March 2016 English Major of the Month
Hometown: Fullerton, CA
What inspired you to major in English?
I read a lot of myths and folk tales from different cultures growing up, which fostered a curiosity about how stories shape the way we see the world. Within a few weeks of Literary Interpretation I was pretty much set.
Do you have a favorite book, or author, or literary movement or period?
Probably Gothic literature in the second half of the 19th century, but Mary Shelley is my literary godmother.
Which fictional character would you most like to meet? What would you two do?
I can only choose one? A fancy library with Hermoine. Or maybe an improv show with Cyrano de Bergerac. This is a really mean question.
What was the last literary work that really moved you profoundly?
Probably Ethan Young's graphic novel about the Second Sino-Japanese war, Nanjing: The Burning City. Literature around that history has a tendency to be very didactic, but Nanjing was brutally honest in a different way. I actually reached out to Ethan to interview him for a project and we had a chat about portraying war violence, especially the sensitive history of sexual violence.
What classes have you most enjoyed, either in the department or outside?
Taking Sally Merry's Violence, Gender, and the Law the same time I was taking Gregory Vargo's Fictions of Empire and Edward Hubbard's Anthropology in the Horror Film made for the most interesting and challenging semester I've ever had. Taking Writing London and Contemporary African Literature at the same time in NYU London is a close second. Also, everyone should take Book History with Paula McDowell and Charlotte Priddle if they can.
If you could create your own class, what would it be?
A class that examines the intersections of literature and anthropology. We'd read anthropological texts as literature and look at the influence of that science on literature. There'd be lots of monster movies.
Are you pursuing any minor, internships, or fields of interest outside the department that enhance or intersect with your study of English?
I'm an anthropology minor which brings some neat interdisciplinary work to my thesis. I'm also doing Professional Edge which means I'm taking courses in editing at SCPS, which helps with my job as a writing tutor and as a part-time editor at The Mary Sue (a news site that covers current events and geek culture from a feminist perspective). Critical reading comes in handy and it's always fun to talk about how literary tropes from centuries ago evolve and reappear in media today.
What's your ideal career? Where do you hope your English degree will take you?
I'm enjoying journalism right now, but I've gone through a lot of phases. I spent a summer as a research assistant for a law professor in Taiwan, another as an intern at an ed-tech company, a few in education, and a year ago I was convinced I would go into book publishing. I mostly hope my degree will let me continue exploring different paths. I do plan on pursuing graduate school.
What is your favorite thing, or the most valuable thing, that you’ve learned in your study of literature?
In the words of my WTE professor Bruce Bromley, “where there's smoke, there's fire. And you need to read that smoke correctly or you will die.” Paula McDowell also shared a nice lesson of “if there's a lot of meat in the refrigerator, I'm going to start looking for skeletons.” Basically, when something appears muddled and confusing it's often much more rewarding to try and work through those tangles than to avoid them.
What advice would you give to students considering majoring in English at NYU?
You'll encounter writers who write masterpieces in two days and people who tell you that true great writers never, ever stop writing, like some kind of glitched-out fax machine spitting paper. In my experience, this is a lie and not applicable to most mortals. Writing can be really hit-your-head-against-a-wall hard and you'll sometimes procrastinate and re-write a lot before you get something you truly like (and then you'll hate it a few weeks later). Don't get discouraged if your work isn't as great as you want it to be, that's what we're in classes for.