What’s in an (English) major?November 2nd, 2011
It is hard to believe it’s already November. Fall is my favorite time of year, and fall in Bloomington is particularly beautiful. There is also so much to look forward to! I love the cool, crispy weather and changing leaves, and the expectation of snow. I’ve settled in to all of my classes, and everyone is more comfortable talking in class (the first week or so are always so awkward!). There’s the expectation of Thanksgiving and Christmas, not to mention Halloween. Halloween is always awesome on a college campus, because so many people put so much time and effort into their costumes. Halloween is also special because it marks the date when my fiancé and I were officially dating. Okay, so technically we started dating a week or so after Halloween (at a party celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall), but we’re both terrible with dates, so we just picked one we couldn’t forget.
I also look forward to this time of year because I love signing up for next semester’s classes. It was a little melancholy this year though, because this Spring will be my last semester of undergrad, and I’ll have finished my English major at the end of this semester. Though I’m lucky enough to love all of the areas I study, literature is probably my favorite and IU is an incredible place to study it. My favorite part about IU’s English program is the freedom structured into the curriculum (my second favorite part is the professors, since each one I’ve had has been amazing).
There are two strictly required classes for the English major: Literary Interpretation (L202) and Critical Practices (L371). These classes delve into how to interpret literature, emphasizing the different approaches from close reading to deconstruction. Though some dread Critical Practices as being very tough with difficult readings (it is), Critical Practices really blew my mind with the possibilities in reading and analyzing. Were I the chieftain of IU, I would make it a required class for all majors (sadly, I have no aspirations toward managing a university). The English major has to complete thirty hours in English classes at the 200 level or higher, so you still have 24 hours (about eight classes) after the L202 and L371.
You’re also required to take one class each in the following time periods: Beginnings through 16th Century, 16th through 18th Century, 19th Century, and 19th Century to Present Literature. The possibilities in each of these time periods are huge. I chose to take Middle English literature for my beginnings class, which focused on appetite and all the issues behind it. I can actually read Middle English now, which certainly catches attention on my resume. There are so many possibilities in the two hundred year span from the 16th to 18th century, but I chose to study Shakespeare’s early plays. My professor really explained why Shakespeare was so important, which had eluded me in high school. This is another class that should be required. Shakespeare references are everywhere, and many of the issues he addresses are still relevant today.
With those last four classes, you can concentrate on Creative Writing or Public and Professional Writing or take whichever English classes interest you. Since I’m interested in a career in publishing, I took a class on Literary Editing and Publishing. In that class, I created my own chapbook and worked with a group to create an online literary arts journal that we’ve continued this semester as a club. The English department also offers credit for on campus internships in English, which I definitely recommend to anyone interested in editing. I worked with the Indiana Review, a literary journal run by IU’s Creative Writing MFAs. The English department also allows its students to cross list classes in literature offered by other departments, which is particularly useful to those interested in studying a foreign language. I was able to count one of my German literature classes for credit toward my English and German majors.
The flexibility offered in the English major allows you to tailor your studies to your interests, and boasts awesome faculty who make me wish I could just keep taking English classes. Studying English has prepared me for any career that involves reading or writing, and more importantly, has enabled me to think independently and investigate how and why things are being said instead of simply what is being said. English majors have to think creatively and determine how trustworthy or honest a narrator really is and what sort of meaning and conflict is broiling beneath the surface. Those are some pretty important skills that seem to be lacking in many major companies.
In my next blog I’ll be tackling the world of a German major, but until then, let me know if you have questions, comments, or blog suggestions via my email, firstname.lastname@example.org. I really love talking to prospective students, bragging on IU a little bit, and being honest about what you can expect if you decide to come here. If I don’t know the answer to your questions, I’ll find someone who does!