Always Meant to Be an English Major

When I made the official switch to becoming an English major from my Communications major, I believed that I had initially made the wrong choice or that I was choosing a “harder” path. However, that was not the case at all, nor do I know why I thought it would be. As much as many people seem to not like to believe it (and people like to constantly remind me of their thoughts on the matter) Communications and English majors are very, very similar. Whether it be using my writing and reading skills to tackle new literature in my English classes or to analyze the rhetoric in speeches and media in Communications, I have never felt bad about my choice to switch my major and minor as I never felt like I was losing anything.

The main thing this switch in major and my college career, in general, have taught me is that I am the one who will continue my path, and listening to others try and tell me what I should not do will never help me in the long run. In George Anders’ book on the value of humanities for the working world, he uses a quote from Amira Sounny-Slitine where she says that you should “be the author of your own story. Don’t let other people tell you what you can or cannot do with your degree. Set goals, reach them, and then do it again.” What they are both hitting at really rings true for me, especially as someone who has constantly tried to please or do things for others instead of myself. While I can’t say the switch for me was super big or sudden, I think the classes and opportunities that I have been given since my first semester have really helped to put me on the path I want.

One of the English assignments that really made me begin to contemplate my switch didn’t come until my Spring semester of junior year (pretty late I know), where I was tasked with writing a 15-page paper on King Arthur in pop culture for my ENGL 300 class. While this may have been incredibly daunting for someone who had just barely declared their English major, I was enthralled by the prompt and what I could do with it. This may sound strange to some, but as someone who has always been incredibly interested in Arthurian legends and tales, both modern and pre-modern, this felt like a perfect challenge for me. The prompt was to compare a piece of media, such as films and novels, and see how it has built off of or retold Arthurian literature from medieval times. I chose to compare it to one of my favorite series, The Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell, specifically the first book The Winter King. The novels depict King Arthur from the perspective of one of his knights, Derfel, as it mixes historical fiction and Arthurian lore (soon to be a show!). What I never thought I would do is find so much passion in looking at comparisons between old literature and modern-day media or pop culture, but I loved it. It, however, did help to further my passion for writing and comparing modern-day/life to literature in ways I could not have guessed.

In the same semester, I found a strange passion for medieval texts, specifically the tale of Beowulf (thanks Professor Russell!) and I chose to take the famed reading I had covered in two classes that semester and take on my project for ENGL 299. This semester-long project tasked us with choosing a story and stance that we could theoretically write a scholarly research paper about. I, very obviously, chose to frame mine around Beowulf and the question of how Beowulf’s world-building, and the presentation of the heroic archetype, solidified its relevance in literature, especially in the modern era. My professor asked us to finish the project in different segments throughout the semester, which lead to a really planned out and fleshed-out foundation for a theoretical paper, including 10-15 resources, thought-out quotes that could be useful, and answers to the question I proposed. Though I never actually had to write said research paper, this research assignment was incredibly helpful in learning about the ways I do my own research and the methods in which I can apply the methods I learned to future writing and research in my career. In all of my writing and research for classes since then, I have constantly thought back to that project and the things I learned from it and about my own writing style as I truly believe it helped to hone my skills in ways I can’t understand.

The third assignment I want to cover is actually not from an English class at all, but is instead from a COMM 310 class I took to finish out my minor. The assignment, similar to that of the ENGL 299 assignment, was a kind of portfolio or conglomeration of the smaller assignments I had worked on throughout the semester. However, this assignment wanted us to perfect our written work and bring them all together in a website to help show our skills and market ourselves as writers. This assignment made me change my views on re-editing my school assignments, even after they have been finally graded. I not only learned how to write different forms of media such as Twitter news threads, press releases, and news pitches but also learned how to professionally show off my writing and my work as a writer to an online audience. The main point of the assignment was to give us a starting point for learning how to market myself professionally and show off my writing to potential readers or job recruiters.

While I am happy with my decision to make the switch to becoming an English major, as I could not be happier with the person I have become and the people I have met, I am also happy that I chose to not give up my Communications “career” as well. Being able to have two sides to my writing, both through literary perspectives and media perspectives, has truly helped me to further my writing and research in all of my classes and outside of college as well.

One Response to Always Meant to Be an English Major

  1. Prof VZ April 7, 2023 at 2:49 pm #

    I really appreciate this detailed overview of these three projects and how they inspired your and helped you build skills in different ways–well done!

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