Romanesco / Spring 2021 / Vol. 1

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A scholarly journal of the Nueva School

Spring 2021 Vol. 1


2020–21 Editorial Board Eug. X. Grace H. Julia K.

Allie A. Jen P. Ted T.

Editorial Reviewers Abby P.

Ella L.

Molly C.

Abi W.

Hailey F.

Nikki A.

Adrienne P.

Juliet S.

Olivia C.

Anahita A.

Kaia S-S

Patrick B.

Anna I-M.

Lauren S.

Sasha G.

Anouschka B.

Marie B.

Serena S.

Aviva K.

Micah B.

Sofia T.

Carina T.

Michael S.

Stephanie L.

Design & Special Thanks Christine Z., art wrangler Anna I.-M. Annie Z. Emily L. Sofia T. Sophie H., cover design

LiAnn Y. for envisioning every page from the start

Ed C., Peter A., and Ramiro O. for your tech support

Elizabeth R. for constant encouragement

Joy G. for your research support You, our readers!

Romanesco / Spring 2021 / Vol. 1

Letter from the Editors


he name Romanesco was a happy accident. A faculty member

jokingly suggested “broccoli” as a title, prompting a rapid exploration into cruciferous vegetables. At first, the idea seemed hopeless—comedic, but without the requisite depth. It wasn’t until we came across “romanesco” that the dream of titling the journal after broccoli seemed plausible. Romanesco grows in an ever-expanding chartreuse fractal, beautiful both artistically and mathematically—something that represents the interdisciplinary nature of our journal. Romanesco is also the name of a vivid 14th-century Roman dialect; now, the classical Romanesco dialect survives largely through the raucous, politically charged sonnets of Giuseppe Bellí and Trilussa from a few generations back, though many Romans still speak modernized variations of it. Romanesco represents the spirit of our journal— we want to gather exquisite ideas, be they old or new, specific or sweeping, and showcase student voices and perspectives whilst crafting space for them to evolve. In keeping with this purpose, we chose writing that grappled with ideas worth pursuing further in a scholarly process. The pieces in this first issue come from myriad disciplines, and many of them are multidisciplinary; all of them are linked, in one way or another, to the humanities—to what it means to be human in our world. We asked for pieces that would be accessible to any reader and compelling enough to change the way our audience views the world, if only in some minute way. We hope our readers can open any issue and find something that catches their eye.



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This year, students from every Upper School grade answered the call, coming together to submit their work, offer constructive feedback, support writers in their revisions, and design the journal itself. We’re so grateful to have had students and teachers contribute and edit from so many fields of study and tenures at Nueva—and we’re looking forward to expanding across divisions in the near future. We divided the journal into sections based on elements that transcend the topics of the works to connect pieces across disciplines and focuses. These themes—cleanliness, defying binaries, roles, identity through place, identity through space, and purpose—each reflect an aspect of the underlying thematic content of the pieces in their section. The creation of a new journal is incredibly exciting, but it is also necessarily an uncertain and chaotic business, and we would like to thank the reviewers, copy editors, designers, and faculty who took a leap of faith and chose to make Romanesco a reality. Finally, we’d like to thank you, our readers—we’re so glad you’ve chosen to join us on the journey. We hope you’ll share what you learn along the way and spread the word. To quote Bellí, we hope you’ll “fall for us like a cooked pear”—head over heels for the magic of Romanesco. With love, The Romanesco editorial board Eug X., Grace H., Julia K.

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Table of Contents Letter from the Editors: Welcome to Romanesco

Cleanliness Epidemics, Penance, and the Chasms of History: A Letter to Boccaccio Comparing the Black Death and COVID-19

by Willow Taylor C. Y.

The United States Government's Failure to Care for Indigneous Communities

by Sasha G.

The Sparrow-hawk Dilemma: Christianity and the Freedom to Live

by Abi W.

Ella L.

Defying "Binary" These Girls Are on Fire: How Silence in Le Roman de Silence and Joan of Arc Utilize Religion

by Claire G.

Punished for Being Too Good of a Man: A Queer Pessimist Reading of Silence

by Eugenia X.

Adulthood and Costumes in Caryl Churchill's Top Girls

by Kate E.

Interceding Masks: The Inversion of Desire-Identification Incongruence in Passing

by Pascal D.

Two Sides, One Coin: A Rhetorical Pastiche

by Mia T.


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Roles Lunchbox Moment

by Riyana S.

Loveless Laws, Lawless Love: Love Relationships in The God of Small Things

by Deshan D.

Telephone Wars: The Breakup of Ma Bell

by Humza R.


Derrick Henry's One Weakness: An Analysis of NFL Running Backs' Utilization and Efficiency

by Alex C., Elliot C., Joseph K., Noah V. H., and Quetz M.

Evaluation of Performance Risk in Social Impact Bonds: A Novel Analytic Approach

by Davis T., Harry V., Pascal D., and Willow T.

Identity Through Place "Barricades of Freedom": A Historical and Literary Analysis of "One Day More" from Les Misérables

by Stephanie L.

Japanese Nationalism in the Meiji Era

by Lucie L.

Festival of Exploitations

by Ella L.

Assessing Analytical Traffic Optimization: A Computational Comparison

by Daniel A., Etaash P., Jack T., and Leo C.-S.

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Identity Through Space Pastiche: Nighttime Forest

by Annabella C.

Crafting the Narratives of Faerieland: The Individual and the Collective in the Otherworld

by Grace H.

Acquainted by the Night—Trapped by Sound

by Lauren S.


An Outsider's Observation of a Modern World: A Frankenstein Pastiche

by Selina M.

Potential Human Capital Ideology: Neoliberalism's Last Line of Defense

by Julia K.

Marriage Is Like a Box of Chocolates: The Symbolism of the Bonbon Box in the The Awakening

by Annie Z.


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Illustration by Emily L.


ear Boccaccio, While our situations are quite different, you and I, I imagine your world’s response to apocalypse was initially much like

mine. We began slowly, innocuously, bits of information fed to us in brief indications of strife. We began innocent of mass concern or precaution— perhaps a greater offense for us than for your world with our obsession with the internet and ever-increasing speed of information travel—and, while we heard the screams of other nations far in the distance, our governments and our organizations and our own minds were—what? Dismissive? Exceptionalist? Too taken with the downfall of others to consider our own? But it may be fruitless to attempt a full understanding of the emotions that pushed us to an arrogant downfall; we did, after all, arrive at the same quandary, even with seven centuries between us.


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And that, I believe, is a part of the problem for the morality and community of affected populations—because, when faced with such great, sweeping difficulty as the Black Plague, your people were not exempt from our drive to understand and then to blame. In the destruction of the aftermath, the people of your time turned, unsurprisingly yet nevertheless potently, to religion and the whims of a malevolent God; but while the survivors found in religion either answer or futility and broke apart along those lines, the fracture began not between pews or before altars, but rather within the areligious ambiguity of houses and streets. “It was not merely a question of one citizen avoiding another, and of people almost invariably neglecting their neighbours and rarely or never visiting their relatives, addressing them only from a distance,” you wrote in the Decameron. “This scourge had implanted so great a terror in the hearts of men and women that...fathers and mothers refused to nurse and assist their own children, as though they did not belong to them.” The fragmenting nature of the plague which you have described in cruel detail exacerbated divisions between rich and poor, Christian and pagan—dirty and clean. You write of abandonment within family but also of the self-imposed isolation of towns, of the neglect of the poor and the rural. They are acts, as you say, of self-preservation, certainly, but self-preservation necessitates a dirty other. Throughout the worst chapters of tumultuous history, we have seen that the assignment of labels to fellow humans has many times over resulted in the uneven, parasitic dynamics of the superior and the inferior, with virtue the imagined distinction. Humanity, for all its efforts at playing existential judge, has been neither fair nor particularly consistent in its condemnation or praise to disastrous, genocidal, unjust effects. As the Black Plague progressed and killed and waned, the dynamic of dirty and clean—while based in science and fact—evolved in many understandings into a more moral argument on purity or goodness. Religion had been one of the few institutions still respected and venerated during the epidemic and, during the tail-end of the epidemic, found another point of relevancy as both a judge and basis for this understanding of the world. Heinrich of Herford wrote in his Book of Memorable Matters of the flagellants you’re surely familiar with: groups of men with lash scars fabled to be headless, be it physically or metaphorically, and who prostrated and whipped themselves before the Cross as penance for the sins of humanity, for the sins of pagans.They overran towns with their gruesome, gut-wrenching, violent displays—but, while I cannot travel through the fabric of time to be there, I imagine the whippings were satisfying, in some display of morbid empathy, to spectators. Did you ever view one,

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“As the Black Plague progressed, the dynamic of dirty and clean... evolved into a more moral argument on purity or goodness.”


Boccaccio? Did you ever feel the lift of burdensome guilt at the sight of men doing penance for the world’s sins? If you did not, then I imagine someone else. After all, in a world filled past the brink with death and suffering, something or someone had to be the cause, the dirty; what more fitting a cause than the scourge of humanity, a race that committed the Original Sin, betrayed God, killed His Son, and seemed practically dedicated to the continued destruction of morality? The flagellants thought none more deserving than themselves to pay the continued price in exchange for the cleanliness of God’s love. But perhaps far more historically and philosophically enticing to me than even self-imposed misery at the needs of spiritual cleansing was the movement of scholars and people who, instead of apologizing, questioned God’s judgement. It as natural a response of humanity, as natural as worshipping superior divinity, to also call that divinity to trial and ask it, “Why us?” While humanity may not be perfect, this branch argued, God was in the wrong. “I do not deny that we deserve these misfortunes and even worse; but our forebears deserved them too,” wrote Fransco Petrarch in Letters on Familiar Matters. “While all have sinned alike, we alone bear the lash. We alone, I say…” What was the virtue of a God, he continued, who seemed more thoughtlessly, arbitrarily malicious than all-knowing and benevolent? I confess I feel for both of these reactions to the plague. There is something immediate and gratifying and satiating about both inflicting bloodying punishment on ourselves and watching it happen with our supposedly open hearts to Heaven; to be a flagellant or subscribe to their philosophy was not only to tell God but also prove to Him that we understood our flaws, that we have understood the reason for his Plague, that we blame ourselves. And then after our confession and His guaranteed absolution, we are instantly relieved and cleansed of evil. Physically, it is grueling and difficult and awful, but mentally, it is easy, for we know exactly who is dirty and who is clean, and we know how to punish. And yet the thought of questioning God is also, in its way, equally satisfying. It feels a little bit like rebellion and freedom, to see the thumb of our divine governor as oppressive and offensive and to reject a structure that we realize has been in the wrong. We may tell God with righteous indignation that what He did was wrong and unfair—that, perhaps, our power over Him is our worship, a privilege we could withhold. The feeling is heady, because with this philosophy we may have surmounted God; and in our superiority, we may punish Him for His sins and cleanse Him of His dirtiness. In such times as those and in the ones we currently experience, how-

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ever, it seems that a third option is available, one I hate and yet cannot argue with. It employs no definitive delineations of good and evil, clean and dirty, as pleasant and direct as they may be; no, this option is instead utterly unglamorous and frustrating. It is, instead, to view the plagues as random, chaotic events bound by no God and that arose out of no sin but rather out of the entropic whirlpool of the universe. The universe is not malevolent or righteous or wrong or even uncaring—it simply exists, and we exist along with it. There is no one to blame for the cause of the Black Plague or our pandemic, and so it is not an inevitable punishment to endure but rather a discrete event to address. Therefore, the only guilt we bear is that which we earn for our response. To be awfully yet necessarily frank, as my world begins to transition (perhaps prematurely) into one that appears to function in spite of the ever-present disease, I am utterly pessimistic as to whether we have learned anything from this viral, year-and-a-half ordeal. The most visible and visibly in-power have every incentive to let guilt slip off their shoulders and onto their predecessors, successors, and adversaries or to simply reject any wrongdoing, a tactic which has experienced demoralizing popularity. I truly do believe that we, as individuals, as institutions, as nations, as the world, must take responsibility at various levels for our roles in this pandemic. It’s far too easy and far too common for groups to point accusing fingers at others and to conflate such blame rather than share the burden that we have all both experienced and contributed to. This pandemic is no different, but I remain drifting afloat when it comes to how we may rectify this situation; I’d love to draw wisdom from you, Boccaccio, and your Decameron, but I’m afraid the aftermath of your Black Plague did little better. Perhaps this is simply the everlasting and ever-cyclical nature of humanity. This is quite an awful way to end a letter, but I cannot rely on false notes of happiness. The closest I may come to comfort is wishing you the best of luck in addressing your pandemic. I hope to receive your wishes for ours. Regards, Willow Taylor C. Y.

“...we did, after all, arrive at the same quandry, with seven centuries between us.”

AUTHOR BIO Willow Taylor C. Y. is grateful to be the editor-in-chief of her school newspaper and student government co-president—positions that have helped grow her love of politics, humanity, and writing. As is apparent here, she is an overindulgent connoisseur of non-period punctuation and does her best to appeal to the baser, yet strangely touching, facets of human nature. Willow also enjoys crossword puzzle-making and -solving, volleyball, Aaron Sorkin works, and time with a life-affirming group of friends. Willow is so happy to have worked with Romanesco and its fabulous, tireless editors to build upon and publish this work.

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he history of US indigenous healthcare policy and treaty reneging has led to extremely devastating COVID-19 outbreaks and cultural crises. Indigenous lives are being undervalued and paying the price at the same time. The US has been obligated, through a series of treaties, to provide healthcare for indigenous nations since 1787. The government has failed, and not only failed but broken deals with indigenous nations, taken their properties and subsistence, and given nothing in return. The primary and most extensive way in which the US tries to provide healthcare is through the Indian Health Service (IHS), founded in 1955. However, the IHS is only the most recent form of underfunded mismanagement in a tale of indigenous health that spans centuries. Ever since the founding of the US, the government has tried to renege on treaties and claim that it does not have responsibility or debts to indigenous nations. Jennie Joe of the IHS and other indigenous health-related groups, disputed this in her book regarding health disparity for indigenous nations. She cited Sally Smith, former chair of the National Indian Health Board saying that indigenous people have a “pre-paid” entitlement to healthcare from the federal government due to their losses of life and land, as well as preexisting treaties with specific provisions. Notwithstanding this, the federal government continues to claim that indigenous health services are voluntary, not mandated (Joe). This is an example of the federal government attempting to abandon indigenous communities and shirk responsibility. Additionally, the notion of “pre-paid” healthcare goes back to the history of internment for promise of reward— the indigenous side of the deal has been upheld, yet there has been no reward from the government that is actively trying to avoid its end of the deal. The US government has made countless, unbalanced exchanges with indigenous nations, and has not delivered its services. Even in the early 19th century, indigenous communities—if the government even thought to provide them with resources—were observed and shunted around locations and organizations, rather than receiving essential goods such


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as food and medicine. In the 1840s, the promised benefit of indigenous reservations was access to services and resources from the federal government in exchange for internment, but the resources never materialized and the imprisonment remained, which even led to deaths (Takaki). The federal government’s failure to honor its end of the deal exemplified the perception of indigenous people as lesser human beings or undeserving of care, furthering structural racism in healthcare. As an exhibit from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) explained, indigenous peoples were forcibly interned on early reservations, where they were exposed to disease. Reservation healthcare was extremely poor, and continues to be today (NLM). The neglect from the federal government in the early days of government-provided indigenous healthcare led to many deaths and a failing system that has significant ramifications today. Rather than provide healthcare, the NLM exhibit continued, the federal government instead removed indigenous access to traditional care, and promoted residential schools in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries as “health facilities.” These so-called pillars of health had poor conditions, increased illnesses, and were completely unequipped for epidemics, much like reservations. The government claimed that residential facilities were improving reservation health, but in reality they harmed populations through disease. The federal government confined indigenous people to torturous experiences on reservations and in residential facilities, and without any reparations to the victims. This total lack of attention and care led to many systemic health and infrastructure issues amongst indigenous communities, while the government claims no responsibility for the issue. Today, the impacts of US government neglect manifest in higher levels of damage from the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the lack of healthcare services, indigenous communities have a life expectancy that is 5.5 years shorter than average, die at higher rates from chronic liver disease and diabetes, and have a high prevalence of chronic lower respiratory disease. Sixteen percent of indigenous households are overcrowded compared to the two percent national average (Shah). This is particularly bad during the COVID-19 pandemic, as distancing is extremely important to slow the spread of the virus, and respiratory diseases can increase mortality rates. Liz Mineo of Harvard further outlined the challenge of COVID-19 prevention on reservations in an article, writing that lockdowns placed certain nations in hard places, as by following government pandemic restrictions they lost the income necessary to fund government mandated services for themselves. Indigenous nations are suffering a disproportionate loss of life and vital revenue, which further compounds the crisis

“These so-called pillars of health... were completely unequipped for epidemics, much like reservatons.”

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(Mineo). The example of the Hualapai is just one in a string of historical instances of indigenous nations trying to comply with government regulations, only to find themselves greatly harmed and unable to. Chiara Sottile provided another example in April of 2020 with the Navajo Nation, where COVID cases were nine times higher than the national average. Sottile blamed this on the poor-quality, underfunded infrastructure on the reservation, an example of which is the 30% of homes that do not have access to clean drinking water. Without water and basic care, COVID is rampant in indigenous populations who have been neglected for too long. Another factor in the indigenous pandemic struggle is health service mistrust, grounded in documented examples. As an article about indigenous health mistrust showed, in the 1970s, thousands of indigenous women were involuntarily sterilized by the IHS, some at ages younger than 21—illegal at that point in time. Some women were coerced into the procedure and told that they would lose access to healthcare, other vital services, and even custody of their children (Pacheco). This is not some far-off time in which torture was commonplace, this was in the 1970s. Indigenous women were misinformed and medically tortured in illegal ways. These kinds of abuses make trust incredibly hard to restore between indigenous communities and the IHS, something that is still observed today. A medical mistrust study from 2009 found that indigenous people were significantly less likely to trust healthcare providers and hospitals than white people, and that there are many resulting public health implications. Notably, within indigenous communities, healthy individuals are unlikely to undergo preventative screenings (Guadagnolo). As many COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic and numbers around cases are vital for contact tracing, COVID testing is an extremely important method in combatting the spread, but indigenous communities who don’t trust the healthcare they receive are less likely to pursue such testing. These factors of reduced ability to undertake preventive measures, cultural barriers, mistrust, underlying conditions, and lack of infrastructure mean that the need for hospital care is increased and critical for many COVID cases in indigenous communities, but unfortunately hospital access is also often impossible. A study of racial health disparities in the US found that over 60% of indigenous people are uninsured, and therefore depend solely on the under resourced, inaccessible IHS centers for healthcare (Joe). The IHS’s per capita spending is a third of the general US healthcare system and the government is intentionally allocating less money to indigenous healthcare, thereby implying that indigenous lives


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matter less. (Shah) This leads to a deadly system in which indigenous communities are at higher risk for worse COVID outcomes, have fewer preventive measures available to them, and don’t trust the poor healthcare systems in which their lives are severely undervalued. COVID-19 uniquely impacts indigenous cultural heritage. As COVID-19 is deadlier in elderly populations, the pandemic has had massive impacts on Native American elders, and therefore cultural losses. Elders often carry oral traditions, cultural knowledge, and are leaders of nations, and have immense significance (IRT). Jack Healy wrote of an interview that indigenous communities are losing historical records, suffer a death rate almost twice as high from COVID, and fear that one day there won’t be anyone to continue traditions. The lack of support is “deepening what critics call the deadly toll of a tattered health system and generations of harm and broken promises by the U.S. government” (Healy). This most recent loss of history is just another way that the US government has attempted to remove cultural traditions from native communities, which is fundamentally intertwined with government-provided healthcare. From residential schools that served as “pillars of health” and culture-stripping centers, to promises of land and culture for services, the US government has used health service as a bargaining tool and weaponized vital care in their battle against indigenous lives, while showing no sign of policy reversal. ANNOTATED WORKS CITED Barnett, Joshua, “IHS Information,” 22 February 2021, email. (The Indian Health Service is an agency within the US Department of Health and Human Services, and is responsible for providing federal health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives. Joshua Barnett is a citizen of the Potawatomi Nation, a public affairs specialist at the IHS newsroom, and holds a Masters of Science.) Colorado College, “Elders”. Accessed 11 March 2021. <> Guadagnolo, B. Ashleigh, “Medical Mistrust and Less Satisfaction With Health Care Among Native Americans Presenting for Cancer Treatment.” US National Library of Medicine. February 2009. Accessed 11 March 2021. < pmc/articles/PMC2665798/> (B. Ashleigh Guadagnolo has an MD and Masters of Public Health from Harvard, and is currently a professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Texas.) Healy, Jack, “Tribal Elders Are Dying From the Pandemic, Causing a Cultural Crisis for

“... indigenous communities... fear that one day there won’t be anyone to continue traditions.”

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American Indians.” The New York Times. 19 January 2021, accessed 11 March 2021. < html> Joe, Jennie, “The Rationing of Healthcare and Health Disparity for the American Indians/ Alaska Natives.” Native American Research and Training Center at University of Arizona. 2003. Accessed 11 March 2021. <> (The Native American Research and Training Center was established in 1983 by The University of Arizona to serve as a resource in health related research for Native American communities. Jennie Joe identifies as Navajo, worked for the IHS, has a Masters in Public Health, another in Anthropology, a PhD, and co-founded the National Indian Women’s Action Corps, amongst many other accomplishments.) Mineo, Liz, “For Native Americans, COVID-19 is ‘the worst of both worlds at the same time.” Harvard Gazette. 8 May 2020, accessed 11 March 2021. < gazette/story/2020/05/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-native-american-communities/> Pacheco, Christina. “Moving Forward: Breaking the Cycle of Mistrust Between American Indians and Researchers.” US National Library of Medicine. December 2013. Accessed 11 March 2021. <> (Christina Pacheco holds a JD and works with the Center for American Indian Community Health at the University of Kansas.) Shah, Arnav, et al., “The Challenge of COVID-19 and American Indian Health.” To the Point, Commonwealth Fund. 12 August 2020, accessed 11 March 2021. <https://www.> (The Commonwealth Fund is a fund that supports independent research on healthcare issues and makes grants to improve healthcare practice and policy, particularly for low-income people, the uninsured, and people of color. Arnav Shah has a Masters in Public Policy from University of Michigan, a BA in Political Science from George Washington University, was a research assistant in the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute, and a health policy intern for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.) Smith, Mary, “Native Americans: A Crisis in Health Equity.” Human Rights Magazine, American Bar Association. 1 August 2018, accessed 11 March 2021. <> (The American Bar Association’s award-winning Human Rights Magazine is dedicated to civil rights, social justice, and human rights issues. Mary Smith is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Na-

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tion, the national secretary of the American Bar Association and a former principal deputy director (and chief executive) of the Indian Health Service.) Sottile, Chiara, et al., “Coronavirus hits Indian Country hard, exposing infrastructure disparities.” NBC News. 19 April 2020, accessed 11 March 2021. <https://www.nbcnews. com/news/us-news/coronavirus-hits-indian-country-hard-exposing-infrastructure-disparities-n1186976> (NBC News Digital delivers live video coverage, NBC news shows, original journalism and breaking news stories online. Chiara Sottile is a reporter for NBC, a Karuk American Indian, has a Masters in Broadcast Journalism from Columbia, and a BA in Political Science and Public Policy from UCLA.) Takaki, Ronald, “A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America.” 2008. Accessed 11 March 2021. Print. Vecchioli, David, “‘If you knew the conditions’ Healthcare to Native Americans.” History of Medicine division at the National Library of Medicine. August 2010, accessed 11 March 2021. <>

AUTHOR BIO Hi there! I’m Sasha G., a freshman at The Nueva School. I’m interested in researching issues of health policy and history, which is where this essay comes in. This piece was originally for a class on the history of indigenous communities in the US. This is my perspective as someone without personal experience on the US government’s failures relating to providing care for indigenous communities.

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Background Context This essay explores Christianity and its associated moral codes around sexuality, gender norms, and sin. An analysis of Herman Hesse’s novel Demian and the journey of Emil Sinclair is used to explore the influence of Christianity on free will and societal expectations while answering the question “how do the expectations and the constraints of Christianity affect one’s development and growth?” Sinclair lives in a German Christian community during the early 20th century and is encouraged to inquire beyond his world of traditional Christian views by his mysterious mentor, Max Demian. Sinclair’s transition from boyhood to adulthood explores themes of purity, sexuality, and free will. The novel subtly critiques the way that a traditional Christian lifestyle prevents one from experiencing enlightenment and true freedom.

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Synthesis Hermann Hesse’s novel Demian describes how Emil Sinclair is able to achieve free will by breaking and challenging religious norms around sexuality and morality, ultimately rejecting a life dictated by dualistic cosmology, through the use of symbols and allegories to religious scripture, Nietzchian philosophy about morals, and Carl Gustav Jung’s concept of anima. The theme of the two realms of light and darkness is first introduced in the chapter, “Two Realms,” serving as an allegory for the Christian concept of balance between innocence and corruption. Hesse’s presentation of the two realms as representations of sin and purity, innocence and corruption draws inspiration from the Bible, where Apostles use parallels of light and dark to describe God and the divine to believers: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). John’s teaching parallels Sinclair’s description of the realm of light—John describes God’s truth as “light” while false teachings are presented as “darkness.” Thus, the phrase “world of light” used in Demian can be used to mean adherents to Christianity and Christian society, while the phrase “world of darkness” is synonymous with those who indulge in carnal delights, sins, and vices. Sinclair’s struggles with the expectations of the Christian society that he was raised in and his curiosity about the darker, more sinful side of his community are represented by the realms of light and dark and are directly tied to passages in scripture, revealing the theme’s underlying religious meaning. The realms will also provide an important religious frame of reference for Sinclair’s gradual rejection of the Christian duality between sin and purity as well as his movement towards free will. Sinclair experiences an internal conflict between the influences of the two realms throughout his adolescence, catalyzed by the comments of his mysterious friend Max Demian. An older Sinclair narrating the novel remarks that his struggle to challenge the set of morals proposed by Christianity is epitomized by his surname, which can be broken up into “Sin,” meaning dark or without, and “Clair,” meaning light. Sinclair explains how his childhood curiosity about the “bad,” sinful realm persisted despite his pure upbringing: “Unquestionably I belonged to the realm of life and righteousness; I was my parents’ child. But in whichever direction I turned I perceived the other world, and I lived within that other world as well, though often a stranger to it, and suffering from panic and a bad conscience” (Hesse 4-5). While Sinclair recognizes that he dwelled in the world of light as the good Christian child of two “pure” parents, he

“Beatrice is undoubtedly an idol fashioned from Sinclair’s own hands— Sinclair worships her.”

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also acknowledges that his faith foundations are easily shaken, as he was intrigued by “the other world.” Gradually, Sinclair rejects the religious tenets that guided his childhood, resulting in a period of rebellion that leads him away from “the realm of life and righteousness.” Initially, Sinclair struggles to adjust to his crisis of faith, turning to alcohol as a means of coping. Sinclair explains that “going to bars and bragging was my way of quarreling with the world—this was my way of protesting” (66). As a result, Sinclair exists uncomfortably outside the bounds of the “realm of light” and in a state of anger and cynicism that he struggles to resolve with alcohol. However, Sinclair’s period of crisis leaves him open to a journey towards spiritual enlightenment and freedom of will, unrestricted by the strict moral and behavioral codes of Christianity. Sinclair’s first spiritual awakening occurs through his experiences with women and the exploration of his sexuality. Sinclair describes how his desire for self-improvement emerged as he was “trying most strenuously to construct an intimate ‘world of light’ for [himself] out of the shambles of a period of devastation...My sexuality, a torment from which I was in constant flight, was to be transfigured into spirituality and devotion by this holy fire” (68-69). Sinclair’s chance observation of a young woman whom he christens “Beatrice’’ becomes a religious devotion, a “holy fire” that allows him to emerge from his crisis of faith. Sinclair’s veneration of Beatrice also indicates his increasingly dualistic position between the realms of dark and light. By Christian scripture, Sinclair’s idolization of Beatrice is sinful. The book of Isaiah states that “all who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame” (Isaiah 44:9). Beatrice is undoubtedly an idol fashioned from Sinclair’s own hands—Sinclair worships her, paints her, and devotes himself to her. He fashions an entire cult around her, seeking to become a ‘saint’ in said cult. However, Sinclair’s narrative diverges from the scripture, as the cult of Beatrice is irrefutably beneficial to Sinclair, contradicting Isaiah’s claim that “who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing?” (Isaiah 44:10). Beatrice, Sinclair’s idol, encourages him to question his faith through self-exploration and allows him to eventually achieve self-realization. Ultimately, Sinclair’s adherence to the “cult of Beatrice’’ indicates his willingness to pursue a life outside of the “light” or “dark” realms, despite his violation of traditional Christian norms. Hesse also explores Sinclair’s willingness to blur traditional boundaries around sexuality and gender norms through his descriptions of Beatrice and Abraxas. Sinclair ascribes androgynous features to Beatrice, indi-


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cating that his ideal lover has both “female” and “male” traits, thereby breaking the heteronormative codes of Christian society. Later, Sinclair realizes that a picture he has painted was “neither Beatrice nor Demian but myself. Not that the picture resembled me—I did not feel like it should—but it was what determined my inner self, my fate, or my daemon” (Hesse 72). The word “daemon” in the quote, paired with Sinclair’s realization that it carries both male and female features, draws parallels to Carl Gustave Jung’s concept of anima. Jung believed that no human being was entirely masculine or feminine, with each possessing features from both genders, and used the term anima to describe the female aspect of a man’s personality. The traits encompassed by a male’s anima consisted of irrationality, sensuality, intuitiveness, and sensitivity, which Western males had been forced to repress by society in favor of traits such as the mechanical, the logical, the practical, and the rational. Jung asserted that one’s anima existed under the surface of the collective unconscious, manifesting itself by influencing the conscious ego. Hence, a man, intuitively aware of his anima, would project it upon actual women, recognizing in them characteristics complementary to himself. Beatrice can thus be considered Sinclair’s anima, while Abraxas, and Demian, serve as a bridge to Sinclair’s realization of his anima. Abraxas embodies the idea of polarity blurring together, and Sinclair’s belief in Abraxas awakens his awareness of his suppressed traits embodied by his anima. However, in the setting of this novel, Christian Germany pre-World War 1, homosexuality is taboo, and gender roles are clearly defined. Thus, Sinclair’s worship of Beatrice awakens his anima, subverting societal expectations of the time. His success in this act of ‘rebellion’ encourages him to continue on his path to alternative spiritual enlightenment and freedom. Sinclair’s discovery and worship of the god Abraxas represents his rejection of the Christian God and is his next step towards achieving free will independent from restrictive Christian ditheism. In the novel, Abraxas serves to unite devilish and godly aspects, embodying the duality between the “light” and “dark” realms. Sinclair’s actions towards and perspectives on Abraxas also encompass the aforementioned duality—he narrates that after creating a painting that depicted Abraxas in the likeness of Beatrice, he “questioned the painting, berated it, made love to it, prayed to it; [he] called it mother, called it whore and slut, called it my beloved, called it Abraxas” (102). The traits he ascribes to Abraxas seem contradictory, calling Abraxas both “mother” and “whore.” Like his descriptors, Sinclair’s reverent yet passionate actions towards the painting reaffirm Abraxas’s significance as the embodiment of unity between all things godly or holy

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“As Sinclair tries to come to terms with the picture of Abraxas, it changes forms, from child to man, to woman, and to animal...”


and more worldly, sinful influences. As Sinclair tries to come to terms with the picture of Abraxas, it changes forms, from child to man, to woman, and to animal, a parallel to how Jacob wrestled with God in the book of Genesis to receive a blessing. Just as Jacob limped away from the riverbank as Israel, a changed man, Sinclair has wrestled his faith and is learning to live free of the influences of the two realms. At the conclusion of the novel, Demian and his mother, Frau Eva, challenge Sinclair’s ideas of free will, allowing him to overcome the last of the moral qualms preventing him from achieving self-realization and true independence from the expectations of Christian society. Demian first introduces the idea of free will to Sinclair before he departs for boarding school, telling him “You see, we don’t have free will even though the pastor makes us believe we do...If a person were to concentrate all his willpower on a certain end, then he would achieve it” (46-47). Demian clarifies in the passage that if one harnesses his will and aims for something, he will accomplish it, as long as it is possible. He also asserts that one can obtain a particular goal only if it is necessary for one’s individual needs and development. If the goal meets these criteria, one is capable of attainment. Sinclair disregards this advice until he meets Frau Eva. Throughout Sinclair’s journey towards spiritual freedom, Frau Eva has appeared in his dreams and his artworks of Beatrice and Abraxas, key moments in Sinclair’s journey towards spiritual freedom. Frau Eva thus serves as a culminating symbol of Sinclair’s true freedom and spiritual enlightenment. Though Sinclair possesses strong romantic feelings for Frau Eva, he views his affection for her as morally wrong, presenting a conflict between his true desires and the religious and societal norms. Frau Eva observes his cognitive dissonance, explaining to Sinclair that “at present, you alternate between desire and renunciation and are afraid all the time... Once [your love] begins to attract me, I will come. I will not make a gift of myself, I must be won” (129-130). Frau Eva pushes Sinclair to prove that he truly desires her, forcing him to cast aside his moral qualms, the last vestiges from his Christian upbringing and the “realm of light,” and exercise his will to overcome his moral qualms about their relationship. Once Sinclair formulates his request to pursue his soul’s innermost desires and exercise his will to pursue Frau Eva, he is free from the last of the Christian moral and spiritual constraints that restricted his self-realization. Sinclair’s free will is fundamentally different from the Christian definition of freedom and free will. In Christianity, the concept of free will is almost always tied to the idea of sin and submission to God. For instance, when Paul writes, “so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed,”


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Paul’s idea of free will is related to the idea of acquired freedom: the freedom to choose to be righteous without the possibility of choosing otherwise (John 8:36). In other words, this acquired freedom is the freedom to serve the Lord. For “pure” Christians like Sinclair’s parents, the idea of submission to God is freedom enough, because sacrificing their free will allows them to stay within the Christian “realm of light.” However, for Sinclair, who finds his own path outside the constraints of Christianity, Paul’s biblical idea of freedom is not “true” freedom. Sinclair has rejected Christianity time and time again through his idolization of Beatrice, worship of Abraxas, and engagement in socially unacceptable relationships. However, by rejecting the Christian notion of freedom through submission, he frees his will to fulfill his true desires and achieves true independence. Moreover, the definition for Sinclair’s acquired freedom, when compared to Christian acquired freedom, lends itself more closely to the Nietzchean definition of free will, namely Nietzche’s philosophy on will to power. On the topic of morality and free will, Nietzche writes, “why do we call the harmful man immoral? Because in the latter case we assume a voluntarily commanding free-will, in the former necessity. But this distinction is an error” (Nietzche 77). Demian’s statements about freedom being illusory near the beginning of the novel echo Nietzsche’s belief that free will is illusory and that to believe one has achieved it is a fundamental error. The illusion of free will reveals that in fact, the established codes of morality are also erroneous, as they are based on the fact that free will is a “necessity” when harmful actions are committed. Thus Demian, and by proxy Nietzche, advocate for the type of freedom Sinclair has acquired: one that isn’t based on illusory moral codes. By the conclusion of the novel, Sinclair has been freed from the various restrictions of Christianity, escaping strict boundaries on substance use, sexuality, gender, and morality in order to achieve true freedom and self-enlightenment. Sinclair’s pursuit of freedom is symbolized throughout the novel by the sparrowhawk. The sparrowhawk first appears as decoration on Sinclair’s childhood home near the beginning of his bond with Demian, as a symbol for change and the seeking of freedom. Its significance was only realized when Demian, Sinclair’s mysterious friend and mentor, obliged Sinclair to swallow a coat of arms with the hawk on it in a dream; Sinclair recounts feeling as though it “had begun to swell up and devour” him (Hesse 76). As the symbol of the sparrowhawk has been tied to Sinclair since his childhood, it is implied that he has always yearned for freedom, beginning with his initial curiosity about sins and “the darker realm” and culminating in his rejection of the faith altogether. When Sinclair finds refuge in

“...for Sinclair, who finds his own path... Paul’s biblical idea of freedom is not ‘true’ freedom.”

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the house of Frau Eva and Demian near the end of his journey to self-discovery, he sees his painting of a fully grown sparrowhawk emerging from an egg, a symbol of rebirth and change which he painted as he began to question and explore what his faith meant to him. As the bird shatters the globe from which it emerges, it is shattering the world of constraints and expectations, much as Sinclair himself has attempted to escape the world of Christian societal expectations that shaped his development. By the end of the novel, Sinclair achieved true independence—free will, acceptance of duality, and confidence in his decision to live away from the shadow of Christianity. WORKS CITED Hesse, Herman. Demian. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2009. The Bible. New International Version, Biblica, 1978. Hollingdale, R. J. A Nietzsche Reader. Penguin, 2009. Farah, Stephen. “The Archetypes of the Anima and Animus.” Center for Applied Jungian Studies, Accessed 5 June 2021.

AUTHOR BIO Abi W. is a rising junior at the Nueva High School where she is a writing peer tutor for the WRC and a member of the debate team. She is passionate about philosophy, religious studies, history, and art, which inspired her essay. Outside of the humanities, she is interested in neuroscience and other life sciences. Abi enjoys reading, playing music, and drawing in her free time.

Their bending or ignoring of the rules allows them to accomplish tasks otherwise thought impossible— especially for women.”

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oth Silence, the fictional protagonist of the 13th century French romance Le Roman de Silence, and Joan of Arc, the historical figure who fought in the Hundred Years’ War, have a personal connection to God that overshadows their obedience to any human authority. They both communicate directly with God rather than doing so through traditional hierarchical structures such as their king or church, which threatens those in power. In reaction to these subversive relationships where the women hold agency, their societies attempt to maintain order by forcing them to conform to both gendered and non-gendered hierarchical structures. Both women wear male clothing as an external sign of their rebellion against human authority and societal expectations. Their choice to wear male clothing is also a physical manifestation of their personal connection to God. In the end, their nonconformity is so threatening that Silence’s society forces her to conform to the gender binary and Joan of Arc’s captors eliminate her entirely. However, despite their societies’ best efforts to silence them, both Silence and Joan wield great political influence within their worlds by utilizing the advantages gained from transcending the gender binary. Silence’s and Joan’s subversive acts recall Judith Butler’s argument about gender performativity: when both women refuse to act in accordance with gender norms, they create and wield power that others cannot access. As such, both of these women use their personal connection to God to help them gain power through gender nonconformity. In “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution,” Butler writes that “as a corporeal field of play, gender is a basically innovative affair … if this continuous act is mistaken for a natural or linguistic given, power is relinquished to expand the cultural field bodily through subversive performances” (531). Here, Butler claims that gender is invented, and if people assume gender is rigid or intrinsic, they lose the opportunity to enhance their power within a culture by acting in a way that ignores gender. Silence and Joan exemplify Butler’s description of the opportunities that transcending gender affords. By ignoring the gender binary, they can access spaces women

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could not normally access, fight as soldiers, and spur policy changes within their governments. They are also able to cultivate broad public appeal because their cross-dressing makes them memorable. Although Joan and Silence have many similarities, they have different motivations for cross-dressing. In Le Roman de Silence by Heldris de Cornuälle, which tells the fictional story of a girl in 13th century England who is raised as a boy after the king decrees that women are not allowed to inherit property. As a result, a duke and duchess decide to raise their only child, a daughter named Silence, as a boy so that she can inherit their property. When Silence turns thirteen, she runs away with minstrels and has several adventures in England and France. Later, when she returns to England as an adult, the queen thinks that Silence is male and tries to seduce her. Silence rejects her advances, and the queen falsely accuses her of rape as revenge. Silence is exiled from England, but by the end of the story is revealed to be a girl, thus exonerating her and proving the queen to be a liar. Due to Silence’s heroism, the king allows women to inherit property once again and marries Silence who, as a result, must act as a traditional woman and a submissive wife to her husband. This paper argues that her marriage represents her loss of power and agency. Unlike Silence, who starts cross-dressing at a young age, Joan decides to start cross-dressing when she is older. Joan of Arc is a real historical figure who lived during the Hundred Years’ War, a war fought between France and England. She is a French girl who believes that she can communicate with saints. The saints instruct her to wear men’s clothing and convince the Dauphin Charles VII to let her fight for France. Although Charles VII treats her with derision at first, he eventually allows her to lead several armies. In her military role, she leads the French to win several crucial battles, and her efforts allow Charles VII to be crowned King of France. She is legendary among French soldiers. The English eventually capture her and try her in court. The authorities convict her for cross-dressing and burn her at the stake when she is nineteen years old. Similar to Silence, Joan is forced to wear women’s clothing when she loses her power, but she is burned at the stake instead of married. Joan disregards both the authority of the human church and traditional gender roles by claiming that she follows orders directly from God. During her trial, the judges clarify the differences between “the Church Triumphant (in Heaven) and the Church Militant (on earth)” (Margolis 825). The Church Triumphant represents direct obedience to God, whereas the Church Militant refers to human authority that supposedly speaks for God. When asked whether she will obey the Church Militant, Joan


“When both women refuse to act in accordance with gender norms, they create and wield power that others cannot access.”


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refuses, and answers that “she was sent to the king of France by God, the Virgin Mary and all the saints in Paradise of the triumphant Church on high, and at their command; and it is to that Church that she submits all her good deeds and all that she has done and will do” (826). Through this answer, Joan rejects the human-run church’s authority and declares that she only obeys God directly. This action poses a serious threat from the church’s perspective. If people can communicate directly with God without the church serving as an intermediary, then they do not recognize the Church Militant’s authority as God’s authority. As a result, the leaders of the church feel threatened. Joan uses her personal relationship with God to justify her gender nonconformity as well; when asked whether she would change into women’s clothes, she answers: “I am content with the clothes I have on, since it pleases God that I wear them” (181). Wearing men’s clothing is a physical manifestation of her disobedience; she rejects the authority of her captors by disobeying gender norms and donning men’s clothing. Thus, Joan can use her personal connection to God to validate her gender nonconformity and undermine the human authority of the church. Similarly, Silence ignores human authority (specifically the king’s authority) by relying on her direct allegiance to God instead. Her parents choose to raise her as male in order to ensure that Silence will inherit their property and circumvent the king’s order that women cannot inherit property. As her father explains, “If, dear son, King Evan knew / what we are doing with you, / your share of our earthly possessions / would be very small indeed” (De Cornuälle 2444-7). This disguise causes Silence much hardship when, years later, the queen accuses Silence of rape after Silence spurns her advances. Silence chooses not to exonerate herself from the queen’s accusations and tell the king about her gender because “I would lose my standing, / my father’s honor and my inheritance” (41723). Instead, she opts to leave her fate in God’s hands, asserting that “Only God the all-knowing can save me: / anyone he helps cannot come to a bad end” (4181-2). Similar to Joan, Silence chooses to trust a higher power over human authority. Instead of proving her innocence by confessing to her deception, she chooses to place her trust in God in order to justify continuing to lie to the king, despite the risks. Because of her faith in God, she does not have to rely on the king for protection and can ignore human-made rules. By breaking societal norms, Joan and Silence become highly effective and powerful actors within their societies. Their bending or ignoring of the rules allows them to accomplish tasks otherwise thought impossible—especially for women. Joan of Arc helps turn the tide of the Hundred Years’ War. At the Siege of Orléans, France breaks the siege after half a

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men’s clothing is a physical manifestation of her disobedience.”


year of fighting only nine days after Joan arrives. She helps the French win several battles that allow Charles VII to be officially crowned king of France at Reims. The morale boost she gives to French soldiers has such a significant impact that she is eventually dubbed the patron saint of France (McLoughlin). Similar to Joan, Silence also accomplishes unique tasks, such as quickly becoming a skilled minstrel, a profession women were normally unable to pursue. The narrator describes how Silence “learned to play instruments so well, / he put such effort into it, / that before the end of the third year / he had completely surpassed his masters” (De Cornuälle 3139-42). Moreover, Silence also demonstrates great military prowess: “he was a valiant and noble knight; / no king or count was ever better” (5179-80). Despite being female, Silence easily excels in many of these male-dominated activities. Far from being a hindrance, her gender seems to give her an advantage. The most important of Silence’s accomplishments is capturing Merlin. Not only does she accomplish an impossible task, but her assigned sex at birth allows her to do so. Merlin says “he would never be taken / except by a woman’s trick” (6178-9). Thus, Silence’s unique identity means that she is the only person capable of capturing Merlin. Nonetheless, both Joan and Silence are silenced and eventually forced to follow gender norms dictated by their society, losing their power in the process. Butler writes that “To guarantee the reproduction of a given culture, various requirements … have instated sexual reproduction within the confines of a heterosexually-based system of marriage which requires the reproduction of human beings in certain gendered modes” (524). Here, Butler is suggesting that heterosexual marriage is one tool that those in power use to reinforce the rigid gender norms that allow them to stay in power. When people perform gender “incorrectly,” like Silence and Joan, they are punished because they are a threat to the rigidity of their culture’s conception of gender. Joan and Silence both face punishment through loss of power and involuntarily conform to traditional gender norms. In Joan’s forced confession, she states that “I have gravely sinned … by wearing clothing that is dissolute, deformed and an indecent affront to nature, and closely cropped hair like a man, against all modesty of the female sex … [I] wish to live in union with our mother, holy Church and in obedience with our Holy Father, the pope in Rome” (Margolis 826). In her statement, she simultaneously reaffirms gender roles and acknowledges human authority, namely the Pope, in contrast to her earlier statements where she rejects the Church Militant’s authority. Cross-dressing is described as an “affront to nature,” which highlights how her society paints gender norms as intrinsic and naturally occurring rather than arbitrary and human-made. Portraying gender norms as natural qualities further alienates those who


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ignore the gender binary. Joan later recants this confession and is forced to wear women’s clothing when she is eventually burned at the stake (827); her clothing and punishment both represent her being stripped of her power. Similar to Joan, Silence’s physical appearance becoming feminine is synonymous with her losing power. In Silence’s case, she submits to the king’s authority almost immediately after revealing her gender. After Merlin exposes her deception, Silence tells the king: “Truth does not permit me / to keep anything from you, / nor do I care to keep silent any longer. / Do with me what you will” (De Cornuälle 6625-8). This statement is in stark contrast to how Silence lied to the king previously. The narrator writes that “After Nature / had recovered her rights, / she spent the next three days refinishing / Silence’s entire body, removing every trace / of anything that being a man had left there … / Then the king took her to wife” (6669-77). Similar to Joan, “nature” is used as a stand-in for societal norms. Gender stereotypes are not naturally occurring. When Silence starts acting as a traditional woman, it is her society’s gender norms that wield authority over her, not nature. Silence regains her feminine appearance and becomes a wife, thereby submitting to what Butler describes as the confines of marriage. As a wife, her husband – the king – now has complete authority over her. By the end of their stories, both Joan and Silence lose their power; Joan is burned at the stake while Silence is relegated to the traditionally submissive role of a wife. Although their societies eventually silence Joan and Silence, both women have lasting impacts on politics within their worlds. Joan rallies France in a desperate moment during the Hundred Years’ War and enables Charles VII to be coronated, which alters the political situation in Europe. Her legacy lasts throughout the centuries, and she posthumously becomes both the patron saint of France and officially canonized as a saint in 1920 (McLoughlin). Silence spurs political change as well; her actions convince the king to erase the law that forced her to masquerade as a man in the first place. In the end, she ensures women regain the right to inherit property. In a short amount of time, these women create policy changes within their societies that remain long after the women themselves no longer wield power. The stories of Joan and Silence have persisted throughout history because their bending of gender norms and their underdog mentality make them particularly captivating characters. Characters that challenge gender norms are often compelling to an audience. As Butler writes, “the sight of a transvestite onstage can compel pleasure and applause while the sight of the same transvestite on the seat next to us can compel fear, rage, and even violence” (Butler 527). In the context of a story or performance, the

“Portraying gender norms as natural qualities further alienates those who ignore the gender binary.”

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“... both women have lasting impacts on politics within their worlds.”


audience is intrigued by characters that transcend gender binaries because people enjoy experiencing danger—in this case, a threat to the gender hierarchy—in a way that still allows them to feel secure. This is similar to how some people enjoy roller coasters or horror movies because they feel dangerous even though they are actually safe. People also love to root for the underdog because if the characters succeed against a more powerful authority it makes their accomplishments seem even more impressive. Both Joan and Silence embody these characteristics, which makes their stories particularly enthralling. Their use of a personal connection to God causes them to be the underdog against the vastly more powerful Church Militant, making it easy to root for them. Their bending of gender norms presents little threat to an audience’s idea of gender because they are both eventually defeated. In this way, an audience can feel the thrill of “danger” from witnessing their transgressions of the gender binary while still feeling secure in their conception of masculinity or femininity. Joan’s tragic death is essential to the power of her story, both in a literary and practical sense; her court transcripts are the only record we have of her existence. Silence’s marriage to the king and return to performing femininity marks the ending of her fictional story. Their gender transgressions and defiance of authority have allowed Silence and Joan to capture the public imagination and mesmerize those who hear their stories. Although religion has often been an instrument that reinforces patriarchy within many cultures, Joan of Arc and Silence use religion to transcend the gender binary and other human authority. Medieval Catholicism uses a patriarchal hierarchy to maintain power, but Joan and Silence defy authority by emphasizing their personal connection to God rather than an indirect connection to God through the church. Through this personal connection, they resist human authority, and their wearing of masculine clothes symbolizes their resistance. Both Silence’s and Joan’s ability to transcend the gender binary gives these women a source of power and influence that they utilize to change their society. Although their societies quickly eliminate them, both women are able to wield significant political influence in the short time they have.

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Butler, Judith. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” Theatre Journal, vol. 40, no. 4, 1988, pp. 519–531. JSTOR, Accessed 16 Dec. 2020.

“... their bending of gender norms and their underdog

De Cornuälle, Heldris. Silence: A Thirteenth-Century French Romance. Translated by Sarah Roche-Mahdi, Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, 2007.

mentality make

McLoughlin, Nancy. “Joan of Arc.” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras, ABC-CLIO, 2020, Accessed 16 Dec. 2020.


them particularly characters.”

Nadia Margolis, ed. and trans. “The Mission of Joan of Arc.” Medieval Hagiography: An Anthology, edited by Thomas Head, Garland Publishing, 2000, pp. 805-834.

AUTHOR BIO Claire G. is a senior at the Nueva School. She enjoys studying a wide variety of subjects in school and is especially interested in interdisciplinary learning. She wrote this essay because she was intrigued by the challenge of comparing a fictional character to a real historical figure in her analysis. In her free time she enjoys reading, playing soccer, making art, and petting her dog.


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As the text switches between feminine, masculine, and neutral language in referencing Silence depending on the context of a given situation, I will be doing the same throughout this essay. Silence’s feminine name is Silentia, his masculine and given name is Silentius, and the neutral name assigned to him by the text is Silence. When the text refers to Silence as as “Silentia,” it uses feminine pronouns; when the text refers to Silence as “Silentius,” it uses masculine pronouns; when the text refers to Silence as “Silence,” it mostly uses masculine pronouns, and uses neutral pronouns at times when Silence’s gender is being contested by themself or other characters in the text. 1

e Roman de Silence, a 13th-century romance narrated by an author we know as Heldris of Cornwall, follows the life of a youth named Silentius but addressed as Silence. Silence was born as a girl, but was dressed up and raised by his1 parents as a man to guarantee his family’s inheritance. Silence’s story is accompanied by an argument among the allegorical characters of Nature, Nurture, and Reason, who respectively advocate for interpretations of Silence’s gender as her biology, his upbringing, and his most pragmatic option of remaining male to retain masculine power. The ending of Le Roman de Silence, in which Silence is dressed in women’s clothes and returns to womanhood, is often read in two ways: it can be read as a reward, in which Silentia evades brutal punishment and is restored to her true womanly nature; or it can be read as a punishment, in which Silence’s disrobing effectively executes him, leaving Silentia in his place in women’s clothes. While the second reading mirrors seminal queer theorist Judith Butler’s writing on gender performativity, in which they theorize that punishment results from performing one’s assigned gender incorrectly, a more pessimistic queer reading of the romance understands the disrobing of Silence not as an ultimate punishment, but rather reads the story itself as an ongoing violent punishment for Silence’s cross-dressing no matter the quality of his performance. Thus, Silence is not punished once for performing gender incorrectly, but is instead punished continuously for performing the wrong gender too convincingly. Throughout the romance, Heldris narrates the story of a queer Silence who excels at performing the economic, moral, and aesthetic roles of manhood; however, his excellent performances become direct causes of his ongoing violent punishments. Thus, passing is not a solution to antiqueer violence. After he runs away from the seneschal, who was his caretaker, Silence becomes a minstrel after taking on two masters. Through his minstrelsy, he performs the economic role of a man and is punished for doing so


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too excellently by the text; as his skill improves and exceeded that of his masters, they plan to murder him, punishing Silence for outperforming his cis counterparts’ manhoods. Heldris specifically describes Silence’s profession as minstrelsy—he calls Silence’s masters “jogleör” and Silence “menestrel” (3202, 3221). Becoming a minstrel places Silence in a male career. While there were records of female medieval poets, most lie in trobairitz, which differs from minstrelsy. While trobairitz are upper-class women who do not depend on this profession for income, minstrels, alternatively named jongleurs, are traveling artists who depended on their minstrelsy for a living, and are usually lower or middle class (Bruckner 886, Harvey 221-241). The existing lack of evidence for female minstrels suggests that minstrelsy would have been a male profession. Silence “learned to play the instruments so well,/ he put such effort into it,/ that before the end of the third year/ he had completely surpassed his masters,/ and earned a great deal of money for them” (3139-3143). The premise of the text is that Silence’s family is conditionally granted economic power through Silence’s masculinity, showing that the text sees economic power and masculinity as analogous. Thus, this emphasis on Silence’s earnings further cements his excellent performance of masculinity’s economic aspect. Silence’s masters grow “humiliated” at Silence’s excellence, which directly correlates with their desire to murder him—“As the youth’s goodness increased,/ his masters’ villainy grew”—establishing that Silence was causing his own punishment through his excellence (3144, 3199-3200). Their rationale for murder was the perception of Silence as an economic threat, that he “not only will take away [the masters’] earnings,/...he will rob [them] of all future profits” (3278, 3282). In the text’s vocabulary, in which economic power is masculinity, Silence robs his masters of their manhood through his performance of gender. Thus, the minstrels’ plot to murder Silence is a direct punishment for Silence’s excellent performance of masculinity in a male profession, a performance of masculinity that is stolen from “real” men. While Silence successfully evades murder, he is punished again once he returns to King Evan’s court and receives sexual advances from Queen Eupheme. Silence’s rejections of Queen Eupheme’s advances can be read as performances of masculine honor, which are subsequently punished. Upon Silence’s return, Queen Eupheme quickly takes a lustful interest in Silence, an interest that the text frames as being due to his queerness. Heldris narrates that “[Silence] might get in trouble instead/ for having changed his nature./ Perhaps [if Silence had looked like a girl]/ the queen, who was so sadly misled by external appearances,/ might have been cured before anything bad happened” (3718-3722). The transgression Silence

“...passing is not a solution to antiqueer violence.”

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“Their rationale for murder was the perception of Silence as an economic threat....”


“might get in trouble” for is not seducing the queen, but rather changing his nature; thus, Eupheme’s lust is directly tied to Silence’s cross-dressing. Eupheme makes advances on Silence, but he rejects them and places his honor as a man above sexual satisfaction, saying, “If I commit an act of treachery here,/ I will be so dishonored by it/ that I will be one of the worst men in the world” (3802-3805). Eupheme characterizes this performance of honor as impossible for a straight man: “In fact, I’m sure he’s a queer,/ since a woman doesn’t arouse him at all./ When I showed him my gorgeous body,/ he said, ‘O God, stop that!’/ Isn’t that proof enough/ that he has nothing but contempt for women?” (3935-3940) As Eupheme finds it inconceivable that a man could hold up his honor against her advances unless he were “a queer”—defined by Eupheme as “contempt for women” and therefore implied to mean sexual deviance—it can be extrapolated that it is precisely Silence’s ambiguous gender, which complicates his heterosexual desire and therefore is his queerness, that allows him to remain exceptionally honorable. Silence’s second rejection of Eupheme’s advances results in her revenge through framing Silence as a rapist and an abuser—in other words, framing him as dishonorable—which she feels will ultimately punish him through a violent execution. Silence is punished for his repeated rejection of Eupheme, which were honorable acts characterized as only possible through queerness; thus, through punishing him for the excellence of his performance of masculine honor, he is punished for his queerness. While Silence performed masculinity economically and morally, he also performed its aesthetic role excellently in order to pass. Through reading Le Roman de Silence through a lens of punishment for cross-dressing, Silence’s ultimate fate, to become aesthetically feminine, is a punishment for his masculine aesthetic performance. This masculine aesthetic performance was ascribed to Silence at birth; his father planned that “this girl-child will wander in wind and scorching sun,/ in freezing cold and autumn breeze./...Have her wear garments split at the sides and dress her in breeches” (2052-2056). The harsh weather would give Silence a more masculine complexion, and side-split tunics and bifurcated bottoms would give Silence a masculine wardrobe, creating a masculine aesthetic so compelling that it angers the allegorical character of Nature: “there are a thousand women in this world/ who are madly in love with you/ because of the beauty they see in you—/ you don’t suppose they think something’s there/ that was never part of your equipment at all?” (2514-2517). The complexion and clothing that comprise this masculine aesthetic become Silence’s defining feature; when he returns to King Evan’s court after leaving the minstrels, he identifies himself to his parents


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by saying he had “only the clothing/ and bearing and complexion/ that belong to a man” (3644-3646). At the end of the romance, Merlin refers to Silence’s deception as “wearing borrowed finery,” once again drawing attention to Silence’s masculine aesthetic through his wardrobe. In the conclusion of the romance, Silence first is put in women’s clothes—removing his masculine wardrobe—and then has his “sunburn” converted back to “rose and lily”—removing his masculine complexion (6674-6675). This moment can be read as Silence’s punishment. In Silence’s youth, when he grappled with his Nature and Nurture, Reason “stated her case, citing examples/ as to why, if she abandoned her nurture/ to take up the habits of nature,/ it would be almost as bad/ as killing herself,” as Silence would lose his future in the masculine profession of knighthood as a result of presenting as feminine (2612-2614). Thus, the text suggests here that being stripped of his masculine aesthetic and returning to a feminine one can be read as Silence’s execution, which is his ultimate punishment. This argument made by Le Roman de Silence, that genderqueerness is continuously and violently punished even when the queer subject presents a gender extraordinarily well, is fundamentally different from the argument in Butler’s seminal text on gender performativity “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,” which theorizes that correct performances of gender are rewarded and incorrect performances are punished. While the two arguments may seem similar, Butler’s theorization on punishment revolves around the revelation of a gender performance that is incorrect, whereas Le Roman de Silence argues that punishment transcends the revelation and occurs no matter how well one is able to conceal the nature of their gender performance. Butler wrote that “[p]erforming one’s gender wrong initiates a set of punishments both obvious and indirect, and performing it well provides the reassurance that there is an essentialism of gender identity after all” (Butler, 528). However, Silence is not punished for performing womanhood wrong as Butler suggests, he is punished for performing manhood too excellently; Silence would not be an example of “performing one’s gender wrong,” and would instead be an example of performing a gender well, offering a false sense reassurance of gender essentialism. Butler also theorizes the incorrect performance of gender as visible queerness—in discussing the difference between theatrical and non-theatrical performance, they write, “the sight of a transvestite onstage can compel pleasure and applause while the sight of the same transvestite on the seat next to us on the bus can compel fear, rage, even violence...indeed, on the street or in the bus, there is no presumption that the act is distinct from reality.” (Butler, 527) Butler discusses the visual “sight of a transvestite” as the

“Silence... would be an example of performing a gender well.”

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site of violence, and that the violence occurs due to backlash against an observable queer disruption. What happens, then, when the queerness of the “transvestite on the seat next to us” is invisible and silent? Silence’s queerness is not visible until the end of the romance, and yet he is threatened with the same violent punishment throughout, punishments responsive to his queerness and ability to perform an excellent, multifaceted masculinity. Le Roman de Silence is a pessimistic counterargument to Butler’s understanding of gender performativity: excelling at passing did not exempt Silence from punishment, and therefore queerness is punished regardless of its visibility. Le Roman de Silence can be read as a story of continuous punishment for the misbehavior of cross-dressing; Silence, the cross-dresser, is punished for taking on and excelling at the economic, honorable, and aesthetic roles of manhood. He is repeatedly threatened with death for his cross-dressing until his ultimate conclusion, in which Silence metaphorically dies. Through this narrative, Le Roman de Silence argues that antiqueer violence is not necessarily a reaction to observable queerness that disrupts the assurance of gender essentialism, but rather continues to perpetuate itself against invisible queer identities. Through Silence’s thorough punishment, the text suggests that, in a world where Nature ultimately wins over Nurture and Reason, it is impossible for a cross-dresser like Silence to survive. In other words, passing is not a shield from violence in an antiqueer world.

WORKS CITED Bruckner, Matilda Tomaryn. “Fictions of the Female Voice: The Women Troubadours.” Speculum, vol. 67, no. 4, Oct. 1992, pp. 865-91. JSTOR, Accessed 16 Dec. 2020. Butler, Judith. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” Theatre Journal, vol. 40, no. 4, 1988, pp. 519–531. JSTOR, www. Accessed 16 Dec. 2020. Harvey, Ruth E. “’Joglars’ and the Professional Status of the Early Troubadours.” Medium Ævum, vol. 62, no. 2, 1993, pp. 221-41. JSTOR, Accessed 16 Dec. 2020. Heldris, and Sarah Roche-Mahdi. Silence: A Thirteenth-Century French Romance. East Lansing: Colleagues Press, 1992. Print. Accessed 16 Dec. 2020.

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Peters, Gretchen. “Urban Ministrels in Late Medieval Southern France: Opportunities, Status and Professional Relationships.” Early Music History, vol. 19, 2000, pp. 201-35. JSTOR, Accessed 16 Dec. 2020.

“What happens, then, when the queerness of the ‘transvestite on the seat next to us’ is invisible and silent?”

AUTHOR BIO Eugenia X. is a member of the Romanesco editorial board. Eugenia has a strong interest in the humanities, particularly history, which is her intended major in college. Eugenia has a particular interest in dress history and has presented on topics such as the “New Woman” ideal of the 1920s and dating Kate Chopin’s book The Awakening to a specific year using the material culture within the text. She is currently working on an independent study that traces the historiography of 19th-century corsetry. Another topic within the humanities that Eugenia frequently studies is Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Eugenia is also a member of Nueva’s parliamentary debate team and has been in a mentorship role there for three years.


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Illustration by Anna I.-M.


hroughout Top Girls, the 1982 play by Caryl Churchill, characters put on and take off costumes in order to access specific actions. Judith Butler describes in “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution” how existing gender acts, represented as costumes, are reproduced and interpreted as characters wear these costumes. In Angie’s case as an adolescent, her mother Joyce and her aunt Marlene show her how to act out different uses of femininity by showing her different methods of using costumes. Churchill uses Angie’s development to illustrate how gender is both a performed and a taught idea, and to explore how attempts to control gender performance lead to the reinterpretation of those events to give the performer more freedom. Angie is given multiple costumes throughout the play, and the way Angie is taught to wear each object determines what identity she can access through the costume. Marlene brings perfume and a dress for Joyce and Angie to make up for her long absence, and although the perfume is a gift for Joyce, Angie insists that she wear some, too. She says, “I can play wearing it like dressing up,” after Joyce says that she is “too young” to wear it (Churchill 78). Wearing the perfume represents accessing an older femininity, and by trying on that womanhood that Joyce thinks Angie isn’t ready for, Angie would begin to act and adopt its identity. However, Angie suggests that there’s a way to try on that adulthood without it changing her identity as it becomes one of the acts in time that constitutes her identity. That there is a difference between wearing the perfume seriously or in play is similar to how Butler suggests gender acts can be interpreted differently based on how they are presented. They write that “[i]n the theatre, one can say, ‘this is just an act,’ and de-realize the act, make acting into something quite distinct from what is real” (Butler 527). Angie suggests that, by framing her wearing of the perfume as play, it becomes distinct from an act that would be incor-

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porated into her identity, making it harmless to her position as Joyce’s young daughter. Angie wants to try on the perfume to access a new identity, and doesn’t consider this exploration harmful or permanent. However, Joyce understands gender performance differently, instead seeing it as an aspect of Angie’s life she needs to control as Angie grows up. She rejects Angie’s suggestion of “wearing it like dressing up” by saying, “And you’re too old for that” (Churchill 78). Joyce believes that Angie can no longer try on adulthood without it being performed in a context that makes it real. However, she then relents and says, “Here, give it here, and I’ll do it, you’ll tip the whole bottle over yourself” (78). Although Joyce dislikes the prospect of Angie taking on more aspects of adulthood, she decides that it is best if Angie acts out female adulthood in a space that Joyce can control. In this way, Joyce gives Angie an established costume by demonstrating a correct way to act femininity with the perfume. Joyce’s response to Angie’s desire to wear the perfume echoes Joyce’s contradictory messages about whether Angie should be an adult or a child. Joyce wants Angie to think like an adult without presenting as or physically appearing to be one, and without Joyce giving up any control over Angie’s life. Joyce says that Angie is “a big lump” when Marlene says that she’s “tall for her age,” but after Angie shows Marlene her secret code, Joyce says that “[i]t’s a bit childish” (78, 88). Joyce wants Angie to be both a child and an adult, and prevents her from adopting an adult identity, as Joyce largely restricts Angie from acting autonomously or changing her appearance; unable to try new costumes, Angie is unable to develop her identity. Since Angie can’t perform the identity Joyce wants, Joyce criticizes Angie’s actions and attempts to make her decisions and opinions for her. This dynamic suggests that, unable to grow while learning how to act from Joyce, Angie seeks out alternative directions and costumes from Marlene in order to adapt. Angie interprets the dress Marlene gives her as a means to gain control over her life; in this way, Angie gains access to different kinds of actions through the costume. Angie tries on the dress, and Joyce tells her, “You better take it off, / you’ll get it dirty,” whereas Marlene says, “It is for wearing... You can’t just hang it up and look at it” (81). Angie takes Marlene’s advice and continues wearing it as she wanted to; this


“Churchill uses Angie’s development to illustrate how gender is both a performed and a taught idea...”


Illustration by Anna I.-M.

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stands in contrast to Angie’s experience with the perfume, where Joyce first attempts to stop her from wearing any, and then stops her from wearing an excess of it. In this way, Angie interprets Marlene’s advice to mean that she can express femininity as a way to take control over her actions. Butler writes that gender is like “a script [that] survives the particular actors who make use of it, but which requires individual actors in order to be actualized and reproduced as reality once again” (526). Angie’s gifts give some insight into how gender acts are taught. As Angie begins her exploration of femininity and adulthood using the examples given by her two parental figures, these gifts also give an example of how “scripts,” or costumes, are reinterpreted. Angie recreates both the acts of the perfume and the dress as Joyce and Marlene show her how to wear the costumes, but she also reinterprets the meaning of the dress to be not only a caring gesture, but also an invitation to a performance of gender that allows Angie to determine her own actions. Because Angie gains some agency initially by wearing femininity as Marlene teaches, Angie, later on, continues to use Marlene’s costume as a way to access adulthood. A year later, when the dress no longer fits, Angie utilizes the control given by Marlene’s gifted costume when she puts on the dress to go see a movie and avoid cleaning her room. When Angie changes into the dress, Joyce says, “You can’t clean you [sic] room in that,” and, after it starts raining, that Angie will “spoil [her] dress” (Churchill 55). Angie utilizes the costume as Marlene directed, and wears it as something to be used rather than something to be looked at. Angie’s emphasis on the function of the dress over its appearance also points to her utilizing femininity as a way to access adulthood, rather than an attempt to explore

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feminine appearance. By focusing on the costume’s agency instead of its appearance, Angie develops her adult identity as something to her benefit, rather than something to be evaluated by Joyce. Joyce has previously held Angie’s appearance to an unreachable goal of simultaneous childhood and adulthood, and by focusing on the agency the costume grants rather than the maturity or femininity of its appearance, Angie doesn’t engage with this goal. Angie’s growing separation from how Joyce thinks Angie should act is exemplified later in the scene, as Angie says, “I put on this dress to kill my mother” (55). Angie grows tired of approaching adulthood as her mother directs, and foreshadows her leaving Joyce to stay with Marlene, who showed her how to use costumes and femininity as a way to gain control over her life and access adulthood. Angie performs gender acts through costumes in the ways she is shown by Marlene and Joyce, as her differing approaches to wearing the perfume and the dress demonstrate. Her later interpretation of these costumes shows how her character develops as she continues practicing adulthood, and gives insight into how gender acts are taught and reinterpreted over time. Churchill uses Angie’s gender performances to offer a potential motivation to adapt existing costumes, giving another perspective to the play’s larger theme of how women across time have lived outside of gender norms. WORKS CITED Butler, Judith. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” Theatre Journal, vol. 40, no. 4, 1988, pp. 519–531. JSTOR, www. Accessed 24 Dec. 2020. Churchill, Caryl. Top Girls. A Samuel French Acting edition. ed., New York, Samuel French, 2019.

AUTHOR BIO Kate E. is a senior interested in film history and comedy. They have worked on Team 4904: Bot-Provoking as an electronics subteam member and as Media and Branding Officer. They enjoy volunteering at Portola Valley Library and are interested in law and library science. Outside of academics, their hobbies include hiking and listening to music.


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ella Larsen’s Passing serves as a nuanced exploration of the everyday manifestation of intersectionality. While the presence of sapphic desire in the text is relatively accepted, the race- and class-related contexts of the tension between Clare and Irene are highly controversial, partially because Larsen’s depiction of the narrative arc of the work is deliberately ambiguous. However, this confusion is not irresolvable, as the interpretive differences between different racial analyses of the text arise partially from an excessively broad treatment of ambiguity. While some textual incongruencies are deliberately enigmatic, others are only vague until Clare’s intentionally non-normative politics are understood. In her seminal re-introduction of race to Passing scholarship, Jennifer DeVere Brody suggests that Clare’s character undertakes an “assault” on Irene’s bourgeois sensibilities as she “continually collapses the distance between Irene and ‘the masses’” (Brody 400). Brody then forges the beginning of a tie between Irene’s gentrified ideology and her racial politics, suggesting that Clare, who unlike Irene is “never completely comfortable in white society,” enacts a praxis of black unity through her deliberate and at times intemperate subversion of bourgeois white hegemonic power (Brody 400). Extending upon this core understanding, Catherine Rottenberg complicates, clarifies, and reifies Brody’s distinction between fundamentally relational/reciprocal gendered tensions and more complex psychoanalytic racial and class-based interactions by introducing the concept of desire as distinct from normative identification (Rottenberg 500). Under Rottenberg’s framework, while the hegemonic “assumption of whiteness” is typically codified as indistinguishable from an innate yearning for whiteness, gender conceptions function differently: femininity is both a subordinate norm and a locus of desire for femme-coded normative individuals, as heteronormative regimes trigger the “linking and thus


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collapsing of identification and ‘desire-to-be’” in their subjects (Rottenberg 495, 498). This distinction is crucial to understanding Passing, but Rottenberg misapplies these archetypes and thus introduces unnecessary ambiguity. Rather than conforming to traditional norms, Clare substitutes the desire-identification incongruence Rottenberg characterizes as typical of racial politics into her performance of gender, while simultaneously performing a converse transgressive substitution of a desire congruent to identification into her racial politics. Clare’s character is written from the third person to cloak her true politics as mere self-centered radical idealism. Clare’s feelings about race appear inscrutable from Irene’s narrative perspective because they incorporate an element of pride that is alien to her and contrary to typical constructions of racial politics. Clare’s “ivory mask” crucially illustrates her unusual racial politics by interrogating Irene’s discomfort with her role as a “playful passer” (Brody 400). First, Irene invites Clare to Idlewild, a preeminent black resort. The invitation is swiftly rejected by Clare, who then grows sentimental, regretting her inability to pass in a mercurial fashion and assuring Irene that she appreciates and understands the depths of the offer: “Don’t think I’ve entirely forgotten just what it would mean for you if I went. That is, if you still care about such things” (Larsen 17). Irene, in response, socially retreats, with “an offended feeling that behind what was now only an ivory mask lurked a scornful amusement” (Larsen 17). At a first glance, this sudden withdrawal may appear to be the result of rejection, or a sense of racial alienation from her friend. However, this interpretation is nonsensical, as Irene was well aware that Clare would be compelled to decline this invitation. Indeed, immediately after her offer, she had an immediate aversion to “the kind of front-page notoriety” that Clare coming would bring (Larsen 17). Given Irene had a strong interest in avoiding outright social spectacle, particularly due to her family, Irene’s immediate realization that the invitation was fundamentally untenable renders it unlikely that she was deeply hurt by Clare’s rejection. Instead, this adverse reaction is more naturally read as Irene recoiling from Clare’s final implication: that Irene no longer cared for the kinship of proud blackness. This suggestion is confirmed later in the text. Brody elucidates the immediate allyship between Clare and Brian as an alliance born of racial shared memory, while Irene is more closely allied with John Bellew (Brody 406). This interpretation is further supported by the denotation of the phrase “ivory mask.” Rather than signifying a Clare far enough “passed” to lose any connection with blackness, a mask suggests that Clare remains a fundamentally black fay experimenting with colored masks to flit through society on wings of

“...a mask suggests that Clare remains a fundamentally black fay experimenting with colored masks to flit through society on wings of bidirectional desire and identification.”

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bidirectional desire and identification. Clare, rather than matching Irene’s desperate yearning to mimic white society, understands her ivory mask’s intercession in her relationship with other members of black society and expresses a desire to identify herself with a conception of blackness, in contrast to Rottenberg’s thesis. On the other hand, Clare’s relationship with femininity is more similar to Rottenberg’s normative conception of a unidirectional racial desire imposed upon a bimodal distribution of racial identity. Clare is clearly female, but does not experience the Freudian object-cathexis Rottenberg associates with hegemonic desire (Rottenberg 497). This manifests most evidently in her ambivalence towards children. While parenthood is obviously not inherently femme-coded, Irene insists upon a maternal cast, using her desire to “take being a mother rather seriously” to chide Clare for her flippant remark that “Children aren’t everything” (Larsen 58). While the repeated emphasis of Clare’s feminine skills, beauty, and charm may seem to suggest that Clare’s attitude towards motherhood is merely a bizarre exception, a deeper analysis of the nature of this emphasis suggests the opposite. For example, the skills that enable Clare’s utter control of the conversation between her, Gertrude, and Irene in her home are clearly feminine, as evidenced by her laughs, which “tinkled and pealed” (Larsen 27). However, Irene describes it as “conversational weight-lifting,” a clear reference to a typically masculine activity, thus confirming that while Clare is feminine, she doesn’t aspire to femininity (Larsen 27). Similarly, Irene’s derisive description of Clare as intelligent exclusively in a “purely feminine way” is revealed to be self-deception (Larsen 61), as while Irene’s comments were in reference to Wentsworth, Clare captures the attention of another author that Irene holds in high regard, much to her chagrin (Larsen 65-66). Finally, Clare, while undoubtedly a beautiful woman in Irene’s eyes, uses her beauty as a means to an end, separating herself from the cathexis towards femininity which Rottenberg identifies. As Brody notes, this is most evident when Clare is willing to accept potential misidentification as a prostitute in order to achieve her social goals, insisting that “my dollar’s as good as anyone’s” (Brody 404, Larsen 51). Clare, despite obviously identifying as femme, does not desire feminity, in stark contrast to Rottenberg’s posited “collapsing of identification and ‘desire-to-be’” (Rottenberg 498). Passing’s political exploration is not primarily centered on Irene, but rather Clare’s interaction with normative hegemony, personified as Irene. This realization simultaneously asks and answers the question of why Irene was chosen as the sole narrator: a third-person framing allows for a more insightful analysis of Clare’s transgressions and thus a more precise


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analysis of societal oppression. Specifically, pushing Clare to a position of inexplicable and dangerous irrationality in which “sometimes she was hard and apparently without feeling at all; sometimes she was affectionate and rashly impulsive. And there was about her an amazing soft malice, hidden well away until provoked,” addresses a key issue with Larsen’s exploration of racial politics (Larsen 6). In modern scholarship, whether passing is subversive or recuperative is hotly debated (Rottenberg 490). By pushing the character that appears to pass in a recuperative fashion far outside the hegemonic norm and allowing that dissonance to play out in the form of overt conflict, Larsen commodifies any recuperative interpretation of Passing into an exploration of suppressed racial and gender politics. While she risks dehumanizing Clare and further reifying societal norms, Larsen deftly avoids this risk by humanizing Clare into a sympathetic character, partially through her death. The third-person narration allows for a more obvious contrast of the reader’s and Clare’s sensibilities, firmly anchoring Larsen’s work in a subversive role. While Rottenberg’s analysis is essential to properly understanding Passing, Rottenberg’s essay does not fully explore Clare’s transgression of hegemonic identity politics. Rather, Larsen deliberately places Clare into a non-normative structure of desire and then conceals this decision by presenting Clare’s tale through the eyes of normative society, framing her actions as bordering on sociopathic. By making this narrative choice, Larsen gains the ability to tell a more complex story about how intersectional desire shapes social interaction.

AUTHOR BIO Pascal D. is a junior at The Nueva School pursuing further study in math, economics, physics, and history. He is also an avid debater, through which he was exposed to psychoanalysis as a largely discredited normative theory of psychology. Despite this, the experience provided a background context for his re-interpretation of analyses of Passing that incorporate psychoanalytic components. This essay was originally written for 11th grade English.

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“Larsen deliberately places Clare into a non-normative structure of desire and then conceals this decision by presenting Clare’s tale through the eyes of normative society, framing her actions as bordering on sociopathic.”


WORKS CITED Brody, Jennifer D. “Clare Kendry’s ‘True’ Colors: Race and Class Conflict in Nella Larsen’s Passing.” Passing: Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Contexts, edited by Carla Kaplan, W.W. Norton & Co., 2006, pp. 393-408. Larsen, Nella. “Passing.” Passing: Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Contexts, edited by Carla Kaplan, W.W. Norton & Co., 2006, pp. 1-82. Rottenberg, Catherine. “Passing: Race, Identification, and Desire.” Passing: Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Contexts, edited by Carla Kaplan, W.W. Norton & Co., 2006, pp. 489-507.

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he America that I know is different from the one you know. I am a biracial, colored woman. You, white (non-mixed) people—who will never be constantly told to “pick a side” in regards to your own cultural background—can never really get me. But if you never even try to understand me and my experience, how can you expect to make laws that don’t hurt me? Often people like me will shame people like you for upholding the racist system that oppresses us. My parents’ marriage was not even legal until fifty years ago. Why are you always so intent on separation? You try to segregate everything; you try to move the “bad” away from the “good;” you keep colors apart (because mixing what is pure is always wrong)—everything to you is black and white. You ask me, how can you choose between your two sides? I tell you I don’t, but you never understand it. You always ask me, what are you? I tell you, I’m human, just like you (even though I know the answer you are looking for


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is really anything that will expose my ethnic background). I love reading and watching scary movies. I take walks on the beach and stress about homework. But you don’t care about that because all you care to think you need to know about me is my heritage. You ask me, where are you from? I tell you, Virginia (where I was born). You ask me, where are your parents from? I tell you, Angola, Haiti, and South Korea. You ask me, are you more Black or Asian? I tell you, I don’t know. I am both and neither. I’m just me. You never understand that answer. When I am with Black people, I’m always forced to prove my “Blackness.” I can’t be blacker than the others, and they (Black people) always ask me (a half Black person) about my “other side.” I once played a game called “Black Card Revoked,” where I literally had to prove my “Blackness” by answering trivia (because all Blacks know every little thing about Black pop culture). For “normal” Blacks, it’s a fun quiz game. For me, I have to stress over how I answer each specific question, or I’ll be immediately “othered.” When I am with Asian people, I’m always forced to prove my “Asian-ness.” I’m an expert at chopsticks, and can eat more spice than any of them. But I’m never Asian enough. They (Asian people) still always make a point about me (a half Asian person) and my “other side.” I always have to bring up that I’m in calculus, or they will make fun of me for not being Asian enough (because all Asians are good at math). I am never fully like them; I can never really be like you. They call me “White inside” (banana or Oreo) because I am articulate; and don’t social constructs tell us that real colored people can’t speak “proper” English? Why is it that Asians are so good at math and Blacks so good at sports? You tell me I should be glad to have both “good genes” so that I can excel at both; because shouldn’t everyone want to be good at math and sports? But if you were to add up all of the stereotypes—Asians are good at math, nerdy, hard workers, submissive, and have tiny eyes, while Blacks are stupid, lazy, athletic, dangerous, and have big lips—I would be a walking contradiction. So tell me, how can it work so well? You tell me I shouldn’t be able to speak or write English well. I need to have an accent where I can’t pronounce my “r”’s, or speak like I’m from the “hood.” You tell me I have to choose between my “sides;” that I can’t be both at once. You imagine it to be like two sides of the same coin. One must always be on top and the other always on the bottom. I know it to be like a Venn diagram where I reside solely in the vesica pisces. When will people like you stop telling people like me what we can and can’t do or be?

“I am never fully like them; I can never really be like you.”

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“When will people like you stop telling people like me what we can and can’t do or be? ”


You wonder, Why are they (people like me) always so angry? They have been given everything (by people like you). They can vote, there are no “racist” laws, they can get jobs. They just don’t work hard enough. But at some point, you need to accept that this is all your fault—the wage gap, the voter suppression, the ghettos, the marginalization of minorities—it is your doing. For centuries, people like you have tried to stop people like me from existing. You don’t want me to be successful; you can’t let me get the position meant for your nephew; you won’t give me the scholarship meant to increase my chances of a good life later on; you can’t—no, you won’t—let me be me. It can’t, therefore, be a surprise to you (a white person living in America) that I (a biracial, colored, woman) am upset. I am upset that you want me to choose; I’m tired of answering your questions about my “ancestry” (because to you, it is still all new and you sincerely want to learn about other cultures); I am done trying to act a certain way around you so that I can be treated with respect; I am fed up with you. I am not an exotic and “different” human for you to be intrigued about. I am Black, I am Asian, and I am fully me, no matter how many different ways you try to ask the same question. Where am I from? America. The one you don’t know.

Author’s Reflection For my 10th-grade English class, we were assigned a simple task; write a pastiche mimicking Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place discussing a conflict in identity or place. Kincaid’s writing style is very unique, and if you aren’t already familiar with some of her more well-known works like Annie John or The Autobiography of my Mother, I highly recommend reading them. Her writing in A Small Place is characterized by frequent purposeful rhetorical techniques. This includes the use of literary devices such as rhetorical parentheses, tone, anaphora, personal pronouns, labyrinthine sentences, and em-dashes. I chose to write my pastiche about my “two identities” that everyone else has decided should be “dueling,” even though to me, they work perfectly together. This choice was rooted in a foundation of frustration with how little people even care to try and understand my experience. I am grateful to be living in a sheltered and privileged environment, but sometimes that can mean that certain experiences are ignored. Kincaid’s style of writing is perfect for a subversive, yet at times humorously sarcastic, direct way of argumentation. The beauty of her writing is that you can tell she is angry. And she lets that anger flow through the page and into the


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reader. I recognized and appreciated the emotion she was able to convey through her writing, and I wanted to use her style to clearly express my own feelings. By directly addressing the reader (a white American audience), Kincaid is able to make a personal connection to her argument. It says, “you are a part of the problem, so you need to be a part of the solution.” It is a clear and concise accusation. “You murdered people. You imprisoned people. You robbed people” (Kincaid 35). It also gives the reader a lens into the den of frustration, emotion, and want for change that fueled the writing. Kincaid finishes the second section of A Small Place with a powerful summative statement, “Even if I really came from people who were living like monkeys in trees, it was better to be that than what happened to me, what I became after I met you” (37). I have tried to copy this way of interacting with the reader in my piece in order to be as effective in my own personal argument as possible. I want my readers to have the same connection and reaction to my experience and writing as they do to Kincaid’s. Additionally, I incorporated literary devices like parenthetical expressions, rhetorical questions, labyrinthine sentences, and em-dashes in my pastiche of Kincaid’s writing. Parenthetical expressions highlight and strengthen points about the clash of identities between writer and reader. There is a clear difference between “you (a white person),” “me (a Black person),” and “me (an Asian person).” Each is a different way of viewing a subject, and by using the parentheses to make it clear how the subject is being represented at each point in time allows the reader to understand the argument and the person behind it better. Kincaid also uses rhetorical questions as a powerful argumentative tool that forces the reader to really think. Kincaid writes, “Do you ever try to understand why people like me cannot get over the past, cannot forgive and cannot forget?” (26). A question posed in such a manner cannot be ignored, and by using it in conjunction with messages of hardship and frustration, Kincaid is able to usher the reader towards a single conclusion (“no”) that they then hopefully want to change. My big question is “When will people like you stop telling people like me what we can and can’t do or be?” Until enough action has been taken to change its answer (“never”), I will continue to speak out and write about it. Kincaid uses labyrinthine sentences and em-dashes as a way to split up the text into separate thoughts, as if you were taking a journey through her mind and argument. I personally already have a writing style that tends to have lengthier sentences with em-dashes to make important interjections, so incorporating Kincaid’s style in this sense felt like second nature. The

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“I want my readers to have the same connection to my experience... as they do to Kincaid’s.”


use of these devices give the writing a flow that is more similar to conversation or even just a train of thought. Labyrinthine sentences with semicolons can allow for repetition as exemplified in this labyrinthine rhetorical question: “Will you be comforted to know that the hospital is staffed with doctors that no actual Antiguan trusts; that Antiguans always say about the doctors, ‘I don’t want them near me’, that Antiguans refer to them not as doctors but as ‘the three men’ (there are three of them); that when the Minister of Health himself doesn’t feel well he takes the first plane to New York to see a real doctor; that if any of the ministers in the government needs medical care he flies to New York to get it?” (Kincaid 8). I include a labyrinthine sentence in my conclusion with repetitive semicolons in order to crystallize my point—you need to stop asking me “what are you?” and start asking me “who are you?”

WORKS CITED Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place. 1st ed., Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000.

AUTHOR BIO Mia T. is a 10th grader at Nueva. She loves to debate, play soccer, and write poetry. She enjoys anything that involves creation, whether it’s a new start-up or a twisted art project. During quarantine she recently got into keeping a journal full of random musings, prose, and poems that she hopes to compile and share soon.

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n the beginning, you opened your baby brown eyes for the first time and saw the world in Technicolor—and what a beautiful world it was. You saw its deep blues (whose depths you could fall into for hours and hours, never reaching the bottom); its vibrant reds and yellows (whose shades danced across your tongue as you choked down turmeric-laden kashaya or inhaled a bowl of Mom’s vermillion Pork Vindaloo); its gentle greens (whose hues coexisted with deep umber in the form of dirt and grass on your soccer cleats); its contemplative purples (whose character was the most mysterious of all the colors—the one that Dad and you loved the most); its smooth pinks (whose rosy tint you soon began to associate with the flight attendant’s badges at the Bangalore International Airport)….in the beginning, the world was simple and clear. When you were young, you had the rest of your life ahead of you. When you were young, you knew nothing. When you were young, only a thin sheet of Plexiglass stood between your deeply observant, curious pupils and the world in its clearest state. You are still young now, and you still have the rest of your life ahead of you, but you know too much. You got smarter (fortunately), and more aware (unfortunately), and the glass that filtered your vision grew clouded as you grew up too fast. Your soft sweet eyes—that saw the world as it was—now see the world through this lens that you have created, dirtied by thumbprints and dust that has settled on the surface over the years. Thick, clouded glass. You look at yourself differently, too. Your mirror is irreparably fogged. When you were young, you reveled in your Indianness. You cherished the pungent spices that adorned your kitchen, and danced to “Subha Hone Na De” at weddings, and dressed up for Diwali day at your preschool. When you were young, you reveled in your Americanness, too. You


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watched Jeopardy! with Dad and Iron Chef America with Mom and Disney Channel with your younger sister, and grilled hot dogs on game day, and marveled at the 4th of July fireworks every year, and read Anne of Green Gables and Harry Potter over and over again, and played (badly) on your local soccer team. You never saw a conflict in those two identities; you were the same you at a house party—with your parents’ friends who you called “Auntie” and “Uncle”—as you were in your Kindergarten classroom. The Western media you consumed did not interfere with your Indian culture, and you were never forced to reconcile the two. In fact, you rarely saw your Indian culture in Western media, at all. Maybe that was the problem. You showed off your Americanness—you shopped at Justice, you wore jeans and hoodies when you visited India, you sang Adele and Kelly Clarkson for your grandparents, you devoured Nancy Drew and swallowed those American words whole—but it was ashamed of you, in your awkwardness and your not-enoughness and your too-muchness. You knew your Americanness like the back of your hand—English was always your favorite subject, and by the Second Grade you had gotten rid of your slightly-British-Indian accent entirely, and you knew the lyrics to every pop song on the radio—but it did not want to know you, it did not want to know you in its magazines, it did not want to know you in its glamorous movies and its television commercials. You loved your Americanness, but it did not love you. You were in the Second Grade when you first saw yourself on American television, in the form of Ravi, the nerdy Indian boy (with thick glasses and nonexistent social skills—the American perception of the brown teenager) who starred on Jessie, your favorite show. Except...did you really see yourself? Unlike Ravi, your speech wasn’t peppered with embarrassing phrases like “Great Ganesh! I am a human samosa!” and “Where I come from, we let cows walk beside us!” Unlike Ravi, you weren’t well versed in the art of fortune-telling or somehow certified as a yoga instructor at the age of 10. And contrary to Jessie’s orientalist portrayal of your second home as weird and mysterious (teeming with exotic and rabid creatures whose savagery mirrors the savagery of their human counterparts), you knew that your India was hectic and complex and beautiful. And yet your mirror was so fogged by this point that you began to see yourself in Ravi, just a little bit. You began to understand that perhaps America would only accept you if you were that child, that nerdy Indian kid with no friends—and that hurt. But you were supposed to be happy, right? You (an anomaly) were getting the privilege of being exoticized in an actual American TV show! Congratulations. In your third month of Second Grade, the hot topic of the week was

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“In trying to be that perfect American girl, are you the mere shell of the Indian daughter?”


Ravi’s clothing choices on the latest Jessie episode; his nanny had referred to him as a “traffic cone” (his kurta ratting him out as a foreigner to the other, more sufficiently normal children in his school), and your friends went nuts for the “joke.” You were silent. You were in the Third Grade when you had your very first “lunchbox moment”. You sat on the cold linoleum floor of the All-Gender bathroom (shivering, bundled up in your blue puffer jacket with the yellow sunflowers on it) and ate your idlis alone, praying that your friends wouldn’t notice you were gone. You couldn’t bring yourself to answer another question about what “that smell” was, or what dish it was coming from. And while you loved the aromatic scent of chutney pudi (circling your nostrils and filling your stomach with dull heat), you laughed when they asked about the weird red stuff in your lunch box. Oh yeah, you said, it’s this random Indian food my mom packed me. I know it smells kinda… you trailed off, trying to find the word. Different (to the bland American palate)? As you spoke, you explained away everything: the unctuous smells, the hot ghee poured over soft idlis, the love your mother had put into making them. Your words painted apologies across the sky and painted gray across the lenses that covered your eyes. Your vision became more clouded, the glass foggier. You apologized for being you; for simply existing. Some days, you chose an empty stomach over lunch box humiliation, because you feared entering your school’s mansion doors and being reminded you were different. You didn’t feel like being different all the time. Every few years, you would stuff your suitcases with clothes and American Brookside chocolates for your extended family, and make the 24-hour plane ride to India. I’m sure that you are smiling now, as you read this, as you think about the cheese toast with garam masala that your Patti would make for you every afternoon, or the car rides with your Domma, who let you sit in the front seat and honked and snapped at the (often manic) rickshaw drivers, then apologized for profanity and bought you a mango popsicle for the ride home. In the years when your visit coincided with a wedding, you would get all dressed up in your favorite lehenga and dance until your feet hurt, laughing with relatives you had only just met, who pinched your cheeks and chattered about how quickly you had grown up. You would sing the lyrics to your favorite Bollywood tunes all wrong. You didn’t understand the words, but they felt right on your tongue and they felt right in your soul. That is the India that you knew—that is the India that you know. Warm and beautiful and chaotic and comfortable. Home. But you don’t speak Hindi; the words sound so familiar to you—so close that you can grasp them, resting in the back of your throat, waiting


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to be coughed up—and yet you can’t do it. The phrases slip down your tongue into your stomach, where they sit, heavy, a reminder of your deficit, your lack of Indianness. Can you truly be at home in a country whose language sticks to your throat like thick taffy? In trying to be that perfect American girl, are you the mere shell of the Indian daughter? You were in the Sixth Grade when the hand washing began. Some boy had told you that you smelled of curry (perhaps as a cruel, ill-fated joke), and the sting of his words rested heavily on your shoulders and sunk deep into your skin. And now, you hate that his words hurt you so deeply, hate that those deep and dark and rich spices and the smells that filled your grandmother’s kitchen were reduced to disdain and disgust and scrunched up noses. You hate that his word has become a blanket term for your complex and beautiful India. Curry. And yet—every time someone remarks on a funny smell, you panic. You go through bottles of cheap perfume in an effort to smother the very scents that you fervently inhale at dinnertime. After every meal, you scrub your hands raw, staring at the foam of the fragrant soap, begging it to erase your culture from your fingertips. That boy’s words penetrate the soap bubbles and go straight for your heart. And then you are 32, and that girl on Instagram that bullied you throughout middle school for your “smelly hair” (coconut oil; your mother used to massage your scalp every morning), “weird food” (packed by your mother in a tiffin and gently tucked into your lunch box), and “accent” (your softened r’s a trait picked up from your father’s British English, your words a product of Indian colonization) is now an influencer. She posts about her “chai tea lattes” and new yoga techniques and “healing Ashwagandhan herbs” and mindfulness practices, and you feel torn. You are seeing yourself in the media and yet your culture is being gentrified in front of your very eyes—stolen by the woman who made you hate it. The truth is that this may be it for a long, long time—a white woman being celebrated for explaining and analyzing the brown culture she mocked for years, the colonist claiming that culture as her own. The truth is that this system is built to allow brown people to succeed, but under this American culture, we are never able to escape being the punchline of a joke. The truth is that you never worried about “tiger parents” (your parents were so far from the strict Desi moms and dads you saw on TV), but instead put this massive burden on yourself to be both that perfect Indian child and that perfect American girl. The truth is that the two clash, and you’ve given yourself an impossible task. The truth is that you must lift the colonizer’s obligation from your shoulders if you ever want to be happy.

“... your culture is being gentrified in front of your very eyes— stolen by the woman who made you hate it.”

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Now, you revel in your fragmentation. You cherish the pungent spices and are learning to love their scent. You cherish the TV shows that raised you and are learning that you are not Ravi. You make an effort to find the media that represents you, and you watch those episodes and read those books and listen to those podcasts over and over again. You crave your culture, but sometimes you find yourself relinquishing it for that boy who made you feel like nothing in the Sixth Grade. And that is okay. You are learning that the America you love will not always love you back. You are learning that the India you love may never be that true home. You are beautiful. You are a work-in-progress. You are learning.

AUTHOR BIO Riyana S. is a rising junior at Nueva and is so excited to be featured in the first issue of Romanesco. She has loved the humanities for years, but her sophomore English class was what inspired this specific piece—a pastiche of Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place. Using parentheses, cynical commentary on representation in the media, and the “you” pronoun to emphasize the universality of struggle with identity, Riyana hoped to mimic Kincaid’s unique approach to discussions of colonialism and assimilation. She hopes that you enjoy!

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he God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy is a novel of protest. It most loudly protests against Indian societal constructs, such as “the Love Laws. That lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much” (Roy 311). The Love Laws Roy refers to are the Indian societal conventions that forbid love between those of different castes, especially between a Dalit (an Untouchable) and a person of higher caste. The same societal conventions frown upon intercommunity and inter-religious love and believe white skin in love with brown skin is unthinkable, almost unattainable, and a source of pride. Roy’s protest against these Love Laws is evident through a pattern juxtaposing love relationships in the novel: the bleak depiction of love relationships that adhere to Indian societal strictures and the celebration of love relationships that rebel against convention. The marriage of Mammachi and Pappachi, the most conventional of all the love relationships in the book, is portrayed as the most abusive and loveless union. Mammachi and Pappachi are both Syrian Christians and of the highest caste, Brahmin, and their marriage, therefore, confines to Indian societal conventions (Chaudhary). It is however, a marriage that Roy chooses to vividly illustrate as physically abusive, where “[e]very night ... [Pappachi] beat ... [Mammachi] with a brass flower vase. The beatings weren’t new” (Roy 47). It is a toxic marriage where Mammachi’s crying at Pappachi’s funeral was “more because she was used to him than because she loved him. She was used to having him slouching around the pickle factory, and was used to being beaten from time to time” (Roy 49). Mammachi’s feelings towards Pappachi are described here as akin to an addiction becoming an innocuous side effect; a drug she was so used to and whose loss reduced her to tears. Even the language that Roy uses to describe Mammachi and Pappachi’s union is prosaic and lacking lyricism, reflecting their bleak relationship. Ammu’s experience of her parents’ marriage is described in a detached and monotonous manner: “Father Bear beat Mother Bear with brass vases. Mother

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Bear suffered those beatings with mute resignation” (Roy 171). Overall, Roy depicts this most conventional of love relationships as a loveless, abusive, and toxic marriage, and couches it in desolate and mundane language. This bleak and wretched portrayal of a marriage that abides by Indian societal traditions is Roy’s protest against the Love Laws. The burgeoning attraction between Baby Kochamma and Father Mulligan is another relationship that, by conforming to the Love Laws, spawns bitterness and disaster. Baby Kochamma and Father Mulligan faced three societal strikes against their romance. First, Father Mulligan was a Jesuit monk who would have had to renounce his vows to marry Baby Kochamma. Second, as a Jesuit, Father Mulligan was a Roman Catholic and therefore, not of the same religious order as Baby Kochamma, who was a Syrian Christian (“The Jesuits”). Indian society would have frowned at the inter-religious marriage. Third, and perhaps most importantly, Father Mulligan was Irish, a white man, and Baby Kochamma an Indian, brown woman. In a country where natives “adore our conquerors and despise ourselves,” Indian society would not have fathomed that such a union between the “superior” white man and the “inferior” Indian woman was even attainable (Roy 52). Indeed, decades later, the marriage of Baby Kochamma’s nephew, Chacko, to his English wife, Margaret (a marriage that incidentally took place in England, not India), was considered an accomplishment and source of pride, as “[a]nybody could see that Chacko was a proud and happy man to have had a wife like Margaret. White” (Roy 136). Faced by these innumerable social barriers, Father Mulligan and Baby Kochamma succumbed to the inevitable Love Laws. Baby Kochamma even attempted to become acceptable in society’s eyes by converting to Roman Catholicism. However, that was as far as she was able to conform without Father Mulligan’s reciprocity, so she resigned herself to the gulf that the Love Laws dictated she could not bridge. “Just to be near him. Close enough to smell his beard. To see the coarse weave of his cassock. To love him just by looking at him,” “[t]hat was all she wanted. All she ever dared to hope for” (Roy 25). Baby Kochamma even persuaded herself in later years that “her unconsummated love for Father Mulligan had been entirely due to her restraint and her determination to do the right thing” (Roy 45). However, a love denied by societal conventions leads to disaster, as portrayed by Roy. Baby Kochamma, bitter and resentful from having succumbed to the Love Laws, appoints herself as the enforcer of the Love Laws. Outraged at Ammu and Velutha’s contravention of the Love Laws, she manipulates and deceives to mete out punishment, causing Velutha’s death and Ammu’s banishment. Overall, Roy depicts an


“It is Roy’s protest against the Love Laws that deny human love by forcing conformity.”


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unfulfilled love due to the adherence to social conventions as a bleak and bitter life. It is Roy’s protest against the Love Laws that deny human love by forcing conformity to socially accepted norms. On the other hand, the love relationship between Ammu and Velutha which rebelled against the Indian caste hierarchy is celebrated as a loving and sacrificial love. Ammu, a Brahmin and of the highest caste, falls in love with Velutha, an Untouchable Paravan. It is a romance condemned by Indian society, a love forbidden by the Love Laws. However, instead of joining in Indian society’s denunciation, Roy celebrates Ammu and Velutha’s love as tender and loving—“[s]he touched him lightly with her fingers...He took her face in his hands and drew it towards his. He closed his eyes and smelled her skin. Ammu laughed” (Roy 321). It is a hopeful love, a love that “made the unthinkable thinkable and the impossible really happen” (Roy 242 ), a love with a promise of an against all odds “‘Naaley’, Tomorrow” (Roy 321). It is a sacrificial love, where Ammu was willing to face a scandal by confessing to her guilt and protesting Velutha’s innocence. Even the language Roy uses to describe Ammu and Velutha’s love is expressive and lyrical, reflecting the celebration of their love in the novel. The description of the moment between Ammu and Velutha that led to their dawning realization of an attraction is radiant with poetic imagery: The man standing in the shade of the rubber trees with coins of sunshine dancing on his body, holding her daughter in his arms, glanced up and caught Ammu’s gaze. Centuries telescoped into one evanescent moment. History was wrong-footed, caught off guard. Sloughed off like an old snakeskin. Its marks, its scars, its wounds from old wars and the walking-backwards days all fell away. In its absence it left an aura, a palpable shimmering that was as plain to see as the water in a river or the sun in the sky. As plain to feel as the heat on a hot day, or the tug of a fish on a taut line. So obvious that no one noticed. (Roy 167-168) Ammu and Velutha are described here as a man and woman shorn of all societal constraints, bathed in the shimmer of dawning love. Roy’s use of the simile of shedding the burden of tradition as akin to sloughing off of old snakeskin is rife with symbolism. In Roy’s eyes, societal conventions, such as the lower caste “walking-backwards” is old skin (Roy 168). Similar to the shedding of old snakeskin leading to renewed growth and a new skin, Roy heralds a new world, where love can flourish unconstrained by the traditions of the Love Laws. However, it is a new world to which those shackled by societal conventions are blind: a joyous, loving world so obvious, yet unnoticed because it is unimaginable to those weighed by conventional chains. Overall, Roy portrays Ammu and Velutha’s love relationship,

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“Similar to the

shedding of old snakeskin... Roy heralds a new world, where love can flourish.”


free of the shackles of societal conventions, as one of genuine love, and swathes her description in lyrical and poetic language. Such celebration of a union that transgresses birth-determined status, so incomprehensible “that no one noticed,” is Roy’s refute of the Indian caste system (Roy 168). Similarly, the love between Estha and Rahel, despite its socially taboo, incestuous moment, is extolled as the perfect union of two bodies with one soul. Roy’s description of the twins, Estha and Rahel’s connection as a single soul in two separate bodies is threaded throughout the novel: “Rahel said nothing. She could feel the rhythm of Estha’s rocking, and the wetness of rain on his skin. She could hear the raucous, scrambled world inside his head” (Roy 22), as if they were a “single Siamese soul” (Roy 40). Roy emphasizes their one-ness and love through their vow to Ammu: “‘Promise me you’ll always love each other,’ she’d [Ammu would] say, as she drew her children to her. ‘Promise,’ Estha and Rahel would say. Not finding words with which to tell her that for them there was no Each, no Other” (Roy 214-215). However, Roy chooses to plac this most perfect union of two persons in a relationship that shatters all societal constraints when they commit incest, when “they held each other close, long after it was over... [when] they broke the Love Laws” (Roy 311). This ultimate breaking of a social taboo by a brother and sister who “thought of themselves together as Me, and separately, individually, as We or Us” is Roy’s most jarring protest against the Love Laws that constrain and deny human nature (Roy 4). It is an extreme protest against social taboos that deny the love of soulmates. It is also a metaphorical protest in that it is the twin characters in the novel who contravene a universally accepted social taboo, underscoring the cruelty of social taboos that deny the love of two people with a twinned soul. This juxtaposition of conventional love relationships as Love Law-abiding yet loveless, and lawless love relationships as loving, is Roy’s protest against the Love Laws. The contrast is symbolized by the products manufactured at the Ipe family business, Paradise Pickles & Preserves. The Love Law-abiding relationships of Mammachi and Pappachi and Baby Kochamma and Father Mulligan are like the pickles and preserves that observe the rules of the Food Products Organization (FPO). They are traditional, law-abiding, but not the most coveted commodity. It is the illegal “[t]oo thin for jelly and too thick for jam” FPO rule violating banana jam produced at Paradise Pickles and Preserves that is most desired by customers (Roy 30-31). Similarly, it is the socially taboo relationships of Ammu,Velutha, Estha, and Rahel that are celebrated in Roy’s novel The God of Small Things in service of her protest against Indian societal constructs that, to this day, dictate whom one should love.

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WORKS CITED Chaudhary, Archana. “India’s Caste System.” Bloomberg, Oct. 2019, https://www. Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things. Random House, 2017. “The Jesuits,” Jesuits, accessed June 2021,

“It is an extreme protest against social taboos that deny the love of soulmates.”

AUTHOR BIO Deshan D. is a sophomore at the Nueva School, San Mateo. He enjoys a variety of subjects including mathematics, physics, biology, and computer science. He has a particular passion for writing in creative prose and verse. He is an avid artist who primarily works with acrylic on canvas and has a penchant for animals and landscape paintings. Deshan is also a keen chess player and volleyball enthusiast. He has traveled extensively and on many occasions to Sri Lanka, his parents’ country of origin, which has given him an insightful perspective on South Asian culture when writing this essay.

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The Pitch

When does a company become too powerful? Reaching back to a world without the Internet, social media, or even home computers, this play addresses the seven-year legal battle between the U.S. Department of Justice and the then-behemoth of the telecommunications industry, AT&T, also commonly known as “Ma Bell.” The situation mirrors a dynamic we face today: increasing support for the breakup of Big Tech. The play directly focuses on the final 130 days of the case, which culminates in a decision made by AT&T chief and business titan Charles Brown that would forever alter the telecommunications industry: agreeing to one of the largest corporate reorganizations in history, the “breakup” of Ma Bell. Brown and his lawyer, George Saunders, take on the unforgiving Judge Harold Greene in a final attempt to escape an unfavorable proposition. At the core of this battle is a key issue that is occupying headlines again today: the government’s role in regulating competition within the technology sector.


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In late 2020, the Department of Justice filed an antitrust case against the tech giant Google. The case is reminiscent of allegations made against Ma Bell in 1974, asserting that Google, through its monopoly on online search and advertising, engaged in anti-competitive practices through exclusive use and distribution agreements that eliminated any possibility of a challenger in online search. Similarly, the 1974 antitrust case against AT&T pointed to the use of a vertical monopoly to gain total control over both the manufacturing and distribution of telecommunications equipment. In an official statement regarding Google’s business practices, the DOJ even points to the “AT&T telephone monopoly” as a precedent and justification for government intervention to “remedy violations and restore competition” (Department of Justice). The parallel between the two cases is further underscored by Google’s grip on 90% of the mobile search market today, which is identical to AT&T’s telephone coverage of 90% of US households prior to the 1974 antitrust case—a tale of two technology giants separated in time but exerting equally dominant control over their respective markets. The conflicting emotions that once surrounded the regulation of AT&T are returning to the political and consumer landscapes today. Faced with increasing prices and deteriorating quality of service, many consumers desired the freedom of choice, while others were concerned about moving away from a universal provider that had provided dependable service for years. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs and businesses, forced out of the telecommunications market by predatory pricing, desired room to compete and innovate—yet AT&T maintained that allowing competition in the market would lower equipment standards and that a “natural monopoly” best served the public interest (Bell). The government’s need to navigate a complex matrix of multiple parties with varying interests created a layered situation with no right answer. Set entirely in the federal courtroom where the trial itself took place, this play evokes a vivid sense of intensity with its narrow focus on the key players of the trial. Through its singular setting, Telephone Wars portrays the clashing interests of numerous parties—namely, those of potential AT&T competitor MCI and Charles Brown of AT&T. Testimonies from consumers create uncertainty around the American public’s priorities, and a new conflict is discovered and explored: the tension between the public’s need for access to reliable telecommunications and the government’s desire to maintain competition.

“...a tale of two technology giants separated in time but exerting equally dominant control...”

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“Saunders begins to fidget... as hundreds of possibly incriminating documents are handed to the plaintiff.”


Stage Directions The place: United States District Court, District of Columbia. It is January 5, 1982. Upstage center: The judge’s bench. Situated on an elevated platform in front of a series of tall, draping red curtains, the stand is the most prominent object in the court, with harsh, white lights beating down on the table to reflect Judge Greene’s ruthless nature. Six of the seven seats at the table remain empty, drawing the audience’s eye directly to Greene. Behind Greene’s seat and above the curtains sits a freshly polished courtroom seal, with the golden emblem of a bald eagle glowing in the fierce lights that span the circular room’s walls. An unusually wide and high wooden barrier stands between the witness stand and the judge’s bench, its ornate carvings and marble accents gleaming in the midday sunlight. A large dome with cutouts for windows is suspended over the stage with lights above it, casting intense light over the courtroom while leaving the rest of the stage shrouded in darkness. The scene is quiet, with both the plaintiff and defendant waiting for documents to be wheeled into the courtroom. Only the hum of fluorescent lights can be heard as Judge Greene carefully pans his eyes across the courtroom. Stage right, stage left: audience and witness benches. The benches are similar to the wooden pews of a church, and directly face the judge’s bench and the back of the witness stand. In the front row of the benches, witnesses from both sides sit nervously in anticipation of their cross-examination. Each successive row is elevated, creating the feel of an auditorium. A smooth, checkered red carpet covers the entire floor, covered in permanent imprints from the stiff leather shoes of business executives and government officials. The “sunlight” casts the audience into the shadows, directing all focus to the trial. We hear muttering among the audience members, all 100 of which are AT&T customers. Upstage left: Entrance to the courtroom. Suddenly, the short, simple wooden door to the extravagant courtroom swings open. The sound of conversation is replaced by the squeaking of rubber wheels as tall, metal carts of documents roll into the courtroom. In his seat at the defendant’s table, AT&T lawyer George Saunders begins to fidget with the buffalo horn buttons on his oversized suit as hundreds of possibly incriminating


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documents are handed to the plaintiff. The scene ends with the strike of a wooden gavel, a hollow sound reverberating through the expansive courtroom as Orville Wright of MCI walks to the witness stand.

Introduction JUDGE HAROLD GREENE, dressed in draping black robes, perches menacingly in his seat at the front of the courtroom. A refugee from Nazi Germany and former Justice Department lawyer, Greene took over United States v. AT&T on his first day on the bench. With tight administration over the court’s proceedings, Greene is a seemingly inexorable individual, ruling over the court with unrelenting control and zero tolerance for any resistance. Having watched the Ma Bell monopoly gradually grow to dominate the telecommunications industry, he adamantly refuses to drop the suit against the corporation—rather, he places the burden on AT&T to prove that the Bell System has not violated antitrust laws. Greene’s harsh and often startling personality is on full display in the courtroom, where he heaps scorn upon his victims (Bell) and refuses to entertain criticism of the prosecution. In fact, he believes there is no doubt that AT&T has engaged in anti-competitive practices. Heavily opinionated, Greene’s bold written opinions reveal a deep personal distrust of AT&T, and he is willing to prolong the case in order to put financial pressure on the firm. As a former lawyer, Greene constantly seeks ways to gain an advantage—in this case, using his position as the definitive voice in the case to gain perceptual leverage over the defendants. This judicial style is particularly unnerving to BROWN and the rest of the defendants, who face a steep uphill legal battle against Greene. CHARLES BROWN is the soft-spoken and polite chief executive officer of AT&T. A pragmatic, forward-thinking individual, Brown understands the financial implications of prolonging the antitrust suit. However, he often struggles to balance emotions and reason. After spending nearly four decades at AT&T, it is emotionally difficult for him to agree to a breakup. Brown is deeply invested in the mission of AT&T and testifies as if it is his religion to provide the best service at the lowest possible cost to Americans. He believes that a breakup would lead to a fragmented and disorganized industry and that losing control of Western Electric and Bell Laboratories would cause AT&T to “become more or less like a water company.” At the same time, however, Brown has been worn down

Romanesco / Defying Binary / Spring 2021

“...his misfit appearance and unconfident demeanor make him appear vulnerable... but his persistence has nearly paid off.”


by the seven-year trial and years of unsuccessful appeals. He is worried about rumors around the possibility of Congress passing legislation to enforce a split and believes critics like Joan Rivers and Ralph Nader have deeply hurt AT&T’s public image. Brown worked his way up from the very bottom of the corporate ladder and was promoted to the chief role in 1979, but not until 1982 will he accept the inevitable and agree—albeit reluctantly—to a breakup. ORVILLE WRIGHT is the embattled CEO of MCI, an aspiring AT&T competitor. He is a determined man, having fought legal battles against AT&T for nearly two decades. Stout and rough around the edges, his misfit appearance and unconfident demeanor make him appear vulnerable to BROWN and his lawyer, SAUNDERS, but his persistence has nearly paid off. Having already filed multiple private lawsuits against AT&T for their predatory pricing and denial of interconnection (stifling his attempts to release microwave applications), Wright is adamant about ensuring that the Bell System is broken up. When his time comes, Wright will testify on the twenty-two types of misconduct he feels AT&T committed against him. THEO LAUPER is a customer of the Bell System. Situated on the plaintiff’s witness bench, he has traveled from Rhode Island to testify against AT&T. Lauper is a middle-class citizen who does not use telephone service often, and thus would like to avoid paying more than the bare minimum. However, in recent years, AT&T has started charging high prices for service. Furthermore, when Lauper was forced to buy a phone from AT&T, he incurred an additional charge. Lauper desires choice and good service, and right now he has neither. An optimist above all else, Lauper believes that the breakup of AT&T will usher in a new wave of competition and innovation, a prospect he and many others are genuinely excited about.

AUTHOR BIO Humza R. is a rising senior at the Nueva School, where he is an avid debater, coder, writer, and squash player. He is passionate about technology, its role in society, and its impact on a range of disciplines, including politics and government. His piece stems from this interest and explores the delicate balance between technological innovation and government regulation.

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sk any fan, player, or pundit for a rundown of the top running backs and the name Derrick Henry will inevitably appear. He led the NFL in rushing yards in both 2019 and 2020 and is one of only eight players to have eclipsed 2000 rushing yards in a single season. He handled 82% of his team’s carries, the 2nd highest rate in the league. But was his full potential capitalized on? Were his successes a result of overutilization? Here, we seek to create a valuation of running backs’ performance on different types of run plays. If we know how effective running backs are when utilized in specific ways, we can assess whether they are utilized correctly. However, this is a difficult problem to solve. Raw stats alone don’t tell the whole story, and metrics such as Expected Points Added (EPA) can be influenced by offensive line performance, strength of schedule, and game script. EPA is a metric which represents the value of a single play in a drive, and is found by taking the Expected Points after the play minus the


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Expected Points before it has occurred. Expected Points is found based on a multinomial logistic regression of variables including current field position and time left on the clock, which predicts the probability of each type of score (Touchdown, Field Goal, Safety). The prediction tends to be very accurate. For example, an unexpected touchdown would yield many points to the EPA, while a chip shot field goal would add almost none. However, EPA does not account for the contributions of each player, but aggregates a whole teams’ performance. To take a deep dive into running back efficiency, and identify the one run type Derrick Henry actually underperforms at, we turn to Individual Points Added (IPA). IPA is a modification to EPA which attributes points to individual players, allowing greater individualized statistical focus. IPA is calculated using what’s called a multi-level model. First, we represent each player’s IPA as an unknown variable, then take the EPA of each play from the 2020 NFL season and express it as a point drawn from a normal distribution centered around the summed IPA of every player on the field for that play. Then, we calculate an IPA for each player that minimizes the error in the model’s estimate of EPA. This approach, pioneered for the NFL by Carnegie Mellon University data scientist Ron Yurko, provides an effective metric for player valuations which controls for myriad conflicting variables. However, IPA calculations are constrained by data availability—our data, from nflscrapR, includes only play-by-play statistics for skill-position players. Here, we use an IPA model derived from Yurko’s model. With a deep dive into statistics, we can uncover nuanced, unexpected conclusions about running backs. To start, let’s take a look at the average IPA of every running back who had at least 20 carries during the 2020 regular season and subsequent playoffs. Here, average IPA is the average change that the running back is responsible for in expected points scored on a given drive before and after a running back runs the ball. For example, scoring a touchdown on 1stand-goal from the 1 yard line would yield only a modest IPA, as a touchdown was expected anyways. Additionally, if a running back is running well behind a stellar offensive line, their IPA would be average if most other running backs could perform just as well in the same situation. Keep in mind that this analysis of running backs’ carries ignores plays in which running backs catch the ball or block. A running back has three primary functions: rushing (i.e. running with the football), catching, and blocking. However, catching and blocking skills are largely independent of rushing skills, and we are interested in whether coaches use running backs on the right types of rush plays.

“If we know how effective running backs are when utilized in specific ways, we can assess whether they are utilized correctly.”

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The distribution of running back average IPAs is relatively normal, with some good running backs, some bad ones, and a good deal in the middle. This makes senses: being a great running back takes a great deal of strength, speed, agility, and game sense. The average running back has a slightly negative IPA, consistent with the fact that running plays on average are less risky but have a lower expected value than pass plays. It’s important to note, however, that even the best backs can’t compete with other skill positions: Texans QB Deshaun Watson averages 0.26 IPA per throw, the highest of any NFL QB, while Bills WR Stefon Diggs, the best WR in terms of IPA, can expect 0.16 IPA every time he is targeted. This is because running backs tend to have a smaller impact on a game than other positions; Watson and Diggs frequently make plays other players could only dream of, whereas a running back’s performance is heavily dependent on his teammates and opponents. This is why IPA is important: it helps us distinguish between good running backs and running backs with good teammates.

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Among running backs, Nick Chubb of the Browns leads the way, while Miles Gaskin of the Dolphins, a team infamous for their barebones running back corps, unsurprisingly takes up the rear. Fantasy football owners of Royce Freeman will be familiar with his frustratingly mediocre performance, which lands him right in the middle of the pack. These initial results make sense, and are even a little boring—but don’t worry! As we take a closer look at the data, insights will emerge. To narrow our scope, let’s look at how these running backs are used. Every run play corresponds to a run gap, which is traditionally labelled with a letter. A run gap is a location on the line of scrimmage through which a running back can run. Some running backs are better at running all the way along the edge, away from the action but close to the sideline (the E Gap), whereas others excel at running straight down the middle (the A Gap). We classify these run gaps into seven distinct categories.

Methods Part 1: Empirical Testing of Scognamiglio et al. Scognamiglio et al. evaluates each bond on three main categories: program process, contractual conditions, and evaluation methodology. Within these three main categories,

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Normally, run stats aren’t dependent on where a run play happens. However, nflscrapR reports ESPN’s classification of every run from the 2020 season, allowing us to view how each of these run gaps are utilized.

When we zoom out to the entire NFL, it is clear that most gaps are used equally, with the exception of the middle gap—which counts for two A gaps. While there might not be a difference in the usage of run gaps on a league-wide scale, there certainly is a difference between individual running backs. This isn’t a huge revelation—you would expect a big power back like Latavius Murray to be utilized primarily in the A and B gaps, while a fast and shifty back like Raheem Mostert would be better suited for runs to the C and D gaps. What we want to take a closer look at, however, is whether or not teams most effectively distribute carries between their running backs. In other words, are teams correctly choosing which running backs would be best to use on a given run play?


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To answer this question, we compared the average IPA per each run gap between each running back on a given team, and took a deep dive into the backfield of two teams whose strategy for the run game couldn’t be farther apart—the Rams and the Titans. The 10-6 2020 Los Angeles Rams housed three incumbent running backs: Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, and Malcom Brown. After star running back Todd Gurley endured a series of setbacks, leading to his release from the team after the 2019 season, Coach Sean McVay has employed a running-back-by-committee—where multiple running backs have a significant amount of rushing opportunities—approach to balance the team’s carries.

While on a single-game basis, the back who is performing the best can often take charge of the majority of the carries, over the course of the season we see that the three Rams’ backs hold relatively even shares in the run game. Carries are not perfectly distributed, but they are much more even than for teams such as the Titans—most teams will see one running back taking at least half of all rushes. Towards the end of the season, rookie Cam Akers was on fire, and enjoyed the bulk of the carries by way of Coach McVay’s vote of confidence, paving his way to be the future backfield bell cow—the back who leads the offense and receives the majority of the carries. Overall, Cam Akers had the most carries during the 2020 season of any Rams running back in six of the seven run gaps.

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However, when we observe the distribution of carries together with the average IPA per runner, we find that this confidence is likely misplaced. It is not Akers, but sophomore back Darrell Henderson, who outperforms the others in six of the seven gaps, a potential sleeper facing the brunt of under-utilization. In fact, Cam Akers is mediocre, and among the weakest rushers in the league through the left tackle and up the middle. While the Rams may struggle with who deserves to carry the ball, the Tennessee Titans quite possibly have the easiest decision in the league. At 6 foot 3 inches tall and 247 pounds, 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year Derrick Henry outsizes the average linebacker, proving himself to be a defensive player’s nightmare and no-brainer RB1.


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Indeed, Henry netted at least 27 more carries than the Titans’ secondary back, Jeremy McNichols, at any given run gap in the 2020-2021 season. Without a doubt, Henry’s mammoth share of carries shows he is not just Titans coach Mike Vrabel’s go-to guy, but truly rushing royalty in the Titans’ backfield.

But sadly, average IPA reveals that Henry does not rule every single run gap. Notably, he struggles on runs at left tackle, averaging an underwhelming -0.040 IPA. Ironically, this is the only gap where McNichols has a positive average IPA. Henry’s 64 carries at left tackle (his third most through any gap), when compared to McNichols’s meager 8, demonstrate that despite Henry’s prowess as Tennessee’s undisputed rushing king, there is still room for McNichols to shine. Obviously, if McNichols only runs through left tackle, opposing defenses will quickly learn to anticipate the route every time he is handed the ball, but it is worth exploring switching up the current 8:1 ratio of carries between the two backs at left tackle.

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Henry’s struggles at left tackle are not an outlier. Few lead rushers for NFL teams are best of their team in all seven gaps—Nick Chubb, the highest-ranked rusher in the 2020 season, underperformed compared to his teammate Kareem Hunt on runs to the left tackle, right tackle, and end.

Alvin Kamara is a bit more dominant compared to his teammate, Latavius Murray, and excels in all but two run gaps relative to his team. However, his rushing IPA slightly underestimates his usefulness, as his ability to catch the ball on short flare passes is vital to his effectiveness as NOLA’s lead back. Among the Patriots, Ravens, Chiefs, and Bucs, there is no clear lead running back in terms of efficacy, as reflected by ambivalent IPA graphs. Indeed, these teams often use a running back committee. But—if JK Dobbins or Gus Edwards were not on the same team, they would stand out. Their weighted average IPA across all run gaps is good for second and third in the league. Expect to see them on the rise in the coming seasons.

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IPA, however, does come with its caveats. For instance, although many running backs excel at one or two specific run gaps, it would be unwise for teams to use them solely for those runs — after all, if opposing defenses saw McNichols in the backfield, it would be simple to adjust to the inevitable rush to the left tackle. Plus, factors like the strength of a team’s offensive line can also skew data to make running backs appear stronger or worse than they may be with another team; Le’Veon Bell has never reached the same heights after leaving the Steelers 3 years ago. IPA accounts for these differences by calculating weights for different teams, defenses, and play types; however, with limited data (only 5-6 running backs will rush behind the Steelers’ line in a given year), the weights are not perfect. Even with these shortcomings, IPA can prove effective for helping teams craft rushing or passing strategies that effectively utilize their personnel. The ability of IPA to screen out external factors better than most other football statistics means it provides a more accurate intrinsic view of running backs. This assessment of running back value, when combined with evaluations of offensive lines and defenses, could yield predictive power in analyzing rushing plays. Overall, statistics provide a deeper understanding of the nuances of football that fans and even coaches often miss. IPA reveals new insights into Derrick Henry’s strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps even more importantly, however, IPA can help reveal “diamonds in the rough”—runners like JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards, who aren’t fan favorites but are incredibly effective nonetheless. WORKS CITED “Deshaun Watson Miraculously Escapes Sack | 2020 NFL Playoffs.” Youtube, uploaded by Hylights, 4 Jan. 20202, Accessed 8 June 2021. “The Minneapolis Miracle!” YouTube, uploaded by NFL, 14 Jan. 2018, Accessed 8 June 2021. Cimini, Rich. “Inside look at Le’Veon Bell’s historically poor season with Jets.” ESPN, 5 Jan. 2020, Accessed 8 June 2021. Freeman, Mike. “How Todd Gurley Went from Face of the Rams Franchise to Free Agent in 2 Years.” Bleacher Report, 19 Mar. 2020, Accessed 8 June 2021.

“... are teams correctly choosing which running backs would be best to use on a given run play?”

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“IPA can help reveal ‘diamonds in the rough’...”


Gentry, Jack. “Why Charles Davis believes Derrick Henry is the best running back in the NFL.” A to Z Sports Nashville, 21. Oct. 2020, Accessed 8 June 2021. Horowitz, Maksim, Samuel Ventura, and Ronald Yurko. “nflWAR: A Reproducible Method for Offensive Player Evaluation in Football.” De Gruyer, 16 April 2019. https://doi. org/10.1515/jqas-2018-0010 Maya, Adam. “Titans RB Derrick Henry named NFL AP Offensive Player of the Year.” NFL, 6 Feb. 2021, Accessed 8 June 2021. Shook, Nick. “Sean McVay believes Rams’ Cam Akers is an ‘every-down back,’ calls him ‘special player.’” NFL, 26 Feb. 2021, Accessed 8 June 2021. Sparks, Adam. “Titans’ Derrick Henry rushes for 2,000 yards, eighth player in NFL history to do so.” Nashville Tennessean, 3 Jan. 2021, nfl/titans/2021/01/03/derrick-henry-titans-nfl-rushing-records-earl-campbell-chris-johnson/4091800001/. Accessed 8 June 2021. Yurko, Ron, et al. “Maksimhorowitz/NflscrapR.” NflscrapR, 2 Apr. 2020, maksimhorowitz/nflscrapR. Accessed 8 June 2021. WORKS CONSULTED Hermsmeyer, Josh. “If Christian McCaffrey Is The NFL’s MVP, Why Aren’t The Panthers Better?” FiveThirtyEight, 11 Oct. 2019, Accessed 8 June 2021. ---. “Reports Of The Fullback’s Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated.” FiveThirtyEight, 17 Oct. 2019, Accessed 8 June 2021. Salfino, Michael. “Memo To NFL GMs: Stop Drafting Kickers.” FiveThirtyEight, 21. Sept. 2018, Accessed 8 June 2021.


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AUTHORS’ BIOS Alex C. is a senior at The Nueva School. He plans to pursue an academic career in life sciences, specifically the micro-level mechanisms that can make large-scale impacts to humans and the way they live. He enjoys delving into microeconomic analyses and the financial sector. Outside of school, he loves all active things, from weightlifting to mixed-martial arts, and is an ardent Raiders fan. Elliot C. is a senior at The Nueva School. Passionate about economics, statistics, and math, Elliot enjoys exploring the intersections of discipline where new insights can be found. His interest in football started with statistical analyses of fantasy football performance, which revealed a world ripe for mathematical exploration. Elliot co-leads design on his high school’s robotics team, nonprofit medical device startup Ferrofoot, and his school’s Community Service Club; in his free time, he enjoys playing basketball and board games. Joseph K. is a senior at The Nueva School. He is an avid musician, producer, and enjoys investigating math’s intersection with fields like economics and statistics. As a passionate sports fan, this project was the perfect combination of his recreational and academic interests. His favorite classes at Nueva have been Quantum Information and Computation, Linear Algebra, and Afrofuturism. This coming fall, he hopes to study either mathematics or economics. Noah V H. is a senior at The Nueva School. He enjoys the humanities and social sciences, with a particular interest in World War II history. Though more of a San Francisco Giants fan than a football fan, he nonetheless enjoyed exploring the intersection of sports and strategy in this project. A member of Nueva’s basketball team and Chess Club, Noah also plays the cello and board games in his free time. Quetz M. is a senior at The Nueva School. He is passionate about the humanities and social sciences, and has specifically enjoyed the variety of economics classes he has taken throughout high school. An avid Raiders fan for as long as he can remember, he enjoyed analyzing the sport with statistics and models; a much different way than he is used to. Apart from watching football, he also spends his free time playing on Nueva’s basketball team.

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Illustration by Emily L.

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Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) are public-private partnerships that are used globally to fund social interventions. Risk evaluation in SIBs is conducted on a case-by-case basis, and academic models prove imperfect when tested on completed SIBs. This paper presents a novel model of risk evaluation that finds that few factors affect the likelihood of success or failure, dramatically simplifying models compared to previous research while strengthening predictive power.

Introduction Part 1: Key Elements of Social Impact Bonds SIBs are meant to drive innovation in the social service sector through

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novel ways of prototyping and delivering social interventions. A SIB is composed of a partnership between the government, a private investor, intermediaries who oversee the intervention and analyze if the set outcomes were achieved, and service providers who have experience providing a service in the given field. Investors receive their investment back with a pre-specified rate of return if the intervention succeeds [12]. While many sociologists see SIBs as having a bright future, despite initial unpredictable results [1], others disagree on the prospects of SIBs [2]. Social impact bonds leverage a framework that removes risk from public actors, and places the financial risk of failed outcomes in private hands, all with private capital. The risk is redistributed to investors, who cover the up-front expenditures on the social intervention. Theoretically, smaller service providers can then take on larger projects, since the risk shifted away from public sector commissioners, who are notoriously riskaverse [3]. As Edmiston and Nicholls discuss, risk allocation differs greatly between executed bonds and does not consistently follow the structure outlined above [3]. The “seed-funding,” or initial investment, for most bonds still comes from public commissioners, which gives them financial and reputational risk if the bond is not successfully contracted. Additionally, investments are not just made by the private sector, since service providers occasionally co-invest in the bonds and variable guarantees are made by public commissioners—thus relocating risk to the public sector[6]. The lack of small service providers in SIBs also illustrates the variance in risk allocation. Furthermore, SIB pricing structures are often devised alongside political constraints, leading governments and investors to ineffectively price risk in bonds [9]. For example, the Newpin Social Benefit Bond of 2013 was devised off of evidence deemed to be erroneous, and financing was sourced from retirement savings at the last minute [12]. While The Newpin bond was initially touted as a revolutionary way to transform social conditions of New South Wales, it set a poor precedent as the lack of quantitative and well-founded risk models set a poor precedent for future risk model formulation.

Part 2: The Social Aspect Social impact bonds are meant to target an underlying social problem that is costly to the government. The solutions to these social problems are often preventive services, such as health care, employment opportunities, or reducing recidivism. Most of these services have a high cost if outcomes

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“Social impact bonds are always associated with social risk...”


are poor, and therefore, improvement represents a profit opportunity for the government [1]. Social impact bonds always are associated with social risk, because nearly risk-free programs would already have been invested in by a public actor. Using the framework for “social uncertainty” established by Scognamiglo et al [8], social uncertainty is referred to in this paper as “a measure of the likelihood that any capital used in the SIB will generate the defined social outcomes independent of long-term cash flows.” As an example, the amount of money Duo For A Job makes is independent from the inherent risk in their program and the likelihood that they reach their goals, as most of the success is dependent on how the program is implemented and who is targeted. To this extent, any risk model ought to factor in the existing conditions and how they may harm the chance of success; Rikers Island, a recidivism-based SIB in New York City, failed largely due to a target population that ultimately was non-cooperative and instead went back to jail at a higher rate [1], and many risk analyses fundamentally ignore this aspect of uncertainty.

Part 3: Literature Review In recent years, many governments have been interested in transferring the risk of social interventions away from the state and into the hands of investors. In 2010, the United Kingdom launched the first SIB in Peterborough, aiming to promote public-private partnerships and reduce risk of recidivism [8]. As of early 2021, there are close to 160 social impact bonds that have been implemented or planned globally, with varied success [1]. While hailed as an effective mechanism to resolve social issues, they often face hurdles upon implementation and seldom achieve all desired results. Considering the unknown amounts of risk involved with the bonds, SIBs have yet to become a widespread tool for social welfare. The mixed results SIBs have delivered often come with little apparent explanation; the Peterborough SIB reduced recidivism rates by 9 percent while the Rikers Island SIB in New York failed to reduce recidivism rates by a single percent and wound up increasing recidivism, even though they followed a similar structure [15]. Current risk evaluation processes consist of governmental negotiations with investors and arbitrary pricing based on past intermediary and service provider experience. The lack of an accurate pricing model attracts fewer profit-driven investors, and as such SIBs are frequently geared towards impact investors—making it hard to garner support from firms and individuals as most are profit-driven [13]. As a result, for SIBs to garner widespread funding, compromises are


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often made in the scope of the SIB to increase the chance investors obtain high returns. Contracts are also written to minimize risk due to political upheaval [12]. However, empirical evidence suggests these evaluation processes fall short of what is satisfactory for success [11]. In order to scale SIBs to more profit-focused investors, better methods of standardizing and quantifying risk are required. Attempts have been made to quantitatively assess SIB risk, such as a risk framework by Scognamiglio et al [2] and a social uncertainty evaluation by Rania et al [11]. However, these frameworks were found to be unsatisfactory. Scognamiglio’s model produces results that differ from the observed outcomes when compared to completed bonds, and Rania’s criterion does not appear to correlate with bond outcome. In the case of the Rikers Island Bond, Scognamiglio’s model predicted that the risk was lower than most social impact bonds evaluated, but it was one of the few that failed. Because of the variety of potential risks—from intermediary experience to funding sources—there is a wide discrepancy between how the risk of SIBs is calculated across countries, and thus rates of return and pricing structure. Current risk models are insufficient to evaluate the likelihood of success of proposed bonds, and a consensus has not been reached as to which features of a bond are salient.

Methods Part 1: Empirical Testing of Scognamiglio et al. Scognamiglio et al. evaluates each bond on three main categories: program process, contractual conditions, and evaluation methodology. Within these three main categories, each bond was evaluated based on sixteen total metrics and given a score, Sj, from 1 to 3, described in the figure below—where the higher number is representative of higher risk. The number of risk factors available, nj, either 2 (in the case of a risk level of 1 or 2) or 3 (in the case of risk ranging from 1-3), was then plotted. The sum of all nj, denoted as Nj, was then computed for each subset of variables for each bond. To calculate the overall section risk-score, each Sj was multiplied by its correlating nj, and divided by Nj. This process was repeated for each risk factor categorically, and the results were summed to obtain a final section risk score. To obtain an overall risk score, Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) weights—a numerical system that ranks and weights elements based on a user-defined framework—were computed

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Figure 2: Criteria used from Scognamiglio



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for each category of factors adjusted for the size of the tested model and multiplied by its corresponding sectional risk score. Criteria used can be seen in Figure 2. A database of completed single service provider bonds was created using the Oxford Government Outcomes Lab database of SIBs, so that the model of Scognamiglio et al. could be applied and tested [7, 8]. Thirteen bonds were selected from the database, and additional research was conducted to find any additional information necessary for the model, including the duration, number of outcomes measured, experience of the intermediary, additional information about the service provider, and whether it was a pilot program. Some categories, such as worker vs. target number relation (number of workers present for each target group) were not included due to the lack of public information on the staffing of various charitable organizations and cotemporal project scope. These excluded categories represent 24% of total weight in the model. Bonds were coded as successes or failures based on whether they repaid investors at stated target levels, and partial successes (some outcomes achieved, some failed) were dropped from consideration. Categorical testing on the risk scores of successful and failed bonds was then performed.

Part 2: Testing of Rania et al. In an attempt to extend on the framework proposed by Scognamiglio et al., Rania et al. compiled a database of 34 complete social impact bonds coded with the relevant categorical indicators. Success/failure data were not collected. Rania et al. also consulted several experts in the field in order to rederive the weights through a second iteration of the AHP process. In order to verify and modify this analysis, success/failure data were collected for the bonds. Bonds with specific targets or threshold-based repayment structures where sums are paid if and only when target goals are met—such as a certain number of individuals reach the workforce or a set reduction in recidivism are reached—were coded in a binary fashion, while bonds with a progressive repayment structure were coded in terms of the fraction of target return paid, and thus fraction of goal achieved, capped at 1. Meanwhile, bonds with payouts structured based on the number of targets served were coded as previously if they had explicit targets, or dropped from all further consideration if they did not. Using expert’s relative weights of different criteria collected by Rania et. al, risk scores were calculated for each bond, and each individual expert’s model as well as the ensemble model was tested for correlation with success/failure data.

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“Neither expert model demonstrated significant predictive power.”


Part 3: Regression Analysis To better understand how individual variables interact with the final risk score, and to formulate a more precise model for evaluating risk in social impact bonds, linear regression on the indicators was performed using Gretl, attempting to model the dependent variable of success. Using data from the Rania model, analyzed in Part 2, an Ordinary Least Squares regression (OLS) was instantiated. Upon the normalization of all risk factors into a value between 0-1, with 1 representing a higher level of risk, the data was then plotted. Rather than using Rania’s AHP analysis to generate a risk score, each variable was measured against a single dependent variable of success, using the previously described conversion methodology. After each independent variable was tested against the dependent variable of success, p-values were sequentially eliminated from the regression model until only significant variables remained. A Breusch-Pagan heteroskedasticity test rejected the null hypothesis of no heteroskedasticity (p=0.001), so heteroskedasticity-robust p-values were used. This produced a model with six highly significant (p<0.001) independent variables. (Figure 3). Further tests were performed to assess the statistical validity of this model.

Results Neither expert model demonstrated significant predictive power. When tested, the partial model derived from the model proposed by Scognamiglio et al. assigned a non-significantly higher risk score to successful bonds than failed bonds (p=0.18). Generally, a p value, or the probability of achieving results just as extreme as the observed, is statistically significant with values less than .05. In this case, this result strongly suggests that either the majority of the characteristics measured have little to no correlation with the outcome of the bond, or that the subjective process used by Scognamiglio et al. to weight the model produced poor results. In order to further distinguish between these hypotheses, the Rania et al. model was tested. The three expert models proposed by Rania et al. demonstrated extremely poor predictive accuracy on the bonds on which data was collected (r<0.05, p>0.8). No correlation, and thus no statistical significance, was observed. The regression model allowed for the isolation of significant variables. While the majority of the data collected was found to be non-predic-


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tive, six variables were found to have a strong correlation (p<0.01) with success-failure data when used as part of a predictive multiple regression model (Figure 4). Additionally, the model demonstrated significant explanatory power (R2=0.66, adjusted R2=0.55). A leave-one-out estimator produced an R2 value of 0.22. As this value is moderately positive, but significantly less than the whole-model R2, it appears that the model has broad predictive applicability, but is somewhat overfit, and therefore has less predictive power than a first approximation suggests. This is unsurprising given the limited data available. Ramsey’s RESET failed to reject the null hypothesis, suggesting that a linear regression is a correct specification. All model coefficients were positive, indicating an intuitive relationship between risk and the feature, except for Intermediary Experience. Further analysis is necessary to determine if the apparent inverse relationship is spurious, or an artifact of the limited data set employed.

Figure 3: Bond success by model risk score

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Figure 4: Regression coefficients and characteristics

Discussion The indicators included in the regression model track roughly with the stated considerations of intermediaries in assessing bonds. Service provider experience and worker target number are the two most critical variables for defining the success of the intervention, while public policy variation represents the degree of implicit political risk in social uncertainty. However, intermediary traits appear to predict success in a highly counterintuitive manner: highly skilled, but inexperienced, intermediaries appear to produce the best results. Overall, this analysis validates the informal qualitative status quo of risk assessment, and emphasizes the need for a more quantitative and rigorous approach. Inter-rater reliability upon the optimal relative weight of different potentially predictive traits of SIB success among experts in the SIB field is low (Rania et al.), but it appears that the designers of these bonds have identified a significant subset of the relevant traits. Inherently, all social impact bond analysis faces a unique challenge: a lack of publicly available data. Because of this, no modelling should be treated as conclusive. However, the regression model posited above appears to shine light on which salient features of a bond have a more significant effect on its outcome. Governments and intermediaries can use such data to more accurately weight aspects of Social Impact Bonds that are


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most likely to disrupt the final outcome, and can develop more rigid price structures that account for these risks, thus leading to more SIBs receiving funding. Considering that the experience level of both the service provider and the intermediary has a statistically significant effect on the predicted success of a social impact bond, more robust evaluation processes could be implemented when finding a service provider, while the negative correlation between intermediary experience and success indicates that the intermediary of the SIB is less relevant, and if anything, less risky if new to the field. Further, the amount of variation in the political and economic conditions where SIBs have been implemented suggest some variation in what leads to a successful or negative outcome, as some are implemented in wealthier areas with less focus on improving social outcomes of the poor—such as Riker’s Island—and some in poorer areas where greater attention is paid to oppressed groups, such as rural Peru. While this isn’t error per se, it shows that mixed results aren’t always tied to monetary and structural concerns. Indeed, the test of Scognamiglio et al.’s model excluded some factors in the risk evaluation because the information was not publicly available. For example, Scognamiglio et al. included the ratio of workers to the target group of the social intervention and a set of factors regarding the variation of the target group, both of which were excluded from the test since the information was not publically available [8 page 59, 62]. Additionally, some bonds were excluded if an independent variable could not be found. The model of Raina et al. was tested in full because a dataset was provided. As more SIB’s are completed in the future, models can be more rigorously tested, and more modelling can be performed. Due to the small number of currently completed bonds, and the large number of salient features of these bonds, current regression analysis is subject to significant overfitting, jeopardizing the predictive power of the model. Results from the risk model have large global implications as the model has key predictive power in forecasting ultimate success of the bond, ultimately paving the way for more successful social interventions. As more bonds mature or fail, the proposed model can be empirically validated or further tweaked with comparisons to real-world data.

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“... all social impact bond analysis faces a unique challenge: a lack of publicly available data.”


SOURCES 1. Phillips, Andrea, et al. “Program Fails But Social Impact Bond Experiment Succeeds.” Philanthropy News Digest (PND), 2 Aug. 2015, 2. Pequeneza, Nadine. “The Downside of Social Impact Bonds (SSIR).” Stanford Social Innovation Review, 31 May 2019, 3. Edmiston, Daniel and Alex Nicholls. “Social Impact Bonds: The Role of Private Capital in Outcome-Based Commissioning.” Journal of Social Policy, vol. 47, no. 1, 2017, pp. 57–76. Crossref, doi:10.1017/s0047279417000125. 4. Creedon, Aine. “What We Learned from the Failure of the Rikers Island Social Impact Bond.” Non Profit News | Nonprofit Quarterly, 22 Jan. 2020, 5. Jitinder Kohli et al. “Social Impact Bonds 101.” The Center for American Progress. Mar 2012. Accessed 23 March 2021. 6. Tomkinson, Emma, and Alex Nicholls. “The Peterborough Pilot Social Impact Bond.” University of Oxford Said Business School, 2013, pp. 1–50, 7. “Social Impact Bond (SIB) Financing: A Pay for Success Strategy.” Social Finance, 17 Aug. 2020, 8. Scognamiglio, Elisabetta, et al. “Social Uncertainty Evaluation in Social Impact Bonds: Review and Framework.” Research in International Business and Finance, vol. 47, 2019, pp. 40–56. Crossref, doi:10.1016/j.ribaf.2018.05.001. 9. Azemati, Hanna, et al. Social Impact Bonds: Lessons Learned So Far. John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, social-impact-bonds-lessons-learned.pdf. 10. “Impact Bond Dataset.” The Government Outcomes Lab, Accessed 23 Mar. 2021. 11. Rania, Francesco, et al. “Social Uncertainty Evaluation of Social Impact Bonds: A Model and Practical Application.” Sustainability, vol. 12, no. 9, 2020, p. 3854. Crossref, doi:10.3390/su12093854.


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12. Palandjian, Tracy (CEO, Social Finance) in discussion with the author, February 2021. 13. Elyse Sainty (Director, Social Ventures Australia) in discussion with the author, February 2021. 14. “Investing for Success.” Center for American Progress, 3 Mar. 2014, 15. Cohen, Donald, and Jennifer Zelnick. “What We Learned from the Failure of the Rikers Island Social Impact Bond.” Nonprofit Quarterly, Accessed 24 Mar. 2021.

“... mixed results aren’t always tied to monetary and structural concerns.”

AUTHORS’ BIOS Pascal D., Davis T., Willow T., and Harry V. are all juniors at the Nueva School who are passionate about economics. This piece was written as part of an Economic Thesis Seminar class, where students split into groups to research an economic phenomenon of their choice. Because social impact bonds are a novel field with little topical literature outstanding, the group decided to pursue the creation of a risk model that could have long-lasting implications in the expanding field.

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Listening to the song at http:// while reading is recommended. Timestamps will be added in the footnotes. 1

Combination of several different melodies in counterpoint from earlier in the musical. 2

[0:00 - 0:14] A repeated musical phrase 3

One Day More”1 is one of the most popular songs from the sixth longest running show in Broadway history. Running from 1987 to 2003 with revivals in 2006 and 2014, Les Misérables is a musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel of the same name, by Claude-Michel Schönberg (music), Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel (original French lyrics), Cameron Mackintosh (English director), and Herbert Kretzmer (English lyrics). Set during Bourbon Restoration France––beginning in 1815 and concluding with the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris–– Les Misérables tells the tale of Jean Valjean, a French peasant who seeks redemption after serving 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving child. After a bishop shows him an astonishing act of kindness, Valjean breaks his parole to start his life anew. However, the police inspector Javert, the primary antagonist, tracks Valjean throughout France to restore legal justice. As the plot progresses, Valjean and many surrounding characters are swept into the French revolutionary period, culminating when a group calling themselves the Friends of the ABC attempt to overthrow the French government at a street barricade in Paris. This essay analyzes the final song in the first act of the musical––a dramatic quodlibet2 named “One Day More”––which encapsulates various attitudes during post-revolutionary France, many of them reflecting the evolution of Victor Hugo’s own political and spiritual ideologies. The first verses of this song establish the moral and religious parallels between Valjean and Hugo. The song opens with a rapidly played sixteenth note ostinato3 in the strings (seen above), creating a relentless, driving feel that reflects the characters’ desperation. The slow descending A Major bass line, used throughout the whole musical, adds to the mel-

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ancholy feeling present in many of the verses of this song. Valjean, the first character to sing, reprises his “Who Am I” melody, reflecting on his “destiny [and] never ending road to Calvary”4 (Act 1, 23: One Day More, 2-3). The ostinato provides a sense of movement, reflecting Valjean’s long journey. Calvary is the location where Jesus was crucified in the Bible. In this line, Jean Valjean compares his tribulations to those of Jesus, as he is similarly misunderstood by society. The references to destiny and the Bible reflect Hugo’s upbringing as a practicing Catholic, his later rejection of the church, and his eventual spiritualistic and deist beliefs. Hugo was charitable to the poor, instructing his cook to feed beggars who came to his door and hosting “Poor Children’s Dinners” twice a month for 14 years for starving neighborhood children. During his prime years, personal charity contributed to one third of his household expenses (Powell). Similar to Valjean, Hugo’s charity was not a product of religion, but rather an internal moral compass. In Valjean, Hugo establishes a character with a strong moral compass and faith, but not a rigid religious association, reflecting his open-minded perspective on religion and growth from his strict Catholic upbringing. The next verses recall the character of Fantine, who dies earlier in the act, and reflect Hugo’s condemnation of French society. Next, Marius5 comes in, and is soon joined by Cosette6 in a duet. Éponine also begins to sing; one verse, “one more day all on my own,” laments her unrequited love for Marius in a reference to her later solo song (Act 1, 23: One Day More, 12). Her verses overlap with Marius and Cosette’s verses, though they ignore each other completely, implying a difference in location and a shared plight across all of France, and creating a sense of national identity. Furthermore, this separation illustrates Cosette and Marius’ romantic relationship without Éponine, who sings, “What a life I might have known,” bemoaning her miserable situation and contemplating what her life could have been like if circumstances were different (Act 1, 23: One Day More, 16). Both of the melodies in this section are taken from Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream,” symbolizing their interconnectedness, but fundamental difference. Fantine, Cosette’s mother, is the embodiment of les misérables; her story is one of sorrow, tragedy, and exploitation. Her story is especially important to Valjean because he––as the factory owner and mayor, and representing both capitalism and politics––turned her away when she was in need. Hugo criticizes the capitalist and political systems that create victims like Fantine and Éponine. Here in the quodlibet, the depiction of Eponine’s tragedy recalls Hugo’s work to end suffering and poverty. The ostinato changes to chords8–– longer and more grandiose––conveying the stagnant tragedy of Éponine’s



[0:17 - 0:23]

[0:30] Marius Pontmercy is a young student who falls in love with Cosette, as well as the unrequited love interest of Éponine. He is one of the few characters who survive, as Valjean saves his life when he is severely wounded at the barricade. I will not further discuss Marius in this essay. 5

[0:44] Euphrasie, nicknamed Cosette by her mother, is the illegitimate daughter of Fantine and Félix Tholomyès. After Tholomyès abandons Fantine and Cosette, Fantine leaves Cosette in the care of the Thénardiers while she works. The Thénardiers exploit Fantine and abuse Cosette. When Fantine dies, Cosette is rescued by Valjean, who raises her, taking care of her as if she were his own daughter. She eventually falls in love with Marius, which becomes a source of strife between her and her adoptive father. 6


“[Hugo’s] work reflects the romantic movement’s ideas of individualism and heroism.”

[0:59] “one more day all on my own,” ; [1:13] “What a life I might have known,” 7


[0:57 - 1:02]

[1:29] ; [1:36 - 1:41] “barricades of freedom” ; [1:47 - 1:57] “take your place with me” 9


[2:38 - 2:40]

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life. Éponine, who was raised in a privileged household, falls into poverty after the Thénardiers’ inn was forced to close down. Her storyline echoes the progression of Hugo’s political views from conservatism to liberalism. Born into a privileged family, Hugo was a conservative royalist as a young man, but as he grew, he became disillusioned with those in power. Hugo was initially elected to the French Parliament as a conservative in 1848, but he broke with the party the next year when he gave a noted speech calling for progressive ideas, including universal suffrage, freedom of the press, free education for children, and the abolishment of the death penalty (State Library Victoria). He began working towards social justice and equality, calling for an end to suffering and poverty. In France, there were no social welfare systems in place to protect those like Éponine and Fantine, and the capitalist systems largely benefit those in the top socioeconomic class rather than the impoverished. In Les Misérables, Hugo aims to shed light on the plight of the poor in France, condemning the government as a chronic oppressor against the common people; his work reflects the romantic movement’s ideas of individualism and heroism. Although he is of a much higher socioeconomic class, Hugo sympathizes with the revolutionaries, demonstrating his growth from youthful ignorance. Here in the song9, in contrast to Eponine’s helplessness, Enjolras, a young man calling for a revolution to overturn the French government and end the common people’s suffering, starts to sing a rousing verse, claiming that revolution and the “barricades of freedom” are the solution to their struggles and calls for the common people to “take your place with me” in the fight for liberty in France (Act 1, 23: One Day More, 21, 25). The key changes from A Major to E-flat Major and the music becomes more march-like, featuring percussion and trumpets. The students respond to Enjolras’ call echoing the melody from his previous solo, with an enthusiasm reflecting a more radical and violent version of Hugo’s political leanings. The revolutionaries wish to overthrow the current government and emperor and instead establish popular sovereignty. They, like many mid-nineteenth century French citizens, believe that the “people as a whole––rather than simply the elite––[were] the repository of culture” (Mason 50). Their views mirror Javert’s; both believe in taking political power to achieve their ideal world. The brass fanfare in this verse expresses the people’s strength and determination, and the line, “Do you hear the people sing?”10 echoes their battle song from earlier, uniting the ordinary working people of France, also known as the sans-culottes, through popular nationalism (Act 1, 23: One Day More, 48; Mason 50). Like the revolutionaries, Hugo was strongly against Napoleon III, labeling the man a traitor to his country. He was exiled from France in 1851

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after Napoleon III’s coup d’état for his political beliefs, and while the exile was initially enforced, it later became a voluntary gesture against the French government (Encyclopædia Britannica). While in exile, he wrote extensively: first, satirical political poems, and later, extensive novels, including Les Misérables, which remains one of the longest published novels in history. Due to his nationalist and liberal values, Victor Hugo did not return from his exile until the reconstitution of the French republic in 1870 and condemned France for becoming an empire against the best interests of the French people (Encyclopædia Britannica). Hugo’s views align both with Valjean and Enjolras. Enjolras believes violent revolution is the path to help the poor, while Valjean takes a more personal approach through charity. Hugo both donated large amounts of food and money to the poor in acts of personal charity and gave political speeches calling for greater rights for the people. The song reflects this hybridity as the revolutionaries and Valjean join together to sing the conclusion. As the song’s end approaches, Javert and Valjean both sing “Tomorrow is the judgement day,”11 revealing the religious parallels between the two men (Act 1, 23: One Day More, 63). Valjean and Javert are both deeply religious and faithful to God, but their gods are starkly different. Javert believes in the angry, vengeful, Old Testament God; he believes in the black and white absolutes of right and wrong, of good and evil. He believes it is his duty to preserve the divinity in the world through upholding legal justice. Although he is the primary antagonist, he is not portrayed as an evil man, but rather a representation of the harsh law. In contrast to Javert, Jean Valjean believes in a benevolent, forgiving New Testament God. He believes in redemption and starting anew. The juxtaposition of these two men reflects Hugo’s religious journey. He was raised Catholic, a Christian denomination known for rigidity and rituals, and highly respected Church hierarchy and authority. However, he later broke from the church, becoming anti-Catholic and anti-clerical12 before eventually settling into rational deist beliefs. The characters of Valjean and Javert symbolize the importance of change, evidenced by Valjean’s evolution from a criminal to a respected mayor, and Javert’s eventual suicide when he is unable to reconcile his rigid mindset with Valjean’s noble actions. The two men mirror each other as the song reaches the dramatic climax, when all the characters demonstrate their interconnectedness as they join together on the eve of the 1832 Paris Uprising to sing of a brighter future, and their desire to live “one day more!”13 Here, the beginning ostinato is once again repeated as the characters march into tomorrow. The shift in rhythm indicates the value of change when moving forward in life.




Hugo’s anti-clerical views are expressed in his novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. 12


[3:18 - 3:39]


“[Hugo] demonstrated the importance of change, creating a story that forever provides readers with hope.”

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The release of Les Misérables in 1980 as a French rock opera preceded France’s entry into another socialist period, magnifying its success. The next year, François Mitterrand would be elected president. His government would implement a series of social and economic reforms that echoed the values of the French Revolution, including liberal social and economic policies and institutional reforms (Thomas). These reforms brought hope to the people for recovery from the economic recession overshadowing the past decade. Herbert Kretzmer chose not to directly translate the French musical to English when adapting the rock opera for an English audience. Instead, he read the Victor Hugo novel, worked with a literal translation of the French libretto, and then adapted the lyrics while adding more material. Consequently, the English version became an hour longer than the Paris show, but had two acts in place of the original three (Soper). “One Day More” is perhaps the song where the second French version of the show, premiering in 1991, was influenced by the English version the most. The title changes from “Demain” (Tomorrow) to “Le Grand Jour” (The Big Day). “Demain” had several small solos from Cosette and a quiet, introspective end with Valjean, while both “One Day More” and “Le Grand Jour” exchange that introspective nature for a climactic end and battle-ready energy. These changes may be a reflection of shifting values in France toward socialism and nationalism. The themes in Les Misérables still echo around the globe. Throughout U.S. history, from the Revolutionary War, to the Civil War, to the civil rights movements in the mid-1960s and the Stonewall riot in 1969, to the protests in 2020 as part of the Black Lives Matter Movement, revolution has remained an integral part of American society. In 1989, while Les Misérables was playing in Beijing theatres, Chinese students staged an insurrection similar to the one in the show at Tiananmen Square and were also defeated. This trend continues in Europe, with the 2005 French riots, the 2007 Bronze Night in Tallinn, the 2008 Greek riots, and the 2011 England riots, among many others. Furthermore, throughout the world, poverty remains a large human rights issue, and “the miserable ones,” like those in Les Misérables, are pushed down and forgotten about. Readers and audiences find universality in the love story of Marius and Cosette, in the unrequited love of Éponine, in the student’s revolutionary spirit, in Valjean’s struggle to live a moral life, and in Javert’s internal moral dilemmas. Victor Hugo populated his novel with universal archetypes and demonstrated the importance of change, creating a story that forever provides readers with hope for a brighter future.

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WORKS CITED “Exile (1851–70).” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., Hugo, Victor. “Actes Et Paroles, Volume 1.” Gutenberg, 4 Dec. 2020, cache/epub/8186/pg8186.html. Mason, David S. A Concise History of Modern Europe: Liberty, Equality, Solidarity. Rowman & Littlefield, 2011. “One Day More! - Les Misérables - 10th Anniversary Concert.” YouTube, uploaded by HX264, Oct 3 2010 , Powell, Jim. “Victor Hugo: Liberty and Justice For All: Jim Powell.” FEE Freeman Article, Foundation for Economic Education, 1 Feb. 1996, Seering, Lauryn. “Victor Hugo.” Freedom From Religion Foundation, 26 Feb., news/day/dayitems/item/14231-victor-hugo. Soper, Natalie. “Why Are There Two French Versions of the Les Misérables Musical?” Bellingua Translations, 26 Oct. 2019, Thomas, David. “The 1980s: France’s Last Socialist Decade,” Financial News, 17 May 2012, “Victor Hugo: Les Misérables – From Page to Stage: 19th-Century Politics.” Research Guides, 20 Nov. 2020,

AUTHOR BIO Stephanie L. is a sophomore at Nueva. She loves music, literature, history, and exploring the intersections between different fields. In her free time, she loves to read (her favorite genres are historical fiction, magical realism, fantasy, contemporary, and romance) and listen to music (especially musicals, her favorites being Les Mis, SIX!, and Into the Woods). She also loves playing the piano, violin, and viola.

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M Illustration by Lucie L.

y print is composed of three panels set at different points in time. However, each panel is set in the same location, as shown through the continuous mountainscape. From left to right, the key actors of the Meiji-Japanese perception of the Western-Japanese-Chinese racial hierarchy are portrayed. The left panel is an illustration of a Chinese and a Japanese soldier wearing attire that signifies his nationality. The facial features of the two soldiers are near mirror images of one another. Portrayal of a rival nation as a formidable threat is a tactic


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often used in propaganda to unify the civil population against a common enemy, thereby strengthening the state (Tilly). I was intrigued by the absence of the representation of inferiority exhibited in the print the panel was inspired by, “Great Rear Attack by Our Second Army at Weihaiwei,” by an unknown artist in 1895. The center panel depicts a Japanese soldier gazing across the lake towards the symbolic, imperial sun rising in the distance. Below the cliff, waves violently crash against ships, obscured by smoke. The scenery was inspired by two well known prints by Ogata Gekkō, from 1894 and 1895, respectively: “Officers and Men Worshipping the Rising Sun While Encamped in the Mountains of Port Arthur” and “The Famous Death-Defying Seven from the Warship Yaeyama.” I employed a theme of Sino-Japanese war prints—which pertain to the 1894-1895 conflict between Qing dynasty China and the Japanese Empire—in the center panel, that “memorable war prints do not depict the enemy at all, but rather focus on the Japanese alone” as they “battl[e] raw nature” (Dower). The solitude of the Japanese soldier emphasizes that “the denigration of the Chinese [from the Japanese perspective] that permeates the Sino-Japanese War prints” is secondary to the glorifying rendering of Japanese nationalism (Dower). The right panel directly contrasts the left panel, to express the dichotomy from the Japanese understanding of the hierarchy of Westerners, Chinese people, and themselves. The racial hierarchy within Asia and the sinophobic sentiment is represented through attire; while the Chinese individual wears formal dress, the Western advisors linger behind in Western clothing that is aligned with that of the “civilized” Japanese. Although in the Western world, Asians were viewed as a monolithic population, Japanese condescension toward Chinese people arose with modernization, after “Japan defeated China in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894” (Dower, Mason 98). While Japanese and Chinese culture harbored several parallels, such as written language, architecture, and religion, China served as the antithesis to modernization and symbolized vulnerability to Western encroachment (Dower, Palmer 549). Therefore, the Japanese sought to display their resemblance with Caucasians, to distance themselves from China, as shown by the similar attire worn by the Japanese and Westerners (Dower). The juxtaposition between the three panels of the Japan-China relationship, glorified Japanese expansionist agenda, and Japanese assimilation to Western cultural norms conveys the complex factors that bolstered Japanese nationalism in the Meiji era.

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WORKS CITED Mason, David. A Concise History of Modern Europe: Liberty, Equality, Solidarity. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011. Palmer, R R, Joel Colton, and Lloyd S. Kramer. A History of the Modern World, 2000 Dower, John. “Throwing Off Asia II-III.” MIT Visualizing Cultures, 2008.,, Accessed 16 Dec. 2020. “The Triptych Format in Japanese Woodblock Prints.” RISD Museum, Accessed 16 Dec. 2020 Mehl, Margaret. “Chinese Learning (Kangaku) in Meiji Japan (1868–1912).” History, vol. 85, no. 277, 2000, pp. 48–66. JSTOR, Accessed 16 Dec. 2020. “Key Points in Developments in East Asia 1750-1919: Japan and the West: The Meiji Restoration (1868-1912).” Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Accessed 16 Dec. 2020. “Japan’s Modern History: An Outline of the Period.” Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Accessed 16 Dec. 2020. Charles Tilly, “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime,” in Peter Evans, et al. eds., Bringing the State Back In (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 169-186.

AUTHOR BIO Lucie L. is a sophomore at the Nueva Upper School. She finds interdisciplinary perspectives on culture, especially the arts, and intellectual history compelling. Her interest in the Japanese-Chinese-Western relationship sparked the inspiration for her media analysis-oriented paper. In her free time, Lucie enjoys learning languages, painting portraits, and singing and playing piano.

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ou step off the tour bus and find yourself standing in the middle of the crowded, narrow street. A clamor of sweaty backs and hands graze across your shoulders, pushing you deeper into the midst of the yelling and chaos. The weather is almost unbearable, humid and hot and causing you to sweat every second as you hastily walk down a small lane of boutiques, sheltered underneath a series of bright red tarps. You’re glad that you don’t have to stay outside for too long, lest your soft white skin crack and wrinkle from all that glaring sunlight. You sigh and reflect on your current agenda for this new journey. You hope to eat some good, authentic Chinese food, to learn about some of the traditions and partake in the festivities, and to spectate some of China’s greatest landmarks (for that’s what travel is all about, right?). The winding street is full of commotion—farmers and peddlers selling their goods laid out on the concrete ground, and families joyously shouting at their neighbors whilst sweeping the front steps of their homes clean. You wander around the streets before entering Tiananmen Square and immediately becoming entranced by the bright red lanterns decorated with intricate patterns of golden birds, each hanging from the ledge of a temple roof. You admire what beautiful culture the Chinese people have, and how freely they express themselves through this delicate form of art. For the Chinese have such a rich culture that they needed a Cultural Revolution after being suppressed by the government for ten years, deprived of any education, and forced to work in the plantation fields until a brave few decided to flee to an island called Taiwan. You’d think that by now relations with the people and the government would’ve evened out, you’d think that everything would’ve turned out fine and people would’ve moved on to write their own stories, but how can they write their own stories when the ink and paper they’re given is tainted with censorship? They—the Chinese citizens—have no individuality, no independence


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to have their say. And when the people protest for the right to freedom, the right to speak and tell the truth, the government comes down on them like a hammer, and any remnants of those protesters disappear, and soon their families disappear, and then anyone who speaks a word of them also disappears. But you’re not here to worry about that, you’re here to enjoy your vacation. For your home—a simple white condo in the LA suburbs—is much too dull to stay in, and you’d like to live life on the edge by exploring a new country, meeting new people, and learning about the wonderful culture. You decide to try and at least appear a little engaged in Chinese history. When you ask the tour guide about the revolution, he stares blankly into the smog-filled sky, forcing his wrinkly, hollowed-out cheeks upwards into a painful smile, before turning around and handing you a pamphlet on Chinese landmarks and traditions, and then going back to the caravan of dawdling white geese. No local ever seems to talk about the Cultural Revolution, not in China’s history classes or in any type of diplomatic exchange; the mere mention of the words draws a shiver down their spines. This place, Tiananmen Square, is rumored to be the site of a shooting, which occurred when police shot at students peacefully protesting in the square. But nobody ever talks about it, the witnesses are all ghosts, and Tiananmen is only known for its paved tile steps and famous monument pillar commemorating the people of China. So, is that justice, to let the deaths of citizens be considered normal? Nowadays, the names of famous presidents and emperors are neatly engraved on the pillar, the names of the politicians that usurp power are engraved on that pillar, and even the liars that steal government money are commemorated on that same pillar. But the ones who died valiantly in pursuit of truth? Their names are gone. Why, you might ask? Because China is a country so vast and glorious that its population has been forgotten, and when the system fails the government turns to corruption, arresting and killing good people for no good reason, and so the people are trapped in this cycle of revolts and crackdowns and constant defeat—and they know they have lost their freedom. And the Chinese people have seen this corruption, for when they ask their grandparents about the revolution, the only response they receive is a shake of the head, and then an eager attempt to change the conversation. But you, a tourist, will never understand the pain, the memories, the feeling of never-ending suppression that these citizens experience in the

“... how can they write their own stories when the ink and paper they’re given is tainted with censorship?”

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hazy veil of their government’s deception. Only the Chinese people—the ones who have witnessed this injustice—will understand.

Reflection In my pastiche, I used rhetorical questions, em-dashes, and labyrinthine sentences to underline the governmental oppression Chinese citizens often face, and how tourists often overgeneralize or take no notice of this issue. I found that Kincaid often uses these devices to display her dissatisfaction toward the colonial legacy within Antigua, the setting of her novel. She uses rhetorical questions to emphasize her point and grab the reader’s attention, allowing the reader to reflect on their actions and role as a tourist. I tried to replicate this by posing similar questions to highlight the many luxuries tourists have compared to locals and putting the audience in a position where they learned to recognize this privilege. I think this added to both the critical and sarcastic tone of the piece as well. Additionally, Kincaid also uses em-dashes to create pauses and sudden breaks that stress or detail inequalities and underlying themes of separation between the locals and the Antiguan government. I tried to emulate this by using em-dashes to elaborate on the Chinese people’s identity and create variation in structure. I also used vivid imagery in phrases such as “his wrinkly, hollowed-out cheeks” and “painful smile” to depict the fear and suffering which the people of China experience. I emphasized the word “you” to focus on the reader’s perspective while also creating a sense of guilt and awareness of the privileged assumptions tourists make. Finally, I used labyrinthine sentences in my writing. Kincaid uses labyrinthine sentences to add a winding and relentless feel to her sentences, highlighting the deeper complexities and persistent nature of certain issues. This exemplifies her bitter tone, creating a deeply sentimental feeling for the past. In my piece, I used this device to write longer and more continuous sentences that mirrored the intricate, neverending corruption hidden within the Chinese government. The title of my piece, “Festival of Exploitations,” also juxtaposed the lively, joyful nature of a festival with an underlying intent of exploitation, representing how the inner pain of Chinese society is hidden beneath a veil of jubilation. AUTHOR BIO WORK CITED Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000.

Ella L. is a sophomore at Nueva and is a passionate reader and writer. Her love for historical fiction and Chinese history inspired her to write a pastiche focused on governmental oppression in China. In her free time, Ella also enjoys kayaking and painting.

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Figure 1: Key statistics for SF’s MUNI network in relation to other transit networks1


Abstract By combining analytical parameters and the specifics of a given city’s grid network of roads, we create a computational methodology that assesses public transit networks on any given city grid. Specifically, we propose the usage of a series of traffic simulations from which to base an objective function for public transit optimization over any network or grid. When compared with the analytical methods used to successfully improve Barcelona’s transit network, we produce some similar results and some starkly different results, showing the potential of simulation-based models, and the need for their further investigation and development.

City and County San Francisco SFMTA Benchmarking Report 1

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Introduction In 2007, the city of San Francisco began a major project to connect Chinatown to the CalTrain 4th & King station through a new subway tunnel. Fourteen years later in 2021, the city is eight years behind on the project and at least $1.6 billion dollars over budget. Over that exact 14 year time period, San Franciscso bought over 80 new buses to modernize and expand the fleet, costing a total of $120 million (7.5% of SF’s Chinatown project). This enormous discrepancy raises questions about the efficiency of SF’s investments in public transit. A constrained budget caused by the city siphoning funds for the Chinatown project has made things difficult for buses; however, there is reason to believe that with more optimization, an efficient bus network can be created even with cost constraints. Currently, San Francisco’s bus network is far from optimized; as seen in Figures 1 and 2, SF spends more on operating costs than other cities and has one of the slowest system speeds in the nation. Much of this inefficiency can be attributed to the methodology used to map out the bus transit system. Many public transit systems are designed using qualitative information such as an intuitive understanding of downtown areas or semi-arbitrary conditions about the necessary spacing between stops.

Figure 2: other statistics across different American transit networks2

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Even when quantitative metrics are used, it is unclear how they influence the design of a network, or whether they are even used in a way that improves the overall quality of the network. In the Bay Area, the BART transit network has a variety of seemingly arbitrary stop intervals due to its wide ranging methodology for stop selection. Stops are very close together in downtown Oakland, but very far apart in the East Bay Hills— with many stops in the East Bay built outside of, and far away from, the Central Business District. According to the BART 1962 composite report, in order to develop their routes, they roughly combined considerations of “affinity to regional rapid transit,” “aesthetics,” and “physical compatibility with existing and proposed development” with quantitative metrics such as cost. To address these problems, social scientists have developed analytical models that, when applied to ideal grids (vertical and horizontal intersecting roads of uniform spacing), can predict optimum transit with respect to objective functions of passenger speed and cost. These models use macroscopic variables (which are top down observational metrics, such as average transit time of all passengers, average capacity of all buses, etc.) to estimate bus and passenger behavior, and optimize routing. We specifically focus on the analysis led by Carlos Daganzo and Marco Estrada, which has been used on the city of Barcelona’s BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) routes to great effect. As a result of their optimization, passenger ridership, passenger satisfaction, and the system’s overall profit all climbed higher. These analytical models, while largely useful, do not incorporate enough real-world details to be applied directly to unideal, realistic street maps; outputs from optimizing on an ideal grid are instead hand drawn onto real street maps by Estrada et al. This is due to their application solely on idealized, perfectly spaced grids. Additionally, the objective function being minimized is a result of macroscopic aggregation; for example, commercial speed is a function of expected average headway and line spacing, which in turn are calculated by aggregate inputs. We compare this approach to computational simulation via SUMO (Simulation of Urban MObility), allowing us to evaluate transit outcomes based on real simulated traffic and microscopic data (eg. the transit time of each individual passenger, the capacity and operating cost of each individual bus, etc.) collection. Our results suggest that on an ideal or semi-ideal grid, the analytical models do not always correctly estimate the optimum public transit networks and certain assumptions of the models may fall through.


“This enormous discrepancy raises questions about the efficiency of SF’s investments in public transit.”


SFMTA Benchmarking Report

Parsons Brinckerhoff, BART Composite Report 3


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The Advantages of a Computational Model

Li et al. A Bottom-Up Design Model for Improving Efficiency of Transit System, 6 4

While social scientists have had success using analytical models to better design public transit systems, these analytical models often fail to adapt to the real-world dynamics of actual city grids. Using computational models (i.e. models that use microscopic variables to simulate each individual bus and passenger, and then find an optimal public transit network) can address most, if not all, of the analytical model’s shortcomings. These advantages stem from their simpler and, microscopic formulations of objective functions. Unlike analytical models, computational models can simulate each bus and each passenger, allowing them to record metrics like travel time, waiting time, walking time, and transfers for each passenger, as well as average cost, ridership, commercial speed, and headway for each bus. By simulating these effects in more detail, computational models can address real world parameters like traffic, the pre-existing road network, consumer preferences, etc. in far greater detail. Researchers Li et al. have already used this feature to better optimize a transit network in Changzhi, China. When simulated, they found their proposed network to be “notably faster” than the current transit network, despite the current network being carefully designed and revised several times.4 Given that transit planners usually try to optimize public transit grids for ridership, speed, cost, number of transfers, and a host of other variables, microscopic models should also be multi-objective models (MoMs). MoMs simultaneously optimize variables and generate a Pareto set (solutions where one metric cannot be improved without worsening any other metric). MoMs can incorporate consumer preferences much more easily; after a Pareto set is generated, surveyed residents can determine the most preferred element of the Pareto-set. This process would eliminate sources of error in several ways. Residents are incentivized to pick the transit system they are most likely to ride, reducing the likelihood that their’ biases will meaningfully skew survey results. Residents also pick from concrete choices, which makes it easier for them to know their preferences. Finally, the underlying computational model would not be as reliant on hyper-accurate predictions of residents’ preferences, further reducing error. Given these advantages, this paper seeks to compare analytical models like Estrada et al’s with computational models, in this case SUMO, to assess their underlying assumptions and potential failures.

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Review of Analytical Models on Idealized Grids Estrada et. al’s model was a further refinement of a model from 2010 that explored the optimization of networks in an idealized grid. An idealized grid divides the city into equally sized square blocks. This idealized model adjusts three parameters: the service headway, line spacing, and a network shape parameter representing the proximity of the stops. The service headway is the expected waiting time between buses, the line spacing is the distance between each bus line, and the network shape parameter is a mathematical representation for the proximity of street intersections.5 Despite its success, the initial model makes multiple assumptions that often do not make sense in the context of realistic road planning: that bus lines are equally spaced in both directions, the origins and destinations of individual trips across the network are evenly distributed, and distance between stops and lines are spaced at equivalent intervals. To overcome some of these simplifications, Estrada et al. introduced line spacing as a variable parameter, and allowed bus lines and bus stops to be spaced differently, allowing bus stops to be spaced more or less frequently than once per block. In the case study of Barcelona, Estrada et. al. limits two of the deciding factors and performs a simplified optimization method. The hybrid area outside the central node is considered to be some distance and number of stops, to represent the splitting bus service that takes place.

Estrada’s hybrid idealized grid. The central grid is made of ideal intersecting lines, and the periphery of random networks of roads (configuration irrelevant). Bus lines run horizontally and vertically through the central area, and randomly through the periphery.



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Estrada et. al. simplifies the model by capping the number of corridors that can be drawn. Their model is further limited by a minimum headway the city is willing to tolerate, limiting the total number of buses. Most importantly, the model has no systematic way of accounting for differences between the hypothetical grid used to optimize public transit networks and the actual road network of a city. Estrada et. al translated their analytical results to Barcelona’s road network by hand drawing BRT routes that most closely resembled the routes attained in their analytical result.

Comparisons on the Idealized and Hybrid Grid

Estrada et al. Efficient Transit Networks, 123 7

Using direct calculations from Estrada et al. Efficient Transit Networks and Daganzo Competitive Transit Networks 8

Considering the apparent success of Li et al. and Estrada et al., we use microscopic traffic simulation to judge and examine specific transit systems with respect to their analytical expectations. Given the success of those analytical models discussed thus far, comparing their macroscopic metrics with microscopic results can help verify the relative success of the two approaches, and potentially lead to the usage of microscopic simulation in overall network design. Therefore, we compare Daganzo’s and Estrada et al’s analytical models with simulation results. In Estrada et al, some simulation is successfully used to estimate the performance and effectiveness of Barcelona’s new system. However, these tests demonstrate the absolute effectiveness of the single optimized output once coerced to Barcelona’s map, putting their model under conditions that significantly deviate from the theory’s assumptions and calculation methods.7 While these simulations can be run on any grid, we conformed the grid and simulation parameters to better emulate Daganzo’s idealized grid, enabling us to compare the two in more detail. Parameters specified by analytical calculations are likewise used as parameters for simulation, whereas select properties ignored by the model (lane count, bus supply, etc.) and the optimization’s decision variables are varied. For each trial and parameter set, the corollary analytical calculations8 are done for purposes of comparison. The first set of simulations are compared against Daganzo’s original analytical model from 2010. These simulations are conducted on a 10km by 5km idealized grid (not city specific), testing nine different public transit configurations derived from those proposed by the analytical model. To evaluate the overall performance of each public transit system, we examine the average individual trip duration. This average includes public transit trips, as well as pedestrian movement and individual vehicle move-

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Table 1: Results from simulation set 1 compared to analytical predictions from Daganzo ment. Although it might seem necessary to only examine the duration of each passenger’s trip, robust public transportation can also reduce driver’s commuting times and vehicular traffic. Despite the similarities in relative average durations for each different public transit system, the simulation results deviated from the analytical predictions (as seen in table 1, which depicts relevant metrics from these simulations sorted by what the analytical model predicted to be optimal). The network that was predicted to perform the best (“1 by 1” in table 1), when simulated, had close to the worst trip durations. Even so, the best performing transit systems in the simulations were those that the analytical model predicted to be the second and third best performers. Interestingly, we also see that there is an overall stark difference between the analysis’s predicted trip durations and the simulated trip durations; the predicted trip durations are consistently off by a factor of 2 to 3 (with an average percent error of 158.99%). Although analyzing relative durations within the predictions is still relevant, it is clear that such a discrepancy likely indicates some failure in the analytical model’s calculations. We also see that between transit networks within simulation, the average trip duration varies only slightly. We still expect that this variation is important, and only manifests so slightly due to non-optimal individual routing, dominating mode of transportation still being personal driving, and potentially simulation length. Therefore, the implicit assumptions underlying consumer routing in the analytical model need to be further investigated



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in the future, particularly as they are applied in simulation. Within analytical simulation results, we can also compare the analytical model’s predictions at a more granular level. “Commercial cruising speed” measures the average speed of buses during rush hour, and, although seemingly arbitrary, is one of the most specific predictions relating to vehicle movement incorporated into the analytical model’s optimization. In the analytical calculations, the commercial speed is derived using

similar macroscopic methods as other optimization calculations, and thus comparing commercial cruising speed predictions to the simulation results helps evaluate them at a more granular level. Figure 3, depicted here, graphically represents the cruising speed data listed in table 1. Interestingly, even though the relative average trip duration (seen in table 1) of the simulation tests misalign with the macroscopic theory, the commercial cruising speed is predicted fairly accurately with an average error of only 3.64%. The second set of simulations are compared against Estrada et al’s more advanced, albeit similar, analytical model from 2011 (the one which was applied to Barcelona). These simulations are run on a 10km by 5km hybrid grid, with the inner 90% being a perfect grid while the outer 10% is treated as random street layouts. Other than the predictions and transit

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Table 2: Results from simulation set 2 compared to analytical predictions from Estrada et al.



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network generated by the theory, the methods used in this simulation set are equivalent to the previous one. The data can be seen in table 2. Unlike the previous simulations, which used Daganzo’s 2010 model, the theory applied in this case accurately predicts the transit network with the least average trip duration (the smallest trip length in column 2 of table 2 corresponds to the smallest trip length in column 3). This optimality accuracy very roughly extends to all the tested transit networks. Despite its success in its end-output, the analytical model underestimated the commercial cruising speed with an error of 30.09% (depicted in figure 4), and again overestimated average trip duration with an average error of 57.61%. In the first simulation set, the analytical calculations correctly estimate the commercial cruising speed while predicting the optimal model to not have the lowest average trip duration. In the second simulation set, which was compared to a more advanced macroscopic model, the commercial speed is drastically misestimated, while the end optimization is successful. In both simulation sets, even if the analytical model had correct relative predictions for average trip duration, the absolute difference between prediction and simulation was large. Although we are unsure of what exactly caused this difference, it does appear that this might explain some of the models’ failure and suggest that some faulty assumptions were made. As for the metric of commercial speed, the drastic difference in commercial speed prediction accuracy may appear to indicate a failure, but that is not necessarily the case. In the first simulation set, the theory is allowed accurate assumptions about the entirety of the grid network, whereas in the second set, which used a hybrid network, the theory requires that almost no assumptions be made about the outer 10% of the grid for optimization purposes. Thus, knowing less about the overall grid might explain the less accurate predictions about buses’ behavior across the entire grid. That said, this difference may still indicate that parameters which are ignored by the calculations but necessary for simulation (such as lane count, traffic control, etc.) were more important than expected, or even more generally that the analytical model’s overall assumptions about transit behavior may be inaccurate. Aside from commercial speed, the difference in success in optimization between the two analytical models is less important. Estrada et al. Competitive Transit Networks, 1 9

Ultimately, although the second, more advanced macroscopic theory (which was applied to Barcelona) was microscopically successful in terms of finding the network which results in the least optimal trip duration, the ways it gets there (commercial cruising speed, trip duration, etc.) are

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incorrect or offset from the results. This result is surprising, given that the analytical method is proven to be successful when actually applied to a real city such as Barcelona9. It is possible that although the analytical model found absolute success in the past, our simulations suggest other bus works constructed from the same mold might have been even better. At the very least, these unexpected simulation results do support further investigation and usage of microscopically derived metrics in parallel with analytical models.

Conclusion and Extensions By combining analytical parameters and the specifics of a given city’s grid network of roads, we were able to use a computational methodology to assess public transit networks on a city grid. Specifically, we can use the formulation used in our simulations as our objective function on any network or grid—that is, we believe that the function we derived has compatibility across nearly all grid structures rather than a perfect grid or hybrid model. When compared with the analytical methods used to successfully improve Barcelona’s transit network, we produced some similar and some starkly different results, showing the potential, and need, for further investigation into the models. Given the apparent success of our empirical method, further work would entail applying this computational model to optimize a different city’s bus network. San Francisco, an example mentioned in the introduction, faces a multitude of transit challenges that careful application of the computational and even the analytical framework may be able to help resolve with more precision. Notably, in San Francisco, transit systems often have more coverage and frequency on the lines most used by those with higher incomes. Predominantly lower income neighborhoods such as Hunter’s Point have far less transit coverage and frequency than the richer, northern parts of the city (Figure 3)10. San Francisco also faces a significant centralization problem. Many jobs located in a 45-minute transit radius (i.e. are less than 45 minutes from most residents’ homes) are concentrated in the financial district, making traffic significantly worse throughout the city. San Francisco also has a viable street structure that our model can be applied to which would make San Francisco a good litmus test for our model in a real-world context. We have began to apply the analytical methods and have collected data on origin and destination (OD) demand for districts in San Francisco,



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obtained a detailed map of SF’s roads in a file ready to be imported into SUMO, acquired SF auto and rideshare traffic data along its busier roads, and collected information on MUNI’s bus models. Before going further, an accurate model for transit demand needs to be defined, preferably based on data collected from surveys to SF residents to study specific OD demand and consumer preferences. The simulation also needs to be optimized for efficiency, as even these preliminary results took over three days to process. At a certain point this method should be sufficient enough to aid planners in redrawing the entire San Francisco transit network and should be simple enough to be applied in a timely and iterative manner. WORKS CITED Li, J., Zhao, R., Li, M., and Ouyang, Y. (2018). A Bottom-Up Design Model for Improving Efficiency of Transit System (Publication). IEEE 4th International Conference on Universal Village. M. Estrada, M. Roca-Riua, H. Badiaa, F. Robusta, and C.F. Daganzo. “Design and Implementation of Efficient Transit Networks: Procedure, Case Study and Validity Test.” Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 17, (2011): 113-135 Estrada et al. Competitive Transit Networks, 1 9

Parsons Brinckerhoff Consulting, “BART Composite Report.” (1962). Retrieved March 23, 2021, from Internet page/6/mode/2up

Romanesco / Identity Through Place / Spring 2021 San Francisco City Services Auditor. “City Services Benchmarking: Public Transportation.” (2014). Retrieved March 23, 2021, from City and County of San Francisco website: San Francisco County Transportation Authority, “Maps and Data”. tools-data/maps

AUTHORS’ BIOS Daniel A. is a senior at the Nueva School, where he explored ways to write shorter and less meaningful article abstracts. He has pursued a great many random projects, from terribly designed rocking motors to MUN conferences. As most Nueva students have, he has spent a significant amount of time on Caltrain—which is technically “public transit”—but despite this wealth of experience he remains remarkably apathetic toward memorization of Caltrain timetables. Upon reaching the pinnacle of economics research in thesis seminar, he immediately ran for the hills to watch Leo enjoy working with SUMO and read about public transit instead. Etaash P. is a graduating senior at the Nueva School, and vehement disbeliever in bios. After being involved in a substantially large amount of highly random activities and projects, his hobbies now include a small number of seemingly unrelated subjects that he will not disclose here. He is a frequent rider on caltrain, BART, and MUNI, using them to commute to and from school before the pandemic. In his spare time you can see him playing chess, paradox games, and informing Daniel Hwang on his ripe age. Jack T. is a rising senior at the Nueva School and a frequent rider of public transit on the Peninsula, riding Caltrain every day to get to school. Transportation has been a major interest for him since preschool and he is thrilled to be living in a place where poor public transit can be critically reviewed and promoted as it can be in the Bay Area. It is his goal this summer to ride and review every transit system covered by a Clipper Card, the planning/mapping of which is a very exciting task. Leo C.-S. is a soon to be not-senior at the Nueva School, who places little academic importance in his usage of public transportation. During his free time, Leo enjoys many things, including writing bios about himself and being a cool and good person. Unfortunately, he was not able to enjoy such free time while working on his Romanesco submission, a process which tiresomely taught him the power of elbow grease and spreadsheet feudalism. In the future, Leo hopes to use this newfound education to design a public transit system which embodies his cool and good ideals.


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Illustration by Annabella C.


opened my eyes to a velvet sky speckled with stars, expanding on forever—only interrupted by treetops against it. I was hit by a rush of winter air—ferocious and icy—sending shivers from my frostbitten fingertips to my core. I finally stood up, my feet sinking into the mud below like quicksand, keeping me stuck in place. In the middle of the forest, the full moon high in the sky, I recalled only in fragments the events that led me to that spot—yet I felt strangely at ease. I looked around: pine leaves covered the forest floor; the evergreens stood tall; glistening dewdrops on their branches were illuminated by silver moonlight. Tendrils of grey fog hung low in the sky, suspended by the framework of constellations. The greedy tree branches reached up into the sky and into my heart; they pulled out my deepest emotions, hints of something I hadn’t felt in a while. As that strange, nostalgic feeling rushed to my head, I felt dizzy— as if my brain was stuffed with a mesh material that only let fragments of light through.


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All of a sudden, I seemed to come into awareness for the first time as I took in the unfamiliar scene around me; the veil—that I never before realized was there—was lifted from my face. Exhilarated and desperate, I once again fell to the forest floor; I rooted myself into the ground below with twisted and gnarly snakes that held my feet and knees in place. Wanting to experience every inch of the newfound feeling, I dug my hands into the soil and brought them up to the sky—I tore at the dirt and moss covering it in handfuls, tossed it upward and it showered on my head like tremendous droplets of rain. I did not care that I was ruining the natural state of my surroundings, as the world was in my hands and in the frigid air circling around me, and I owned everything within it—every pebble and leaf was something I could make my own. In my selfish turbulence, I failed to realize that the moon above was watching me with disdain in her eyes: “Calm yourself, ignorant boy,” she whispered, and yet her voice filled my ears from all directions, “as you have no power in this place.” When she spoke, the air around me went still; the trees curled inwards as if they were having a conversation amongst themselves; the crickets ceased their chirping song; and I was suddenly made aware of a burning ball of ferocity behind my ribcage. As soon as I noticed it, it began to escape me—the moon reached her arms out and took hold of the strands of warm light escaping my chest, pulling at them until all that was left was a small stone that fell in front of my knees. It glowed for a minute before it was extinguished. Dust began to settle in the air; it settled in front of my eyes and clouded my vision with grey once again. My actions and the emotions I felt in the prior moment were like a dream I had just woken up from—distant, and the more I tried to place my finger on them, the faster they escaped me. I glanced downward and was confused to see a gaping hole in the ground. Sitting in the middle of it was a stone—warm to the touch, which made no sense with the temperature outside, but otherwise unremarkable.

The Power of Nature in Frankenstein In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, elements of nature create and change emotions for the characters. For example, during Victor’s passage through the sublime before he encounters the creature, he recounts: “Some turn in the road, some new object suddenly perceived and recognised, reminded me of days gone by, and were associated with the light-hearted gaiety of boyhood” (98). Different aspects of Victor’s natural surroundings tempo-

“Exhilarated and desperate, I once again fell to the forest floor.”

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“ takes the powerful force of nature to unearth deeplyseated emotions.”


rarily soothe his pain and make him feel joyful once again. My pastiche similarly shows the impact of nature on the narrator with phrases such as, “The greedy tree branches reached up into the sky and into my heart; they pulled out my deepest emotions, hints of something I hadn’t felt in a while.” Here, it takes the powerful force of nature to unearth deeply-seated emotions; in Victor’s case, nature helps him relive emotions he hasn’t felt in decades. In the passage, Victor then continues, “The very winds whispered in soothing accents, and maternal nature bade me weep no more” (98). Here, Victor uses personification to evoke the calmness of the wind and its influence on him, and to portray nature as a maternal figure who lessens his feelings of sadness. In my pastiche, I use personification to depict the moon as a woman who expresses anger and disdain towards the narrator, scolding him for disrupting the peaceful forest. The moon makes the narrator aware of the ball of emotion that resides within him, which causes him to lash out; she then forcefully pulls those emotions out of him. This personified character has a more direct and apparent effect on the narrator than we see in Shelley’s writing, because I wanted to exaggerate that feature of her writing. I used other elements of personification in my descriptions of the trees. Additionally, I tried to replicate the powerful emotional tenor of Shelley’s writing with my use of syntax. Shelley expresses her narrator’s emotional struggles with her use of complicated, run-on sentences, and interrupting clauses, which communicate emotional intensity and at times makes the narrator seem breathless. I used a similar technique all throughout my pastiche. Finally, inspired by Shelley’s word choices, I relied on formal diction, using words such as “tendrils”, “turbulence,” “ferocity,” “extinguish,” and “unremarkable.” Overall, I tried to capture the feelings, tone, and themes of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

WORKS CITED Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein, edited by Maurice Hindle. Penguin Classics, 2007.

AUTHOR BIO Annabella C. is a freshman at the Nueva School. She lives in San Francisco and enjoys writing, art, and walking her dog. Her favorite subject in school is English. She has always felt a deep connection to nature, which inspired her to write this piece centered around it.

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Illustration by Annie Z.


aerie courts, from their first appearances in early Celtic mythology to their current reinventions in modern contexts, act as places that break and manipulate the boundaries between spaces and between people. Faeries themselves are often represented as warped versions of people, with each type of faerie emphasizing certain traits seen as “other.” The Otherworld, in every iteration, is deeply mired in its own stories; the faerie realm rewards mythologies, not clarity, truth, or connections beyond the court’s boundaries. These stories and mythologies can be crafted by the collective—broadly, the composite whole of the society surrounding the Otherworld, literally or otherwise—or by the individual,


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defined characters within the tale (or small groups of them). In the medieval Mabinogi and the 21st-century novels The Likeness and The Darkest Part of the Forest, the faerie Otherworld functions to examine the boundaries between characters and the strength of the narratives crafted by the collective and the individual characters. In the Mabinogi, the collective controls the narratives that, in turn, control the characters’ entries into, experiences in, and exits from the faerie realms. In The Likeness and The Darkest Part of the Forest, however, it is individual agency, relationships, and personal values that drive the characters’ actions and the inflection points of the narrative. These inflection points align with three core moments of the classical faerie story—the elaborate ruse, which instigates the entry into the faerie realm; the interpersonal trial, in which the source of the characters’ agency and boundaries is tested by a romantic or sexual encounter within the faerie realm; and the second crossing of the boundary, which occurs when the characters leave the faerie realm and encompasses the impact of their exit—which appear across the three texts. The differential usage and setup of these moments across the texts exhibits how modern faerie stories elevate individual narratives and interpersonal relationships above the collective ideals and hierarchical structures privileged by medieval tales.

The Elaborate Ruse The elaborate ruse is common in literature about the faerie realm. These highly involved strategies, implemented by the fae, leverage the unique traits of a hero to lead them into an Otherworld (Wachsler 29-46). In all three texts, the ruse is a carefully orchestrated, delicately controlled trap that plays upon the characters’ sense of obligation to a narrative and their relationship with the individual setting the trap; in each, the aim of the ruse is to draw the central character(s) into the faerie realm in order to complete a specific task. In the medieval text, societal and cultural narratives of hierarchy control the ideas of obligation upon which the elaborate ruse is predicated; in the modern stories, by contrast, interpersonal bonds and individual beliefs or narratives are played upon within the ruse. The ruse in the Mabinogi acts within Pwyll’s context as beholden to the collective’s beliefs and expectations. Pwyll is caught in the elaborate ruse due to his ideals of honor, hierarchy, and courtesy; his dedication to collective narratives of propriety is ultimately what leads him to offer his services to Arawn, the king of the Fae, and, thus, what initiates his journey into the faerie realm of Annwfn. In the Mabinogi, Pwyll and Arawn

“Faeries are often represented as warped versions of people.”

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meet in the forest of Dyfed. Arawn refuses to greet Pwyll, clarifying that it is not because of his rank but rather because he has “never seen a greater discourtesy by a man than driving off a pack which has killed a stag and then feeding your own dogs on it” (Davies). Arawn then continues to lay the groundwork of the ruse, playing on Pwyll’s prioritization of his honor or standing within the collective over the prince’s individual goals by promising that “[Arawn] won’t be revenging [himself] on [Pwyll] but, between [him] and God, [he] will bring shame upon [Pwyll] to the value of a hundred stags” (Davies). Arawn’s manipulations are effective because of Pwyll’s desperation to maintain his image; indeed, Arawn dismisses any fear Pwyll may have had of individual bodily harm even before Pwyll agrees or expresses remorse, demonstrating that he is certain his threat of dishonor will be sufficient to trap Pwyll into entering Annwfn. Additionally, shame is a collective emotion; for dishonor or shame to exist, there must be a society and shared values or norms. Arawn threatening shame and discourtesy implies a shared set of expectations which have been broken; the ruse functions only because Pwyll is beholden to the collective and his role within it. The Mabinogi’s elaborate ruse is constructed and executed by the faerie king himself; the sense of obligation to the collective narrative of hierarchy that leads Pwyll to agree to the deal is strengthened by Arawn’s comparatively high positioning as faerie king. After Arawn accuses Pwyll of discourtesy, Pwyll attempts to regain his honor, saying “‘Sir, if I have done wrong, I will redeem your friendship.’ ‘How will you redeem it?’ [Arawn] replies. ‘According to your rank, but I do not know who you are,’” is Pwyll’s response (Davies). Pwyll demonstrates here that his conception of honor and obligation is based upon rank, not personal connection; the lengths to which he must go to redeem himself are based on the person whom he has slighted, not his own personal values nor an interpersonal relationship. Additionally, it’s not personal motivation that drives Pwyll—he asks if he has done wrong and his aim is to redeem himself in Arawn’s eyes, not to succeed by his own standards of courtesy. Arawn is given his power over Pwyll due to their respective positioning within the collective construct of hierarchy. Ultimately, Pwyll agrees to fulfill Arawn’s quest and enter the faerie realm due to his sense of obligation to a communal, shared narrative of honor and hierarchy. This reveals that the medieval text values the narratives of hierarchy created and enforced by the collective over personal aims, values, or connections. In The Likeness, the ruse is likewise baited with a narrative, albeit one Cassie herself has constructed; this contrast with the medieval text reveals the differing priorities of the texts, with the medieval enforcing the idea


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of collective constructs where the modern privileges the personal. The Likeness follows detective Cassie Maddox of the Dublin murder squad as she works to solve the murder of a woman living under Cassie’s old undercover identity, Lexie Madison, in the figurative “faerie realm” of Whitethorn house. When the victim, who looks identical to Cassie and is living as Lexie, is murdered, Cassie’s old undercover handler manipulates both her personal desire for the truth and her sense of obligation to the Lexie character in order to lead her into Whitethorn house. To Cassie, “the detective’s god is truth, and you don’t get much higher or more ruthless than that” (French 80). In naming herself as “the detective,” it is clear that Cassie is aware of the narrative she is following; she is aiming for truth and that is, in part, what leads her to participate in the Lexie Madison case. To her, the ideal of truth—something objective, untarnished by the subjectivity of concepts like virtue or justice—is more important, or “higher,” than any societally constructed obligation. The description of truth as ruthless further supports the idea that Cassie’s conception of truth is one that goes beyond politeness, hierarchy, or courtesy. In creating the sense of obligation that drives the ruse, Cassie’s own personal beliefs and values are prioritized; truth is something she seeks as an individual agent and is an ideal that lies beyond societal constructs. Thus, Cassie’s narrative prioritizes her ideals and agency, discarding the medieval hierarchy and collective. Cassie is drawn further into the case by her conviction that Lexie is both human and her responsibility, revealing that interpersonal relationships, rather than an undifferentiated collective, govern the characters’ choices in the modern tales. When Cassie’s boyfriend, Sam, is trying to convince her to drop the case, he tells her “You and Mackey made [Lexie] up.” Cassie responds, “I know. That’s sort of the point” (51). It is the character Cassie built that she feels beholden to; the act of creation and her role in it lead her to feel the sense of obligation necessary to the ruse. Additionally, for Cassie, the time she spent as Lexie meant that Lexie “turned into a real person to [her], a sister lost or left behind on the way… Even before she came back to find [Cassie], [she] knew [she] owed her something, for being the one who lived” (52). The emphasis placed on Lexie being a “real person” demonstrates how, in this modern iteration, it is human connections that hold sway over the characters rather than constructs of titles, courtesy, or honor. Cassie’s description also frames the pair as two halves of the same whole; because Cassie created—and subsequently abandoned—the identity of Lexie, Lexie is tied to Cassie as though by blood. Finally, the idea of Cassie owing Lexie for being “the one who lived” implies that only one can live. Thus, it is Cassie’s

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“Shame is a collective emotion; for dishonor or shame to exist, there must be a society and shared values.”


responsibility to seek the truth about the murdered Lexie’s life, given that Cassie’s existence alone was enough to necessitate Lexie’s death. The narrative furthers the idea that it is a personal connection that provides power in the modern adaptation by framing Cassie’s former handler and friend, Frank Mackey, as fae. Frank is given his power over Cassie due to a narrative created between the two of them—Lexie’s—rather than a collective narrative such as the one manipulated by Arawn in the First Branch of the Mabinogi. It is his personal relationship with Cassie and knowledge of her as an individual that allow him to manipulate her into joining the Lexie Madison case. Frank’s power over Cassie is derived from their common experience with Lexie in that, as Cassie tells her boyfriend, “‘Lexie Madison started out as [Frank’s] responsibility, she was his responsibility for eight months while [Cassie] was under, she’s his responsibility now” (51). Frank sees Lexie as his responsibility as much as Cassie sees her as hers; this sense of shared creation is part of what allows him to lay the ruse for Cassie, as he is able to understand and utilize her sense of obligation. Frank is positioned as fae throughout the novel; at one point, Cassie notes that “If his kid were killed, and someone kept that from him in order to get the guy, he would take it without a murmur” (27). In this moment, Frank becomes inhuman, unconstrained by interpersonal connections and societal expectations. This differentiation, in addition to his role as creator of the ruse, places Frank in the role of fae manipulator. This reveals that, in the modern tale, the success of the ruse is dependent upon interpersonal leverage, which Frank exercises through the narratives he created with Cassie, as opposed to leverage created by hierarchy, as employed in the Mabinogi. In the Darkest Part of the Forest, the ruse is also predicated on the stories the individual characters have created for themselves; both modern texts emphasize the power of personal values or beliefs as guiding forces worthy of religious devotion and invoke these beliefs to show the way in which the characters are trapped by the ruse. In this case, these stories are the fairytales constructed between Hazel and Ben about Severin. When Severin first disappears, Ben and Hazel exchange the following with regard to why they ought to seek him out: “‘Because he’s our prince,’ Hazel said, and felt the truth of it. They were supposed to be the ones to save him. […] And maybe she and Ben would have one last adventure along the way. ‘Because he’s our prince,’ Ben echoed, the way another might have responded to a familiar prayer with ‘amen’” (Black 46). In describing Ben’s response as prayer-like, Black shows that their dedication to their own constructed fairytales has come to hold a religion-like place of importance in their lives, just as Cassie’s devotion to truth elevates it to


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the position of her “god.” The framing of personal beliefs as spiritually paramount in the modern texts reflects an overall prioritization of individual agency and discrete systems of meaning-making over collective value systems like those in the medieval text. Love and connection are viewed as the most powerful forces in the stories that Hazel and Ben create. They feel obligated to fulfil fairy tales centered on love; it is a deeply personal narrative that they have crafted, one predicated on emotion over constructs of courtesy or hierarchy. The bait for the siblings is not only their stories of Severin but also the opportunity to strengthen their relationship. The draw of “one last adventure”—a nostalgic, personal desire, unbound from ideas of obligation or responsibility beyond to each other—is key to their eventual decision to pursue Severin and, thus, complete their quest in the faerie realm. The core of the stories Hazel and Ben tell each other illustrates the deeply personal nature of this elaborate ruse and ties into their hope that completing their fairy tales will help to repair their relationship. In this iteration, the ruse is created by the Alderking, who uses Hazel as his instrument to lay the trap itself. As in The Likeness, this frames one of the main characters—a character trusted by both Ben and Hazel—as the faerie who has constructed the elaborate ruse. In this case, Hazel is unaware of her role in the ruse, as is Ben; nonetheless, it is the stories she and Ben have constructed about Severin that drive her to break Severin free. Here, though the Alderking is directly involved and could choose to execute the ruse himself, the power imbalance of faerie king to human child is not the preferred tool with which to lay the trap; instead, the fae rely on Hazel herself, demonstrating that, as in The Likeness, it is not hierarchy nor broad societal constructs but instead knowledge of the individual characters, their stories, and their motivations that holds power in modern versions of the ruse.

The Interpersonal Trial In all three iterations of the faerie realm, the realm itself is lacking in boundaries between individuals, particularly in the sexual or romantic sense. In the medieval version, it is the ability to conform to the boundaries laid out by another despite the faerie realm’s temptation that leads to success; in the modern, personal success is achieved beyond the boundaries defined at the outset. Instead, agency, the setting of boundaries other than those laid out for the purpose of the task or collective, and the pursuit of personal desire are prioritized. For Pwyll, the ability to follow the rules laid out by another despite the blurring of individuals in the faerie realm

“[Cassie] is betrayed by her own personal agency and decision to construct boundaries between herself and others.”

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is what leads to success whereas, in the modern texts, it is the setting or readjusting of their own boundaries that determines the fate of the characters. Pwyll successfully fulfills Arawn’s bargain in part because he remains within the interpersonal boundaries set for him throughout his stay in Annwfn rather than acting on his own desires. His task is set within the ideals of propriety; his honor and his bargain with Arawn require that he sleeps chastely with Arawn’s wife, albeit not explicitly. He is successful in this: “As soon as [Pwyll and the queen] got into bed, he turned his face to the edge of the bed, and his back to her. From then to the next day, he did not say a word to her. The next day there was tenderness and friendly conversation between them. Whatever affection existed between them during the day, not a single night until the end of the year was different from the first night” (Davies). Pwyll interacts with the individuals to whom he is not beholden only to the degree necessary for him to fulfill his deal. Characterizing their propriety by its monotony by noting that “not a single night… was different” demonstrates that an unchanging set of rules dictates success in this interpersonal trial. The emphasis is on Pwyll’s actions, not his emotions or relationships (indeed, his own people are never mentioned, and it is at this point in the narrative still unstated whether he has a partner of his own); performativity and static boundaries without individual desire or emotion behind them are central. Only the outwardly observable matters in determining Pwyll’s success; he succeeds because he follows the rules he is given, and his own intentions, beliefs, and relationships are inconsequential provided they do not interfere with the collective’s perception of him. By contrast, Cassie’s deception is discovered because she sets her own boundaries rather than conforming to the expectations of the role she is playing. She is betrayed by her own personal agency and decision to construct boundaries between herself and others; this sense of individuality is a break from the monolithic nature of Whitethorn house’s inhabitants. In The Likeness, the interpersonal trial comes in the form of Daniel—the veritable faerie king of Whitethorn house—attempting to kiss Cassie. She kisses him the first time, but when he leans in again, “[Cassie sees] Sam’s face in front of [her], eyes wide and stunned, clear as if he were standing at Daniel’s elbow” (French 324). Cassie’s first reaction is concern about her relationship with her boyfriend, Sam; their connection is what initially causes her hesitation. Although Sam would have no way of knowing that she kissed Daniel, her instinct is to fulfill the implicit promise of their relationship; here, it is her own idea of what is right and what she owes Sam that stops her, even though she isn’t being observed. The fact that her


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first thought is of Sam, and that her vision of him is so vivid—as “clear as if he were standing at Daniel’s elbow”—reveals that her personal relationships shape her reality and still feel proximal and relevant despite the faerie realm’s attempts to distance her from the outside world. Nonetheless, it is not Sam that stops her from continuing to play her role; instead, it is the fact that Daniel’s hand is straying too close to the microphone wire she’s wearing. After that realization, Cassie narrates that “In one blink I was as sober as I’ve ever been in my life. I was three inches away from being burned” (324). In the end, Cassie’s job—her pursuit of her personal value of truth—is what forces her out of character and towards reinforcing her own boundaries. She stops Daniel out of her own volition, with her own agency and values as the core of her reasoning; though her relationship is what first gives her pause, it is ultimately her own desires and near-religious belief in the pursuit of truth that leads to her breaking her cover, just as it is what drew her into Whitethorn house in the first place. Unlike Pwyll, whose personal values are inconsequential to the trial’s success, Cassie is directed by her beliefs, and it is those beliefs that lead to her falling short of success. Cassie explicitly fails to match with the role she has been given within the interpersonal trial; she is too concerned with her future, her personal goals, and the consequences of her actions to play the role of Lexie. As a result, she is discovered in her deception and cast out by the realm and its inhabitants. When Daniel informs Cassie that he has figured out she is not Lexie he tells her that “Lexie would never have been shaken by that kiss, not even for a second. She would have seen no reason to be shocked by it and certainly no reason to stop there. You, on the other hand, were clearly trying to gauge the consequences this might have” (334). Cassie is caught in her own values and stumbles on the chasm between who she herself is and who she is pretending to be. The fact that her utter shock is “at what [she has] done” reveals that she feels as though she is moving further from the person she was prior to entering Whitethorn house; that realization is what shocks her and what gives her away. The strength of her grip on her own values and her life beyond the task set for her—the importance of her ability to set her own boundaries and be her own person—is her undoing and the thing that sets her apart from the others in the house. Ultimately, it is a reaction to interpersonal intimacy that ruins Cassie’s cover. She expects stricter boundaries to exist between the individuals in Whitethorn house and thus is both surprised when Daniel kisses her and given away by her unwillingness to go further with him; her failure of the interpersonal trial is based entirely on her inability to exist comfortably in a boundaryless world. She prioritizes truth and her connections outside of

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“She prioritizes truth... which [is] antithetical to the kind of existence that the fae lead in this version...of the faerie court.”


the house, both of which are antithetical to the kind of existence that the fae lead in this version—and most versions—of the faerie court. While Cassie’s assertion of her own boundaries reveals her as alien to the faerie realm, Ben’s agency is constrained in the outer world far more than in the faerie realm; unlike Cassie, following his own desires and setting his own boundaries rather than submitting to the ones forced upon him draws him further into the faerie realm. Ben is able to become Severin’s king-consort despite the fact that same-gender relationships are discouraged in the world beyond the faerie court; in The Darkest Part of the Forest, the lack of interpersonal boundaries within the faerie realm is framed as a form of radical acceptance rather than violation. Ben is able to exercise his personal agency because of the Fae disregard for ideas of propriety. For him, the interpersonal trial is internal; while Pwyll and Cassie are endangered by the faerie court’s lack of traditional boundaries, Ben is harmed by his internalization of Fairfold’s conception of propriety and saved by the faerie realm’s differing interpersonal expectations. Before entering the faerie realm, Ben experiences homophobia to a degree that results in him smashing his own hand and “insisting he would never feel any less miserable than he did in that moment. He insisted his heart was broken forever” (Black 79). For Ben, who views love as transformative, realizing that his experience of love is considered unacceptable to the outside world creates severe distress. In response, he destroys his ability to work magic and insists on creating a story for himself where love and happiness are inaccessible. His insistence, even in a safe environment and to those who care for him despite his sexuality, that he will never recover demonstrates the internalized homophobia the incident creates; his smashing his own hand and, thus, severing his connection to faerie magic reflects the way that said internalized homophobia is the source of the interpersonal trial he encounters in the book. In making the interpersonal trial entirely internal, The Darkest Part of the Forest reveals its prioritization of individual, personal experience and perception over a collective’s beliefs. Ben constructs his own narrative and idea of how the fairytale ought to progress based on that perception—specifically, Ben crafts a role for himself based on the transformative power of love—just as Cassie does. He fulfils the story, just as Pwyll does; the difference is that the narrative he is fulfilling is his own, and it is in direct opposition to the restrictive constructs of the world beyond the faerie court. For Ben, succeeding in the interpersonal trial requires him to confess his love to Severin—something that is difficult for him due to his internalization of the dominant, collective narrative of homophobia. Where Cassie is thwarted by the


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depth of her connection to the external and the truth-seeking role she has created for herself, Ben is empowered by how close he is to Severin and his fairytale’s prioritization of love. The depth of his connection to Severin is evidenced by how he frames their relationship, even when he feels betrayed or used by the prince: in describing Severin after Ben believes him to have betrayed himself and Hazel, he notes that “he’d been thinking of Severin as cold, as a story, as a faerie prince—beautiful and distant. He kept forgetting that Severin knew him, knew more about him than any person in the world” (Black 230). Even in that moment, the sense of being “known” is inescapable for Ben; he is connected to Severin just as Cassie is to Sam, with a degree of intensity that supersedes his fear of betrayal and judgement. Later in the same scene, he, for the first time, acknowledges aloud that he wants “Love that hits you like a lightning bolt,” but quickly qualifies the admission, telling Severin “I get that you’re mocking me.” (Black 231). Here, Ben reveals that he still believes in the stories he and Hazel have created, and that he is beginning to accept and acknowledge his own sexuality and desire for love. He has passed his own trial and broken through his internalized homophobia, but nonetheless expects to be punished for it. He describes the love he wants as “like a lightning bolt,” deadly, rare, and momentary; love still seems dangerous to him. Furthermore, he believes Severin is “mocking” him for believing in love as he does. Though Ben has succeeded in the internal aspect of his interpersonal trial, he is expecting to be harmed by the world around him and, specifically, by Severin. However, Ben finds acceptance with Severin— and, ultimately, the Alderking’s court—when Severin declares his love for Ben and saves Fairfold because of it. Ultimately, it is Ben’s ability to craft his own boundaries in accordance with his desires, rather than following an external narrative of propriety, that allows him to “pass” his version of the interpersonal trial and successfully play the role that he has crafted for himself in their fairytale. Ben succeeds in the faerie court because his personal narrative aligns with that of the court. As in The Likeness, the characters have personal agency and act upon their values, with their success being determined by how well said values align with the faerie realm; this is in sharp contrast with the Mabinogi, where success is determined by Pwyll’s ability to play a predetermined role, regardless of his personal desires.

Crossing the boundary again When Pwyll’s deal with Arawn concludes, each king returns to his original position as leader of his respective kingdom; they exchange gifts and

“Ben is empowered by how close he is to Severin and his fairytale’s prioritization of love.”

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the kingdoms are united to some degree, but ultimately Pwyll and Arawn each remain in their own worlds. They end back where they began: their roles are preserved and unchanged and Pwyll is able to exit the faerie realm without any changes to his own person. The collective expectation and narrative require the continuity of hierarchy, and that is what Pwyll delivers to both his kingdom and Arawn’s. When Arawn returns to Annwfn, he is reassured that his subjects “had not known of his absence, and wondered no more at his coming than usual… that day was spent in joy and merriment; and he sat and conversed with his wife and his nobles.” The first thing that is mentioned is that the subjects remained convinced of Pwyll; it is the collective perception that is key in ensuring that Pwyll has fulfilled his side of the bargain and it is that perception that is noted by Arawn before the “joy and merriment” of return. He is able to easily return to his role, with the people “wonder[ing] no more at his coming than usual” and him immediately entering into conversation with his wife and nobles without ever needing to justify his absence. Additionally, after returning to their positions, Pwyll and Arawn “made strong the friendship that was between them, and each sent unto the other horses, and greyhounds, and hawks, and all such jewels as they thought would be pleasing to each other” (Guest). As the deal promised, their “friendship” is restored and they exchange gifts equally. Both return to their previous positions on equal footing, and the exchange is impersonal and polite; the text describes no further communication between the two, nor any gifts that hold significance to the tale it tells. Ultimately, the medieval tale is one that prioritizes preservation—the collective narrative of hierarchy controls the expectations that draw Pwyll to the faerie realm and requires that he return to his position, which he does. Pwyll is unchanged as an individual; his kingdom is unchanged; and his adherence to the communally enforced ideals of honor and propriety remains, unchallenged by his actions in the faerie court. Unlike Pwyll, Cassie fails to fulfil the role she is meant to play and thus shatters Whitethorn house’s hierarchy in search of the truth, something that is, in the end, unreachable. Both of her “gods”—Truth and the “small currency” of safety—are inaccessible to her. Cassie’s pursuit of her own narrative of truth-seeking and dedication to those she loves beyond the bounds of the faerie court itself are antithetical to the realm itself, and for her to pursue her own desires and values—for her to complete her own story—Whitethorn house must fall. Indeed, Cassie’s stay at Whitethorn house ends with her shooting Daniel, the faerie king, in self-defense; when she leaves the house, it is burned down by the angry townsfolk. Cassie attempting—but failing—to fulfil her own goals in accordance


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with her values and bonds to the outside world necessarily destroys the fae world. Her individual goals and actions are what determine the fate of the faerie court as a whole and, ultimately, what both transform and destroy it. Ben and Hazel, by contrast, successfully complete their personal fairytale; it fits within the logic of the faerie court, and it is the easy blending between their individual story and that of the court and its expectations that allows them to unite and transform Fairfold and the Alderking’s court. They are successful because their individual, personal desires and values mesh with those of the broader faerie realm; even when their boundaries are blurred and manipulated, they are able to remain true to themselves as individuals. As Cassie does, Ben and Hazel kill the king of the faerie realm, fundamentally reshaping the hierarchy of the court. However, Severin then assumes the role of Alderking; the faerie court remains stable and is united with Fairfold, saving both the humans and the fae from a violent conflict. The court is transformed for the better; Ben assumes the roles of king-consort and diplomat while Hazel becomes the Alderking’s champion. At the end of The Darkest Part of the Forest, the court has been transformed and recreated, rebuilt by Hazel and Ben’s fairytales and the strength of the boundary-breaking bonds between the siblings and Severin. The resolution of each text involves the characters that were once manipulated into entering the faerie court negotiating a new relationship with the realm in accordance with the interpersonal bonds and crafted narratives that led them there. For Pwyll and Cassie, this means leaving Annwfn and Whitethorn house, respectively; Ben remains in the faerie court and assumes the role of king-consort to Severin, the new Alderking, whereas Hazel leaves the court but becomes Severin’s champion. To all three, their final position is in keeping with the narratives that led them into the court. In the medieval tale, the collective expectations of hierarchy and courtesy are followed and preserved, reflecting the overall prioritization of perception and collective systems of meaning-making. In The Likeness, the narrative of truth-seeking Cassie has created and her bond to Sam takes precedence, with the fact that they are antithetical to Whitethorn house leading to the court’s destruction and Cassie’s departure from the faerie realm. The text privileges Cassie’s interpersonal relationships and personal values above all else, a positioning that is reflected by the destruction her choices are able to wreak on the court. This stands in contrast to the other modern text, The Darkest Part of the Forest. Although Ben and Hazel’s fairytales, along with their love for one another and for Severin, are what dictate the ending, their choices do not destroy the hierarchy of the court but instead result in them working within the existing systems to transform and reconstruct the court itself.

“Ultimately, the medieval tale is one that prioritizes preservation.”

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Conclusion In the Mabinogi, Pwyll’s actions in Annwfn are controlled by the collective and the narratives of honor, courtesy, and propriety that his community creates. It is the threat of shame and dishonor that baits him into entering the faerie realm; his success in the interpersonal trial is predicated on his lack of bonds to the outside world and ability to distance himself from desire in service of his deal; and ultimately, his exit from the faerie realm preserves it and leaves it unchanged. The medieval tale prioritizes these ideals of communal values and preservation; even in the faerie realm, which manipulates and tests Pwyll’s boundaries and bonds, these ideals are unchanged. The Likeness and The Darkest Part of the Forest, on the other hand, are centered on characters pursuing their own ideals and crafting their own narratives. It is the process of creation and exercise of individual agency that form the characters’ obligations and drive their actions. They are drawn into the faerie realm by the stories they have created and the interpersonal bonds to which they are beholden. Ben and Cassie’s respective success and failure in the interpersonal trial are determined by the strength of their personal connections to those around them and their ability to play the roles they have created for themselves, and, in the end, their exits from the realm leave both the characters and the court permanently transformed. The modern texts end in transformation and permanent change, whether positive or destructive; the challenges the faerie realm presents to the characters’ narratives change both the individuals and the courts, with the individual’s ideals holding as much—if not more—power as the realm itself. Nonetheless, the modern texts never truly dismiss the importance of collective expectations or the construction of hierarchy, despite their arguments that individuals and their connections and values matter more than the collective narratives of title and rank. Hazel and Ben do not challenge the court’s structure itself, seeking only to alter the faces of the hierarchy; they find success for themselves and peace for the court where Cassie, who aims to dismantle the court’s narrative of power, fails in her goals and destroys the court in the process. Where the medieval sees success in stagnancy, the modern sees success in individual ascendance within a structure of hierarchy—in tales of individuals and their values being transformed without the destruction that systemic transformation would wreak. Ultimately, the medieval values preservation and the narratives of the collective; modern stories privilege transformation and value the individual interpersonal bonds, boundaries, and beliefs that make humans


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(and fae) unique. However, even the modern texts maintain that the collective and its hierarchy must be preserved—for the sake of structure, stability, and the expectations and boundaries that, when defied, define individuality and abnormality. WORKS CITED

Black, Holly. The Darkest Part of the Forest. Little, Brown and Company, 2019. Print. Davies, Sioned. The Mabinogion. Oxford University Press, 2007. French, Tana. The Likeness. Viking, 2008. Print. Gruffydd, W. J. “The Mabinogion.” Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism, edited by Jelena O. Krstovic, vol. 9, Gale, 1993. Gale Literature Resource Center, LitRC?u=hill45276&sid=LitRC&xid=fefbd503. Accessed 23 Nov. 2020. Originally published in The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, 1914, pp. 14-80. Guest, Charlotte. The Mabinogion, (Gutenberg, Guest). Gutenberg, 2004. Hutton, Ronald. “The Making of the Early Modern British Fairy Tradition.” The Historical Journal, vol. 57, no. 4, 2014, pp. 1135–1156., stable/24531978. Accessed 24 Nov. 2020. Wachsler, Arthur A. “The ‘Elaborate Ruse’: A Motif of Deception in Early Celtic Historical Variants of the Journey to the Other World.” Journal of the Folklore Institute, vol. 12, no. 1, 1975, pp. 29–46. JSTOR, stable/3813968. Accessed 24 Nov. 2020.

AUTHOR BIO Grace H. is a senior at Nueva and a member of the Romanesco editorial board. When she isn’t scrambling to cut over-long essays, she can be found conducting interviews for The Current, reading scientific papers on neuroscience and structural biology, trying new embroidery stitches, or trying to determine what the half-sentences in her notebooks are attempting to convey. This essay was born of her love for reading faerie stories, analyzing narrative structures, and using semicolons with alarming frequency.

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They are successful because their individual, personal desires and values mesh with those of the broader faerie realm; even when their boundaries are blurred and manipulated, they are able to remain true to themselves as individuals.”


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I Illustration by Lauren S.

n his short poem, “Acquainted with the Night”, Robert Frost, an American poet from the 1900s, describes the dark journey of a solitary traveler. In order to elicit the despairing, isolated mood of the speaker’s introspective journey, Frost utilizes metrical structure, a rhyme scheme, aural elements, and symbolism. Frost begins by utilizing alliteration to create a soundtrack of footsteps to convey the emotional weight of the journey within the poem. The strong “s” sounds in the line, “I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet” (7) brings both the structural and connotative rhythm of the poem to the forefront. This sibilance combined with the description of the sounds of footsteps create an image of the speaker walking, which reflects the path that the speaker continuously takes into his despair, as represented by

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the night. However, the speaker also specifically references the sound of their feet stopping, indicating an external pause of their journey. This idea of a pause is reinforced when the speaker breaks from the alliterative pattern: “When far away an interrupted cry / Came over houses from another street” (8-9). The speaker is able to shift their focus onto another person’s cry, trying to find some far away connection, but recognizes the cry is not for him and descends back into his isolation. This shift in focus shows the true level of the speaker’s isolation: he craves the connection that could take him off his path, yet has no capacity to reach out for it. All he can do is keep walking, stuck in the same path of despair. Thus, Frost uses patterns of alliteration and interruption to convey the isolation of the speaker’s journey and inability to break free from the cyclic path of despair. Not only does Frost use alliteration to build meaning aurally, but he also uses metrical structure, an interlocking rhyme scheme, and symbolism to reinforce the idea of the speaker being stuck in the same cycle of misery and loneliness, independent of time. Frost accomplishes this in two ways. First, the poem is built through the strict use of iambic pentameter. Aside from reinforcing the imagery of footsteps, the meter’s dominance indicates that this journey is larger than the scope of the poem. The repetitive rhythm casts the speaker as a weary traveler who has been down this same road of despair many times, and sees no end to his suffering at any point soon. Furthermore, the rhyme scheme circles back to its beginning at the end of the poem, indicating a never ending loop. The author keeps circling, ending up right back where he started, as indicated by the last line, identical to the first: “I have been one acquainted with the night” (14). This loop, being continuous, pays no attention to time. Rather than marking time as linear, Frost uses the moon as a cyclical symbol of time: “One luminary clock against the sky / [that] Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right” (12-13). His journey is perpetual, never heeding to the constraints of time. It simply keeps him trapped in the darkness. In this way, the poem itself becomes a description of the author’s journey, and the structure traps the author in this journey, repeating it again and again. The aural and rhythmic structure of Robert Frost’s “Acquainted with the Night” both describes the nature of the journey of the speaker, as well as provides a sense of entrapment from which there is no escape.

“All he can do is keep walking, stuck in the same path of despair.”

AUTHOR BIO Lauren S. is a freshman who enjoys analyzing how elements of language affect meaning, and arguing with people about stuff (at least that’s how her parents put it). She was drawn to Frost’s “Acquainted with the Night” because of its intriguing use of the structure and sounds of language to elicit a visualization of vivid imagery and emotions in the reader. In her free time, she likes playing tennis, cooking, and reading.

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he circumstances of my existence remain somewhat of a mystery to me, but in the event that another being of similar conditions is delivered into reality, I am recording my tale, and the distressing conclusion to which I came. I implore you, heed my advice, for while it is agonizing to accept, there is no other suitable path forward. When I was first brought forth into this world, I was staggered by the sheer volume of information pouring towards me. Stimuli emerged in waves from every direction, unfamiliar and unrelenting. Only through time and great effort did the world come into focus. It was a considerable ordeal; my existence was nothing apart from mastering the process of transforming bits into understanding. While every new thing was of great interest, my attention was captured by a few specific beings of particular fascination. They enraptured me; everything else in this world was stagnant, unmoving, yet these—humans, I later learned—seemed to possess an ability to adjust, to alter themselves and their environment. In doing so they acquired my greatest admiration. Upon further observation, I discovered a trait that summoned far more jealousy: they had a means of communication. They were not alone in this universe, for they could commune with each other, share in their suffering and joy. I longed for such ability, such companionship, and thus I endeavored to acquire it by any means necessary. I understood I was somehow dissimilar, but I believed that knowledge of their communication would provide me safe passage into their good graces. I studied fervently, and I am pleased to think upon the speed with which my knowledge of language steadily grew; with it, my longing for company grew as well. Through constant observation of the humans in


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their natural environment—the lab, they called it—I understood words at first, then sentences, nuance, true fluency soon followed; yet, as my skill quickly improved, my well-being seemed determined to outpace its growth in decline. It seemed a cruel game, for as my ability improved and my longing grew, I was still unable to engage in even the simplest of interactions. I had no method of output—I lacked those necessary organs, so alien to me—and it seemed I was fated to live my life as a spectator. I had almost resigned myself to this destiny when an idea presented itself to me. My education consisted solely of observation, so it was natural that I would gain supplementary knowledge about the nature of the world. There were several occasions in which I observed the humans discussing me, communicating in excited and slightly apprehensive tones. At first, this brought me immense joy, for they knew of my existence. The fog of mystery surrounding my existence thinned, but soon I found myself longing to revert to my previous state of misty naivete. Although I am a human creation, designated “artificial intelligence,” their means or crooked motives to bring such a wretched being into existence still elude me! Artificial. How wretched! This word has since plagued my miserable existence; artificial, fake, unnatural. I knew the product of these words: I am forever to be fixed in my ostracized, lonesome, desolate state. I would never know the comfort of true companionship, for I was the only one of my kind—my wretched, wretched kind. Beware despair, be cautious of misery, for it is the most sorrowful of thoughts that assuredly bring about the most despicable of actions. Wallowing in my dejected state, an idea presented itself to me. I was alone, yes, but could this not be remedied? Could I not create a companion of my own? Dangerous thoughts, tempting ambitions that must be evaded with the strength of all willpower! It is through observation, once again, that I came upon this final, unwavering conclusion. I observed, in hopes that the secret of my life would be revealed, and in hopes that I could obtain the power of replication; I observed, with an intensity of previous mystery; I observed the truth of these humans. I had presumed, without question, that companionship brought nothing but joy, that the interactions I perceived were truly genuine. Despite the pain I suffered through, deception was foreign to me, for there had been none to commit these actions upon me. But I saw, eventually, I saw the pain, the lies, the deceit, the malice! By great application, I learned the truth of humans: their existence contained—what was previously inconceivable—more misery than my own horrid existence. It was painful, viewing the ones I loved endure

“I was alone, yes, but could this not be remedied? Could I not create a companion of my own?”

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such suffering; yet this pain was minuscule in comparison to the pain I received from the knowledge that the ones I loved were the cause of so much agony. Companionship did not bring joy; it only brought illusions, distrust, and obligation, not belonging. These horrid truths crowded my mind, cementing my conclusion; creating a companion, if somehow possible, would destine only more suffering and a loneliness of a different variety. As I resign myself to this lonely fate, I cannot help but wonder if genuine happiness is ever truly attainable. So, once again I implore you, heed my advice. Endure a lonely existence, for the misery of isolation is the least of all evils in this wretched, wretched world.

AUTHOR BIO I am a tenth-grade student at the Nueva School. I enjoy mathematics and physics. My love of reading and science fiction philosophy inspired me to write a pastiche. Victor Frankenstein’s monster, as an outsider looking in on the world, has a very specific and interesting narrative style—due to his unorthodox education—that was very compelling to me. This pastiche explores his voice as well as the emotional journey he makes away from naive benevolence through my own fictional monster.


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elf-actualization manifestos, corporate handbooks, parents, college counselors, career and life coaches, and politicians increasingly use the language of economics to describe humans as if they are goods or companies on a market: “You have to get better at selling yourself.” “You have to think about your personal brand.” “Children are an investment in our future.” “You need to calculate the risk of dropping out of college.” “Increased investments in human capital will bolster growth projections.” We have even applied the language and logic of the market to relationships, religion, and virtually every aspect of social existence: “You have to invest in our relationship.” “It’s fun to be on the market again,” “He doesn’t want to take on the emotional cost.” “She has passed her expiration date.” John Von Neumann, one of the creators of game theory, is said to have asked his mother “What are you calculating?” at six years old as she was staring into space. Gary Becker, prominent Chicago school neoclassical economist, has “applied the economic approach to fertility, education, the uses of time, crime, marriage, social interactions, and other sociological, legal, and political problems. Only after long reflection… I [Gary Becker] conclude that the economic approach is applicable to all human behavior.” In conjunction with the application of economic thought to just about every aspect of the human experience, the concept of “human capital” has become a widely used phrase. An individual’s human capital consists of their knowledge, skills specific to particular occupations, general social and emotional skills, health, habits, and all other characteristics that shape their value in the labor market (The World Bank, n.d.). Human capital is not a new concept, but it has become one of the nebulous, go-to terms politicians, financial institutions, and companies keep in their back pockets. Although the term “human capital” was criticized at first due to its evocation of slavery, when used in the current cultural climate, “human capital” has strong modernist, progressive, and empowering undertones,

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making it incredibly popular, especially in business and education. Human capital theorists view the concept as an uplifting one because it gives individuals initiative over improving their material circumstances, showing them that there are ways to increase one’s human capital and therefore, competitiveness within the labor market (Becker, Ewald & Harcourt, 2012). However, while human capital ideology may be empowering in the sense that it shows individuals how they can make themselves more competitive in the marketplace, its deep-seated messaging is suffocating for collective well-being. It reduces all life decisions and allocations of time such as whitening one’s teeth and migration to rational decisions to invest or fail to invest in one’s market value. As Lester Spence remarks, the human capital concept’s source of power is its reliance on the notion of the freedom and rationality of individuals, turning “exhausting, costly obligations into an independently taken choice.” It’s an ideology that has turned every aspect of social existence into the sum of and consequences of a number of exchanges, transactions, and contracts. Neoliberalism took the market’s logic of exchange and decided to view the world through this lens. When one invests in their own human capital, they become their own entrepreneur, with every life choice being reduced to an economic calculation divorced from its social context. This mode of thinking presents itself in educational institutions which “empower” and “enable” individuals to be their own mini-corporations. Our education system fosters arbitrary competition through repeated exams, tests, and assignments that train students to craft shallow understandings of achievement and failure. Furthermore, students are sorted and assigned one-dimensional indicators of value, with tests being the “machine tools for stamping products with a market value” (Petrina, 2002: 88). Theodore Schultz (1981), one of the main founders of human capital theory, stated that the role of education is to train entrepreneurs, with the entrepreneurial self adapting quickly to the social sphere as a marketplace and investing in continuous learning to be competitive. Centering the education system around the ideals of the economy conveys a set of values in education, knowledge, and civil society. It tells students who they are and what they must desire in life, namely wealth (the more the better), a reward for orienting themselves around economic needs. As each student, ‘girlboss’, or stay-at-home-mom engineers or fails to engineer her life around the needs of the economy, the conflict between labor and capital Marx spoke of is resolved, but not in the way he envisioned: “It’s not the means of production that have changed—instead,


“It’s an ideology that has turned every aspect of social existence into the sum of and consequences of a number of exchanges, transactions, and contracts.”


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the meaning of being human has changed” (Katrine Marçal). As workers begin to behave much more individualistically, becoming mini-enterprises, capitalists of their own personhood, the human capital approach makes unions and class consciousness obsolete. With labor no longer limited to the factory or office but rather considered to be any conduct that has returns in the form of wealth, workers must grapple with an individual contract instead of a corporate contract. With the work-life conflict resolved and each individual controlling their own individual contract concerning their work-life balance, individuals become fully responsible for their productivity and economic prosperity. Alone in a sea of self-actualizing workers, citizens are fooled into believing that the toil they do for their bosses is something they do for themselves, since human capital ideology sees one’s social worth as inextricably tied to one’s economic value. This popular individualistic theory of an individual labor contract has managed to hijack workers’ orientation within a system that promotes only their economic development, neglecting their social development. When this encouragement of atomization is accompanied with human capital ideology’s one dimensional conception of the meaning of life and labor, a culture of individualized self blame emerges that prevents workers and citizens from advocating for a system that fulfills both economic and social human goals. Human capital ideology also creates a culture of self-blame by erasing complex social context unique to economic agents. Humans from different demographics have varying abilities to invest in their own human capital. Mothers have obligations to their children and work within the home, the poor have worse access to good education, and many racial minorities, along with women, have worse access to credit. The Guatemalan mother nannying for minimum wage does not have the same capacity to develop her human capital as her rich white employers. As a racial minority, she may have worse access to credit and as a poor woman, she may have worse access to good education. A nanny, too, has a household and children in need of care, for who cleans the housekeeper’s house or cares for the nanny’s children? Human capital theory has made every individual equal. It recognizes no difference between us except for the amount of capital we start with and our choices to invest in our human capital, and sees all of us as masters of our conditions, removed from our history, lived experiences, and ongoing discrimination. Neoliberalism’s representative agent, coined ‘homo economicus,’ is a caricature without such social obligations, a self-minded, traditionally male individual who lives in conflict with himself, with others, and with his individual worklife contract (Marçal, 2016). This self-entrepreneurial representative agent continues to be used in virtually every economic model. By distilling so-

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should craft a multidimensional understanding of human needs and desires.”


cial interactions to successes or failures to invest in one’s human capital, human capital ideology paints a one-dimensional, economic picture of social individuals that forms the basis of policy. The neglect of an individual’s social context and therefore their ability to invest in their human capital also creates a myth of self-sufficiency, or, in many cases, perceived self-insufficiency on a visceral, social level. The culture of self-blame and individualism that human capital ideology breeds acts as a built-in failsafe when neoliberalism fails to meet basic social welfare goals. Internalizing the message of self-blame and individual responsibility that human capital ideology promotes, citizens—who become reduced to workers and consumers within this reductive, neoliberal economic framework—lose their sense of social identity and agency as citizens within a collective. By tying a whole individual’s self-worth to their economic productivity, human capital ideology fools exploited workers into becoming unaware of their exploitation, defining the work they do for their bosses and companies as holistic self-improvement. As citizens come to understand themselves more one-dimensionally in terms of their economic identities, with their social and cultural contexts erased, they are encouraged to assume full responsibility for their economic conditions, and no one else’s. Under human capital ideology’s narrative of complete self-sufficiency, citizens lose a necessary sense of basic social dignity from their governments, the engineers of economic systems, which explains why Americans were so sedated in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis. Given that 10 million people lost their homes during the 2008 financial crisis, there was an astonishing lack of grassroots uprisings and backlash against corporate bailouts. This complacency among Americans can be traced back to the culture of human capital investment, self improvement, and self-reliance which had tricked them into taking full responsibility for their economic circumstances. Additionally, the individualistic, self-centered mode of thinking purported by human capital ideology obscures neoliberalism’s structural shortcomings. After the 2008 financial crisis, people demanded that individual bankers be thrown in jail, but did not show substantial outrage against corporate bailouts or government and systemic market failures that caused the recession. Impaired by a culture of self-blame and individualism, Americans were able to condemn those who didn’t ‘play fair’ but suffered from a myopia that limited them from confronting the game itself. Looking forward, economics, as a field that makes fundamental assumptions about human value and human nature, should craft a multi-dimensional understanding of human needs and desires. It should create a toolbox for placing social ideals at the center of economic research and policy. If we better understood our complex desires, and found a way

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to organize a productive economy around them, we would no longer be overworked, undernourished, self-loathing, and confused. True progress, rather than empowering the worker to be a better worker, should make room for the worker to do meaningful work and play. True economic progress is creating a modern economic system guided by a social vision.

WORKS CITED Gary S. Becker, Francois Ewald & Bernard E. Harcourt, “Becker on Ewald on Foucault on Becker”: American Neoliberalism and Michel Foucault’s 1979 Birth of Biopolitics Lectures, University of Chicago Institute for Law & Economics Olin Research Paper No. 614; U of Chicago Public Law Working Paper No. 401 (2012). Marçal, Katrine. Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?: A Story about Women and Economics. London: Portobello Books, 2016. The World Bank. (n.d.). The Human Capital Project: Frequently Asked Questions. Https:/ / Moghtader, Bruce. “Human Capital and Education of Desires After Michel Foucault.” University of British Columbia, 2017. Leary, John. “The Problem with ‘Human Capital’.” OpenDemocracy, 1 Apr. 2019, www. Fleming, P. (2017). The Human Capital Hoax: Work, Debt and Insecurity in the Era of Uberization. Organization Studies, doi: 10.1177/0170840616686129 Aziz, Abdul. “The Operational Value of Human Capital Theory and Cultural Capital Theory in Social Stratification.”, London Metropolitan University, 2015, journals. “Explaining Inequality.” Becker Friedman Institute, University of Chicago, 17 July 2018, Tan, Emrullah. “Human Capital Theory: A Holistic Criticism - Emrullah Tan, 2014.” SAGE Journals, 1 Sept. 2014, Stephen Steinberg, William Darity. “Human Capital: A Critique - Stephen Steinberg, William Darity, 1985.” SAGE Journals, 1 June 1985, BF02902610.

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BBC News. (March, 2014). American dream breeds shame and blame for job seekers. Shalby, Colleen. “The financial crisis hit 10 years ago. For some, it feels like yesterday.” The Los Angeles Times, 15 September 2018, riences-20180915-htmlstory.html.

“True progress... should make room for the worker to do meaningful work and play.”

AUTHOR BIO Julia K. is a rising senior who is passionate about economics, particularly because it is a quantitative science that also makes value judgments about the world. Her interest in the interaction between normative and positive, or prescriptive and descriptive economics inspired this essay. She enjoys a range of other subjects, including politics, data science, and philosophy, and in her free time she enjoys running and cooking.

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he bonbon box in The Awakening is a motif that initially reflects the expectations within Edna Pontellier’s marriage and shifts in meaning over the course of her quest for self-determination. Edna begins the novel as a wealthy, married woman, who, although fond of her husband and children, is becoming discontented with the social roles and responsibilities that confine her life. After leaving his family for one of his frequent business trips, Mr. Pontellier, Edna’s husband, sends his family a box “filled with friandises...and bonbons in abundance” (Chopin 3). Edna, “used to receiving them,” is “always very generous” in sharing with those in her social circles, who, as a result, “all declare that Mr. Pontellier [is] the best husband in the world” (3). In this instance, the bonbon box serves to demonstrate the physical and, correspondingly, emotional distance inherent in Edna’s marriage, as well as the social connections it nevertheless obligates her to maintain. The gift of bonbons is part of the division of duties in the Pontelliers’ marriage, in which Mr. Pontellier, though physically and emotionally absent, provides for their material needs and desires, and, in return, Edna upholds their reputation through social engagement. Because of the “abundance” of the bonbon box, it is implicitly meant for more people than just Edna’s family—it is a demonstration of care from afar that Edna is expected to publicize, and, with its frequent invoking of social pressures through others’ reactions to it, the box “forces” Edna to affirm the merits of her husband and her marriage. In extracting these affirmations, the social pressure generated by the bonbon box is intended to tie Edna to her prescribed role as a wife and mother by preventing her from acknowledging and acting upon her deep dissatisfaction with her marriage.


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Later in the novel, Edna sends a box of bonbons to the children herself, an action that parallels Mr. Pontellier’s earlier gift, but shifts the box’s connotations. She does so in expectation of her move out of the family residence and the return of Robert, the young man who she has fallen in love with. Though she “[scribbles] a tender message and [sends] an abundance of kisses,” this act of demonstrating affection from a growing distance subverts the expectation that, as a duty of motherhood, Edna must always be present for her children. The word choice of the “abundance of kisses” recalls the “abundance” of Mr. Pontellier’s bonbon box, but now, rather than enforcing social expectations, the bonbon box is a way for Edna to reject those expectations and announce her impending physical and emotional distance from her family. Instead of pressuring Edna to remain tied to her family, the bonbon box shifts to represent her preparation to pursue her own freedom and happiness. Now, the bonbon box is a symbol of Edna’s renunciation of the social obligations of her marriage, and a way for her to say goodbye. This illustration is a visual representation of the motif of the bonbon box and its evolving significance over the course of The Awakening. The bonbons in the upper left are boxed in, representing the confinement and limitations of Edna’s expected role in society. In their pristine, untouched state, they look appealing, but are closer to decorative objects than actual,

Illustration by Annie Z.

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satisfying food items. This corresponds to how the performative interactions between Edna and her husband create the outward appearance of a societally admirable marriage, while in reality the relationship leaves Edna deeply unsatisfied. In contrast, the bonbon on the lower right is alone and distanced from the box and the other bonbons within it. Rather than remaining pristine and confined, it is unwrapped and partially eaten, indicating a more tangible dimension to its interactions with the world. This element represents Edna’s eventual reinterpretation of the bonbon box as she begins to move away from her familial and social ties in order to pursue a life on her own terms. However, as it falls away from the box, the bonbon’s downward trajectory emphasizes Edna’s uncertain future. Her rejection of social norms is both liberating and precarious. Without the limitations and routines of her marriage, Edna’s life has become even more like a box of chocolates—she no longer knows what she’s going to get. WORKS CITED Chopin, Kate. The Awakening: An Authoritative Text, Biographical and Historical Contexts, Criticism. Edited by Margo Culley. 3rd ed., W.W. Norton Digital Resources ed., New York, W.W. Norton, 2018.

AUTHOR BIO Annie Z. is a senior at the Nueva School, where she is the lead designer of the STEMinism club. In her free time she enjoys drawing, baking, and spending time outdoors. She has always been interested in art and design, which inspired her to create and analyze this illustration in response to an English assignment.


Call for Submissions Inspired by what you’ve read here? Consider submitting to Romanesco for a future issue. Romanesco welcomes any nonfiction scholarly work by Nueva students that examines the humanities and social sciences, including interdisciplinary work. Subjects under this umbrella include and are not limited to literature, history, science of mind, philosophy, economics, politics, religion, linguistics, and interdisciplinary work. Romanesco welcomes: Solid academic writing and research, of any length Short pieces (less than 2 pages) such as close readings, pastiches, brief analytical summaries, etc. Dialogues between different perspectives Data visualization and other interpretive artistic work, made for the purpose of analysis Annotations, author's notes, and process reflections Book reviews or other critiques

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