Taylor Barfield

Why did you come to Willamette—and why major in English?

For the entirety of my college search I was set on attending a small(ish) school in the northwest, and my selection process ultimately boiled down to Willamette and a handful of its cousins (Lewis & Clark, Puget Sound, etc.). The financial aid package and enthusiastic reviews from people I knew rather well decided for me. At first I was a jot hesitant as to what I would major in. I thought and thought again of double-majoring, as though sandwiching myself between Spanish and Psychology would better defog my path through the groves of academe. However, I more than shuddered at the prospect of having two theses. So after much rationalization in the favor of struggling with only one, I plumped for Psychology but was swayed yet again by a War and Peace class to reconsider—I think it was around the 700-page mark—and see if English wouldn’t jibe with me more, which it did.

What activities have you been involved with outside the classroom, and how have those intersected with your classes?

I am President of the 2017 Class Council, a Writing Center consultant, part of Best Buddies, and I have been with the Catering Department since my first year here. I took early retirement from the Campus Life Honors and Awards Committee, and I was a Registration Advisor for a little bit. My time helping others with their compositional pieces (resumes, essays, cover letters, poetry) in the Writing Center has helped me as a writer, particularly in relation to how I revisit drafts with an eye more attuned to, for example, the ways in which I reinvigorate my argument under a pile of analytical work.

Care to share a little about your overseas experiences?

I studied abroad in Prague during the Fall of 2015, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. While enforcing normal requirements for class attendance, my program (the Undergraduate Program in Central European Studies) is also designed to promote cultural immersion in Prague and elsewhere. All students have at least three-days weekends to branch out and explore, and the program organizes field trips around the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, and Hungary. You are also a peer with Erasmus Program students from all over Europe. In just one class I had fellow students from France, England, Slovakia, Germany, Poland, Germany, Russia, and Serbia!

This past summer I was a private English tutor for a French family living thirty minutes by train outside of Paris in the cozy suburb of Saint-Leu-la-Forêt. With a good deal of free time, I made sure to be in Paris nearly every day, and if not there then somewhere else, as close as Brittany (paradisiacal crêpe-land) and as far away as Amsterdam (So.Many.Bikes.). Following that, I backpacked for a month around Italy.

Tell me about your senior thesis experience, please!

My thesis class tackled Junot Díaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and we were given the freedom to approach it in individualized ways according to our academic backgrounds and personal affinities. Our final essays were all between eighteen and twenty-two pages long, and of course we were at liberty to consult each other about whether or not any overlap in our arguments might yield neighborly citations and allusions.

I wrote about how, in the novel, post-colonialism in the Dominican Republic standardized and policed certain normative modes of behavior (particularly masculinity and whiteness) and how outcasts like Oscar suffered at the hands of that impossible ideology. Off the top of my head, I know that one of my peers did intertextual work with Julia Alvarez’s novel In the Time of the Butterflies; another delved into sci-fi references including The Lord of the Rings; and another sought to unpack the meaning of the golden mongoose in the novel.

What’s the future got in store? Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Right now I am applying for jobs teaching English as a second language in Japan, failing which I will try for Vietnam or Taiwan. In five years I reckon I might be working similar jobs, or I could just as well be in a graduate program to earn another degree. As likely as not, I’ll become a secondary schoolteacher, though I toy with the idea of journalism and from time to time becoming a professor.