chapter  13
10 Pages

Why study English?

The quick answer to the first question is because it’s great, plus skills. I wouldn’t be writing this book if I thought it wasn’t worthwhile. But as I’ve said throughout the book, everything about English is contentious, even – perhaps most especially – the question of why someone might choose to study it. It’s a question that deserves an answer. Students give all sorts of good reasons for wanting to major in English: because reading is pleasurable and fun; because it’s interesting; because it allows them to experience a huge range of thoughts and feelings; because they like the different ways it can be taught, through conversation, which leads to forms of self-discovery; because works of literature speak to them. All these reasons combine to make many English majors noticeably more enthusiastic about their study. This is especially gratifying to teachers and professors of English because there is supposed to be a so-called crisis of the humanities. Many of the traditional arts and humanities subjects, centrally English, seem to be in decline and under attack: where once they appeared so central, now they look as if they are being pushed to one side by economic or

other necessities. In contrast to science, technology, engineering and math, the STEM subjects, what use is English? What skills does it teach? But this is English: of course, even the question of “use” is controversial.