Sam McCracken

Posted On August 29, 2016
Categories Profiles in English

What is your concentration?


I am—unapologetically—following the English literature track, and I love it. I am also pursuing a second major in Spanish (with a concentration in language, culture, and society).


Why are you majoring in English?


This is a question I receive often (looking at you, dad), and it seems I always produce a new answer. “Because I like books,” a nonthreatening option, might suit the situation, but depending on my mood, I might begin some tirade on the state of critical thinking, of cultural and historical awareness, or of literacy in the United States today. Studying literature can cultivate any number of great and valuable qualities, not the least of which might be the ability to analyze the goings-on around you.


Not everyone can be an engineer. Not everyone needs to study a STEM-related discipline. Our world is in serious need of creators, artists, tinkerers, and writers. Study English. Read, think, write, edit, repeat.


A less exciting (but undeniable) additional outcome of working toward a degree in English is the ability to scrutinize diction, grammar, spelling, and organization on a professional level. It never hurts to know how to present oneself effectively on paper.


What was your favorite English class at Georgia State (so far)?


This is a tough question. Presently, I’m somewhere between Dr. Kocela’s Theories of Popular Culture and Dr. Dobranski’s Special Topics: Mythology. Both were enlightening, both were fun.


I say the former because, as a millennial, I feel my generation has become somewhat desensitized to the often subversive messages conveyed by popular media. Among other things, taking Dr. Kocela’s class has provided me with the tools to evaluate critically the texts—advertisements, TV shows, song lyrics, you name it—we unconsciously consume.


Dr. Dobranski’s class on mythology, on the other hand, spoke to kind of personal nostalgia for Greco-Roman stories. And while it was vaguely upsetting for my inner ten-year-old self to realize how deeply misogynistic, violent, and sexual some of my favorite myths truly are–thanks, Disney–I have gained a new appreciation for them and for the writers responsible for purveying them. Also noteworthy: I’m now especially fluent in unpacking the myriad allusions to Greek myths found in nearly any given novel.


What are some of your extra-curricular projects or activities?


Between work, school, and assigned readings, I don’t have much time reserved for extra-curricular clubs or societies, but if it counts, I did have the incredible opportunity to study abroad in San José, Costa Rica, for six weeks this summer. I was there to study Spanish, naturally, but as the mental echo of a former professor likes to remind me, “studying a new language often provides insights into your first.” Full immersion allowed me to consider things like economy of language, syntax, and specificity, mostly because I was forced to pinpoint what I wanted to express and determine the path of least resistance each time (and because every second counts when you’re trying, in real-time, to direct a cabdriver to your homestay in a country without a formal address system).


I’m not sure if you could even call them “projects” yet, but recently, I have been thinking about the intersection of life-writing and social media, about some prison-centered TV shows, and about a particular trend in certain works of contemporary British literature.


What long-term plans or aspirations do you have for your career?


I hope to attend graduate school at some point in the not-so-distant future, but I’m not yet certain if I’m going to marathon through it directly after earning my undergraduate degree. Lately, I’ve been investigating programs in comparative literature, Spanish, and English literature. I’m a creature of habit.


Long-term, I hope to educate at some level, do work as an editor, read, write, write, write, and—above all—lead a happy, fulfilling life.