Hello! My name is Carmen. I come from a curiously Hispano-Chindian-Filipino family, most of which is in the States, but I fell in love with sunny Singapore in 2007 and have stayed ever since. Reading has been a joy for me from young, but I would say that I am a Literature Major not because of books, but because of people. My grandfather, our very kind professors, and my wonderful friends on campus, who also share a passion for the humanities, encouraged me to dig deep into what moves me. I’m very grateful for all of them and the choice they helped me make.
My research interest is primarily in the Classics. In analysing ancient texts, I believe we can learn from the wisdom and beauty of antiquity for ourselves and those to come. My favourite books, though, are not from the Classics. (Oops!) I love Dante’s Divina Commedia and anything by Tolkien, CS Lewis, GK Chesterton and Thomas Howard.
What are you up to now?
As you read this, I am likely curled up in a library, wading through readings about Byzantine icons or memorising the peculiarities of mediaeval Latin orthography. That or I’m taking a cat nap, as I try to acclimatise to autumn in New England. In all seriousness, I am having a blast, pursuing a Masters in Religion at Yale Divinity School, with the Institute of Sacred Music.
How does your experience in Literature inform what you’re doing?
I confess that I underappreciated how much I was learning while I was in college. Now that I’m in a different environment, I can see that I was given so much by my professors and peers. My sub-concentration at YDS is titled ‘Religion and Literature’, so the continuity seems pretty clear, but even as I have moved to doing more research in the visual arts and liturgical studies, I apply the same skills I was taught as a Literature major: placing the piece of art in its socio-historical context, breaking it down into its components, analysing these sections, and respecting that the complete work of art has something more than just the sum of its parts.
Perhaps the most important thing being a Literature major at Yale-NUS has given me is confidence. Though I came to the major with little preparatory background, our professors were always encouraging. At every stage in my undergraduate career, they encouraged me to pursue my interests, even if I was not the quickest student or sure of where I was heading. It may not seem that special, but when I am faced with a difficult poem, painting, or task today, I trust that I can work through it with enough time, patience, and the right secondary sources! I think that is because my professors and classmates in Literature at Yale-NUS believed in me, and taught me to believe in myself. For that, I am truly indebted and most grateful.
Why did you choose the major?
I had not planned on becoming a literature major – I had been a science student all my life! However, amidst the confusion in the first run of the Common Curriculum, it was clear that my favorite moments were usually in Literature and Humanities. I enjoyed the lectures, and I took great satisfaction in writing about our texts. During my second year, I adored my Latin language classes with Professor Steven Green and Introduction to Roman Literary Culture with Professor Mira Seo. If I wanted to spend more time in such classes, choosing the Literature major was inevitable. It certainly is one of the best decisions I made at Yale-NUS.
How did it shape your Yale-NUS experience (what did you LOVE about it?)?
Choosing Literature allowed me a robust education in the humanities, which gave me the space to think about what mattered to me, not only as a student, but also as a whole person. Professors encouraged us to take history and language classes, and they brought into our discussions ideas from philosophy, geography, or the fine arts. The students and faculty in Literature also formed a warm and welcoming community. I look back fondly at the times we would come together for capstone discussions or to listen to professors present on their works-in-progress. I really appreciated that I could trust my peers and teachers to welcome my ideas and to share theirs with me.