The Study of Literature Essay

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The Study of Literature



I finally understand the study of literature. As an English major, a reader/ writer/ poet who has spent a great deal of time reading the works of others and writing about them, I am reminded of something I have heard my father, a teacher, say repeatedly about the modern American attitude toward education. "Nobody learns just to learn," he observes sadly, pointing out the way in which students often view particularly higher education as some kind of training ground for a career. I know exactly what he means. Every time someone asks me what I plan to do with a degree in English, I am reminded of the inquisitive student who interrupts a classroom lecture to ask in earnest "Is this going to be on the test?" or
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If others train for careers, learning practical skills with "real world" implications, then the Humanities student simply learns about being human. He attempts to recognize universal experience and reflect it in art. As ambitious as that may sound, I find my pursuit of English studies to be quite useful in my own life. Let me explain.

One year ago, my wife and I separated. When she left, she took with her (according to mutual agreement) all of the furniture and household amenities, leaving me with only the barest essentials. For several weeks afterward, I returned home to my modest quarters that contained no more than a mattress, my work desk and my books, and one small stand on which to place a stereo. I must confess that in the near month before my parents rescued me, supplying me with a dispossessed sofa, love seat, and T.V. (What do you mean you don’t have a television?), I accomplished much more in my work and studies than ever before.

I came to realize in that period the true definition of necessity. Though my wife had retained the comforts of modern living that one gets used to, I found I could still satisfy my basic human needs within the five empty rooms of my apartment. I was reminded of my reading of Thoreau's Walden, and his experimental living in the woods that invited the criticism and skepticism of many of his contemporaries. Inspired, I…