“You just have to write stories right?”, “What did you learn about Shakespeare?”, “You’re a English Lit major, why did you make grammar mistakes?” etc…etc…etc
These are only some of the questions that me, and many of the English Literature majors face daily. It isn’t all about Shakespeare and stories. English literature maps the long path that English has taken to gain its present form in the whole world. Literature, of any language, is a result of social realities along the centuries.
A novel, for example, is a reflection of what the author has gone through and how the society was when the author was alive. It can also talk about what the author wanted us, as readers, to understand about him, and what he thought about the society. Literature is an art, all great leaders have acknowledged and even some great literary pieces have been penned by them.
Not only the history, literature also deals with the psychological aspects. The study of psychology and literature go hand in hand. The common misconception by the people is that literature is just about reading stories and analyzing it and learning grammar. That is where they are very wrong. We learn grammar in school. If you expect them to teach you grammar at college level, then you are in the wrong place.
Colleges expect students to be a keen lover of literature and somewhat already good in the language, in this case, English. Not to judge, but if the student is well versed in the rules of the language, the subject will be all the more exciting. We analyze Classic pieces, of course, but it is not only William Shakespeare. If fact, he is just a fragment of what literature consists of. Starting from Alexander Pope, to T. S. Elliot, there are many great writer, essayists, dramatists, poets who are, sadly, only known to literature students.
English language originated from England. How there is influence on the language as it moves from one colony to another is what feeds the interest of the students. England once used to be the country which ruled the world, even America. Yes, that small a country used to be a superpower once. It can all be traced through literature. The politics, the anarchy of Kings and Queens, the many wars and family feuds may be boring history to some, but that is what helped English be the superior language that it is.
I speak not only for English, but each literature, be it any language has its own significance and carries the mark of the region it hails from. Many choose literature as a last choice, but there are some who choose it as priority. And teaching isn’t the only profession after literature. There are many business ventures and start-ups that need literature graduates.
Learning about languages need not to be mocked, because that is also a type of study which contains every other major like history, science, politics etc. a subject which is an all in one.