Dan Abella Graduates as an Outstanding Student of 2012

For the Love of Words

English Major Wins Top Honors at Symposium
Dan Abella Graduates as an Outstanding Student of 2012

Dan Abella isn't sure what career path he will follow, but he is certain he will pursue a passion for writing that he developed as an English major at the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences.

Abella, a recent graduate honored as one of the 2012 Outstanding Students, was awarded first place at this year's Undergraduate Student Symposium for his literary analysis and oral presentation titled, "You're a Good Man...Right?: A Deconstructive Analysis of Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man is Hard to Find."

In 2011, he won second place at the symposium for his paper "Peace Through Hostility: The Beats' Call for Equality Through Aggressive Poetic Imagery."

"Presenting at the symposium provides an opportunity for students to teach each other about our research and fields of interest. It extends learning outside the classroom and cultivates a respect for knowledge and questioning," said Abella, who was on the Dean's List for five semesters and served as a student officer in the Alpha Chi Honor Society and Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society.

"Hopefully, it inspires young individuals to make the world a better place."

His analysis of O'Connor's work "offers a sophisticated analysis of a story that, on the surface, appears to establish a simple dichotomy between good and evil," said Suzanne Ferriss, Ph.D., professor at the college. "In his essay, Dan submits the piece to a deconstructive analysis to demonstrate the complex dynamic in the text, demonstrating its essential moral ambiguity.

"The essay demonstrates Dan's talent for literary analysis of complicated texts, as well as his intellectual range. He discusses [French philosopher] Jacques Derrida's daunting philosophical and linguistic theories with admirable lucidity. In my view, the paper excels on every level."

A native of the Philippines, Abella chose the story because O'Connor–known to write in a Southern Gothic style–is one of his favorite American authors. Within the context of the college's 2011-2012 academic theme of "good and evil," Abella found that O'Connor's work explores complex topics of morality, as evident in A Good Man is Hard to Find.

"I am struck by her simple yet profound prose–unyielding and humorous–although always concerned with serious subjects," Abella said. "I wanted to present a strong, meaningful paper and touch on real-world consequences. Presenting her work was not only an intellectual exercise but a pleasurable experience."

Studying the work of authors such as O'Connor can be both inspiring and daunting.

"Surrounded by all these exemplary writers, I am simultaneously convinced that I will never be as good as them and that I can, with enough practice, supersede them all. That is the drive that fans the flames of passion even more."

Abella also pursued his love of literature and writing through his participation with Digressions, the college's student literary magazine. His poetry and award-winning short fiction were featured in two volumes of the magazine, for which he also served as an editor.

Even in high school, "I was one of those students who actually read the book for school, avoiding online summaries or study guides," he said. "But college classes really opened my eyes to the range and depth of literature. I was exposed not only to enlightening theories regarding the author, text, and reader, but I was directed toward some of the most moving works ever written.

"Attending classes with like-minded peers granted me multiple perspectives...reinvigorating the newness I see in literature. College introduces you to so many new perspectives, values, and beliefs."

Abella's plans include graduate school, where he can expand his study of the written word.

"I would love to do anything dealing with communication," he said. "Aside from the obvious paths of teaching and writing, I am interested in the editing and publishing process as well as avenues like advertising, journalism, or technical writing.

"Writing will be my eternal hobby, if not my vocation. I don't foresee myself ever stopping reading or writing."