Reading in Tamagawa Garden

Ashley Thorup

Ashley Thorup, Second-Year Category, 2017-2018

At times during her schooling, Ashley Thorup felt hemmed in by some of the subjects she had to take. Much of what she was learning appeared at times to be frustratingly black-and-white, overly premised on rigid “right-or-wrong principles” or “absolute laws.” However, English felt different somehow. “Literature,” Ashley says, initiated an enticing encounter with “a multiplicity of voices and perspectives” and thus raised the broader possibility of “an escape from the rigidity of society.” Having graduated with an Honours degree in English from VIU in June 2018, Ashley will be continuing her exploration of the possibilities of literature when she begins her Masters at McGill University this fall.

Ashley’s award-winning essay was written for ENGL 233, a course on the interrelationship between classic American novels and their contemporary film adaptations. In exploring James Franco’s recent cinematic translations of two important Modernist texts, Ashley was able to bring together two of her particular passions in English: the fiction of William Faulkner and the intersection of film and literature. Faulkner’s iconoclastic and influential narrative experimentations and thematic preoccupations—as Ashley puts it, “fractured narrative styles” and an abiding concern with the “subjects of race, mental illness, and [the] departure from tradition”—are by now well known. Ashley’s unique intervention here has been to connect Faulkner’s “playful” literary form with Franco’s directorial style, thus suggesting that the relationship of original text to modern adaptation is not merely one of change but also one of continuity.  

As someone who has successfully navigated the path of an English major at VIU, Ashley has some words of advice for aspiring literary scholars: “Find something that you are passionate about and read everything around it” (this includes exploring related texts in “other art forms[,] such as music, visual art, and film”). Overall, though, Ashley thinks that studying in the arts and humanities is not merely a source of personal fulfilment. Rather, it provides an important perspective on broader societal issues, including questions of tolerance and human rights. Perhaps unsurprisingly, when asked for reading recommendations, Ashley’s suggested Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America—three texts that combine audacious formal complexity and experimentation with a profound concern with important social and political issues at different moments in 20th-century American history.