December 2012 English Major of the Month
Emily KingHometown: Philadelphia, PA
Year in School: Senior
Picking a favorite is hard, but a book I read recently and loved was A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. It is funny, and everything the title promises and more. Plus I've heard through the grapevine that Dave Eggers is a pretty cool, nice dude, which I think must be true.
What has been your favorite English course at NYU?
I really loved the Melville Colloquium. I think he captured the 19th century better than any other writer at the time. We had a lot of fun, spirited conversations about living out at sea and plus, you can never talk about Moby-Dick too much. I've also loved the theory classes I've taken; one last semester on the Frankfurt School and one this semester on Derrida. I've been learning some very cool stuff about some very cool people.
What led you to become an English major?
I like books. They make the world more interesting, and they make me think, and question. I'm pretty sure every English major has those moments sometimes where he or she is reading a great book or poem and just constantly needs to stop, because it's too good to read. I'm in it because I get to have those moments while doing homework, and I get to write about how books make me feel.
What are your plans after graduation?
I've been having this fantasy about becoming a Midwest Whole Foods employee for a while now. While that may or may not happen, I also I want to pursue graduate school some time in the near future. If neither of these things works out, I'll probably stay in New York; good things seem to happen here.
What is the subject/title of your Honors Thesis?
For my honors thesis I'm looking at the way David Foster Wallace's language works to archive different definitions of affect. There are a lot of different ways society talks about feelings: in clinical terms, in pop culture, in highly theoretical ways, and I'm trying to figure out how novels--particularly the language of one person's novels--challenges these pre-existing notions of affect.
What do you do when you are not being an awesome English major?
Right now, I work at Fales Library and Special Collections on the third floor of Bobst. Working there is most definitely the coolest thing I have ever done, and my knowledge of books that comes from being an English major is a constant aid there. Fales is like a treasure chest full of gold that only an English major would be able to see (forgive the awful simile). Hundreds of thousands of British and American first edition books, and on top of that, some really cool archival materials from the downtown NY arts scene and the Riot Grrrl movement.
What was one of your favorite experiences as an English major?
Once I went to a reading being offered by the department. It was a pretty fancy event, and afterwards there was a cheese and cracker table in the back. Naturally, I gravitated toward that table after the talk. I started sampling various cheeses and crackers, and a man came up to the table looking very kind, also looking very interested in the cheese. So I started talking with him about what my favorite combos were, and we chatted for a couple minutes about crackers before he moved away. Then my friend came up to me and asked me what I was talking about with Tavia Nyong'o!! I had unknowingly started an extremely boring cheese-related conversation with a critical theorist I had read in textbooks. Just goes to show that you never know who you will meet at the cheese tables of those events.
What kinds of courses would you like see offered more in the future?
I think in the past couple of years, the department has offered many more contemporary classes, which is exciting to see. I guess I would also advocate for having more theory classes, because I think theory is an important and rewarding thing to engage with. In my craziest of dreams the department would have a class where the professor would choose two random authors out of a hat on the first day of class and see what they have in common. Like Anthony Burgess and Charlotte Bronte, or Denise Levertov and Leo Tolstoy. Now that would be kooky, but I admit that it also has the potential to be absolutely awful.
What advice would you give to students considering majoring in English at NYU?
Don't let other people convince you not to, if it's what you want. Or even if you're unsure. Skills that you get from an English degree will translate to so many other things in your future life. The things you learn from books, but also the things you learn from the act of reading and analyzing. Being good at that kind of thing will make you excel at countless other tasks, like communicating with other people. Plus, anything you love and feel something for can be turned into a career, I think.
If your photo had a caption, what would it be?
This is the only photo I have of myself, my Twitter profile picture. In it, I am thinking, "There is nothing more I hate than having my picture taken."