adams responded by removing him from office in 1800. This reaffirmed his previous action of breaking the tie as vice president and would serve as precedent for future presidents. During the trial, Johnson’s legal defense also referred to this precedent. In the 1830s and 40s, Andrew Jackson began to expand the president’s power, including from his enemies in Congress and even in his cabinet. The controversy over the National Bank resulted from Jack-


son’s desire to redirect the banks funding to the states. He was prevented by the Bank bill of 1816, which stated only the Secretary of the Treasury may redirect funds, so he fired many Secretaries of the Treasury until one obliged.10 Many prominent figures of the time believed that his actions were illegal and abuses of power; however, he was never indicted on any charge, nor was he impeached. Johnson understood that the power of removal was a long standing and already tested power; thus, he questioned the legality of the Tenure of Office Act. There were actually two laws with the name, which were passed in 1820 and the other in 1867. The former introduced term limits, limiting how long lower-level executive officials were allowed to serve, a law meant to aid incoming presidents.11 The law did not mention cabinet secretaries as they would usually not be reappointed by incoming presidents, while some of the other staff were kept on, especially, if the same party maintained control. The law was eventually succeeded by its 1867 counterpart.

As a majority of the Democratic south seceded in 1861, Republicans maintained a large hold on congressional seats. Prior to the 1866 congressional elections, however, there were not enough Republicans to

guarantee veto overrides. In the lead up to the election, the definitive issue was Reconstruction, specifically who would control it. As a southerner, Johnson believed in an easier readmittance process for the ex-Confederate states allowing for the nation to heal with fewer changes. While the “radicals” of the Republican party shared the goal of readmittance, they believed in harsher terms for the states and a harder process in order to ensure their loyalty to the United States, as well as more equality for African Americans. Thus, the Republican political leaders of the northern states became increasingly disappointed in Johnson’s lenient attitude toward the South, especially his reluctance to push for equal rights.12 This debate was infused with new vigor when Johnson issued the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction in May 1865, which allowed many Confederate leaders to apply for pardons and established the groundwork for states to be readmitted.13 These requirements required that each state “nullify its secession ordinance, ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, and … repudiate its Confederate debt.”14

Johnson, like Jackson before him, issued many vetoes in order to expand upon his own view on


governance. This led to vetoes of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Freedman’s Bureau Act, which alienated the moderate Republicans, as the laws were responses to the increasing institutionalization of the Black Codes.15 This would later cause many of the Republican Senators to band together during the trial. This tension was exacerbated further by the president’s personal direct attacks in his speeches, especially in his infamous “swing around the circle” speeches in the lead up to the upcoming election.16 These speeches were a series of campaign stops given at various train stations, in which the people gathered to see and hear the president. However, the voter mobilization effort was not a success.

The election gave already powerful leaders such as Thaddeus Stevens and Benjamin Butler even more power. Such prominent figures, along with Edwin Stanton and the General of the Army, Ulysses S. Grant became increasingly frustrated with Johnson’s governance and began to work against him.

In January 1867, Representative James M. Ashley from Ohio, supported by Stevens, presented the first articles of impeachment against Johnson, citing corruption of presidential powers.17 This was an important development in a newly

energized Republican party, which saw the recent elections as approval to disrupt Johnson’s Reconstruction plans. This group also worked around Johnson by admitting Nebraska as a state, thus gaining more Republican seats, and implementing African American male suffrage in Washington D.C.18 The Army Appropriations Act (created by Edwin Stanton but was introduced by Stevens) became law. It stated that all orders in the military must go through the General of the Army, thus ensuring its effectiveness. It granted more power to Grant at Johnson’s expense. Johnson vetoed each of these laws, but Congress overrode him.19

Thaddeus Stevens wrote the Tenure of Office Act and used precise language to describe violators as having committed “high misdemeanors.”20 It was emphasizing on the two requirements for impeachment: “high crimes” and “misdemeanors.” As Stanton was the lone “Radical” Republican in Johnson’s cabinet, the law has largely been seen as a way to retain him in such a powerful position. When vetoing a bill, the president, or often a cabinet member on the president’s behalf, would issue a message outlining his reasoning for doing so. With the Tenure of Office Act, Stanton issued the veto message.21


Shortly after the law was enacted in 1867, Congress went out of session.

Johnson, like Adams sixty-seven years earlier, sent Stanton a letter requesting his immediate resignation. Since Stanton needed Congress to restore him to his position, as they would not confirm Johnson’s decision, he was suspended. Thus, Johnson was able to appoint Ulysses S. Grant as interim Secretary of War.22

Grant reluctantly served in his new position until January 1868, when Congress returned to session. In a letter sent to Johnson on January 28th and followed up on the 3rd of February, Grant revealed that his character had been attacked.23 He accepted the job, as it was necessary to the function of effective governance, and in return, many calumnious stories about him were released. Grant believed that Johnson was the source.24 Grant also stated that while the Tenure of Office Act’s provisions were questionable, the law is the law and he ought not be implicated in such matters, especially since he had written to Johnson about removal of Stanton as a violation of the law and questioning his motives.25 Grant also maintained frequent correspondence with William T. Sherman, Sherman was also convinced that Johnson was the source of attacks

against Grant.26 Sherman discussed resigning if Johnson broke the law involved him as a high ranking military official, as he had attempted with Grant. Grant then wrote to Sherman: “You do not owe Mr. Johnson anything and he is not entitled to such a sacrifice from you.”27

These letters showcase Grant’s growing animosity towards Johnson.

Congress voted to reinstate Stanton on January 13, 1868, but Johnson removed him once again. Johnson then tried to appoint Lorenzo Thomas, the moderate Adjutant General who had served under Lincoln and into Johnson’s term, thus sparking the successful vote of impeachment on February 24, 1868.

The House, headed by representatives Stevens and Butler adopted 11 articles of impeachment, which were passed by an overwhelming majority of the representatives: 126-47.28 The first article charged Johnson was charged with knowingly breaking the law and thus breaking his oath of office, the second article for removing Stanton without Senatorial consent, and the third for appointing a replacement without Senate approval.29

The fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and ninth articles centered on Johnson’s alleged conspiracy against the government by undermining its laws, especially the Tenure of Office Act


(In particular by granting Thomas access to documents that Stanton would have had access to).30 The eighth article charged Johnson with violating the Military Appropriations Act by sending orders past Stanton to Grant. Article ten focused on Johnson’s speeches given during the 1866 election and how he used violent language to describe the government and members of Congress.31 The eleventh article was written by a skeptical Stevens, as an amalgamation of the ten before it, in order to have a greater chance of success in the Senate.32 The trial was to be overseen by Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase. He, along with each Senator, swore an oath to seek and decide based on “impartial justice under the law.”33 The prosecution and the defense were made up of “managers,” members of the House who served similar roles to attorneys in a criminal case. These were John Bingham, George Boutwell, James Wilson, John Logan, Thomas Williams, Benjamin Butler and Stevens.34 Johnson’s defense team was headed by Benjamin Curtis, William Evarts, Henry Stanbery, Thomas Nelson, and William S. Groesbeck.35

As Johnson had no vice president, President Pro Tempore Benjamin Wade, was next in line to the presidency after the vice president.36

The Senate first debated whether,

as successor, he could vote impartially. He was ultimately allowed to serve because of his strong alliance with the Republicans, who held a majority.37

The trial began on the fifth of March; but proceedings took much of the first week. The trial was also delayed, thus arguments on the case itself were not heard until the twenty-fourth after Johnson’s response to the articles were read to the Senate.38 Benjamin Butler opened the debate by stating: “Now, for the first time in the history of the world, has a nation brought before its highest tribunal its chief executive magistrate for trial and possible deposition, upon charges of maladministration of the powers and duties of that office.”39 He continued and described Johnson’s actions and how they were unconstitutional and in violation of the Tenure of Office Act. The argument centered on his philosophy that the abuse of power was Johnson’s ultimate crime; in other words, any crime would serve as enough to bring the impeachment articles. Thus, the Tenure of Office Act was a vessel to the larger issue at hand: Johnson. Butler argued that the president cannot choose which laws to follow; they must follow the law as prescribed.40


Butler’s argument lost some of its weight, however, when he began describing and quoting what the president had said. With quotes such as “factions, domineering, tyrannical Congress has undertaken to posing the minds of the American people … this common gang of cormorants and bloodsuckers, have been flattening upon the country for the past four or five years.”41

Such an argument was problematic, since it had been two years since he had spoken them; if they were truly crimes, they ought to have been brought in earlier. But secondly, there was no official records of what Johnson had said.42 Butler relied on this testimony. Witnesses included observers who had not even heard the entire speech. As the speeches had occurred two years earlier, this brought a number of accuracy considerations.43

The prosecution’s legal argument was reflective of the Republican party’s reactive nature. When Johnson expanded his powers, they had pushed back in force with the vote, and now they were reacting to Johnson breaking the law, believing that if he did once, he would again. Johnson conducted another interview on February 9, 1868, this time with the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune. Johnson used the interview to defend himself and his actions.

He described that he was commander-in-chief, and therefore each member of the military was under his command.44 As a lawyer

Johnson also understood that standing, a legal principle requiring that a case may only be brought if one party faces a legitimate issue based on the law’s provisions, is required to challenge the law in court. As the Tenure of Office Act required the removal of a cabinet member by the Senate rather than the president’s historic role, only he could bring the case. Johnson, in the interview, revealed his frustration when he asked, “has the Executive no rights and no opinions, nothing but blind obedience to the Legislative department?”45 Examining this quote, Johnson’s reasoning for testing the legality of the law makes sense. The reporter also prompted Johnson by suggesting more questionable and drastic motivations such as an attempt to disqualify him from running for president.46

Johnson’s defense team countered the House manager’s view of the Tenure of Office Act by breaking down the law. Beginning on April 15th, the defense lawyers argued that, since Lincoln had appointed Stanton, he was not protected by the act.47 Their arguments mirrored Johnson’s view in the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune interview, as


the president had held removal power for almost seventy years. They demonstrated this by reporting every instance in which a Secretary had been replaced.48 hey also argued that Johnson’s decisions to veto the law were due to its unconstitutionality.49 This was point of focus since Stanton had agreed with the other members of the cabinet and the president, even to the point of writing the veto message. The message stated that the president would need to hold confidence in his cabinet in order to faithfully serve his oath of office.50 By not being able to do so, the president’s administration might not be able to remove corrupt officials. This argument that would later prove to be essential to Johnson’s case, in particular with the moderate Republicans.51

While the Republicans were seemingly united, a memorandum written by General John McAllister Scofield, presented a different perspective.52 In this memo, Scofield described his meetings with William Evarts and Grant concerning Johnson’s trial, more specifically if he would be open to filling the post of Secretary of War. Grant believed that Johnson would be removed from office, but he gave his advice based on two paths: if Johnson were acquitted, Scofield and himself

would work together; but if he lost, Wade’s term would almost be completed and he would not need to fill the position.53 In Scofield’s meeting with Evarts, the latter described that Johnson, by appointing Scofield, was showing that he was willing to work with the Republicans by appointing a radical leaning moderate.54 Evarts explained that some Republican Senators, without naming names, had begun to fear the political fallout if removal did occur.55

If Johnson were removed, then the Democratic Party might become more powerful than ever through political victories, thus the Republicans would win the battle against Johnson but lose their future political prospects. As the matters of suffrage and equal rights were considered, the future elections would have a greater impact than just standard elections as their work with Reconstruction could be repealed. While Evarts did not explain who or how many were involved in this theory, it undoubtedly affected Johnson’s judgment. Johnson went from strong personal attacks to be willing to work with the Republican’s with Scofield. If impeachment caused Johnson to reconsider his position, then the Republicans might have considered the trial a success even if the president were


not convicted. Since the election was the November of the same year, Johnson would have just needed to serve the rest of his term. At the conclusion of the trial, Evarts’ information had been correct as the Senate successfully voted to acquit, falling just one vote short of removal.

In total, seven Republicans senators voted to acquit, including William Pitt Fessenden, John B. Henderson, Peter Van Winkle, Lyman Trumbull, Joseph Smith Fowler, James W. Grimes, and Edmund Ross.56 The vote that assured Johnson’s acquittal was cast by Senator Edmund G. Ross of Kansas. What made Johnson’s acquittal unlikely was that Ross’s seat had previously been filled by Jim Lane, who supported Johnson in many of his actions.57 Facing various health issues and financial ruin, Lane shot and killed himself in 1866. Many Republicans viewed this turn of events as a chance to acquire another vote, thus expanding their majority.58 Edmund Ross was elected to replace Lane. Ross, in the Republican’s view, was a stellar example of Republicanism; he actively worked against slavery and the South throughout his career in Kansas. Thus, the party was very pleased and seemingly assured victory. In most cases, Ross aligned

himself with the party and voted with the majority. However, this was not the case during the impeachment trial. Both prominent figures of the day and historians to this day have only guessed the motive for his vote. In any case his vote resolved the fears of both Johnson and the Republicans. The constitutionality of the Tenure of Office Act was never answered in the trial; thus, it remained law for some time.59

Evarts warned Johnson in July 1868 of the continuation of the law, when Johnson asked the internal revenue collector, Edward A. Rollins, to resign.60 Rollins responded that he would only do so when a successor had been confirmed. Thus, Johnson was powerless to make any further changes without fear of impeachment.61 This, in part, led to his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic Party Nomination. (Ultimately, he endorsed the party candidate Horatio Seymour.) Impeachment was not a key issue in the election of 1868, instead both parties used slogans about restoring the nation. The Republicans used “Let Us Have Peace” and the Democrats used “Peace, Union, and Constitutional Government.”62 Both aimed to reassure the nation that the divide that resulted from impeachment was over, while also referencing Reconstruction. After the results were tabulated,


Republican candidate Ulysses S. Grant won by 134 electoral votes and 300,000 popular votes.63

Johnson’s chief political rival ascended to the Presidency. Grant also took issue with the Tenure of Office Act in his first annual address, in which he stated, “It may be well to mention here the embarrassment possible to arise from leaving on the statute books the so-called ‘tenure-of-office acts,’ and to earnestly recommend their total repeal.” Thus, the law had gained bipartisan criticism, however, it was not repealed for another 20 years.64

Johnson and Grant’s views were shared by Grover Cleveland when he ran for president in 1886. Cleveland, like Jackson and Johnson before him, believed that presidential power had been greatly diminished in favor of Congress and worked to expand his powers.65 His most effective strategy was reshaping the cabinet, especially their roles and appointment.66 This was contrary to earlier presidents who would often rely on their secretaries, such as John Quincy Adams. (Adams, as Secretary of State, wrote the Monroe Doctrine, which protects the Americas from encroachments from the rest of the world.) President Cleveland actively worked to repeal The Tenure of Office Act and was successful on March 7, 1887.

Cleveland’s speeches at the time echoed Johnson’s; both believed that Congress attempted to overstep its power at the president’s expense.67

Thus, power of removal was returned to the president without the consent of the Senate; Cleveland and subsequent presidents have utilized it. However, the president’s removal power was once again tested in the 1926 Supreme Court case Myers v. the United States. The Tenure of Office Act played a major role in the Court’s decision. When Woodrow Wilson was reelected in 1916, Frank Myers was appointed Postmaster General. This, unlike other offices, had a tenure of four years.68 In 1920, however, he was asked to resign but refused; he was then removed. Myers sued, prompting the court to review presidential power of removal.69

This case was unique because the Chief Justice at the time was William Howard Taft, who had served as the twenty-seventh president. Thus, he was well acquainted with the power of the Presidency and how it had evolved over the years. He examined the Annals of Congress relating to the 1789 decision, the Constitution, and Johnson’s impeachment trial as precedent, which led to his view that removal


was indeed a power granted to the president.70 As the Tenure of Office Act had already been repealed, it could not be struck down, but the decision proved that Johnson’s initial view was correct. It both expanded upon presidential power and prevented future attempts to subvert said powers.

When George Washington appointed his cabinet in 1789, they were advisors focused on various areas of governance. Overtime, cabinet members increasingly gained more duties but remained true to their historic role. When the Tenure of Office Act became law in 1866, the removal of a cabinet member became politicized, limiting presidential power and consequently increasing congressional power.

Johnson’s animosity towards his rivals fueled drastic measures by the popular “radical” Republicans, which eventually led to his impeachment and to his subsequent acquittal. The law was later repealed and deemed unconstitutional. While the Republicans went ahead with their plans as a reaction, they also feared what would occur as a result, especially in future elections. This view would later be shared by prominent figures, who had voted to impeach, such as Speaker of the House James G. Blaine who wrote, “It was not

justifiable on the charges made and that its success would have resulted in greater injury to free institutions than Andrew Johnson in his utmost endeavor was able to conflict.”71

Charles Sumner, a leader of the radical republicans who had voted to convict, stated to fellow Senator John B. Henderson, “I don’t want to die without making this confession, that in the matter of impeachment you were right and I was wrong.”72


1. The Tenure of Office Act, 14 Stat. 430 (1867).

2. US Constitution Article II Section 2 Clause 1.

3. Steven G. Calabresi and Kevin H. Rhodes, “The Structural Constitution: Unitary Executive, Plural Judiciary,” Harvard Law Review 105, no. 6 (1992): 1196.

4. Brian Duignan and Carolyn DeCarlo, The Executive Branch: Carrying Out and Enforcing Laws. Checks and Balances in the U.S. Government. (New York: Britannica Educational Publishing, in association with Rosen Educational Services, 2019), 127-129.

5. Jonathan and James Madison, “Removal by the President. On the Bill for Establishing an Executive Department, to Be Denominated the Department of Foreign Affairs” In The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Library), 2009, 7: 350–404.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid, 404.


8. Anonymous, “The President’s Power of Removal” The Yale Law Journal 36, no. 3 (1927): 391.

9. Andrew Johnson, Paul H. Bergeron, and Patricia J. Cable, The Papers of Andrew Johnson September 1867 – March 1868.

16 vols. The Papers of Andrew Johnson. (Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press, 1996), 13: 636.

10. Long, R. Seymour, “Andrew Jackson and the National Bank.” The English Historical Review 12, no. 45 (1897): 91. stable/547320.

11. Saikrishna Prakash, “Removal and Tenure in Office.” Virginia Law Review 92, no. 8 (2006): 1798. stable/4144971.

12. Howard P. Nash, Andrew Johnson: Congress and Reconstruction. (Rutherford New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1972), 110.

13. Ibid, 31-34.

14. Albert Castel, The Presidency of Andrew Johnson. American Presidency Series. (Lawrence: Regents University Press of Kansas, 1979), 206.

15. Jeffrey D. Schultz, Presidential Scandals. (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2000),125.

16. Nash, Andrew Johnson: Congress and Reconstruction. (Rutherford New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1972), 110.

17. Stewart, David O. Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy. 1st Simon & Schuster trade pbk.ed. (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2010), 74.

18. Ibid, 75.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid, 77.

21. Ibid.

22. Robert S. Levine, The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson. (New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2021), 176.

23. Ulysses S. Grant, John Y Simon, and John F Marszalek, The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant October 1, 1867-June 30, 1868, 32 vols, The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant. (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967), 18: 116-118.

24. Ibid.

25. Ron Chernow, Grant. (New York, New York: Penguin Books, 2018), 593.

26. Ulysses S. Grant, The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant October 1, 1867-June 30, 1868, Vol. 18, 166.

27. Ibid.

28. Jeffrey D. Schultz, Presidential Scandals, 130.

29. Andrew Johnson, Paul H. Bergeron, and Patricia J. Cable, The Papers of Andrew Johnson September 1867 - March 1868.

13. Vol. 13, 619.

30. Ibid.

31. Ibid, 624.

32. Robert S. Levine, The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson, 188.

33. William H. Rehnquist, Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson. (1St Quilled. New York: Morrow, 1993), 221.


34. Andrew Johnson, Benjamin Perley Poore, and the United States Congress (40th, 2nd session: 1867-1868). Trial of Andrew Johnson: President of the United States, Before the Senate of the United States, on Impeachment by the House of Representatives for High Crimes and Misdemeanors. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1868), 17.

35. William H. Rehnquist, Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson, 219.

36. Ibid, 211

37. Ibid.

38. Andrew Johnson, Benjamin Perley Poore, and the United States Congress (40th, 2nd session: 1867-1868). Trial of Andrew Johnson: President of the United States, Before the Senate of the United States, on Impeachment by the House of Representatives for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, 37-69.

39. Ibid, 87.

40. Ibid, 148.

41. Ibid, 335.

42. William H. Rehnquist, Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson, 227.

43. Andrew Johnson, Benjamin Perley Poore, and the United States Congress (40th, 2nd session: 1867-1868). Trial of Andrew Johnson: President of the United States, Before the Senate of the United States, on Impeachment by the House of Representatives for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, 319.

44. Andrew Johnson, Paul H. Bergeron, and Patricia J. Cable, The Papers of Andrew Johnson September 1867 – March 1868, 13:541.

45. Ibid.

46. Ibid, 542.

47. Jeffrey D. Schultz, Presidential Scandals, 132.

48. Andrew Johnson, Benjamin Perley Poore, and the United States Congress (40th, 2nd session: 1867-1868). Trial of Andrew Johnson: President of the United States, Before the Senate of the United States, on Impeachment by the House of Representatives for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, 575-580.

49. Ibid.

50. William H. Rehnquist, Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson, 230.

51. Ibid.

52. James Lee McDonough, and William T. Alderson, “Republican Politics And the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 26, no. 2 (1967): 177.

53. Ibid, 179.

54. Ibid, 180.

55. Ibid.

56. John F. Kennedy, “Edmund G. Ross.” In Profiles in Courage. (New York, New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 1984), 159-162.

57. Ibid, 141.

58. Ibid.

59. Ibid, 142.

60. Albert Castel, The Presidency of Andrew Johnson, 206.


61. Ibid.

62. Gil Troy, et al. History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 3-Volume Set, Infobase Learning, 2011, 520.

63. Albert Castel, The Presidency of Andrew Johnson, 208.

64. Ulysses S. Grant, “December 6, 1869: First Annual Message.” Miller Center. University of Virginia, February 23, 2017. sage#:~:text=Presidential%20Speeches%20% 7C%20Ulysses%20S.%20Grant%20Presidency%20December,All%20Good%20for%2 0the%20many%20benefits%20we%20enjoy

65. Steven G. Calabesi, and Christoper S. Yoo, The Unitary Executive: Presidential Power from Washington to Bush. (Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2008), 209-216.

66. Ibid.

67. Ibid, 212.

68. 272 U.S. 52, Myers v. The United States

69. Ibid.

70. Ibid.

71. Chester G. Hearn, The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson. (Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers, 2007), 202.

72. Ibid.


272 U.S. 52 Myers v. United States.

Anonymous, “The President’s Power of Removal.” The Yale Law Journal 36, no. 3 (1927): 390–93.

Calabesi, Steven G., and Christoper S. Yoo. The Unitary Executive: Presidential Power from Washington to Bush. Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2008.

—. and Kevin H. Rhodes. “The Structural Constitution: Unitary Executive, Plural Judiciary.” Harvard Law Review 105, no. 6 (1992): 1153–1216.

Castel, Albert. The Presidency of Andrew Johnson. American Presidency Series. Lawrence: Regents University Press of Kansas, 1979.

Chernow, Ron. Grant. New York, New York: Penguin Books, 2018.

Duignan, Brian, and Carolyn DeCarlo, eds. The Executive Branch: Carrying Out and Enforcing Laws. Checks and Balances in the U.S. Government. New York: Britannica Educational Publishing, in association with Rosen Educational Services, 2019.

Elliot, Jonathan, and James Madison. “Removal by the President. On the Bill for Establishing an Executive Department, to Be Denominated the Department of Foreign Affairs.” In The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution 4, 4:350–404. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Library, 2009.

Grant, Ulysses S, John Y Simon, and John F Marszalek. The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant October 1, 1867–June 30, 1868. Vol. 18. 32 vols. The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967.

—. “December 6, 1869: First Annual Message.” Miller Center. University of Virginia, February 23, 2017. the-presidency/presidential-speeches/december-6-1869-first-annual-message#:~:text= Presidential%20Speeches%20%7C%20Ulysse s%20S.%20Grant%20Presidency%20December,All%20Good%20for%20the%20many %20benefits%20we%20enjoy.


Hearn, Chester G. The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers, 2007.

Johnson, Andrew, Paul H. Bergeron, and Patricia J. Cable. The Papers of Andrew Johnson September 1867 — March 1868. 13.

Vol. 13. 16 vols. The Papers of Andrew Johnson. Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press, 1996.

—. Benjamin Perley Poore, and United States. Congress (40th, 2nd session: 1867-1868). Trial of Andrew Johnson: President of the United States, Before the Senate of the United States, on Impeachment by the House of Representatives for High Crimes and Misdemeanors. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1868.

Kennedy, John F. “Edmund G. Ross.” In Profiles in Courage, 139–63. New York, New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 1984.

Levine, Robert S. The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Firsted. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2021.

Long, R. Seymour. “Andrew Jackson and the National Bank.” The English Historical Review 12, no. 45 (1897): 85–99. stable/547320.

McDonough, James Lee, and William T. Alderson. “Republican Politics And the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 26, no. 2 (1967): 177–83.

Nash, Howard P. Andrew Johnson: Congress and Reconstruction. Rutherford New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1972.

Prakash, Saikrishna. “Removal and Tenure in Office.” Virginia Law Review 92, no. 8 (2006): 1779–1852.

Rehnquist, William H. Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson. 1St Quilled. New York: Morrow, 1993

Schultz, Jeffrey D. Presidential Scandals. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2000.

Stewart, David O. Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy. 1st Simon & Schuster trade pbk.ed. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2010.

The Tenure of Office Act, 14 Stat. 430 (1867), 56/

Troy, Gil, et al. History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 3-Volume Set, Infobase Learning, 2011.


unsex me here”: Lady Macbeth’s Performance of Female Masculinity

Faculty Advisor: Dr. John Miller

Department of English and Modern Languages


Shakespeare often included characters with androgynous characteristics specifically relating togender in his plays. Lady Macbeth is one of these characters who challenges the expectations of her sex that were set in place by Elizabethan England society. Lady Macbeth adopts qualities historically associated with masculinity throughout Macbeth so that she can achieve autonomy and individuality from Macbeth that she would not otherwise be granted. An analysis of the language of the play reveals that Lady Macbeth frequently rejected the historically assumed feminine gender roles and dramatizes masculine ones. Through a performance of female masculinity, Lady Macbeth adopts a more androgynous

presentation of sex and gender that allows her to gain the power denied to her as a female-bodied person and establishes that femininity and masculinity can exist in the same body, regardless of that body’s presentation.


“Unsex me here;” Lady Macbeth appeals for help to adopt a masculinity that will give her the authority and respect she needs to achieve her goals. Lady Macbeth is working off the socially constructed gender binary of masculine equals male and feminine equals female. Due to this, she feels it is necessary to be masculine. She recognizes that, as a female, she is socially constrained to femininity and can only gain power through masculinity.


Through a performance of female masculinity, Lady Macbeth adopts a more androgynous presentation of sex and gender. This androgyny allows her to gain the power denied to her as a female-bodied person and establishes that femininity and masculinity can exist in the same body, regardless of that body’s presentation.

The Role of Women

Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in 17th century England, during which women were significantly more disadvantaged than men when it came to economic and social class. Women were generally considered inferior to men in most respects; they were not allowed a good quality education or financial independence. Women were compelled to assume caretaker roles, both in the household as mothers and wives and in the public sphere as healthcare providers, specifically nurses (Kemp 31-33). In addition to their roles in the domestic and public spheres, women were also expected to hold a certain role in marriage. The idea of a companionate marriage, that is, a marriage of equality where equality is used in reference to “age, social standing, and intelligence” was present in this society (Kemp 40). A companionate marriage did not produce equality

between a husband and wife in all respects; there was still a notable power differential in which the wife w as “submissive” and considered merely “property” of her husband. “Property” refers to the lack of autonomy and individuality women had from their husbands (Kemp 40-41). This was the reality for women in 17th century England, a reality that appears to be mirrored in Macbeth.

The relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth follows the pattern of a companionate marriage. While they are equal in their social status as nobility, Lady Macbeth is still undermined by Macbeth in their relationship. The most prominent instance of this is Lady Macbeth’s name. Lady Macbeth is not allowed the autonomy of having her own name; she is merely referred to as “Lady Macbeth,” reducing her identity to simply Macbeth’s wife. Even the fact that Lady Macbeth feels it is necessary to be “unsex[ed]” to be heard by her husband illustrates the power differential that places the wife in a submissive position to the husband.

There is an important distinction to be made regarding the expectations of gender between the reality of Scotland and Macbeth’s Scotland. Shakespeare intentionally


created a world within Macbeth that viewed women as weaker and inferior to men (Asp 158). This world established masculinity as a performance of power, dominance, and strength, while femininity remained a role reduced to submission and weakness. However, the historical Scotland that Macbeth is set in did not have the same restrictions. Women were also to be strong, especially in cases of warfare (Asp 157-158). Shakespeare reshaped the historical Scotland that the play is set in to conform more with 17th century England’s expectations of gender. This reimagining allows for Lady Macbeth to stand out as a woman not adhering to the expectations of femininity.

Lady Macbeth’s Challenging of Gender Constructs

Shakespeare structured the characters in his plays in a manner that breaks the traditional expectations of the construction of gender. Carolyn Asp explains that Lady Macbeth is one of these characters. She claims, “Lady Macbeth consciously attempts to reject her feminine sensibility and adopt a male mentality because she perceives that her society equates feminine qualities with weakness” (153). Being placed into a setting where wives were expected to be submissive to their

husbands and women were considered weak, Lady Macbeth was in a position that required her to break the stereotypes Shakespeare’s audiences would have expected of femininity. Lady Macbeth makes it her goal to have Macbeth murder King Duncan so that Macbeth can ascend to the throne. She wishes to “pour [her] spirits in [Macbeth’s] ear” (1.5.24) but needs to become “cruel” and remove any “remorse,” meaning pity, to do so (1.5.41-42). Lady Macbeth seems to recognize that she needs to adopt the qualities historically associated with masculinity so that she can exist without the restrictions that she would usually have to face as a wife and woman.

Maternal instincts are another aspect of femininity that would have been expected by Shakespeare’s audiences. Yet, Lady Macbeth also rejects this when she states, “I have given suck and know / How tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me; / I would, while it was smiling in my face, / Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums / And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you / Have done to this” (1.7.54-57). Not only is this a display of masculinized hostile behavior as Lady Macbeth actively describes her ability to murder her own child if needed, it is also a clear rejection


of the historically expected maternal behavior associated with femininity. Lady Macbeth’s passionate willingness to violently “pluck” her “nipple from his … gums and dash … the brains out” is a vicious deviation from a more maternal kindness toward children, especially since she implies that she would do this to her own child.

Lady Macbeth and Masculinity

Lady Macbeth exemplifies various masculine characteristics in her behaviors and actions that would not have been expected of her at the time Macbeth was written and performed. Theresa Kemp observes that Lady Macbeth takes on a much more masculine role through “an evil perversion of feminine gender roles” from the perspective of seventeenth century audiences (94). Lady Macbeth “perverts” the expected gender roles by presenting as very dominating and aggressive. These behaviors are “evil” as they require Lady Macbeth to diverge from her more submissive and passive role. The strong language serves to emphasize the significance of deviating from traditional gender constructs, an action that subverts the expectations of Shakespeare’s society.

masculinity. During her first monologue, she states “Hie thee hither, / That I may pour my spirits in thine ear / And chastise with the valor of my tongue” (1.5.23-25). Lady Macbeth is chastising Macbeth for being too kind. She thinks it is his kindness that is a flaw, and that this kindness will be what prevents Macbeth from being able to murder

Duncan. Additionally, Lady Macbeth’s desire to be “unsex[ed]” and “filled[ed] from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty!” (1.5.39-41) is what Kemp refers to as her “inward masculinity” (Kemp 95). This is a masculinity that Lady Macbeth calls upon herself to be able to persuade Macbeth, one that gives her the authority and respect to do so. This masculinity is one of power and dominance, one that causes Lady Macbeth to quite literally reject her sex and gender so that she will be able to persuade Macbeth to carry out the murder of King Duncan.

Lady Macbeth is challenging and blunt, traits associated with

The term “unsex” is significant since it is a term that Shakespeare created, which highlights the importance of the moment when Lady Macbeth rejects femininity in favor of masculinity. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines “unsex” as “To deprive or divest (a person) of the characteristics, attributes, or qualities traditionally or popularly associated with his or her sex” or


“to behave in a manner contrary to what is traditionally expected or accepted of one’s sex.” Lady Macbeth asking to be “unsex[ed]” is her asking to remove what is traditionally expected of her due to her sex and, therefore, removing the restrictions placed on her by those expectations. Lady Macbeth recognizes that the role she is placed in according to the historical expectations of her sex restrict her, and that she must be “unsex[ed]” to gain the autonomy and authority otherwise denied to her as a woman.

Lady Macbeth and Female Masculinity

Jack Halberstam describes the performance of masculinity in a female body as “female masculinity.” Halberstam’s main argument is that “masculinity must not and cannot and should not reduce down to the male body and its effects” (1). He makes the point that “Masculinity … is primarily prosthetic and … has little if anything to do with biological maleness” (3). In other words, the performance of masculinity has nothing to do with the sex that a person may identify with. However, masculinity does commonly get associated with a person who is male and Halberstam argues that “female masculinity is generally received ... as a pathological sign of

misidentification and maladjustment, as a longing to be and have a power that is always just out of reach” (9) and “ambiguous gender, when and where it does appear, is inevitably transformed into deviance” (20). Any person who does not identify as a man and displays the behaviors traditionally associated with masculinity, or a person who does not identify as a woman and displays the behaviors traditionally associated with femininity, defies traditional roles and deviates from the expectations of their sex and gender.

The concept of female masculinity is important to Lady Macbeth since she, as a person in a female body, clearly exhibits a performance of masculinity that would not have been expected of her sex and gender by Shakespeare’s audiences, particularly through her hostility and aggressive language. This is further complicated by the fact that, during Shakespeare’s time, Macbeth would have been performed by all male actors, typically young boys (Kemp 111). This means that Lady Macbeth’s character, while being a woman, would have a male body. Perhaps this could have slightly muted the impact of Lady Macbeth’s performance of masculinity in a female body; however, it is likely it would still hold


the same influence as the text. Since it was normal for female roles to be played by male bodies, the audience might not have considered that a factor in Lady Macbeth’s performance since she still would be recognized as a female character.

Lady Macbeth’s Threat to Male Masculinity

Halberstam argues that female masculinity poses a threat to cisgender, heterosexual men. He explains that “complex social structures ... wed masculinity to maleness and to power and domination” (2), which essentially means that masculinity has been socially established as a male performance and a way for males to gain the mentioned “power and domination.” Lady Macbeth recognizes this and uses masculinity to her advantage in persuading Macbeth toward the murder of King Duncan. Halberstam also argues that “Masculinity seems to extend outward into patriarchy and inward into the family … and the promise of social privilege” (2). Social privilege is what Lady Macbeth needs when she is confronting Macbeth, since women were expected to be feminine and did not have the same social privileges as men. Halberstam explains that men have performed their presentation of masculinity to

benefit them and their status, and when a woman suddenly starts performing masculine behaviors, it becomes a threat to the power and dominance that male masculinity has afforded them.

Lady Macbeth frequently threatens Macbeth’s masculinity. She clearly calls out Macbeth for not being “man enough,” essentially not displaying enough masculinity according to the expectations of the time. Lady Macbeth criticizes Macbeth for being too kind to complete any kind of task that would require “illness” (1.5.18), meaning wickedness. When Lady Macbeth states, “Yet do I fear thy nature; / It is too full o’th’ milk of human kindness” (1.5.14-15), she is claiming that she thinks Macbeth is not aggressive enough to carry out the murder of Duncan. Kindness was a trait associated with femininity and aggressiveness/ wickedness with masculinity for Shakespeare’s audiences. The language Lady Macbeth uses in this quotation, the “milk of human kindness,” even associates “human kindness” with milk, which the female body produces. The term “nature” is also significant; Lady Macbeth believes that Macbeth is too kind, and that his “nature” is too feminine. Since masculinity requires “power and domination,” Lady Macbeth’s reference to


Macbeth as kind is a threat to his masculinity.

Lady Macbeth calls out Macbeth’s lack of masculinity directly when she states, “When you durst do it, then you were a man; / And to be more than what you were, you would / Be so much more than man” (1.7.49-52). Lady Macbeth attributes Macbeth’s being a “man” to his masculinity, claiming that Macbeth was more masculine when he was aggressive in his intentions toward becoming king and would be even more of a man if he goes through with that aggression.

Lady Macbeth challenges Macbeth’s power directly when she says, “We fail? / But screw your courage to the sticking-place, / And we’ll not fail” (1.7.59-61). The textual version of Macbeth used for this paper places a question mark at the end of “We fail;” however, this could also be interpreted as an exclamation point depending on the version of the text. Not only is Lady Macbeth directly challenging Macbeth by telling him to gain more courage so that they will “not fail,” but she is also doing so in a way that challenges his dominance by placing herself in a position of authority over him. The exclamation point signifies a demanding statement said in an aggressive way, again emphasizing a more masculine

performance that threatens Macbeth’s lack of masculinity.

Macbeth originally does not accept the challenge to his masculinity, claiming that she is wrong when he states “Prithee, peace! / I dare do all that may become a man; / Who dares do more is none.” (1.7.45-47). Macbeth is threatened by Lady Macbeth’s challenge and desperate to prove himself; the statement, “I dare do all that may become a man; / Who dares do more is none” is Macbeth’s claim that he is already doing what is needed to be a man, and anyone doing more than that is not a man at all. However, this is not true according to the expectations of male masculinity during Shakespeare’s time. According to those expectations, Macbeth should have no problem with going through with the murder, as he would be expected to be aggressive and uncaring. He also should not allow Lady Macbeth to be speaking dominantly towards him and should instead be doing so to her, according to the expectations of marriage. Yet, Macbeth is doing none of these things, and Lady Macbeth is calling him out on it by performing the behaviors of masculinity that he should be performing.

Lady Macbeth and Femininity

Through the majority of Macbeth is


an example of Lady Macbeth’s performance of female masculinity, especially the first two acts, there is one aspect of the play toward the end that is contradictory. In act five, after the murder has been committed and Lady Macbeth has satisfied her goals, she begins to lose her sanity, which affects her physical health, and eventually kills her. The idea of female “hysteria,” and the loss of sanity resulting in death, has traditionally been portrayed as a more feminine occurrence. The fact that this happens to Lady Macbeth conveys the notion that she becomes more feminine and displays more traditionally feminine behaviors toward the end of the play. Her despairing statement of, “Here’s the smell of the blood still… Oh, oh, oh!” (5.1.44-45) helps to show her return to the previously mentioned feminine performance of weakness and passiveness as opposed to the masculine aggressiveness and assertiveness seen in the earlier acts.

Lady Macbeth adopted a performance of masculinity by asking to be “unsex[ed].” Later, Macbeth reveals that he has no children and Lady Macbeth is “a barren scepter” (3.1.62). It seems that Lady Macbeth received her wish; she has become “unsex[ed]” in that she can no longer have children. Due to this,

Lady Macbeth can no longer fulfill part of her role, both as a woman and wife, in giving her husband an heir. After achieving her goals and no longer needing to perform masculinity, Lady Macbeth also lost a large part of the expected role of femininity. Lady Macbeth seems to die from a form of female hysteria, but it is possible she may have died as a punishment for sacrificing aspects of her feminine role for the masculine.

Lady Macbeth and Androgyny

The removal of Lady Macbeth’s relationship with the historically established expectations placed on women and femininity results in a more ambiguous characterization of her sex and gender. Shakespeare combines elements of femininity and masculinity to create a more androgynous character performance through Lady Macbeth. Marvin Rosenberg describes the dichotomy between masculine and feminine throughout Macbeth: “Shakespeare had long since explored the human as androgynous.” (165). This can be seen not only in Macbeth but also in The Merchant of Venice in the characters of Portia and Nerissa, who disguise themselves as male characters to be allowed in the court to help their husbands. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the


character Robin Goodfellow (also known as Puck) is never given a specified gender. In The Tempest, Ariel also has no specified gender. Shakespeare frequently includes characters that are either explicitly androgynous or are androgynous in their gender performance, including Lady Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth is a woman, but she adopts a masculine performance of behavior to achieve her goals, then she adopts a feminine performance of behavior after her success. Her performance of gender does not follow the constructed binary that was socially established in 17th century England. She does not just perform the feminine behaviors expected of her as a woman, nor does she strictly stick to a masculine performance. Lady Macbeth’s gender performance is unique to her and her situation.

Lady Macbeth as a more androgynous character would have been further supported when she was played by a young boy. While the impact on her performance of masculinity may not have been as drastic, the androgyny could certainly be emphasized by a male actor. Having a female character, being played by a young male actor, and performing masculine behaviors would seem to blur the lines of

gender together ambiguously. Having an ambiguous physical appearance and an ambiguous gender performance would likely raise the attention of Shakespeare’s audience and draw close attention to the androgynous components of Lady Macbeth’s character. While this is purely speculative, it is interesting to consider whether Shakespeare intended to put the question of the reliability of the construction of gender into the minds of his audience.


Lady Macbeth’s femininity at the end of the play is a way to acknowledge the existence of “female masculinity” as deviant from the cultural expectations defining gender. Lady Macbeth’s death portrays the inability of a deviation from the gender construct to exist, especially in the context of the culture of Shakespeare’s time. This also illustrates a point that both Halberstam and this paper make regarding Lady MacBeth’s female masculinity: femininity and masculinity are just performances. Halberstam argues that female masculinity is the idea of masculinity being more visible through those who identify as women. Lady Macbeth is a woman, and she rejects femininity for masculinity because it helps her to gain


the authority and respect that would have been denied to her otherwise. The fact that Lady Macbeth is more masculine toward the beginning of the play and more feminine toward the end of the play reestablishes the point that femininity and masculinity can exist in the same body in a more androgynous sense, regardless of what body it is.

Works Cited

Asp, Carolyn. “‘Be Bloody, Bold and Resolute’: Tragic Action and Sexual Stereotyping in ‘Macbeth.’” Studies in Philology, vol. 78, no. 2, 1981, pp. 153–69. JSTOR, Accessed 20 Oct. 2023.

Halberstam, Jack. Female Masculinity, Duke University Press, 1998. ProQuest Ebook Central, lib/longwood/detail.action?docID=3007808.

Kemp, Theresa D. Women in the Age of Shakespeare. Greenwood Press, 2010.

Rosenberg, Marvin. “Lady Macbeth.” The Masks of Macbeth, University of California Press, 1978, pp. 158-205.

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. The Norton Shakespeare, 3rd ed., edited by Stephen Greenblatt, et al. W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., New York, NY, 2016, pp. 1497-1531.

“Unsex, V., Sense 1.” Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford UP, July 2023,


Monstrosity, Queer Desire, and écriture féminine in Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla

Emma Moore

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Sean Barry Department of English and Modern Languages


In her essay “The Laugh of Medusa,” Hélène Cixous theorizes that men impose “monstrosity” on women, that such monstrosity is a falsehood, and that women must liberate themselves from such myths in order to reclaim their agency, especially as regards their bodily experience of sexuality. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla has often been described as just the sort of monster Cixous advises us to banish.

Scholars have regularly presented Carmilla, a vampire who preys on a young, sexually naïve aristocrat named Laura, as a relatively straightforward record of Victorian homophobia that equates queerness with illness and monstrosity. But if this scholarly consensus were correct, then our best hope of

liberating ourselves from Carmilla’s harmful influence would be to simply stop reading the novella. To the contrary, this essay argues that Carmilla’s monstrosity remains an important resource. I argue that reading Carmilla in light of Cixous’s theory reveals that Le Fanu’s novella is itself an instance of écriture féminine. Further, I propose that by applying and refuting the Cixousian lens onto Le Fanu’s Carmilla, we will find that, in destroying the image of monsterized women like Medusa the gorgon or Carmilla the vampire, we lose a sense of intimidation and power over the patriarchy. Reading Le Fanu in these terms can allow readers to grasp how monstrosity has formed an indispensable resource for narrating women’s stories, including the story Cixous wishes to tell about


reclaiming the feminine body and its pleasures from the silence patriarchy would impose.

Carmilla and Sexual Inversion

Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872) is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in the genre of vampire fiction as well as an influential e xample in the literary representation of queer desire between women. While the novella is narrated by a sheltered aristocrat named Laura, it takes its title from the name of Laura’s vampiric antagonist, Carmilla, a pseudonym and anagram for Countess Mircalla of Karnstein, who has preyed upon generations of young women.

Laura proves Carmilla’s final victim and her undoing. Having grown up in an isolated castle in Styria, Laura’s world completely lacks female influence following her mother’s death in her childhood. Attracted to Laura’s naïevete, Carmilla seduces and preys upon her. Laura falls under a mysterious illness and becomes attuned to her romantic feelings towards Carmilla. When the male influences of the Stryian town discover Carmilla’s vampirism, they seek her out and effectively murder her—leaving Laura cured of Carmilla’s influence yet continuing to long for her long

after she is gone. There is a consensus among scholars that Carmilla reflects Victorian homophobia to the degree that it equates queerness with illness and monstrosity. This Victorian era of homophobia, which reflects a drastic shift in which sexuality came to be viewed as a subject of medical inquiry, is attributed to nineteenth-century challenges against Victorian expectations of women. George Chauncey explains that the focus of nineteenth-century medical attention towards “deviant” sexual behavior, otherwise known as “sexual inversion,” can be understood as a response to challenges to patriarchal authority, “such as the woman’s movement, the growing visibility of urban gay subcultures, and the changing gender structure of the economy” (Chauncey 116).

Among the most prominent theorists of “inversion” is Havelock Ellis, whose Studies in the Psychology of Sex (1908) influentially proposed that a “sexually inverted woman” is distinguished as such due to her masculine traits and characteristics. Thus, any number of relatively trivial inclinations become symptomatic. A Victorian woman with a strong interest in sports, for instance, might find herself diagnosed with sexual inversion. Chauncey and others argue that the discourse of sexual inversion allowed the Vic-


torian medical field to contain developments that threatened Victorian social hierarchies and consequently created a perception of homosexuality as a sickness. It is from this perception that Gothic literature adopted this image of homosexuality as something monstrous, subsequently producing homosexual vampires that could infect victims by biting.

Homophobia in The Gothic

Christopher Craft proposes that the medical discourse of sexual inversion produced “the analogy between monstrosity and sexual desire” in Victorian Gothic. In a classic reading of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Craft explicitly analyzes the connections between the female vampiric mouth and sexual penetration, equating the penetrating teeth of female vampires to the masculine penetrating phallus. Craft writes, “Are we male or are we female?

Do we have penetrators or orifices? And if both, what does that mean?” (Craft 109). Craft’s analysis forms a landmark in the study of vampire literature, solidifying an understanding of the vampire as representative of Victorian-era homophobia. Building on Craft’s insights, critics Helen Stoddart and Steen Bruhm suggest that this analogy between homosexuality and vampirism is a recur-

ring theme across several vampire texts, including Le Fanu’s Carmilla. Stoddart and Bruhm find that across both Victorian vampire fiction and more recent media, such as True Blood, homosexual vampires are repeatedly killed by heterosexual society to prevent the diseaselike spread of homosexuality through the vampiric bite. Scholars of vampire fiction have tended toward a broad consensus that the recurring motif synonymizing vampirism with “queer illness” can be traced to the widespread homophobia of the Victorian era, where the connection between vampires, communicable disease, and sexual inversion first appeared in works such as John Polidori’s The Vampyre, Dracula, and Carmilla. While these analyses have helped audiences understand the contextual relevance of nineteenth-century medical discourse to queer and vampiric literature, I argue that we find not only the origins of outmoded bigotry but continued relevance in the study of Carmilla when we read Le Fanu’s novella through Hélène Cixous’s theory of écriture féminine.

Hélène Cixous’s Live and False Women

Over a century after the publication of Carmilla, the post-structuralist


philosopher Hélène Cixous published her essay “The Laugh of Medusa,” introducing readers to her theory of écriture féminine, or “women’s writing.” In her essay, Cixous encourages women to reaffirm their bodies and reclaim their sexual pleasure from a phallocentric society, or a society dominated by men. Cixous describes the embodied, erotically liberated woman as the “live woman,” a woman independent from the oppressive male narrative. She contrasts that figure with the image of the “false woman.” The false woman can find herself not only alienated from her body and her pleasure but also reduced to a monster, exemplified by the gorgon, Medusa. Cixous argues that Medusa’s ability to turn men into stone is a falsehood that results from phallocentric brutality. The myth of the monstrous woman reduces her to “the servant of the militant male, his shadow.” Cixous theorizes that, in order to escape masculine oppression, women must “kill the false woman who is preventing the live one from breathing.” Here Cixous creates a surprising demand for violence as a means of achieving feminine autonomy. I refute this, finding that the monstrosity men push onto women is capable of paradoxically creating genuine facets of power over the patriarchy. Even if this power is

achieved by being prosecuted and monsterized, the power it holds is indispensable.

The Laughing False Woman

When Cixous demands that we “kill” the false, mythic, and monstrous women imposed upon us by a phallocentric society, she risks a greater loss than she acknowledges. This risk is vividly illustrated in a Carmilla and in the myth of Medusa itself.

Laura is raised in a phallocentric society, and at the novella’s end, she remains contained within it. Long after Laura’s male protectors have murdered Carmilla, Laura relates her tale to a masculine reader, and later still, her manuscript resides in the hands of a masculine editor.

Laura is condemned to the fate of an idealized woman in the eyes of those around her. She is naïve concerning both worldly events as well as her own bodily experience, making her a repressed, false woman. Carmilla seduces repressed human girls like Laura as a means of sexually invigorating them through the drinking of their blood; for this, Carmilla is labeled a monster and ultimately destroyed. Cixous proposes that all false women must be destroyed to ensure the longevity of the live woman. But what Cixous fails to realize is that repressed false women, women condemned


into monsters for disobeying phallocentric society, hold the power to liberate women so they may become live women. Female monstrosity is not strictly a falsified condemnation but rather a tangible facet of écriture féminine as it allows women to reclaim their identity and sexual desires. Further, Carmilla’s vampirism produces a genuine record of women’s experiences that are concretely beyond men’s control, making female monsterization a valuable facet of dismantling phallocentric society and not just a facade that should be destroyed.

For When the Phallic Period Comes to an End

While Laura is repressed by phallocentrism, Carmilla is oppressed and perceived as a monster by phallocentrism for refusing to obey patriarchal values. Through falsified monsterization created by patriarchal oppression, female monsters can take their oppression and use it unapologetically as a tool to allure repressed women trapped in a phallocentric society toward the authentic femininity that Cixous strives towards. The following monologue occurs when Carmilla and Laura reconnect several years after their first dream-like encounter when Laura was a young

girl. Carmilla explains her perception of the “dream” to Laura; unbeknownst to Laura, Carmilla is falsifying the recollection of events to protect her vampiric identity:

and looking up, while I was still upon my knees, I saw you–most assuredly you–as I see you now; a beautiful young lady, with golden hair and large blue eyes, and lips–your lips–you as you are here. Your looks won me; I climbed on the bed and put my arms about you, and I think we both fell asleep. I was aroused by a scream; you were sitting up screaming (Le Fanu 18).

The language and imagery of Carmilla’s explanation seduce Laura, picturing Carmilla on her knees, emphasizing the mouth, and being aroused by a scream—this language is overtly erotic. Unbeknownst to the reader and Laura, Carmilla is describing the moment she began stalking and vampirically feening for Laura. It is vampiric and monstrous, yet she is certainly sexual. Laura is repulsed due to the male narrative that surrounds and represses her, yet ultimately unable to resist the sense of attraction that Carmilla plants inside of her when describing the vampiric stalking.

Laura thinks to herself, “I did feel, as she said, ‘drawn towards her,’


but there was also something of repulsion. In this ambiguous feeling, however, the sense of attraction immensely prevailed” (Le Fanu 18). Whereas previous analyses have argued that this sapphic attraction is evidence of synonymizing vampirism as homosexual illness, I read Carmilla’s erotic vampirism as a feminist tool that momentarily unravels Laura’s repressed sexual desires, making it a pivotal facet to temporarily dismantle phallocentric ideals that repress or demonize female sexual desire.

Later in the novella, Laura describes overtly sexual sensations as Carmilla feeds on her, furthering Laura’s transcendence towards her sexual identity through Carmilla’s vampiric acts:

Certain vague and strange sensations visited me in my sleep. The prevailing one was of that pleasant, peculiar cold thrill which we feel in bathing, when we move against the current of a river. This was soon accompanied by dreams that seemed interminable, and were so vague that I could never recollect their scenery and persons, or any one connected portion of their action. But they left an awful impression, and a sense of exhaustion, as if I had passed through a long period of great mental exertion and danger

(Le Fanu 39-40).

Previous scholarship has referred to this monologue as a means of reading the novella as homophobic. Without discounting the validity of such an interpretation, I read Le Fanu’s language as reminiscent of the breath inscribed by the live woman in Cixous’ “The Laugh of Medusa.” By using and opposing the Cixousian lens, we can interpret the vampiric act of drinking Laura’s blood as a powerful means of reconnecting Laura with her suppressed sexual desires. Through Carmilla’s falsified monstrosity, Laura reconnects with the agency phallocentrism isolates her from. Le Fanu’s language is explicitly erotic and alludes to the female orgasm. The pleasant thrill of sexual climax that a woman can experience against the current of a river, the repetitive inhaling and exhaling of a sexual experience accompanied by an utter sense of exhaustion in the aftermath—Le Fanu’s language ultimately produces a genuine record of women’s experiences that are concretely beyond men’s control. Yet this is not just a sexual experience; this is the additional vampiric monstrosity of Carmilla feeding on Laura’s blood. By propelling Laura towards her innermost femininity and sexual identity, Carmilla becomes an explicit example of Cixous’ écriture féminine through


Carmilla’s falsified monstrosity. The phallocentric society in Carmilla doesn’t monsterize Carmilla for being queer or claiming the lives of women but monsterizes her for having the masculine power of her penetrating teeth, which can cause sexual arousal, ultimately serving to transcend repressed false women who perpetuate phallocentrism.

Inscribe the Breath of the False Woman

Cixous writes, “We must kill the false woman who is preventing the live one from breathing” (1873). But it is evident through Le Fanu’s language that Carmilla, a Cixousian false woman, is, in fact, capable of transforming false women into live women through the female orgasm and the respiration that it transpires. Through her inherently sexual, yet ultimately monstrous acts, Carmilla brings Laura to sexual climax, literally forcing the false woman to inhale and exhale the liberated breaths of a live woman. She is not preventing the live woman from breathing; instead, she is producing the breath of live women through her falsified monstrosity. Laura furthers her description of the erotic sensations that occur when Carmilla feeds on her:

as if a hand was drawn softly along my cheek and neck. Sometimes it was as if warm lips kissed me, and longer and longer and more lovingly as they reached my throat, but there the caress fixed itself. My heart beat faster, my breathing rose and fell rapidly (Le Fanu 40).

Agreeing with Cixous, I find that Carmilla is deemed a monster as a means of condemning her for her sexuality and agency. Furthering “The Laugh of Medusa,” through this falsified monstrosity for which women like Carmilla are condemned, the monster can use their monstrosity to instill the orgasmic breaths of a live woman into a false woman. Through the inherently masculine bite of Carmilla’s penetrating mouth, Laura succumbs to the irrational and sporadic breathing that accompanies an orgasm. The female monster, who is, by degree, a Cixousian false woman, is capable of instilling the sexual climax and orgasmic breathing that only a live woman can experience. The false woman is not preventing the live woman from breathing; on the contrary, the female monster is not only capable of instilling the breath of the live woman into false women, but she is furthermore capable of breathing on her own.

Sometimes there came a sensation

The two medical men, one officially


present, the other on the part of the promoter of the inquiry, attested the marvelous fact that there was a faint but appreciable respiration (Le Fanu 75).

Through the Cixousian understanding, it is clear that Carmilla is indeed a false woman. Yet, she can inscribe the breath of the live woman onto a false woman like Laura, and she can do so on her own as well. When we destroy the false woman, we lose everything that they are capable of, and if the monsterized false woman is capable of breathing on her own, we gain nothing towards feminine agency by destroying her.

By making the relationship between Carmilla and Laura irrefutably erotic while portraying Carmilla as a monster, Carmilla has long since been understood as a representation of Victorian homophobia. But if we approach the novella from the Cixousian theoretical lens, we can observe the traits of the praised live woman in the monsterized false woman. Cixous makes it clear that Medusa is perceived as able to turn men into stone because of how men fear her. That is, she is only monstrous because men refuse to actually see her for who she is: “You only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her. And she’s not deadly. She’s beautiful and she’s

laughing” (Cixous 1878). These female monsters are laughing, and they are experiencing sexual climax—they are constantly breathing despite what Cixous would like us to believe. While Laura, the repressed false woman, is not capable of sexually awakening other false women, the persecuted and monsterized Carmilla is. Only through the monstrosity (that phallocentric society has impressed upon) her can she breathe the breath of the live woman and propel that breath into the repressed false woman. So-called monsters, like Medusa and Carmilla, are capable of using their prosecuted monstrosity to move women towards liveness and agency.

Must We Kill the False Woman?

Cixous theorizes that all false women must be killed to achieve successful écriture féminine; this includes the monsterized interpretations of women like Medusa. Le Fanu does just this at the end of the novella. When the men of the Styrian town realize Carmilla is a vampire who has been seducing and destroying the falseness of their women for 150 years, they kill her:

The body, therefore, in accordance with the ancient practice, was raised, and a sharp stake driven


through the heart of the vampire, who uttered a piercing shriek at the moment, in all respects such as might escape from a living person in the last agony. Then the head was struck off, and a torrent of blood flowed from the severed neck (Le Fanu 65-76).

In “The Laugh of Medusa,” Cixous describes the live woman thus: “Her libido will produce far more radical effects of political and social change than some might like to think” (Cixous 1875). However, the oppressed false woman experiences this same fate, resulting in her repeated destruction by the patriarchy. Le Fanu’s words, “in accordance with the ancient practice,” hold an eerie similarity to the way Medusa is traditionally killed—a man always beheads her. But, even after their deaths, these women linger in the hearts of those they have touched. As the novella ends, Laura admits to missing Carmilla despite her vampirism. Today, survivors of sexual assault around the world find solidarity with Medusa to the extent of tattooing her image onto their bodies as a mark of their perseverance. Susan R. Bowers explains, “Rediscovering and remembering the vitality and dark power of that Medusa can help women to re-member themselves” (Bowers 217). Contemporary artists are turning towards

the matriarchal image of Medusa “for inspiration and empowerment,” demonstrating “how the same image that has been used to oppress women can also help to set women free” (Bowers 217). Carmilla and Medusa are monsters because male society construed them as so, but through their monstrosity, they can exist as feminist icons capable of propelling women back towards their bodies and sexuality and producing écriture féminine.

Readers and analysts must wonder what is lost by repeatedly killing all Cixousian false women for their monsterization rather than allowing them to use their monsterization to challenge phallocentrism and invigorate victims of phallic ideology into live women. By killing these women, whom phallocentric societies have named “monsters,” feminism loses an upper hand rather than gaining one. Carmilla’s masculine vampirism challenges the patriarchy by sexually awakening and destroying their false women, which is why phallocentric society seeks to destroy and persecute her just as they persecute Medusa.

Carmilla the Whole Woman

Through a Cixousian analysis, we find the repressed false woman that the patriarchy seeks to protect in


order to perpetuate the phallic period in the sheltered Laura. Similarly, we can see another depiction of the false woman who has surpassed the oppression of the patriarchy and has been prosecuted for it in the vampiric Carmilla, we find that Carmilla slowly sexually liberates Laura and her past female victims through the inherently sexual acts of vampiric feeding. Cixous writes, “A woman without a body, dumb, blind, can’t possibly be a good fighter. She is reduced to being the servant of the militant male, his shadow. We must kill the false woman who is preventing the live one from breathing. Inscribe the breath of the whole woman” (Cixous 1873). Carmilla, through her vampirism, literally kills the falseness of women by sexually liberating them through vampiric acts, making Carmilla’s monstrosity much more than a mystified facade created by men to oppress sexually liberated women, but rather something capable of creating true transcendence toward authentic femininity. Carmilla is a concrete example of écriture féminine, and by destroying Carmilla the false woman, Laura’s transcendence toward authentic femininity and identity becomes stunted. Carmilla, like Medusa, embodies the fears of men that they seek to destroy, making Carmilla’s monstrous vampirism not

an illness but a strength. Works Cited

Bowers, R. Susan. “Medusa and the Female Gaze.” NWSA Journal, vol. 2, no. 2, 1990, pp. 217–35.

Bruhm, Steen. “God Hates Fangs, The Gothic Novel and the Negotiation of Homophobia.” The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature, 2014, pp. 272-287,

Chauncey, George. “From Sexual Inversion to Homosexuality: Medicine And The Changing Conceptualization Of Female Deviance.” Salmagundi, no. 58/59, 1982, pp. 114–46.

Cixous, Helene. “The Laugh of Medusa.” In the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 3rd, Edition, M.W. Norton & Company, 2018, pp. 1869-1886.

Craft, Christopher. “‘Kiss Me with Those Red Lips’: Gender and Inversion in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” Representations, no. 8, 1984, pp. 107–33. JSTOR, 2928560.

Ellis, Havelock. “Sexual Inversion in Women.” Studies in the Psychology of Sex, 2nd. Edition, 1908.

Le Fanu, J. Sheridan. Carmilla, Hesperus Press, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Stoddart, Helen. “‘The Precautions of Nervous People Are Infectious’: Sheridan Le Fanu’s Symptomatic Gothic.” The Modern Language Review, vol. 86, no. 1, 1991, pp. 19–34.


The Surfaces of Loathsome Beauty in The Picture of Dorian Gray

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Sean Barry

Department of English and Modern Languages

In the final paragraph of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde describes the corpse of Dorian as “withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage” (214). As an addition to the literary discussion of this novel, I aim to draw critical attention to the relationship between beauty and loathsomeness and to the implementation of surface reading between characters in Wilde’s text. In what follows, I argue that, if we attend more closely to the loathsome in The Picture of Dorian Gray and how that loathsome reads and is read, we will see that Wilde’s infamously aesthetic novel not only entertains a sense that these beautiful creations of art include surprisingly loathsome spectacles but also that the novel presents the dangers of applying surface reading to people.

As I examine these ideas, I will reference surface reading as it is defined by theorists such as Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus in their essay, Surface Reading: An Introduction.

With just two exceptions, every usage of the word “loathsome” in the novel refers to the painting and how it is viewed. These exceptions include the opening quote, located in the final paragraph of the text, in which the adjective describes Dorian’s corpse. Another exception to the use of “loathsome” in describing the painting is at the beginning of Chapter 16, when the term is used to describe the impoverished and dangerous scenes where Dorian spends much of his adult life (178). Each of the several usages of “loathsome” are infrangibly adjoined to Dorian, or rather, to Dorian’s


reading of his surroundings, which includes not only the environment of the slums as well as his portrait, but also the actress Sibyl Vane. In the preface to the novel, Wilde famously describes the artist as “the creator of beautiful things” (1).

Many scholars have categorized The Picture of Dorian Gray as biographical and consequently have analyzed it in light of Wilde’s lifestyle and personal views. This biographical perspective is used most popularly to place emphasis on Wilde’s sexuality and to seek out encoded messages within the text that point back to his personal life. For example, Bowser quotes Alan Sinfield as saying that “The Picture of Dorian Gray invokes the queer image, to some readers at least, despite at no point representing it” (Sinfield 103).

Helen H. Davis, in her work, Disclosing Circumnarration, references the novel’s “coded language of sexuality” as an example of circumnarration, which “talks around a subject or event rather than directly narrating it” (2). She uses this idea of “encoded” messages concerning Wilde’s homosexuality to examine circumnarration, considering how Wilde heavily edited the novel before its 1891 publication. Davis claims that this was “an attempt to maintain the coded presence of homoerotic desire” (17). In contrast

with this biographical approach, Rachel Bowser’s work, Suggesting

A Surface: The Picture of Dorian Gray and Suspicious Reading, warns against what she calls “paranoid reading” and encourages looking directly at what is presented in the text itself. This direct presentation is what I mean by the “surface,” which is also defined by Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus as “what is evident, perceptible, apprehensible in texts; what is neither hidden nor hiding” (2611). To achieve a fuller and richer understanding of the text, I warn against relying only on a symptomatic reading that seeks out unspoken messages and goes beyond what is indicated on the page. Best and Marcus suggest in their essay, Surface Reading: An Introduction, that “texts can reveal their own truths because texts mediate themselves” (Best and Marcus 2613). In agreement with the New Critics like Wimsatt and Beardsley, Best and Marcus advocate for a studying of the text itself. Other scholars, including Bowser, have also focused on the interpretation and reading by Dorian of the portrait. These views examine Dorian’s own selfdestruction, brought about by his suspicious reading of the painting to be the fulfillment of his wild wish, and the resulting choices that he makes based on this interpretation. However, in this study and with


these popular previous ideas in mind, I will be shifting the critical conversation to look at the surface reading that takes place within the plot of Wilde’s novel and how it relates to the concept of loathsome beauty. I believe that through the actions of its characters, The Picture of Dorian Gray exposes the risks of implementing surface reading to form judgments about people. This novel also demonstrates the dangers of using surface reading to analyze entities that are not art. This misapplication is represented by the characters who are fictional representatives of living people. Whether this was Oscar Wilde’s intentional message when writing or not, examining the plot in this way opens new perspectives and causes us to think about the nature of art and humanity, as well as provides an application to our own non-fictional lives.

Here, I present some of the examples of active surface reading done in Wilde’s book and observe the warnings of using this method in the wrong contexts. Basil Hallward practices surface reading directed at Dorian. Basil is “fascinated” by his “wonderful beauty” (122), claiming that Dorian “is all my art to me now” (11). It is this view of Dorian as art that causes Basil to miss his idol’s true and changing nature. When confronted with rumors of

Dorian’s scandals, Basil firmly dismisses them, saying “I don’t believe these rumours at all. At least, I can’t believe them when I see you. Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face. It cannot be concealed” (143). This surface reading and stubborn confidence that any vice would be clearly displayed in one’s physicality leads Basil to maintain a glorified and inaccurate view of Dorian as a person. Basil fails to understand that beauty can be loathsome by not comprehending that Dorian is both beautiful and loathsome. While he is beautiful by the world’s standards on the outside, his crimes and wickedness speak to his loathsome character. Ultimately Basil’s action of blind surface reading destroys him, when the real Dorian is revealed in the room that hides his painting, and Dorian brutally murders him to conceal the secret of the portrait. Unlike Dorian, however, Basil creates, not merely observes art. As a professional painter, he is an artist, and therefore “the creator of beautiful things”.

Dorian Gray’s romantic infatuation with the actress Sybil Vane is a matter of inaccurately applied surface reading. Dorian appears to be in love with the art that she creates and not the person that she is off stage. He recites to Lord Henry all the characters that Sibyl has played


for the theater, which represent the art that she creates through acting, rather than who she is as a person herself. When Lord Henry proceeds to ask, “When is she Sibyl Vane?”

Dorian replies, “Never” (52), implying that he does not know her—nor does he care to know her—as an individual human, but rather only as the fictional characters that she portrays. This displays his surface reading of her, which does not go beyond the art that is presented. While Dorian acknowledges that Sibyl is a creator of art via acting, he reads her like she is a piece of art herself. He tells her coldly that “[w]ithout your art, you are nothing” (84). This viewpoint is supported when Lord Henry recalls that “Dorian says she is beautiful” (71). If artists are “the creator[s] of beautiful things” according to Wilde’s preface, then art would be considered a “beautiful thing.” Dorian’s regard for Sibyl as a beautiful thing is an indication of his perception of her being a piece of art. This view by Dorian of Sybil appears to define her as merely a medium of art. By doing this, Dorian reveals the risks of implementing surface reading with regards to Sibyl, who becomes so distraught that she kills herself.

This brings me to the relationship between beauty and ugliness. In one of the several uses of the word

“loathsome” in the text, Dorian describes the degenerate areas of London where he practices many of the vices that influence the painting’s corruption. He reflects on ugliness as “the one reality,” saying that “[t]he coarse brawl, the loathsome den, the crude violence of disordered life, the very vileness of thief and outcast, were more vivid, in their intense actuality of impression, than all the gracious shapes of art, the dreamy shadows of song” (178). This moment in the text is the one time that the word “loathsome” is not being used to describe the painting or specifically Dorian himself, although it appears to represent his inner condition as a physical reflection in the world around him (as the portrait is implied to do). In this scene, he seemingly compares ugliness as an opposite of art, saying that the ugly environments and horrible acts in which he engages are “more vivid … than all the gracious shapes of art” (178). While beauty is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “highly pleasing to the sight,” ugliness is “repulsive” and “unpleasing in appearance.” When considering these terms, beauty and ugliness can be deemed opposites. If beauty is the opposite of ugliness, but Dorian considers art as being an opposite of ugliness, then there must be some equivalence between beauty and art, an


idea which has already been indicated in the preface but is now confirmed in the eyes of Dorian. However, Dorian often refers to the beautiful painting as “loathsome,” calling it a “monstrous and loathsome thing” (101). Basil himself, when the corrupted portrait is revealed to him in the old schoolroom where it has been long concealed, says that “[t]here was something in its expression that filled him with disgust and loathing” (149). The painting is never explicitly referred to as art after the moment it exhibits its first changes. However, as Dorian observes the first small visual shift, it is described as having a “beautiful, marred face” (88). This use of the word beautiful implies its continuing status as art, considering that it is still composed of beautiful things.

I believe that the painting contains both beauty and loathsomeness, while maintaining its identity as art. This is revealed to Basil when the loathsomeness of his art confronts him head-on, and Dorian introduces it to Basil as Dorian’s own soul (146). Dorian confirms this dual condition of both beautiful and loathsome when he references the portrait at different times, using both terms. He says on first that the painting is “a portrait of me that revealed to me the wonder of beauty”

(150). He also later says that “[t]he thing was still loathsome—more loathsome, if possible, than before” (212). In the final paragraph of the novel, Wilde describes the corpse of Dorian as “withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage” (214). This is a significant moment in the plot, as it is now made evident to the world that Dorian, who has been previously described as “a beautiful caged thing” directly after committing murder (159), is a hideous and loathsome being. In this moment, he is finally described as the reviled character of which the reader has long been aware living under the physical surface.

After considering these numerous destructive outcomes, we are led to one of the most destructive items in the novel: the yellow book. This book, a loan from Lord Henry, is devoured by Dorian’s eager and easily swayed mind, and is a highly influential factor in Dorian’s steady descent to moral degeneration. Wilde’s descriptions of the book evoke an aesthetic experience, in a paradoxical format. It is said to have “metaphors as monstrous as orchids.” These conflicting ideas of the horror of monstrosity and the beauty of elegant flowers support the paradoxical nature of Dorian’s character as both aesthetic and monstrous. Dorian becomes en-


thralled with examining precious gems whose appearances are given vivid details. It is this “curious jeweled style, vivid and obscure at once” (120) that fascinatingly applies to both the yellow book and the concept of loathsome beauty. In the same way that jewels are multi-faceted, the loathsome beauty is a multi-faceted visual. One side could be vastly different than the other, but the jewel maintains an alluring appeal. This alluring appeal can be seen in the fascination that Basil, Lord Henry and other various members of society have towards the youthful sinner. In the context of Basil’s mistaken surface reading, he was only able to see both facets of beauty and loathsome as separate possibilities, failing to recognize their cohesive existence as a singular object. These gem facets can be seen as multiple surfaces. With this definition, Basil’s mistake was that he was unable to have a three-dimensional view of the gem. In other words, Basil only read one side of the gem—the side that appeared beautifully innocent. He reduced the complexity of an individual to the flat canvas of what he believed he knew.

In the aftermath of my analysis, there is room for future study. While the surface reading theory by Best and Marcus has helped us to look at Wilde’s novel in a produc-

tive way, it does have its limitations. It does not explicitly provide the context outside of the novel, including the author’s life or certain aspects of the current culture at the time of its publication. These are details that can bring a text to life and round out the overarching knowledge of that text. Considering this, I encourage employing various methods of reading if needed, but I discourage using symptomatic reading in isolation. As we have observed the multi-faceted condition of humanity, which is exemplified in loathsome beauty, we can have a greater appreciation for the complexity of individuals and a healthy hesitation for one-sided reading.

Works Cited

Best, Stephen. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 3rd ed., W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001. p. 2613.

Bowser, Rachel A. “Suggesting a Surface: The Picture of Dorian Gray and Suspicious Reading.” Studies in the Novel, vol. 54 no. 1, 2022, p. 65-79. Project MUSE, 10.1353/sdn.2022.0003.

Davis, Helen H. “‘I Seemed to Hold Two Lives’: Disclosing Circumnarration in ‘Villette’ and ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray.’” Narrative, vol. 21, no. 2, 2013, pp. 198–220. JSTOR,

Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York, Barnes & Noble, 2015.


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