Jumping for Joyce
Elizabeth Belnap (B.A. ’19) always knew she wanted books to be a big part of her life. An avid reader from a young age—she says her “bookworm parents” influenced her—Belnap developed an appreciation for English literature and the characters created by some of her favorite authors. “I’m a huge fan of James Joyce, who offers the kind of difficult language and really complex characters that I love to read. Irish literature in particular has a lot of colonial and post-colonial influence, which is really interesting to me,” say says. After completing her bachelor’s in English at New York Institute of Technology, she decide to pursue a master’s in English literature at Brigham Young University. She sat down with The Box to talk about her college experience and plans for the future.
Why did you choose to pursue your English degree at New York Tech?
I transferred to New York Tech in the middle of my sophomore year and could not have been luckier. The commute was easy for me and I loved the neighborhood. When picking a major, I looked at the faculty. I knew the English department was full of great professors who were amazing teachers and scholars—this is where I wanted to be.
When did you develop an affinity for Irish literature?
During my second semester at New York Tech, I ended up in an Irish literature class and fell in love. I feel very fortunate to have worked with faculty members who supported me in my extracurricular focus and encouraged me to travel to Ireland.
Can you talk about your trip to Ireland? What other experiences have you had here that have helped you grow personally and professionally?
My professors encouraged me to apply for the Edward Guiliano Global Fellowship, which I received twice. This allowed me to travel abroad to study and present my work. In 2018, I traveled to Dublin, Ireland, to attend a weeklong James Joyce-focused program. And in my senior year, I presented my research on James Joyce at the 2019 North American James Joyce Symposium in Mexico City, Mexico. I spoke about Joyce’s influence on an Egyptian author named Naguib Mahfouz. My research focused on how Joyce’s work arrived in Egypt and how Mahfouz discovered and adapted Joyce’s work for his own purposes.
That experience was fun and intimidating at the same time. It was a great culmination of my time at New York Tech, and a great way to prepare me for graduate school.
What do you eventually hope to do professionally? Where do you see yourself in five years, 10 years?
I hope to be a full-time college professor one day. After I graduate, I plan to get my Ph.D., while continuing to read and write about literature. I would love to work at a university where I can continue to do research and help students in the same way my professors here have helped me.