Thursday, November 3, 2005
English student wins prestigious Norton Award
By Rebecca Wyatt, OU Web Writer
Rachel Banner, a senior English major, wrote a paper for her English class last fall that received a national award and is helping fund her education.
Banner’s essay, “The Communal Space Between: Reconciliation in Emerson’s Experience,” which analyzes the literary criticism in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Experience,” won the W.W. Norton & Company 2005 Norton Scholar’s Prize. The award nationally recognizes an undergraduate essay on a literary topic.
“It’s really gratifying, but it’s also strange to me that something I wrote won a national award,” Banner said. “I’ve never had anything I’ve written get noticed.”
As the winner, Banner received $2,500 and her nominating professor, Jeffrey Insko, assistant professor of English, will receive transportation and accommodations for the 2005 Modern Language Association meeting in Washington, D.C., in December.
“It is clearly evident that Oakland University students can compete against any student in the country,” Insko said.
Banner worked with Insko to turn the class assignment into a competitive essay.
“Rachel is a terrific, lucid, elegant writer. The subtlety of her analysis is rare for an undergraduate,” Insko said
Banner entered her paper in the Norton Award competition the day before the deadline and heard nothing from the committee all summer long so she assumed she didn’t win. In October, she was notified she had won the award.
Banner has ambitions of graduate school after she graduates next December. At the urging of Insko, she presented her paper at the 2005 Meeting of Minds, which is similar to the types of presentations graduate students often give.
“It was a good place for Rachel to experience and decide if this is for her,” Insko said. “The essay was good work and it deserved a public hearing. It also was a really good opportunity for her to learn how to do presentations.”
Without the help of the English faculty, Banner said she would not be where she is today.
“The award brings attention to this school and the English Department, which is a great place to study,” Banner said. “The help and support I have received from the faculty has been such a push for me. Writing isn’t just an assignment anymore. Usually you just get a grade and that’s the end. It was exciting to make this thing grow.”
For more information on the English Department, visit the English Department Web site or call (248) 370-2251.