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Laurie Lyda Wins International Essay Contest

120501essay_dl.jpgBy James Nix

BOONE — Laurie Lea Lyda prepared her senior thesis for her English degree from Appalachian State University with no idea it would later win an international essay contest.

The 25-year-old from Lincolnton wrote her 1998 thesis on Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice.” Now a graduate student at Appalachian, she entered the essay under her advisor’s recommendation to the Jane Austen Society of North America’s 2001 essay contest.

The essay Lyda submitted was a revised version of her senior thesis, “To Be Fond of Dancing Was a Certain Step Towards Falling in Love.”

Lyda’s winning essay focused on the symbolism of dance in “Pride and Prejudice.”

She

said dance is a metaphor for courtship and marriage in the novel.

Lyda believes dance, overall, is a metaphor for life and she looks for its meanings in other novels she reads.

Lyda won the graduate level award in the contest, which included over 100 entries from around the world.

She received a $500 cash prize and admission and lodging at the Annual General Meeting of JASNA.

Her essay is published on the organization’s Web site JASNA.org.

Dr. Eldema Huntley, who was Lyda’s mentor for the JASNA contest, has played a key

role in Lyda’s success.

Lyda said Huntley always informs her of conferences that suit Lyda’s interest.

Huntley also directs Lyda’s independent study project. “She gives invaluable advice,” said Lyda.

“She is always willing to work with you and look over papers.”

When revising her paper, Lyda felt she knew the topic too well and couldn’t tell if she had her paper arranged in the best order. She said Huntley and friends helped her reach her final revision.

The Annual General Meeting of JASNA was held in Seattle, Washington, on Oct. 5-8, this year.

Held in the West Coast Grand Hotel, the conference was attended by more than 500 people.

It featured a concert and dances resembling Jane Austen’s regency period as well as mini conferences with keynote speakers.

“It was interesting to see how alive her works are to a lot of people,” said Lyda.

“It was really enlightening, it gave a lot of good information, it gave a new perspective on things.”

Lyda finishes her master’s degree in English this May, and says she may persue a Ph.D in eighteenth century-British literature.

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Picture Caption: Laurie Lyda, essay contest winner. (Appalachian photo by Sarah Stacke)