Chris Combemale, an ECL major who consistently works in the Department of Dramatic Art here on campus, discusses how his English studies have crossed disciplines to equip him with the fundamental skills he needs to succeed in all his areas of interest while paving the way for a variety of exciting internship opportunities.
Chris noted that while he was already prepared to study English due to the specialized nature of the U.K. school system in which he grew up, he decided to continue his studies once he arrived at UNC because of how useful he found the courses.
For Chris, the field of English Literature proved to be a stimulating area in which he could gain the skills he needed to pursue his ultimate goal of working as a literary agent.
“I wanted to be exposed to the canon,” he explains, “and be able to read across a range of periods.”
Fortunately, within UNC’s English and Comparative Literature Department, Chris found exactly what he was looking for in terms of the diverse material available and the different pathways he could take with the major.
“There is great flexibility in the English Department,” he says, “and a wide range of course offerings.”
Additionally, the open, collaborative environment fostered by the department through these course offerings strongly appealed to Chris.
“I was really drawn to the friendly, supportive faculty, and small classes,” he says.
Additionally, Chris notes that his experiences with a smaller, more inclusive community were crucial in helping him establish himself not only as an individual student, but as a future member of the workforce.
“I find that my ties with professors and the training I’ve gotten within the Department has been a really great set up, and set me apart from some of my peers,” he says.
When asked about specific class experiences, Chris can’t help but smile. He described two classes which stood out to him, the first being a class on weird fiction taught by associate professor, Tyler Curtain, and the second being a survey course on the American West, taught by associate professor Greg Flaxman.
What excited Chris most about the course on Weird Fiction was Professor Curtain’s emphasis on the discovery and his approach to the material as something new and innovative that required fresh thought and critical thinking on behalf of his students.
“What I found remarkable was Professor Curtain’s ability to push you to think in new ways,” he says when discussing his experience in the course, “and to open up the methodologies you have at your fingertips.”
And while Dr. Curtain’s course helped to expand his thinking, his experience in Dr. Flaxman’s American West course got him back to basics in the best way possible.
“He completely revitalized our ability to write,” Chris says, “and changed my perspective on what an English course could be.”
Chris has also worked at PlayMakers as the assistant director on “Life of Galileo” by Bertolt Brecht, directed by Vivienne Benesch. As assistant director, Chris collaborated on all aspects of the production and gained valuable experience he is anxious to apply to his future career.
How exactly does Chris’s extensive background in English relate to the field of theater?
“Interpretive skills,” he says right away when asked about the connection between the two fields, “and the ability to deconstruct a text.” For Chris, the analytical and critical thinking skills he learned in English were easily applicable to other disciplines, and he looks forward to applying them throughout his career.
Outside of PlayMakers, Chris has also served as a Foreign Rights Intern at Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc., a highly selective literary agency located in New York City, a position that allowed him the opportunity to edit projects for Sterling Lord, including a Lawrence Ferlinghetti manuscript. Additionally, Chris has served as a film/tv Intern at Foundry Literary + Media, which allowed him even more experience in the production of TV/Film coverage for client manuscripts.