October 30th, 2009 / 10:57 am
Behind the Scenes & Mean

I’d Probably Get More Replies if This Was About College Rankings

collegeThis may beĀ  weak for mean week, but of late, after catching up with an old friend, I’ve been thinking about college majors and their relationship to what we write. Most people I meet now assume I was an English major, but I was history. Here’s the mildly mean part–I sometimes feel slightly, unjustifiably superior to writers who were English majors–it’s as if I mastered (or, I guess, bachelored) a whole nuther thing first, and they didn’t.

I know that college majors rarely relate directly to future career choice. But four years is a long time to think about something in a serious way. My history coursework was far more rigorous than my MFA work, and my history thesis was much more grueling as well. Somehow, knowing a lot about torture during the Algerian War must inform my writing. All of it does even more for my reading, probably. Context!

So, what did y’all major in? What relationship do you think it has to your writing, if any? If you were in English major, do you think that helps or hurts you, or neither?

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92 Comments

  1. keith n b

      why pure math?

  2. keith n b

      why pure math?

  3. Tadd Adcox

      Because it’s absolutely beautiful.

  4. Tadd Adcox

      Because it’s absolutely beautiful.

  5. keith n b

      so then pure aesthetics devoid of concrete content is the precursor to good writing?

  6. keith n b

      so then pure aesthetics devoid of concrete content is the precursor to good writing?

  7. susan

      Anthropology and English. The anthropology part makes me feel better about the English part, it’s true. Sometimes I just tell people I was an anthropology major. Kind of like how I sometimes claim to be 100% Irish.

  8. susan

      Anthropology and English. The anthropology part makes me feel better about the English part, it’s true. Sometimes I just tell people I was an anthropology major. Kind of like how I sometimes claim to be 100% Irish.

  9. Schulyer Prinz

      anthropology makes you feel better? Wow. You’re the first person I’ve ever heard defend that crock of shit. Most useless discipline ever.

  10. Schulyer Prinz

      anthropology makes you feel better? Wow. You’re the first person I’ve ever heard defend that crock of shit. Most useless discipline ever.

  11. Alden

      Engineering.

  12. Alden

      Engineering.

  13. Garett Strickland

      I’ve never gone to college. I’m an adamant autodidact.

  14. Garett Strickland

      I’ve never gone to college. I’m an adamant autodidact.

  15. barry

      i became certified in addiction studies as an undergrad. i completed all the required coursework to be a cac I addictions counselor.

      i cant even imagine it now. me sitting around a desk, telling people why they should stop getting high…

  16. barry

      i became certified in addiction studies as an undergrad. i completed all the required coursework to be a cac I addictions counselor.

      i cant even imagine it now. me sitting around a desk, telling people why they should stop getting high…

  17. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I am interested in this. What… like what do you study to become an addictions counselor? Is it similar to social work programs? I didn’t know that kind of thing happened undergrad. Are harm reduction options ever presented in that kind of program, or are they taboo?

  18. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I am interested in this. What… like what do you study to become an addictions counselor? Is it similar to social work programs? I didn’t know that kind of thing happened undergrad. Are harm reduction options ever presented in that kind of program, or are they taboo?

  19. barry

      actually it was in the school of social work, but the program was called, addiction studies. they offer classes in all types of shit, narcs, alcohol, gambling, family dynamics. etc. i would give you a link, but i think blake said they all go to spam.

      but yeah, it was a good program. i never got around to doing my clinicals because the three places i tried wouldnt let me intern there because i had a drug charge on my record. yeah i know. i know.

  20. barry

      actually it was in the school of social work, but the program was called, addiction studies. they offer classes in all types of shit, narcs, alcohol, gambling, family dynamics. etc. i would give you a link, but i think blake said they all go to spam.

      but yeah, it was a good program. i never got around to doing my clinicals because the three places i tried wouldnt let me intern there because i had a drug charge on my record. yeah i know. i know.

  21. barry

      by harm reduction, do you mean prevention using a biopsychosocial model?

  22. barry

      by harm reduction, do you mean prevention using a biopsychosocial model?

  23. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I wasn’t familiar with the biopsychosocial model so just wikipedia’ed it. Doesn’t seem too entirely different I mean like anything that acknowledges total abstinence (often because of the social context one finds oneself in, for instance the folks I know who heavily advocate it work with young women in the sex trade and other street economies… so this is where it may be similar to biopsychosocial) may not be possible and so tries to find a way to the potential for harm to oneself or others. …clean needle programs maybe the most familiar example.

  24. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I wasn’t familiar with the biopsychosocial model so just wikipedia’ed it. Doesn’t seem too entirely different I mean like anything that acknowledges total abstinence (often because of the social context one finds oneself in, for instance the folks I know who heavily advocate it work with young women in the sex trade and other street economies… so this is where it may be similar to biopsychosocial) may not be possible and so tries to find a way to the potential for harm to oneself or others. …clean needle programs maybe the most familiar example.

  25. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      interesting, cool. It sounded very specialized and grad school-ish to me, so was curious.

      Re: your inability to find a placement, social service agencies and their regulations often upset me — I hear abt the other end of it a lot in my work — folks unable to access services b/c of their immigration status, criminal record, relationship to the sex industry, etc.

  26. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      interesting, cool. It sounded very specialized and grad school-ish to me, so was curious.

      Re: your inability to find a placement, social service agencies and their regulations often upset me — I hear abt the other end of it a lot in my work — folks unable to access services b/c of their immigration status, criminal record, relationship to the sex industry, etc.

  27. Danny

      I have a BA in Journalism and I’m doing incredibly well picking pockets.

  28. Danny

      I have a BA in Journalism and I’m doing incredibly well picking pockets.

  29. susan

      Anthropology was pretty awesome. Not useful in any way. But awesome. Of course, I went to college during the rise of cultural studies, which was pretty much all about taking something you already think is awesome and then studying it.

  30. susan

      Anthropology was pretty awesome. Not useful in any way. But awesome. Of course, I went to college during the rise of cultural studies, which was pretty much all about taking something you already think is awesome and then studying it.

  31. susan

      oops, I misreplied. Move that comment up a few spaces. There.

  32. susan

      oops, I misreplied. Move that comment up a few spaces. There.

  33. Angi

      I’m finishing up undergrad this year (but I’m 28) with a double in philosophy and creative writing. Lately I like the philosophy part a lot better. I’ve had some great experiences in undergrad creative writing, but it’s largely full of people who don’t really care and think it’s an easy degree, which I guess it is if you don’t really care. I’m not sure how much philosophy contributes to my writing, but I know that it kicks my ass a lot more intellectually and that’s not a bad thing.

  34. Angi

      I’m finishing up undergrad this year (but I’m 28) with a double in philosophy and creative writing. Lately I like the philosophy part a lot better. I’ve had some great experiences in undergrad creative writing, but it’s largely full of people who don’t really care and think it’s an easy degree, which I guess it is if you don’t really care. I’m not sure how much philosophy contributes to my writing, but I know that it kicks my ass a lot more intellectually and that’s not a bad thing.

  35. Emalise

      Classics major with a concentration on Latin. I can pick up romantic languages very quickly as a result but studying a dead language does get tedious. The language requirement meant that I always had about 13.5 more hours of coursework to complete during the week than the average student. Latin has helped me to understand English very well. I learned more about syntax, etymology and grammar, than most English majors I’ve encountered. I’ve always tended to be more interested in the cultural aspect of the ancient world, especially art and literature. In fact, I’m writing my honors thesis right now on the literary patronage Maecenas.

  36. Emalise

      Classics major with a concentration on Latin. I can pick up romantic languages very quickly as a result but studying a dead language does get tedious. The language requirement meant that I always had about 13.5 more hours of coursework to complete during the week than the average student. Latin has helped me to understand English very well. I learned more about syntax, etymology and grammar, than most English majors I’ve encountered. I’ve always tended to be more interested in the cultural aspect of the ancient world, especially art and literature. In fact, I’m writing my honors thesis right now on the literary patronage Maecenas.

  37. Amber

      I was a political science major and I was 3 classes shy of having an English degree as well (after 5 years it was time to gradute). I liked poli sci because a lot of the time we were discussing the now and our English program was very focused on the classics. But I must admit my poli sci did make me quite smug in my English classes because I would always point out the political and cultural impact on certain pieces. Now I’m a substitute teacher waiting to get into graduate school next fall.

  38. Amber

      I was a political science major and I was 3 classes shy of having an English degree as well (after 5 years it was time to gradute). I liked poli sci because a lot of the time we were discussing the now and our English program was very focused on the classics. But I must admit my poli sci did make me quite smug in my English classes because I would always point out the political and cultural impact on certain pieces. Now I’m a substitute teacher waiting to get into graduate school next fall.

  39. niina

      English major in a small honors college with a heavy writing requirement. Focus on early modern poetry. I ended up with a 50-page thesis drawing heavily from 17th-century medical texts; this gave me a great understanding of the idea of the body and how it evolved with increasingly detailed scientific knowledge. I refer to this “body of knowledge” (hee) all the time. Also, I think having to write at least 1000 words for every class every week made it so that I don’t even blink anymore at word count requirements, which is kind of useful.

  40. niina

      English major in a small honors college with a heavy writing requirement. Focus on early modern poetry. I ended up with a 50-page thesis drawing heavily from 17th-century medical texts; this gave me a great understanding of the idea of the body and how it evolved with increasingly detailed scientific knowledge. I refer to this “body of knowledge” (hee) all the time. Also, I think having to write at least 1000 words for every class every week made it so that I don’t even blink anymore at word count requirements, which is kind of useful.

  41. Clapper

      Started as a theater major, but took too many classes in other disciplines to qualify for that as my graduating degree. Wound up with Interdepartmental Studies in Speech (which I think is now called Interdepartmental Studies in Communications, since they changed the name of the school a few years back). The most interesting stuff wasn’t happening in the theater department, but in the performance studies department, where there were classes on performance art and also on the adaptation of texts to the stage (in highly stylized format–there was a strong emphasis on keeping the authors’ narrative text intact on the stage; if anyone saw Frank Galati’s “Grapes of Wrath” or Paul Edwards’ “Madame Bovary,” those were both created while they were teaching).

  42. Clapper

      Started as a theater major, but took too many classes in other disciplines to qualify for that as my graduating degree. Wound up with Interdepartmental Studies in Speech (which I think is now called Interdepartmental Studies in Communications, since they changed the name of the school a few years back). The most interesting stuff wasn’t happening in the theater department, but in the performance studies department, where there were classes on performance art and also on the adaptation of texts to the stage (in highly stylized format–there was a strong emphasis on keeping the authors’ narrative text intact on the stage; if anyone saw Frank Galati’s “Grapes of Wrath” or Paul Edwards’ “Madame Bovary,” those were both created while they were teaching).