WuToWu #59: What do English majors do, anyway?

Hi Jessica,

What is up with the weather?! One day it’s 45 degrees, the next day it’s snowing and 25 degrees, the next day it’s hovering in the high 30’s and I walk around with one eye towards the trees and eaves that might drop slushy snow on my head.

This is my first full semester as an English concentrator, so I thought I would share some thoughts about the classes I’m taking this semester, and share some creative writing authors to help you on your way in class (I will also be sharing these materials with your English teacher).

Although I have enjoyed reading books for a long time, I have little understanding of the theories that have been used historically to approach, analyze, and interpret texts. In Asian American Literature, I will be reading stories about and/or written by Asian Americans, however you choose to define the term. This class resides within a larger critical theory of literature that focuses on historical and racial context to see what the books are saying about the specific experience of certain individuals. This is a big shift for me, who has always taken literature as something that reflects and portrays something universal about human experience. However, it is a bit silly not to think that there are experiences which touch some racial or class groups in a particularly poignant or difficult way.

My other English class centers around the idea of the setting of the novel. For example, can you consider the reader’s surroundings as part of the setting? If I am reading a book in my bedroom, but continue to read it in the kitchen while I’m cooking dinner, does that have  a significant impact on how I receive and experience the story? There are many connections to the phenomenology of reading here, but for now our focus centers on Moby-Dick and the various types of setting within that novel. Although this class will focus more on the relationship between the text and the reader, it will also encompass the author and his context. If the reader’s environment makes a difference in setting, then the author’s environment could also be considered part of the setting.

Creative writing is great, and it’s also something I should do more often. The advantage of having a class is that you have to show people your work, whether or not you are satisfied with it. Everyone is in the same boat, so don’t worry, and be judicious about taking advice from people whose writing you admire. Now that I’ve given my quota of older sibling advice, here are some authors:

Gustave Flaubert, Leo Tolstory, Anton Chekhov, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, Ernest Hemingway, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Bernhard, Toni Morrison, Alice Munro, Lydia Davis, Ian McEwan, Richard Price, Richard Flanagan, Akhil Sharma, and NoViolet Bulawayo.

These are authors my creative writing professor recommended to me. We read a couple of their works in class, so I would encourage you to spend some time reading at least a little bit.

I know, I’m a day late. Bring it on!

Coulommiers.

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