Advisory Committee Chair
Advisory Committee Members
Date of Award
Degree Name by School
Master of Arts in Education (MAE) School of Education
Queen of Swords, titled after a card in the tarot signifying an independent, incisive woman that often keeps others at “sword’s length,” is the fictional story of Birmingham heiress Reagan Norcross. Beautiful, educated, wealthy, and accomplished, Reagan is more unhappy than she’s ever been. So when an old fling, Russell Harris, takes a job at her family’s construction and design firm, Norcross Lasting, it seems like a sign that everything is going to turn around. But even as her interactions with Russell in and out of the office become more like a romance novel, Reagan’s unhappiness and instability only get worse, ultimately culminating in a total mental break.Using the imagery of the tarot, Queen of Swords shines a light on the ways in which the business world forces women to value facade over authenticity or accomplishment. Like Birmingham’s multicolored lights attempt to distract from the city’s issues with seg- regation and homelessness, Reagan uses her appearance and corporate success to hide from her unhappiness. As her facade begins to crumble under the pressure of an uncomfortable workplace, she realizes she’s lost track of what exists beneath it. The novel follows the ensuing cycle of constant self-analysis and inability to understand what she wants, while also traversing Birmingham’s class disparities via her relationships with her family and peers. Through Reagan’s inability to uphold the expectations of her job and family, Queen of Swords portrays millennial women’s struggle to define success in a climate and economy that makes traditional definitions fundamentally unattainable.
Chambliss, Mary Elizabeth, "Queen of Swords" (2021). All ETDs from UAB. 761.