Someone asked me what my major was, so I told them English. The first comment out of their mouth was, “I don’t know how you can read all those classic novels.”
Excuse me? Did I hear that correctly?
I asked her what she thought an English major entailed. “Well don’t you just like read poems and classic novels like Pride and Prejudice?”
As an English major, you sometimes feel uncomfortable about certain scenes. Subjects within novels and poems will put you on guard. Moments arise where you just can’t grasp how someone could think that way. You might want to scream at the character for their choices or personality.
But being an English major means you put yourself in their shoes, imagine yourself in that society. You might surprise yourself and see that you make those same choices that you earlier criticized.
Starting off as an English major, no one’s an expert on properly analyzing a poem or doing a close reading for a passage from a novel. I was filled with hope when I entered my Literature Core class my first semester of college. I would finally be focusing less on S.T.E.M. courses and more on reading novels.
My heart sank the moment the professor passed out the syllabus.
Apparently, each Literature Core course has a specific theme chosen by the professor. My class’s theme was immigration. I’m not one to be much into nonfiction, but I decided to give it a chance instead.
I never did come to like nonfiction novels, but I did grow an appreciation for the genre as the semester went on. Reading about one’s personal experience and struggles with integrating themselves and their families into a new society gave me a new outlook on immigration that I didn’t have before.
However, Introduction to British Literature and Culture was a completely different experience. I just finished the course this spring semester and I loved it. We had to read a variety of novels, poems and short narratives. Throughout the class, I learned so much; there were techniques when doing close reading that helped me really pick apart scenes. I now have the ability of obtaining a deeper meaning of the text.
One day in class, we were reading Hard Times by Charles Dickens and there was a scene that contained industrial buildings and everything that an industrialized city would have. Regardless, the interesting thing was that in describing the factories and machinery, Dickens used an elephant.
Our professor made us question why Dickens did this? Was there some aspect of the scene he wanted to correlate back to nature? What does this mean for the overall outlook on the book?
It could get frustrating at times, constantly being in this mindset, but it feels extremely rewarding finally cracking open a scene and recognizing hidden meanings scattered throughout. Obviously, I haven’t mastered any skills, but I know there’s a process. As long as I’m heading in the right direction, the time it’s going to take me won’t bother me.
I’m an English major and I haven’t enjoyed any historical nonfiction or autobiographic novels that I’ve read so far. Horror stories: I will admit I’ve never read but I just don’t think Stephen King’s It will really grab my attention without having nightmares for the following couple of months.
I’m slowly trying to branch out, getting one or two books from genres that are out of my usual realm of romance, science fiction and MOST—not all—classic novels.
I’ve grown a bond with the Bronte sisters.
I have read Wuthering Heights three times in the span of my time in high school. I love the tension and love triangle that’s a constant companion in the entire novel between Edgar, Catherine and Heathcliff.
But if you put The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in front of me, I will try to avoid that book at all costs. It just doesn’t interest me, I find it boring and childish. I will admit that the only time I tried to read it was when I was 15 so I might have a different opinion now at 20.
I feel that an English major isn’t about liking all genres of novels or poems. I’d like to believe that it’s about the desire to find a deeper meaning—to identify and unearth what the author is trying to do and how they’re doing it.