The English Major

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The English major is, first of all, a reader. She’s got a book pup-tented in front of her nose many hours a day; her Kindle glows softly late into the night. But there are readers and there are readers. There are people who read to anesthetize themselves—they read to induce a vivid, continuous, and risk-free daydream. They read for the same reason that people grab a glass of chardonnay—to put a light buzz on. The English major reads because, as rich as the one life he has may be, one life is not enough. He reads not to see the world through the eyes of other people but effectively to become other people. What is it like to be John Milton, Jane Austen, Chinua Achebe? What is it like to be them at their best, at the top of their games?

Mark Edmundson

3 thoughts on “The English Major”

  1. The English major reads because she has been sold the fantasy that a degree in English is a thing of value. Most of the ‘one life is not enough’ readers, the kind Mr. Edmundson praises so highly, have never come near the English department of a university if they could help it. So much concentrated priggery would be fatal to their enjoyment of books.

    • I think it gets worse the longer you stay in the English department. If you only stay long enough for your bachelor’s you should be fine, but by time you get your Ph.D. chances are very good that you’re not reading to experience another life, you’re reading to find out how the text validates some theory you have.

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