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Department of English

Why English?

 

Preparation for a life.  A major in English prepares you to participate fully in the many different aspects of life in American culture.  We are living in what has become known as the information age.  Swamped with images, information, sounds, new technology, you need the skills provided by an English major to help you analyze, interpret, synthesize, understand, and change the world around you.   One of the most critical needs in contemporary culture is the need for cross-cultural knowledge, awareness, and empathy.  Through literature, a major or minor in English will expose you to the many different cultures of America, as well as the literatures written or translated into English around the world.  Moreover, through creative writing and cultural criticism, you will learn how to contribute to and shape the cultural around you.  Through both the content and the skills gained in English courses you will be prepared to make a difference in the world over the next several decades of your life.

              In English you will be able to engage the greatest and most inventive minds of the English speaking world through the works of writers like Shakespeare, Wordsworth, the Brontes, Jane Austen, William Faulkner, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Chinua Achebe, James Baldwin, Philip Roth, and Toni Morrison.  You can watch, analyze, and interpret the significant films of the twentieth century such as Do the Right Thing and Birth of a Nation.  You can vicariously experience and reflect on the world of the medieval knight through the works of Chaucer, the world of an African slave in the work of Frederick Douglass, and the world of an Indian expatriate in the work of Salman Rushdie.  Your mind and spirit can grow in complexity by engaging the complexity of other minds.

 

Preparation for a vocation.  You and your parents both have legitimate worries about what you will do when you graduate from college.  Will you be driving a taxi somewhere if you decide to major or minor in English?  Decidedly the answer is NO.  Unlike some majors, the English curriculum is not designed for a specific job. But rather than a weakness, this is a strength of studies in English.  Studies show that you are likely to make five or more career changes over the course of your working life, either by choice or by necessity.  Thus, you should educate yourself to meet these changing circumstances.  Studies have shown that an education in the humanities provides the skills necessary to succeed in the current employment market.  Particularly, CEOs crave students with the ability to communicate well, both orally and in writing.  Also, while graduates from professional schools make more money the first year after graduation, graduates with training in the humanities outperform such students over the long haul, advancing more quickly, gaining higher salaries, and experiencing higher levels of job satisfaction.  As only one index of such success, 60% of CEOs at leading companies graduated with a degree from liberal arts colleges that require extensive training in the humanities. English majors use their skills not only as writers and teachers, but in business, law, missions, ministry, politics, social work, and a host of others fields (even medicine!). Clearly a choice to major or minor in English is not a self-indulgent whim, but a good choice for a happy and secure future.

 

Preparation for mission.  The various things indicated above suggest that a major or minor in English at Messiah is good preparation for mission to the world.  Through the skills gained in communication, job opportunities can open in areas such as Islamic countries or China that are normally closed to or restrictive of Christian ministries.  Through your exposure to and ability to empathize with those from other cultures, you will be better able to understand and respond to their particular spiritual, emotional, and physical needs.  Your training in close reading, research, and communication will better enable you to communicate God’s love in an intelligent and useful way.  Because you will have invested in your personal spiritual and intellectual resources, you will have greater reserves to draw upon in giving of yourself to others.

 

The question is not “Why should you major or minor in English?” 

Rather the question is, “Why would you not?”

 

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