The English Major is Dead, Long Live the English Major

The New Yorker published a very, very long but worthwhile article on the future of the English major. “The End of the English Major” and features some notable quotes by Austen scholar Devoney Looser (who will be speaking at the Plainsboro Library on her recent work Sister Novelists for JASNA-NJ on March 25th from 2-4pm, more details here)!

Hopefully you haven’t maxed out on your free articles (or have a subscription). As well as Looser, perhaps unsurprisingly there’s some detailed discussion of Austen’s novels and how and if they are taught in undergraduate introductory courses to literature, as when one professor (not Looser) asks her class if she should keep or ditch Persuasion in future years:

“I say ditch,” a student said.

“Should I substitute another Jane Austen novel?” …

“I liked Pride and Prejudice,” a student offered.

“So everyone’s just, like, You picked the wrong one?…Persuasion is gone.”

I admit that I was a bit taken aback by the Columbia English professor who admitted he barely read a novel a month now (even my math-addled brain can figure out that’s only 12 a year), preferring websites and podcasts: “Assigning Middlemarch” to students today, he says, “was like trying to land a 747 on a small rural airstrip.”

As a Gen X-er college student, I had to read Middlemarch twice, both in undergraduate and grad school. But I admit it’s not a book I’ve felt a compulsion to reread, in contrast to other, shorter classics, and I’d be lying to say social media hasn’t negatively impacted my attention span.

Anyway, the article worth a read, but bear in mind, it’s a Middlemarch-length article, so strap in!

2 thoughts on “The English Major is Dead, Long Live the English Major

  1. Lol, yes to Middlemarch length!(I’ve watched the PBS series in it’s entirety but have only made some half hearted attempts to read it) When I read the article a couple of days ago I keep thinking…’when is this article going to end’.(I read it on my phone) Lol part two especially after I read Devoney ‘s part. I was glad I did as one of the Harvard Profs mentioned is speaking at the JASNA region located physically closest to me in a couple of weeks (TMI ⚠️..they are not one of my three regions for a variety of reasons… especially with the former co-RCs being the Bingley sisters(I like one of the current co-RCs and don’t know the other one)insert a grumpy John Knightley face here…I definitely put yours above them:) ). I’m considering going.

    Except for young Austen super fans, would anyone under 25 read Persuasion? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Thanks to the shout-out for our region! I did like Middlemarch (and would recommend it) but I do think there is something to be said for shorter classes for the Internet-addled attention span! That’s an interesting question about Persuasion–my guess is that it was assigned because of the recent adaptation and because it’s such a short book. I do agree that I appreciated it much more when I was older, versus Pride & Prejudice, which is just appreciated in a different way with age, for young and old.


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