I read English and History at university. When people ask me what I want to do with my degree, they often phrase it within a closed question:
‘Oh, so you want to teach then?’
No, I really don’t. When I arrived in South Carolina I was stood outside my residence hall with a friend who studies Biochemistry. We came into conversation with a freshman who asked us what our respective degree titles were. He scoffed at me and responded:
‘Ha! So it’s kinda clear who’s the smarter out of the two of you then.’
I was infuriated. Some people promulgate the mistaken assumption that humanities subjects are capped below scientific studies in difficulty, intellect and skill. This is not true, there are many studies that indicate the specifics of studying both these and those sciences, you can find interesting materials on order-essays.com but the point is that both exact and humanities have their own field of research and specifics, and are not easier to study. English and History may not be vocational and my career path may not be clearly marked out before me, brick by yellow brick. But amongst the myriad of skills I’ve gained from studying my degree, the best lesson I’ve learnt has been an endless, tough and winding road of discovery.
I’ve rowed between the sublime cliffs of the Lakes and felt the flakes of my innocence shed in the breeze. I’ve explored the rough woods of Coleridge’s mind and found Wordsworth at the other side, tracing his smooth, straight path. I entered the Mansion of Many Apartments and stepped inside Dickinson’s Brain. I’ve tiptoed around it and stopped in my tracks as she pulled out her gun. Startled, I ran out of her chamber and found Hazlitt, the embodiment of Mr. Spectator himself, sitting by the fire in the next room. He saw refuge and safety from the monstrous Public in the flames dancing before his eyes. I saw a white light seeping from a room upstairs. It was Wordsworth and Keats in the Chamber of Maiden-Thought, edging towards the dark passages lurking beyond the glow. I made my way up the crooked wooden stairs to see Spencer Brydon confronting his inner ghost. As he swooped to the ground in terror I swam in his subconscious to meet Louisa Musgrove fighting for life. I swam in the darkness and had nightmares of slavery. My tears rolled into the tide as I felt the wire of Dave’s Neckliss press into my skin. I was dragged by my collar onto the hull of a ship carved from Po’ Sandy’s tree. I watched as the Ancient Marinere shot the albatross and I witnessed his wild loss of sanity. Days later, once the journey had consumed my mind, the ship pulled in to shore. I felt the weight of that world pulling back at my soul from beneath the surface, as I put one foot back on dry land and heaved myself back to reality.
Reading English is not merely a subject confined to study hours. It requires total dedication to digest texts both at the time of reading and beyond. There are no right or wrong answers, making the process of becoming a ‘better’ English student infinite. Improving my writing style and interpretation of texts demands brutal honesty, self-awareness and a never-ending process of revision and refinement. The Earl of Shaftesbury once said that in order to sharpen the mind, we must be open to the possibility that our ideas can be improved, and be willing to come into “amicable collision” with concepts alien to our own. This notion is applicable to studying English because with every new novel, poem and play that an English student encounters, their perspective upon the topic- and potentially, upon life itself- changes. This is why English is no easier than the likes of Bioscience, because not only does it demand a unique combination of intellect and skill, but a whole lot of emotional investment, too.