2013 Student of the Year Writes to Her Own Beat
in English Program
Sometimes, Sasha Strelitz feels like she was born too late.
“My entire childhood was saturated with 1960s' rock and folk music,” said Strelitz, a 2013 English program graduate of the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences whose passion for the literature of Beat Generation writers helped her win top honors at the Undergraduate Student Symposium.
Strelitz’s fascination with the Beat writers—whose anti-conformist movement in the 1950s was the prelude for the social revolution a decade later—began in the classroom with a course called The Beat Generation (HUMN 3400).
Taught by Lynn Wolf, Ph.D., associate professor at the college, the course was a catalyst for Strelitz, who already knew some of the popular literature of the Beat era.
“Dr. Wolf pushed me to dig deeper,” she said. “I realized that the 1960s’ social revolution—which went hand in hand with the music that fascinates me—would never have happened without the Beat Generation.
“Then I found Lawrence Ferlinghetti,” Strelitz said of the poet who co-founded City Lights Bookstore in 1953 in San Francisco. “I was intrigued by the fact that he published most of the Beat Generation literature and that he also wrote poetry himself.”
The result was “‘Ferling’: The Brightest City Light,” Strelitz’s analysis of the poetry written by Ferlinghetti, who is known for publishing the works of more prominent Beat writers such as Allen Ginsberg (Howl, 1956), William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch, 1959), and Jack Kerouac (On the Road, 1957).
“In my project, I sought to draw awareness to the fact that Ferlinghetti (nicknamed Ferling) is a quintessential Beatnik himself,” Strelitz said.
Strelitz reviewed five themes that run through the body of Beat literature: Eastern religious influences, drug experimentation, jazzy elements, unique poetic alignment, and the employment of Walt Whitman’s poetic methodology, which exemplifies free-verse form.
“Every Ferlinghetti poem I came across utilized almost all of these themes. My conclusion is, whether his name is known or not, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s writing style epitomizes the literature of the Beat Generation...and he helped spur a movement that would influence the next decade [the 1960s], which changed the Western world.”
Strelitz—chosen as the college’s Student of the Year at the 2013 Student Life Achievement Awards (STUEYS)—brought a passion for literature, writing, and ideas into the classroom.
“One of the great joys of being an English professor is encountering students who share not only a deep and empathetic appreciation of literature, but also feel a genuine passion for words, ideas, and the enduring power of both,” Wolf said. “Sasha has been such a student: a superb and sensitive writer, a remarkably mature reader, and an absolute show-stopper in every class. It is clear that she was born to appreciate the originality, independence, and bursting joy of life that resonate from the Beat writers... The Beats were a perfect catalyst for Sasha’s imagination because they were creative, original thinkers and writers who radiated passion.
“I share the excitement of all of her faculty mentors that Sasha is set to pursue graduate studies in literature. Generations of future students will benefit from her deep love and appreciation of literary work.”
In addition to her award-winning oral presentation about Ferlinghetti, Strelitz was honored at the 2013 symposium for her own poetry and short-fiction published in Digressions, the college’s student-run literary magazine.
“She won awards in two of three categories: poetry and short fiction. That’s a first,” said Suzanne Ferriss, Ph.D., professor at the college. “Sasha also possesses outstanding skills in analysis, interpretation, and writing. Inquisitive and well-read, she contributed insights in class discussions from her independent research and reading.”
A self-described bookworm, Strelitz aspired to become a fashion designer until she started college and discovered a stronger passion.
“I find it of vital importance to study culture, and I proudly tell people I study literature,” she said. “The study of literature analyzes the relationship between humanity and the imagination. As for my passion for writing, I once heard, ‘when you are a true writer, you don’t want to write, you need to write.’ I often find myself writing for hours—on napkins, on the newspaper, on a friend’s computer. I have even resorted to writing small codes on my hand so I won’t forget.
“I have always expressed myself by drawing or by writing. Some people have a natural propensity for sports and some for science and math. I could not stop writing even if I wanted.”
Strelitz plans to continue writing, present literary papers, and teach entry-level composition while she studies for a Master of Arts degree in literature at the University of Central Florida. She hopes to one day teach as a university professor.
“My dream goal is to also have a novel, memoir, and book of poems published.“Baby steps,” said Strelitz, whose journey is off to good start.