Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Why Being an English Major Sucks


As some of you may or may not know I'm a college senior majoring in English. This may sound like a delight to us reading fanatics but as I've come to learn in the past four years it's more torture than anything. I decided to become an English major my senior year of high school. I was totally inspired by my AP English teacher and I wanted to be just like her. She made me appreciate books that I otherwise would've hated such as Madame Bovary and Jane Eyre (notice how I say appreciate and not like! haha). And she assigned homework that was fun and engaged with the reading. For example, for one of our assignments she gave us a list of Shakespearean insults and we had to write a letter to someone we didn't like using twenty of them. We read plays out loud and had to write poems in the style we were reading. While all of this sounds easy and juvenile, her class was the hardest I'd taken in high school. She graded papers with a too critical eye and always expected the best from us. But because she helped me see the beauty in words and how much fun reading and learning could be I always wanted to submit the best work I possibly could.

College, however, not so much. I often feel lazy but I know it comes from a lack of motivation. There's only been a few English classes that have stuck out in my mind and that I can say I was engaged in. Other classes just turn me off completely to the material that we're reading. We rarely explore the beauty of the actual words that were written settling instead for some deeper meaning that may or may not be there. Although I understand that a lot of heavier reading does contain that deeper meaning sometimes I would just enjoy talking about things in the books like relationships and imagery and why the books resonated with us personally. Also, I hate that we read a novel, talk about it, then never use it for anything else. I know that there is less time and more work packed into a semester than in a year of high school but just discussing things that don't really interest me in a book that may have interested in me gives me no motivation to read it at all.

There are so many books out there, "classics", that I would have loved to read in college but most classes focus on more obscure, heavier novels. While that may ignite a fire in some readers it blew mine out. Needless to say, studying novels hasn't proven to have been as fun and exciting as I would have hoped. And now I'm getting ready to graduate and I'm left with this void. Knowing that I've slacked off because of disinterest and knowing that there is so much more out there I wanted to explore but couldn't. I guess I'm just going to have to push myself to read and learn everything I wanted to on my own time.

With that sad post being over with...what are some "classics" you recommend? Do you have the same feelings with college/high school? Are there any books you read outside of school that you wished you would have studied in school?

7 comments:

Lizzy said...

You're a brave soul. I have a couple friends who are English majors, and they seem to have the same issues that you do. I'm a psych major, so most of my classes have left some mark on me.

I had a class in high school that inspired me to take some courses on the classics. So, I took Latin, and mythology courses. I definitely enjoyed The Iliad, and the Odyssey more than I did in high school when I had little knowledge of life at that time.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

I'm an English major too...I'm only a Sophomore though. I think it's going to suck in some ways, esp. if we are focusing on things I could care less about or it's just not interesting...but I'm hoping it'll be okay for the most part. I can't really see myself MAJORING in anything else.

As for classics, I loved The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. That would have been nice to study in class. I did it for an online book club in high school though so I did get to discuss

Lauren

Holly Nicole Hoxter said...

I was listening to an interview with Garrison Keillor the other day where he advised against majoring in English because you basically end up spending four years writing papers on books you haven't actually read. That sums up MY college experience quite nicely. I just didn't have the time or inclination to keep up with all that reading. But I knew I wanted to be a writer so an English major just seemed like the only viable option.

I have this notion that I'll eventually read all the classics I DIDN'T read in school, but who knows if that will ever happen.

Donna said...

I have a BA in English with a minor in creative writing and I loved most of my classes. I grew a better appreciation for books I wouldn't have otherwise read. The thing is, an English degree is almost entirely useless unless you go into teaching. It's so broad a degree that it can't be applied to anything. At least I enjoyed getting mine. You're not going to feel any better when you graduate, I'm sorry to say.

msmariabriones said...

I was attempting to read my homework assignment for my Russian Literature class (The Brother's Karamazov) when I decided to google "sick of being an English major" and stumbled across your post. I understand exactly what you're saying. I've always had a passion for reading and writing, which is why I decided to go the English Lit. route, but holy crap does it become sickening after a while. My literature classes require us to read about 5-6 novels per semester and when you take two literature classes per semester it becomes too much of a load. I can't help but feel like I'm wasting my time reading fiction for hours on end when I could be doing my international studies homework instead and learning about the real world. I feel like I've wasted hours in a fictitious bubble because, well, like every other English Literature major, I have. I'm four English classes shy from finishing my BA. Don't know if I can take any more of these classes, I'm seriously so sick of it.

Anyway, sorry for the vent. Glad to know I'm not the only that feels this way though.

maddie said...

im in the same position im a junior and i dread every day. in high school i was a straight a student and now i feel lazy because i am so disinterested. do you have any advice for me on how to proceed from here. i feel like im wasting my time and life as an english major.

Amrita Dutta said...

I loved reading books and writing stories, poems and plays when I was in school. So it was only natural that I decided to pursue English Literature in college. But once the course load started, with so many novels, poems, plays, essays to read and analyse in depth, I started losing interest, wondering what was I doing reading fiction all day and writing papers after papers instead of gaining any knowledge about the real world. And it just got worse when I got into grad school because the syllabus was much more wider in scope. I wrote papers without even reading half the stuff. It's been three years since I left University and I actually miss it so much now that I'm working in finance. I guess too much of something kind of bores you in the long run. I spend my leisure hours now reading up all the classics I left out back then for lack of time. And I love it!

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