September 2014 English Major of the Month
Andrew SchlagerHometown: Boston, Massachusetts
Year in school: Junior
What made you decide to become an English major?|
I decided to major in English because I've always had a deep love of reading. I might not have been as voracious or sophisticated of a reader when I was younger, but what I did read, moved me deeply. Throughout school, I was fortunate enough to have English teachers that employed and insisted on more active reading practices, which further exposed me to the pleasure and power of literature.
What are your fields of interest outside of the major?
What was the last great book you read? What was great about it?
The last Great Book I read was As I Lay Dying. Faulkner had to be cognizant of the re-reading his writing demands, and in a sense, I think that's the point. The ambiguity, the lost-at-sea sensation of reading him can be assuaged if you are observant, dogged, and willing to pour back over chapters. Some of the novel's puzzle can be put together, but only after the first (and probably the most intense) experience of reading the narrative. The re-reading yields a very double edged satisfaction, of knowing what has happened only after its happened. I enjoyed that greatly.
Is there a piece of literature that has had a strong influence on you?
There have been several. Toni Morrison's Beloved was devastating. Kafka's Amerika was terrifying. Kushner's Angels in America keeps my roommate and I up at night. William's A Streetcar Named Desire was sexy and horrifying. Some of John Donne's sonnets are so romantic and delightful, and Louise Glück's poetry feels beautifully redemptive. I would be lying if I didn't say that Harry Potter was important to me. I liked that it created a world where the school became the battleground between good and evil, and where the teachers were the heroes and the villains. I loved that the books didn’t have that absurd idea that real life only begins once you leave school.
What field are you hoping to get into after your graduate??
Writing. I hope to be a playwright.
What opportunities have being an English major opened to you?
Being an English major has taught me how to engage with complicated texts on a much more profound level. Through it, I’ve had the honor of being taught by wonderful professors and engage in discourse with some of the most intelligent students at NYU.
What kind of courses would you like to see offered more in the future?
Speaking from personal experience, Prof. Posmentier's class on African American Poetry and the "poetry unit" in Prof. Harper's section of Literary Interpretation were two of the most inspiring courses I’ve taken at NYU. Therefore, I would like to see the English department create more classes devoted exclusively to poetry. Generally speaking, I believe that poetry doesn’t get the attention it deserves— especially the poetry of marginalized poets, which never seems to make its way into the high school English curriculum.
Is there anything you would like to change about the way that the major is structured?
Not really. I think that the department does a nice job of passing along the highway of literary history. However, there ought to be requirements that depart from the genealogy of classic texts, and force students to read elsewhere, not out of personal interest, but out of necessity.
Advice you would give to someone who is just starting out in the major?
My advice to someone just starting out in the major would be to listen to your fellow students and to not discount your peers as potential teachers. Listening to a lecture can be an incredibly solipsistic exercise, but once you let other students into the experience—by taking notice of those moments when someone starts to scribble ferociously, or when someone agrees or disagrees with the Professor, the classroom comes alive in a very different way.