Confessions of an English Major

Over at his blog John Robinson shares a great quote about English majors:

“That left a large contingent of people majoring in English by default. Because they weren’t left-brained enough for science, because history was too dry, philosphy too difficult, geology too petroleum-oriented and math too mathematical — because they weren’t musical, artistic, financially motivated, or really all that smart, these people were pursuing university degrees doing something no different from what they’d done in first grade: reading stories. English was what people who didn’t know what to major in majored in.”

Sadly the quote and some of the comments on John's post hit close to home.  I must admit that I majored in English Lit mainly because:

  • I really didn't know what I wanted to do with my life and I'd heard that English was preferable to "undecided" and that it was a good major to prepare you for various forms of grad school, including law school.  If I'd bothered to physically meet with my advisor before the day I needed him to sign my paperwork to get my degree he might have told me differently.
  • Every other major just seemed too hard.  They would have required studying and who wants to do that?
  • I kind of enjoyed proving that someone could get a BA in English Literature without even a rudimentary grasp of grammar.  Ask me to identify a prepositional phrase and I'll just drool on a piece of paper.
  • Last, but not least, it wasn't lost on me that I would be one of maybe five guys in the entire English Department at GMU. I thought the approximately 500-1 female/male ratio was great until I was called a misogynist by a member of a study group.  After looking it up in a dictionary I didn't join any more study groups and refrained from any classroom discussion involving the role of gender in literature which means I never once spoke.

And thus were planted the seeds of greatness mediocrity.

2 thoughts on “Confessions of an English Major

  1. Farah

    Hilarious post Jon. I was going to major in English until I looked up during my first year English exam and thought: “I don’t want to put up with this BS anymore”. And then I dropped it just like that. I ended up majoring in Criminology and Poli Sci (different kind of BS). Does it even matter what you major in if you don’t plan on staying in academia? I’m afraid grammar is a dying art because schools rarely teach it! Sorry to hear you were permanently labeled a mysogynist. Feminists can be so mean.

  2. Jon Lowder

    Thanks for the comment Farah. Just checked out your blog and love it! I also love the back story on Broken Penguins.  As for the major I totally agree that its largely irrelevant unless youre angling for grad school or a career in academia. Its the modern equivalent of the high school diploma circa 1950.


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