SCIO is delighted that alumna Rachel Sakrisson (Michaelmas Term 2017), an undergraduate at Palm Beach Atlantic University, has recently received two essay prizes.

Rachel has been awarded first place in the category of British literature at the Sigma Tau Delta International Honors Society Conference. Her prize-winning essay, written in response to a general question concerning the language used by the two principal male characters in Shakespeare’s Othello, was titled: ‘Iago, Othello, and the languages of passivity and activity’. Rachel writes that her work was ‘directly inspired by conversations about linguistics during [her] tutorials’ at Oxford. She continues:

The answer to this question seems fairly obvious: they speak the English language. However, Dr Thorpe pushed me to look beyond word-level meaning and analyze the underlying purpose of language. In doing so, I discovered that Iago and Othello have differing definitions of language (for Iago, this function is intrigue, whereas for Othello, this function is for truth).

Rachel writes of her time at SCIO that it ‘gave [her] greater understanding of the truth that there are multiple ways of thinking about literature.’ She offers the further reflection that:

Prior to SCIO, I knew that literary analysis is founded on differing opinions, but being surrounded by students from varying backgrounds gave me first hand experience of this truth. In addition to thought-provoking conversations during tutorials, the community at The Vines encouraged valuable conversations to continue outside of tutorials — at the dinner table, at tea-time, or during midnight study sessions. These conversations were always lively and interesting because they were founded on differing opinions, backgrounds, and the same interest in knowledge.

Also an awardee of the de Jager prize, offered by SCIO in recognition of outstanding scholarly work submitted during the Scholars’ Semester in Oxford, Rachel sees her time on the SCIO programme as extremely formative. Concerning her tutorials, Rachel writes that she found herself ‘able to think about Shakespeare’s works from unusual angles and gain a greater understanding of the canon’s influence on English literature and the entire English language’. Considering the positive effects of the programme more broadly, she concludes:

My award at the Sigma Tau Delta Convention is tangible evidence of the value of the education SCIO allows American students to experience. SCIO opened a door to Oxford University which would have otherwise remained closed to me and introduced me to a different form of study that has forever changed my writing, thinking, and conversation.

In further recognition of her work, Rachel’s essay on ‘The Giving Trees: Elsa Beskow, ecocriticism, and the benevolent forest’, which was submitted to the Children’s Literature Association (CLA), has been rewarded with the Carol Gay Award. Rachel will be presenting her paper at the summer 2018 international conference held by the CLA in San Antonio.

SCIO congratulates Rachel on her success and wishes her well in the next stage of her academic career.