Throughout my time in college, I have received questions (or rather, comments) about my major. As you all know, I am an English major, and I feel that many non-English majors have these…notions about who English majors are, what we do, and all of that. Sometimes, it’s harmless, but some are pretty…judgmental. Like, stereotypes that don’t necessarily correlate with our character.
Look, I enjoy my major; I am glad that I chose it over the hundreds of other majors that my university had to offer. I am proud to say that I am proud of being an English major. Some people probably just won’t get it, but whatever. That’s life. 😛
But I’m getting off track. Today’s post will be taking a handful of common presumptions (aka myths) about English majors and beating them to the ground. Like piñatas. Because really, folks, all of these myths need to stop- now.
Let’s get to it! WHAM! 😀
1. We are bookworms. Okay…partly true. We read a lot for our major. A lot. Whether it’s novels, novellas, poetry, criticism, essays, graphic novels, etc., you have to at least be willing to accept the fact that you will need to read all of that text every week, let alone for the entire school term. Simply put, if you’re going to be an English major, you cannot hate reading.
BUT. Let me make it clear that not all English majors are bookworms. From my perspective, I see bookworms as those who love reading actual books. Like, hard-copies, paperbacks, even on Kindles. But there are also those who, like me, enjoy reading, but not always necessarily physical copies. Sometimes, I find pleasure in reading other sorts of mediums, whether online articles, poetry, even blog posts (like WordPress, of course). 😉 Basically, not all of us English majors are hard-core readers- but we do continue to flex our “reading muscles” through other means besides just books, and so we keep in “literary” shape. 🙂
2. Shakespeare is all we read. Not true. In fact, out of all the classes that were required for my major, I only took one Shakespeare course. Ever. And I didn’t even have to; I could have easily substituted it with a course on Milton (a contemporary of Shakespeare).
To be frank, I am not a huge fan of Shakespeare. While I do appreciate what he had to offer to the English language, a lot of his plays just aren’t really my taste (don’t get me wrong, though; I did enjoy The Tempest, as well as his comedies and sonnets). I just find his works a bit too…archaic with me, since I’m more interested in 19th and 20th century poetry.
But in any case, no: we English majors don’t just read Shakespeare and nothing else. There are so many other writers out there who are also really amazing, and have so much to offer to the English experience. From the top of my head, I can tell you that I really enjoyed reading works from Herman Melville, Oscar Wilde, J.D. Salinger, and such.
3. We only read British and/or American literature. Once again, a huge generalization. True, we tend to read a lot of works from British and American writers. More so, a large majority of them are written by- dare I say it?– white people. But what many don’t know is that there is so much more to the English major besides literature from Caucasian (and most often times well-educated) writers. There is a large diversity of works from writers of color, including African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Chicano/as, and so forth. I have taken a few courses especially dedicated to these marginalized voices, and have discovered/learned to love the works of writers like Amiri Baraka, Jhumpa Lahiri, Hisaye Yamamoto, Sandra Cisneros, etc. The word “English” in English major isn’t just limited to writers of Anglo-Saxon origin; it is a term that encompasses all forms of literature written in the English language, regardless of what race or culture one identifies with.
4. English majors are hipsters. I have always found this stereotype pretty amusing. Thinking that we English majors are so “chill,” wearing pullover sweaters and large, thick-framed glasses, frequenting coffee shops, writing essays at 2 am while smoking cigarettes, acting oh so “blasé” about life. Trying to be the next Allen Ginsberg or Sylvia Plath (and without the internal struggles that they actually had gone through).
Let me just tell you that I do none of those things. And the same goes for a good number of English majors on my university campus. I admit, there are some who fit one or more of the attributes that I’d just listed, but they are only a small piece representing the entire whole- they don’t include everyone. If you’re looking for actual, full-bodied hipsters, then that’s for the Philosophy majors. 😛
5. All English majors aspire to be teachers. I can attest to the fact that I, an English major, do not wish to become a teacher in the future. At least, I do not see myself doing it for the rest of my life. My actual passion lies in the publishing-editing business for book, magazine, and website companies. Teaching is only one of the million possibilities for English majors to get into after graduation. And I’m talking about careers like journalist, novelist, poet, artist, editor, publisher, entrepreneur, economist, psychologist, physical therapist- heck, even doctor!
I get super mad when non-English majors assume that English majors will, by default, go down the teaching route. Or else, there’s “nothing else” that they could possibly do with such a “pointless” B.A. I want to shake those ignorant individuals and tell them that their majors (whether economics, psychology, or the sciences) aren’t any better in terms of entering the work force, especially in this day and age. Everything has become super competitive in the twenty-first century, and so our generation, regardless of our college degree, is going to have a tough time getting a job- any job, for that matter.
With that being said, myths about English majors are…BUSTED! 😀
– The Finicky Cynic