9.22.2015

The Confessions of a Failed Literature Graduate

Welcome to the meme wall of shame.
I am pretty proud of the fact I have a bachelor's degree in literature. I loved my teachers at Eureka College, most especially Dr. Kathy Whitson and Dr. Ann McCormick. I loved being opened up to the world of literary criticism, being exposed to stories from around the world, tackling a text from every side of the issue, and attempting to understand a text from the vantage point of someone vastly different from myself, even if it challenged my own beliefs. I loved immersing myself in classic and modern works of literature, poetry, and drama from Britain, America, Europe, Russia, India, South America, Africa, and Japan. I loved reading challenging texts. Never have I felt more human then when my heart and consciousness is buried in a book.

And yet, I look back on the ten years it has been since I graduated and can only think I have not been a good literature major. I have not taken advantage of the portals my education opened up to me. I have had the most amazing ten years and have no actual regrets. And yet...there is this everpresent burden weighing on me, that not only did I not give it my all while in college, I also have not given it my all in the time after college. I am reading and writing all the time (some pretty heady stuff I might add!) but I have not read the books I thought would in the decade after getting my degree.

Therefore some repentance is in order. I need to get my literary failings (or should I say sins?) off my chest. Please, will you hear my confession? I seek to get my relationship with books right.


  • I confess I have loved books with my words but denied them through my actions.
  • I confess I spend far more time watching television than is healthy, time sitting in front of a screen when I should be reading. I confess I leave it on wanting to zone out to something when I know my time would be better spent either reading or sleeping.
  • I confess I never actually finished reading the assigned novels/works Don QuixoteHeart of Darkness, The Scarlett Letter, Madam Bovary, 100 Years of Solitude, Paradise Lost, or Hard Times. (Along with a few others, I might add!)
  • I confess I never even started reading the assigned novels Frankenstein and Moby Dick. (Oh the indignity!)
  • I confess that to this day I have only read one Jane Austen novel. One! It was Pride & Prejudice and it was sublime, which is why I am ashamed to have never read another.
  • I confess I have only read The Lord of the Rings once. (I've read The Hobbit twice though!)
  • I confess that since graduation I have read hardly any formal literary criticism. My literary criticism classes were some of the most revelatory experiences of college for me. They helped me to see the world with new eyes. And yet I have not sought out any further formal critical interpretations of texts.
  • (Along the same lines) I confess that I have written no papers of literary criticism to be submitted to a journal, an online publication, or a conference of some kind. (Although, to be fair, I veered more toward theological writing and am still actively pursuing writing, even if not specifically in the field of education.)
  • I confess that since graduation I have basically read zero amounts of poetry, neither classic metered works (Renaissance or Romantic poets) or more free form modern works. My Billy Collins books are about the only works of poetry I have cracked open since receiving my degree.
  • I confess I have never gotten around to reading more of the kinds of books that either most enthralled me or most challenged me. In college I loved reading works by Indian authors but have not read a single one since (I attempted to read another Salmon Rushdie novel, but lost interest in it in the first couple of chapters). I also came in contact with a number of authors who were a challenge to my normative white middle class life. Toni Morrison and other black and/or female authors come to mind. Their's were books by the Other. To my knowledge I have hardly read a single one.
  • I confess I was irate nearly to the point of murder when my cat peed on my beautiful multi-volume Norton Anthology of British Literature, and yet I have barely looked at them since graduating.
  • I confess that I have bought way more books than I have actually read.
  • I confess I still snicker every time I hear or think the name "Balzac".
OK. I feel better now my confession is over, but what shall I do for penance?
____________
Related Posts
PostHumous Book Review Week
Infinite Jest: A Typical Reading Experience
Why Study Literature?: A Concise Answer

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

There is only one thing you can do to repent: read!

Chris Marchand said...

Thank you Fr. Anonymous.
I accept.

Jake T said...

As an English major who really didn't care that much in college (and loved my degree & education, which was, to tell the truth, much more useful in small group discussion leading and philosophy than literature), I completely relate.

Sever years ago, I decided to read all the great novels that I never bothered with in college. I made it through a couple gigantic Russian novels, but fell asleep before getting more than a couple chapters into Faulkner.

Since, I've come to peace with how much I read (shockingly little) and write (even less), because I'm ok with the things II am reading (mostly listening to weird old folk music), learning (data science & programming) and creating (banjo music).

I've got my creative inputs and outputs (and I suspect you do too). There's no reason whatsoever to feel guilty that you're not doing the things that you think your professors expected you to.

Gah... Once again, I take a good natured tounge in cheek post too seriously. That said, I really have felt that same guilt, which explains why I felt the need to write an essay justifying my failure as an English major... The irony...

Jake T said...

As an English major who really didn't care that much in college (and loved my degree & education, which was, to tell the truth, much more useful in small group discussion leading and philosophy than literature), I completely relate.

Sever years ago, I decided to read all the great novels that I never bothered with in college. I made it through a couple gigantic Russian novels, but fell asleep before getting more than a couple chapters into Faulkner.

Since, I've come to peace with how much I read (shockingly little) and write (even less), because I'm ok with the things II am reading (mostly listening to weird old folk music), learning (data science & programming) and creating (banjo music).

I've got my creative inputs and outputs (and I suspect you do too). There's no reason whatsoever to feel guilty that you're not doing the things that you think your professors expected you to.

Gah... Once again, I take a good natured tounge in cheek post too seriously. That said, I really have felt that same guilt, which explains why I felt the need to write an essay justifying my failure as an English major... The irony...

Mark Gallaher said...

People don't want to read, you know. A lot of them are thinking that it is boring. They also don't want to write. At least one small and simple essay. All they are using is some writing services. One of my students ask me for an essay writing service review.

Margaret C. Mack said...

Well, of course modern people interested in different internet things than in a literature. My daughter has the same. She always asks me something like to write my English paper for me . But I always refuse this thing. She need to practice in writing else she won't get any results.