There's a reason I'm a Creative Writing major and not an English major. Since high school, I've hated having to analyze books and read stuffy old classics. Classics have value, but often we're not reading the good ones. Yet, as part of my major, I've had to take five literature courses and fulfilled a gen-ed literature requirement, and I'm voluntarily taking at least one more. So why would I do this?
I'm in my sixth semester of taking literature courses, and I have to say, they haven't been completely terrible. Sure, I've had to read a lot of stories, books, and poetry I couldn't care less about, but I think I'm a better-informed, more well-rounded student for it, especially because my classes have taught me more than literary themes and how to analyze the text and write papers.
I've learned it's okay to not be the smartest person in the room. I consider two of my English professors to be some of the most intelligent people I know, and I acknowledge that they are leaps and bounds ahead of me. I sit in their classes, hoping just some of their wisdom and insight will rub off on me and I will grow to be as intelligent as them. Connected to this, I've learned that, sometimes, it's okay to just sit and absorb. English professors encourage discussion and questions, but sometimes I feel so in over my head, that it's all I can do to keep up with taking notes. I don't always have answers to their questions or something insightful to contribute to discussion, so I will sit there and absorb the knowledge they and my classmates can impart.
I've learned the study of classic literature can be incredibly pretentious. Studying the classics is built on the assumption that they are the best books published during a certain decade, period, or century. But what if they're not? What if it's all conjecture? I personally abhor "The Last of the Mohicans" and "Brave New World", yet they're lauded as great books to read in high school and college. I love "Emma" more than "Pride and Prejudice" (although I do love P&P, so don't attack me), yet the former is rarely taught in any classroom. It also seems that some who read and love the classics believe those are the only books worth reading. Those people are definitely missing out.
I'm realizing that I need to broaden my horizons and read more than just YA. Young adult fiction will always be the genre of my heart, but there are so many other books out there, and I can't bear to think that I might miss out on some of them just because of my own genre snobbery. I probably won't venture into much adult literature, just because most of it is so literary and boring or just too explicit for my tastes, but it wouldn't hurt me to read a little bit outside of my comfort zone. The Rory Gilmore reading challenge is pushing me to read more classics. I'm devouring food and travel memoirs, thanks to learning about creative nonfiction in one of my writing classes. I'm trying to read more middle grade.
Finally, works of literature written centuries ago are still relatable today. "The Merchant of Venice" deals with anti-Semitism. "Pride and Prejudice" features the king of socially awkward characters, as well as wit and banter.
I have learned so much from my literature classes. If you saw my post several months ago, I advocated for the position that everyone should take a literature elective, and I think this post only reinforces that.