Tell us about your experience!
Tell us about your experience!
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10 – 10:10: Opening activity: Introductions + brief quotation, with slides
10:15 – 11:05
Writing & Social Change
Tracy, Yazmin, Lisa, Chani; Moderator, William Orchard
How do various writers seek to catalyze or guide social change through their work? What literary forms do they devise to effect the kinds of change they seek?
11:10 – 12:00
Kids, Teens, & the Developing Mind
Zainab, Brandon, Kelly, Zahava; Moderator, Carrie Hintz
How does literature by or about children and young adults portray the developing mind? How are the minds of children and adolescents distinct from those of adults? What role might literature play in the psychological development of kids and teens?
12:00 – 12:30 Lunch
Panel: Re-Making Humans: Experiments in Fiction, Television, and Visual Art
Sarah, Asheka, Krystal, Sumaria; Moderator, Seo-Young Chu
Why is “the human” tricky to define? What’s the relationship between fictional humans and actual humans? How do artists question or expand ideas about what defines the human? Are we already post-human, or transhuman?
1:40 – 2:30
Mind, Self, & Perception
Caitlin, James, Michelle, Radheeka, Ikram; Moderator, Andrea Walkden
What is the relationship between mental states and identity? How might certain states shape identity in unexpected ways? How does perception shape reality? How do writers experiment with literary forms to explore elusive questions about the mind, self, and perception?
Studying English at Queens College changed my perception of daily life and understanding of how to live a meaningful one. Reading and analyzing works of literature allowed me to stray outside of the bubble I had grown up in. In my town in Long Island, 20 minute drive from QC in average traffic, Success for a guy like me had a rather clear definition: $100,000+ a year with a 401K plan, a tanned wife with well-done highlights, your boyz ( the Z is mandatory and all, or at least the majority, of them should have 6-packs), a car that shines like a diamond in the desert, and don’t forget to make sure the priest at church knows your name to take care of that whole Soul situation. Freshman year at QC my ideals were all of the above.
I am writing this from Central African Republic where I work for Doctors Without Borders as a Logistician in an isolated village. We are operating a pediatric hospital, since vicious conflict in 2014-2015 left the country without basic public institutions such as schools, hospitals, and police. It is a mentally and physically taxing lifestyle, yet there is nothing I would rather be doing right now. Since graduating Queens College I have been in the humanitarian field either abroad or stateside. I attribute my drastic change in values to a message I gathered from reading, lectures, and discussions with fellow students that I believe was captured by the Irish poet by W.B. Yeats when he said, “In dreams begin responsibilities.” Literature opened my mind and allowed me to redefine my parameters of success. In the background right now a group of men and women are chanting in tones brought up from some pocket of their throats that I did not know existed before coming here. I am able to understand that as a type of currency due to a message gathered from books. The shiny car can wait.
Studying English at Queens College changed my life because of the people I met along the way- the teachers and mentors who not only taught me how to read and write critically, but who modeled the generosity, engagement, and care I try to bring to my own teaching and research today. I have learned so much from them that this response must also take the form of a (somewhat gushy) thank you letter.
I should begin by admitting that I did not enter QC intending to be an English major. Even though I always enjoyed reading and writing as a kid, I never thought that I could make a real career out of it. So in my first year it was almost by chance that I wound up in Jesse Schwartz’s “Introduction to Literary Theory” course, hoping to fulfill some prerequisite. This was the first of many English classes at QC that, as corny as it sounds, changed my outlook on what I wanted to do with my life and how I saw the world. It was in this class that I was first introduced to that elusive, mind-blowing thing called theory. Between reading works on psychoanalysis, Marxism and feminist critique, I learned from Jesse the joy that comes from being completely unsettled and disoriented, to rethink the things I thought I knew. I learned from him that engaging theory isn’t just about applying various theoretical lenses to different texts, but rather using the insights I gained from them to construct an alternative way of seeing and knowing- to create something, an argument, that is uniquely my own. Although we discussed primarily literature in his class, I went through a period of seeing theory in all of the things I encountered, from movies and TV shows to random strangers’ conversations in the subway.
As I write this, I am learning all over again how small encounters can change your life. It was at Jesse’s encouragement that I entered an essay I wrote for his class into the English department’s writing awards. At the prize ceremony, I met Duncan Faherty, who has influenced my life in more ways than I can say. He was the first person to float the idea of applying to graduate school for a doctorate in English. And I should add that he helped turn it into more than just an idea- Duncan worked tirelessly to help me prepare my grad school applications. I still remember with no small amount of horror those red marks on my writing sample that seemed to make the paper bleed. Still, those red marks were a sign of Duncan’s sincere support and care, the effort he put into making sure that I submitted the strongest essay possible. His mentorship has helped sustain me throughout my time at QC and through the difficult years of grad school. (I did get into the CUNY Graduate Center with that writing sample, but more on that later).
It was also through Duncan’s recommendation that I met so many other amazing professors at QC, including: Roger Sedarat, whose 1-page essay assignments taught me the skill of writing succinctly and still compellingly; Karen Weingarten who sharpened my theoretical chops with readings on Giorgio Agamben and Judith Butler; Jason Tougaw whose use of blogs and digital media in the classroom showed me what an engaged virtual community looks like; Gordon Whatley, who instilled in me the importance of reading (poetry) aloud, to learn from listening to literature; Caroline Hong, whose infectious enthusiasm and brilliant powerpoint presentations taught me that class could be both fun and rigorous, Richard McCoy, whose honors seminar on “Love,” in my last year, was where I not only grasped the purpose of the annotated bibliography, but also finally felt like I could write; and so many others that I can’t name here who impacted my life in both big and small ways.
Writing this has made me realize that it wasn’t just studying English, but studying it alongside these teachers and mentors that made all the difference. After QC, I entered the CUNY Graduate Center in the English PhD program. My undergraduate coursework didn’t make the transition into grad school any easier- it was hard work and more reading than I ever dreamed I could do- but my time at QC did lay the foundation for the skills that I would continue to develop and strengthen over time. I entered the program having been exposed to challenging theoretical concepts, having had my writing critiqued (and, yes, torn apart in some cases), having already gone through endless revision cycles, having already presented my writing in public forums… And yet, there were things in grad school that I wasn’t prepared for- dealing with rejection when I submitted articles for publication, fielding difficult (sometimes antagonistic) questions at seminars and conferences, struggling to articulate exactly what I “do” to people both in and outside of academia, grappling with failure when I was on the job market this past fall and it seemed like I was only ever getting polite rejection letters. Through all of this, what has kept me going has been the structures of support that I found at the Graduate Center, which I can now trace back to my studies at QC.
The mentors I found there, many of whom are still in my life, gave me models for the kind of scholar and teacher I want to be. This was especially vital when I began crafting the syllabi for my own courses. Since then, I have had the pleasure of returning to and teaching at Queens College, encountering students who made the work of lesson planning and grading worth it. I have had the rewarding experience of encouraging my own students to enter the English department writing contest, composing letters of recommendation for internships and graduate school, and working with students on personal statements and writing samples, in hopes that I could touch their lives in the same way that my mentors have influenced and inspired me.
After six long years of research and teaching, I finally defended my dissertation this past March and will be graduating in June. In the fall, I will be working as a lecturer at Fordham University, teaching courses on composition and introduction to literary studies, where I hope to continue building the networks of mentorship and support that I first found at Queens College.
Hello! I’m Elyse and I’m a professional actress born and raised in Queens. Thank you fo taking the time to peruse my thoughts on what I have taken from my time studying literature at Queens College.
Firstly, let me say the people I met at QC completely flipped my life around. They remain my close circle and creative partners all these years later. I was a double major in English and Drama. Studying English in conjunction with performing profoundly helped me advance in my career thus far. Let’s just say– the power of rhetoric and knowing how to use it can get you far.
The skills you acquire can come out to play in such unexpected ways. Conversations I have had based at on Shakespeare or Dream Theory or John Donne or whatever—these all make you a more interesting person. People will want to engage in conversation withyou. You know things! Not just how to sit in silence and use a calculator or code or trollthe Internet; you know about ideas. You know how to contribute to a conversation, andquestion things and argue a point. You have had discussions and debates about these ideas. You know the stories of people all around the world, people whose lives are completely different than your experience. You can draw on this knowledge in so many different ways, in so many different settings— job interviews, auditions, networking events, family dinners! You never know which future employer is a huge Jung fan. And these things are important! It is all about connection.
When I was getting ready to graduate from QC, I was preparing to apply to Graduate School for acting. This experience is beyond daunting because the competition is insane. I was ambitious and only applied to the top 3 schools in the country. I wasn’t worried about the audition part (okay, that’s a lie), but even more, I was terrified to sit down and write the dreaded STATEMENT OF PURPOSE. Well, when I finally sat my butt down and got to it, it was easy. Not the facing yourself part, but the part where I said, “Come on girl. How many papers have you had to write on a deadline with no sleep and a billion things on your mind on a topic that doesn’t interest you at all? And you got A’s! You can do this!” And I did. And I got an A! Well… there are no grades on those things, but I was accepted to a program that only accepts ten students a year. A straightforward example of how your writing skill, and ability to put your thoughts on the page and make them work for you in invaluable.
At school, I kept writing, and finished my first play, which was produced in the Sky Festival at the American Conservatory Theater. Since then, I have been working nonstop in my field. I have toured and performed at the Moscow Art Theatre, The Town hall Theater of Galway, Ireland, Theatre Calgary in Alberta, and California Shakespeare Theatre. Since moving back to Queens, I have been working with my theater company (a company I started while at QC with other students) producing theater and acting. I was recently cast as the lead in a feature film and am in the middle of shooting as we speak!
(Multitasking… another thing I learned from my time at QC).
I’ve heard so many people say, “Well… yeah. I have an English major that will never do anything for me.” But that’s simply not true. You make it work for you. You have empowered yourself. You have the ideas and theories and stories and speeches of all the greats you have studied and written about and spoken about inside of you. And you actually know how to communicate! It always blows my mind how many people simply do not possess this skill. It will allow you to rise to the top faster than those who do not.
And part deux of that thought? I believe it is imperative to use this knowledge, this strength to pursue a career that actually excites you. What kind of job will make you excited to wake up in the morning? An editor? A playwright? A reporter? A Hotel Reviewer? Times are tough and starting salaries can be scary. But what will make that starter paycheck worth it is if you are working toward something that you want to be a part of. And every one of us has something that no one else has. Figuring that out is a really important step in the start of your journey as you—the grown up QC graduate who is now out in the “real world” stirring up trouble and making a difference. I still take side jobs to get the bills paid, and with every job I take, I make sure it is in some way related to my craft, or making me a better human, or something that I just flat out enjoy. At the end of the day the most important person is you—your health, your happiness, and maintaining your passion. You have the skills to do that. So go do it!
All the best,
PS: My sincere apologies for my abuse of the exclamation point. It’s always been a problem… tsk tsk…bad English major!
Queens College was where I found myself falling precariously in love with literature. This feeling of precarity haunted me in very real, tangible ways. My parents had always pushed me towards the hard sciences, where I would be able to develop a highly marketable set of skills and knowledge towards some lucrative STEM career. Studying English meant courting an unknown, unpredictable future with a diminished promise for success (defined in the normative sense of attaing a high salary, prestige, and job security). But the English courses that I took at QC were also the ones that I found the most intellectually stimulating, teaching me how to write and think critically about different texts as well as the world I inhabit. Reading Edward Said’s Orientalism for the first time in Jesse Schwartz’s class completely blew my mind and provided me with a whole new theoretical framework for apprehending gendered, imperial power relations between the East and the West. For a short while, I managed to trick my parents (as well as myself) into believing that I was majoring in English with plans to apply for law school. By the end of junior year, I knew had to come clean and finally told them that I wanted to pursue a PhD in English. They were very apprehensive about my choice but ultimately, supportive of my passion for studying and writing about literature.
Today, I am a doctoral candidate in the English program at UCLA and am in the process of completing my dissertation. I can therefore say that studying English at QC has directly shaped and changed my life in major ways. It led me to move away from New York, where I was born and raised, all the way to the West coast, where I have found new communities of wonderful peers, mentors, and friends. I have had the pleasure to learn from the brilliant faculty at UCLA and work with Rachel Lee, an amazing advisor who continues to challenge and push me intellectually with regards to my research on Asian American literature and culture. At UCLA, I also had the opportunity to teach undergraduate students for the first time. In my classes, I continue to draw on a lot of the different teaching strategies and styles modeled by my excellent QC English professors such as Duncan Faherty, Caroline Hong, and Jason Tougaw, to only name a few. I have found teaching to be one of the most rewarding aspects of being an academic and I hope to continue helping students become more critically engaged readers and writers in the world they live.
The feeling of precarity regarding my chosen career path still persists in various ways. I feel it as I meticulously budget all of my living expenses and attempt to stretch my stipend as much as I can. I feel it as I scramble to apply for various research fellowships/grants and take on extra graduate student researcher work to make ends meet. This feeling of precarity will, no doubt, increase in the following months as I prepare to go on the highly competitive job market in the fall but I have also come to accept insecurity and risk as the price for doing something that I truly love. I can say that I have become more adept at living-with-precarity, at not allowing this sense of precarity to immobilize me but to instead serve as a more productive, driving force in my research as well as my life.