Senior (Spring '20 Grad) | Bangkok, Thailand
What made you decide to become an English major?
At school, my teachers used to prepare us for English exams by handing us poems we have never seen before and, under a strict time limit, we had to extract their merits and arrange those in to a ‘structured, well-supported’ paragraph. I dreaded these exercises as I had just about managed to grasp the normal, everyday sort of English at the time and any form of verse was threatening to undo my understanding. One day, luckily, I was handed a poem by John Keats. Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness, the first line went. Although I understood little of what was so special about an urn, I did, somehow, felt that the words were beautiful. I became an English major partly because I couldn’t get over this experience. I’m fascinated by the question of how Keats and other writers do this—this capturing of beauty, of pain, of love and boredom or what have you so that generations of readers could recognize those very human things by the mere arrangements of words, sometimes even before knowing the words’ meanings.
What was your favorite class in the English department, and why?
Now, this is a hard question. I loved all the classes I took in the English department! However, the James Joyce Colloquium with Professor Waters was definitely one of the most memorable. Reading and writing about Joyce was, at once, a challenging and an undeniably delightful experience. (Indeed, I have rather few accomplishments and I remain very proud to say that reading every page of Ulysses is one of them.)
What has been the most influential work of literature in your journey as a writer thus far, and why?
This is also difficult to pick since I feel like I’m moulded by every thing I read as a writer-reader-student. Hervé Guibert’s Ghost Image definitely comes to mind, however. The book’s genre-bending nature introduced me to the possibility of writing in an eclectic way. I also find that the prose, like a face, has this bizarre ‘handsome’ quality.
What do you consider the most rewarding part of being an English major?
Being introduced to brilliant literature by equally brilliant professors who then taught me how to ‘read’ and how to ‘write’ and to develop the kind of literacy that let you understand beyond the words and feel rhythm, hear sounds, detect beauty, and derive personal resonances from words written by strangers. I think that, as English majors, our training gives us a gift of an eye—or a monocle—or something of the sort that we can then use to turn toward other things, and what we see is often rather cool.
You completed the English honors program and your thesis--amazing work! How was your experience?
Thank you!—Writing the thesis was challenging and incredibly rewarding. The tantalizing possibility of maybe giving up at any moment and the overwhelming self-doubt were always present and looming darkly; I think writing the thesis let me acknowledge those things and the process gave me a choice to keep going anyway, and I did, we all did, with incredible support from friends, fellow students, and our wonderful professors, to all of whom I am incredibly grateful.
This year has been intense to say the least. Have you been reading anything that has helped you through it?
I always carry around a small copy of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and I have found myself reaching for it more and more these days. Rilke is a great comfort in times of uncertainties. For the times I’d like a kind of academic diversion, however, the literature that comes out of ‘Buffy Studies’ does the trick.
What advice would you give to students considering majoring in English at NYU?
I’d say, stay open. Let yourself be led by words, by glamorous texts, dangerous texts, by some writer you love or love to hate or by the ones that mildly amuse you. Be adventurous when enrolling on Albert. Make use of the special collections at Bobst so you can touch first editions and enthuse about the smell of very old books. Also, do the readings!