Katharine Rycroft, English 125, Best Essay 2016-2017
Katherine Rycroft has a B.B.A. from Malaspina College and a M.Ed. from Memorial University of Newfoundland. She is currently enrolled in VIU’s B.Ed. post bacc. program. Although the focus of her studies is Education, she thinks that literature is of vital importance in today’s complex world.
An “avid reader” herself, Katherine found literature to be useful on her travels, since it helped her “to explore and understand the different countries and cultures in which [she lived].” A well-told story gives “the gift of narrative,” she thinks, and can thereby “unlock a deeper understanding [of] and connection to any topic or issue.”
This sense of connection and comprehension is becoming increasingly important at our unique and potentially disorienting historical moment. For Katherine, studying English ultimately provides a crucial means for students to engage critically with the world around them:
English classes are also a great place to reflect as a group on the culture in which we live. In this post-truth era in which our children are growing up, the definition of literacy is ever expanding. Students today are required to think critically about the continuously developing forms of media and the information it delivers. English classrooms are a great place to learn to dissect many different kinds of texts and to distinguish truth from increasingly ill-motivated rhetoric.
Another function of literature for Katherine is the opportunity it affords to examine one’s sense of the familiar—of home and nation. Having been overseas for a while, she “was excited to come home and learn more about and connect with [her] own country.” One way she was able to do this was by taking Dr. Farrah Moosa’s ENGL 125 class at VIU. Focusing on Canadian content, Professor Moosa “included a very diverse selection of … perspectives in the texts she chose, and facilitated deep and engaging discussions about how the overlying themes affect each of us individually and as a culture.”
A particular focus of Katherine’s writing for ENGL 125 was the work of noted Indigenous author Eden Robinson. This work culminated in her award-winning essay “Perpetual Traps in Canada’s Multiculturalism Policy: An examination of Eden Robinson’s ‘Traplines.’” Katherine was drawn to Robinson’s writing for a variety of reasons, including its emotional resonance: it is “heartfelt and sometimes quite raw and difficult to read, but it is honest and it is written for everyone,” she says. At the same time, of course, it has a lot to say “about the history and current reality of colonialism in this country.” Katherine is convinced that reading and studying the works of writers such as Robinson can play a part in navigating the ongoing legacies of Canada’s colonial history, since “Narrative is a powerful medium through which we can connect with truth and with each other”—although, admittedly, “we have much truth to recognize and fully embrace before genuine reconciliation can be accomplished.”
Katherine reads widely and across genres. In particular, she enjoys reading historical fiction, non-fiction, and graphic novels. A couple of her recommendations for interested readers are Pyongyang: A Journey Through North Korea, by Canadian cartoonist Guy Delisle, a unique work that “empowers the reader through a multiliteracy experience”; and Rudy Wiebe’s and Yvonne Johnson’s Stolen Life: Journey of a Cree Woman, which “personalises the extent of devastation that colonialism has had on Canada’s first people, and how deeply institutionalized colonial attitudes remain rooted.” She is also a self-confessed “minor news junkie” who thinks it’s crucial to attain a balanced perspective by seeking out information about current events from multiple sources.
Katherine’s words of advice to budding English scholars? “Study what you love, not what you think is sensible.”