Stop the Abuse

By: Kasey Lynn

The English major has been under fire for years. If it’s not one thing it’s another. People are always pointing fingers at someone and unfortunately English majors face that finger a lot. We take a lot of abuse. Many people tell me “Oh, so you’re going to try to teach?” or “So, you plan on working at McDonalds for the rest of your life?” once I tell them that I am English major (side note: I’ve never worked at McDonalds). But we can take the abuse because we have a better understanding of a lot more things than the average college major.

By doing the readings in The Use and Abuse of Literature by Marjorie Garber and by class discussions it certainly has become apparent to me of just how ambiguous the English major is. Now don’t get me wrong I was never one that would give a short and sweet definition for being an English major but the genuine vastness of the discipline is amazing. I love it!

I get bored easily. It’s easy for me to slip off into a daydream in a matter of seconds if what is being talked about or discussed doesn’t catch my attention. But in English it’s a bit harder to do that. (Not all of the discipline is that interesting but it’s a lot better than most).

The ambiguity of the English major is what makes it great! What other field can say that it encompasses small parts of almost all other disciplines. (Pretty much none.)  I believe this is the kind of the point that Garber is trying to make. There is a lot that goes into English there are different parts of English to look at and when just looking at literature alone there are many avenues one can take when analyzing it and talking about it. Garber talked about allusions for a whole section of a chapter and I am sure there is a lot more that can be said on allusions than what she said in a little over 8 pages. English is too large to be accurately defined and to some people that may be scary.

Maybe English majors learn too much and it causes others to fear our knowledge. Who knows? What I do know is that I love this discipline. Personally, I will be continuing on to Government and Politics, but even so, I would not change my major from English ever. It’s an enjoyable discipline that allows you to think and to build on what other great writers and critics have written and said. It teaches you how to think critically and analytically. It teaches you how to think on your own independent of other opinions especially those of society (English majors are not exempt from societal standards or morality we just have more freedom to exercise our thoughts). It teaches you what you need to know to catch things that other people overlook. It teaches you the right things.

Back to Garber, she notes that more and more reading groups have been popping up in our society as more and more people find that they miss reading, even those people that avoided reading in school and didn’t like English. These people are reading and many others are too. I think that it is important that she points this out. Currently we are living in a society that thinks English (and other liberal arts majors) are a waste of time, they’re not “job-ready” majors. Yet, at this time more and more people are joining books clubs. English is everywhere. It’s a discipline that can and will welcome anyone. People just have to open their arms and mind to it.

Everyone ends up joining us English nerds and books worms at some point in their life (even those who fight us).

The English discipline IS and forever will be ambiguous. Embrace it. Love it. Learn it. Read.

(Garber, Marjorie. The Use and Abuse of Literature. New York: First Anchor Books, 2011. print.)

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