- Name: Rachel Wood
- Year: Junior
- Major: English Literature with a minor in Information Studies
- Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama
- Quirky Fact: I’ve been to Disney World eight times.
- Favorite thing to get (food/drink) on campus: Coffee from Starbooks
- Best book you’ve read recently: Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris
- Favorite book: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Q & A:
Tell us about yourself:
My name is Rachel Wood, I am from Birmingham, Alabama and a junior at Murray State University. I try to stay really involved on campus; I’m a member of Kappa Delta sorority, a representative of the Honors College, a consultant at the Racer Writing Center, and an opinion writer for the Murray State News. I absolutely love to read, which is how I ended up with an English major, but I also enjoy arts and crafts like knitting and painting. I also recently discovered a love of traveling after I studied abroad in Scotland for all of the Spring 2016 semester. It was a truly amazing experience that I can’t get enough of.
What made you come to Murray State?
My mom is actually an alum of Murray State. At the time, she lived in Paris, Tennessee, and we have family there. She brought me here for a tour during my junior year of high school, although I don’t think she really thought I’d decide to go here. It was probably the first campus that I could really see myself attending. I toured quite a lot of schools, but none felt like a good fit for me.
Probably the biggest factor for me, though, is that it was kind of a happy medium. It wasn’t so big that you would get lost in the crowd of students, but not so small as to feel like everyone knows everything about you. It was a school of small classes with big opportunities.
Who have you enjoyed working with?
The people I have most enjoyed working with are Dr. Nielsen and Dr. Black. I have worked with Dr. Black on several larger projects that were about literature and video games, and Dr. Nielsen has done work in that field as well, so I’ve had a lot of fun working with them. They’ve really encouraged me to push the envelope of literature, so I get to pick unconventional pieces to look into and come up with interesting arguments about them. I like to discuss things that people don’t consider traditional literature, like video games or Harry Potter, and they have helped me turn those ideas into academic arguments.
Who inspires you in life?
Avoiding clichés (as my parents and friends definitely inspire me), Amy Hennig is probably my main role model, even though a lot of people probably don’t know who she is. She used to work at the gaming development company Naughty Dog, and she was the creative director for some of their games. She is really pushing the envelope for women in the gaming industry, and she’s also a really cool person. She also uses her online platforms to advocate for some really great things. I admire her for going out and doing what she wants to do despite the attitudes of consumers, all the while paving the way for women in the gaming industry. She has really opened doors for people, and I hope to follow in her footsteps one day.
What made you choose the major you did?
I didn’t intend to study English in college; I actually thought I would go into graphic design up until my junior year of high school. An English teacher that I really admired handed back one of my papers, and asked me if I had ever thought about being an English major when I went to college—to which I promptly answered that I hadn’t, since that would flip everything that I had done already in looking for colleges on its head. Unlike graphic design, English is offered at pretty much any school anywhere. But that’s what got me thinking about what it would mean to study English. I love writing and academic arguments, so part of the reason that I chose to be an English major is that it would also help me foster the writing skills that I developed in high school and really see what I could go with it. This was a turning point for me to reevaluate what I wanted to do.
Work/projects related to your major?
The biggest project I have worked on so far is a study of women in the video game industry, especially through their writing and how female writers are portraying female characters. I presented some preliminary research at a pop culture conference in Chicago this past October, and it was such an amazing experience. I got to talk about how women in the industry are making their own rules as they go. These women are doing such a great job creating well-rounded female characters, especially after coming from some of the games made during the 80s and 90— which are not particularly known for being progressive or well-rounded characters.
I am also currently working on a literary comparison between the openings of Jane Eyre and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I’m essentially making an argument that Harry Potter can be, in fact, valid academic literature (which is what I find myself arguing most of the time), and it has a lot of literary similarities with Jane Eyre. What I’m discovering is that there are a lot of things that can be read as valid literature, even if it might not seem to initially.
Right now, I am looking into graduate schools and MA programs. I am minoring in Information Studies, so I am also looking where I can go with something like Digital Humanities. Unlike when I was looking into undergraduate programs, where I was looking for places close to home, I am looking for graduate programs anywhere and everywhere, even out of the country. I know it would be a really great experience to go somewhere new. From there, I’d like to do more traveling since it’s something I have really learned to love this past year. After that, I hope to continue my work with gaming and perhaps, from an academic/creative standpoint, look at entering into the gaming industry somewhere.
When Rachel presented her paper at the Midwest Popular and American Culture Conference, she was paired with two advanced graduate students. Her paper was the strongest one, and she delivered it without merely reading it, as most academics do. Rachel’s project is one of my favorite I’ve ever had the pleasure to be involved with: dealing with a woman (Amy Henig) who is active and vibrant in a male-dominated field. It reminds me of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century women I study who had to carve a place for themselves in the male-dominated culture of poetry. The seriousness with which Rachel takes video games is comparable to the seriousness with which she takes writing and literature.