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Articles on Literature:
   Major in Literature
   A future in Literature

Major in Literature

Article by Rachelle Wiggins

“Good literature is praiseworthy for the truth it contains, even if those truths are hard, as is often the case…. Art—including literature--is an attempt to take dominion over the aesthetic realm of creation; simply by observing God’s creation we know that God cares about beauty; we should, too.” ~Karen Prior Swallow, English professor

Have you imagined penning the next “great American novel?” Do you consider the term “bookworm” a high compliment? Literature has been defined as “writing that has artistic merit.” As a literature major you will read well-written texts in various forms—poems, short stories, scripts, plays and novels—and analyze these works for their historical, literary and cultural impact. From Hawthorn to Hemmingway, Shakespeare to Steinbeck, Dante to Dickens, a literature major spends vast amounts of time delving into, discussing and debating famous writing through diverse interpretive lenses. You will also learn about the inner workings of grammar, persuasive writing, word usage, and writing style so that you will be prepared to enter the work force in fields such as publishing, marketing, journalism, education, public relations or media.

If you are a “word person” with a passion for literacy and reading you must also consider whether you possess other important skills. For example, do you communicate in an organized, clear, effective manner? Are you ready to grow in this area and if so, are you able to handle the criticism necessary to improve? Are you a critical thinker, able to break down complex ideas and think logically? Literature majors must have keen observation skills and organize and express verbal and written thoughts in a systematic way. Strong time management and creativity are also important, as well as the ability to stay focused through the heavy load of reading, research and writing requirements.

Once core requirements are met, you will start into courses related to your major including literature classes on specific time periods or geographic specifications such as British or American literature, Renaissance or Medieval literature, literature written by women, minorities, modern or international writers. It’s likely you will complete a senior project—often a twenty (plus) page paper--containing in-depth literary critique of a certain author or work. You may write for your school newspaper, participate in poetry readings, join an on-campus literary group or drama club. It’s possible you’ll take electives focusing on film, foreign translations, publishing or poetry. Other possible classes include:

  • Literary theory and criticism
  • Creative writing
  • Linguistics
  • Global literature
  • Composition
  • Shakespearean comedies

Not all literature majors end up crafting sparkling narratives from a fireside easy chair. Some aspiring novelists do attain that goal; others write screenplays for TV or film. Other literature graduates find employment writing for newspapers, magazines or doing internet writing. Others get ESL (English as a Second Language) certification and teach English in primary, secondary and university settings, and even internationally. You may add an educational tract and pursue a career in teaching English on a secondary level. There will always be a need for strong communicators in specific areas of writing like science and technology, sports, health and fitness, entertainment, politics, business and finance, just to name a few. Other common career outcomes for this major include:

  • Web content developer
  • Editorial assistant
  • Adult literacy teacher
  • Copy editor
  • Blogger
  • Grant writer
  • Technical writer
  • News writer

Do you long to understand your world better through human history’s “collective memory” stored in volumes of great literature? Do you get excited about a major that feels like a “four-year-long book club?” Then perhaps a major in literature is just what you’ve been waiting for!