Reading in Tamagawa Garden

Julia Coltman

Julia Coltman, Essay Contest Winner in the Third-Year Category, 2020-2021

Julia Coltman

If you take the opportunity to read Julia’s award-winning essay you’ll be surprised to discover that when she started her degree she wasn't planning on going into English at all. While she’s always loved reading and writing, she realized after delving into the program there's a lot more to studying English than what some high school classes make it out to be.  For example, she mentions that one of her favourite aspects to studying English includes seeing how the canon evolves in real time.  She appreciates how “the voices and stories and the people behind them previously ignored or silenced are being lifted up and finally heard and given the recognition and attention they have always deserved. Having those stories heard is so important in our study of culture, not only to understand the past but to see the way it influences us today and where it leads us.”

She wrote her paper on Mary Sidney's translations of the Psalms for Sarah Crover’s Renaissance Lit class—a class that she really enjoyed because it introduced her to an entire other side of literature that she confesses she would have normally  “steered clear of otherwise.”  Luckily, however, the class allowed a further investigation into her growing interest in the intersection of women’s experience and female agency.  Still, Julia definitely appreciates challenges and embraces the increase to her breadth of knowledge about literature.  Her motto and advice to other students stems from such an attitude.  She advises “to have an open mind about what you will read.   There will always be works that are not your cup of tea, and that is okay, but have an open mind and if you have thoughts on a work, even if you think they're messy and confused, make them heard.  Profs are there to lead you through the confusion and try to help you get as much out of even the most difficult reads imaginable.”

In the same way that her Renaissance Lit class opened her eyes, so did Clay Armstrong’s 20th and 21st Century Lit course.  There she discovered a collection of works by James Baldwin, the Civil Rights era activist and writer. She recommends in particular a couple of letters/essays bound up together in a book called The Fire Next Time, as well as a play called Blues for Mister Charlie, both of which deal with issues that “speak to our present just as clearly as they applied to the moment he was writing in.”  Outside of academic reading, she also endorses Victoria Schwab, an adult fantasy writer, particularly Schwab’s Shades of London trilogy and the recently released The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.

While in the Fall of 2021 she will be completing the fifth year of her degree, she frankly admits that she’s uncertain about what the future holds for her, but between her accomplishments and attitude, she will no doubt revel in that discovery.