Aleah Rockwell, Essay Contest Winner in the ENGL 125 / INTR 101 Category, 2018-2019
As a third-year student at VIU, Aleah Rockwell approaches her studies in the English department with a keen focus and with the levity that can only come from the confidence of someone who has learned the secret of writing first-rate essays. “If you're struggling with writing,” she counsels, “ it can be helpful to write out your thesis on a piece of paper and then erase it and rewrite it, and erase it, and then maybe throw it in the garbage, and then fish it out and rewrite it. From there, the rest of the paper is a piece of cake.” When it comes to the quality of the cake, however, there’s always the seemingly interminable revisions required. And with respect to these, Aleah is both humble and generous, being sure to acknowledge the assistance she has had from the VIU English faculty. “I’m eternally grateful to my English professors,” she says, “for putting up with my writing when I've done a poor job at proofreading, and I'm even more grateful for the amazing environment they create when it comes to discussing literature. I can honestly say it makes me enjoy English that much more.”
A self-professed “junkie” when it comes to “anything science fiction,” Aleah was excited to sign up for an interdisciplinary course, co-taught by Daniel Bourgoyne and Doug Stetar, that focused on speculative fiction such as Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. It was her response to Atwood’s book that resulted in a highly original award-winning essay. “I was enthralled with Margaret Atwood’s dystopia,” she writes, “and initially had a very biconservative stance on the Crakers” (the genetically-altered humans portrayed in the novel). In the end, however—after re-writing that thesis one more time perhaps—she “decided to argue contrary to this knee jerk reaction,” and, in so doing, “was able to see the novel in a more nuanced way.”
Aleah’s ability to develop and convey a nuanced argument of this kind may also have resulted from the diversity of literary, television, and film sources that inform her ideas—sources that range from Alfred Camus’ L’Etrangerto episodes of Black Mirrorto the critically-acclaimed film Get Out by writer and director Jordan Peele. With an eclectic range of sources such as these and a positive attitude to life and learning, it is little wonder that she has emerged as one of VIU’s most accomplished English students.