Bad Reputation

Hope you are all having a great Monday evening (or potentially Tuesday for some readers across the world). I’m writing at night instead of this morning- got caught up with work-related writing. Hope you had a great weekend!

In the last post when I asked for your opinion about what you most wanted to see us highlighting on Looking  for Pemberley, a surprisingly high percentage voted  “Advice for English Majors.” So, when I came across this scathing yet satirical article from Holy Taco today listing “The 10 Most Worthless College Majors,” I was dismayed but not surprised to see English Lit as number 3 on the list.

English gets a bad reputation, not because it is academically “worthless.” It is fact, it is quite the opposite, and may be one of the most rigorous courses of study one can take in the College of Arts and Sciences (I am admitting some bias here, of course). One of the reasons English is tough is that English majors are not trained with skills for one specific career. For example, if you get a degree in Accounting, you will probably become “an accountant.” Likewise, if you get a degree in Paralegal Studies, it is because you probably would like to become a paralegal. I think you get the point.

Bad Reputation foods (Kool Aid and cookie) at Bauhaus Coffee shop, Seattle

If you are majoring in English, you can be almost anything, which leaves many at a loss for what to choose after graduation. Generally speaking, it is difficult to establish a career in literary analysis or essay writing. This is the case with many Humanities degrees, yet people still choose to pursue them. Why? In my opinion, degrees in the Humanities are fun, and also because they challenge students to become well-rounded citizens who question, analyze, think creatively, write and communicate effectively, present (literally and in writing) coherent arguments, and look at issues holistically.

In an earlier post, I mentioned a few helpful sites for English majors to look at, one of which is called 4 Humanities. In recent years the validity of the Humanities has been heavily questioned and disputed by academics. This is in large part because although the Humanities departments at a university level are responsible for the largest percentage of core course instruction, the research coming out of the Humanities doesn’t procure the same level of grant funding for the academe as the sciences. Also, since the level of research considered “publishable” is much more rigorous in the Humanities (solo-written 15-30 page monograph researched and written and edited by one individual) than in the sciences (rigorous and time consuming direct research is often performed by a team of people who all get author credit and a line on their CV), scholars in the sciences often have many more “published” articles.

Outside the route of graduate study and teaching at a college level, (and even those options are limited), the world can look pretty bleak for the unprepared English major. I remember that when I graduated from college I was extremely excited, but had a hard time finding a job that directly related to my skill set. I worked in a restaurant and also in a winery for a little over a year before returning to school. A lot of my fellow English grads either did the same, or pursued graduate study right off the bat.

If you major in English, you will often hear the questions, “oh. do you want to teach?” and “what can you do with that major?…teach?”

Let me just say that I believe teaching is an incredible profession, and many people I know did in fact pursue English degrees in order to become better educators. But, if teaching is not your passion, there are many other options for English majors, and possibly many more than pursuing a more specific field of study.

More good news: businesses are beginning to notice that hiring English Majors and people with other “worthless” degrees helps them convey specific messages, improving inter and extra company communication. and many of the jobs I have seen on craigslist recently require my skills.

I am proud of my major, and I feel lucky to have gone the route I did (trust me, I am well-aware of what a privilege it is to be able to pursue an education). My English major has helped me grow in countless ways. I have explored, and am still exploring career options in writing, editing, content writing, blogging, proofreading, teaching (yep, and I liked it!), private tutoring, marketing, researching, and transcribing for different authors and companies.

Since my reading and writing workload in both college and graduate school was so intense, I have drive and passion to do a wonderful job at any task which requires comprehension, mastery, or use of language. Furthermore, many of the jobs I have seen on craigslist recently require my specific skill set.

English Majors and other majors in the Humanities with a bad reputation (such as Philosophy) are often students who choose to pursue their degrees without a set career path or a job guarantee after college. Their professors expect them to study for the sake of learning, to read and present well, and to attempt to write more perfectly. To me, those goals are admirable and brave, not foolhardy.

What can I do with my major (and Masters Degree) in English? Anything that interests me. Just to prove that others can do the same, here is some inspiration about other English Majors who went on to do varied things in the world after graduating.

Oh, and here is a song for you:

Hence, in my (admittedly biased, yet research-based) opinion, English Majors are badasses, who often don’t give a damn about their bad reputation. Let’s keep it that way and carry on with what we love.

Happy Monday,

Miss E

Judith and Jack and Chandan

Hi all!

The other night, I went to an informal presentation by wonderful team Jack and Judith Halberstam and Chandan Reddy at Elliot Bay Bookstore promoting their new books.

It was a wonderful reminder of why it’s awesome to live in Seattle 🙂 In my graduate work, I often studied Halberstam, and greatly admire her scholarship. I could not believe that two amazing and pretty famous queer theory scholars would be offering a talk in a bookstore basement easily accessible to me. This was during the MLA Convention, so many scholars were in town. Still, I was very impressed with their choice of location, especially since I did not pay 60 dollars for registration to attend closed panels at the convention.

So, I excitedly hailed a cab to Capital Hill and arrived just in time for the presentation to begin.  I was planning on meeting Judith, but when I arrived, I was introduced to Jack. Apparently, Halberstam is only Judith in writing. Jack’s presentation was really fun, and I found his style incredibly engaging. Chandan was very verbose, but also very pedantic and somewhat jargony.  I think that non-academics had a hard time understanding some of his points, but I also think that he worked hard during and after his presentation to make his information more accessible to the public.

Together, this team of scholars was pretty formidable, and I felt lucky that I got to see them in action.

Here are the pictures from that night:

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I promised a friend that I would copy notes for him, and I decided to copy some for you all as well.

I found myself scribbling excessively for both presentations, but more so for Chandan’s half. He went second, and he made many complicated points about modernity, but interlaced with discussion of a complex racial history. Writing down key points during the presentation was really helpful for me, and I think I got the gist of what he was arguing.

Like Halberstam said at the beginning of their presentation, Reddy’s arguments are complex, but they also reflect the intense complexity of the issues he is working with, some of which would be done a disservice by being condensed. They obviously have a lot of love for one another’s work, and their long-standing friendship began when Halberstam was Reddy’s professor during his first year of teaching. How awesome is that?!

Halberstam’s key points/ highlights:

1. “Failure is something all people do, but perhaps is something only queer people can really turn into a lifestyle.” Jack related this to a capitalist model, arguing that in our society, and in the capitalist model, there must be “winners” and “losers.” There is no way to opt out of capitalism without becoming a “loser” when to succeed in our system, one must have money and conform to both a capitalist and heteronormative timeline for success.

2. Jack also said that “if that’s success, then I choose failure.” I found that to be a very powerful statement.

3. Halberstam also argued that Pixar movies have been “feeding children communist fables” of anti-corporate sentiments in movies such as Monsters Inc., Robots, and Over the Hedge, which she believes has helped the young generation feel so strongly about the Occupy movement and anti-capitalist reform.

4. She also gave 3 lessons in how to “fail,” or to embrace failure, which included: 1.) Learn to lose, 2.) Be a Lesbian (she gave a lot of examples of how Lesbians are still not represented as “winners” in western media, especially “The Butch,” since straight men do not desire her and straight women don’t want to emulate her). Thus, Lesbians are the greatest losers, because they are still unable to be defined by the heteronormative capitalist model. 3.) Embrace a certain type of negativity, and find other options besides winning and losing.

Reddy’s Key Points/ Highlights: 

1. Introduction of his book Queer of Color Critique of Capitalism, and the goal of exploring what a queer reading and queer person of color perspective can bring/do to capitalism.

2. Capitalism = racial capitalism in the US, which = racialized state because of colonial history, which has always been racialized.

3. Discussion of Neo-liberalism. He says that we often think of freedom as the antithesis of violence, so when the state is pointed out as the source of violence, we need to reconcile that lie, or in his words “at the moment in which “freedom” becomes the vehicle of violence.

4. Pointed out the “3 regimes of modern freedom,” which includes his notion of “negative liberties,” or when freedom from violence was untenable; it rather was a freedom through revolutionary violence. He argues against the national rhetoric of the state that purports the idea of attaining freedoms from violence and all peoples becoming equal once that illusive freedom is attained. He pointed out that this approach and this myth hasn’t worked, and has never been attained, using that as a touchstone for the necessity of rethinking our subject positions and the idea of freedom within a violent state.

5. He used a great image example of a “missing billboard” installation art to illustrate the people who are left out of the picture the state paints in the capitalist model. He says that by intentially leaving out or disqualifying other possibilities of being, the modern capitalist state attempts to sustain [and advertise?] very specific system of experience. According to Reddy, we need to look at the latticework, or the frame, the people on the outskirts of what is being represented to us, for models of being.

6. He also argued that we are all being asked by the state, through citizenship agreements, to lose a little bit of our personal identities, and also to re-imagine our complicity with “freedom” and all that it costs. In essence, our complicity is really asking us to reconsider that subject position in the state with it’s history of violence (most likely through ignoring or attempting to “forget” that history of violence). Because we are taught that to identify ourselves and attain “embodiment” through the state, or to be “recognized” by the sate in order to have rights, we sacrifice for those rights.

7. Thus, he argued that “we need not ask for representation, but should try living on the fringe, in disorganization.” Too often, according to Reddy, Gays and Lesbians, etc. “make the cut” with this knowledge once they find safety or representation via citizenship, and THAT NEEDS TO STOP, since only in the fringe can true revolution and self-actualization without participation in state violence really occur.

8. I have 3 more pages of notes from this talk, more than I feel is appropriate to share through blog post, but if you want to know more, just let me know 🙂

I found both presentations compelling, and am very glad that I live in Seattle and was able to experience this discussion. I found Chandan’s argument especially intricate, but very very interesting. Both Reddy and Halberstam really argued strongly for resisting capitalist heteronormativity, for different but valid reasons. In other words, it rocked my socks off!

Excitedly yours,

Miss E

The Brownings’ Books

Hello!

I recently found a used book store over in the University District at Magus Books, and had a lovely time browsing the shop for quite some time.

I was most excited when I found two old twin books from the same publishing run, Oxford 1932, for a very good bargain. One is Robert Browning’s Poems, and the other is Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Poetical Works.

They are so fun I wanted to share them with you. Ta da!

The Twin Books

The gold insignia on the cover of each, very simple and elegant.

Don't they look lovely there?

I was interested in them originally because not only are they beautiful and well-looking together, but because of the titles. The super nerd in me noticed immediately that the titles are gendered.

Robert Browning is a “Poet,” also known as a man, and therefore has “Poems.” Elizabeth is a woman, and therefore has “Poetical Works.”

Apparently, despite finishing my masters, I am still interested in examining the language of gender.

Not only does the second title sound more whimsical, it implies that the works are more sentimental, or more feminine. It could also imply, because it is similar but longer than the word “poems” that her work is “Poem- ish.” At first it doesn’t seem like an important distinction, but the more one thinks about it, the more of an interesting move the distinction becomes.

The covers and books in most other manners look about the same. Here are some pictures:

Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Title Page

Robert Browning's photograph and Title Page

As you can see, Robert’s title page has more wording, and is more specific about the works included in his volume. Elizabeth’s has less specific information under the title, and just says “With two prose essays.” So, his work was definitely given a bit more title page respect, although I am not sure that EBB was as well known until later.

I am wondering- does any scholarly reader or historian know when EBB was becoming more popular in the 20th century? I know that manuscripts I read certainly painted this couple as one of interest, and there seemed to have been a very large following of both RB and EBB, so I’m wondering when reception shifted. Of course, there was major bias in the discussion of EBB’s work in periodicals and etc., because she was not only somewhat foreign and seen as eccentric, but was also a female writer.

Btw, the text in both books looks the same:

Inside the Books

Both have sort of a newspaper or periodical quality to them, and are somewhat biblical in their formatting.  Both books have similar font, and the same layout throughout. EBB’s is shorter altogether in page length, but many of her most famous poems like “cry of the children” are included.

Hope you enjoyed my discovery, and if you know the answer to the above query, please pitch in through comments!

Cheers,

Miss E

Is English Relevant?

As a former English major myself and obviously very attached to the field of English, I am always interested in discourses surrounding it.

One conversation that was brought up often among colleagues in the humanities was about defending the significance or social importance of a liberal arts education, a humanities education, and the English major particularly.

After working in a business setting since graduation, and doing freelance work on the side, I have realized that there are many more options out there than I had previously considered.

English majors out there and graduate students in the humanities- chin up, because guess what? Despite not having a direct career path after graduation laid out for us during college, our skill set (analyzing, summarizing, presenting, writing, editing, using imagination and innovation to come up with new ideas, and critical thinking) are actually very competitive skills to have.  Let’s start seeing the forest for the tress in regards to this topic, shall we?

Forest for the Trees! ; -)

A very dear friend reminded me of this when I was applying for jobs this summer, which is one of the reasons I started working at my company. I just wanted to share a few sites that I have found in my daily internet browsing which I found helpful or at the very least interesting to read.

For English Majors– Susan, the blogger for this site, seems dedicated to making sure that English majors continue to understand their own worth in our capitalist job market.

4Humanities– The team of educators at 4 Humanities advocate for the relevancy of Humanities and liberal arts educations, and propose that Humanities educations are much needed in our society.

Sell Out Your Soul– Yes. This blog is aggressive, as the title would suggest. While I don’t necessarily agree with the title, I think this writer brings up many interesting points. This site is specifically geared for grad students in English and people who really think critically about the graduate school rhetoric of a narrow focus and hopeless job prospects. It may cheer you up; it may depress you, but it is interesting.

All of these sites discuss job prospects for students in the Humanities, whether at a college or graduate level, and even though they take different angles, they show the “worth” of the skills that come with an education in English.

Hope you enjoy your reading material, and let me know what you think.

Cheers,

Miss E