Reading in Tamagawa Garden

Liam McParland

Liam McParland, Second-year category, Best Essay 2016-2017


Liam McParland didn’t start out as an English major when he came to VIU. Although he was able to fit in a few courses that “nurtured [his] interest in literature,” his goal throughout the first two years of his studies was eventually to go into medicine.

All the while, however, Liam’s love of reading and his sense of literature’s importance remained a constant: “Reading has molded and continues to mold who I am. Literature challenges me and has helped me to develop a better understanding of myself. The more I read, the more I become aware of how little I know and that’s why I’m drawn to English.“ 

Eventually, the challenge of exploring literature’s seemingly limitless scope—as well as its power to help us understand, on a fundamental level, who we are—prompted Liam to shift his academic focus from medicine to a BA in English. He’s currently in the 3rd year of his degree, and “couldn’t be happier” with his choice of program. Liam’s goal, moreover, is to pursue a career in teaching at the university level, thereby encouraging others to make discoveries about themselves and the world around them through the study of literature.

In pursuing this career path, Liam has been fortunate to have an excellent role model and mentor in the VIU English Department: Professor Jeannie Martin, with whom he recently took ENGL 222. Professor Martin was not only “enthusiastic” and “informative” in her teaching but also “very supportive” of Liam’s interest in pursuing English studies further, offering “a lot of encouragement and advice” along the way. Not surprisingly, his supportive and enriching academic environment that Liam produced his prize-winning essay, “Egypt, India, Ideology: In An Antique Land as a Rebuttal to the Traditional Travel Text.” Liam’s eloquent and persuasive essay examines closely the parallel narrative structure of Amitav Ghosh’s fascinating text in order “to illustrate the catastrophic effects, both historical and contemporary, of Western imperialism and imperial narratives.” It’s a crucial subject to explore further in the contemporary global moment, Liam thinks. As he puts it, “the dissolution of colonial empires hasn’t resulted in the dissolution of the global power structures established under imperialism, and although the terminology may have changed, many of the ideas that maintain those power structures continue to infiltrate the media we consume.” 

Liam’s words of advice for other budding English scholars are “Never stop reading,” and his three favourite texts—The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce—would provide an ideal starting point for this voyage of discovery.