Awareness Through Literature

Kayleigh Rhatigan

Kayleigh Rhatigan '19  

A member of one of the oldest literary societies in the nation, Kayleigh Rhatigan ’19 has a natural inclination to see the world through a literary lens. By combining literature and the interdisciplinary approach of the liberal arts, she explores the human condition and questions the study of literature within the confines of privileged institutions. Learn more about her philosophy and her current study of Spanish in Ecuador and Argentina. 



Clubs and organizations:

Clarke Forum, Belles Lettres Literary Society, Swing Dance Club, Alpha Lambda Delta, Women’s Retreat Coordinator.


John Dickinson Scholar, Agnes Sterett Woods Prize Recipient, William K. Dare Honor Scholarship Recipient.

On choosing my major:

I have always loved reading and writing, and I enjoy exploring the world through a literary lens. I think most people assumed I would be an English major, so freshman year, I rebelled and declared a religion major, but it didn’t take long to realize that English was where I wanted to be. I am interested in psychology, history, political science, religion, science and art, and I am able to study all of them by studying literature. What fascinates me about literature is that it reveals something about the world it comes from.

Favorite book:

Changes constantly. Right now, Octavia Butler’s Earthseed books.

On choosing Dickinson:

Study abroad was a huge factor for me in choosing a college. It was clear that Dickinson had a wonderful study abroad program, and it was exactly the kind of small, liberal-arts learning environment I was looking for.

Favorite place on campus:

The Clarke Forum building on W. Louther St.

Favorite class/project/learning experience:

It’s a tie between almost every class I’ve taken in the English major! But I especially loved Literature of the Global South, with [Assistant Professor of English Sheela Jane] Menon. We addressed questions that are, in my opinion, fundamental to studying literature within privileged institutions, such as what literature is deemed worthy of study and how we classify literature differently depending on who wrote it and where they were born. Professor Menon introduced us to some amazing literature, ranging from short stories to resistance art, including one of my new favorite books, Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi.

As a kid, I wanted to be …

... a published author.

Most important lesson I’ve learned so far:

Being at Dickinson, I’ve learned to be more aware of the world around me. Growing up white and middle class, I was sheltered from many of the very real problems that marginalized people face in our country. Between my classes, the people I have met and recent events, I realized that it was time for me to wake up and take responsibility for my privilege.

Favorite professor:

My favorite professor is my advisor, [Associate Professor of English] Claire Seiler. It was her English 220 class that made me realize I wanted to be an English major, and ever since, she’s challenged me intellectually in and out of the classroom and supported me in all my endeavors. I can’t thank her enough!

Proudest accomplishment:

Speaking Spanish.

On studying abroad:

I am abroad right now, studying in Ecuador and Argentina. For me, the best part of being abroad is getting to speak Spanish. Even boring conversations are exciting, because the whole time I’m thinking, “I can’t believe I understand what this person is saying!”

Post-Dickinson plans:

While I don’t have any fixed plans, my dream is to be a writer. I have always loved fantasy novels, especially those written for children and young adults, and I have been writing long-form fiction since middle school. I’m working on a novel right now that I hope to publish someday—I just have to figure out what to do in the meantime!

Read more Student Snapshots.




Published December 16, 2017