While I enjoyed calculus, Western civilization and all the other classes I took during my first year at Bradley, I don’t think my college experience really began until I stepped foot in my first literature class. It was ENG 235, American Literature From 1865 to Present, one of the requirements for my English major.
Dr. Claire McQuerry began the course by having us look at Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. I didn’t dare speak out myself, but I sat and watched as my classmates and professor talked and talked about the poems, from their themes and metaphors to the authors’ intentions and word choice, all with the kind of passion and interest I would have never dreamed of hearing back in high school.
“I hadn’t even realized I liked poetry at all until I saw my interest reflected back at me in my classmates’ eyes.”
Needless to say, I was in bookworm heaven. I hadn’t known people could talk about poetry with such care. I hadn’t even realized I liked poetry at all until I saw my interest reflected back at me in my classmates’ eyes. I went home that week giddy, clutching my Norton anthology to my chest like a schoolgirl newly in love, pouring my heart out to my mom, sister and anyone who would listen. “This,” I said. “This major is for me.”
Of course, I had already known I was in love with literature. That fact had been blatantly evident as early as my middle school days when I spent every second of my free time with my eyes glued to my “Percy Jackson” books while my mother called me down for dinner for the third time in as many minutes. It was only in that class where I began to realize why my interest ran so deep.
As the course continued, I became fascinated by authors like Kate Chopin, Sylvia Plath and Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the feminist ideas underlying their work. I was interested in how they used their literature to express and combat the oppression they felt as women in a patriarchal society.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that a year later I would decide to minor in women and gender studies and would start an internship working in the women and gender studies library, a collection filled with authors who write about a variety of social justice issues. I began to see the same passion that filled me and my classmates in these kinds of authors. It made their words powerful.
This kind of power fascinated me because it was definitely the one that has made the biggest impact in my life and the only kind I’ve ever felt like I could really have a part. As an aspiring writer, it has become a dream of mine to create something that could affect other people as my favorite authors have affected me. I certainly don’t have mastery over all that power yet, but if my English studies at Bradley have taught me anything, it’s that this challenge is the one for me.
Daniela Barzallo '22