You Might Be a Literature Major If…

You have very strong opinions about Paradise Lost.

You are a total snob about the meter in children’s books.

You are used to the question, “What do you plan on doing with your major? Teach?”

(You really don’t know what you’re going to do with your major. You will probably teach.)

You are unable to enjoy love poetry written by a hopeful significant other because you read the professionals for a living.

You have refused to see at least one movie because it looked like it would desecrate the book.

Every time you read a book or see a movie you’ve really enjoyed, you feel your enjoyment isn’t complete unless you’ve mentally written an essay about it. (If you are out of school, you might start a blog or Goodreads account.)

You smirk sardonically at every poster that features “Two Roads” as an inspirational poem.

You can put on and take off different literary theories like hats. You don’t like them all equally, but like a top hat, sometimes Chinua Achebe just works better than Harold Bloom for a text.

You know the names from the preceding paragraph.

Whenever you see the tiger at the zoo, you begin quoting “The Tyger” by William Blake… so often that once, when you begin, your four-year-old says, “Mommy, please stop.”

Whenever you tell your kids to stand on the white line in the parking lot (a convenient way to keep them next to you while unloading the car), you always uncomfortably remember that chapter from Invisible Man.

Feeling melancholy, when caused by a good story, is a desirable state to you.

Your textbooks were super cheap, and most could be found at the used bookstore.

People always ask you for reading recommendations on Facebook. Inevitably, as soon as they tag you, the ONLY two books left in your brain are the most difficult William Faulkner book you know and the fluffy YA guilty pleasure novel you wouldn’t be caught dead recommending.

If you have children, your criteria for naming is complicated: 1) you must like the name, 2) you must avoid names of students you didn’t care for, and 3) you must choose names of literary characters you approve of.

Because of this, you will be stuck forever explaining that you named your daughter after a character in an obscure John Milton closet drama.

You have thrown at least one book across the room.

You understand that if you are studying a novel in class, all bets are off for the plot remaining unspoiled.

When you meet a girl named Beth, the first thing you say upon learning her name is, “I’m so glad you haven’t died of scarlet fever!” (This is a true story.)

On a related note, you always use Little Women as a mnemonic device to remember birth order characteristics. “Firstborn… so… like Meg. Got it.”

Instead of saying “good luck,” you always want to say “Godspeed,” which you consider to reflect reality more accurately. But you also realize it is uncommon and possibly off-putting, so when the moment of crisis comes, you mumble something incoherent instead.

Ever since reading Blake’s Songs of Experience, you watch “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from Mary Poppins with a distinctly bleaker approach influenced by Marxist literary criticism.

You know how to pronounce Gawain.

It is very satisfying to hear someone you don’t know correctly pronounce Gawain.

You predict story endings to your significant other. When you’re right, it can be awkward, because maybe he didn’t want to know the ending to the Mistborn audiobook from your guess…

You are a jack of all trades: to understand literature, you must know a little history, a little psychology, a little sociology, and a little political theory.

Because of this, you thought in college that you were an expert on history, psychology, sociology, and political theory.

But you have discovered since what being a jack of all trades means: a master of none (except, perhaps, of the Arts in English Literature)!

Speaking of psychology, you might be a Literature major if all your Psych major friends shake their heads at you for studying Freud as more than a historical blip. And they haven’t even HEARD of Jacques Lacan! I mean WHAT?

In April, you annoy all your friends during final paper/project time by saying knowingly, “April is the cruelest month.”

(Each time you do, you suffer low-grade guilt that you are quoting the line out of context).

At one point in your college career, you were saying “subvert the hegemony,” quite seriously, by the hour.

At another point in your college career, you would have blessed the good Lord if you never once heard “subvert the hegemony” again for the rest of your life.

You know, and proclaim to everyone around you, that Shakespeare is NOT “Old English.”

You aren’t as emotionally affected by movies because you predict the plot, or at least sit back and analyze the tropes. “Oh! They killed that character? Makes sense. He was the Mentor archetype.”

You CAN be emotionally affected by a particularly competent bit of prose.

You have the pleasure of enjoying a work even if you didn’t have fun reading it, because reading is only half the experience: a good analysis is the rest!

You read this blog post through to the end. Congrats! You might be a Literature Major. Let’s go somewhere, drink tea (or strong coffee), and say “Gawain” to each other.


3 thoughts on “You Might Be a Literature Major If…

  1. I’m definitely not a literature major, as I didn’t identify with a bunch of these – but I must ask, is “You know the names from the preceding paragraph” tongue-in-cheek, or is it just as blunt as it seems?


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