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Students' essay featured in prestigious English journal

RELEASED: Sept. 19, 2011

EAU CLAIRE — An essay written by two recent University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire graduates when they were undergraduate students has been published in the scholarly English journal The Oswald Review.

The essay, titled "Domestic Soldier: Kitty's Secondary Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in 'The Return of the Soldier,'" is featured in the current volume of The Oswald Review, a refereed undergraduate journal of criticism and research that is published annually.

The essay authors are Christina Huber, a Cottage Grove, Minn., native who graduated with a degree in English in 2009, and Heidi Potratz, an Eau Claire native who graduated with a degree in English in 2010.

"It is a very exciting accomplishment," said Dr. Jennifer Shaddock, professor of English, and Huber and Potratz's mentor. "This is a really big deal. There are very few journals that publish undergraduate research in English, so the competition is stiff. Christina and Heidi are in a very select group of students nationwide. As far as I know, this is the first time a UW-Eau Claire student has published in a refereed scholarly undergraduate English journal."

The article was 18 months in the making, said Huber, the paper's lead author. Huber and Potratz worked closely together, with Potratz taking the lead on the research and Huber then sorting through the information and determining how it could be incorporated into their article. While the process was lengthy and challenging, the end result is satisfying on both the personal and professional fronts, Huber said.

"On a personal level, I am thrilled to see my name in print and know that all of my hard work meant something," said Huber, who currently is working in Germany as part of the federally funded national service program AmeriCorps VISTA. "Professionally, I know having a published paper increases my chances of going to graduate school and/or publishing again."

The essay began as two separate papers for an English course on the literature of the Great War, Shaddock said. Rebecca West's novel, "The Return of the Soldier," has drawn attention for its early depiction and understanding of shell-shock in the main character, returning soldier Chris Baldry, she said.

"Heidi and Christina both wrote superb papers that focused on Chris's wife, Kitty, who they each believed was not the unfeeling, calculating aristocrat that critics had interpreted her as being," Shaddock said. "Instead, they saw her as suffering from a trauma of her own. Since they had similar arguments, I suggested they collaborate in writing a research essay for publication."

Later, when Huber and Potratz were researching trauma, they learned about secondary stress disorder, which is a form of PTSD brought about by close contact with a primary victim of PTSD, Shaddock said.

"This became the focus of their argument about Kitty's character," Shaddock said. "Finally, they argue that because Kitty's trauma involves a private, domestic battle rather than a public war, it was not recognized by the male-dominated society in which she lived or by the literary critics of the past century."

Shaddock said the exploration of PTSD and secondary stress disorder is especially relevant at a time when U.S. military veterans are returning home without getting the kind of mental health treatment they need and deserve.

Huber credits Shaddock as well as UW-Eau Claire's commitment to funding undergraduate student research projects for helping to make the project both possible and successful. Without the UW-Eau Claire research dollars, she could not have devoted 18 months to the paper, she said.

"In my estimation, their research experience closely approximated that of professional scholars," Shaddock said of the students' work. "They read extensively about the author, the critical history of 'The Return of the Soldier,' histories of World War I and research on shell-shock and PTSD. They wrote at least eight drafts of their 27-page essay, refining their argument and rhetorical presentation based upon my comments and their further reading. They also built in revisions in response to comments they received at Student Research Day, the UW System Symposium and the Provost's Honors Symposium. The final product far surpassed what could be done in the course of a semester-long class."

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JB/DW

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