English Majors: More than just reading

Photo by Chris Drumm via Flickr

Jennipher Schafer/ Contributing Writer/ Columnist

I’ve heard that some people don’t think English majors do a lot of work.  We don’t have labs or massive medical vocabularies to build.  We will be jobless after graduation.  We have it easy.  As someone with scarcely a moment to myself this semester due to an amount of reading unimaginable to even some of the graduate students in my building I need to put this to rest.  English majors work very hard.

Ok, so a lot of my work is reading.  I read for all four of my classes despite one not even having a textbook.  The reading load would certainly bring someone not used to it to caution just one of the classes.  It isn’t unusual for English majors to be expected to read a novel in one to two weeks for most classes.  Multiply that by four and you start to realize why writers and professors alike have a profound addiction to their coffee.  It isn’t uncommon for me to spend evenings awake until nearly two in the morning sipping the caffeinated bliss as I pour over Tolkien or Shakespeare only to slam the alarm at six wishing I’d get more than 15 more precious minutes.

The thing is we do a lot more than read.  We read the material in the novel, play, or poetry anthology.  We read the at times daunting supplemental materials flooding into our email from our professors.  We scroll through Project MUSE for articles to support our ideas about what we’re reading.  Some of these articles are upwards of thirty pages making them short stories in and of themselves.  We compile this research into papers which are often a minimum of six to ten pages for the shortest.  We schedule meetings with other English majors and our professors to make sure our papers are on topic and fluid enough to fully create an understanding of our viewpoint.  Then we re-write the papers.  Sometimes we re-write them several times.  When they are finally completed we lose sleep wondering if it was all in vain.

This ability to cope with sleepless nights and excessive writing prepares us for graduate school.  Some of us will apply to law programs and become lawyers or politicians.  Some of us will teach.  Some of us may go on for advertising or creative writing.  There is no shortage of what can be done with this degree in reality.  Sure, we might be a bit quirky and take electives in niche literature as I am this semester.  But we are working.  And for an elective to require an entire Game of Thrones book in one week takes more than a little dedication on the part of the student.  So don’t discount the English degree.  We work a great deal harder than you might think.

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