Five things anyone doing an English major can relate to

April 15, 2016
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Majoring in English literature may not be the sexiest of academic choices, but it’s wonderful nonetheless. We’re a unique tribe of word-loving, book-buying individuals, armed with a literary quotation to suit any occasion. We’re the ones who were wearing knitted cardigans and oversized specs before they became cool.

If you’re lucky enough to be one of the English crew, here are a few things you’ll identify with.

You’ll count reading a novel as study

Lying on the couch reading a novel? No, you’re studying. As an English major, you have a heap of reading to keep up with. We’re talking a new novel every few weeks – and that’s for each English subject you take. The good news is, this reading is actually pleasurable. No dry textbooks here.

English students can be found “studying” in any number of comfy spots. In the park, tucked up cosily in bed, on the beach, or lying on a lilo in the pool are all possibilities.  

You’ll spend way too much money on books

If you’re majoring in English, you probably already had a book-buying habit before going to uni. Now that you’ve got a legitimate excuse, your addiction is likely to get out of hand.

Finding space for all of those tomes can be tough. You’ll find that a pile of books makes a great bedside table.

You’ll run out of money for food because you spent your entire weekly budget on the Norton Anthology of English Literature. Cheer up. Books are your friends, and you’ve got plenty.

Uni will feel like one big book club

As an English major, you’ll start looking forward to going to uni. After all, where else could you find other people who are interested in discussing the symbolism of Mr Darcy’s waistcoat or the difference between a metaphor and a metonym? Finally, you’ve found your peeps.

Your tutes will begin to feel like one big book club, with everyone clamouring to express their opinion on the novel. This is one time when you actually want to do your readings before class; otherwise, the spoilers will ruin the end of the novel.

An hour just isn’t enough time to share all your ideas, so you might want to adjourn to a local café and continue the literary discussion over a peppermint tea.

You’ll become your friends’ editing guru

Your friends will start treating you like an authority when it comes to spelling, vocab and grammar. They’ll ask you to check over their resumes for errors and help restructure their essays.

At first it will feel great to finally have a practical skill to offer. That is, until you find yourself correcting misused apostrophes on menus and responding to your mum’s emails with polite explanations about the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’. You’ll start to feel increasingly like you’re surrounded by muggles.

You’ll become a pro at defending learning for learning’s sake

It’s a sad reality, but if you major in English, you will encounter many questions and challenges about why you’re doing it. “Oh,” your interrogator will say, with a puzzled expression. “And what do you hope to do with that?”

You’ll become expert at defending learning for learning’s sake. “Did Emily Dickinson write hundreds of poems alone in her room just to make money?” you’ll ask (rhetorically). “Surely our society should not abandon the pursuit of truth and beauty simply for the sake of economic rationalism.” Your rebuttals will become increasingly witty and scattered with literary references as you draw nearer to graduation.  

Just be warned: these constant questions can eventually take their toll. One day, you may simply snap and find yourself hitting said person over the head with a hardback copy of Ulysses. Bazinga.

Melinda Cooper

Melinda loves reading on rainy days, drinking cups of tea and making things. She is doing a PhD in English at the University of Sydney. 

Image: Courtney Carmody, Flickr Creative Commons license