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English and Creative Writing

Denzel Marufu ’23

Class Year

2023

Area(s) of Study

Major: English

Hometown

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Denzel Marufu, a current student in the Lake Forest College English program, is currently working on several novellas in the Dostoevskian tradition for publication. His fiction is set in his native Zimbabwe. He has also acted as a research assistant for faculty over the summer.

What drew you to Lake Forest College? It is always great to feel wanted, particularly when the interest is genuine, and I got that feeling from the College with how quickly they offered me a place here and gave me the financial backing to pursue my studies with minimum stress. Add to that a cozy campus, which enables flexibility and freedom in the course selection process, as well as a short train trip to one of the most iconic cities in the world, and it’s all anyone could ever ask for. The former was particularly helpful for me as I had doubts in the back of my mind about my major, so I felt comfortable knowing that I could always gradually decide for certain what I wanted to pursue.  

What motivated you to study English? In all honesty, I had not envisioned studying English in college at all in my younger years—perhaps as a minor at most, but even that seemed unlikely. In all truth, English language and literature classes are where I have always felt at home from a young age; I enjoyed writing little poems and stories, but I did not take it seriously. This was the case until I was roughly 18. Thankfully, I was already a keen reader by then, so I used all my free time to read philosophy, for the most part, but I wanted to stock up on novels for some reason. While I always enjoyed a good novel, I felt that many were too disconnected from the truths of philosophy, so I searched for books that combined both seamlessly. I then stumbled upon Russian authors (from the 19th century specifically) who really showed me what a novel could be and how realistic fiction could be. The added psychological insights of the works really [piqued] my interest, and I was hooked. I would say this is when I really took literature seriously and sought to fully immerse myself in it. The pandemic only helped solidify this desire as I used it to better my writing and read more great ideas.  

What practical skills that you have learned in your English classes do you find yourself using most? The ability to express yourself succinctly is always handy, as this requires you to really understand the information you have been given. This skill is only improved with each class assignment.  

How do your studies in English help you engage with the world in a different way? I think reading great works, in particular, gives you a respect for people as you find that there is a correlation between respecting language and respecting your fellow man since this is how we connect to each other. It also made me more aware of the complexities of people and, while these may be difficult to accept, gives us insights into our own lives, too.  

What are a couple of the most memorable classes or research opportunities you've completed in the English department? I would say my English 210 class was a game changer for me as this was when I decided to declare as an English major after seeing how passionate my professor as well as the students were. I had feared that literature was dying, but this class put an end to that. I then went on to do research with Professor Carla Arnell on several authors bound by existential and theological themes. These themes are right up my alley so things could not have worked out better for me over the summer.  

What are you working on right now that excites you? Along with the research, I used the summer break to finish up a novel I had spent the past year working on. It was probably the most enjoyable time I have had intellectually, and I am looking to follow it up soon. 

What inspires your fiction? I’d say it’s mostly the fascinating array of characters I’ve encountered in my lifetime. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to live in three continents, which has allowed me to interact with all kinds of people from several walks of life. The advantage of this is that I’m able to spot some patterns in how people behave and the circumstances which enable them to behave in certain ways. My first love is psychology, thus my writing enables me to really creatively show some key aspects of existence. I aim to spread these truths and show the complexity of life; trying to beautify each journey and obstacle being worth it. I find the arbitrary appreciation of life is something that is dwindling and want to help restore it even in a small way. Naturally, my writing is quite existential, which has been aided by the likes of Professor Arnell who have expertise in the literature. Other English classes I’ve taken on American literature have also let me see what themes have emerged throughout the ages which has helped me since I aim to get published in the US and can, therefore, relate my thoughts with those of the great American writers to expand my audience. Apart from that, really, the array of literature we are exposed to in the classes is always a help for anyone interested in the field.