Rachel Hackett

Meet Alum Rachel Hackett

Meet Rachel Hackett, Wayne State alumna and soon-to-be grad student at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Rachel graduated in the Fall 2018 semester with a double major in English Honors and French Honors. During her time at Wayne State, she presented at two Rushton Conferences and was a recipient of both the 2017 and 2018 Joseph & Mary E. Yelda Scholarships. Like many English-inclined students, Rachel was initially inspired to become an English major by her favorite book series, The Lord of Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Because of her interest in Tolkien, Rachel decided to begin her English studies in the realm of medieval literature, studying classics such as Beowulf. After taking a smattering of other English classes, however, Rachel broadened her scope and ended up taking a slightly different route than she expected. “I think that since I ended up taking so many different kinds of classes I just didn’t end up following through with The Lord of the Rings,” she said. “But those books, and Jane Eyre made me like reading a lot, which was part of the reason why I chose to become an English major.” 

As a graduate student, Rachel plans to study comparative literature, focusing particularly on crime literature with themes related to trauma. “I reserve the right to change my mind,” she said, “but I wrote my personal statement about crime literature because, for my French thesis, I wrote about a book called, Chanson Douce. It’s crime literature, so it’s not like a detective story or a CSI case or anything.” Unlike detective fiction, works of crime literature, such as Leïla Slimani’s Chanson Douce, are more concerned with why a crime occurred. Because of this, endings in works of crime literature tend to be more ambiguous than some would like. In the case of Chanson Douce, for example, the reader never gets a definitive answer as to why the nanny murdered the children she was responsible for. “You get hints, but they don’t ever say, ‘this is why,’” said Rachel. “A lot of people don’t like it because of that.” Studying the trauma in Chanson Douce compelled Rachel to explore this theme further, both as a literary element and real-life experience. “It’s a very broad category which is why I’ve narrowed it a little bit to crime literature,” she said. “I think that’s the direction I’ll end up going.”

One of Rachel’s inspirations for studying comparative literature was her Intro to Literary Studies course taught by Professor Hoogland. “Her Literary Studies class was my favorite class,” said Rachel. “I feel like it was the hardest class I took, but I also learned the most in her class. It also helped influence why I chose to go into comparative literature because comparative literature is a lot of literary theory, which we did a lot in that class.” Another English class that had a positive impact on Rachel was Professor Leary’s American Literature course. “I thought I didn’t like American literature,” said Rachel. “But after taking Professor Leary’s class, I do really like it.” These are just a few of the many classes at Wayne State that has led Rachel to pursue a career as a professor. Though she predicts it will be challenging, Rachel is confident in her decision to study comparative literature, which will allow her to teach a wide range of topics. “Another reason why I chose comparative literature is that I could be a comparative literature professor; I could be an English professor; I could be a French professor; if I get good enough at it, I could be a Spanish professor. So there are more avenues. Plus, with knowing French and Spanish, that’ll be helpful no matter what career I end up in,” she said, “but I do really like the idea of teaching and doing my own research.”

To up-and-coming English majors, Rachel recommends keeping your scope broad when choosing your English classes. “I would say that you should try and take different types of classes,” she said. “Don’t pigeonhole yourself into just taking one type of class because then you might miss out on something that you really like.” She also recommends that English majors try to attend career workshops sooner rather than later. “I feel like it helps if you start exploring what your career options are earlier,” she said. “I went to one of those workshops about grad school in my freshman year. I’m really glad I did.” Whether it’s a workshop on careers or grad school, Rachel strongly recommends that students attend these events in their early years of undergrad to ensure they have plenty of time to explore their options. “Go to those things early,” she said, “even if you think you’re not going to be ready for a couple of years.”

As a final note, Rachel thinks it's important that people continue to pursue degrees in the humanities, and she hopes that students won’t lose sight of that. “Even people who aren’t English majors or in the humanities still benefit from, and consume, different forms of entertainment or literature, and just the ways of understanding people,” she said. “I just think I would be super depressed if I wasn’t doing what I love.”


By Amelia Mazur