English Department Scholar of the Year

English Department Scholar of the Year Erica Parrigin

The department of English is delighted to celebrate this year’s Scholar of the Year, Erica Parrigin, a full-time student on the QC campus!

At this year’s department awards ceremony, held everywhere and nowhere on Zoom, Dr. Dan Malachuk remarked, “Last year, Everett would not shut up about one student: how great she was in this course, that course, blah blah. ‘Sure,’ I thought, ‘but those are just your courses.’ Well, I’m happy to report Everett is a most reliable narrator.” Dr. Malacuk went on to declare that “Erica is one of our strongest students ever!”

The Mirror & the Lamp reached out to Erica and asked her about her experience in English.

M&L: Why did you choose to major in English? 

E.P. I became an English major partially because literature is exciting. There’s nothing I love more than learning! Whenever I’m reading or writing I find myself looking into new topics provoked by the material at hand. The works that I enjoy the most are the ones that I don’t understand, as they push me to examine them by exploring different concepts. Nearly everything I read inspires me to create my own interpretations and share them, which brings me to the main reason why I’m an English major: literature is unique in its ability to stir empathy. I strongly believe that sharing new perspectives is key to bettering the lives of others.

M&L: What book has made the biggest impact on you so far?

E.P. Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is the first book I was able to recognize as feminist. I had unknowingly developed a preference for works by feminist authors, but as a young teen, I was mostly unaware of the messages they were sending. The Bell Jar made me realize that I had never before experienced a woman’s account of mental illness in literature – something that suddenly struck me as an offensive omission of a topic very close to me. It was a turning point in my adolescence, prompting a realization that authors like Ursula K. LeGuin and Alice Walker were trying to say something with their stories. I finally began to notice certain implicit themes occur again and again, giving word to my own feelings against injustices.

M&L: What writing assignment are you most proud of?

E.P. The assignment I’m most proud of is my poem “Becky” that won first place in the Cordell Larner poetry category. It was challenging because I have very little experience in writing poetry, but the thing that made me the most proud was my mom’s reaction to it. She cried happy tears and said it was a “perfect snapshot of us at that time,” always trying to find goodness in difficult situations. I’m proud because I made her proud.

M&L: Are you reading or writing during the summer lockdown?

E.P. I don’t think I could go without reading and writing for an entire summer! Especially now that I’m in such an academic mindset. I picked up a book the other day and had to go find a pencil after the first page because I wanted to mark it up with my thoughts. I’ve been journaling constantly and have a million ideas just waiting to be written.

M&L: What are you looking forward to this fall?

E.P. After such a heavy course load this semester I’m looking forward to some mental relaxation in the fall! I’m done with most of the required courses for my major, with only electives remaining. I’m very excited for a less stressful schedule.

Erica’s stressful schedule last year helped her produce some remarkable work. At the awards ceremony, Dr. Malachuk described what she has already achieved: “In papers ranging from feminism in The Awakening to intersectional feminism in Raisin in the Sun, on the sublime and the sublate, Nietzsche’s skepticism, Wordsworth’s alliance with Elaine Scarry, Whitman’s alliance with himself, and the complexities of desire in the #MeToo era, Erica’s work has always been clear, bold, totally persuasive.” We are delighted to recognize this amazing work, and we look forward to seeing what Erica will write next year!