Senior (Spring '20 Grad) | Chevy Chase, MD
What made you decide to become an English major?
When I started college, I was determined to major in anything but English! But sometimes the obvious choice is the right one. I realized that everything I am passionate about, from public policy to musical theatre, revolves around crafting a compelling narrative. Once I understood the power of good storytelling, there was no escaping the English major.
What was your favorite class in the English department, and why?
Hmm, that’s got to be a tie between Pat Crain’s senior seminar on Henry James, and Clare Bayley’s “Reading as a Writer: Playwriting,” at NYU London. In Prof. Crain’s class, I was able to immerse myself in the work of one writer whose style and themes matured over time. Becoming familiar with many authors may be good for a reader, but knowing one author’s trajectory intimately was the best thing for me as a writer – that is of course, next to writing a play about my own friends’ and family’s experiences, which I did in Prof. Bayley’s seminar.
What has been the most influential work of literature in your journey as a writer thus far, and why?
Ok, that’s tough. Frank O’Hara’s “Lunch Poems” and E.B. White’s “Here is New York” are top contenders; both taught me that it’s possible to capture not only the rhythms of speech, but the cadences of a place in my writing. It’s a lesson that I took to the extreme with my Capstone poetry manuscript, where I included experimental poems written in different musical time signatures. For me, writing shouldn’t just describe a scene; it should simulate it.
What do you consider the most rewarding part of being an English major?
This might sound weird, but mastering language actually helps you understand what’s beneath language, what is motivating someone’s language. Writing is the process of articulating an abstract thought, but reversing that process helps me understand not what someone is saying, but what they mean. For someone trying to go into conflict resolution, that’s incredibly valuable.
You completed the English honors program and your thesis--amazing work! How was your experience?
Ahh! It was great! I was honored to win the Ilse Lind Prize for the best thesis in the English Department, and then the Borgman/Phi Beta Kappa Prize for the best Humanities thesis in the College of Arts and Sciences. Actually, I have to admit that my thesis was inspired by a class in the Music department (gasp!): Professor Mick Moloney’s Introduction to Celtic Music. I worried that my folklore and ethnomusicology-driven research would be looked down upon next to my classmates’ amazing close-reads, but I stuck with it (thanks to my advisor Maureen McLane) and it more than paid off! Besides, who wouldn't want to crash a banjo/fiddle jam session in the Appalachian mountains and call it "research."
You also completed the creative writing track in the major and your final creative writing project--amazing work, again! How was that?
I was lucky to be able to complete both my Honors thesis and my Creative Capstone this year – and boy were they different projects! For my Capstone I wrote a chapbook-length poetry manuscript entitled “Once We Were Free.” The poems play a lot with musicality and pacing, but they all speak in some way to elements of the American Jewish experience. They range from a response sonnet to Emma Lazarus, to a rant against Allen Ginsburg, to my own experiences under rocket fire in Israel. Of course, I’ll never view the “finished” manuscript as finished, but I’m proud of it either way!
You just graduated: congratulations! Do you have any future plans you would like to share with us?
Thank you!! Corona-willing, I will be immigrating to Israel this summer and drafting into the Israel Defense Forces as a Lone Soldier.
What advice would you give to students considering majoring in English at NYU?
If anyone tells you this major isn’t marketable, tell them their entire world is saturated by storytelling. Journalists, politicians, activists and celebrities engage you with their stories. So know what narratives matter to you, fill those book margins, and remember that a story can ring true without being totally honest! (I get in trouble for that one).