Senior | Rockville, MD
What made you decide to become an English major?
I always wanted to be an English major, but for some reason I didn’t come into NYU as one. After an uncertain first year, I spent the summer voraciously reading. Then I realized I could read just as much during the school year if I became an English major.
What is your ideal career? Where do you hope to take your English degree?
Well, my ideal career is to be a fiction writer. I’m also a creative writing minor and on the creative writing track, so I’ve definitely produced a pretty decent volume of work. The creative writing program here is great, and it’s thrilling to see the English department start to embrace the more creative side of being an English major. But I recognize I likely have years of toiling away before I get there.
I also really love libraries. I think they’re great as a social institution. I’ve been working at the Tamiment Library (in Bobst) for a little more than a year now, and it’s really made me appreciate the power of libraries. I’ve found some amazing things in the archives, like handwritten letters by Langston hughes. So maybe studying library science and doing something with that is a slightly less lofty goal.
But you also received the Tory Dent Research Scholarship from the creative writing program. Congratulations! What was that experience like?
Thanks! It was great, a little strange. In my proposal I asked for “work release”—basically asking for money so I would have some time in the summer to focus on writing without having to worry about getting a job. At first it was a little tough to get myself into the habit of writing on a schedule—and treat it like a full job—but after a week or two I got into a pretty solid groove.
The project I’m working on I actually began writing during my senior year of high school. It’s a collection of magical realist coming-of-age stories set in the D.C. suburbs, where I grew up. After I started my first year at NYU, I sort of set it aside because I felt I didn’t really have time, but during a workshop last year I decided to resurrect one of the stories and submitted it pretty much as it was when I wrote it a few years ago. To my surprise it was pretty well-received among my classmates. So I realized that—somehow—seventeen-year-old David had been onto something. Then I started working on it again; that’s the bulk of what I’ve worked on in the past year.
What has been your favorite English class so far?
There have been a lot I enjoyed deeply; it’s impossible for me to name just one. So I’ll go chronologically: in London my sophomore year I took Writing London and English Literature of Transition, which traced English literature through the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Both of those classes were amazing. I really enjoyed Prof. Boggs’ Reading as a Writer: Queer Lit class last spring; it was a great blend of critical/analytical writing on queer texts and more creative stuff; that’s actually the first class where I wrote memoir-type writing, and as a consequence I’m taking a creative nonfiction class now. And my Major Texts in Critical Theory Class, with Prof. Sunder Rajan, was fantastic—I was worried I would find it dry or excruciating, but ended up feeling very grounded in the subject matter and excited to find ways to integrate some of the theory we read (e.g. Gloria Anzaldua, Deleuze and Guattari) in some of my other classes.
What was the last literary work that really moved you profoundly?
I’m slowly making my way through Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels—I’m about a third of the way through the third volume right now. That reading experience is unlike any other I’ve ever had. The way Ferrante traces friendship, and how the passing of time changes it, isn’t something I’ve ever seen represented in any work before. There’s one line in The Story of a New Name that has really stuck with me; I’m afraid to share it because one of my close English major friends is currently reading it and I don’t want to spoil that moment for her.
If you could create your own class, what would it be?
There’s a lot of ideas I’ve had so it’s hard to pick one. I think a course tracing immigrant narratives in fiction over the course of U.S. history would be pretty cool, starting with something like The Jungle or My Antonia and ending with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao or another more contemporary work. But given the heatedness of this election, immigration and representations of it have been on my mind.
What advice would you give to students considering majoring in English at NYU?
Well, my only regret is not becoming an English major sooner. I think a lot of that sprang from self-doubt and the current sustained attack on humanities majors in general. What I’ve learned since then: it’s not worth compromising your dreams for anything, especially the judgment of other people. Last semester alone for finals I wrote a long paper about Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands, a surprisingly thrilling feminism-inspired paper for Brit Lit I, and a creative piece about vomit for Reading as a Writer. So you could say I’m living my best life.