November 2014 English Major of the Month
What led you to major in English? How do your English studies interact with any other major/minor you are pursuing?|
I think I was in sixth or seventh grade when I decided to be an English major – I remember being thrilled with the idea that I could spend four years reading books and writing about them. I’m also a History major and a Comparative Literature and Creative Writing minor, which are a great combination. It’s especially fun when History and English classes intersect – you get a fuller perspective of a particular time and place when you can compare a society and its literature.
Have you taken any classes at NYU (English or otherwise) that have affected you outside of an academic setting?
One of the best parts of my humanities-focused majors and minors is that many of my classes have changed the way I think about a concept, be it sex, the urban environment, childhood, or the concept of reality. In particular, my Introduction to Historical Studies workshop, “Sex and the State: Culture and Politics of Reproduction” changed the way I thought about sexuality and, more broadly, the links between history and cultural changes. “Welcome to the Desert of the Real,” a well-named Comparative Literature class on realism, impacted my perceptions of reality and critical thinking. Catherine Robson’s colloquium “Cultures of Childhood in Nineteenth Century Britain” affected the way I think about childhood and interiority, as well as putting me in a good mood every Tuesday and Thursday.
If you have studied abroad, where did you go? What did you take away from the experience?
I’m currently studying abroad at NYU Prague. The Czech Republic is such an interesting place to live; in many ways, it feels like Western Europe, but it’s also a member of the former Eastern bloc, and there are still very present aftereffects of communism. In a literary sense, I’m taking a seminar called “Kafka and his Contexts.” Kafka lived very close to the NYU buildings in Prague, so every day I get to experience the setting that was so influential to his writing. It’s very interesting to compare the Prague that Kafka writes and the Prague where I live.
What’s the best part of studying English? The worst?
The best: My homework is reading and writing; studying a specific text from a variety of different perspectives; meeting other bibliophiles. The worst: barista jokes.
Do you prefer unmarked books, or books that have been previously annotated? Why?
For a first read, unmarked, so I can gauge my own opinion. For a re-read, it’s fascinating to stumble on what other people thought.
What is your favorite book to film adaptation? Your least favorite?
My favorite is definitely the BBC mini-series Parade’s End. Tom Stoppard wrote the screenplay and he does a fantastic job with the adaptation. The BBC’s Sherlock is an incredible modernization of Arthur Conan Doyle’s works, and manages to cleverly integrate elements of the stories into original plotlines. My least favorite is Ella Enchanted. In the books Ella is such a strong and unique character, but the movie completely changed the story. To put it succinctly, in the book, she saved the prince from ogres. In the movie, he – yawn – rescues her.
The Norton Anthologies: Buy new, buy used, or rent?
New Nortons are a good splurge item. I tend to over-annotate them.
What was your favorite book in high school? How do you feel about it now?
My favorite book in high school was The Great Gatsby. I had a themed necklace. I had the t-shirt. I thought it was the most profound thing I had ever read. Now, I like it, but I’m not sure what captivated me so intensely.
If you could talk about one book with its author, living or dead, would you? What book would you choose?
Yes, for so many books. My first thought was Wuthering Heights and Emily Brontë, but that could easily dissolve into me repeating how amazing she is rather than saying anything productive. My next choice would be Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson, which was a deliciously unsettling read but left me frustrated with the sheer strangeness of the last few pages and my general incomprehension of what the book was about.
Where do you stand on the Oxford comma?
The Oxford comma is great. You’ll never read anything by me that doesn’t include it.