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English Majors

December 1, 1996 |

Dear Mr. Keillor,

Would you be willing to send us a compelling comment or two on the virtues of majoring in English? When you were in Rochester some months back I mentioned to you that we at the UofM Rochester Center had just received approval to offer the University English major here. The program is off to a good start, and now we're putting together a short newsletter in which we hope to offer brief profiles of Americans who majored in English, notes and comments of various kinds, quotations from writers and the like. We would be honored to have a contribution from you. Best regards,

Helen McDermott

Dear Helen,

An English major is an excellent direction for a young person to take, assuming they don't expect the world to offer them a lucrative job as a Reader of Literature after college. Of course, this assumes that the college is teaching heavy-duty industrial-strength English Lit and not diluting Chaucer and Shakespeare and Milton with low-grade courses in Journal Writing and American Frontier Feminist Literature and The Hums of Winnie the Pooh. An English major is supposed to give you all sorts of things, one of which surely is the ability to write English in a direct and persuasive and even elegant way. Why else hang out with great writers if not to be able to write like them? Unfortunately, so many English departments are in the hands of p.c. idealogues and deconstructionists and other people who despise literature, that one wonders if medicine wouldn't be a better course for a young writer. Or law. This isn't the paragraph you asked for, is it. But it's the one I wrote.

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