Dispatches from the Department of English, Part 2: Sophmore Maggie Clark profiles the Kirner sisters, twins majoring in English

Author: Sara Judy

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Each semester the English Department at Notre Dame employs several undergraduate student-workers. This week, we're featuring dispatches from two of our current undergraduate English employees: Sophia Buonavolonta and Maggie Clark, both in their second year at Notre Dame.

Here, Maggie offers a profile of the Kirner sisters, junior undergraduate students, South Bend locals, and twin sisters who both chose to major in English. 


Twinning in the English Department: A profile of the Kirner sisters
by Maggie Clark

Claire and Emma Kirner have a unique connection to the Department of English at Notre Dame: they are the first set of twins to both be English majors here in recent history. South Bend natives and current juniors at the University, the twins are also both Visual Communication and Design majors, and are involved in the Notre Dame Symphonic Orchestra.

Neither Claire nor Emma came to Notre Dame thinking they were going to major in English. Emma began her first year as a Neuroscience major, while Claire began in Environmental Science. In taking English classes to fulfill university requirements alongside their science and math classes, Claire and Emma separately realized that the small, conversation-based English classes were a lot more comfortable for them than the large lectures and lab-based classes they were otherwise taking. Emma said that she found that labs and exams “were not the space [she] felt comfortable being tested in." Instead, the twins found more of that comfort in their English courses, which was one of the reasons they decided to become English majors.

At Notre Dame, both Claire and Emma have found true value in the opportunities they have become able to pursue. One of these opportunities was Study Abroad. Both twins studied abroad last semester, but in different locations: Emma studied abroad in London, while Claire went to Dublin. Through this experience–the first time they lived apart for a significant period of time–the twins agreed that they “were able to develop individually, but also come to appreciate each other more.” Emma said that in London, she took three English courses, and in them, she got to explore the city of London and make connections between the city and the works they were discussing in her classes through going to places such as the Harry Potter studios and Jane Austen’s house. In regards to opportunities stemming from the English Major in South Bend, Claire talked about the “Shakespeare in Asia” class in which she got to talk to Shakespeare experts from all over the world through Zoom, allowing her to look at literature through a more “global lens.”

Claire and Emma are also both majoring in Visual Communication and Design, which they agreed connects perfectly to the English major. In both curricula, Claire said that there is a “similar way to measure the success of [one’s] work,” as in both design and writing, there is an element of subjectivity. Emma explained that the majors are also similar in that they challenge students to “look deeply into the world and come to a simplification on the topic they are looking at.” To elaborate, she used the example of book covers and essays: while each is different in its  form of communication, both the design of a book cover and the rhetoric of an essay are essential in communicating the ideas of the designer/writer to their audience. The twins agree that both majors offer them a sense of creative fulfillment. After graduation, Claire would like to possibly work in the design solutions or branding fields, and Emma would like to work in the global communications or marketing fields. Even so, the two still understand their English major to be essential to the creativity and communication skills they will need to succeed in their futures.