Tag Archives: dlr

Blast from the Past: Revisiting Cultural Hauntings in the DLR with Founder Dr. Mix

By: Kylie Poling

Dr. Deborah Mix, Professor of English at Ball State University, obtained her BA at Oglethorpe University, and her MA and PhD at Purdue University. Dr. Mix’s area of expertise relates to experimental writing, especially poetry. Her current published works include literature by Gertrude Stein, Toni Morrison, and many others, ranging in topics from educational pedagogy to 20th-century women’s poetry. She will rejoin the Digital Literature Review for its next issue. Dr. Mix was one of the founders of the DLR, its first ever issue focusing on cultural hauntings. Next year, the DLR will revisit cultural hauntings with Dr. Mix once again at the helm. Recently, Kylie Poling, member of the editorial team for the DLR, conducted an email interview with Dr. Mix to discuss her plans for next year’s journal.

Kylie Poling (KP): Please describe your academic background and/or anything you think is important for readers of the DLR to know about you.

Dr. Deborah Mix (DM): Along with Adam Beach, I founded the DLR back in 2013. Also, despite the course’s focus on ghosts, I’m generally too chicken to watch scary movies or TV shows. So I’ve read The Haunting of Hill House, but I haven’t been brave enough to watch the Netflix series. Sad but true!

KP: Why did you decide to rejoin the DLR this year?

DM: I’m excited to be back with the DLR and to see all the ways the journal has grown since that first year. The technological landscape is so different now than it was 6 years ago, and I know I have a ton to learn. I’ve also continued to think about the ways we, as a culture, are haunted. I’m particularly interested in conversations about ways of understanding absences and erasures.

KP: The theme next year will be similar to the first year the DLR was published. What excites you most about revisiting this topic?

DM: When we chose the ghost theme for the first issue, there were dozens of texts we wanted to teach but didn’t have the time to cover. I’m excited that I’ll get to go back to that list again for this new issue. There will be one repeat on the reading list–Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which is incredibly powerful and important–but everything else will be new for 2019-2020.

KP: What are the leading theories you plan to address in the course?

DM: We’ll be drawing on some psychoanalytic theory, critical race theory, queer theory, and feminist theory. What haunts us? Why are we haunted? What can hauntings tell us?

KP: How do you plan to make DLR different this year than previous years?

DM: I’m hoping to experiment with some digital humanities approaches–mapping, text mining, and more. 

KP: Every year the professor teaching this course changes. What is your teaching philosophy and how do you think that will impact the course?

DM: I teach from a feminist perspective, foregrounding students as makers of knowledge. I want to balance my own agenda for the class (and clarity about assignments and expectations) with real autonomy for students to define our areas of inquiry, their individual projects, and the trajectory for this issue of the DLR

KP: What are you looking forward to most in the class?

DM: I’m excited for the chance to spend an extended period of time on the subject of ghosts and cultural haunting and to learn from the students on the DLR staff. (I learned a ton the last time around.)

Check out more about cultural hauntings in the 2019-2020 edition of the Digital Literature Review, coming in Spring 2020!


“Deborah Mix.” Ball State University, www.bsu.edu/academics/collegesanddepartments/english/connect-with-us/faculty-staff/faculty/mixdeborah.

Mix, Deborah, PhD. Personal interview. 22 March 2019.

Reflections on the DLR Experience

By: Leah Heim 

Everyone should do one or two things they do not think they can do. Me, I met my match in Ball State’s Digital Literature Review

When I first heard about the journal, I had four more wisdom teeth, thirteen more inches of hair, and a curriculum vitae smaller than my peanut of self-confidence. When Dr. Huff invited me to apply for an editing position in the DLR during my sophomore Victorian Literature class, I thought that it sounded too big for me. There are students who join internationally known journals. I was not one of them. Only after much encouragement (and a wisdom tooth removal) did I finally cave to Dr. Huff’s insistence and join, if hesitantly, the scary Digital Literature Review

Of course, the experience has been anything but scary, even when I have studied themes like Monsters, Post-Apocalypse, and Utopias and Dystopias. In all seriousness, the next three years would usher in some of the best experiences of my academic life. As a wee sophomore, I learned how to edit like an English machine and how to stand up in front of my peers to passionately defend favorite paper submissions. As a junior, I faced down a lead editor position in the journal, which was an intimidating job that inspired me to cut thirteen inches off my hair in favor of a short, edgier style. Even without my hair, the job was intimidating, but it was so worth it. I learned leadership skills through assigning work to my fellow editors, leading discussions about submissions, and presenting work at public forums like Butler University’s Undergraduate Research Conference. 

Amid all this work, though, my classmates and I always found time for fun. I think of blowing off steam before class by watching a YouTube video of tap-dancing noses from a Shostakovich opera. I think of one of my classmates slipping me a tampon to wear behind my ear like a flower while I presented my Carrie  research project at the DLR gala.

In addition to this fun, however, is the sheer personal growth I have experienced with my time in the DLR.  I think now of the inspiring warrior spirit of my classmates as we raged against the injustices of our current world. I think of how the fire in our eyes combusted into action when we stood up in front of an audience at the DLR  gala and dared to speak out about things like climate change, governmental corruption, and nuclear holocaust—things some people only stare down in their nightmares. The subjects I became passionate about in the DLR, like Julia Kristeva’s theory of the abject, ecofeminism, and post-apocalyptic theory, have become the staples of my literary interests. For example, I am mapping out an ecofeminist, postmodernist retelling of Anna Karenina   for my Honors Thesis, and I have recently submitted a paper on abjection to a graduate conference in Illinois.

Because of the Digital Literature Review’s important role in developing my sense of self, I am thrilled to be participating in the journal as this year’s teacher’s assistant. I have contributed to class discussions while also leading some of them, and I have helped students develop topics for their research papers. When someone struggles with the logistical aspects of running the journal, I drop a few hints here and there to get things on the right track again. Each of my TA duties, however, plays an important role in my greater intentions of continuing work with the journal: I hope to make the experience mean as much for this year’s students as it has meant for me. I want to ensure the continued success of a journal that has come to shape not only my academic life but also—in a very real way—my identity as a person. 

In the introduction for last year’s journal, I compare the DLR to a table; around this table, my classmates and I have discussed subjects that have frightened me. However, in a yearlong, intimate class like the DLR, students develop the trust and support to plumb these difficult subjects and devote themselves to academic bravery—skills which, I imagine, will only become more and more important as our lives progress. I could talk a parent’s ear off about how the DLR  offers their college kid opportunities for professional growth—conferences, research papers, teamwork, etc.—but to students I think I would say that the DLR turns nervous sophomores into seniors ready for graduation, doctoral programs, and beyond.

All it will cost them is four wisdom teeth, thirteen inches of hair, and their fear. 

Dr. Jeffrey Weinstock Explains Vampire Suicide

by Troi Watts


Were you excited for Dr. Jeffrey Weinstock’s talk on Vampire Suicide but just couldn’t make it to the lecture? Did you attend but wish you knew even more? No need to be disappointed anymore as you can read all about it right here! Dr. Weinstock came all the way from Central Michigan University to enlighten Ball State students on why vampires commit suicide. This lecture was actually a sort of rehearsal for Dr. Weinstock as he explained that it will be the keynote address at the International Vampire Film and Arts Festival in Romania. Anyone who was in attendance can tell you that his rehearsal was so well-done that it’s sure to be successful at the festival.

Dr. Jeffrey Weinstock has been an English professor at Central Michigan University since 2001, teaching a variety of courses that cover American literature and pop culture topics. A native to Washington, D.C. and Maryland, Dr. Weinstock completed his undergraduate education in English at the University of Pennsylvania, his graduate education in American Literature at George Washington University, and stayed on at George Washington University to complete his PhD. He has published numerous books and essays and has received various awards for his work. For example, his latest publication, The Age of Lovecraft, was the co-winner of the 2016 Ray & Pat Browne Award for Best Edited Collection in Popular Culture and American Culture. Needless to say, Dr. Weinstock has worked long and hard to become an expert in all things gothic.

But where did Dr. Weinstock’s interest in monsters begin? I took the time to ask him this and other questions in an email after the lecture. In his own words, he has always had an interest in “the dark side.” Even as a kid, he loved spooky stories, which presumably introduced him to his favorite monster (“if you can call them that”): ghosts! His interest in ghosts drove him to write his doctoral dissertation on the “issue of spectrality” and his first book on how American women in the nineteenth and early twentieth century wrote ghost stories as a form of social commentary.

When asked why he decided to give a lecture on vampire suicide, Dr. Weinstock explained that he was asked to be a part of a collaboration for an upcoming book, Suicide and the Gothic, edited by Andrew Smith and Bill Hughes. When he was considering what particular subject he could discuss, vampires popped into his head. He wasn’t entirely sure why, but he couldn’t stop thinking about them and the fact that vampires in films commit or contemplate suicide frequently. This is in line with the usual process he goes through to pick a topic. He typically starts with a question or problem of some sort and uses strong primary sources to research that question or problem. For example, when coming up with the topic of vampire suicide, Dr. Weinstock asked himself, “[W]hy do vampires commit suicide with such regularity?” and researched from there. Of course, a key component to this process is whether or not the topic interests him (I mean, who wants to research something that bores them?). Vampires absolutely fall under the “interesting” category.

Dr. Weinstock’s lecture started with a general breakdown of the main reasons that vampires contemplate, attempt, or commit suicide in films and literature: out of remorse, ennui (a French term for “boredom”), or heroism. From there on Dr. Weinstock discussed each point in-depth, providing examples from pop culture to demonstrate his points.

Regarding remorse, he said that sometimes vampires cannot come to terms with the monster that they have become, finding the fact that they must drink blood in order to survive to be evil or immoral. Varney the vampire, from the series by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest, displays this aspect; Varney throws himself into Mount Vesuvius in an act of suicide because he could no longer tolerate what he had become and wanted to end his existence.

Ennui is centered around the idea that vampires feel as if they can do basically anything they want and, being immortal, have plenty of time on their hands. But what happens when they get tired of partying and living? They turn to suicide. The example of Adam from Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive was used in this section of the lecture. Adam, being several centuries old, has become bored with and can no longer tolerate life. He has lost interest in going into the outside world due to the fact that he dislikes what humans have done to it. He contemplates suicide (going so far as to have a wooden bullet made so that he may shoot himself) for these reasons.

Heroism was the final motivation for vampire suicide discussed by Dr. Weinstock. In certain situations, vampires may take it upon themselves to give their lives in order to save the people they care about (usually humans). To better demonstrate this aspect, Dr. Weinstock brought up the movie, 30 Days of Night by David Slade. In this film, a town in Alaska is invaded by vampires, leading Eben Oleson to become a vampire in order to protect his wife, Stella. Once the battle is over and the vampires have fled, Eben stands in the sunlight in order to kill himself as he does not want to become the monster that the other vampires were.

Despite the fact that they are monsters, vampires have a wide range of emotions and motivations that could eventually lead them to contemplate, attempt, or commit suicide. Not all vampires have evil intentions. Some are remorseful at the knowledge of what they have become, while others become heroes and protect humans. As Dr. Weinstock has shown, even the ones who are just trying to enjoy their immortality have it rough.

Works Cited

Weinstock, Jeffrey. Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, PhD.                                                                              https://www.jeffreyandrewweinstock.com/   Accessed 19 April 2017.

Weinstock, Jeffrey. “Re: Questions for the DLR Blog Post.” Received by Troi Watts, 8 April         2017.

Weinstock, Jeffrey. “Vampire Suicide.” DLR Presents, The Digital Literature Review, 31            March 2017, Ball State University, Muncie, IN.



The DLR’s Gala: You Don’t Want to Miss It!

by Troi Watts

The Digital Literature Review will be holding our annual gala on April 26th from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in room 301 of the Student Center. The gala will be a celebration of the completion of the fourth edition of the Digital Literature Review. This year’s theme of monsters will set the stage for our gala activities. What will you see at this monster mash?

Come learn how the Digital Literature Review is created! Our publicity, design, and editorial teams will be giving presentations that will demonstrate this year’s process. Publicity will discuss their successes with promoting our various events and managing our social media presence. Design will display the spooky artwork they have created for our special events and this year’s edition. Editorial will talk about the process of choosing and editing submissions. We want to inspire faculty members and current students to join our DLR team and help us create more awesome editions in the future. Come hear about the professional experience you could gain and see if that’s something you’d be interested in.

Get a sneak peek of what will be included in this year’s journal! Every member of the DLR team will be giving a presentation over the research they’ve been doing this year, meaning you’ll learn all the deep, dark secrets of popular monsters, like zombies, while getting a new perspective on creatures that you might not have considered monsters previously. Learn about the complexities of being a monster while you listen to a presentation that examines cancer as a monster in the popular novel-turned-movie, A Monster Calls. Go deeper into mythological tales, like Medusa, and ask yourself, who are the real monsters in these stories? As you can see, both film and literary monsters will be covered, from Mad Max and Spirited Away to the Chronicles of Narnia series, so there’s something for every monster enthusiast. These presentations are sure to be thrilling, and you’ll get a chance to meet members of the DLR team personally.

There will be food! We’re not monsters; we just like to talk about them. Munch on yummy snacks as you peruse student presentations—that is, if you can stand eating while listening to an analysis of the gory events of the horror film The Witch or while hearing about the cannibalistic dining habits of wendigos.

Come to the Digital Literature Review’s gala on April 26th! We’d love to have company as we celebrate the completion and launch of our fourth edition. It’s sure to be a spookily fun time.


Human to Beast: Transfiguration in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

by Emma Hartman

The first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Buffy for short, contains many stand-alone episodes–mostly featuring metaphorical monsters and demons–which parallel issues that teens may encounter in real life. Each of the twelve episodes in the season feature either a creature who was at one time a person or a person who will become a creature during the course of the episode. The most obvious example of a creature born from a human is a vampire, and these are seen in almost every episode of Buffy. However, the episodes that feature a non-vampire transformation include students who are possessed by hyenas, a man who turns into a ventriloquist dummy, and a girl who turns invisible. Through the manipulation of the human form into an undesirable state, the episodes demonstrate the danger of losing one’s humanity. By tying moral standards to the maintenance of a human form, the episodes warn of divergence from acceptable behavior. In addition, the episodes suggest that one’s humanity is always at risk of becoming warped and defiled because every transformation is caused by an uncontrollable outside force. In turn, the monster transformations in the first season of Buffy serve to elevate the status of humanity and to justify Buffy’s mission to rid the Earth of the monsters’ reign and influence.

In the episode “The Pack,” students sneak into an off-limits hyena exhibit and are possessed by the demonic hyenas when they stumble onto an ancient symbol written on the floor by the zookeeper. When these students return to school, they behave like hyenas, travelling in a pack and laughing at their classmates. This episode first warns of the risks of breaking rules: specifically sneaking into places where one doesn’t belong. Secondly, it reflects a common issue in high school: bullying and teasing. “The Pack” exaggerates this phenomenon by having the bullies not only mock people, but also eat them. By conflating the way that hyenas behave with the way that high school bullies behave, “The Pack” compares poor treatment of others with becoming animalistic or primitive, and thus warns against regression. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen states of the first werewolf in Western literature that “the horribly fascinating loss of Lycaon’s humanity merely reifies his previous moral state” (13). In the same way, the students’ transformation into hyenas solidifies their previous moral state. This transformation serves to define a certain standard of behavior as essentially human by associating it with the human form, while divergent behavior is seen as bestial.

“Out of Mind, Out of Sight” also deals with a form of bullying in high school: ostracization. In the episode, a student named Marcie turns invisible because no one, not even her teacher, pays attention to her. This episode provides social commentary on the effects that seemingly inconsequential acts can have on others. It also creates awareness of what it feels like to be completely alone by making it physically impossible for Marcie to be acknowledged by anyone. Similar to the episode “The Pack,” this episode exaggerates a common high school phenomenon. Her isolation causes Marcie to become homicidal towards those who caused her to lose her body, and thus she becomes a monster in her own right. Marcie inspires fear not only because of her invisibility and her violence but also because she evokes a category crisis. Marcie inhabits the border of existing/not existing and human/other. Both category crisis and border policing are central to the concept of the monster as Jeffrey Cohen outlines it in his essay, “Monster Culture (Seven Theses)” (Cohen 6). Because Buffy still considers Marcie to be partially human, Buffy cannot kill her. However, Buffy must stop the monstrous Marcie from trying to kill fellow students. Marcie’s state creates unease because her transformation argues that to be a human with worth and dignity, one must be acknowledged as such by peers.

In “The Puppet Show,” a demon hunter named Sid is turned into a ventriloquist dummy and will not be released from this curse until he manages to kill the Brotherhood of Seven, demons who harvest organs in order to obtain human bodies for themselves. This episode demonstrates an interesting contrast to previous themes. Not only is a human transformed into something almost human but disturbingly divergent—a wooden doll, but also the demons will stop at nothing to become human themselves. This episode elevates the status of humanity through the coveting of the human body by demons and by the dummy, whose goal is to regain his own human form. It establishes the human form as ideal and divergent states as other and to be avoided. After it is revealed that Sid started with a human body and was forced to become something else, he is portrayed sympathetically. However, because the Brotherhood of Seven start as demons and want to become human through the sacrifice of living people, they are established as monstrous. This episode reinforces the elevated status of the human body, and thus other episodes about transfiguration become more effective in their message. Buffy is able to justify her mission to preserve the human race when she helps Sid recover his coveted human form, although it is too late to save his life, and when she stops the demon from appropriating a human body for himself.

Through various forms of transformation, the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer demonstrates a “correct” and “incorrect” way to behave towards others by turning issues that teens often grapple with into metaphorical storylines. The human body and humanistic behavior are linked together visually, and thus moral divergence can easily be illustrated. Through the hyena transformation, it is demonstrated that wrong actions can negatively impact one’s own welfare as well as that of others. The invisible girl serves to show the poor treatment of others and attempts to raise awareness about the effects of ostracization on people. Finally, the Brotherhood of Seven, who murder in order to obtain a human body, illustrate just how dangerous it is to exist on the outskirts of humanity. The demons also demonstrate the dangers of association when they cast a spell on Sid, the demon hunter, which causes him to also lose his human body. Together, these episodes work to promote normative humanity, including morally pure behavior, and by association also promote Buffy’s mission to vanquish all vampires and demons from the Earth in order to restore its peace as well as its morality.

Works Cited

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” Monster Theory: Reading Culture, edited by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Regents of the University of Minnesota, 1996, pp. 3-25.

“Out of Mind, Out of Sight.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon, directed by Bruce Seth Green and Joss Whedon, The WB, 1997.

“The Pack.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon, directed by Bruce Seth Green and Joss Whedon, The WB, 1997.

“The Puppet Show.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon, directed by Bruce Seth Green and Joss Whedon, The WB, 1997.

The Making of the DLR Part 3: Publicity Team

Hello and welcome to the third installment of The Making of the Digital Literature Review. The Digital Literature Review is created through the hard work and contributions of all of its individual undergraduate members. These members are divided into three teams (Design, Editorial, and Publicity) at the start of each issue, and collectively work throughout the semester in order to edit, produce, and publish the Digital Literature Review. The start of the school year begins with the teams studying a particular theme designated for that year, under the guidance of a professor. The next semester involves receiving submissions for the journal and readying them for publication.

In this post, we will cover the duties and responsibilities of the members of the Publicity team, as well as have the team members share their personal thoughts and experiences about the immersive learning class. They will cover the challenges they’ve had to endure as well as their triumphs throughout the semester as they collectively worked to improve the online presence and visibility of Ball State’s Digital Literature Review.

The responsibilities of the Publicity team:

  • Review submissions to the DLR blog
  • Ensure proper distribution of advertising materials
  • Post and advertise for events concerning the DLR
  • Maintain Twitter, Facebook, and blog presence

Responsibilities and course work as a student in this immersive learning class:

  • Study the material of the designated theme for the year
  • Assign blog entries for our DLR blog
  • Write for the DLR blog and possibly for the English Department blog
  • Create a capstone project

Our Publicity Team members:


Morgan Aprill (Team Leader), Senior


Jeff Owens, Junior


Elisabeth (Niki) Wilkes, Senior

What was your best experience as a member of the Publicity team?


Niki: I really enjoyed working on the DLR blog. It was a project within the project, and it felt really good to be able to delegate what was going where. Having been in charge of that is going to be really helpful in my job searches, and just knowing that I have that skill now is great.


Morgan: I really enjoyed putting together the class visits we took part in. It was a great experience to reach out to potentially new members for next year’s DLR as well as trying to get more submissions for that issue. That was basically our main goal as the Publicity team.


Jeff: I’d say the whole class is the experience I focused on. The Publicity team was secondary to my experience as a student of our issue’s topic, “Slavery Now.” When we started concerning ourselves with issues of the representation of slavery, I really saw a change in myself, and that really just clicked for me. I know I’ll never be able to look at representation the same.


Share some of the challenges you faced as a Publicity member


Morgan: Just really making sure we chose the best ways to reach the most people was tough. We had to make sure we considered the audience and what was important to them so that we could be effective in our goals.


Jeff: In a setting like this, other people really depend on you, and that can be a lot of pressure. That kind of responsibility really makes you aware that if you aren’t doing your part, then other people are going to have a tougher time and will have to compensate for your fault. That really gives a real world feel to the DLR.


Niki: The hardest part of this class is that its structure is really not typical. I like all the structure of normal classes, so it was pretty tough to learn to be flexible and roll with the changing due dates. But I still think that this is a useful skill to have practiced.



What skills do you think you’ve developed with your team?


Jeff: Being able to know how to interact and communicate effectively with people in certain settings is so important. I’d say that in this class I learned how to interact in a professional manner even with people that I might know personally. I think that skill is really going to translate well to a career setting.


Niki: It was really interesting to learn all the different ways you can approach people about things. We were able to really get all the different social media platforms going, and make a lot of different people excited about the DLR and its projects.


Morgan: I think my communication skills really grew with this experience. Through social media and other public forms of communication, we were able to create and maintain a professional image. That’s going to be really important when I’m looking at careers.


If you’ve missed a prior installment of The Making of the DLR, check them out here and here.

If you’re interested in joining the DLR team for the upcoming issue, contact Dr. Joyce Huff.

Also, don’t forget to check out our webfsite, Facebook, and Twitter for more information and regularly updated posts.

Giving a Voice to the Choiceless

By: Caitlin Dashiell

Hidden in plain view, captured prisoners and soldiers of the Nazi army comprised the inhabitants of three internment camps known as Auschwitz in Germany during the Holocaust. Siphoned back and forth between death, prison, and forced labor, Auschwitz’s imprisoned individuals were made to identify as Jewish, or with ethnicities or social classes determined by German Nazi standards to be equally inferior. Marked as inadequate for the human race, these individuals were brought into the triad of camps to be traumatized, enslaved, and often fatally poisoned within gas chambers. This narrative of the Holocaust is known by individuals around the world, whether they lived during the time of the Second World War or not, because of how it embeds itself into the cultural narrative of many countries globally. As these horrors border on the surreal, passed down because of trauma often impossible to comprehend, it takes the accurate communication of memory to keep the events of the past living. Opening on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the “Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz” exhibit at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, OH takes on this challenge of memory transmission, offering representational personal belongings from once-captive prisoners in Auschwitz, in tandem with the personal testimonies of Holocaust survivors, and now Cincinnati residents, Werner Coppel and Bella Ouziel. Through this strategy, the Freedom Center not only represents an event of trauma, but transmits the story of the Holocaust to those who can only understand through the absorption of these communicated memories.

Told chronologically, “Unlocking the Gates” conveys the story of a man and woman living through the trauma of the Holocaust, from their initiation into the camps to their escape. Visitors walk past what architect Peter Zumthor would call “surrounding objects,” which make the otherwise blank walls and floors echo with the narrative being communicated (54), and come to screens displaying videos of Werner and Bella telling their stories. The physical artifacts and candid verbal narratives come together to express and transmit how a person can be stripped of his or her identity and reduced to what Werner calls “consumable raw materials.” Werner and Bella tell their stories, acting simultaneously as a voice for themselves, and for those that have been silenced.

Broken into stages, and communicated through groupings of objects and their location in the exhibit, artifacts and screens are split into structured rooms connected by corridors, and are paired together in correspondence to each phase of life in Auschwitz, as noted by the exhibit’s narrators. The initial set of items speaks to the fears of those targeted individuals who were unable to escape who they were. Books, paper ephemera, and embroidered tokens of being marked a Jew sit in glass cases, serving as objects that attest to the Nazi’s destruction of people’s lives and identities. The Jewish people were identified through markers on their homes, their clothing, their passports, and often on their businesses, objectified through physical signs of banishment. These indicators became the first level of identity erasure for the Jewish people.

Moving into the second spatial construct of the exhibition, visitors start in a corridor which details the process of capture for the Jewish people. As Werner explains in the video at the end of the corridor, “When I got off the train, I heard ‘women and children to the left: men to the right,’” which would become the last words many heard before the Nazi’s silenced the voices of those who entered Auschwitz. Visitors are transported back to the moments preceding Werner’s capture through the use of present-day spatial constriction within the exhibit, as well as visuals that signal entrapment. Here, visitors to “Unlocking the Gates” see the birth of identity erasure, as images and ephemera of individuals boarding train cars coat the walls of the exhibit. This progression through the tight corridor and into the exhibit signals how the exhibit shifts the visitors’ focus from the process of initial emotional destruction and mental degradation in the camps to that of physical erasure and trauma. Not only are the Jewish people, in addition to others identified as inferior to the German race, stripped down to a single term defining their worth, but their understood environment is erased from their lives.

Because the exhibition forces visitors to continue to progress claustrophobically through tight spaces and corridors, visitors gain a greater level of clarity about the approach taken by the Nazi army to control the intake and distribution of bodies into Auschwitz. Taking this even further, visitors to “Unlocking the Gates” are drawn to wall displays that convey and transmit some of the dialog of the Nazi enforcers within the camps, with one army general commenting that “shooting became a strain,” indicating how, as time went on, the Nazi mentality went from using brute force to an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality with the transition to the gas chambers. The Nazis made use of deceptive language and actions to sanitize themselves, and the greatest abuse of power became the manipulation of once harmless constructs for the benefit of the “master race.” Even through infrastructure as harmless as the railway system within Germany, the Nazi’s utilized these lines for transport to Auschwitz, taking advantage of an existing infrastructure for the supposed betterment of the race, shuttling “inferior” individuals (often) to their eventual death in Auschwitz. Through the language and conveyed memories of this exhibit, representation becomes transmission, with visitors interacting with memories through the startling dialogue that catches individuals within the physical architectural boundaries of the exhibition. Visitors to “Unlocking the Gates” now possess a richer internal understanding of the past, as communicated memories impose themselves on visitors through language and visual indicators of trauma.

The final portions of this exhibit not only touch on, but uncover in-depth, the process of forced labor and escape within Auschwitz for Werner and Bella, as the exhibit also presents the personal objects and struggles of this man and woman specifically. Werner and Bella look directly into the camera to speak, giving life to their personal belongings, as only the potency of words and language can. The Nazis took things that were necessary, though maybe not beautiful, and bent them to their will, infecting the social structure, the infrastructure, and the consumable goods with the blood of those not included in the “master race.” However, what Werner and Bella tell us through their accounts of labor, as they approached their opportunities for freedom, is that their work and daily activities were never done without losing sight of how to make it out alive. As read in a letter written by a mother on one of the trains into Auschwitz: “remain free people, and observe everything with open eyes.” Perhaps this heightened perception and observation was what assisted Bella and Werner in surviving. Though this woman may not have survived to return to her children, her words live on through this exhibit as a testament to how language and written memories offer a unique perspective on historical events. Emotionally charged, this exhibit merits praise for how it transports visitors back to a time of captivity and constriction, while still keeping them with one foot firmly in the present.

“Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later” is one city’s way of remembering a time of incommunicable strife and trauma. Drawing parallels to American slavery, and what are commonly considered acts of enslavement, “Unlocking the Gates” demonstrates the systematic oppression and inhumanity evident in the structuring of Auschwitz. The decision to incorporate this exhibition into The Freedom Center was grounded in learning about and reflecting on historical events that challenged the strength of the human spirit amidst extreme oppression, as explained by executive director Sarah L. Weiss. The victims of the Holocaust and the concentration camps of Auschwitz were defined by their ability to act as a piece of a machine, stripped of freedom, and devoid of the ability to make choices. In an attempt to educate visitors and offer reflection on the events of the past, the chief desire of The Freedom Center in the display of “Unlocking the Gates” is to communicate the security of freedom “in all its forms,” whether this be through testimony, representational physical objects, or the power of the written word (“Powerful Exhibit”). Communicating memory through personal testimony and tangible objects is how this exhibit makes its mark on modern day discourse regarding slavery and institutional oppression.

Though the American public cannot directly or accurately understand what going through this process of erasure and rebirth entailed, what can be communicated is how these events can be included in our national narrative, in order for us to understand trauma and slavery outside of traditional definitions. These transmissions of memory can be used to develop how we better understand and react to our own trauma, in addition that of other countries, to strengthen how the memory of events of global impact are incorporated in our society. Here, transmission of memory and language through spoken and written form, as it relates to personal objects, serves as an aid for our collective memory; giving way to how we interpret the experiences we have not lived through. The exhibit ends with both Werner and Bella offering their thoughts 70 years after the end of the Holocaust, and as each of them speaks, voices tense, they talk about looking back after 70 years. Now with scars, tattoos, and, most importantly, families, Werner and Bella are reminded of where they have been, what they have achieved, and how survival is rooted most deeply in the retained memories of what is good.


Works Cited

“Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later.” The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. 50 East Freedom Way, Cincinatti, OH 45202. 7 February 2015.

Zumthor, Peter. Atmospheres: Cultural Environments, Surrounding Objects. Reinach: Birkhauser, 1998. Print

“Powerful Exhibit Shares Local Stories of Despair, Hope and Loss During the Holocaust.” National Underground Railroad Freedom Center . N.p., 14 Dec. 2014 Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

Western Europe: Key Recommendations

By: Lucy Mahaffey

In the following post, undergraduate student Lucy Mahaffey from University of Oklahoma examines comparative data about the anti-trafficking practices of both Greece and Norway and offers recommendations for other countries looking to improve their anti-slavery policies.

Western Europe is often looked to for ideal infrastructure and government. In instances of human trafficking, it has led the abolitionist movement with the United States. However, there is a gap between what has been theorized and what is being practiced. According to its membership in the United Nations and the European Union, as well as its income level, Norway could be more effective, but it is by far one of the all-around best European counties when it comes to anti-trafficking practices. Greece is sluggish and still appears to be in new territory by comparison. The challenge facing Greece today is to bring its prevention, intervention, and prosecution forward to compare more favorably with its EU neighbors. This could be done by strengthening local and national education programs, seeking swifter ways to intervene when cases occur, and following through with stronger and more effective prosecution and reformative incarceration of traffickers. In short, funding is needed for law enforcement and lawyer training as well as emphasizing incarceration as “an arena of developing responsibility” (James) instead of solely for punishment. Through these actions, with emphasis on mitigating corruption and discrimination, true and unbiased justice in Greece would prevail. Continue reading

On Barbados and “English Trader, Indian Maid”: An Interview With Dr. Frank Felsenstein

By: Isabel Vazquez

Recently, I had the privilege to interview Dr. Felsenstein, author of the Inkle and Yarico reader titled English Trader, Indian Maid (1999). In his anthology, he provides numerous translations and variations of the story of Inkle and Yarico as it developed throughout the late-seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries. Because of his work on this story, Dr. Felsenstein and his wife were invited to take a trip to Barbados in January, where he viewed the dedication of a monument to Yarico on Kendal Plantation (where the flesh-and-blood Yarico supposedly lived). He also traveled to London from March 4 to March 8 to lecture on the history of Inkle and Yarico at a pre-performance event for the opening of the musical Yarico by Yarico Productions.

downloadFor those of you not familiar with the story, it tells the tale of Inkle, an English merchant shipwrecked in the Americas, and Yarico, the beautiful Indian maiden who rescues him. Yarico and Inkle begin a romantic relationship, and when Inkle returns to the European world with Yarico (promising to take her as his wife if they were to return safely), he immediately sells her into slavery, despite the fact that she is bearing his child.

The fictive story is based on the factual account of Richard Ligon’s expedition to the English colony in Barbados. In his memoir of A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados (1657), he tells of his encounter with a freeborn Indian slave by the name of Yarico who is pregnant with a white servant’s child. It is from this historical recollection that Richard Steele drew inspiration for the tale of Inkle and Yarico in the Spectator #11 (1711).

To open the interview, I asked Dr. Felsenstein to speak generally about English Trader, Indian Maid and the Inkle and Yarico story:

The story became popular during a time when people in the eighteenth century started to be concerned about the treatment of African slaves and started to ask the question: how do you demonstrate the wrongness of slavery? One way in which you can is to appeal not to the head, not to the economic considerations, but to the heart. And I think that one should recognize that sentiment was something that was extremely powerful, it was going to appeal to the heart. Many of the “Inkle and Yarico” stories did appeal to the heart and to the idea that the selling of Yarico was so wrong—and the dramatic versions of the play from the late 18th century really emphasized this strategy. So these versions of the story were an important factor in helping to sway opinion in favor of the abolition of the slave trade from the British Isles, which took place in the early 19th century and then the abolition from the British colonies in the 1830’s, which let’s remember, is about thirty years before the United States fought a terrible war over the question of slavery.

Would you mind beginning by telling me a little bit about the trip to Barbados in itself, an overview of sorts?

The invitation to do this arrived relatively late on. I had actually already committed to going to a conference in La Jolla, California the weekend before, and I was asked to talk in Barbados the following Tuesday. The talk was sponsored partly by the people involved with the Inkle and Yarico play (Yarico Productions) and partly by the Barbados Museum, which is very interested in trying to restore and make sense of Bajan history. So when I got there the day following the La Jolla conference, I was asked to go straight to the museum. I met the curator there and our meeting was televised. The following day I went in the morning to where the monument was being mounted.

Can you tell me about your experience on Kendal Plantation?

Kendal Plantation is the plantation where the historical Yarico actually existed. There is a pond there, known as Yarico’s Pond. There are a number of ponds there, and one doesn’t know for sure whether this was the pond, though we do know that she gave birth to her child, “a lusty boy, frolick and lively,” by a pond on the estate, and that she was enslaved in that plantation.

When my travel was arranged, the plan had been that the unveiling of the monument to Yarico by Freundel Stuart, the Prime Minister of Barbados and my talk would be on the same day (Tuesday). What the planners did not take into account was that the Barbadian Parliament was due to have its ceremonial opening session on that Tuesday, so that the P.M. could not unveil the statue that day, and the formal dedication was postponed to Wednesday morning, when my wife and I were already committed to flying back to the U.S. So, on the Tuesday morning, we traveled to the Kendal Plantation, and were present when the plaque to the monument was mounted/installed. As I saw the monument being installed, there was a house just next to us, and an elderly man and his sister-in-law beckoned to us and said, “I recognize you. Yeah, I saw you on television earlier this morning!”

Yarico Monument

Yarico Monument

We actually stayed at Holder House, a traditional Barbados Plantation house owned by Wendy Kidd. Her son, Jack Kidd, hosted us and we had a terrific time. He was very generous as a host and in showing us parts of the island and taking us to see the Kendal Plantation. I think if they had sufficient money from private sponsors and from the United Nations they could make the Kendal Plantation into a world heritage site. You could renovate the still intact factory to show how this was a main source of sugar to feed the lucrative Caribbean trade with Europe, and how people were cruelly enslaved to enhance the production of this much in demand commodity. And you’d have that wonderful story of Yarico which belongs specifically to that plantation. So I don’t know whether that will ever happen but it would be quite brilliant if it did!

How was your talk received by the audience?

I thought it was so interesting. It was very much a mixed race audience, and there was a great question and answer session. I had several people who objected to my saying that the African people who were brought over were sent as slaves because they believe—and they call themselves Pan-Africans—that they came to Barbados as free people and that they were only enslaved after their arrival. And the historical evidence goes entirely against that, but apparently there are a number of people who believe this. I had to be sort of diplomatic and say, well, there must be more than one point of view. But apparently this is quite deeply entrenched in Black Caribbean and Barbadian culture, this idea that African people came over freely, of their own volition, and then were cruelly enslaved. I thought that was very fascinating, and I did not know about it before hand.

I think it is interesting how a story that is historical can then transform to something almost kind of mythological over the course of the eighteenth century. It is just fascinating how it works. What do you make of this process?

Well, I think the term I use to describe this process is not my own originally, but it is called “factual fiction.” It’s one of the most interesting things about literature, the relation between fact and fiction. Another adjective which I use to describe the Inkle and Yarico story is “ductile,” the fact that it can transform into so many different media if you like. That to me is enormously fascinating. And that transformative aspect accounts for the fact that it’s still very much a story that appeals to the present generation.

Would you say the story is past its glory days or will it become popular again?

Well, I don’t agree that it’s past its glory days. I think that, as with any good story, it needs to be retold in a present-day context, and I think that is essentially what’s happening. When we compare the parallel American story of Pocahontas that has become mythologized in all sorts of ways through to the Disney cartoon version of it, we see that these fictional accounts are a very long way away from what actually happened at that time. And, the story of Yarico has a twist to it in a way that the Pocahontas story does not.

In your opinion, what is the biggest difference between audiences today seeing the play vs. George Colman’s late eighteenth-century version of the play? What does the modern version represent to modern viewers?

Colman was a relatively young dramatist at that time; this was his first big hit. He’d had other plays before, but this was the first one which really had an impact. I’m not sure that he was fully aware of the impact that it would have. But the evidence is that it was performed everywhere in Great Britain and in North America, and also in the Caribbean. People responded to it as a play that was topical. Some scholars have contended that maybe we could see Colman’s Inkle and Yarico (1787) as the first social problem play because it deals with the question of slavery, albeit in a fairly light-hearted manner. You might feel that, in some ways, Colman ducked the issue by bringing Inkle and Yarico together again at the end of the play. But again, it was something which was tangible and emotive, it appealed to the heart, so I think that worked for the audience at that time. But for a present day audience, Yarico The Musical may allow them to become aware of the fact that slavery has not disappeared and that it is something that exists now.


Playbill Cover

I was privileged that when I went to London I was one of the speakers at the pre-performance panel of Yarico. Another speaker was James McConnell, who was the composer of the music. It was very interesting to hear his thinking about how he created the music. The other person was Aidan McQuade, executive director of Anti-Slavery International. The point that he was putting out was that slavery remains endemic across the world, and that here is a powerful play which makes us aware of that fact, even though it’s historical in its setting.

When you began researching and compiling together this obscure but fascinating tale of Inkle & Yarico, did you ever think it would lead to this event in London, in that the story would be revived in such a way?

Well I didn’t necessarily think it would do that, but I had to pursue the story. One of the things that I found totally fascinating, and you probably read that in English Trader, Indian Maid, was how the historical Yarico was an Amerindian and, as one sees the story develop, she becomes Africanized in later accounts. I think that is very important because it ties in with the transatlantic slave trade. There are various explanations that denote people’s indifference to this transformation or suggest their inability to discriminate between groups. Many eighteenth-century Europeans must have felt that native peoples, irrespective of their origin, were all “others,” that they’re all “inferior.” You could relate that to politics today: do people really know what’s truly happening? Are we sufficiently aware of racial and ethnic differences?

Quakers, Anti-Slavery, and the Underground Freedom Center

By Nikole Darnell

On February 7, the staff members of the Digital Literature Review took a trip to Cincinnati, Ohio to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The experience was phenomenal; each member took a particular interest in various aspects of the museum and learned a great deal. Having an extensive Quaker heritage, I was particularly interested in the role that members of the Quaker church played in helping oppressed slaves escape to freedom.

Photo taken by author

Quaker Facts (Photo taken by author)

When people hear about Quakers and the Underground Railroad, they often picture a strict and pious group of people who were unconditionally against slavery and opened up their homes to runaways. I admit, I often thought this as well in my younger years. While Quakers did aid slaves on their journeys to freedom, this wasn’t always the case. According to displays at the museum, prior to 1740, many members of the Quaker church actively participated in the purchasing and selling of enslaved people. I was personally surprised to learn this. Ever since I was little, I had been told that all Quakers were against slavery and that they always had been. The museum states that the church initially did not oppose slavery, but over time they became disgusted by the practice and set out to do something about it. The Freedom Center does an excellent job of demonstrating how Quakers participated in the Underground Railroad and led the way in the antislavery movement.

As one travels through the museum, they find themselves walking a timeline, following the lives of brave men and women who dedicated their lives to the cause of abolitionism. Quaker minister Samuel Hopkins was one of these people. In 1758, the Quaker church, led by Hopkins, voted to exclude members who continued to participate in the purchasing or selling of slaves. The museum credits Hopkins as one of the first people to actively argue for antislavery. His ideas spread, and by 1776, the majority of the Quaker church opposed the practice of slavery. From this time until emancipation in 1865, many Quakers across the nation offered their homes to escaped slaves and helped them find their way to freedom. Throughout the museum, several donated artifacts that belonged to individual abolitionists are visible, such as a ceramic figure of Uncle Tom and a first edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Perhaps the most well-known of the Quaker abolitionists depicted at the Freedom Center are Levi and Catharine Coffin. According to the museum, the Coffins turned their home in Newport, Indiana into a safe house, and it is estimated that they hid over 2000 runaways. In 1847, they moved to Cincinnati and opened a warehouse that produced goods exclusively made by paid labor. From 1861 until their deaths, the Coffins raised money to benefit the education of former slaves. In a single year alone, they managed to raise more than $100,000. Today, their house in Newport (now known as Fountain City, Indiana) is open as a museum and as a surviving testament to the kindhearted work that the Coffins accomplished throughout their lives. I feel that the Freedom Center’s exhibit on the Coffins would be strengthened by possibly borrowing artifacts from the Coffin House Museum. As it currently stands, the Freedom Center has little on the Coffins other than very generic information. After all, at one point, Levi Coffin was known as the “president of the Underground Railroad.”

(Photo taken by author)

(Photo taken by author)

While I previously knew about Quaker involvement in the anti-slavery movement, the Underground Railroad Freedom Center also showed how many Quakers were also strong proponents of women’s suffrage. As a result, they highlight the ways that many activists took on multiple and connected instances of injustice. Well-known activist Susan B. Anthony grew up in a Quaker household and dedicated her life to abolition and women’s suffrage. Likewise, fellow Quaker and suffragette Lucretia Mott actively participated in anti-slavery propaganda. In 1833, she attended the founding of the American Anti-Slavery Society, the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention, and the 1848 “Declaration of Sentiments” meeting at Seneca Falls. Afterwards in 1850, she published her book, Discourse on Women.

According to the Freedom Center, writing became a very powerful tool that the Quakers used to combat slavery. In 1857, Daniel Worth circulated Hinton Rowan Helper’s The Impending Crisis of the South, which stated that slavery would undoubtedly lead to the South’s downfall. Worth was arrested in North Carolina for promoting the book under the pretenses of violating the state’s “incendiary publications” law of 1830. This law banned books that portrayed slaves being unhappy in their given situation. The Freedom Center also displays other famous Quaker writers of this time, including the Grimké sisters, Angelia and Sarah. In 1835, Angelina Grimké published a pamphlet entitled, An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, which pleaded with women of the time to oppose slavery and stated that slavery went against Christian values. Along with display, the museum has an abundant amount of information about how Quakers were actively involved in abolitionist activities.

I found my visit to Cincinnati’s Underground Railroad Freedom Center to be an incredibly invaluable experience. The museum does an effective job of arranging the exhibits so that they display slavery in a sensitive manner, while still portraying its evils and providing an educational experience for the public. Any visitor to the museum will learn a great deal about the struggles and oppression of slaves and their journey to freedom. Additionally, it manages to preserve the history of abolitionism and depict how certain groups, such as the Quakers, played a role in putting an end to one of America’s darkest periods. Whether it’s hiding runaway slaves or publishing work about the atrocities of slavery, Quakers certainly made their mark in the world of abolitionism. I personally learned a lot about these courageous people and I feel confident in saying that many future visitors will as well.