Life after SCIO: alumna wins conference award

SCIO is delighted that alumna Abigail Scott (Hilary Term, 2017), a graduate of Gordon College, has recently received a prize for a paper given at a conference.

Abigail was awarded second place in the critical essays category devoted to the study of works not British or American. Her prize-winning essay, presented at the Sigma Tau Delta International Honours Society Convention, considered ‘Narrative Distance in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart’. Abigail wrote the essay for a Postcolonial Literature tutorial while at SCIO, in Hilary term 2017; she writes: ‘when the call for papers related to the theme “Seeking Freedom” came out, I thought that an essay written for a tutorial in which the concepts of oppression, colonization, and imperialism were explored would be fitting.’

When I read the novel for the first time in preparation for my tutorial, I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable with the narrative voice used throughout. It at first appeared to be a traditional omniscient, third-person narrator, but as I began to dig more deeply into the text I found that many of the characteristics of such a traditional omniscient narrator were missing in the text. Rather than delving into characters motivations and inner states, the narrator employs parables and oral storytelling techniques that create the effect of viewing the story through a foggy window; nothing is quite as a clear as it seems, and it feels almost as if the narrator is not fully equipped to provide the reader with the full story. As I wrote my essay, I came to the conclusion that this distance is inherently related to the narrator’s inability to fully align with the colonized or the colonizing characters in the novel. The narrative is full of moments that celebrate and echo the oral storytelling tradition of the Ibo people. However, the narrative also employs the language of the colonizer and occasionally uses collective pronouns that suggest kinship between the narrative voice and the colonizers. I found that these two characteristics worked in tandem to create distance between the narrator and the action of the novel, causing the reader to feel a certain sense of discomfort with the narrative.

Dr Jonathan Thorpe, Abigail’s tutor while at SCIO, comments on her time as a student here:

Abby is a wonderful student with a great attitude to learning. I tutored her for Postcolonial Literature, following her particular interest in anglophone writing from Nigeria. Her readings of Chinua Achebe, Ben Okri and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie were highly intelligent and thoughtful. She also wrote a fascinating research seminar essay on James Joyce. It is a pleasure to meet a student with such wide intellectual horizons!

Concerning her time at SCIO, Abigail writes:

As I discussed post-colonial theory with the other presenters on my panel at the conference, I couldn’t help but think back to the many conversations I had during my time at Oxford, both in and out of tutorials. I always say that I came back from my semester at Oxford having realized how little I know, and while further study continues to prove that, I found that my time at SCIO equipped me with the tools to thoughtfully approach the topics I know little about and to dig deeper into the topics with which I am more familiar. My tutors and peers at SCIO encouraged me to approach academic discourse with confidence, excitement, and a willingness to challenge others and have my own views challenged. This is something that I know I will carry with me as I pursue graduate studies in the future. One of my papers, written for an honors program at Gordon College, will also be published in the next issue of Sigma Tau Delta’s academic journal, the Sigma Tau Delta Review. It’s titled “‘We Meant It Which Is the Bad Part’: Tyranny and Consent in The Handmaid’s Tale.”’

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