Senior Profile: Lynn Martin

Lynn MartinSenior Lynn Martin is the recent recipient of the 2020 Winston Award and the English Department's Joyce Taloe Horrell Award. Find Lynn's writing here.

Why did you decide to become an English major?

I love to read and to understand how people think. Literature is a great window into the minds of authors, characters, and eras, so English studies was a good fit for me.

What clubs, campus groups, internships, outside of class projects have you been involved with?

Since I commuted from Hagerstown, MD, I didn’t have the time to participate in many school projects outside of class. However, back at home, I’ve been leading out in some writing groups and I edit a poetry publication for my community.

What has been your favorite class in English and why?

My favorite class was Chaucer with Thomas Moser. It was so much fun breaking into the Middle English text and uncovering a rich medieval world with so many colorful characters. In class, we read large portions of the text in our best attempts at a Middle English accent. Then we’d stop and try to decipher the many stories and people, all intricately crafted and suffused with Chaucer’s personality. Professor Moser’s approach to the text really resonated with me—he made Chaucer’s world come alive.

What is something you read during class that impacted your worldview?  

In a medieval literature class (also with Professor Moser), we read the Song of Songs along with some medieval sermons based on the text. The beauty of the poem stunned me, and what struck me the most was the characters’ three-dimensional and humanizing view of each other. From that poem, the medieval monks learned a relationship with God that seemed so beautiful and intimate to me. I have to say, I immediately coveted the worldview that could produce such a poem and such a meaningful experience of religion.

What skills (professional, creative or other) do you think you’ve gotten from the major?

English studies has helped me develop skills in writing, criticism, and many other areas. But to me, studying English isn’t as much about learning professional skills as about learning to listen and to understand—to think through what a text or author is saying on various levels. Sadly, it’s rare for people in our world today to actually listen to each other and hear each other out. In English studies, we get to hear people from many eras, cultures, and beliefs, and that helps us to understand both them and ourselves.

What is your dream job or career?

My dream has always been to encourage other people’s abilities for creating literature and art. I want to provide them with the resources and inspire them to create meaningful creations that both reveal and transcend individual times and cultures. Because of that, I’m interested in writing, teaching, and publishing. I’m not sure yet what such a broad career would look like, but we’ll see!

What are you passionate about (or even curious about)?

I guess I’m most curious about the meaning of life. Okay, I admit that my other major is philosophy. But literature is a wonderful way of expressing and discovering what it is to be human. Reading it and writing it show us the many amazing and dreadful things that make up our lives and relationships. I study because I want to learn how and why to live.

To you, what has been the most valuable part of the English major?

I think that the most valuable thing I’ve learned is how to read a text. Throughout our lives we read thousands of messages, emails, interviews, memes, news items, stories, religious texts, and so on. It’s so vital to be able to understand what is being told to us, both overtly and beneath the surface, in any text or presentation. It’s as easy to misunderstand people today as it has ever been, so the skill of understanding what someone else is saying is one of the most valuable skills anyone can have.