Almost every incoming student takes the Literary Arts and Studies Department’s required E101 course, Literature Seminar: Design in Words. Each year at convocation the department awards
the E101 prize to the student whose essay combines critical acumen,
literary sophistication and a clear, individual writing voice in the
most original way.
E101 Literature Seminar: Design in Words is an introduction to college writing, critical thinking and literary study. We're very proud of the really original work that comes out of the course, and this year particularly so because we had a tie: congratulations to Willa Anderson and Emily Nielson! The prize committee notes that both essays "deal elegantly with a particular aspect of a difficult piece of literature and are exceptionally well-written."
Willa's essay is titled "Cast Away: Gender and Nature in Moby-Dick," and in it Willa explores the way Herman Melville uses gender roles in Moby Dick to comment upon humanity's relationship with the natural world. It was a well-argued and exceptionally written essay that grappled not only with the novel but also with several other critical readings of the role of gender in the book. As Willa wrote in the essay, "Melville's use of gender brings new understanding to the need for balance and respect for all aspects [of gender and sexuality], both within us as human beings, and in our relation to the natural world."
Emily Neilson's essay "Cannibalism: The Ultimate Social Slander," was partly inspired by a reading of Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness in class. It surveys an impressive range of oral and written sources including children's literature and fairytales, rumors and anecdotes, fiction and travelogues - in their original languages as well as in English translation - in order to show how even the mere suspicion of this one act, cannibalism, seemed to have been enough "to justify slaying a giant, burning a witch, and plundering, enslaving, and slaughtering the indigenous societies of four continents." Through a close reading of her sources Emily makes an elegant argument about "how the distancing, dehumanizing discourse that occurs in fairytales [and fiction] to create villains, had the same effect of slandering and vilifying people in real life."