There is No “i” in English Major

by: Molly Boylan

After a discussion in class, I was taken aback to think about what kind of English major I am. In Marjorie Garber’s Use and Abuse of Literature, she gives examples of two different options of how someone should involve reading in their life.

Option one: spend all the time reading become pale and socially awkward being looked at as “out of place” at parties. (Alberti)

Option two: enjoying reading as it applies to life- not letting it “substitute for living” (42). (Birkett)

Automatically, I sided with option two thinking it sounded more practical. But after thinking more about it and then comparing it to my life, the truth hit me that I, indeed, embody option one. GASP!

I have spent the majority of my college life snuggled up with books rather than out living life. (Disclaimer: I do have friends and go out of the house) Yes, there are instances when I’ve skipped a reading or two, but they tend to be rare. This is what the life of an English major is.

BUT, what I noticed is when I do spend time reading I am then able to add to a larger conversation that is already taking place in time and throughout history. Being able to think and talk with people about what I have read and internalized makes it seem like not such a bad thing. We create this community of people who are constantly learning and discussing different topics which makes it an unselfish activity.

Thus, leading me to another wise point Garber makes: the use of allusion in texts. When there is the moment (the glorious moment) when I hear a comment about something I have read or studied, I automatically want to chime in and give my take on the matter.  This is the “in crowd” Garber was referencing. When we recognize an allusion in a text by a well-known author, it feels good to have read, laid eyes on, even encountered the same words as the author. There is automatically a feeling of being a part of the group. See what I’m saying? The more you spend time learning from texts; you do strangely become part of a group.

So, even though I may spend my time reading and studying alone, I am part of a group. The time that I spend reading is not just for me, but also so I can add to the conversation that is already out there. Therefore, there is no “I” in English major.

(Disclaimer: because I am an English major, I do know that there is indeed an “i” in English major)

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