contributors & abstracts


Jordan Baker is a secondary English education major from Decatur, IL who went to school in Missouri for three years before returning to Decatur and attending Millikin University. He is the lead singer and lyricist for Canadian Customs, a rock band that plays shows throughout Central Illinois. They are currently recording new songs, which can be heard as they are finished at

Abstract: In Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the titular Oscar is portrayed as a “nerd,” and references to “nerd” culture (superheroes, Tolkien, Star Trek, Dungeons & Dragons, etc.) permeate the novel. This paper argues that these  references, specifically the comic book references, while seemingly out of place in a tale of Dominican immigrants, are actually  essential to conveying the immigrant story Diaz tells.


Ryan Ferries was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. Growing up he always was fascinated with how people were ether accepted or frowned upon in society. This led to him reading a lot about different cultures and different groups of people His family was a big influence on his reading because most of them were avid readers themselves so it rubbed off on to him.He now is a sophomore at Millikin University, majoring in Sociology and Human Services, to learn more about what society means and what effects it has on people. Along with his double major, he is going for a double miner in communications and English Literature. He hopes to go into a field that he can apply his interest in people to get the chance to help them, or do work that will make people think in a different way.

Abstract: This essay entitled “Oscar’s Half-Empty Glass” talks about attitudes that characters have within the novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. By applying the psychological criticism approach to look at the main characters of the novel, the essay describes ways to try and better understand the characters and how they think about life. With an in depth look at Oscar’s life views and the attitude he has about life plays a large role on what happens to him and how it differs from other characters within the book. This work shows how having a more positive attitude and better thinking is a topic that has been around for a long time, and has been shown in many different books/ other media throughout the years.


Devin Heck is currently a sophomore attending Millikin University. She intends to graduate with a degree in English Literature, possibly with a minor in business. She is a voracious reader, with her favorite genre being science fiction or fantasy. After graduation, she plans to open her own small business, as well as continue her writing.

Abstract: “The Feminist Side,” written by Devin Heck, proposes that The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, while commonly read as a book about a boy becoming a man, is in actuality a chronicle of women. Oscar de León is the complete antithesis of the typical suave Dominican men, his whole life is “cursed” by the family fuku, and he is brought up by a succession of family women. These women have endured the sexism and weak men that are associated with Dominican culture, as well as countless personal traumas, and, as a result, develop into the strong, often domineering women who eventually raise Oscar. Because their men are so weak and focused on living the supposedly ideal life, the strength to rear children and keep the culture falls to the women, who are vastly underappreciated and misunderstood throughout the novel. Thus, rather than simply being a story of how a boy became a man, Oscar Wao is more the story of the women behind the men.


Kara Heiser is a junior at Millikin University. She is a Secondary English Education Major who plans to teach high school English after she graduates. She hopes to stay in the area and teach at one of the smaller schools surrounding Decatur.

Abstract: Dominican Roles of Male Dominance In this essay the roles of feminism and masculinity are examined throughout The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and the way in which they interact with one another. It becomes clear throughout the book that the Dominican culture places a high importance of all men living an extremely “macho” lifestyle. This lifestyle clearly degrades and subjugates the women of this culture and other women interacting with these men. The importance of these gender roles in this culture proves to be highly destructive and counterproductive to both men and women. The men who do not live up to the expected masculine traits are considered sub-par and the women are seen as nothing more than sexual objects with no value beyond this. In understanding this cultural dynamic, it helps one gain a better understanding of the novel as a whole.


Amanda Laager is a junior at Millikin University. She is majoring in English Education. When not in class, she works as a tumbling instructor and contributes to running a small business.

Abstract: We see many references to sexuality and gender dominance in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Both male and female sexuality seems to be a vicious circle, or a continuous game of cat and mouse. In this book, we see the victimization and also the dominance of female persuasion. I am taking a psychological approach to viewing female Dominican sexuality. This essay attempts to shine a light on sexual deviance as a cultural norm.


Hollie Logsdon is currently a junior at Millikin University, majoring in English-Writing. She is very involved in many activities on campus, including: Vice President of Communications for her sorority, Pi Beta Phi, features editor for the Decaturian, an English tutor, and a resume reviewer for the career center. Hollie plans to become a journalist after her graduation from college.

Abstract: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz deals with a lot of different themes. One of the major themes is silence/ repression. In this paper, entitled “Manic Repression: A Family’s Demise Due to Silence,” it is discussed how repression is seen throughout the novel and how it affects the characters and their lives. Silence plays a large role in their lives, and it is possible that all their problems could be solved by something as simple as talking.


Nicole Moore was raised in Lincoln, IL. Nicole has been pursuing a degree in Elementary Education, first at Lincoln College for two years, and then at Millikin University for her junior and senior years. Nicole will start her student teaching during the Spring 2010 semester, in a kindergarten classroom.

Abstract:The title of the essay is “Depression of Masculinity” and throughout that essay is the exploration of how Oscar Wao comes to a depressed state that takes over his life. Oscar has been forced to think that the ideas of Dominican Masculinity are unachievable for him which causes a sever depression to take over his entire life. In the end Oscar dies trying to be that “man” he always dreamed of becoming.


Josh Sowa is a junior at Millikin University and is majoring in English Education. He is currently working as an IT Intern at Archer Daniels Midland Company while going to school fulltime. His goal is to graduate from Millikin in the spring of 2012 and then go on to pursue a job at either a Secondary or Middle School in the area. He lives in town at the moment and has Pug named Wicket.

Abstract: My paper, entitled “Tricks of a Depressive Mind”, concentrates on the character Oscar and the psychological aspects that plague him throughout the novel. I also discuss the possibility of the ending of the story being unreliable and that it was actually a story created by Oscar. I believe that Oscar creates his own false sense of reality at the end to separate himself not only from our reality but the reality of his own capabilities. He wants to make himself into a character that depicts the heroes that he looks up in his comics and stories.


Tessa Spencer is a Secondary English Education Major. She is in her second year at Millikin, and plans to go into teaching English at the high school level after graduation.

Abstract: When It Comes to Love, You’re Fukued"
This paper uses the psychological criticism to examine the connection between love and the fuku that has been placed on the family De Leon. It observes the inability of these family members to find true love’s happiness and how this could be the result of the fuku from which they suffer.


Mackenzie VanBeest is a third-year English literature and philosophy major with a minor in Spanish at Millikin University. Her passion is children’s literature, with an emphasis on adolescent and science-fiction/ fantasy literature. She is currently working on a project in which she examines the moral code for the main characters in Orson Scott Card’s young adult novels Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow. In her free time she works for Millikin’s Writing Center, teaches fencing lessons, and reads in the company of her cat, Lillian.

Abstract: "Dueling Masculinities: Oscar’s and Yunior’s Journey to Manhood" Oscar and Yunior are set at opposite ends of the spectrum of masculinity in Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. This paper will examine the ways in which Yunior’s hyper masculinity is challenged and informed by Oscar’s seeming lack of masculinity entirely. By using a deconstructive critical approach, this paper demonstrates ways in which Oscar actually helps to make Yunior a man despite Oscar’s apparent masculine shortcomings.


Tony R. Magagna is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Millikin University, specializing in modern and contemporary American literature.In addition to EN202: Writing About Literature, Dr. Magagna currently teaches a variety of literature courses at MU, including a class on the literature of the American West and another on the “theatre of identity.” He has also taught courses on multiethnic American literature, the modern American novel, and American popular culture. Alongside his adventures in the classroom, Dr. Magagna studies the literature of region and place, particularly in the American West, and has recently published articles on both Marilynne Robinson and Willa Cather.

“The only way out is in. And that’s what I guess these stories are all about.” –Lola de León