Parker Renberg-“Dubliner” and Double-Major in English and Economics, Headed to Harvard Law

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Jyotsna Singh: “Congratulations to Parker Renberg for going to Harvard Law School. I enjoyed having him in my class on Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Parker’s passionate engagement with literature coupled with a deep intellectual curiosity was evident in the fine work he produced in the class. I recall his fine analysis of Shakespeare’s Macbeth as well as another study of the medieval theme of the “Art of Dying” as particularly memorable! I am sure these insights and his love of literature will continue to inform his intellectual and personal journeys ahead.”

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

I have loved my time as an English major at MSU. I double majored in English and Economics, and my biggest regret is taking so many of my English classes in my first two years at MSU. I was exposed to so many different types of texts across courses, and the variation in how you are challenged across courses is one of the aspects I found most valuable about the major. You’re always reading and writing, but you end up doing it in so many different ways and contexts.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

I think my most impactful experience was with Dr. William Johnsen on the 2019 Literary Studies in Dublin study abroad program. Reading texts by literary figures such as Yeats and Joyce in the same places that influenced the writing of said texts was something I found unexpectedly powerful, and helped me connect and engage in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise. Compounding this engagement was Dr. Johnsen’s infectious enthusiasm regarding our studies, without which Ulysses certainly would have been much more intimidating! Another class I thoroughly enjoyed was ENG 368: Studies in Medieval/Early Modern Literature with Dr. Jyotsna Singh. Although we had to shift to remote instruction halfway through the semester, I still enjoyed the experience and greatly developed my comfort with close reading. Dr. Singh’s guidance really helped me develop an ability to do detail oriented analysis and know that this will help me succeed in law school. I’ve also always been drawn to Shakespeare, so the opportunity to read and analyze Macbeth, Richard III, and more was just an added bonus.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

I would advise future English majors to do research and write on what interests them specifically, as many English classes give at least some amount of flexibility as to what you actually write about. The essays I wrote that I am most proud of and felt I grew most as a writer were those where I was passionate about the topic and text. Writing on things you want to write about will also drive you to become a better writer and a better thinker.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them?

In my capstone course, ENG 484C, I have been working on research centering around Daemonologie, a text written by King James VI of Scotland. My project has centered on how shifts in understandings of witchcraft and associated persecution reflects changing power structures in early modern England. As part of my research, I have also drawn heavy connections between the cultural attitudes of the time period and the legal frameworks that developed alongside them. I think the multifaceted nature of this project has been the most interesting part of it, as my sources are varied enough to include both theoretical writings on how witches operate, accounts of specific trials and executions, and legislation on witchcraft from the time period.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

This fall I will be attending Harvard Law School, and am interested in doing environmental or antitrust legal work.

If you’re interested in doing so, please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during the ongoing pandemic. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

The pandemic has definitely been a challenge to navigate, even upon returning to classes. I think the biggest point of emphasis for me was developing a healthy routine for eating, sleeping, and exercising. We live in a very difficult time, and although basic regulatory stuff won’t necessarily stave off stress and anxiety, neglecting it can cause problems in a hurry.