When you come to college it is an open playground. I was told to explore my surroundings and expand my comfort zone in the academic world. However, when hearing this as a freshman I couldn’t help but laugh. I knew for a fact I was going to be a Psychology major. I was going to be the best in my field with a Ph.D and making so much money I would have no idea what to do with it. After shopping my first Psychology class I was thoroughly mistaken. In the end, if you read the title of this blog, I became an English Major.
As an English major, more often than I would like to, I hear the same thing; “Oh…that’s nice,” followed by “So, what are you going to do with that?” Usually I retort back with “Professional hobo.” Which is then followed by the obligatory cocktail dinner party giggle (something President Obama has taken part in with other Humanity Majors).
Over the summer I came across an article that I only understood until now. It was so greatly titled The Decline and Fall of the English Major. I recommend that before reading the rest of this post you read the actual article, but if that is too much to ask I’ll give you the gist of it. Basically the author, Verlyn Klinkenborg, explores the reason why there has been a major decline in English majors in college. More students are now majoring in political science, economics, and mathematics. It is based in the idea that there really is no use for the study of literature anymore. It seems as though English majors have the same problem as athletics do on this campus. It won’t necessarily pay off your student debt and the advertisement is lacking.
However, as the author perfectly put, “What is an English major good for? In a way, the best answer has always been, wait and see…Former English majors turn up almost anywhere, in almost any career, and they nearly always bring with them a rich sense of the possibilities of language, literary and otherwise.”
It is an answer that most English majors come to terms with. In a sense I have come to acceptance and actual exercise of this answer both in my classes at Bryn Mawr and in the “real world.” There has never been a career that is specifically designated for an English major which is both a blessing and a curse. No, there will never be job security as a writer. Sadly, I can’t perform open heart surgery with the brilliant words of Walt Whitman. Despite my best efforts I will never be able to understand the inner workings of my own Mac computer, let alone build one from the ground up. But after exploring political expression in short fiction to understanding the just how rebellious authors can be in texts like The Portrait of Dorian Grey and The House of Seven Gables, the words take on more than a narrative. The literature fills your head with countless lifetimes and professions. And on the more comical side, I will never forget one of my professors telling me something along the lines of, “There isn’t a better feeling than insulting someone with literature. You just ooze with wit.”
The point of an English degree isn’t just to read novels and poetry. It is meant to explore the world through language. Articulation is probably the best piece of education any college can give you. So when I graduate in four months with my degree of wit and skill of literary expression, I can proudly say I was an English major.
“No one has found a way to put a dollar sign on this kind of literacy, and I doubt anyone ever will. But everyone who possesses it — no matter how or when it was acquired — knows that it is a rare and precious inheritance.”- Verlyn Klinkenborg
To be continued…