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Profile - Howell

Jenny Howell '09
Pineville, LA

Jenny Howell doesn't underestimate the value of literature or the impact it can have. "I just wrote an essay on The Things They Carried, and the last chapter starts with the words, ‘Stories can save us,'" she says. "I guess that's my romanticized reason for why I study literature. I believe that stories can offer an escape, a vision of a better world for us, and that teaching literature can help people connect with those visions." As an aspiring English professor, Jenny is also aware of the challenging job instructors face in helping students make those connections. Fortunately, she is up to the task.

Jenny grew up in central Louisiana-in the "ankle of the boot," as her dad calls it. She is the daughter of two teachers. "My mom is an English teacher," Jenny explains, "so from an early age I was reading, and English was my best subject in high school." The decision to become an English major came almost as naturally to Jenny as the decision to teach. "I declared my major the summer before I came to Baylor," she says. "It was always pretty certain."

The main reason why she chose to attend Baylor also focuses more on teaching: in this case, the professors in the department. "When I got here I was really impressed with how personable the English professors were, and how much they really wanted to help me learn." Her studies in the English department have helped her prepare for the next step on her journey toward a position as a college professor: graduate school at The University of Texas at Austin. She's had several experiences that she feels have given her both the scholarly background she will need and an idea of the kind of literature she wants to study. In the fall of her Junior year, she studied abroad in the Netherlands, where she was exposed not only to a different culture but different cultural views of literature. "I took a literature course there, comparing European views of America with American views of Europe. It was a really interesting cross-cultural literary experience," she says.

Back at Baylor, Jenny took a class in Postmodernism that helped her decide to study contemporary literature in graduate school. "I want to study contemporary lit because I feel more connected to it. I can teach something I have experienced, a society that I have experienced, better," she says. "I can't tell you about Victorian society with the same kind of authority. I'm also fascinated with the concept of determining the literary canon for future generations, and being one of the first people to respond to new works that are coming out."

As one of those "first responders," Jenny will be able to pursue her own scholarly interests, and then pass on to her students the passion she has for the stories that can save us.