Some time ago I found an article on Slate that challenged the English departments of to justify their existence when what they did seemed so detached from reality (apparently "The Dynamics of Interbeing and Monological Imperatives in Dick and Jane: A Study in Transrelational Gender Modes" is not that far off from the truth). Maybe the article provided its own answer or concluded that English departments really didn't deserve to exist. I don't remember, but the challenge has stayed with me, most pressingly when I'm trying to figure out why I care about female Edens in "A Midsummer's Night Dream" or Milton's brilliance in the use of 'or' in Paradise Lost.
Well, this wil likely be my last semester of Literature, barring space in my schedule opening up and hearing that Victorian Literature is all sorts of fun. Better late than never to find an answer to that question, "What is the use of directed readings of literature, poetry, drama and whatever else those writers can come up with and professors throw at you?" Because they're not psychology or chemistry or whatever else that can be demonstrated empirically. Those are averages and generalities. No one has 2.5 children, and attitudes toward life don't fit neatly into whatever stage of life we've reached. Literature reinforces these lessons we should have bleeding learned from our interactions with people. They're unique, complex and can't be reduced to the latest study or finding.
The problem at I arrive at here, is what makes Virginia Woolf and Homer and Oscar Wilde so important then that we have to spend so much time poring over their words? There are millions of writers. Why not them? Because some people have spent more time considering themselves or are simply more interesting.
Why then do we need professors? Hopefully, to guide us towards what the author intended. Rather than finding ourselves in their works, we find the writer. The professors know the writers, studied their other works and lives. They are best equipped to know the writer.
Here's the article, on the off chance you care. At this point, I'm about positive I've written about it before. Maybe I'll look it up sometime and look at how views have changed or realize just how redundant this post has been.
3 years ago