Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Why I Didn't Major in English

I'm a freelance copyeditor who worked for a publishing company doing editorial work and who has always loved reading, so you would think my major in college would probably have been English, right? After all, what better major is there for a person who loves to read, right? Well, not necessarily, not if you fall into the category of reader that I'm in. Which is simply, I enjoy reading for the pleasure that it is. Over-analyzing what I've read has always been a bit of a kill-joy for me. It's fine up to a point, but beyond that, it's almost as bad as trigonometry and physics (okay, maybe not that bad). Needless to say, this attitude does not make for a very successful English major!   

I read a book recently, The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley, in which her main character (who is a successful author) expressed my own thoughts and experience with this topic perfectly. I love it when you find something random like this in a book written by a stranger that so accurately reflects yourself or your own experience. It's such a great connection to make that feels both intimate and personal and also like you connect better with the world at large. 

This is the direct quote from the book that illustrates and validates my point so well:

"I love to read, but all through school I hated it when books were pulled apart and analyzed. Winnie-the-Pooh as a political allegory, that sort of thing. It never really worked for me. There's a line in The Barrets of Wimpole Street--you know, the play--where Elizabeth Barrett is trying to work out the meaning of one of Robert Browning's poems, and she shows it to him, and he reads it and tells her that when he wrote that poem, only God and Robert Browning knew what it meant, and now only God knows. And that's how I feel about studying English. Who knows what the writer was thinking, and why should it matter? I'd rather just read for enjoyment. No, I studied politics."

Even that last part is true for me; my major was political science because politics and government was something I enjoyed studying in-depth. I do enjoy discussing books and analyzing them to a certain point, but doing it for book after book after book and trying to find all these metaphors and allegories and writing long papers about it? No thanks. To me that turns the joy of reading into work and drudgery. Besides, you can analyze all you want and still be wrong, or right, or neither; so often it's completely subjective. So those are the reasons why I didn't major in English. I'm glad I found a kindred spirit in my book who articulated my view on this perfectly. Books really do make the best friends!

I can't resist including a few other fun pins from my "Books & Reading" board on Pinterest, which currently has almost 450 pins. I hoard book pins the way I hoard actual books!

Totally worth it.

{Stop talking to me!}

I need a nap...

This is totally me...

...which leads to the following problem...

...and this one.

For my fellow readers, did you major in English in college? Why or why not? I admire other readers who enjoy deeply analyzing texts, but I relate better to the ones who don't!


Deanna said...

I totally agree with this! I majored in Psychology because I find it fascinating. I remember being really bothered in my AP English class as we were analyzing some book or poem in depth, that my teacher had a very specific interpretation that she wanted us to reach - the one she thought the author meant. And I was thinking, how in the world do you know that's what the author meant? That's what you get out of it and I get something totally different - and that's the absolute beauty of it! We each read from a different place, a different perspective, and get something different out of reading.

I like to read mostly just for pleasure and entertainment, and sometimes seeking our certain knowledge. Sometimes it makes me feel guilty at book club when there are a couple of people who exclusively read deep, "life-altering", non-fiction books, etc. and feel like I'm reading too much fluff or whatever. And then I toss that thought away and accept the beauty that this is exactly why there are so many types of books in the world, to appeal to every kind of reader and what they need at any given time. If I want to learn something specific, I can get a great non-fiction book to learn about it. And if I just want a good escape from my life for a little bit, I can find a great world to live in through a book for a while. I can experience someone else's mind, life, and world and be changed by that. It's a beutiful thing!

So, yes, I agree that I just want to be left alone to feel a book however I may and not ruin it by too much tearing apart.

Sarah Laurence said...

We are literally on the same page: I majored in Government instead of English for the same reasons!

cheryl said...

I completely get this.
One of my friends who loves to read (and is a good writer) analyzes every book to the point where I wonder how she enjoys any book.
Every good reads review is a novel and most books are at 3 or below stars.
As much as I enjoy her, I feel like there is something to be said for being able to read a book and enjoy it for what it is and how it makes you feel.
I love all of your book pins!
I also hoard books and book pins.