Cassie Lachance is a very recent graduate–so recent, she’s still surprised to have weekends off! I love how she celebrated her graduation by returning to favorite books. I’m obviously not the only one who comfort reads! Read on to find out about Cassie’s favorite courses, books, and post-graduation life.–JLH
JLH: What made you decide on UWaterloo English?
CL: I decided on UWaterloo because it has a co-op program for Arts. Of specific interest to me was that the Arts co-op program included English, even listing examples of jobs previous students had secured during the program as well as after graduation. I admit I was dubious about my ability to find a job with an Arts degree as caution was all I ever heard when “Arts—specifically English” was my answer to the seemingly ad nauseam question, “And what are you doing?”
Following much consideration, prayer, and yes, tears, I decided to pursue a major in English Literature but realized that the co-op program was not for me. I chose English in the end because ENGL 101A and 190 were by far the two courses I enjoyed—and struggled with—the most in my first year. I have always loved books and even more the reading itself. I keep all my favourites and re-read them often and each time it is like meeting up with an old friend. To my great delight the rigours of school did not take away from my love of reading—although there are now books in the world I utterly despise.
JLH: How did you end up with a specialization in Literature in a Global Context? Were those courses very different?
CL: Through much planning, scheduling, email ‘battles’ and compromise. There are not many English courses that qualify as Global Context and, as I learned the hard way, they are not taught every term or even every year. I believe it is a fairly new specialization so maybe there was not enough demand for the courses. Despite all that, the Global Context courses were some of my favourite courses! I took and can now recommend 290, 318, 322 and 345.
I had a fairly international upbringing and that also influenced this choice. One of my High School English teachers –who was also the school’s librarian –was Australian and she brought, along with a passion for literature, many novels from her country to our few shelves. Upon returning to Canada, I found that the libraries I had access to here did not carry nor had heard of the books I so wanted to read again to remind me of my old home and school. My hope for this specialization was that it would bring these books and their like into my reach again. The world has many literary gifts to offer and I figured the best way of sampling such a wide variety would be best accomplished through a major in English Literature with a Global Context Specialization.
JLH: You received the Andrew James Dugan Prize in Rhetoric and Professional Writing in your final year. Can you talk a bit about your project?
CL: I actually received the Andrew James Dugan Prize in Literature. 🙂
This is a story of shock and surprise. At the time I was merely writing one of many end-of-term essays and praying God would give me the strength to complete them all with half a brain intact. It was my last term and the course was ENGL 330A: Sixteenth Century Verse. Towards the end of the term we studied some of Isabel Whitney’s poetry and I clicked with it. So I mapped out “The Manner of Her Will” with a handful of colour pencils and wrote the essay arguing that in a poem so preoccupied with the liberty of material surplus and the constraints of material lack, the latter of which Whitney complains is her lot, she finds a way to transcend these strict boundaries by turning her experience of lack into plenty. Whitney turns her observations of London into a poem, a material item which is published, printed, and makes its mark in the material world. Something is created from nothing, a lesson Phoebe Gilman taught me a long time ago.
I usually dislike my work by the time I hand it in so when I got the essay back and read that Professor Kenneth Graham not only enjoyed it but wanted to nominate it for an English Department award, well, I can’t describe my shock! I actually sat there and re-read the whole essay to make sure his comments were for my essay and realized it wasn’t as awful as I’d thought. So I sent it in and then proceeded to graduate, move home, and find employment. By the time March rolled around again I’ll admit I’d forgotten it was the end of term and award season. I actually didn’t find out I’d been awarded the Andrew James Dugan Prize in Literature until after the award ceremony—let that be a lesson to you recent alumni: check and read your UW emails so you don’t forget that whole world exists!
JLH: You’re a *very* recent graduate: how has it been transitioning from school to employment?
CL: As with most transitions in life, it was and continues to be challenging, exhilarating, and full-out fun with a sizable dose of oddity and awkwardness. The promise of a fully-assured stride is there too. It took me a long time to realize that every evening and every weekend were free—no homework, no assignments, no readings with deadlines, and no studying. For me University was a full-time job that never ended. My current job is what you might call the nine to five and that is it. I’m finding my stride and enjoying the working world immensely!
JLH: Finally, what are you reading for fun now that no one is assigning you books?
CL: I was quite burnt out by the time I graduated and it took a whole summer of revisiting my childhood literary friends and haunts to remind me that I do find joy in reading—something my acquired skills in critiquing and analyzing have not diminished but maybe even enhanced. I started by re-reading O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins, Mitchell’s The Silver Brumby, L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and some Harry Potter novels. I then branched out to whatever I pulled off the shelf—Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind—or whatever someone recommended—a few Jack London reads—or whatever I’d heard about but hadn’t read yet—Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I enjoy the variety in reading Dekker and Bright’s A Man Called Blessed, followed by Atwood’s The Penelopiad, and then Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, all the while steeping in a few pages of the Bible at a time.