Top Ten Reasons I Love Being a Lit Major

Studying can be hard. There’s no denying that. Studying at university can be even harder. But even though I’m currently buried so deep under accumulated unread books relating to my dissertation that I’m in real danger of being declared a fire hazard to the rest of my building, I still love being a student. And in particular, I love being a student of literature. So this week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt from The Broke and the Bookish seemed like the perfect opportunity to remind myself just why I decided I wanted to spend the next four years of my life developing a deep and meaningful relationship with university librarians, and love-hate relationships with long-dead literary theorists.

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being a Lit Major

1. Learning to love books through a complicated, blood-and-sweat-and-tears-inducing forced reading. I could have missed out on so many great books if I hadn’t been forced to read them for class. This is true for almost all the books I’ve ever studied. Except The Mists of Avalon. I still hate that freaking book.

2. Taking classes on anything and everything, from contemporary women’s writing to Shakespeare and Film. Let’s face it, where else will you find that the assigned reading list is a bunch of films? Grab the popcorn and get studyin’, kids!

3. Being able to look at the world in a different way, analyse the messages that I’m being sent, and most importantly, think critically (this basically means that I’m able to thoroughly analyse the underlying sexist implications in the advertising materials for my favourite brands, before guiltily deciding to buy them anyway, because chocolate is delicious).

4. Scholarly writing.

… No, seriously. For every infuriatingly obfuscating, pretentiously verbose, needlessly pedantic collection of jackassery published by some erudite (and not-so-secretly sadistic) literary scholar or theorist, there is one that is so visionary, thrilling, and life-changing that it gives you goosebumps every time you read it. For every Lacan, Foucault, and Irigaray, there is something like Malek Alloula’s The Colonial Harem, Barthes’ ‘The Death of the Author’ (although I loathe just about everything else by Barthes, if I’m honest), Umberto Eco’s ‘Reflections on the Name of the Rose’, and Julia Kristeva’s work on intertextuality: writing that proves scholarship can be beautifully written, even if it still doesn’t always make sense.

5. This, of course, leads me to the next thing: discovering that professors aren’t actually the terrifying dragons of my freshman imagination: they’re actually smart, enthusiastic people who are always willing to help a student out. Which is a good thing, all in all, because buying flame-retardant clothing was definitely setting me back a few quid.

6. Conversations with fellow lit lovers, which manage to relate contemporary politics and events to the most arcane of texts. Want to learn how Dostoevsky can teach us about political and religious fundamentalism? Lit students are the people to talk to.

7. Learning the ins and outs of university library systems. Only to go overseas and find out that they’re actually not universal (why, Edinburgh?! Why did you have to use the American Library of Congress Classification System? And why, after almost a year here, do I still not understand it?!).

8. The curious and slightly alarming discovery that it is actually possible for a human being to survive off nothing but black tea, muesli bars, and frozen Chinese dumplings.

9. That feeling you get when the essay you wrote two days before it was due ends up getting a killer mark, and you feel like the smartest person on the planet. Until the sleep deprivation sets in.

10. And, of course, most importantly of all: continuing to study is the very best way to put off that problematic issue of actually finding a job. (Let’s just ignore the crushing weight of student debt for the moment, shall we?)

What’s on your Top Ten Tuesday list this week?

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28 thoughts on “Top Ten Reasons I Love Being a Lit Major

  1. This list is life. As a fellow lit major, I can say with certainty that this is SO ACCURATE. I love being able to have in depth discussions about lit with other lit majors that you definitely wouldn’t be able to have with other readers because when we go in depth, we go DEEP. haha great list! :)

  2. Yeah for fellow lit majors! I completely agree with all of this but especially the teachers. Freshman year they were pretty much the scariest people in the world but by senior year all they did was make fun of other departments and take us out for beer and pizza after finals. This post just really makes me want to go back to school now.

    • That sounds wonderful! I enjoy postgraduate more than undergrad, I think, just because you get a bit more freedom to read and write what you want, as well as going more in-depth in class discussions. :)

  3. I loved this! It would be so cool to know a library inside out, it’s like a book lover’s dream. :)

  4. Number 3 is probably my favorite. I know I’m being manipulated, insulted and patronized all at the same time….but it’s just soo good. At leat you go in with eyes wide open.
    You make a lot of hard work and study sound incredibly fun and rewarding – way to go!

  5. Regretfully, I didn’t realize how much I loved literature when I was in college; but if I could do it over again, I would be a lit major, too, for several of the reasons you mentioned – especially 1-3, and 6. What do you hope to do when you are done with school?

  6. Oh man, yeah, the thing about finding that one text that realigns everything for you is SO TRUE. You’ve described it perfectly. Even if the experience is all too rare, I’m still always chasing it when I read nonfiction!

    • Oh, dear! That’s awkward. University students do switch majors quite often, though. Just about everyone I know has done it at least once, and I know a couple of times I’ve failed to keep up with my nearest and dearest.

  7. I shudder at the memory of some of those lit critics. About the worst was someone called de Souza (I think) who took a post colonial stance on every book. I had to read every sentence multiple times to even understand sh was writing in English.

    • Scholars of literature, and particularly theorists, can definitely make you wonder whether you learnt the same version of English that they did! I’ve never read de Souza, although some of the best-known postcolonial critics are definitely daunting: I found Gayatri Spivak and Homi Bhabha very tough to read, but they were definitely worth it. :)

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