You Want To Be An English Major?
Regina Udler, an English-computer science double major
at Barnard College, it all began with Dr. Seuss.
a lover of Shakespeare, Gabriel Garciaę Marquez
and Charles Dickens, said that reading Seuss books inspired
her to pursue English as a major in college.
liked to read," Udler said. "When I came from Russia, I
learned English by reading Dr. Seuss books and I really
fell in love with the rhyme. I was an only child and it
was a way to escape."
English major Laura Riley, who will graduate from Barnard
this December, said she was first drawn towards the subject
at a very young age.
when I was little I liked to write poetry," Riley said. "I
came into college knowing that I wanted to major in English.
When I was younger I enjoyed reading, mostly poetry from
the Romantic period and in Jamaica (where she"s from),
they said it wasn"t poetry unless it rhymed. So then I
didn"t know if I wanted to be a writer, but I liked writing
and that was my reason for looking into schools with a
strong English department."
to Anne Prescott, an English professor and Renaissance
literature specialist at Barnard College, learning how
to write is one of the most important skills a student
will learn by majoring in English.
"[English majors learn] how to write and [they gain] the intellectual
flexibility that comes from reading a variety of texts
with different attitudes towards life and from different
cultures, past as well as present," Prescott said.
major encourages the imagination, and the imagination is
useful in virtually every part of life, even in the sciences." Contrary
to popular belief, teaching is not the only career path
for an English major. In fact, English is an extremely
"That"s an illusion," Prescott said. "What
can you do with an English major? The obvious answer is
teach, but the
secret is an English
major can be used as the basis for so much else. There
are some clear examples: law school, where knowing how
to use language can help you get the criminal off or
put the bad guys away."
not surprising, but what may come as news is the degree
to which admissions committees for business and
or banking firms downtown welcome literacy and look with
favor on English majors, not just simply economics or
is the case for Riley, also a Latin American studies
minor. Upon graduation she hopes to find a career that
will combine the skills she"s learned studying literature
and business. She plans to look into positions with business
news wires or in media relations.
this poster up (in the English department) that says "Does
Your Major Determine Your Career?," and I think English
is one of the few majors you can use to answer yes or no," Riley
said." It was easier to get internships in publishing or
media than it would have been for some other majors, but
I don"t think that it necessarily limits you to the literary
departments will offer a range of classes, both lectures
and seminars, on literature from all time periods. Beginning
English majors will start off reading classic literature
such as Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Chaucer.
to start with the classics—Shakespeare and the Greek dramas—and
also (to have) exposure to mythology," Udler said. "A lot
of literature stems from it and being able to track back
or at least compare the themes provides you with the necessary
depending on the programs, will allow students to focus
on different literary time periods or other specialty areas
like film, theatre or creative writing.
Udler plans to pursue a career in computers, she has decided
to concentrate in theatre. Currently she works for a theatre
agent designing websites, which she said, combines elements
from both of her majors. Prescott adds a final note on
the "pleasure" component of English.
Americans like to think that something will be useful,
and an English major is useful, but we shouldn"t forget
that reading a variety of texts is a great pleasure.#
one of the career pathways for an English major turn
to page 8.