Skip to main content

Assistant Editor at Technica Editorial

Class of 2014

“Arriving at UNC, I thought ‘old’ and even American literature was boring, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was the one who made literature boring—that there was something new and exciting in all of my classes. Dr. Carlston was the first to teach me what reading means; the differences between summary, description, evaluation, and analysis; and how to express myself well (or at least better!). Dr. Thraikill introduced me to questions of adaptation from page to screen and the role medium plays in interpretation. What does a text hope to accomplish? How does secondhand storytelling complicate or further the original message? Which literary devices translate into film and other forms of narrative? In courses with Dr. Wolfe, I traced the relevance of epic and myth in culture today and engaged in author and reader-based approaches to influence. For example, what influence did the Odyssey have on Joyce’s writing of Ulysses, and how does such a comparison inform our understanding of the Odyssey? Entering into this conversation with the past is increasingly helpful in an information age in which casual relationships are muddied, antecedents forgotten, and sources uncited. As an undergrad, I looked to mentors for guidance; it was clear from the start that the faculty and staff care. The value of a degree in English or comparative literature depends on what you consider the purpose of education. Let’s assume it’s nothing more than the means to ensure a position in the marketplace. What then are the skills essential to an employer? I would argue the very skills honed by an education in literary studies: effective communication, critical analysis, and innovative thinking. At the foundation of literary studies is the belief that a good argument is nuanced, incorporates detailed evidence, requires careful explanation, and moves toward a conclusion that differs from former presuppositions. But maybe the US will come to see education not as a reflection of what we can do in society as it stands, but as the signpost for who we wish to become. In such a case, if the corporate university returns to its roots (see Kant, Komensky, and others), the humanities will emerge as indispensable in molding capable, pluralist citizens. Its students are encouraged to look at the world with both empathy and doubt, to confront ourselves and understand that which is not ourselves. We invoke Woolf’s common reader, who is “guided by an instinct to create for himself, out of whatever odds and ends he can come by, some kind of whole.” The practice of reading affects the private sphere as well, allowing for small reprieves from an existence that may surprise us in its drudgery. We learn to “catch that moment” and “uncover some beauty” in the prose of life just as writers like Mansfield hope to do in their stories.”