Major Spotlight: Emma Pitzl

This senior interned for University of Minnesota Press
English major Emma Pitzl standing on a street

Year: Senior
Hometown: Pequot Lakes, MN

Why did you choose to major in English?

The decision to declare the English major was an easy one. English classes were my favorite in high school, and I have been fascinated with words, language, and literature from a young age. There is so much power in writing and communication. Literature, in particular, has a special ability to put into words concepts that are otherwise incomprehensible.

What has been your favorite part of your experience in the department?

The department has provided me with countless opportunities for personal development. Most notably, I was able to work as a fiction editor and a publicist for The Tower, the University’s undergraduate art and literary magazine, and last year I interned at the University of Minnesota Press. The Tower is a class offered within the department, and the University of Minnesota Press only offers internships to English majors at the U. I have gained practical skills that can be applied to life and careers after graduation, and I have developed valuable relationships. I feel so grateful to be a part of a university and an English department that has the capacity to offer such enriching experiences to undergraduates.

Are you pursuing any majors, minors, internships, or fields of interest outside your English major? 

Outside of the English major, I have a minor in psychology, and I work as editorial director with CLAgency, a student-run communications agency in the College of Liberal Arts. I also serve in multiple roles with Cru, a Christian student ministry on campus. In all of these areas, I have been able to see my English studies intersect with other interests. In literature classes, I often find that concepts discussed in psychology lectures appear in texts I am reading and studying. So many of my English courses touch on religious themes; I am able to consider the ways my faith is represented through literature, and it provides a unique, open platform for discussion with my peers about spiritual beliefs. More recently, I discovered the utility of an English degree in other domains because of my position with CLAgency, where I am able to apply my talents in a communications setting. Even with regard to singing, a hobby of mine, linguistic knowledge that I have gained has helped me to become a better vocalist. The universality of the skills I have learned as an English major fascinates me every day!

What English course would you recommend for majors? For non-majors who want to take an English class?

While the class is a requirement, I still recommend ENGL 3001W "Textual Analysis" to majors because it helped me fully understand what it means to be an English major, and taught me to ask important questions (like, “So what?”) when reading a text. My ability to analyze a text and to write about it effectively improved drastically as a result of the class.

For non-majors, I would recommend taking "Shakespeare" or "Introduction to Shakespeare." Shakespeare can be intimidating, but learning how to study his work gave me such an appreciation for it, and I am able to more genuinely enjoy reading his plays. I also really enjoyed "American Novel from 1900," with Nathaniel Mills this past semester. The class focused on the role of the city in the American novel, and the readings were relevant to the city space in which I live.

What is something about the English department that most people wouldn’t know?

The English department is incredibly diverse in terms of perspectives. In my experience with a variety of professors, and in studying different types of literature from distinct time periods, analyses and interpretations of texts vary from person to person nearly every time, revealing the living, subjective qualities of literature. Productive discourse arises as a result of differences in the backgrounds and values of readers. The major is so much more than objectively stating, “The blue curtains represent the sadness of the character.” English majors aim to go beyond surface level observations and dig deeper to consider the way that certain factors and literary devices can impact the reading of a text, and to examine how texts can affect our own views or be applied to our lives.

Best book you've read recently?

I read The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom a few months ago, and it became my favorite book. It uniquely combines journalistic elements with a blend of nonfiction and fiction. Albom uses the perspective of real, influential artists like Wynton Marsalis, KISS, and Ingrid Michaelson and tells the story of Frankie Presto, a musical prodigy who lived through major events in musical history. The book combines a lot of my passions and interests into one, including music, history, and contemplation about the human condition. 

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