I apologize in advance, but I gotta go bat-shit academic crazy on this recent article about the so-called “Ideal English Major” just posted on The Chronicle (http://chronicle.com/article/The-Ideal-English-Major/140553).
Don’t read this as the universal perspective of the English discipline. Many English majors know how to work in or be the heads of non-profits or other organizations, how to be creative directors, how to market, how to persuade, and how to form/manage groups, as well as how to synthesis and be critical of many types of texts outside of the literary cannon. Many do actual work other than to be sensitive people (although this is important) when given the chance to put their reading, writing, and critical thinking to use, especially when dealing with people or texts. An English major can be a powerful communicative resource for a cause or organization when that cause or organization needs a voice. That voice grows the cause through writing, blogging, presenting, creating flyers, posters, magazines, and gathering/synthesizing information for the organization, and ultimately giving that organization an identity, unifying the organization, and making that organization known to others.
Edmund writes “The English major knows that the water we humans swim in is not any material entity”. This is a detrimental perspective of many in the humanities, especially from those who teach and do not draw the connections between the ideological and the material (Marx, Althusser, Foucault…). The false belief that language is not material, or that people who study in the humanities do not study the material, is what stops the worthwhile venture of some programs from doing the difficult work of analyzing, using, and creating the material means of language (and ideology). Study “The Grapes of Wrath” to understand poverty, yes, but also study it to understand what we can do, materially and systematically for the poor. Ask Lit majors not only to understand feminism, but to come up with solutions to problems of gender-inequality.
English majors can do a lot more than read and be ‘sensitive’.