A work of literary criticism written by Maryville College junior Kelsey White has been accepted for publication in El Cid, the refereed journal of the Spanish honorary society Sigma Delta Pi.
White, a Spanish major from Union, South Carolina, first wrote the critique as a requirement for the course “Spanish Peninsular Literature from 1800 to Present” taught by Dr. Geoff Mitchell, assistant professor of Spanish.
White’s paper, written entirely in Spanish, is entitled “Nada: La creación de un personaje existencial en la España de la posguerra” (“Nothing: The Creation of an Existential Character in Post-War Spain”) and looks at an award-winning Spanish novel written in 1944 by Carmen Laforet.
“The novel focuses on the experiences of a young woman living in Barcelona in the years following the Spanish Civil War, a brutal chapter of Spain’s history that left the country torn apart, not only in a political and economic sense, but also on a spiritual level,” White said in an email interview from Chile, where she is studying at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso for the Spring semester. “After witnessing such violence and destruction, people weren’t sure where to turn. All faith in institutions, in the political establishment and in the church had been practically destroyed.
“My analysis interprets the experience of Andrea, the novel’s protagonist, as an existentialist awakening,” the student continued. “Throughout the novel she encounters situations that provoke in her the profound sense of desperation that we experience when confronted with the enormity of the human condition, with existence itself. Ultimately, she realizes that she cannot find comfort or meaning from any outside source, but only through her own choices. Laforet uses Andrea to capture the national mood of Spain in this terribly confusing, painful post-war period. She illustrates the need to somehow create new meaning from senselessly horrible situations.”
Mitchell described White as “an exceptional student,” her Spanish skills “exceptional” and her paper “excellent - to say the least.”
He encouraged White to submit it to El Cid because he was so impressed with her research and analysis and because Sigma Delta Pi’s journal seemed to be the best venue for what she had written.
“The journal is geared toward undergraduate and graduate students,” he added. “The process for getting a paper accepted for publication is highly competitive.”
That White, as an undergraduate, got the attention of the editors is “quite an honor,” Mitchell said.
White said she worked on the original assignment for several months and made only slight revisions to the version she submitted to El Cid.
“I’m so thrilled and very honored that it was selected. It’s definitely a gratifying feeling to be able to share your work with others,” she said, adding that Mitchell played more of a role than just encouraging her to submit.
“Without his demanding and excellent instruction, I would not have learned to appreciate the complexity, challenge and sheer joy of studying literature,” she said.