Don’t study English literature

Quora has become a place where you can ask weird questions without worrying about sounding foolish. For instance, I was surprised when I saw that someone had asked why they should study English literature at all.

Having just completed my bachelor’s degree in English literature, I almost laughed out loud. When it comes to studying literature, there are more reasons to avoid it than there are reasons to embrace it.

Literature, like medicine and engineering, isn’t for everyone. When you study literature, you become the dorkiest person in your social group. Friends and family make all sorts of assumptions. Your friends think you’re scared of sharp tools, bad with numbers, and worried about sun exposure. They judge you as introverted and that you’re lazy to leave the couch. Oh, and you’d love your coffee black and might be a good chef, too.

You didn’t get enough marks to enrol in engineering. You can’t get an equation to equate. You’re just a smart mouth who plays with words and thinks they’re cool. You’re too dumb to memorise clinical terms or understand chemical reactions.

You like the smell of old books, instead.

Lots of graduates nowadays don’t get jobs, but as a literature grad, you won’t even find a job description that matches your expertise. No employer thinks that someone who’s spent years poring over Shakespeare and Coleridge and Yeats could offer anything valuable at brainstorming sessions inside corporate cubicle farms. Good luck finding a job and keeping it for more than a week. And retirement is a luxury you can’t afford.

That’s how most of society sees us literature majors — that we’re too weak to live in the real world because they dabble in the glories of the past.

Humanity hates us Humanities folks because we look back and ponder on the evils we’ve etched in history. Nothing much has changed since the Victorian Era. If you’ve studied the Humanities, you should know that in the real world humanity crushes humanity.
That’s why you shouldn’t study literature. You have nothing to gain from it. You get a zero return on investment, unless you count the glasses you’d be wearing by the time you graduate and the social awkwardness that clambers onto your back every time you leave home.

To everyone wondering aloud why they should study literature, I’d say don’t. If you must have a solid reason, reasoned out, mapped out, and planned out, you shouldn’t be studying literature anyway. Because no one should study literature unless it calls out to them. Remember, literature chooses the student.

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