Tag Archives: english major

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.