Why I Became An English Major
Politics and Activism

Why I Became An English Major

It's more than just books.


“Hi I’m Elizabeth, most people call me Lizz, and I’m an English major”

The expressions that follow this phrase are usually one or a mix of all of the following:

  • Immediate questioning about the books I more than likely have not read because I have many books I have yet to read. (it saddens me)
  • Boredom because whoever I am introducing myself too isn’t into books. (which is fine)
  • Confusion because what am I doing at a research university with an English major (I have no idea, but like most people with any major… I’m figuring it out)
  • Wonder about why I’m an English major… and that’s the question I have the most trouble answering sometimes.

It should be obvious: I’m an English major because I like books and writing essay after essay about how crazy these books are… but of course that’s obvious and of course there’s more to it than writing and books. It’s the story inside them that matters most to me.

But in all honesty, it starts with one book that came my way in eighth grade. It was a story that told a different side to colonialism in Africa, but I’ll be honest when I say in seventh grade I was more interested in the locusts that swarmed into the village. However this book appeared once again my senior year of high school, and I could finally see further into the story, the history. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is the novel that I have held close since deciding to pursue a degree in English. The book brought out a piece of history that we all knew was there, but never really got to hear until this book came along (also in case it wasn’t obvious, I’m refraining from spoiling any piece of this book because I believe you all should read it if you haven’t already).

English from then on became less about the books and more about what I did with what was given to me from those novels. It was a door to the past, but I hope you understand that the past is somewhere I do not want to live in. However, the information that comes from those past stories are what I choose to bring back to present day, because the goal is to not be the group that allows history to repeat itself.

I became an English major not for the Shakespeare or the Brontë. I didn’t become an English major for the poetry from Dickinson or Whitman (though I admit it’s certainly a plus). Instead I look for the novels from Achebe and Anzaldúa, the books that need more attention. I look for the novels that are being taken away from schools, that deserve to have their stories continued to be told, and if I can get there, then being an English major is what I need.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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