I was pondering my college career recently and thinking, Man, I wish I had appreciated my studies more and really absorbed all of the quality literature I was exposed to. But from the ages of 17-21, I was more concerned about my social life and much of my freshman and sophomore years are lost in a blur of smoke and alcohol. And I had to buy some big-ass books. Riverside Shakespeare weighs pounds, and Norton took a lot of my money buying anthologies. But I thought I’d share with you some of the material that was on the syllabus of an English Major (keeping in mind I transferred in the middle of my junior year)…
Freshman year I took American Literature. I believe I was being hazed pledging at the time, so that was the semester that my grades took the biggest hit. Plus I didn’t particularly like my teacher who was a super preachy in-your-face feminist. The little I can remember from this semester were American staples like:
• The Declaration of Independence
• Ben Franklin (autobiography?)
• The usual American suspects (mostly poetry and short fiction): Hawthorne, Twain, Poe, etc.
When I was still anticipating being a teacher, I had to take two high level composition classes and a Methods and Materials in Teaching English course, but they were all taught by my favorite professor and there were only a handful of us aspiring English teachers in the classes, so they were very informal and intimate.
The hardest course I took was Classic Traditions in Literature, taught by the then head of the English department (at 8am, no less) and we went waaay back to the earliest literature:
• Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
• The Iliad
• The Odyssey
• The Aeneid
• The Inferno
That’s a lot of material for one class in one semester. It was exhausting.
English Lit I (I recall some of my best friends being in this class, so quite a bit of goofing off and Cliffs Notes) plus my prof was an ancient widower who had been teaching the same material since it had been written in the dark ages:
• Paradise Lost
• The Canterbury Tales
• Lots and lots of dead white guys’ poetry
And then I transferred… College take two. I had previously discussed my most difficult semester (4 English courses) and how stupid it was of me to attempt. It included:
English Lit II:
• Sense and Sensibility
• Even more dead white guys’ poetry
• 12 plays. 12.
• My professor also taught us how to eat fire on the last day of class
18th Century Lit (the class should have been titled either The Age of Satirists, or Jonathan Swift is a Clever Bastard):
• Gulliver’s Travels
• A Tale of a Tub
• A Modest Proposal
• The Sun Also Rises
• A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
• The Great Gatsby
• Mrs. Dalloway
• More poetry including a tedious study of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
Finally, to round out my writing concentration, I had to fit in one more writing class, so last semester senior year, I gave Journalism a try. And a journalist I AM NOT. As a graduation requirement for my concentration, I also had to compile a portfolio to be submitted for review by the English department and my advisor. Comparative to a dissertation thesis perhaps? Except more about how my writing had evolved over the course of my college career. Sadly, I no longer have a copy.
So that’s a general wrap up of whatcha gotta read to get that fancy piece of paper declaring you are highly employable English graduate! And if I never have to read The Yellow Wallpaper* again, it will be too soon.
*I had to take Intro to Lit 3 times. Once at the first school as a general requirement for everyone, then I T.A.’d the course my junior year (that is, I was a Teacher’s Assistant for favorite professor, referenced above), then I took it again at the second school as a gen ed. There was also this weird hybrid of a class we had to take called Heritage (I, II, & III) where we read quite a few books and discussed culture, so here are a few more examples of what else I read.
• The Samurai’s Garden
• Snow Falls on Cedars
• The Art of War
• The Awakening