Reading in Tamagawa Garden

Emma Newton

Emma Newton, Essay Contest Winner in the Second-Year Category, 2020-2021

Emma Newton

Emma Newton is a history major going into her third year at VIU, but having always loved reading and writing, she feels that the English classes she's taken have provided her with an important creative outlet. Her award-winning essay for Professor Sarah Crover's class on "Ancients and Moderns" enabled her to explore the intersection of her major with English studies, bringing ancient history together with myth, legend, and classical literature.

Why witches, though? Emma says she's always been fascinated by them, considered both as literal figures and as symbolic of the values of society - particularly in relation to gender roles. Also, given the topic of Prof. Crover's class - non-traditional heroes and villains - it made sense to examine the disjuncts between the way witches have been treated historically and how more contemporary depictions have tended to show them. As Emma puts it, "so many of the witches I grew up reading about were presented as heroic characters, which is such a stark contrast to the historic treatment of witches and other marginalized women."

A larger motivating factor for Emma to research and write about this topic was the representation of women more generally. Says Emma, "it's so important to discuss women’s representation in mass media, in order to continue a positive movement towards characters ... little girls can look up to." Emma herself says she's fortunate to have grown up reading and watching texts that feature strong, complex female characters - like the titular character (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) of the popular TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy also speaks to Emma's love of texts that feature fantasy and magic, with two of her favourite novels being Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Naomi Novik's Uprooted.

Emma's advice for current and future English students is to follow your passion - particularly when it comes to writing. The essay-writing process, she says, goes so much more smoothly when you write about something you love. And since most profs want to see their students succeed, Emma suggests finding some area of personal interest that fits in with the course outline.