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Self-Discovery through Literature

A memorable moment that has impacted the course of my life is when I attended my first assembly in elementary school as a transfer student. I watched as the teachers announced the student with the most Star Reader points, and a girl stands up to accept her five hundred point tag. The Star Reader brag tags is an assessment program used by my elementary school to reward students for reading, and from that day forward, my ambition throughout elementary school was to receive the five hundred point tag. That passionate motivation introduced me to the world of literature. During elementary and middle school, literature for me was a method to immerse myself in the world of another person’s imaginations. I consumed these universes voraciously with my youthful mind, stimulating my creativity and imagination. In high school, literature evolved into more than stories. I learned to appreciate literature as an art, as I learned the technique of close reading. I had the ability to examine literature and analyze the author’s use of literary devices, and through my analysis, contribute my interpretation into the dialogue of the story. Discovering multiple meanings through close reading was a rush of adrenaline for me, and this technique transferred into other aspects of my life. It was not only literature that I began to interpret concealed meanings in, and this newly developed super power increased my reverence for literature. Therefore, when it was time to select a major, English was an evident answer.

Throughout the first two years of university, literature remained the same. However, in the last two years, my relationship with literature has evolved again. In English 100 Engaging Texts: Introduction to Critical Practice with Professor Hakala, I learned of the multiple criticisms and studies that can be used to examine a text: Marxism, Feminism, cultural studies, Deconstructionism, New Historicism, gender studies, etc. These criticisms and studies provided multiple perspectives that can be used to examine literature, and my foundational technique for close reading expanded farther than the close reading of a text.

In English 121 Topics in Continental Philosophy: Existentialism & Phenomenology with Professor Hatton, I studied works of literature from Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Søren Kierkeegard, etc. and learned that literature was more than powerful stories, but rather a documentation of a person’s perspective during their existence, condensed into pages to be consumed by readers in the future. Existentialism taught me my position in connection with the social world, and allowed me understand my part in the material world

English 190 William Blake and Enlightenment Media with Professor Garcia has impacted me the most. Studying William Blake’s literature taught me my position in connection with the natural world, and allowed me to develop my comprehension of the spiritual world through my interpretation of self-annihilation.

Literature has impacted the entirety of my life, and I understand myself through my interpretation of the perspectives of people’s lives with different historical, geographical, and cultural backgrounds. My experience with the English Program is coming to a conclusion. However, my relationship with literature will continue after.


Angelica Costilla-Mancha

Professor Garcia


10 December 2019

Reading Along the Margins & The Disruption of the Cannon:

In Westernized literature, the Cannon has become a concept that has informed what popular culture considers to be classic, timeless literature. Literature within the Cannon is typically perceived to have some type of permanent intrinsic value that every individual can be moved by regardless of their race, class, gender, etc. The problem with this idea of the cannon is for too long, ethnic literature has been written out of the canon and has been presumed to live and belong within the margin. Since coming to UC Merced and leading out my undergraduate career as an English and Sociology Major, I have developed a higher understanding of what it means to read along the margins and how to critically interrogate that essence of the Westernized Cannon as well as the texts so strongly considered as classics.

While I must admit I entered literature with the mindset that the subject was crucial to our connection with knowledge, I will be leaving Merced with a newfound perspective on how powerful literature truly is. Within my English courses and through the understandings of different literary criticisms, I have learned that every text, every novel, short story, play, etc. says something about life in the world as we know it and society as it is ran. To me, the purpose of the study of literature is to connect texts as both readers and writers to how we see the world and how such vision can empower our minds and bodies to progress for a better future.

The study of English Literature is essentially the study of the voices of our society and the voices of our historical experiences. The best classes that have been the most crucial to my journey have been those designed around the voices of the writers whose work is considered to live within the margins. For example, my Latino/a literature courses have taught me that literature knows no bounds and is not designated for a certain class or type of people. Rather, literature is universal and should be studied and appreciated regardless of the social status it stems from. I have learned that the field of English Literature has a history of only considering white, European, Westernized texts as classical and worthy of Canon recognition. Yet, since taking courses under Dr. Martin-Rodriguez, I have gratefully developed the understanding that this is largely due to our social constructions regarding the different type of experiences that people of different races, gender, and/or social classes experiences. I have learned how to critically analyze the texts in which I engage in not only in regards to what is written on the paper, but also in regards to what I see.

When I first entered college at UC Merced, I was under the impression that my writing skills were phenomenal. However, I quickly learned in my first English Course that I had a lot of room to improve and was quickly humbled by the fact that I did not know where to start. The first English course I ever took at UC Merced was Introduction to African American Literature with Dr. Nigel Hatton. This course transformed my perception of literature and gave me a deeper sense of what it means to read and think as a literary scholar. Since being an English Major, my critical thinking skills have developed in every sense of the world. At first, I was use to basic analysis, and struggled to look/ work beyond that. Yet, with the help of several professor, I feel as though my mind had been trained to think outside the box, to read between the lines, and to consider both internal and external aspects of the text that I would have previously never thought of before.

I will conclude my journey at UC Merced within the English department with an understanding that the purpose of reading and studying English Literature is to develop new meaning through texts that have the ability to transform our perception and position in society. Not only is a text powerful for the meaning it presents on the pages, but it is also powerful for the meaning we give it as we read.

-Angelica Costilla

Knowledge is Unlimting

Jaimee Watson

Professor Garcia

ENG 190

December 11, 2019

Reflective Essay

Upon arriving at UC Merced, I took one AP Literature class and believed I was a professional at writing analytical papers, rhetorical essays, and persuasive essays. It did not help that I passed the entrance writing exam, meaning that I did not have to take Writing 001, only Writing 010, in turn confirming my writing skills. Before declaring English as my major, I was undeclared due to my uninterest in all the STEM Majors. I have always thrived in my English and Writing courses before college, so I was excited to thrive in my college courses as well. Writing 010 and Intro to African-American Literature is where my writing journey started here at UC Merced and I can confidently say that not only has my writing improved, but I have experienced each of the English Program Learning Outcomes in both English and Writing courses.

As expressed earlier, Writing 010 and Intro to African-American Literature were the first courses I was allowed to express my writing and critical reading skills. While WRI 010 required me to write a research paper about a subculture of my choice, Professor Hatton of African-American Literature required me to critically read the texts of slaves, abolitionists, negro spirituals, etc. Reading historical texts that were written in times of enslavement, the diction was triggering, dehumanizing, and ultimately cultural. This course required me to understand that some of the word choices may have been degrading, but overall one must keep in mind that these were texts of the times, that of which contributed to the development of my culture and my culture vernacular. Therefore, developing my empathy and understanding of historical, geographic, and cultural aspects in text written in other times, places, and cultures. I recently found a tie between this course and a course I would’ve never guessed would intersect, which is British and American Literature. This Brit. And Lit. course required the same reading as the African-American. Lit course, which was Passing by Nella Larsen. The cultural intersection and relativity surprised me, yet again allowed me to appreciate and empathize with the historical, geographic, and cultural components of texts written in other times, places, and cultures.

The following semester, I took Intro to Psychology and, my very first Professor Kaiser Course, Literature and Sexuality. I remember the first day of the lecture, we watched someone perform autofellatio, a lot of people dropped the course, but I digress. One of our first required readings was Freuds History of Sexuality and Foucault’s History of Sexuality, both of which I learned to interpret critically or else I would go on believing in Freud’s views that babies are perverts. However, I noticed my courses intersected when we went over Personality in Psychology and Freud’s theory of psychosexual development, in which the oral stage develops one’s Ego and the phallic stage develops one’s Superego. My psychology professor discussed Freud’s views and his theory while teaching us about Ego, Id, and Superego. Also taking a Creative Writing course and Intro to Poetry developed my interpretative strategies. In Intro to Poetry with Professor Hakala, we didn’t much dive into interpreting poems, more so the development and creation of poems. For example, in this class, I learned how to find the feet of the poem, what it looks like when the writer is deciding between two words, and what a refrain looks like and suggests. I took this information with me into my Creative Writing course and even my William Blake course to not only attempt to create my poetry, but to attempt to interpret Blake.

Although I found similarities between most of my classes, such as the commonalities between Crime and Horror, Victorian Literature, Foundations of Literature, and British American Literature, only the courses I’ve taken with Professor Garcia taught me how to interpret texts with due sensitivity to both textual and contextual cues. Foundations of Literature is another course I thought I could showcase my writing skills with ease until I learned the important lesson of differentiating the speaker and the author. It wasn’t till my blogpost was being workshopped by the entire class that someone, Karla, pointed out that the wording of my interpretation implied that I assumed to know the author’s purpose and intentions, which is called an intentional fallacy. I never would’ve guessed that I, the master analytical and critical interpreter would ever overlook something so obvious, and yet something I had never heard of before. How dare I, ultimately, put words into the author’s mouth and decide what their intentions were when I was well aware that writing and reading writing is solely up to interpretation. Ever since that day, I have learned to shape my words cautiously and carefully, deciding to provide the evidence that would speak to my point for itself. Although writing and reading are all up to interpretation, it is important to be sensitive in the way you word and develop your points so that you do not cross authorial boundaries.

I have thoroughly enjoyed every single Writing and Literature course I have taken at UC Merced because I feel like I always leave the course with more valuable and useful information and practice on different matters than I entered the course with. Although I do try to bring the knowledge I have gathered from freshman year to every course I encounter, most times it is not that hard considering much of the course work and course objectives coincide with one another. Therefore, I believe the study of literature’s purpose is to question everything, interpret everything. The study of literature dares you to gather all the information and knowledge you can so that you may see the relativity from one book to another, from one time/place to another, from one course to another. You’ll see the commonalities between the works of literature, critically interpret them, and continuously question; “a fool is a man who asks questions, but has no answers” (Blake), and we all just may be fools. But, maybe, just maybe if we read enough, read close enough, we might find the answers.


 I originally declared myself an English major thinking I’d be focusing on grammar and how to write properly. I was greatly surprised to find out I’d be dissecting some of the most impactful pieces of literature to have existed and reaping the knowledge they contain. My time as an English major has taught me valuable academic strategies crucial across disciplines as well as influenced my perceptions of the world, including ethics. Taking into consideration the numerous perspectives William Blake’s pieces fostered this semester and those I’ve been exposed to in previous English courses, I’ve learned the subject allows us to consider and feel for the many and the contrary, that no single interpretation is the absolute truth. Although one might not agree with the other side, there is value in being aware of the opposition. In understanding what someone else claims and what has led them to this view, one is able to get a more holistic view of situations and contexts and reconsider their own views they previous thought were definite. Thus, through the development of empathy and openness, the English major allows to recognize the variation in ideas that construct the world and see the beauty and tragedy that results from this diversity.

By understanding the historical and social contexts of works written centuries ago, I was able to gain empathy for those existing within that time period. The wide-range of literature I’ve read reflects or protests the attitudes of past societies. While I didn’t agree with some of these attitudes, being exposed to them through text helped me see the other side with more openness than I had previously. For example, I read “The Captivity Narrative of Mary Rowlandson” in my Literature of the Eighteenth-Century course, which is about a Puritan woman who gets kidnapped by Algonquin natives after her people colonize the land. Though the larger, devastating impact the arrival of the Puritans had on the Native Americans prevented me from seeing Rowlandson as pure good, having knowledge of her situation and what she had to go through with the killings of her children made me feel for her. I was able to understand the lives and conditions of groups and connect their situations to others based on their treatment at this time in history, showing the similarities between those which are often thought to be alien to each other. Furthermore, I was able to make well-informed interpretations by considering the historical and social cues indicated within the texts. During my reading of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Man, for example, I was able to pick up intertextual connections to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France to determine Wollestonecraft’s work was a scathing critique of Burke; furthermore, I evaluated how they constructed their claims and what they neglected to consider. However, though I found similarities and positives where I didn’t see them before in opposing perspectives, I still had to make judgments on what was the most ethical and right. 

These conflicts and perceptions of years past have allowed me to make sense of issues and dilemmas that face current societies. In today’s times, I feel there is a lack of understanding between people and individuals are confined to their spheres of what they see as proper beliefs and practices. Thinking solely within the framework of these spaces limits us from seeing how our ideas and ethics can be hurtful or flawed; this is where ethics become skewed. Challenging my own ideals was difficult at times but necessary in forming an improved worldview and ethics system. In Professor Martín-Rodríguez’s, for instance, U.S. Latino/a Literature course, we discussed the paradox in the term “Latino/a” and how in encapsulating all Latinx communities, the term is actually less inclusive. The word puts the unique ethnic groups and cultures of Latin America into a monolithic group where everyone is smashed into a single identity. I never realized how much of a problem this is, perhaps because I’m Mexican and one of the nationalities most referenced as Latinx. However, reading various works from countries across Latin America, and the struggles they’ve faced at the hands of other Latinx communities and countries like the U.S., allowing me to gain awareness of the toxicity these ethics have on others and prompting my to modify my views accordingly. 

My development as an English major has endowed me with crucial interpretive strategies that have prepared me for contexts outside the English discipline. This past semester I worked as a Peer Writing Consultant at the University Writing Center and referenced my English studies constantly. During my consultations with students, I shared with them the importance of understanding audience and tailoring their word choices to best accommodate their reader. Students and I collaborated by them receiving an outside perspective on their topic and overall writing; on my end, I took in what they wanted to materialize their ideas onto paper. debate what way of writing was the clearest method in effectively communicating their argument. This process was not only done for assignments for the Writing program but also for STEM subjects like engineering and physics. With these interactions with texts and people, I realized interdisciplinary nature of English studies and how it bleeds into numerous fields. Scientists for instance have to consider what others have found through their interpretations of certain experiments. Similarly, English major must evaluate what scholars have already said about certain texts and determine what hasn’t already been looked at. And of course, clear communication and argument construction is vital in these fields and others to give efficacy and importance to their beliefs. The wonder of this is new ideas will continue to arise and new knowledge will flourish.

Beyond the social and academic applicability of the study of literature, my experience as an English major has also helped me gain an appreciation for writing and the arts in general. I’ve enjoyed seeing the visual and auditory evolution of the English language from the Old English version of Beowulf, Middle English of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, to the more modern English of William Shakespeare and learning of the influence various languages had on contemporary English. More importantly, I’ve loved seeing the integration and acceptance of non-English language into the literature canon, such as Chicano Caló. In addition, the various works of art I had to analyze in my English classes, helped me visually see the beauty of texts and realize the interpretive properties art overlaps with literature in. These trends have helped redefine what exactly counts as literature and has extended the reach of the English field. And while I might look at these works, in addition to literature, through one or a few lenses, there will always be countless, equally as valuable interpretations that I must take in. With what I’ve gained from the major, I am more than equipped to endeavour on this journey through this convoluted world.

Works Cited

Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. Trans. Seamus Heaney. New York: Norton, 2000.

Burke, Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in France. Romanticism: An Anthology, by Duncan Wu, 3rd ed., Malden-Blackwell, 2012, pp. 7-16.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. The Broadview Anthology of British Literature Volume 1: The Medieval Period, by Joseph Black et al, 3rd ed., Broadview Press, 2014, pp. 427-82.

Rowlandson, Mary. Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. Project Gutenberg,

Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of the Rights of Men. Online Library of Liberty. <;


An original meme for your enjoyment.

-Wendy Gutierrez

Throughout my undergraduate English career, I’ve had many opportunities to reevaluate the world around me through the context of insightful literary works and activities, as well as improve my critical thinking and writing skills. From what began as a doubtful decision towards a path that I had previously given up on turned into field that I have developed a passion and confidence for that I never knew I would obtain. Now, I have an abundance of varied perspectives and the necessary skills to reliably look at different viewpoints of the human psyche and articulate my thoughts in a developed proposition, showing me the complexities of the human soul that that our world cannot fully realize.

I first had to face my own complexities as a writer before I could attempt to understand the complexities of others. One of the biggest hurdles I faced before I qualified as an adequate English student was polishing my writing skills starting from introductory writing courses. Even though I had the determination to express my thoughts through words, I lacked the critical mindset I needed to not only appropriately analyze literary works that largely deal with layered human beings and problems, but relate those concepts back to my own humanity in order to create a unique and meaningful interpretation that was also faithful to the real world. This empathetic approach was also key in creating an elaborate analysis, as putting myself in the shoes of characters in a literary works makes me better understand overarching literary themes. For example, when writing an essay for my American Literature class, even though I could never understand the oppression that African American women in the 1920’s faced that caused some to pass as white like in Nella Larsen’s Passing, I could imagine various feelings tied to such a stress-inducing situation by changing my perspective and seeing how it would have an adverse effect on people and society at large, such that the main characters would need to hide an identity they are proud of in order to obtain the exclusive privileges they need to thrive in life. This kind of expansion on ideas through closer examination of characters was one of the most important factors I was missing in my writing, and I’ve only improved since then. What once used to be my attempts to write ambiguous essays with no clear direction has now turned into a defined process that I use to make supported claims that might give a clear direction to other people facing dissonance in the world.

While literature has many goals and interpretations, one reoccurring concept that William Blake has inspired me to find in my experiences is just how at odds people and their potential are with the real world and the challenges they face to express their complex nature. Much of the literature I’ve read in my years as an undergraduate have shown me people’s strong tenacity and determination to find fulfillment in a world that often throws more hardships and tragedies that aim to stop them rather than help them.  Referring back to Passing as an example, Clare Kendry, the woman who passes, strives to stand out as her own individual in a world and time that does not accept her race and as a consequence, societal oppression kills her when it finds out the truth (Larsen). While promoting self-growth and expression and condemning the prejudice that restricts it seems like the appropriate change the world needs, Blake’s philosophy of contraries show that individualism and discrimination will never reconcile into permanent change that reflects the complexities of people.  Even if that change does happen, overtime one contrary will take over another until the two are at odds again. Though these complexities cannot be realized in the real world, they can always be realized in Blake’s world of the poetic genius and imagination, the world that literature and composition itself belongs to.  Through writing, just as I’ve done in all of my writing assignments, one can form an argument that weighs multiple potential contraries in order to find a solution that satisfies the needs of all of them, a solution that will not always be guaranteed to work in the real world. Blake’s imaginative world, the world of art and literature he chose to live in for most of his life, is the only way people can get close to express their complexities about the world they live in in a manner that exposes its contraries and critically analyzes them to find some form of harmony. Though this poetic harmony might be short lived, the only way people can push for their complex ideas of change and challenge the notions of the world that hold them back is to keep partaking in Blake’s imaginative world of art and literature and revising arguments through various contraries in order to maintain a healthy sense of self-awareness and knowledge of human complexities. Even if people have written or read works whose topics have already been covered, it is always worth bringing one’s own interpretation to not only learn about aspects of a topic not explored before, but also to keep revisiting important and complex human emotions and ideas to remind oneself about their own layered existence that might not always be apparent in the real world.

Works Cited



–Jose Ramirez


Priscilla Ortega

English 190

Professor Garcia

10 December 2019

The Journey: An insight as an English major

As a young freshmen at the University of California, Merced, I was unaware of what exactly is to be an English major and the change it takes upon your life. I grew up in South Central, Los Angeles, which is an area that consist of homelessness, poverty, and lack of funding from the government. In addition, the lack of funding that is implemented throughout the schools didn’t allow students to have a successful educational goal, yet I decided to make this a reason to uplift my spirit of becoming a lawyer. I had chosen Political Science as my major before taking classes at the UC, but my passion is reading and writing, which made me switch to English. As an English major, it has overworked and overwhelmed my whole body, mind, and spirit. However, I’ve learn to observe life in different perspectives, to acknowledge my surroundings, to pay attention to small things that can be meaningless, and to realize my purpose in life.

 The English Program learning outcomes are a brief reflection of what is expected as an English major once you have finish your undergraduate studies. First, I can easily “interpret texts with due sensitivity to both textual and contextual cues” by understanding the background of the texts, then exploring the cues that are highlighted to comprehend the purpose of the texts. For example, William Blake’s Blake Poetry and Designs book is a very difficult text to read, which requires to research further upon Blake’s sexual and political ideas that allows the reader to receive a glimpse about the cues in the text. Like reading the text, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790), requires the reader to search keywords in the Blake dictionary to know certain figures, phrases, and history about the text. I’ve used words like Satan, Milton, and God to understand what Blake is speaking about and in what context is he using these words. Also, I’ve been able to “articulate an appreciation of the aesthetic qualities of texts by the standards of their times and places” by realizing the importance those specific qualities serve and inform the reader about a deeper meaning behind these texts. For example, Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley, demonstrates a small preview about the imaginative future that consist of genetically making babies in an engineering factory where parents do not exist. Here, it shows the appreciation of aesthetics such as future doctors and nurses, the process of creating genetically engineered babies, and the weird sexual attraction between characters that forms informal relationships. These qualities help analyze the bigger picture that surrounds this novel by highlighting how the real damage in society arises from parents that have endure trauma and create babies. In other words, parents are delivering unhealthy babies, which leads to genetically building these babies in order to have healthy individuals. Another English outcome I have succeeded is to “demonstrate historical, geographic, and cultural empathy by reading texts written in other times, places, and cultures.” For example, I have read the book Our Nig by Harriet E. Wilson, which requires the reader to have empathy upon the character Frado, but also to have empathy on the issues of racism. The character Frado is a mulatto child that works as a servant for a white family where she gets mistreated daily. Also, the dilemma of racism is a prominent factor in the story because it requires understanding of the racial slurs and the title to acknowledge the severity that racism engraves in one’s life. Furthermore, two other important English outcomes I have succeeded is to “apply interpretive strategies developed in literary study to other academic and professional contexts” and to “write cogently and sensitivity to audience.” The strategy of writing and developing a coherent thesis has been the most useful tool because I have used it in other non-English classes that has helped me formulate successful papers. I have taken CRES courses that require extensive essays and I have utilize this tool to achieve a good paper. Also, all of my English professors have ensured to always be aware of your audience and the culture of the environment. I have learned to understand one’s background before speaking upon a topic because it’s important to make your audience feel comfortable and relatable. To understand the time and geography of one’s writing position is super important for an audience. Overall, I feel confident that I have accomplished and succeeded in the learning outcomes of the English Program.

My writing process from a freshmen in college to a current senior has improved immensely. I remember I was lazy, sloppy, and unaware of the repetitive mistakes I continuously made as a writer, yet these mistakes made me realize I had potential to improve my writing skills in Dr. Hakala’s class. I would write reflections that had to answer certain questions based on a prompt where I would only answer half of those questions and receive half credit. I would be confused on why my grade was extremely low, but my writing skills weren’t fully developed. Dr. Hakala humbled my qualities as a writer because she pushed me to understand that writing consist of more than just a simple thesis, but to know how to apply texts and the real world together and create a sense of reality. Now, I am able to develop a coherent and well supported thesis by knowing what I am arguing, what evidence I have to support my argument, and why is my argument of any importance. This process has been difficult and tiring, but worth the quality skills it has brought into my writing journey.

At first ,the English Program seem bland and boring because I didn’t know what to expect besides reading and writing. However, after I took professor Nigel Hatton’s class Existentialism &Phenomenology, I changed my view in life. This class made me realize the person I am, the person I am becoming, and the person I could potentially be. Essentially, it conveyed the theme of self-reflecting in order to survive as an individual. I learned that one’s life shouldn’t depend on the materialistic, political, and social aspects that surround your life because you will lose yourself in the process. Life is about experimenting the self instead of living under the norms of society and trying to surpass the roots that allegedly entail a perfect life. It’s to isolate the self from other individuals and the world to find one’s true self. Moreover, the driving question I will always keep in mind is what is the act of existing, the purpose of existing, and the purpose in life ?


Works Cited

Blake, William. Blake’s Poetry and Designs. New York, NY, United States of America,     Norton, 2008.

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World.
Wilson, Harriet E., et al. Our Nig, or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black: Or, Sketches  from the Life of a Free Black. Penguin Books, 2009.


A Line in the Sand


A Line in the Sand

By: Christopher Ingle

“Morality, like art, means drawing a line somewhere.”-Oscar Wilde

One would not normally consider a degree in English studies to be one full of questions about morality and right from wrong. Most view the study of English as just reading through books and looking at something that an author long dead said so many years ago. I have come to know during my time of study that this degree offers so much more than a look into the word of a dead writer. It has offered me a chance to look deeper at myself and to question the kind of person I want to be and the kind of world I want to live in. The center of everything I have studied comes down to morals and ethics.

            Professor Kaiser’s class on the works of Oscar Wilde gave me a moment where I took something I read in class and immediately related it to a world event going on that very day. It is no secret now that Wilde was into men but couldn’t be open about it. He was afraid of the persecution (both social and legal) if he were to be found out. One of the novels he didn’t write on the subject of love but we read in class was A Marriage Blow Zero by Alan Dale. It involved two men who could not be together because of the laws in England at the time. In the end of the novel, one of the main characters committed suicide as he felt he would have rather died than not be with his love (Dale). On the same day I read this, President Trump made an executive order banning same sex partners of foreign dignitaries and their staff to be granted Visas into the United States (“US Ends”). This set me off. Reading a story of two people who were not allowed to be together due to the rules of a close-minded state and seeing real life events of a close minded man keeping people who love each other from being together simply because he did not accept their definition of love set me off. I did not feel this was right. As a Christian I was torn. I understood what my beliefs told me, but I couldn’t help but think back to that story, and how none of these people had done anything wrong but love. That day in class I had an angry rant about this story and Trump. I realized later that ethically I didn’t agree with something in my world. I was inspired by studying a piece of literature well over 100 years old. If part of ethics is stranding up for what is right, then at that moment, in that classroom when I ranted publicly about the unfairness I saw, I did the right thing

It did not stop there. A semester later there was a protest on campus against a group of pseudo-Christians who were spouting hate speech against the LGBTQ community. My co-worker and good friend is a lesbian. She stood with her LGBTQ friends and peacefully protested the words this group was saying. As I heard this group using the words of God to promote hate, something welled up inside me just as it had when I read that book. I made my way through the large crowd gathering to view this spectacle and I defended my LGBTQ friend and her friends. I am not a person who deals with confrontation well, but I felt strongly I needed to stand up and fight for what was right, the same way I did in class. So I did, and I began to think of the bible and what I had learned and quickly shot down every twist of scripture they spouted with what the bible actually says. For a moment, I could critically process what this group was telling me, and counter it with logic and love.

This English degree has done wonders for helping me to gain confidence and to think of my world more actively and more critically. Ethics and morals are not always easy concepts to grasp, and time tends to change the world’s view of what is ethical and moral. I personally find that I turn more to what my bible says about issues in the world today, but with a more critical eye. Not necessarily critical of the Bible, but of what the world is showing me compared to what I can learn in The Good Book. I know this isnt about my faith or the validity of my beliefs, but it is about using the tools we have learned and to always stand on the side of good and to make our world a better place.

In looking at the specifics of what the University expects me to walk away with, the main one I seem to be focusing on is to demonstrate historical, geographic, and cultural empathy by reading texts written in other times, places, and cultures. I feel strongly that my time here has been spent doing this constantly. Whether it is an author of another century, and author from a different faith background, or even sometimes an author who is every bit the opposite of my beliefs, I have found myself more and more trying to listen to the words, taking them in, and instead of finding reasons to dismiss them based on my biases, finding what I agree with, and trying to see the world from their point of view. Ethics is all about empathy and doing the right thing. We cannot hope to live an ethical and moral life if we are close minded to what others have to say and feel. It is not my job to destroy ideas, it is my job to respect them. That is also what ethics is about…respect.

My final paper in English 190 is all about Charles Dickens and the formation of the Middle Class in the 19th century. I am not a personal fan of the writings of Dickens, but in evaluating works like Oliver Twist, Christmas Carol, Hard Times, and Pickwick Papers I discover the humanity of what he was writing and more about the people he was trying to help. Ethics is about making a difference for good. Dickens moved me to write about helping people as an individual, the same message that Jesus himself spread in his ministry.

I think at the end of the day, this degree is a reminder of empathy, conviction, and human compassion and tolerance. We have a responsibility to take the knowledge we learn here and to make our world a better place. That is our ethical and moral responsibility as members of the human race. It will not be easy, but stepping out into the world after today, I am ready to draw my line and take a stand.


Works Cited

Dale, Alan. A Marriage Below Zero.  Broadview Press Ltd. 2018

“US Ends Diplomatic Visas for UN Same-Sex Partners.” BBC News, BBC, Oct. 2, 2018,

Alejandro Joseph Serrano

Professor Humberto Garcia

Senior Thesis: William Blake

10 December, 2019

Reflection: My Time as an English Major

The story in which I became an English major is not an ordinary tale for readers. In order to understand my academic career at the University of California, Merced, there is a bit of context needed for the tale to make more sense for readers. First of all, I did not enter the University as an English Major, but rather I entered undeclared with an interest in business and economics. However, I was a mess; I didn’t go to class regularly, the classes I took didn’t go anywhere near the requirements I needed, and I was doing more extracurricular than homework. In my second semester of my freshman year, I had decided to leave the University of my own volition. I eventually went to work for a few months when I was given the opportunity to go to community college in Berkeley. 

It was there that I had taken my first college English course, where I believed that I would go over many of the same themes and practices I had encountered back in high school. However, that class was unlike any that I had taken in the past; my professor, Karen Seneferu, had taught me and my fellow students about the ascribed dichotomy found in our lives, how there was prejudice and racism in different facets of society, and how education had become a process in which students are trained to become corrected civilians.The class had opened my eyes to the true realities of the world around me. Armed with a copy of bell hook’s Teaching to Transgress, Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and a paper-back copy of the 8th edition of Rereading America, I was taught how to better critically analyze everything from provided literature to U.S. society to my own self. I had critically analyzed  works from British authors in the late 1700s to African authors in the 2010s, developing a sense of deeper understanding, appreciation, and increased awareness when it came to studying English. This class led me on a journey  to better developing skills to dissect the educational institutions of the United States and oppressive countries in order to try to understand how the world works and can be changed by implementing better educational practices and theories.

It was then, one night during my first semester, I had received a dream where I had come back to the University and would graduate in 2020. When I woke up, I knew that I had to achieve my literal dream and return to UC Merced. In my second semester, I had taken four classes in order to reinstate into the University as an English major. In what should have taken two years I was able to do in one. Finally, after writing several papers about the school system in the United States and how they reinforce class and social structures in the population, I was back on track with my education at the UC. When I reinstated, I was given specific classes that I needed to take in order to essentially prove that I was worth keeping at the University, one of which was Environmental Ethics in Beast Fables. This was the one class I had taken that had solidified my love for the English major as I had been introduced to one Professor Humberto Garcia. It was through his mentorship that I developed a deeper understanding and stronger strategies in order to better analyze and translate themes and concepts from literature in order to convey messages from different parts of the world from both Aesop’s Fables and The Case of the Animals versus Humans

Over the course of my academic career, I found that I learned a lot of different styles in which to tackle writing in order to best appropriately convey my understanding for different audiences, be it either looking at things from a feminist lens (with proper respect towards the subjects involved) to examining symbols from a Marxist lens. The class that helped me best to develop these skills was another Humberto class: Foundations of Literary Study. I did not expect to take a class in my lifetime that would teach me how to read as a 20-year-old student, but I was surprised as it had expanded my worldview even further in a way that allowed to write so that my audience can better understand my writing, as well as making the content more easily digestible and accessible. And this class did not only generate new ways for me to look at literature in general, but via the mechanism of Frankenstein, it taught me a lot more about morality and ethics as a person so that I myself could learn to become better as both a writer and being. Through Frankenstein was I able to ethically understand more about the human condition than through discovering the dichotomy of man and monster from both the titular character and his creation.

And the final class that I feel had impacted me the most in my road of English excellence was, and currently is, my Senior Thesis class which focuses primarily on the works of Blake and the many ways in which he brilliantly wrote his work in so many different ways. Because of this class, we had learned about the many feminist messages in his works, how he critiques many different offices of authority, and how he establishes a mythos on a mission to reinscribe the message to protect the self’s understanding. In this class I developed a more critical eye for writing, and I was happy to learn more mind-expanding ideas from my most favorite professor that the University, as he had been there since I reinstated and worked with me to both accommodate my situations. It’s really with Humberto’s help that I made it this far, and I want to give him my undying gratitude for all the effort he put into me in order to see me succeed. It is with his help that I was able to develop the most in understanding ethics and morality in a way so both my writing and personal understanding became stronger.


Thank you Professor.


Works Cited


Aesop. The Complete Fables. England, Penguin Group, 1998.

Blake, William. Blake’s Poetry and Designs. New York, NY, United States of America, Norton, 2008.

Colombo, Gary. Rereading America. Boston, Massachusetts, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York, NY, United States of America, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006.

Goodman, Lenn. The Case of the Animals Versus Man Before the King of the Jinn. Oxford, England, Oxford University Press, 2009.

hooks, bell. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York, NY, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 1994.

Shelly, Mary. Frankenstein. Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016.

Before applying to UC Merced, or any university at all, I was always hesitant about what I wanted to do with my future. Being an only child alongside my mother in the small crowded area of Koreatown with Los Angeles was a struggle. The bills pile up while our way of living was never improving. I never complained because I was quite happy with how my life was. I had everything I wanted and was always grateful for what my mother provided me. When my acceptance letters arrived, I was proud of the efforts that my academic advisor, and I put towards my applications. It was down to two: UCLA and UC Merced. UCLA was always my dream school and was at my highest when it came to my morale after high school. But I couldn’t afford it. And what hurt me, most was the cost of both tuition and living. I couldn’t afford it, or more specifically my mother. It wasn’t impossible, but it surely would’ve brought more economic struggles rather than it being beneficial for my academics. I love my mother because I knew I could’ve attended UCLA because she would’ve done the impossible for me to attend. Why I decided to attend UC Merced. It was more manageable, and during these four years, I knew I made the right decision.

Over the first half of college years, I was a political science major and that was a challenge alone. I struggled, and that changed my morale in my first semester. With that, it caused me to change my major to the profession I began to love, English. By the second semester of my first year of college. I was introduced to amazing Professors that showcased my English literature and made me love the various amount of authors along as. From Oscar Wilde with Literature and Sexuality with Matthew Kaiser to Literature after 1945 with Nigel Hatton, I never expected to love literature so much as I do today. Although I never showcased my admiration for the literature that I was shown, I’m eternally grateful for the professors that I have taught myself along as. I can’t say it has been easy because quite it wasn’t. I was challenged way more than I ever anticipated. But with what I’ve learned throughout my years here, I knew my classes were worthwhile finally. These courses have taught me how powerful literature can be, words tell much more than just a simple story. When analyzed correctly, a single sentence can be further examined into a beautifully crafted essay, and those ways of conveys, one’s thought and perception into writing are what enabled one to become a more outgoing individual compared to years in high school.

I’ve learned that literature teaches more than simply only history. It establishes what the history itself sets before the society we live today and how much of an impact we get from what we read. Today, I’ve learned so much from many authors around the world, and I can say I’m yet to scratch the surface of what my horizons can be expanded through literature. From the courses I’ve taken, I learned about people I never knew existed, different studies that I never knew I would be fascinated by. With writing, I learned to express myself more fluently as I venture forth to a better understanding of the English language.

4 years, I’ve been attending UC Merced, and it’s crazy the amount of Professors I had the privilege to have taken a course from. If I could, I would thank every them, but I can proudly say that they’re too many to even count. It’s funny to think that before attending UC Merced, my mother, and I was hesitant that we were doing the right thing. Regardless of the distance, regardless of the cost, regardless of anything at all, it was probably the best decision I’ve made for my academic career. My ability to write and set up my ideas has grown much more than I could imagine over the years. And with the current courses like British Literature, Queer Studies, and William Blake, I know my horizons can only expand more henceforth. Not everything was always easy for me, I still struggled and faced many scenarios where I thought I would fail and be stuck in a mental loophole. These are the things that I strive to surpass because this event could’ve prevented me from going forward with my academics during high school, years back. I have learned to write in different ways in many fields of studies, I never felt so confident in my literature until I would showcase them to my family back home. I grew into a different person than when I left, and it was for the best.

I don’t know what my life would be if I never applied to UC Merced, but life had its own reasons to put me here. As an undergraduate student, I’ve learned to productively annotate and analyze scholarly articles that can strengthen my theses, and hanks to courses like Intro to Shakespeare, the Life of Oscar Wilde, and Senior Thesis in William Blake, I can set up more concrete ideas and use more suitable rhetorical strategies in the authors’ work to expand my paper alongside my understanding of the courses. That being said, the courses are extremely heavy with literature which I never understood until reading and extensively analyzing them on my time. There’s nothing like reading a text you’ve never read before because it molds you into a better writer than you once before being introduced to new material. Finally, I believe I’ll never have enough literature. I crave to learn more as my education comes to a close, and I’m quite confident that once I graduate, I’ll establish with what I learn and teach my family and peers along the way with what I have learned throughout my time at the UC Merced. The tools I’ve learned throughout my time here not only provide me to better understand the unknown, but it’s what will help me structure my writing to make an impact upon the world.

– Stephen Munoz

Looking back on the beginning of my college venture, I came in as a biology major. Those classes weren’t my style, but I was enjoying my writing courses and English course with Professor Matthew Kaiser. I got to meet other English majors and decided to change my major. The next class I took was professor Garcia’s English 10 course, Foundations of Literary studies; in this class we read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, I found it intriguing how I could spend an entire semester on one book and not run out of topics to tie it back too. You may be wondering, are all these classes doing any good for the students taking them? I argue that the answer to that is yes. Personally, all these English classes have helped me grow as a writer and a reader; I am more aware of the different writing styles and topics in all aspects from the early fourteenth century to the nineteenth century. I have come to learn how to interpret texts by textual and contextual clues in a wide variety of close reading assignments. In example, I took the sixth and seventh paragraphs, a total of only a few sentences put together, of chapter twenty-three to demonstrate that, Dr. Frankenstein has a selfish desire for isolation, which most people don’t see; this is important because by the creature “helping” him fulfill this desire he [the creature] is being perceived as a monster.

I have demonstrated historical, geographical, and cultural empathy in my writing by reading texts written in other times, places, and cultures. An example of this is when I wrote the paper for Nigel Hatton’s Literature and/in/of/or Philosophy class in which I titled, Plato, the Hypocrite and his Misunderstanding of Poetry’s Relations. In this paper I argue that Plato’s view on poetry in The Republic is wrong because we need poetry and other poetic forms of expression in order to develop the cognition of ethics; especially the relationship between the values of the individual versus the values of the polis such as those found in Sophocles’ Antigone. With this paper I take aspects of various writers such as J.P Euben, Seamus Heaney, Martha Nussbaum, and Plato and demonstrated how to tear down Plato’s view that poets have no place in works of philosophy. By obtaining poetic styles such as those found in Seamus Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes: A Version of Sophocles’ Antigone; justice should be a choice, it should fall either between the narrowness of poetic (individual) values, like it does for Antigone and the one-sidedness values going along with the polis, as it does for Creon all while still having an option of intertwining together, the way Hegel views it. I argue that Plato’s view on poetry in The Republic is wrong because we need poetry and other poetic forms of expression in order to develop the cognition of ethics; especially the relationship between the values of the individual versus the values of the polis such as those found in Sophocles’ Antigone. This paper helped me articulate my appreciation of philosophy and poetry by demonstrating its aesthetic qualities of these multiple texts used in this paper.

In taking professor Martin-Rodriguez’s class over the summer, I was able to break free of stereotypes and connect knowledge in relation to Children’s Literature with a Latino Reference. In this paper I discussed how in chapter Seven of Clark’s, Multicultural Literature for Latino Bilingual Children: Their Words, Their Worlds, DeNicolo covers how it is important to tie knowledge into the language arts by using Latino children’s literature. She does this in a way that most readers don’t see, by connecting it to sociocultural, and multicultural aspects which only Latino children will be able to identify and relate too. This paper and the one I wrote about Chapter three of Clark’s, Multicultural Literature for Latino Bilingual Children: Their Words, Their Worlds helps me go beyond the traditional stereotypes and foster identity of Latino/a children by connecting them with relevant cultural literature. Whether a child is an immigrant themselves, a second-generation immigrant or a citizen from a line of previous generation immigrants, all are from what Clark calls “heterogeneous [Latino] cultural backgrounds” (51).

These two essays have helped me satisfy the learning outcome where we are encouraged to write contently and with sensitivity to audiences. By discussing topics such as stereotypes in children’s literature helps to demonstrate the importance of knowledge. This knowledge isn’t just important for European American students, but its empowering to Mexican American students. It empowers them to embrace their funds of knowledge that the European American student may not have and portray it onto all concepts of academia. All of this is done while simultaneously attributing sociocultural perspective on literacy and multicultural aspects of children’s literature.

The class that has been the most influential on my English career has been my English 190 class. This English class has helped me realize that through William Blake’s works he has done a tremendous job of reaching a wide variety of people. I like to think of Blake as an influencer, he essentially demonstrates what it means to be critical of the self and the values we have in society. The first work I read by Blake brought up the Poetic Genius and how we are all the Poetic Genius in our lives through things such as experiences. We need the grey areas in our lives in order to demonstrate the contrary states Blake discusses throughout his work that fits in with our morality and ethics. Some struggles that I have encountered throughout my courses are grasping the complex ideas and struggling whether to incorporate moral ideas into my writing. It was an interesting aspect to concept with other ideologies, where Blake helps interlude the displacement of social constructs that helps further directs us as readers go beyond their own social realities. This also helps place the reader within other realms that help them grow personally. I believe that this struggle was an important one for me to obtain because without this there would be no connection for me to draw on in my major English class. All these literature classes at UC Merced help to provide a truthful discourse that incorporates knowledge which enforces ethical and moral aspects of one’s self, much like Blake himself.

Works Cited

Blake, William, et al. Blake’s Poetry and Designs. 2nd ed., W.W. Norton, 2008.

Clark, Ellen Riojas, et al. Multicultural Literature for Latino Bilingual Children: Their Words, Their Worlds. Lanham, MD: Rowman& Littlefield, 2016. [some chapters are required reading; the rest are suggested readings].

Euben, J P. The Tragedy of Political Theory: The Road Not Taken. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1990. Print.

Heaney, Seamus, and Sophocles. The Burial at Thebes: A Version of Sophocles’ Antigone. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004. Print.

Nussbaum, Martha C. Sophocles’ Antigone: Conflict, Vision, and Simplification. The Fragility of Goodness, Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 52- 83. Print.

Plato. The Republic, Lerner Publishing Group, 2015. ProQuest EBook Central,

Shelley, Mary,Frankenstein, 3rdedition (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016)

-Alina Cantero