pranafaeryfiend said: My major was geology. I can empathize with your post about being asked to read essays. I feel quite similar every time someone asks me to help them find gold. It happens more than you might think.
Geology majors can help me find gold?!? Why didn’t I hear about this sooner?
(That’s hilarious though, seriously. I wonder if every major has its own defining ridiculous request.)
"what are you going to do with a degree in english?" [begins to scream and die a bit inside] [pauses to appreciate that iambic pentameter]
A modern casualty is the English major, who studies literature to better understand the perplexities and complexities of life. Classic literature holds up a mirror to human nature, exposing a multitude of experiences that make up the human condition, developing a many-angled point of view. The mirror delivers provocative glimpses into the truth of experience through insight into what Matthew Arnold called “the best that was known and thought in the world.”
One wonderful book of summer reading that’s good for the cold, gray days ahead is “A Literary Education” by Joseph Epstein, a collection of essays for adults eager for their children to get a literary education and to avoid joining an endangered species.
His essays span a half-century of the thought of an educated man who studied English literature at the University of Chicago in the 1950s, who considers the changes in education over the past 50 years as changes in the wrong direction. He describes the kinds of ideas he wanted his students to take away from the books he taught at Northwestern University for more than 30 years, “from Charles Dickens, the importance of friendship, loyalty and kindness in a hard world; from Joseph Conrad, the central place of fulfilling one’s duty in a life dominated by spiritual solitude; from Willa Cather, the dignity that patient suffering and resignation can bring; from Tolstoy, the divinity that the most ordinary moments can provide — kissing a child in her bed goodnight, working in a field, greeting a son returned home from war.” He goes on, but you get the idea.
He’s a man of his time and above his time, a thoughtful writer in a digital-oriented world of blogs, Twitter and Facebook, where ideas shrink to spontaneous exchanges of disjointed messaging.
Those who brave a major in literature today bear the burden of working through narrow political ideas and arcane critical theories based on gender, race and class. This is especially true at the elite universities.
I can’t tell if this is supposed to be a metaphor or not.
An English Major On Everyday Situations
Anonymous said: I'm starting college in a few weeks as an English major. I'm excited but nervous. Do you have any advice for new English majors?
Coffee, coffee, and more coffee. (Or caffeinated tea!)
Be prepared to read and write a lot in a short amount of time. It’s all relative, depending on how many English classes you’re taking at one time, but it can sometimes be hard to balance reading multiple works at once, while also writing about multiple works at the same time. Procrastination is tempting and, at times, inescapable, but just be careful because trying to read 200 pages of, say, Dostoevsky at midnight isn’t always how you want to spend your time.
Be prepared to not have as much time to read for pleasure. Hopefully, the stuff you’ll be reading for class will be pleasurable, but there’s always the issue of choice. It feels nice to choose what you want to read instead of being given a list. If you’re taking multiple English classes at once, it’ll most likely be difficult to read for fun on your own time. But, if it’s a big priority for you (which it sometimes is for me), you can make time for it. I say just see how it goes and see how you feel once the semester starts. Remember that it won’t always be like this, and during breaks and summer, you’ll have time for read on your own terms again.
Get to know your professors? This definitely isn’t just an English major thing, but I highly recommend trying to connect with at least one of your professors (or all!) in office hours. Set up a meeting to discuss an upcoming paper or a certain part of a book you’re reading that you either didn’t quite grasp or thought was incredibly fascinating and want to talk about further. Making connections is so important in college, and I’ve found that the bonds I’ve cultivated with my teachers are my favorite aspect of college thus far.
I’m glad you’re excited but nervous. That’s how I was (and I still feel that way every time fall semester comes around). Majoring in English is a lot of work, but it’s also heaps of fun. And the English major community on Tumblr just adds to the fun :). Best of luck to you!
(Followers, feel free to add advice!)