The Paper Shell Review celebrated its inaugural publication last spring under the guidance of Sohayl Vafai. From left to right: Laura Pavlo, Abby Shantzis, Sohayl Vafai, William Robert Harris, Stephanie Knauff, Amanda Ostria, Rebecca Shin. Photo courtesy of Sohayl Vafai.

By Matt Fleming
Guest Writer

The Paper Shell Review—an annual scholarly literary criticism publication by undergraduates—is scheduled to be published in May for its second year.

It was almost the last time.

On April 25, the Student Government Association voted (17-0) in favor of funding the publication, despite earlier warnings to the contrary.

According to editor-in-chief Sohayl Vafai, a senior English language and literature major, the SGA had decided to cut funding completely, as “the SGA deemed [The Paper Shell Review] not vital.”

“But, in fact, [The Paper Shell Review] makes the English Undergraduate Association,” Vafai said. “Two years ago, there were no programs like this. There was no community, but it was revived by the [The Paper Shell Review]. Without the keystone of [the English Undergraduate Association], it will disappear.”

The Paper Shell Review was started in 2010 by Vafai, and others, as a way to “pair Maryland students with students from other prestigious universities,” said Vafai.

Submissions come from not only the University of Maryland, but from all over the globe; from Princeton University and Georgetown University, to Canada’s McGill University and England’s University of Exeter, among others.

“We want the international academic community to look at us with respect,” Vafai said. “To raise the bar.”

The main issue that the SGA had with funding The Paper Shell Review was one of semantics, involving the wording in the publication’s mission statement.  Fortunately for the incoming editor-in-chief, Jamie Lee, a dual journalism and English language and literature major, the SGA reconsidered.

“We were one of the few groups to formally prepare a speech,” Lee said. “We had a good legislator; he made a good argument.”

Lee described her plans for the upcoming years as “getting the word out; letting people know what makes it unique; expand the amount of copies.”

“I am a little nervous,” Lee said. “It is a huge endeavor to do as good a job a Sohayl. But I have confidence in my own ability; I’d like to continue on the positive trajectory that it’s on.”

A lot of work goes into soliciting and reviewing the submissions. More than 100 submissions are parceled out to review teams of 5 or 6. The teams vote yes, no, or maybe, based on standard guidelines. From there, a graduate reader narrows down the selections, sending the best back for revision.

Only five submissions make the final cut. A few of those are always from the University of Maryland.

Senior English language and literature major Gwendolyn Kelbly—one of this year’s featured writers from the University of Maryland—compared the relationship between Hamlet’s emotional state and his parents during the plays first and second quartos in her critical essay, “Gertrude and the Ghost: Matters of Parental Mind Play in Shakespeare’s Hamlet”.

“I feel very grateful and honored,” Kelbly said. “Particularly because The Paper Shell Review is an important part of the English undergraduate community at Maryland. I am glad to be a part of something so special.”

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