Senior | Jinan, China
Why did you decide to become an English major?
English is not my mother tongue, but I’ve grown to love it since my coming over to the States nine years ago. I’ve always enjoyed a good conversation about books and people, but I also had an appetite for other things. Having taken classes in different departments, I decided to pursue a joint major in Mathematics and Computer Science, and a major in honors English.
What is the topic of your honors thesis? Can you describe your experience writing the thesis at the NYU English Department?
The core text of my thesis is Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. The title of my thesis is “Ishmael’s Narrative Perspectivism in Moby-Dick.”
Writing the honors thesis is a year-long effort. By April, we have each submitted critical papers of approximately 40-60 pages, and given presentations at the English Department. I found the practice of writing long, involved essays on one of my favorite texts to be an excellent way to really interact with that piece of literature, and to form connections with its characters. Writing the thesis, or simply the act of writing itself, is intense, rewarding, and oftentimes emotional. I encourage anyone who may be interested to apply.
Are there any immediate plans after graduation?
I was admitted to Columbia University’s M.A. Program in English and Comparative Literature with a partial tuition waiver, and I have decided to attend in the Fall. With some knowledge of computer science, I’ll be looking for ways to integrate data analysis into the study of certain literary texts—digital humanities, basically.
What is your favorite class taken in the department thus far?
Professor Christopher Cannon’s senior seminar on Chaucer, without a doubt. Through his class I learned of an empathetic approach to reading literature, which I now believe is fundamental to conducting research—one studies characters and understands their feelings behind their actions through precisely the practice of empathy.
If you could create a class in the department, what would it be?
I would very much want to take a class on Pynchon and Melville; it can perhaps be called exactly that—“Pynchon and Melville,” covering specifically Moby-Dick and Gravity’s Rainbow. I am in awe of encyclopedic literature, and believe that English majors, and others alike, may take this class for a reason to simply read these books—they’re hardly books for leisure, but to very loosely quote Professor Lockridge—grappling with such works has its intrinsic values. The sense of accomplishment after finishing these books is immeasurable.
What are your fields of interest?
Early 19th century American Literature (Melville, Poe), Encyclopedic Literature, Digital Humanities, Russian/Japanese literature
What are you reading right now?
Short stories, some by Raymond Carver. I’m taking a mental break from longer novels—so from anything longer than, say, 5 pages. But I also plan on finishing Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy soon.
What advice would you give to English majors at NYU?
Try all the majors, read more classics, and apply for honors English!