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Why I Thought It Was A Good Idea To Major In English Literature

Majoring in English used to make so much sense.

This is because I am an aspiring novelist who loves reading. Discussing Shakespeare for hours is appealing to me, and because of that, I chose English as my major. I knew from the get-go that majoring in English was not going to be easy. Writing 2500 word essays and constructing strong literary arguments is not easy.

That’s probably why, in high school, I loved my English classes but quickly found out that I wasn’t good at writing essays about all the ways Jane Austen represents the female experience. Majoring in English was more about denying an insecurity than helping my professional and personal goals.

Majoring In English Goes Downhill

During my English classes, I had the pleasure of learning amongst my terrific peers and teachers. However, during class, my motivation was awful. I rarely read the set texts, remained silent in class, and I learned that the way I view literature is different to others. Not a good way to study and learn at university.

When you are majoring in English, you ‘deconstruct’ texts- where you break them down into smaller parts, and analyse the hell out of them. I never could wrap my head around that. It seemed sterile and cold, where literature to me, is full of life and emotion. Adding on to that, what also didn’t make sense is how you’d discuss gender issues in a Jane Austen novel, but never the other themes such as class. There are alot more themes to literature than sexuality, race and gender.

To be honest, I don’t want to discuss those topics all of the time. Some English teachers have a nasty perception. Authors- if they are a straight, white, male- are automatically flawed in their writing. I can’t stand that. It’s such a regressive and ugly way to view literature, which is an art form for everyone. Yes, this includes people who disagree with you on political and cultural matters.

Personal Problems

When I bothered to read the set texts, it’s as if their was a barrier that prevented me from engaging with them. Looking at literature through an academic lense was not for me. I believe authors don’t write novels for them to be studied the night before an exam, but because they want to engage on a deep level with their audience. When I was majoring in English, I wanted my life to be enhanced by reading. It wasn’t.

Reading was a chore, and I felt guilty reading for pleasure or for personal reasons. This is because I always had a ‘required’ text I had to read. Ironically, you’d think majoring in english would result in more reading. However, the opposite is true.

Concluding Thoughts

I’d like to highlight what I’m currently studying at university. I’m majoring in Modern History, a subject that I adore and get alot out of. I am not saying Modern History is a better major for everyone, but it is for me. As an aspiring novelist, I get alot of inspiration from history. Having extra electives means I can take classes in security and international studies, which I am also excited about.

To conclude this blog post, I’d like to highlight that majoring in English does have benefits. If you want to be a teacher or a professor, it is a requirement. Other professions such as literary agent and book reviewer would benefit from an English major. However, those two do not require an English major- you could always do marketing, linguistics or public relations. Majoring in English is a huge committment, so only do it you get something out of it.

What are your experiences majoring in English? Would you recommend it for others? Do you agree with what I have said?

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