Katie Poland | Outstanding Senior in English

Hometown: Elrod, Alabama

Favorite Experience: My favorite experience here at UA took place last semester, when I got to write my undergraduate thesis for Honors English. Since my freshman year, I knew that I wanted to write a thesis, but I wasn’t sure what subject I wanted to write it on. When I took my second British Literature class and read World War I poetry, I knew I had found my topic. By the time I was ready to take my thesis class, my thesis advisor, Dr. Steven Trout, met with me once a week to talk about my ideas and, once I started writing, to give me direction for revisions. I chose to discuss the impact that landscape had on two male and two female poets during World War I. I wanted to include women’s perspectives on the war because many male poets (specifically the two that I chose) insisted on silencing female poets’ voices at the time because they had not experienced war firsthand. I also decided to use artwork in my thesis to help show just how much the landscape changed for men and women at this time. One of my favorite things that I did for thesis research involved flying to Kansas City with one of my best friends to visit the National World War I Museum. After reading and doing a lot of research on the Great War, I got to see all the topics I’d been studying up close and in person. It was an incredible experience. When I finished my thesis by the end of the semester, I felt such a sense of accomplishment and I immediately wanted to write another one.

Favorite Class: In Fall 2020, I took EN 343, British Fiction to 1900, with Dr. Albert Pionke. This class has been one of my favorite classes ever. We read six novels: Joseph Andrews, The Castle of Otranto, Northanger Abbey, The City of the Jugglers, Lady Audley’s Secret, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. This class was challenging for me—there was a lot of reading, and Dr. Pionke challenged my writing in a way that no other professor had before. Our class periods were, quite honestly, more like a book club than a class, which made them even more fun for me. As an avid reader, getting to talk about books with other people who read them with me was incredible. My favorite book from the semester was Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret. This sensationalist fiction mystery was one of the best books I have ever read before. It was so fun to discuss our theories about the mysteries in class, and I tried very hard to figure it out before we finished the book (I had some success!). I never thought that a class could essentially become a book club with papers, but it was—and this format, as well as the books we read, made this class one of my absolute favorites during undergrad.

Future Plans: In Fall 2022, I will be coming back to UA to pursue my Master’s in English Literature. Right now, I’m planning to write my thesis on Vera Brittain, a World War I poet, and discuss the themes of grief, landscape, and womanhood found throughout her poetry. Once I have finished that, I intend to either teach at a private school or community college or pursue a career in publishing.