Senior | Princeton, NJ
What made you decide to become an English major?
I never really considered anything else, besides maybe Theater. I’ve loved reading and writing since I was little, but it wasn’t until I got to college that I really learned how to not just love literature but to dedicate myself to it, which involves a lot of hard work — it involves moments of hating literature — but is ultimately so rewarding.
What has been your favorite class in the English department thus far, and why?
My favorite class has been Queer Austen, my senior seminar that I took with Professor Wendy Lee. I had never been a huge reader of Jane Austen, but the class totally exploded my idea of how Austen could be read. It was such an intimate, supportive setting; everyone was genuinely excited to be there — I give Professor Lee most of the credit for this — and unpack these texts. My master class with Zadie Smith was also an incredible experience. We just read some of the greatest books of the last century and talked about them for three hours every Monday morning. I also made really great friends in that class.
You participated in Writers in Paris. How was that experience?
Writes in Paris was incredible. It’s really a blessing to be given a month to just focus entirely on creative writing. Most mornings I would go to Luxembourg garden, a ten minute walk from the NYU Paris building, and just work on my writing for a few hours before class. I also met some amazing people; there were only about forty or so people in the program, so everyone got to know one another and there were a real sense of community. I took class with Jonathan Safran Foer and Darin Strauss, both of whom are incredible talents as well as teachers. I miss the baguettes and cheap wine.
What has been the most influential work of literature in your journey as a writer thus far, and why?
That’s a tough one. Miranda July’s short story collection Nobody Belongs Here More Than You is definitely up there — it’s the book that really made me fall in love with short fiction, back in high school. July is deeply invested in individual psychology, and just has this incredible imagination. In middle school, I wrote a ton of stories from a male, first-person perspective. I thought it made me more serious. I honestly don’t know if I fully abandoned that idea until I discovered July. Her voice was so distinctive, and her style so unencumbered by convention. I was inspired — not to imitate her, but rather to seek my own way of dong things. I say I didn’t imitate her, but I probably have in some ways; she’s certainly been a huge influence on me.
You're in the English Honors Program--congratulations! Have you decided on the topic of your honors thesis? What themes do you plan on discussing in your work?
My thesis is going to be centered around the role of anorexia in two English novels. The first is Clarissa, which is an absolutely gargantuan (970,000 word) novel from the 18th century. It essentially follows the story of a beautiful young woman of virtue who is abducted, raped, and ultimately starves herself to death. So it’s a really fun read. The second is Hilary Mantel’s 1995 novel An Experiment in Love, a much shorter work. I’m interested, essentially, in investigating the ways in which the act of achieving formlessness through not eating may be mirrored in the act of achieving formlessness through, or perhaps as a prerequisite for, the act of writing. I’m just beginning my research, so we’ll see where it takes me! I’m currently reading some texts by Roland Barthes and Eve Sedgwick that are really compelling.
What do you consider the most rewarding part of being an English major?
As an English major, you develop these incredibly complex and personal relationships with every text you read. I think that’s truly a gift. In doing a close reading, you can become obsessed with a single sentence, even a single word. Every text becomes your own in this way. You are also just exposed to so much literature you might never have read otherwise. In my Literatures in English II class, for example, we got to read Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” Wollstonecraft was this totally incredible feminist philosopher, all the way back in 1792. I’’m so grateful I was exposed to that. The professors are also incredible. At a school as large as NYU, you might expect a more impersonal experience, but most professors really want to know you as a reader, writer, and human being.
What advice would you give to students considering majoring in English at NYU?
If you’re worried about it being an ‘unpractical’ major - don’t be. Business majors have a higher post-grad unemployment rate than English majors (it’s true). You learn to read and think critically, to synthesize ideas, to communicate clearly and concisely; these are skills that are rare and that are very marketable. If you’re passionate about literature, you won’t regret pursuing the major. It’s truly made me a deeper thinker in all areas of my life.