Portrait of Hilary Pearce

Hilary Pearce
English Major, Literature Concentration

Besides your current classes, what else are you doing or have you done that we should know about? Awards? Special projects? Travel? Service work?

I’m very honored to have received a SURE Grant from the English Department, which I’m using to work on a research project about the undervalued novel from the last century, Valley of the Dolls. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a great privilege to feel that people are interested in an idea of mine. It’s a little surreal, actually. Last year I went to Paris and London for a little literary immersion — visiting old haunts of authors like Fitzgerald, Joyce, Hemingway, Dickens, and Wilde. I even chastised a fellow-visitor at the famed Shakespeare and Company bookstore who complained that the store didn’t seem very important. I consider it one of my prouder moments!

What inspired you to get a degree in English? Why CSU? How did you choose your concentration?

When I first graduated from high school, I naively believed it when people told me that an English degree is only good for teaching. As I have never felt I would make a good teacher, I searched for other ideas of a major and eventually left college altogether. But I woke up to how much I wanted to learn in a classroom again and to discuss books with other book-lovers, which in turn led me to researching non-teaching careers in the world of English. The options are all but endless! So I decided to get a degree in English at CSU: I had heard good things about the program here, and visits to friends indicated I would love the town and the climate of the school (and I do!). My choice of literature as a concentration was very natural, as what I wanted to do in school was read, discuss, and think about books. The lit concentration is exactly that, and it is absolutely amazing!

We are always trying to debunk the myth that the ONLY options for an English major are to become a writer, teacher, or work in publishing. What sort of possibility, potential do you see for yourself as an English major?

Truth be told, going into publishing is exactly what I want for myself. But an English degree is so much more than the nuts and bolts of books and their distribution: an English degree is about searching for understanding in our world and in others, no matter how different their experiences or viewpoints may be. To me, an English degree is valuable in any career path, as it sharpens communication skills and cultivates empathy, critical thinking, and interest in other places, walks of life, and modes of thinking. Positions of leadership in most any field would be well filled by someone with an English background!

Knowing what you do about it, how would you describe the CSU English department to someone?

The CSU English Department is truly a community. In every class, you will study alongside people who will challenge you, encourage you, make flashcards with you, and eat too much Panda Express with you. It’s like a very large French salon, but with Panda Express added in.

Why do you think the humanities are important?

The humanities make life worth living. They make the world beautiful, and the value of that beauty cannot be measured.

What would you like to tell prospective CSU English Department students?

An English degree will give you exactly as much as you put into it. If you read and write and listen, you will be rewarded with knowledge, excellent conversation, and fun. Hard work is definitely necessary to get the most from this degree, but it is 100% worth it!

What advice do you have for current CSU English Department students?

Do your reading! Hold each other up! And please tell me to stop talking when I’ve been going on for too long!

What was the last piece of writing you read or wrote? OR, What are you currently reading, writing?

Recently I re-read North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, a simply lovely novel from the 19th century that discusses labor unions and tension between classes.

What are your hobbies or special interests, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?

I’m a terribly boring person. I like to watch movies and pause them fifty times to analyze symbolic significance, I like to embroider, I like walking dogs, and of course, I love to read.

Where will we find you in five years?

Here in Fort Collins, working remotely as a reader for Penguin/Random House, promoting novels by and about voices from marginalized groups. I’ll be at New Belgium, a stack of manuscripts on the table and a large, fluffy dog by my side.