Catrina Schuler is a senior at Arizona Virtual Academy (AZVA) whose love for English literature helped earn her a top-3 spot in the 2017 Frankenstein Colloquium, which will be hosted by The Oakridge School in Arlington, Texas, on January 30.
The Oakridge School holds a colloquium each year on a different topic. This past summer was the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and because of this significant event, the school asked for essay submissions that focused on this Gothic horror story of a man’s science laboratory creation.
There were more than 200 submissions, and Catrina was one of two AZVA students who submitted their work.
“I love English!” Catrina said. “All the arts fascinate me, but English holds a special place in my heart. I love to analyze literature and connect it to other stories, especially finding modern connotations.”
Catrina was originally not going to enter the writing contest because of time constraints in other class and extracurricular projects. She happened to be working on a research essay for her British literature class that drew inspiration from Frankenstein, which she was reading in her Gothic literature course.
After her teacher, Allison Powell, read over her rough draft, she encouraged her to submit her piece to the colloquium. Her paper focuses on the psychological damage Victor Frankenstein did to the creature by rejecting him as “his child.”
“I ended up writing about parenting, developmental stages, and conventional standards of beauty as seen in Frankenstein,” Catrina said. “Reading the novel and studying it further in my Gothic literature class helped me realize some patterns. Who really was the ‘monster’ in Frankenstein? Is it possible the ‘poor parenting’ is the reason a monster versus a man was created? How does one handle rejection, both from parents and society?”
Catrina wasn’t expecting much to come from the essay submission.
“I submitted it with a ‘heck, why not?’ attitude, and had almost forgotten about it by the time I received the email,” Catrina said. “Ms. Powell was really the one who showed such faith in my writing that I would eventually turn it in.”
Allison Powell has been a teaching English at AZVA since the fall of 2009. Catrina is in her honors British and World Literature course this year.
“This is absolutely remarkable work for a high school student,” Allison said. “Catrina is an exceptional student. She thinks deeply about the content and the concepts that we cover, and she gives great consideration to prompts and questions posed in class. I always look forward to her assignment submissions, as she is always able to clearly – and engagingly – express her comprehension of the material.”
Catrina will present her paper during one of the colloquium workshops, along with the two other students whose papers were selected. During that time, she’ll workshop with participants to discuss and reflect on her thesis: “Victor Frankenstein’s ‘absent parenting,’ the creature’s developmental issues, and his inability to meet the conventional norms of the era led to the creation of the monster that has haunted Shelley’s masterpiece and readers’ minds for centuries.”