February 2016 English Major of the Month
Hometown: Buffalo, NY
What inspired you to major in English?
After spending my first year at NYU as an Econ major and (very quickly) realizing that numbers aren’t particularly my brightest strength, I returned to the literature classes that had always made me happiest during high school. It took only one or two sessions of Jane Carr’s Lit Interp class to convince me I had made the right choice in declaring my English major.
Do you have a favorite place or time to read?
Nothing beats reading in the early morning with a cup of fresh coffee or tea.
Do you have a favorite book, or author, or literary movement or period?
I first read Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things when I was 17, and have had to purchase a new copy because the margins in my first edition were filled with notes from cover to cover. Roy plays with language in a way that is confusing, but intriguingly so, and her lyricism is really binding. I have a similar appreciation for Toni Morrison’s voice, and would recommend Jazz, or really anything in Morrison’s catalogue, to anyone who is looking to be blown away by the impact of an impeccably crafted sentence.
What was the last literary work that really moved you profoundly?
Someone recommended Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves to me in the summer, and at the time, nothing could have quite prepared me for the emotional and intellectual experience of reading that book. It’s filled with the theory of Baudrillard and Derrida and written with an appreciation for the active tactile experience of reading (there are points where text is written upside down and backwards). At its bones, it’s a book about a house that is larger inside than it is outside. The family that inhabits the house encounters a series of mental and physical challenges, and multiple narrators play with interpretations of these experiences. It sounds crazy, and in many ways it is. House of Leaves defies categorization, but I think there’s something in it for everyone.
What classes have you most enjoyed, either in the department or outside?
This past semester, I took Professor Archer’s colloquium on Edmund Spenser. I had read a bit of The Faerie Queene in Brit Lit I, but to cover Spenser’s shorter poems alongside his longer project was a really unique experience. Professor Archer infused each lecture with British and Irish history, as well as classical mythology, so I can’t imagine a better setting within which to study Spenser. Similarly, when I studied in London, I had the privilege of taking Professor Hattaway’s Shakespeare and the Stage course- it changed the way I perceive the fluidity and flexibility of literature, as well as the process of translation from text to stage.
If you could create your own class, what would it be?
I think a highly specified literary theory class would be really interesting. Fredric Jameson has a work called Archaeologies of the Future, in which he argues that utopia can only be explored in Science Fiction, so it would be cool to study his criticism alongside some popular sci-fi works.
You've just graduated early—what are you up to now?
This spring, I’ll be a publicity intern at Norton in the trade department. I spent the fall semester interning at a literary agency, so I’m really looking forward to experiencing the opposite side of the publishing process. It has definitely been rewarding to see the skills that I’ve honed as an English major prove valuable outside the classroom.
What's your ideal career? Where do you hope your English degree will take you?
I’d love to work in publishing in some respect, be it in the editing or publicity sphere. As a recent grad, I’m open to a variety of experiences, and know that no matter what career path I pursue, I’ll be putting the interpretive skills I’ve learned in the English department to use.
What is your favorite thing, or the most valuable thing, that you’ve learned in your study of literature?
That interpretation is, and should be, flexible. A text may not change, but its readership does. No piece of literature exists in a vacuum, and it’s necessary to allow our considerations and readings to adapt and evolve with time and experience.
What advice would you give to students considering majoring in English at NYU?
If you have the reading bug, follow it. Regardless of popular opinion, English degrees are valuable, and the skills you sharpen while earning the degree are skills that you’ll use for life. Appreciate the opportunity you have to study with brilliant professors, and don’t forget that you’ll likely never have another time in your life where the only thing asked of you is to read and read and then read some more.