Junior | Freeport, New York
What made you decide to become an English major?
I'm a writer, and I came to NYU wanting to strengthen myself as a reader and thinker. I started out in Liberal Studies, and considered transferring into Gallatin, but after taking Creative Writing I and the 101 class for the major, I felt that the English department was where I belonged.
Is there anything you're reading right now for pleasure, rather than for class?
I read the e-book sample for Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko on a ten-hour bus ride to Paris over the weekend. I don’t want to fall behind on my class readings, so I’m only 60 pages into the book, but it’s the first title of my summer reading list.
What has been your favorite class in the English department thus far, and why?
My favorite class in the department was actually my 101 class. My professor, Pacharee Sudhinaraset, saturated the class with the works of people of color from David Henry Hwang to Toni Cade Bambara, which opened my eyes to the ways members of marginalized communities could be powerful and artistic in ways that subverted the norms of literature’s traditional forms without being tokenized.
If you could create and teach any course in the department, what would you teach and why?
This is tricky! I have avoided this question wherever I’ve seen it, but I guess I can’t now. I’m not entirely sure about the title, but my pitch is for a Forgotten Writers class. In my Postcolonial Indian Literature class, we read some of Mulk Raj Anand’s work, and I was shocked to learn that he was such an integral part of the Bloomsbury Group but has only been discussed in relation to them for the past 15 years. I’m writing a paper on Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina right now, and my British Literature professor (Catherine Robson) mentioned that Haywood was left out of discussions of 18th Century writers until recently despite the commercial success of her books and stories. There are so many writers I’m sure we don’t even know are important now, but the canon of literature has been so affected by race, class, and gender that I couldn’t imagine fixing it altogether. I think that students deserve a space to study writers who don’t fit into the (largely) white male canon. African, Asian, Latin, or Native-American literature within English departments don’t go far enough to break down these walls because the works read and discussed are still in the unspoken category of "other." Forgotten Writers would put writers like Anand and Haywood in conversation with each other--the only connecting factor for their works being their "forgottenness".
Have any literary jobs, internships, or outside departmental coursework informed your academics and writing?
My SCA 101 class with Professor Cristina Beltrán expanded the way I think about literature--what counts and doesn’t count as literature. Most of the works we read were either manifestos or theoretical works, but one of the last pieces assigned for class was Gloria Anzaldua’s “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to 3rd World Women Writers.” The Anzaldua letter is a beautiful picture of theory and practice put together. I analyzed it in class as a piece through the lens of Social & Cultural Analysis, but it was also such a strong literary work full of style that I related to as a writer. “Speaking in Tongues” taught me not to choose between writing as a writer with a capital “W” and writing as an activist.
You're currently studying abroad in London, congratulations! Could you describe your experience thus far, including how it is to study literature in such a historically, literary rich environment?
Studying in London as an English major has been such a cool experience. The city is so proudly saturated with literary culture. You can’t travel more than a few blocks without coming into contact with a famous writing spot (especially in Bloomsbury) or setting of a story. Academics aside, I’ve made a lot of friends from different majors and concentrations, which makes me feel like a more well-rounded person. The NYULondon events and activities have expanded my horizons. There are tons of opportunities to go to theater shows, movie screenings, and neighborhood tours--all on NYU’s dime.
In what way do you think English majors contribute to society, the world, etc.?
The types of people who become English majors are just so diverse that I could talk about this for hours. There are people who go into seemingly unrelated fields--law, politics, medicine even--and enhance the way the world works in quantifiable ways. For those of us who fall on the more creative end of the English major spectrum, culture is our main contribution to the world. We record the beauty and mess of life, write to represent or to inspire or to initiate change. I think English majors don’t get enough credit for our functions in the world, though I am quite biased. But language is so important to the way all of us move through the world, and everyone from proofreaders to English teacher to novelists inform the way people understand themselves and each other.
What advice would you give to students considering majoring in English at NYU?
Don’t let people put you in a box, and don’t be discouraged by job prospects. You’d be surprised at how useful your knowledge of a blazon or Walt Whitman will be in interviews. Keep your quirks. If you like anime, own that. If you’re into coding or theoretical physics, own that. Those quirks will make your experience in the major more meaningful to you. And get to know the faculty--we’ve got some amazing professors and TAs who are committed to helping us move through this major.