Readers’ Corner: The English Major

Chris Barsanti

reading1Many will disagree with Mark Edmundson’s popular essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The Ideal English Major.” Edmundson, a professor of English at the University of Virginia, argues that college students should choose the English major over the pecuniary rewards of degrees in econ or business.

In a weak job market, where the crushing burden of student debt makes attending college an increasingly fraught choice, it’s welcome to see somebody beating the drum for the English degree as path towards becoming an educated person.

There may, however, only be so much one can take of Edmundson’s soaring, hard-to-choke-down conclusion:

To me an English major is someone who has decided, against all kinds of pious, prudent advice and all kinds of fears and resistances, to major, quite simply, in becoming a person. Once you’ve passed that particular course of study—or at least made some significant progress on your way—then…

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