What made you decide to become an English major?
I’ve always loved to read. I really started to love literature in 7th grade, though. I had the best English teacher. By the end of 9th grade, I knew I had to major in English in college.
What are your other fields of interest and how do they interact with your English major?
I have a really big interest in Korean language and culture. It hasn’t all been finalized yet, but I’m minoring in Korean. I feel like that sounds like such an anomaly compared to most English major interests, but there it is.
I’ve always been interested in the grammar side of English, not only the literary, as in putting together sentences and the rules of constructing them. So when I started taking Korean it was like learning a whole new set of rules and starting all over again—which I loved. I guess it has interacted with English by changing my angle on things a bit. For example, sometimes I’ll find myself reading something and thinking: “How would I translate this into Korean? What meanings would be different or lost?” For someone who never used to be bilingual, being able to start a new language in college—and one so different from English—has widened my perspectives a lot. I’m by no means fluent yet, but I’m working towards it. .
What English courses have been particularly impactful to you?
I took the class Topics in Irish Literature that focused on translated Irish poetry last year, which I suppose is an Irish class but it was also under English. It was taught by a visiting professor, Louis de Paor, and there were only three of us in the class. It was such a great experience because Professor de Paor is so knowledgeable on the subject and is friends with most of the poets that we read. (He is also pretty famous in the Irish poetry world.) We even got to read a lot of poems that aren’t published yet or that you can’t find translations of in English—he did a lot of the translating himself. Plus, since there were only three of us, we got to have a more immersive relationship with the things we read. It was a very specific subject matter, which I hadn’t gotten to experience until then, so it was very impactful for me. I feel like I learned so much in that class. I think it’s kind of a shame that only three of us took the class, though; I wish Professor de Paor could teach at NYU regularly.
If you could have dinner with a character from a book, who would it be and why?
Tess from the novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Though I love the tragic ending of the book, I feel like Tess needs someone to sit down with her and give her some helpful advice in the beginning.
Do you have any literary guilty pleasures? What are they?
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. It’s my favorite Austen novel, even though most people probably like Pride and Prejudice the best. It doesn’t have any profound literary significance or anything, but it has so many hilarious moments and wittily makes fun of gothic literature.
Also perhaps Paper Towns by John Green. It’s a young adult novel, which I don’t often read, but I just thought it was so cleverly funny. I had read The Fault in Our Stars previously and was unimpressed, but after reading Paper Towns I think John Green is probably the best young adult genre writer.
Do you have a favorite line from a book or poem? What is it?
I don’t know that I have an exact favorite, but I do have many little snippets or phrases from various texts that I really like. All that comes to mind at the moment is the phrase “delicious do-nothing days” from the novel The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot. Also, “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream,” in Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, “A Dream Within A Dream.”
What is your favorite word? Your least favorite?
Favorite: firmament. It has a nice sound to it but is sadly undervalued. Least favorite: subtle. The b is deceptive.
Are there any books in the traditional canon that you find overrated? Why?
Yes—The Great Gatsby. We had to read it in high school, which I think is where most students encounter it, and I just could not make myself like it. The characters are frustrating and the plot line is silly. I do, of course, recognize the literary value of it, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be replaced in the curriculum with a book of equal literary value. I’ve only ever known one person who agreed with me on this, my AP Senior English teacher in high school; it seems like a lot of people worship the book, which sometimes makes me hesitant to bash it.
Do you laugh out loud or cry over books?
I do laugh out loud occasionally, which is one of the reasons I prefer to read while I’m by myself. I don’t often cry over books, though. Of course I get sad, but I’m not really a crier. I might have possibly shed a tear over Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, though.
Do you like to keep your books looking new or do you break the bindings and fold down page corners?
I do, for the most part, keep the books that I read for myself in good condition. Those are sacred and I would never write on them or crease them. I don’t even like letting people borrow them because you can’t trust the non-booklover.
Books for classes, however, I end up writing and highlighting all over. I think the difference is maybe that for the books I read for class, I want to remember what I was thinking of at the time or what interesting thing was talked about in class. Books I read on my own time, however, I would rather the experience be new to me each time. I even have double copies of some books for this reason.