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Use Add > Comment to leave an idea here — any idea at all — that you think might go in the essay. Ideas can include suggestions for the essay's "I say" statement, suggestions for ways to organize the essay, and suggestions for kinds of evidence to use. The only thing that you shouldn't leave here is possible quotations from or references to works on the syllabus. Those should go on the Quotations and References page. Come back here to leave new ideas as often as you like. Don't worry about how good or well formulated your ideas are. This is just a way to get started! It's probably best to leave relatively short comments here. Don't start drafting the essay yet!



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  1. Unknown User (ser13)

    I'm really not sure what anybody else was thinking about how to structure the essay, but I thought we should do it kind of like the essays we have due next week. Maybe we should start off with a they say along the lines of "Society often disparages the study of English as a waste of time and money". Then, I was thinking we could either do this: "While at first it may seem completely useless, upon further inspection, English actually serves as vital component of all people's academic journeys, regardless of intended majors". Or, perhaps we could do this: "However, on many levels, the study of English actually serves as the most important academic pursuit offered by schools". I think that maybe we should, at first, talk about how studying English aids in an extremely basic, yet probably most important, way of allowing communication (both written and verbal) to be possible. Then we could talk about how English strengthens other academic pursuits, including history, science, and math. And I think we should try to mention somewhere about how writing actually has emotional benefits (I think we talked about this earlier in the semester).

    Sorry for the rambling and for the complete lack of eloquence. These are just the first ideas that popped into my head, so I figured I'd just toss them out there.


  2. Unknown User (lmg19)

    I like Sarah Rusnak's ideas for the "they say/I say" statement, especially the sentence she first quoted about how English may seem like a waste of time. I think that would be a great statement to base our essay on. Also, in reference to the title of our major "English", we can have a great "they say/I say" discussion. we can say something like "Certainly, the title of the major usually refers to what the college studemt studies. Like the article says: bio-chem majors study biology and chemistry, and anthropology majors study anthropology." This quotation is a very rough draft, but hopefully you know where I'm gettting at. I was thinking we can actually agree with this but deny it at the same time. We do study the English language, but we master it at an artistic level. I haven't thought of examples to back this yet, but i think it would be a great addition as a way to expect some of the opposition arguments we may recieve from "critics". I think the double-major angle could help us with this because some majors, like Megan said in class, double major in biology and English, etc. This is obviously a concept we can explore.  

  3. Unknown User (jca4)

    I'm on board with the "they say I say" business but I don't think we should be so quick to cede the uselessness of our collective major.  An English major is not useless, nor do I think it really seems that way.  English majors, through the study of literature, learn how to analyze problems and situations both in wide-scoped generalities and meticulous knit-pickings.  The ability to break down complex topics and translate them into more accessible terms makes a bridge between the most knowledgeable in our society and the quasi-ignorant masses.  Communication is a very important part of any system/environment/business/organization etc.  This ties in the idea of double majors like the bio-english major mentioned above. I've known a few aspiring scientists, and they are not the most eloquent bunch, despite being incredibly smart. Someone who can grasp the art of language and literature as well as another, possibly more technical field, like biology, is necessary in today's society if for no other reason than to make our generation's accomplishments and ideals known and to document them for future generations to learn from.

  4. Great thoughts so far, everyone. A They Say/I Say structure is exactly what you want for this essay, and you're already tackling the first challenge for an essay with that structure: what should the "They say" be? Let me suggest that you steer away from something along the lines of "They say that the English major is useless" — but not for the reason that Jay gives. If you make the case that the English major provides you with general skills such as the ability to analyze complex situations or the ability to communicate effectively, you won't have answered the challenge in the particular quotation from the Lamron article selected for the assignment: that is, that the English major isn't about anything more than those skills, which students can also acquire through other majors. The problem you need to solve is not whether the English major is useful — of course it is — but what you study and do in English that's unique to the major, and why/how the study of English is something more than just reading a bunch of books and talking about them.

  5. Unknown User (ebw1)

    Why not ask a Biology major, "So, why are you studying BIO? I mean, deep down why?" We should ask ourselves this question as a class, "why, deep down, are we studying ENG?" There is something unique to Lit. There are certain of life's questions that just can't be answered with science, math, or history. Literature lets the reader have a conversation with another person, a darn meaningful conversation when it's going good. Lit and Art exist in a realm outside (and perhaps above) all other disciplines. Lit/Art engages with the world at a level a bio-chemist cannot. I think this question opens the doors for a lot of really profound arguments to be made in the defense of Art as a toto whole. The books and music and paintings we all look at in this major are really astonishing sometimes. I mean, real human accomplishments in areas of what, emotional transmission? Lit/Art is a way for people to talk to one another, to alleviate a certain loneliness, and to maybe come to some real good thing at the end of it, for both recipient and artist. At the end of the day, we're all looking for what Art can provide–a sense of being cared for, some deep sympathy. I don't think BIO, ANT, HIS, or PSY, can get you to that place.

    Also, outside of basic human survival, Art was like the first thing ever. Cavemen?

    1. Unknown User (ser13)

      Eric, I really like your ideas, especially about the emotional aspect of studying literature. As I was looking through the article in the Lamron, it seemed to me like the author was arguing about what distinguishes an English major from every other major. Basically, why should people study English when it appears that everybody, in all majors, does what an English major professes to do? I think you are absolutely right when talking about the emotional side of things. English allows room for emotion and for personal creativity. If you look at other majors, including Biology, Anthropology, History, etc., they all essentially require students to be unbiased. Personal preference, personal creativity, and personal imagination have no place in there disciplines. English, on the other hand, fulfills the emotional void left by studying other subjects. Like you said, Art/English provide an "alleviation for a certain loneliness" that seems to be perpetuated by other subjects.

      I think this emotional side of English is definitely something to explore a bit more, if we can.

      1. Unknown User (co9)

        Just to piggyback off of this, I recall someone saying last week that it would be difficult to categorize the importance of the English major because there are so many different facets of it and careers that might spring forth from it (publishing, teaching, even things like technical writing), but I think this is something we can use as a strength in our essay.  Each of us, regardless of whether or not we have concrete career aspirations, is in the English major for a reason, and I agree that the "emotional" side should be something we look at.  English is one of those majors where people are more inclined to enter for passion than for profit (I'm sure we've all heard something like "an English major isn't practical, you should be a Business major), so if we want to take some time to discuss the why either before or after the how (what exactly the English major is), that's something we might want to all get together and share our feelings/reasons on.

        1. Unknown User (ser13)


          I think are right about English being unique in the fact that people tend to enter the major for the love of it rather than for a specific goal. Ask many Bio or Chem majors and you hear that they are majoring in the subject simply for the ends (often something medical or research) rather than the means. Of course, this isn't always the case, but it is something that I definitely have observed. It seems like people become English majors often without a specific career in mind. Not to get all philosophical or anything, but maybe we could mention (perhaps in the conclusion?) about how many English majors just become English majors for the joy of it. I know this is kind of a weak argument, but I feel like it does pertain to a lot of people.

          1. Unknown User (mrb21)

            I think this is an excellent distinction. I am a Bio major partly because I truly enjoy biology but mostly because I'm hoping to go to med school. I am an English major because I have always loved reading and writing. I decided to be an English major simply for the joy of it.

      2. Unknown User (ncs3)

        Eric and Sarah, I agree with both of you. I was going to mention emotions being part of the English life. But literature gives all people a voice.  For our greatest literature has challenged prevailing cultural norms. The individual's encounter with literature has always been a crucial part of the process of transformation. For our self-definition for poems, stories, novels, our follies and our crimes just as surely as they record our insights, our virtues, and occasionally our genius.

    2. Unknown User (mka4)

      I think that Eric's post was the first the brought up conversation, and others have mentioned it, but I think that it is important for us to concretely discuss the role of conversation in the importance of the study of English.  Written works function as both spark for conversation and as a contribution to conversation.  The study of English is largely the study of this conversation.  We look at the various statements that a work contributes to the conversation, what it responds to, what reactions there are to it, and how it shapes the entire conversation.  This relates to the "imagine that you enter a parlor.." idea that we worked with at the beginning of the semester.  One of the reasons that the study of literature is worthwhile is that it is the study of a universal conversation that encompasses a myriad of topics from science to politics to art.  In studying the conversation that occurs between all of the things that make up our existence, we discover meaning and advance the state of our existence.

  6. Unknown User (ebw1)

    A small appendum (I really can't seem to edit my posts after publishing).

    Worth considering is the other side of that argument. I have definitely questioned the major, myself. I mean, as a person interested in Lit, wouldn't I be able to go the library and read pieces of literature, critical essays written on the work, do historical research on the author and where she/he lived during it's composition? I could do all of that and hold a steady, nice-paying job as an electrician and basically be experiencing Lit as it is intended to be. I could be just as invested in Philosophy, Creative Writing, Music, Visual Arts, etc. if I simply did it on my own in ways that could lead me to a highly "academic" understanding of the thing.

    Now, I am in a program for Lit, but why? There is something about wanting to be rewarded for my efforts that seems way off. Like why don't I just do what is mentioned above? I don't have an amazing answer.

    These are just thoughts. If we're going to be defending our pursuits as critical thinkers we ought to think of the question from all sides.

    1. This is a great example of "bringing in the voice of the skeptic," Eric. You can be sure that if this question has occurred to you, it will also occur to your reader. But it's also a great question because it goes to the heart of the Lamron article's challenge. Is there a difference between reading and discussing works of literature, on the one hand, and the study of something we might call "English" (or might do better to call something else?) If the answer is "yes" — and if majoring in English therefore involves something in addition to reading literature and entering a conversation with writers, and with each other about the writers we've read — what is that something? Another way to ask this: Where is the "study" in "the study of English"? Other words that may help you think through an answer to this question are "discipline" and "practice."

  7. Unknown User (snl4)

    I agree that the main focus of the Lamron article's argument was that the English major does not have a specific area in which they do something unique compared to other majors.  To which I instinctively reply, "I would like you, please, to deconstruct a sonnet and tell me the difference between dactyls and anapests.  Or read aloud to me some Middle Scots and tell me what the passage is about."  Of course, in polite conversation this rebuttal would not do, and neither does it sufficiently argue for the role of the English major in an academic environment.  I believe a major part of  our argument should be about how English majors are not only readers and writers, but historians, interpreters, philosophers, and psychologists.  We preserve history through literature that some historians might not deem important.  We resurrect the words of individuals who have been long forgotten but whose perspectives are vital to the understanding of the time in which they lived.  There is, in fact, a work by Sir Philip Sidney written in the 16th century entitled, "In Defense of Poesy" - poesy meaning literature as a whole, including poetry.  It is written in Early Modern English, but he was facing the very argument that we are.  He makes some profound points comparing the "poet" (writer) to historians, astronomers, and philosophers.  Summarized, his argument is that scientists like astronomers seek to gain meaning by gaining knowledge of what can be observed.  Philosophers seek the unknown, but they offer no solutions to the problems they pose.  Poets (writers), however, not only observe the natural world and discuss moral dilemmas, but offer their own solutions to which they have come by writing about them.  I'll try and find specific quotes from Sidney that will support our argument, because even though he was writing four hundred or so years ago, he addresses many of the concerns that the Lamron article now brings up.

    1. Unknown User (co9)

      I think this would be a great way to approach/define the English major, because we really don't study one single thing.  Yes, we study literature, we can tell you what zeugma is, but writing of all walks is a critical reflection of humanity in every aspect.  So in a sense, we're studying a bit of everything (as you and a few other people have said).  A lot of majors seem to be either "concrete" (things like the sciences) or "abstract" (history, philosophy), but that doesn't necessarily reflect the sciences/humanities divide.  If we're talking about English as a more abstract, nebulous major, I think it would be interesting to compare it to the Business major, which is actually quite similar.  Obviously, they don't actually study this big, vague thing called "Business", just like we as English majors don't study the equally general field of "English".  Both majors have many smaller facets that together build up under an umbrella term.  Since our "they say" is coming from a more concrete standpoint, it might be worth considering an introduction of our "we say" through the lens of something else that's typically thought of as concrete, but is actually more similar to English than one would think.

  8. I love, love, love Eric's comments. I think we should definitely talk about making connections as something that sets English apart. Can/should we remark that maybe "English" isn't an adequate title for the major anymore? I think we have to be really careful that we do not minimize or step on any other majors' toes. I respect BIO majors; its something I certainly could never comprehend. However, and anyone/everyone correct me if I'm wrong, but we have to argue what we do in the English major, and also why what we do is important. We just have to be conscious of not making the argument of why English is great, or the pros (no pun intended) of the major and "get down and dirty" (to borrow from Ron Herzman for those of you who have had him!) with the values and importance of literature/English. It's more challenging than I had anticipated putting aside my passionate "you don't know anything!" response to Lamron and forming an intelligent, academic response! Perhaps we could incorporate how and where what we do in this major is incorporated in the outside world after we graduate and we have an undeniably well-earned major in English. These are really abstract ideas and might not move us forward by leaps and bounds but it's my initial reaction/thoughts to the assignment!

    1. Unknown User (mrb21)

      Laura, I think you have a valuable point - English isn't a good title for the major anymore (I don't think it ever was). We study more than the language - we study literary evolution, its effects on cultures and individuals, and what gives a piece literary merit.

      Here I think we can argue that English is a broad and encompassing term for the two smaller majors - Literature and Creative Writing. Creative Writing, I think, is very clearly an 'important' and well-defined major, and it's easy to see why we study it because it's title states what it is - the study of how to write poetry, prose, etc. This major is analogous to the Art majors. It bolsters the student's ability to think creatively and produce creative works.

      The Literature side, separate from creative writing, is a little bit more difficult to defend (in my mind). It's possible we could defend the major by looking at what Literature majors do - think critically, communicate effectively, etc. We could point out the necessity of English classes throughout high school in developing the ability to analyze and communicate in ways the sciences, even with their dissertations and lab write-ups, don't. English is so difficult to defend because it's the most artistic of all the majors, without actually being called 'art'. We could defend the major by discussing the jobs English majors get out of college and the importance those jobs hold.

      Simply put, I think the most important thing about the English major is that it is a concentration in analysis, critical thinking, and effective communication. It allows for better understanding of others and better expression of ourselves. While other majors touch upon these concepts, there's too much else in those majors to really focus on these important concepts in-depth. There is a great need in this world to understand the voices of the past, where we came from, and to articulate the present clearly. English majors are the people who care for the creative side of the world and we study what is the foundation for every major (do we dare say English is the foundation for every major?) - we simply study it to a greater degree.

      I think we also need to be careful to distinguish the English major for the Communications major which is focused more on marketing and business. English is about expanding our horizons to encompass all kinds of creative thought, past and present, poetry and prose. Sometimes I question why I study the works of people who have come so far before me but in studying those works I can see how literary style has evolved as society has evolved.

      Just some thoughts - I know they're kind of scattered. I had a lot to say and was having trouble organizing it all.

  9. Unknown User (bbc5)

    When defending our English major, I think we need to be careful not to insult or even imply that students in other majors cannot write/express their ideas as well as us.  Yes, we probably do spend more time perfecting the crafts of reading and writing than any other major, but that does not necessarily mean that we write "better" or more effectively than say, a biologist or mathematician.  Many great thinkers never had formal training in "English" at the college level (Carl Sagan, Henry David Thoreau come to mind as writers who studied other disciplines at college).  Even Charles Dickens, arguably the greatest author in the history of the English language, never went to college; he worked in a factory and at a law firm before breaking through as a writer.  People who want to express their ideas effectively certainly do not have to be English majors; they can come from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines before picking up the pen.  Perhaps English majors focus their efforts on reading and writing more so than any other major, but that does not necessarily make us better writers.  Writing begins with the individual and how committed they are to perfecting their craft.

    But then again, maybe that's why we're English majors in the first place - because majoring in English provides us with the opportunity here at school, while biologists focus on plants and animals and while mathematicians focus on numbers and equations, to zero in on what matters most to us: reading and writing.

    1. Unknown User (lmg19)

      I think you bring up a great point. We cannot make the paper suggest that the English Major is the superior major and without it you are inadequate to write anything. We need to make the English major stand alone without tarnishing any of our fellow writers who indeed published without going to college as English majors. I think we should focus on what makes up an English major, what are the important factors we learn as English majors to prepare us for our future careers. Let's not make it a debate about what's the superior major. Let's bring up other majors as less as possible. I think if we bring up other majrs, we should only quote from the article in the Lamron.

      1. Unknown User (mrb21)

        I also agree that perhaps we should leave the other majors out of it other than that quote. This paper is so short we should focus on what the major is, not what it is in comparison to other majors or how it measures up. If we focus too much on how it measures up it becomes a defensive paper - like we feel we have something to prove - instead of a logical progression of arguments about the value of the English major as a standalone.

    2. Unknown User (mrb21)

      Brendan - as a Bio major I would not be at all insulted for an English major to come up to me and say 'I think I write better, communicate better my literary points and understand literary value, than you'. I would argue back 'I think I understand mitochondrial processes better than you'. Maybe I only feel this way because I am both an English and a Bio major, but each major is, factually, better than other majors at certain things. I don't think it's wrong to say, as English majors, we are learning to write better and communicate more effectively than other majors.

      Is it possible to learn to write without studying English, and to write well? Of course. It's also possible to learn biology without being a biology major. Is it possible for a bio major to be a better writer than an English major? Of course, provided that he is either a) smarter/naturally gifted, b) has studied the art of writing on his own, c) the English major has a deficiency of their own or d) some combination of the three.

      I don't think there's anything insulting about saying that English majors study what constitutes as literary merit, how to communicate effectively, and how to analyze works of literature on a 'deeper' level. I study plants on a deeper level, and yes I do have to read and analyze to do that. But because I am spread so thin - studying ecology, microbiology, chemistry and math - I have less time to devote to the analysis of what I'm reading. As an English major, it's almost the opposite. I spend my time concentrating solely on my ability to write coherently, make concise and clear arguments, and analyzing literary works for their merit to develop effective communication and analysis skills. And I do think we can say we do it 'better' - but if that's too offensive,  I guess we could say we 'study it more'.

      1. Unknown User (lmg19)

        Meghan, I think you do a great job in explaining the separation between each major without stepping on any of their toes. As both a bio and english major, you make the comparison of them with the actual work studied and how much more in depth it is studied which I think contributes to our main thesis. Correct me if I am wrong, but didn't Professor Schacht say in class that our argument is in respect to the Lamron's comment that in this journalist's eyes we do not study anything or at least anything of importance? I think the drafters should keep Meghan's viewpoint on this subject in mind as they formulate the argument.

  10. I think we should talk about William Blakely as an example. His works we have read are political and can easily show how "English" can be about politics, which can inevitably educate and inform people, an extremely important function.

  11. Unknown User (msa11)

    I think we should expand the realm of literature to mean more than just books in juxtaposition to the Lamron's narrow interpretation of what the English major can be useful for. For example an English major can be immensely useful in the practice of playwriting in theatre and screenwriting in film. Although different majors such as theatre studies or film studies can be pursued for those purposes, the skills needed to succeed in areas that are crucial to the foundation of human culture originate from what we do as English majors. Political satire as Laura mentioned above is another important branch of English that has been utilized throughout history to initiate social and political change.

  12. I remember from the first few classes of the semester that English Literature can only evolve with the human experience of conversation. With that, I agree with everyone that supports Eric Wegman's ideas, especially where he challenges why other majors, such as Biology or Math, study what they study and why. I also think that it would be interesting to mention that literature can be critiqued and the reasons why it is critiqued; such as to find the author's intentions without prejudice, as well as, the moral or ethical human problems in the works of literature. The name of our course is Practicing Criticism, therefore we should not ignore the importance of the "practice" which enhances and is continually adding to the field of English. What other majors or fields or study have "professionals" that want to find the intentions and the meanings of the masterminds behind important theories and inventions? Are there any? if so how, does their practice of criticism compare to the practice of criticism in English Literature? The disagreement in the "what?" "why?" and "how?" forms of critiquing literature is what flames the forever argument of English, once again leading back to our purpose in this class.

  13. Unknown User (kv2)

    An english major is more of what the name portrays.  From the perspective of the outside in, it looks like an English major just learns reading and writing.  This is not the case.  We learn how to explore ideas and imagine them in different perspectives and tones.  We also learn about how in depth writing can be.  That it is more than an essay proving your point.That it is more of creativity that well goes into it.  Frankly not all majors explore creativity like a creative writing major.  

    Also in a world where social networking is so important and vital to so many peoples lives, their grammar has perpetually been impacted.  Even simple sentences can become so hard for some to write people.  English majors help with this.  We help where grammar, continuity and punctuation has gone to the dogs and we pretty much make sense of it all.  What we live to do is write, and read in depth literature.  We grow up to be editors, writers, journalists, teachers etc.  The editors of the textbooks that math, bio and chem majors read.  The journalists who write the newspapers that are read by millions.  The ones who write what is to be said by the news prompters that are read by anchors that you watch with your morning coffee.  We do the jobs that help you all do yours.

    Where would you be without geneseos librarians? They extensively help us.  They have to have some english background to help us with researching, editing and putting you in the right direction to write a good paper.  

  14. I'm not quite sure if this should go in the quotations/references page or here. Just a super quick thought, something to ponder: I think it would be cool to somehow quote/reference the "beware do not read this poem" into the paper. Maybe somehow tie it in to the power of words/English language/lit/poetry?

  15. Unknown User (lmg19)

    Much like Laura, I was searching for quotations and stumbled upon an interesting concept that I think could be utilized somewhere in our essay. In M.H. Abrams and Geoffrey Galt Harpham's book, A Glossary of Literary Terms, there wasn't a distinction definition of the word English but I found a section on "periods of English literature". It raddled off a variety of periods, such as the Renaissance, the Romantic Period and the Victorian Period. I will copy them all down for reference in Quotations and References page. It got me thinking that we could expand on the idea of evolution within the English major. The college student's learning material changes from period to period because it evolves with the times. Therefore, the English major will never be outdated or no longer a necessity.

  16. Unknown User (ggs1)

    The ideas about talking about the applications and the history of English work great.  I think we should bring the idea of how important it is to have good writers in society.  They are the people that insure that people can be educated.  There would not be many things to learn if we did not have good writers.  Maybe bring in a bit of the history of prose and how educational writing came to be.  It might not be the most important point, but it could help us prove the point that society needs English majors in order to further our intelligence.  We might also want to talk about the importance of the stories that have weathered the test of time and are still told over and over again, like A Christmas Carol.

    1. Unknown User (ser13)

      Greg, I like your idea about relating history to English. As many of us have mentioned, it seems like English serves as the vital link between all other majors and areas of study. History, as you pointed out, is recorded by writing. Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and all the sciences rely on the creativity and skill in analyzing fostered by creative writing. Perhaps then, the Lamron is corrected in stating that the English major does not offer anything substantially unique. Rather, it is the coalescence of all other areas of study; it is epitome of a liberal arts education.

      1. Unknown User (ggs1)

        Thanks, I think that idea is great, that English is the coalescence of all other areas of study.  I think we should put that into the paper.  We could make the argument that we are studying the fundamentals of education as a whole, and that without the study of English we would not be able to study other subjects such as history and even the sciences to an extent.  

        1. Unknown User (mrb21)

          I think this is part of the problem that the journalist mentions, however. He believes that the English doesn't study anything unique. That what we study, every other major studies as well. I think that you're right, we do study the fundamentals of education. But I don't think that answer is good enough to respond to the criticism of the article.

          Is there anything we study that no other major studies? Yes. Literature (communication, analysis, reading and writing are all studied in part by other majors). Our really, really in-depth study of creative literature as opposed to analytical texts is what sets us apart from other majors. But WHY is that study important? Why is the study of literature, especially creative literature, important at all? What purpose does it serve?

          1. Unknown User (ser13)


            I definitely see what you mean- maybe we could talk about how English is a combination of every other study as a whole in the conclusion?

            In answer to your question (Why is that study important?)- I personally think it's important because literature is our connection to the past and gateway to the future. Literature preserves a sense of history through its writings (even fictional works tend to have elements of culture and allusions to events). By studying and analyzing these works, we gain a better sense of the past, which is important to to learn so we don't repeat mistakes. But more importantly, we learn about ourselves, about human nature, in a way that cannot be analyzed by psychologists or sociologists or anthropologists. By looking at certain pieces of literature, we reach into ourselves, to find out how we can relate to a certain piece. In doing so, we learn about our personal history, as well as the emotions we felt at a particular time. I don't think that any other discipline allows for this to happen.

            Just some thoughts. Sorry for the rambling!

            1. Unknown User (cmn10)

              I don't think that was rambling at all! I think you articulated a good point – that English as a study is important because of its focus on introspection. It's not a discipline that can be measured in statistical values but rather is measured by the effects that literary works have on us and how well we are able to understand the work in question, especially its significance in both historical and personal contexts.

              So don't hedge about your thoughts! I think they were valuable =]

              1. Unknown User (ser13)

  17. Unknown User (bbc5)


    I think you have a great point.  English really is the culmination of all other areas of study.  Where would we be today if historians never bothered to record history?  What if scientists, who developed cures for diseases, break-throughs in prosthetic limbs, or advancements in aerospace technology, never communicated their findings with the rest of the world?  Without effective readers and writers, we would lose this precious knowledge, knowledge that we could have used to advance our civilization.  The world needs people who can speak and write eloquently, who can disseminate ideas across continents, oceans, and generations; otherwise we would be lost, ignorant, and isolated.

    But what is unique about our major?  I think Eric was certainly onto something.  When we read a book, study a poem, or partake in a play, we engage with a certain aspect of human emotion that the other majors seem to neglect.  We don't study stories so much as we study human emotion, connections, and modes of self-expression.  We study the different ways that a writer can express him/herself.  We study how characters (who are really characterizations of people in the "real world") in the works we read express their respective emotions, how they interact with each other and the world around them.  In a sense, we study what it means to be human: how it feels to fall in love or lose a loved one, to reach our goals or come up short.  We study how people/characters feel anger, joy, resentment, sympathy, jealousy, empathy, hate, love, regret, fear, and the myriad of other human feelings and their underlying complexity.

    Simply put, we study the human experience.

    1. Unknown User (mrb21)

      Brendan -

      I really think we could work the whole essay around that - a study of the 'human experience'. There isn't another subject that studies the human experience - it's unique to our major and deals with the aspect of our study of creative literature. I really, really like how you put this in your second paragraph - you really summed it up nicely. Thanks!

      1. Unknown User (lmg19)

        Brendan and Meghan-

        I'm on board with the idea of addressing the English major as the study of the "human experience" as well. You put it so beautifully. I think we can specifically focus on the emotional and spiritual state of the human mind as well. As English majors we study how the mind works in real human experiences and how they react based on their emotions and personality. I never thought of the English major in this way but Brendan made a great argument that made me consider how we study people on an emotional level.

        1. Unknown User (mrb21)

          Leandra and Brendan -

          I was curious if you would think the book "A Whole New Mind" by Daniel Pink applies to our essay as a possible source. It's a book about how we're switching from a left-brained society (i.e. people who are solely logical thinkers, calculations and logistic-based thought processes) to a right-brained society (creative intellectuals, more abstract) because of the introduction of computers to do most of the left-brained work for us. It's about the importance of right-brain thinkers in this age. English majors, and other Art-based majors as well as Philosophy, are very right-brained, abstract, and emotion-based.

          What do you think?

          1. Unknown User (lmg19)


            Actually I think that would a very good argument in favor of the English major especially since the Lamron article seems to think that we should be considering to change our majors as if there isn't a future for us after college. By saying the right-brain is becoming more dominant, I think we could say that society is evolving in favor of the English major and all other art forms. I really like this connection!!

        2. I like Brendan's post, too. In English, when we talk and write about what's in the books we read or the films we watch, we often find ourselves talking and writing about what it means to be human. After all, that's what the writers we read and the filmmakers whose works we watch are interested in. But is "the human experience" really what we study? If so, we don't do a very good job of it. If you were looking to find someone help you understand how the human mind works, or why people behave as they do — individually or collectively — or what "human nature" is, would you be more likely to ask someone who had studied English or someone who had studied, say, anthropology, or sociology, or psychology, or philosophy, or cognitive science? If you wanted to consult someone with a "nonscientific" perspective on these matters, would you be more likely to seek out an English major or the person whose work the English major studies: namely, the writer or the filmmaker?

          Writers and filmmakers "study" the human experience. (I don't use the quotation marks to diminish what they do, only to indicate that they tend to observe and comment on that experience in an informal rather than systematic way.) And so, again, as a result, in English we spend much of our time discussing what the writers and filmmakers have had to say about that experience. But the thing we study, the thing we try to understand and discuss systematically, the thing about which we strive to develop a whole specialized vocabulary for the purpose of systematic study, isn't that experience. It isn't human life itself.

          It's literature.

        3. Unknown User (ser13)

          I just had a random thought... I'm not sure if this ties in at all to what we are doing. But, why are English classes traditionally smaller than other classes? Why isn't there a large Intro to English class? Clearly, there are many sections of English 170, so there would be enough interest to hold a big, lecture-style class in Newton or something. I'm not sure how this relates to the study of English- maybe English is unique in the fact that it is a more personal study then other fields? I guess the study of English is the only field where its individualized. If you think about Biology, all students are basically introduced to the same material and learn from that. But in English, my interpretation, the knowledge I gain from something, can be extremely different than what somebody else learns. I mean, we are presented with some fundamental concepts, such as literary techniques, what practical criticism is, etc., but then we are given free reign. So maybe there is no Intro to English because we each would have to have our own Intro class since English is so personalized? Maybe the study of English is unique and valuable because it's personalized and individual rather than communal and routine?


    2. Unknown User (ebw1)

      Even further, Lit is concerned with other disciplines. Most novels and works of lit are responding to the world as understood by the author. History, technology, psychology, science, business, government; these things make up the environment human beings operate in. Literature tries to peer into the windows of the homes of regular human beings and how society is affecting them. Not only do we look at the human condition, we look at the human condition in relation to everything else. The ENG major has the capacity to discuss all other disciplines.

      1. Unknown User (lmg19)


        I think with your argument and Brendan's argument combined, we could create a very strong paper. You are saying (correct me if I am wrong) that the English major allows us to stick our noses in all other disciplines which demonstrates our versatility while Brendan's point demonstrates our strengths on our own. I think this shows how useful the English major is because we can learn the "human experience" within our major but also utilize the skills to branch into other focuses as you listed above (history, technology, etc).

  18. Unknown User (cmn10)

    I feel like I'm coming to this discussion way too late, but I'm here! I've been reading everyone's posts and think we've all got really good points and perspectives to bring to the table. I find it interesting especially to read the opinions of people who are double-majors in more concrete subjects like Biology; I'm a Creative Writing major with a minor in Spanish, but I have an extensive interest in Biology myself. I've never been able to fit many science classes into my schedule with the major requirements, but I think that having interests outside of our English majors really helps us to develop as English majors. Like I said, I focus in Creative Writing – more specifically, I'm an aspiring poet, but my interests in Biology allow me to bring concepts like anatomy and physiology into my English world and the poems I write. I find the concrete world of science fascinating, but tend to examine it from a more abstract point of view.

    Someone said earlier in this discussion that the English major is more like a study of "literary evolution" and I really like that idea. We aren't just studying the same basic concepts that every other major delves into, like the Lamron article suggested. We study the way writing has evolved over time – the ways we have changed in our thinking, our communication of ideas through the medium of literature. It's more complicated than just reading a book at talking about why we liked it. We focus on the reasons behind why works were written, their context, their historical importance; we blend philosophy and history in this manner, and maybe even a bit of psychology when we study how an author's time period influenced their writing. I'd like it if we could put this concept into the final paper, that the English major takes aspects of other majors and develops them further in new contexts. Does anyone agree?

  19. Unknown User (kv2)

    The discipline of literacy and being an english major comes with the importance of understanding what is really going on in between the lines, not just taking the works for face value.  We find double, triple meanings of sentences, titles, among so many other things.  The metaphors for things that some may never see unless their brain lights up when they hear certain words put slyly into a sentence.  Without english majors there would not be greats who understand the works of Shakespeare and how important he is.  There would not be a whole lot of people who see how great he is because their brain is not equipped to think that way.  They are just wondering about math and sciences.  Shakespeare is great by the rhyme scheme and the meaning upon meaning of line after line and how something so short can mean so much.  That works like these last to the end of time.  In the english major this is where this appreciation is learned.  Where the life of another can be conveyed through a few short lines but we can feel exactly how the person feels in just that time. 

    We learn to think a certain way and search for meaning where many may not feel like meaning is even there. The absent is never absent, it is there just not where you can see. 

    1. I like the reference to Shakespeare. Maybe this is just an interesting point/thought, maybe we can use it, I don't know. But Shakespeare also writes about the human experience. I know we've kind of put the kibosh (sp?) on this issue in our paper but Kayla has a point that these "last to the end of time." It's for a reason. He observed and commented on politics and society around him and what he came up with is still relevant in many capacities today. So, in studying English/Literature, we typically study Shakespeare, which means we do study the human experience..

  20. I also think that it is important to mention that there are many aspects of the English culture that is encompassed by English literature. Obviously, the audience can get a since of English culture in Shakespeare's works as well as from poems of the Romantic period. But it is also important to realize that those works, all works, of literature evolved from other cultures. This supports Frye's belief that no idea is "brand" new, everything evolves from our surroundings and human developments. Society can learn context and meaning from literature. Studying literature does not confine the students to the traditions of England but includes the possibility of introducing them to traditions which inform English Literature, such as the study of Ancient Greek drama.

  21. Unknown User (kp11)

    The fact that we even have to defend English as a major at all speaks to its complexity and importance.  Yes, biology, physics, and calculus are complex, but much of the content in those disciplines is based upon concrete ideas and formulas.  There is a right and a wrong, and we know what each can be used for and where they are inapplicable.  But English is infinitely more malleable.  There are right and wrong ways to spell things and place punctuation marks, but the analysis and critical abstract thinking that are required of English majors afford us the ability to walk a mile in just about anyone's shoes. To a History major, the significance of a given piece of literature is limited by their cognitive spectrum of perspective taking abilities.  A History major can interpret literature in the context of his own life, that of the author's, and in the way his teacher explains it.  Essentially, the analysis goes that far, and no further.  English majors are forced to dig deeper, to employ the They say/I say technique to explore from any number of perspectives what literature, social situations, scientific theories, philosophical hypotheses, musical forms, and any other cognitive phenomena, could possibly mean in any number of contexts. In essence, English majors study methods for the responsible interpretation of life.


    I think it's also important to remember our previous discussions of literature as art.  Granted, English is not entirely synonymous with literature, but still.  If we agree that literature is art, and have effectively argued it, then The Lamron's article equally dismisses the worth of studying art, music, and theatre.  In this context, it seems more pragmatic to depart from our stance as English falling under the category of Arts, and argue instead that it is in its own right a science. The science of social, literary, anthropological, and psychological deconstruction and interpretation.


    Or we could just ask how someone writing for a school newspaper, employing the practice of criticism, could so obtusely criticize the very tools he relies on to make his argument.  Where did he learn to ask such questions and make such arguments?  English Class for 500, Trebek.  Perhaps this hypocrisy is worth exploring as part of our argument.  I mean, if most things besides English are academically relevant, why devote so much energy to dismissing its importance?  By arguing against it, the author is acknowledging its significance. Perhaps if he had a better understanding of what English majors do, he could have had the foresight to recognize the flagrant contradictions in the very essence of his argument, and how these details can be construed in a different context to negate his claims.


    Also, ever since I was a child, I asked "when are we ever going to need to know this?" in math class.  I got through Calc II and Physics II without ever getting an answer.  We see the need to understand the mechanics of English every single day, especially in some of the writing of our non-English major peers.

    1. Unknown User (snl4)

      I think it's an excellent idea to focus on English as a sort of science.  I shared my thoughts about considering a minor in Anthropology so that I could learn how literature applies to change different cultures.  My favorite area of literature to study is the fairy tale and folklore.  Believe it or not, there is a scientific aspect to the study of these tales.  Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson compiled a complex classification system for folklore with approximately 2400 categories and sub-categories of motifs found in folklore (for example, "Animal Tales --> Wild Animals --> Clever fox or other animal"): Aarne-Thompson Classification System.  Phonology and linguistics are often included in the English major.  Understanding why people talk or write the way they do (not just how they do it) has a lot to do with what we study.  Studying English gives us insight into the perspectives of minorities (Sarah's Native American Literature class, for one).  Our world is increasingly moving toward a new sort of global community promoted by the internet.  We fight every day against discrimination of all minorities, and our study of the voices of these people (beyond the statistical analysis that psychology or sociology might offer) gives us tools to promote this change.  English majors are, in a sense, the microphone for these social sciences, and therefore a science of our own.  Someone madea good point about English being a more malleable major; I would rephrase this to say that we are adaptable.  We are the most adaptable of all the sciences, and we do it with more ease because we are, in general, more right-brained (as Meghan pointed out) and therefore more willing to embrace the changes in our science.

    2. I like the comment that other concentrations have limits along with right/wrong answers. Also, even someone writing for a school newspaper is using skills he/she inevitably learned in an english class..

    3. Unknown User (mka4)

      I think that our discussion during class today touched on some of the points made in this post.  I was taking some notes in class and during this part of the discussion I wrote down, "you can never escape the English major".  What I meant, and what Dr. Schacht stated in class today is that although you can leave the laboratory, or put the calculator down, once you have learned a skill in the realm of English it will surface in your life over and over again.  The skills that define an English major do not dissipate as soon as one puts down a book, they move on into every facet of your life.  This is why it is so difficult to define and demonstrate what an English major "does".  The lack of boundaries on the practice of studying English make it hard to write out a clear-cut definition. The study of language and the way that it is put together to reveal meaning requires such an extensive and ever-growing set of skills that it is hard to define.  This is proof of both its complexity and its overall worth.

  22. Unknown User (ser13)

    I looked online for others' opinions about why people should study English, and why an English degree is just as valuable as any other degree.

    I found this really interesting article written by an English major. She discusses the importance of English in the real-world setting. For example, English, which fosters analytical skills and communication of the results, is beneficial at the job interview. A different degree may seem to make you a candidate for a job, such as a degree in Biology will make you a candidate for a research position. But if you don't know how to present yourself, and dig deeper than what's presented to you on the surface, you probably aren't going to get the job. Contrary to what society often promotes, English is a person's gateway to the "real world" and dealing with "real world" situations.

    Just some thoughts based on the article I found.

    1. Unknown User (lmg19)

      I think you are onto something, specifically the idea of how English can help us in a real-world setting. I think we could use this as long as we don't degrade the biology major. Rather, we could even branch out in saying that the English major is useful in combination with other majors. For instance, Meghan is both a biology and English major making her a perfect candidate for the scenario you created in your post. (smile) The article you are basing this on seems to have a lot of good quotes that would support the idea of two majors balancing each other (obviously English being one of them), making them the perfect person for many jobs.

      1. Unknown User (ser13)

        Leandra, I think you really summed up what almost everybody has said in some form or another. I think that it's a good idea to talk about what makes the English major distinct, since that's what the article primarily attacks. And I think we should definitely comment on the whole emotional aspect/ human experience aspect. But we need to be careful; Dr. Schacht posed something about how we don't actually study the human experience- that's reserved more for psychology, anthropology, sociology, etc. I guess we discover the human experience through works of literature? So maybe we don't actually study the experience itself, but rather how it's manifested, how other people deal with it. Maybe analyzing literature enables us to better interpret the human experience?

        I think it's important to mention somewhere how English compliments all other majors- perhaps it is the only major to do so in such an encompassing way. Maybe possible ideas for the conclusion? Just like you, and others, have said, it's important not to do what the article is doing. That is, we can't condemn other majors in defense of our own major. I think that would somehow defeat the purpose of the assignment, and the strength of our argument, if we disparage other areas of study.

        Thanks for the support for my ramblings!

        1. Unknown User (lmg19)

          I'm glad that we all seem to be on the same page! And yes, like I said earlier somewhere else in this huge string of posts, we should definitely demonstrate how versatile the English major is. I totally agree with you that we should demonstrate how "English compliments all other majors"! I think combining examples of how we can stand on our own with examples of how we actually benefit other majors would be the best way to prove how useful English is. It would both show all of our strengths while being sure not to downgrade any other majors. It seems like the perfect happy medium, win-win situation.

        2. I think this is a great idea! I love showing how our major is important to all majors. I think we have to be cautious to not refer to it as a "compliment." It stands on its own and we have to make sure to give evidence that it has the strength and importance to do so.

  23. Unknown User (kv2)

    Being an english major is more than literature but seeing the world for not just face value.  Digging deeper is very important skill to have.  In other majors they are not able to explore what is under the surface.  There are many things that we learn.  Learning different ways to write and not just how to please your teacher but how to please audiences.  If english majors only learned and talked about reading it would be pointless but we all are like archaeologists of books.  

  24. Unknown User (snl4)

    Okay, so I'll attempt to briefly sum-up what we've got so far.

    We've established that English does the following:

    • Helps with building communication and presentation skills.
    • Promotes thinking critically and analytically to solve problems.
    • Works well with other majors to complete the experience.
    • Brings together multiple disciplines in one major.
    • Comments on society through the lens of ordinary people.

    We've also established that English is NOT:

    • Any more or less valuable than any other major.
    • The actual "study" of human experience.
    • Strictly about literature, or just reading or writing.
    • The same as a Communications major, which focuses on Marketing and Business.
    • Exactly art, but not exactly science either.  Perhaps a Science of Art.

    Things we want to discuss:

    • The benefits of the communication skills that English supports.
    • How English supports other majors and brings them together.
    • Why English is a thriving field in a world of left-brained computers and operations.
    • Different careers for an English major.
    • How English is a science as well as an art.
    • Reasons why we have chosen to be English majors (perhaps a Google Docs survey to draw quotes from each other?)


    Hopefully this helped bring our main points together so that we are all on the same page without having to scroll up and down through 52 comments.  I also want to say that I particularly like Kayla's idea that we are "book archaeologists."  It's both clever and true!


    1. Unknown User (ser13)


      This is excellent! Thanks for summarizing all of this! 

    2. Unknown User (lmg19)

      It was a smart choice to list the things we AREN"T along with what we ARE! Thanks for doing this!

    3. Unknown User (cmn10)

      Good job with this summation =] I think it'd be interesting for us to elaborate on how English is both a science and an art, and the potential for English majors to go into a grand variety of fields after graduation. Maybe we'd also want to touch on the fact that being an English major in undergrad also means we can go on to get a masters degree in other subjects, using our English-major skills to build and boost our performance in the master's program. Any thoughts?

    4. Unknown User (ebw1)

  25. Unknown User (bbc5)

    I'm not so sure that I was ambitious to say that we study the human experience, but I do think it's necessary to clarify what this means.  I do not mean to say that we study how the human mind works; that's what psychologists do.  There's a science behind the anatomy of the human mind that we, as English majors, don't specialize in.  But when a text is produced, when a dissertation is written, when a book is published, do we not gain a glimpse into the human mind?  Literature, by definition, is human.  It is produced by authors who, as Eric pointed out, are either consciously or unconsciously responding to their environment.  Dickens, for instance, knew what social issues he raised in A Christmas Carroll.  In a sense, his book was made as a critique of the Poor Law Act and of the horrendous living conditions of the poor in London at that time.  But other authors, who may not make a direct claim to a prevailing social or political issue at the time of their writing, are nonetheless always responding to the world they live in.  Take Lewis Carroll, for instance.  Critics have tried in vain to correspond Carroll's characters in Wonderland with prevailing social and political figures, but the more they try to find underlying meaning in Carroll's Alice books, the weaker their arguments.  That's not to say that Lewis Carroll lacked inspiration behind his writing.  Like any other author, Carroll had to be inspired to take pen to paper.  And what was his inspiration?  Alice Liddell.  He was inspired to create the Alice books, books about nonsense, games, and whimsy, in an effort to please and entertain Alice.  His books were written for entertainment, not as criticisms of his surrounding world.

    A book is a mode of human expression - it is a way for an author to translate his thoughts to the page, a way to communicate his/her responses to the world they live in.  The characters in these books therefore receive the breath of human life through the author that creates them.  They are designed to be human, and that is precisely how we perceive them.  Books are, perhaps, the greatest reflections we have of the human mind.

    1. Unknown User (lmg19)


      I liked your other post about human experience, but I think you capture what you are trying to say much better in this one. I still think that the human experience on an English level connects to how we as English majors look into emotions. Not on a mental level, like our fellow Psych majors, but I think we study how our surroundings and our personal aspirations affect our writing and even how we interpret what we read. Emotions and personal experiences allow our English major to evolve.

  26. Unknown User (jca4)

    Sarah's email naturally prompted me to think about why I am an English Major. I've been struggling with this query since we began brainstorming. I really couldn't think of a reason up until now, but upon hearing professor Schacht prod us to isolate what English Majors study that other disciplines do not I believe I've figured it out.

    I didn't WANT to be an English major. Nor did I really want to be an anything else major.  I'm interested in many many things, but no topic any more or less than the last.  I wanted to be an EVERYTHING major.  The English major allows for students to study any and every topic in existence through the medium of literature.  The Lamron article accuses us of not having our own subject matter to study.  The author of the article makes it seem like that is something for us to be ashamed of, but I think that's my favorite part of the English Major.  It allows for us to learn it all without having to devote our lives to studying the minutia of any single topic.  Getting a bio, chem, math, law, history, or whatever other kind of degree is like diving into a pond of knowledge.  The English Major is wading waist-deep into an ocean of knowledge    

    1. Unknown User (ncs3)

      Well I think either for all majors English is an important part of our every day world. It's all over our humanity of life. I mean you have to know about the past of literature and art. But for an English major you have to know vocabulary's, a different meaning of English (Shakespeare) , which is to study English in a different way or time period. As we see, English has evolved. I'm not sure how to explain why English is important. It just engages all around everyone life. I was an English major, but i switched because it got harder. I mean don't get me wrong but i LOVE to read and write but learning about the history and new forms of word gets harder.

  27. I think the English major gets grief like the article from the lamron because, like Professor Schacht said, there are people that can "do what we do," but without the professionalism and education. Anybody can talk about a book, play, film, or what have you. I believe this is the reason people think we are not learning anything, for can't anyone talk about Shakespeare if they've read the play? The answer is no. Not everyone can critique or use the same skill set: form, literary symbols, analysis, metaphor, similes, etc. to get to educated answers.

    Our Practice of Criticism catalog entry from Geneseo's website:

    Introduction to the interpretation and analysis of literature, as well as to the abstract principles and assumptions that underlie all efforts to represent the meaning, structure, and value of texts. In classroom discussions and short essay assignments, students undertake critical readings of texts from a variety of genres (poetry, novel, drama, etc.), while examining how critical controversy emerges from the different theoretical commitments and preconceptions of readers. This course is a prerequisite for any 300-level English literature course taken for the English major or concentration.

    Essentially, this is exactly what we do.

  28. Unknown User (snl4)

    I think what Dr. Schacht is really trying to encourage us toward is a more narrow and specific response to the Lamron article.  We need to pull specific quotes and arguments from the article and answer them specifically.  This will help with the organization of the essay. An example:

    "An English major must be able to think critically and to analyze literature, poems and, in the end, reality. English majors need to be able to comprehend complex ideas from the works that they study and must be able to infer meaning from the information they are given. Most importantly, English majors must be able to competently express their ideas and communicate to others in the most effective way possible."  This is where we would have an "Agree, but with a Difference" structure.  The writer of the article acknowledges what we claim to do.  He goes onto say, "This sounds like a rather in-depth course, right? Not exactly."  He says that he does exactly the same thing as a biology major.  We need to FOCUS on explaining to him why what we do as English major is different than what he does as a biology major.  We need to give explicit examples of what we do in response.  He's already stated some of the things that we do.  We then need to explain how our approach to it is scientific, not just a book club.


    "In fact, the requirements for being an English major, in the general sense, are the same requirements for any other major. All people studying at this college are learning how to comprehend, apply and communicate the world around them. The only difference is that an anthropologist learns anthropology, a biochemist learns biology and chemistry, an economist learns economics and an English major learns … well that's the problem."  This is the section that Dr. Schacht most wants us to address.  In response to this, we need to focus specifically on the classes we take as an English major, and this brings in our general consensus that English brings in bits of all majors.  We are required to take history classes in addition to the gen eds (pre-1700 British Literature and post-1700 British Literature).  We take classes on different cultures (Native American Literature, Non-Western Literature).  We take writing classes (Technical Writing, Writing for Teachers).  By pulling classes directly from our program, we can counter what the Lamron article is saying.

    In short, instead of focusing broadly on why the English major is useful and what we can do with it, we need to focus on countering the Lamron's article in a direct and concentrated way.

    1. Unknown User (lmg19)

      I totally understand why we should narrow our topic to one specific argument because we want to make sure that the reasonwe are even writing this essay isn't lost. The Lamron did sum up that we, as English majors, don't really have a specific study or at least anything important in the author's eyes. However, as Meghan articulately stated in class much better than I was able to, it is important at least in the conclusion to demonstrate that we do have a future with an English degree, and no not just as teachers. Our main focus will be what the English major studies because Professor Schacht is 100% right that this is the main issue addressed in the article. But, I still think that even if we tell them what we study, its not going to matter because they will think we still don't have a future with it once we recieve our diploma. Just a little reference to it in the conclusion! Hopefully I worded it better than I was able to in class!

      1. Unknown User (snl4)

        I agree with this.  I don't think we should completely leave out that aspect of the argument.  We just need to be careful that we don't get carried away and make our futures as English majors the main argument of our essay.

  29. Unknown User (ser13)

    Here's kind of a summary of what we talked about in class today:

    -We need to be careful to respond to the "they say" in the article and not get off topic! Just to reiterate, the challenge from the Lamron is "do you actually study anything?" We don't need to spend too much time (if any) detailing the useful skills you can gain from the English major. Set aside question of if what we study is useful, but rather say "this is actually what we do".

    -Science means a conscious application of principles, in a rational, organized matter. It also connotes thinking about these principles when applying them.

    -The end product of our personal interpretation may be unique, but we probably use similar techniques to arrive at our own interpretation of works.


    So, what do we do? We do:

    -study works of Literature and analyze their meanings

    -As Meghan said, we have a similar way of arriving at things as scientists. We both gather data, though our data is in terms of literary techniques, evaluation, the author's purpose, etc. We then come together with our data to analyze it as a group.

    -We have conversations about many different areas of study, but we DO NOT actually study them.

    -We are studying how a whole gamut of subjects become represented. We study the way models of everything in the world works. These models are formed through different author's works of literature, poetry, articles, etc.


    I guess the most important thing for us to realize is that English majors do study and do analyze works. We learn about the models of the world as demonstrated through other people's eyes. For the conclusion, as Meghan suggested, it's important to talk about how there actually is a use for the English major. We can tie in the emotional benefits, possible career options, and life skills gained from the major.


  30. Unknown User (ebw1)

    While the events of history are examined with interest by historians, as science and technology progress and move forward, as business and the economy shift in new ways, and as the world has and is revolving in general, Literature and Art are trying to examine what is happening to human consciousness. As other people in other disciplines discover what they discover, all of us students, artists, readers, writers, musicians, etc are trying really really hard, via criticism and analysis, to figure out how all of this stuff is what it is and what our choices and situations mean for humanity in general. Art functions as the lattice through which we are able to see how and why the world operates on our nerve endings.

    This came to me on my drive back home. This is really what we're after. I think it is a very moving defense for us as critics and human beings tangled up along side everybody else. No judgment, nothing condescending. This might even inspire some of the people who scoff at our major to reconsider.

  31. Unknown User (djd10)

    I absolutely agree with the idea that the English major's study is the human experience. If history kept a diary, I think that it would appear as literature. By reading one's past work, we are able to examine one person's perspective on one specific time in human history, which, in combination with  other relics of the time (essays, scientific discoveries, political and economic paradigms, etc) we critics formulate individual theories (which often pertain, or can be applied to current events) to be discussed and argued. This practice ends up giving us, individually and collectively, a better understanding of just what it means to be human.

    I think it can be said that literature (and art in general) simultaneously reacts to and shapes culture. Just look at A Christmas Carol: it is a narrative reacting to the politics and culture of its time, yet it has inspired others (Wonderful Life), remains relevant today ("Occupy Christmas") and has become culturally embedded into holiday traditions.

    I think part of what an English major studies is this complex interdependent relationship between literature/art and culture while gaining insight into what it means to be human through a critical lens. 


  32. Unknown User (mka4)

    I'm sorry that I didn't enter this conversation earlier but it's great so far!

    I think Eric's post is very accurate and is a great base answer to the question, of what an English major studies.  As I read a the posts about literature's relationship to "human existence", the genre of historical fiction and works about the future came to mind.  In these literary works, writers develop a theory or model of what they believe human existence, or in Eric's terms, "human consciousness", to be and then create a scenario that individuals who are a part of that model must respond to.  The essence of the story is in the reactions that those individuals have, a product of their state of consciousness at that time.  Although these types of stories are just one kind of literature, a lot of literature functions in the same way, with the writer defining his or her characters' existence in their own minds and conveying it to the reader by allowing them to react to made up circumstances.  I'm not sure that this has a place in our paper but it is a way of thinking of the relationship between literature and the human existence that Eric describes above.

  33. Unknown User (br11)

    The human experience and the relationship between art and culture are surely concepts at the heart of what we study, but they're not what defines us as English majors. I don't think we can claim to study the human experience with much more conviction than we could claim to studying Psychology, although it's true we invoke a sizable amount of knowledge concerning Psychology when we discuss character. (For that matter, someone like a Therapist doubtlessly depends on his/her knowledge of narrative, which literature is the prime source of.) We study literature as end in itself–and we practice literary criticism to do this. Some people devote their lives to studying literature, and it's not some fluke that they're able to do this. If we only take a look at one form of literature, the narrative, and reflect on its ubiquitousness, an argument against studying English becomes delusional. Literature is as much a part of our collective everyday experience of reality as disease is, it would be a gross error if there wasn't a place within the education system for studying literature, and of course that place is the English major.

    1. Unknown User (djd10)

      That's a good point, but literature as an end itself still leaves us having to qualify what makes it important as a study. In the body of the essay, along with making sense of human consciousness, and the study of art/culture connection, we could make the argument for the importance of narrative since we tend to live our lives in narrative (or at least reconstruct memories and relay things that happened to us to one another). These three topics could make for three solid body paragraphs. 

  34. Unknown User (ebw1)

    Just thought I'd share this ridiculous cartoon. What is our response/defense to this (similar position the Lamron article takes)?

    1. Unknown User (ggs1)

      I like this video, it shows that the English major is not one that is always easily adaptable to real life situations.  It also kind of shows the stereotypical English major who just wants to write and teach because they like reading and writing. That is just the surface of the English major though, it is very complex and I think the professor in the video shows that you cannot do much with an English degree for monetary means, but for artistic means you can as long as you are creative and original. While the professor brings up good points about becoming a professor, it is not as bad as they portray it,they put it in the worst terms possible without recognizing the serious fulfillment that can come with becoming a teacher.   

  35. Unknown User (mka4)

    I think that, as much as it is caricatured, the responses of the student actually do address a lot of the points that our brainstorming has uncovered.  She speaks about teaching critical thinking, Although the girl is rather naive, she does make some good points.  We have discussed the fact that most English majors do not make the choice to follow the path that will bring them wealth, but instead the one that they believe is the best response to their passion.  In this video the girl says, "i am a motivated person who loves to read", a statement that demeans the English major by stating that nothing beyond these simple criteria are the entirety of the  prerequisites for becoming an English major.  In fact, as we have discussed, a mixture of a whole host of talents and passions, specific to the individual, come together to create a successful English major.

  36. Unknown User (kv2)

    Being an english major is all about training your mind to see the world in another light.  We inspect and dig deeper and find meaning in places so many seem to live without.  This can be compared to our mathematics major counterparts who do math all day and excercise their brain.  Exactly like us but they just do it a different way.

  37. Unknown User (mrb21)

    Some updates I'd like us all to be aware of, especially my fellow drafters, regarding several conversations I've had with Dr. Schacht about this paper:

    This is an email correspondence between Dr. Schacht and I regarding the topic of the paper:

    Dr. Schacht, I have 29 pages of highlighted brainstorming and 14 pages of Quotes, similarly colorful, sitting in front of me and I am trying to construct several They say/I says for the class's consideration. I have come across a problem, where you are asking us to say WHAT we study and also refute the Lamron's claim that we don't study anything. But the Lamron ADMITS we study something - techniques and ideas in literature. The real argument, I think, comes in the word 'merely' - that we merely study that. That IS what we study, but it isn't a small thing too study and it isn't unimportant which is the implication and the author's argument. How can you ask us to argue against a point that is a tangent to the main article, in fact is refuted by the article's author himself only a statement or so earlier?


    Hi Meghan,
    The Lamron writer does identify something that English majors study,
    but what he identifies - "techniques and concepts in literature ...
    and ... the ideas presented within literature" - is poorly defined and
    thin; describing the content of the major this way is precisely what
    enables him (he thinks) to toss in that "merely."
    Saying that English majors study "techniques" suggests that they study
    nothing more than craft. Saying they study "concepts" suggests...
    well, I don't know what. What concepts does he mean, and how are these
    different from "ideas"? And to say that English majors study "ideas"
    that are "presented" in literature suggests that the ideas are just
    waiting there to be studied, as though no process of interpretation
    were necessary.
    A good "I say," therefore, might begin by acknowledging that the
    Lamron writer has indeed identified something that English majors
    study, but that he hasn't done it very well, and if he'd done it
    correctly, the word "merely" would have seemed out of place.
    Does the study of English build important skills? Sure it does. And
    you don't have to stay away entirely from naming these skills and
    asserting their importance. But the main work of the essay should be
    to identify and explain what the study IS that's building these
    skills. In other words, in English, you build these important skills
    by studying... what? That's the question the essay should focus on
    Please don't hesitate to share our exchange with the other folks in
    the Drafting group. Your question is very well taken and important.
    And I hope my answer will be helpful to all of you. 

    Also, I went to see Dr. Schacht today after class to talk about the beginning of an intro we have. Here are my notes from that meeting:

    English is about the way humans and literature engage with politics, societies, morality…Literature creates a model of life that engages with anything in the world. English majors study how models of the world work or how we as readers should understand the models of the world that writers create.

    Explain the orderly analysis (not scientific) of the study by bringing up the word ‘Practice’ – English is a way of studying literary arts forms where you’re engaging in an orderly investigation of some part of the world (the actual world or the stuff people do) and you’re doing it systematically and collectively with other people, that’s a practice

                - similar to a medical practice or a law practice (a law practice is about the things that people value as good and the things that people do – the study of law is not the study of the real world, it’s the study of the human realm)

                - English is an orderly and systematic method for going about the practice of studying literature; we have a vocabulary and terms that are constantly redefined (like laws that are constantly redefined)

    A potential way to organize essay – Daniel Pink’s analysis and synthesis are both part of what we do as English majors, which is part of what makes it a practice and organized and systematic. We first try to see how a particular work is constructed (analyzing details), and then take a look at how it relates to politics, society, etc (synthesis)

    Of course any comments on this would be greatly appreciated, as well as any comments on the draft as we put it up! Thanks!

  38. Unknown User (aa24)

    Hey guys, I know this is a little late considering that you guys are already drafting but I would like you all to take a look at the link I posted below.  Kurt Vonnegut is the author the the popular classic Slaughter House Five, and is now a professor. When he assigns them their essays through a personal letter. Reading through his touched me personally because of the way he goes about giving the student this assignment.  There was nothing false about it or too ritualistic.  Just beauty and appreciation and expression!  Let me know what you think of if it sparks any thought in you.