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Every semester I write several papers on various topics. At least one of them is guaranteed to involve or quote Joan Didion. Praise for these projects can be found below. I remain grateful to my many wonderful professors and graduate student instructors for their guidance and support. 

English 100: The Historical Novel

Spring 2024

Paper #1: "The Living Process," on Georg Lukacs' The Historical Novel

"You are totalizing!...This was a wonderful essay. A model essay."

Slavic 134C: Dostoevsky

Fall 2023

Paper #1: "Mystery of Life," on Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment

"Thank you for your excellent 'Mystery of Life' essay! I enjoyed reading it (and interacting with
it). You are already a fabulous writer — and show great potential still!...Regarding your argument, you have fabulous close reading skills...Ultimately, the notion of Raskolnikov’s transformation from a thinking man to a feeling, living one, is a strong one, and the evidence you’ve selected is sound."

Paper #2: "Good Cry," on Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov

[This paper has since been submitted by my wonderful professor to the North American Dostoevsky Society's annual student essay competition!] 

"Karissa — What an amazing, beautifully written paper! You provide a wonderfully close reading
in service of a moving, overarching interpretation of the novel and its message. Your attention to
the little things in the dream — the syntax, the transition in tense — is admirable, as is your focus
on what the dream does and does not do for Mitya. You have terrific insight into how the dream
is effectively passed on to others, who do with it what they can. Your own passion here is
infectious, and I’ll say I almost cried, too...What brought tears to the verge of my eyes was not only your relay of the novel’s moral, but also the quality of your investment in this paper and in the novel."

English 141: The English Novel

Fall 2023

Paper #1: "Money Motive," on Daniel Defoe's Roxana

"Your essay is an audacious and mostly successful attempt to read Defoe's Roxana alongside and against the history of classical economic theory...brimming w/ insights and generative juxtapositions, your paper imaginatively handles formal aspects of the text such as the concise and at times belabored accounts of Roxana's 'flowing' assets, the novel's narrative progression, as well as imagery, diction and syntax. The introduction of concepts from classical and neoclassical economic theory is handled with sophistication and care...the use of graphs works to support your claim about the truly extraordinary amount of capital Roxana is able to accumulate."

English 138: Alternate Worlds: Internationalism, Postcolonialism, and Climate Change

Spring 2023

Paper #1: "A Space of His Own," on Isaac Babel's Red Cavalry and Michael Denning

"This was a superb paper. I loved your summary of Denning and your analyses of Babel were equally compelling. Perhaps Denning was not so helpful for this exercise after all — it's a convincing critique. Well done."

Final Essay: "In Order to Live," on Karen Yamashita's I Hotel and Andrey Platonov's Soul

"I’m amazed by how bold your writing style is, even for academic papers. You have 2 page-long paragraphs which begin with a quote rather than a topic sentence; and which generally is less grounded by an argumentative thrust than a sustained attention to language and literary form. It’s all but made up for by how beautiful your analysis is, and how you powerfully opt to rely upon simple diction rather than academic jargon for expressing yourself: 'Yamashita and Platonov show us that world literature can lead us home as well.' Your thesis is broad, but so rich, and you take full advantage of the space it gives you. You did an amazing job with this paper."

East Asian Languages C134 / Slavic C134N: Russia and Asia

Spring 2023

Paper #1: "Nicholas Roerich: Orientalism and Originality," on Nicholas Roerich's paintings

"I was impressed by the amount of extra research you have done for this paper, drawing in a host of Roerich paintings not covered in class to generate a quite sophisticated account of a certain tension in his art between a more conventionally Orientalist depiction of exoticized female bodies and the spiritual sublime of his mountain landscapes...your readings of these paintings are sophisticated and attentive...this is a thoughtful reading of Roerich in terms of the Orientalist paradigm, and I appreciate your sense of the complexity of assessing his work against Said."

Paper #2: "The Old Story," on Lu Xun's "A Madman's Diary" and Gogol's "Diary of a Madman"

"Karissa, this is a sensitive and perceptive comparative reading of Lu Xun and Gogol's stories. You pay particularly fruitful attention to key details that the stories share, which elicit a common concern, at a time of modernization in both Russia and China, with the relationship to the natural world, to history, and to reading. We might add writing itself, in the very form of the diaries — in other words, the two stories in some fundamental way might be considered to be meditations on the function of "literature" in these modernizing societies. What happens to the writer who sees something true about the world, if no one reads them or believes them?"

Final Film Review: On Dersu Uzala by Akira Kurosawa

"Karissa, this is a beautifully written, formally sensitive, and quite moving review. You capture the stylistic tone of a review very nicely, offering a dynamic and accessible account of the film while also making some serious points about its meanings. Your close readings of Kurosawa's shot composition show masterfully how he expresses visually the relationships between his characters. I also found very generative the comparison of the Ussuri forest to Shakespeare's "Green World," a space outside of everyday reality and its political and social order. A pleasure to read — as have all of your contributions been this semester."

Political Economy 101: Contemporary Theories of Political Economy

Fall 2022

Theory Paper: "The Last Thing," on Joan Didion's Democracy and Charles Lindblom

"A Joan Didion novel in a Political Economy class! Fantastic! I love the ambition, the creativity, and the artistry of this essay. It is not easy to connect these two works and to integrate them into an argument. You might have taken a step back at the outset to guide your reader a bit more patiently."

English 90: Cormac McCarthy's Murderers, Madmen and Dissolutes

Fall 2022

Paper #1: "The Way Things Were," on Didion's Run River and McCarthy's The Orchard Keeper

"A very strong piece of work. Your argument is persuasive and powerful, your prose precise and specific. The reading of McCarthy is convincing and your choice of quotations is well judged. I like the comparison to Didion, which adds to the piece — the pairing is not obvious — though the reader rather wants some words from her as well. A longer version could easily do that. But I was most pleased with what you've done here and thank you for your good work."

Paper #2: "An American Nightmare," on McCarthy's Blood Meridian

"Karissa, I admired this piece very much. You show a powerful grasp of the novel and its characters and your analysis is well fleshed out, right down to epigrammatic comments on the Kid and the Judge. I think the finest writing is the analysis of the block quote, which is acute, terse, and utterly convincing. Very fine explication de texte. You show a fine and sensitive ear...the piece is very good  — one of the best I read this time — but I know it could be better. And I want it to be! So thank you for this. But make the final one better."

Final Essay: "Loneliness," on McCarthy's Child of God

"Karissa: this is a powerful and moving essay that fully accomplishes, almost painfully, what I asked of you for this final writing, to bring McCarthy's writing into a place where you can honestly evaluate what it has meant to you. The prose is beautiful, almost faultless. You have listened to your natural rhythm here and trusted it, followed it. The beginning of the essay...is beautifully, seamlessly constructed. Just lovely. And your evocations of McCarthy's creations, not only Lester but Bobby, are moving and true. Superb eye for quotations, as well. The 'leaf' passage from Child of God is almost unbearable, as are the lines from Bobby to the Kid. That entire scene is almost a kind of excursus on loneliness, breathtaking in its power. Astonishing, one thinks, what 'fiction' can do. Anyway thank you so much for these powerful, gorgeously crafted pages. They are honest and true and striking in their insights. Certainly they are the best pages you've shown me this semester and I am most grateful. Be happy with them — and, at least for a little while, content. Superb work."

English 45B: The Late-17th through the Mid-19th Century

Spring 2022

Paper #1: "On Earth as in Heaven," on Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor

"Thanks for this great paper on Bradstreet and Taylor. I am utterly convinced by your main argument that the poets draw upon representations of nature’s organicist vitality to convey their understanding of the power and constraint of God’s presence and the complexities of their faith. Your interpretation of the formal features of the poems under discussion is masterful."

Final Essay: "Crusoe, Copperfield, Currency" on Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and Charles Dickens' David Copperfield

"Thank you for this thoughtful paper on the representational and thematic importance of money in
Robinson Crusoe and David Copperfield. I appreciate the attention you paid to the relationship between 'free exchange' and exploitation in the transitions from forced to free laboring conditions that these texts make visible to us readers today."

English 45C: The Mid-19th through the Mid-20th Century

Fall 2021

Paper #1: "Present Past," on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

"Karissa, this was a fantastic paper. It’s almost without fault. The argument is watertight, well-articulated and insightful. A really great effort."

Paper #2: "Seeing as Believing," on Vladimir Nabokov's Pnin

"Karissa, thanks for this paper, it was another brilliant effort. I really admire your style, it achieves an attention to detail and close engagement with formal features whilst still carrying through a rhythm that is entirely your own. Your choice of passages is judicious, and your take on the prompt refreshingly oblique and sensitively argued."

Final Essay: "New California," on Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Nathanael West's Day of the Locust, and Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49

"Karissa, thanks for the paper. I thought it was really excellent work. Your close reading and general style are exemplary and a pleasure to read. Great work and a fitting end to the semester."

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