Saint Mary’s club promotes dialogue through literature, writing
Martha Reilly | Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Though the Saint Mary’s English Club learns from its past, lives in the present and plans for the future, no tense situations arise as members share their love for reading and writing.
Sophomore secretary Riley Harber said she enjoys expressing her love for literature outside of the classroom.
“I always value being a Saint Mary’s student just because I’m surrounded by so many wonderful people,” Harber said. “To be able to meet regularly in an environment with people like that and to talk about something that I love is just absolutely fantastic.”
Senior Sam Castaneda, who serves as president of the Saint Mary’s chapter of the International English Honor Society within the English Club, said the purpose of English Club is consistent with the College’s core values.
“Saint Mary’s is a liberal arts school that really emphasizes learning different areas, and it places a great emphasis on writing and on English [literature],” she said. “English [literature] brings people together, no matter the political stance or racial background. It unites people together.”
The club provides students with opportunities to converse with like-minded peers while growing in knowledge, according to Harber.
“They say ‘A book is a window to the soul,’ so it’s not only a way to learn about other people around you and to build your worldview, but it also creates the opportunity for a dialogue,” she said. “If two people read the same book, they talk about it and bounce their ideas off one another. They both come out of it with something new.”
English Club sparks dialogue about acclaimed literature, while also giving students an outlet to share their work and hear from others, according to Castaneda.
“It brings people from various backgrounds to one room to talk about literature and poetry from diverse writers,” Castaneda said. “Everyone gets to share ideas. Everyone is truly collaborating to … add on to that interesting conversation.”
Harber said the club plans to implement several new features this year, including creative writing workshops and book club meetings every two weeks.
“This is putting us out there a little bit more, having somewhere people can go bimonthly,” she said. “At Saint Mary’s, where the focus is on developing the whole individual, us[ing] literature as a way to create dialogue helps formulate the whole person.”
Castaneda said these English Club meetings will provide members with the opportunity to discuss their passions in a casual environment.
“It’s not like a structured class,” Castaneda said. “It’s more like, ‘Oh, cool poem. Let’s read.’”
Similarly, the Saint Mary’s branch of the English Honor Society, Alpha Xi Eta, is new this year, founded by Castaneda. She said she created the chapter after she realized how much the perks of membership would benefit qualified Saint Mary’s students.
“[Alpha Xi Eta] provides internship opportunities, graduate school guidance and financial assistance to attend conferences,” she said. “It’s a way to test out how much of a writer you really are. It kind of pressures you to meet new people. You’re in a community where everyone is really dedicated to being writers.”
Harber said everyone should feel welcome to join the club, regardless of background or major, since diverse perspectives provide members with new insights.
“You have people who spend their whole student lives at the moment studying and analyzing and reading, and to be able to break away from that, and get people who are into it because they really love reading and writing. … It’s fresh, and it’s new,” she said. “Literature not only entertains, but it teaches and informs. It helps people expand their horizons.”
Harber said English Club enhances the Saint Mary’s community and even improves members’ critical reading and writing skills while celebrating literature.
“The best writers are also good readers,” Harber said. “Not only does reading help expand your worldview, but it also helps you figure out how to put what you’ve learned and what you want to say out there concisely and in a way that other people can understand and be affected by.”