“We are who we are because we have a story,” said Joseph Newell, a Mississippi State English master’s student whose academic pursuits and love of literature he believes will lead him back to the classroom one day. “We are a product of our narrative, and English invites us to confront and reflect on perceptions, ideas and experiences that are unique to us and give an account of the events that led us to who we are today.”
“English provides us with stories of others that are crafted in the way they see fit. The imperfections or perfections of characters often remind us of something or someone, and sometimes ourselves. We develop a relationship with the characters and their stories. That is what English and writing does––it helps us craft our stories while also engaging with others to create meaning and definition in relationships,” said Newell, a native of Cary, who received his MSU undergraduate degree in English in 2019 and hopes to finish his master’s this spring.
A budding writer, Newell is the recipient of the 2023 MSU Gender Studies Essay Award for his spring article, “Endearment and Infantilization in ‘A Room with a View,’” based on a 1908 novel by E.M. Forster. Newell spent this past summer doing more research on the topic of infantilization—treating adults as if they are children—and revised and submitted the essay to the journal South Atlantic Review, which will publish it this fall and make it accessible in academic databases.
“Many different things sparked my interest in the field of English. There were numerous books my mom read to me at bedtime, and while the words intrigued me, I was always enticed by the way the story unfolded,” said Newell, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in English literature so he can help future students in their storytelling.
“I am an overthinker, and English welcomed my inquisitive nature,” said the member of Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies. “In short, English asked me to think, and I revel in unlocking challenging puzzles and riddles that present themselves in various forms and conventions.”
Newell said his MSU graduate school experience has included participation in a “diverse range of courses that significantly enriched” his comprehension of English literature. He also has enjoyed the extracurricular life as well, serving as a graduate representative for the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Advisory Board and a past vice president of the Sigma Tau Delta English honor society.
“Mississippi State University felt like a welcoming environment during my first summer visit to the campus,” said Newell, who was drawn to the atmosphere of family and friendship. “I could not wait to be a part of it. On the other hand, MSU also promised me academic and professional development and a firm foundation to build a career as an educator and researcher, and that was promising and impactful.”
“The art of writing is truly remarkable, and its potential to sway opinions, alter attitudes and shape beliefs is unparalleled,” Newell said. “Writing also allows us to harness knowledge and transform it into a tangible impact that can bring about positive change. The power of words cannot be underestimated, and the ability to use them effectively is a skill worth mastering.”