March 12, 2012 - 12:00 PM
Now that I am in the last stretch of my time in college I have been reflecting on what it is that I have learned in these four years. With my English Major, there is almost too much to sum up in a brief blog post but I will try my best.
I have learned two very simply things. The first is that the world is extremely complex. You can read this line and say, "You paid all of that money for that?!" and I will happily acknowledge that I have. Oftentimes the disciplines of history, science, philosophy, etc. give us the impression that the world as we know it is reducible to a few principles or formulas. In my time as an English major I have read enough novels to know that the way in which we experience the world is far beyond these simple dualities. For instance, I read Karen Tei Yamashita's "Tropic of Orange," a postmodern novel that dealt with the complexities of a multicultural urban life for a clash my freshman year. This novel has painted the American experience as something far beyond the archetypal 50's suburban utopia that we think of when we think of something that is classically American.
The second thing that I have learned is that literature is merely representation. Again, another simple point but a profound one. The first question to ask yourself when studying literature is often, "what is literature trying to do?" Mostly it is trying to represent the world in some idiosyncratic way. William Shakespeare gives us a much better idea of what life was like in Elizabethan England was that any textbook. The same can be said with Socrates and ancient Greece. Literature is a mirror onto nature that helps us better understand the world, something that I feel great about having spent these four years with.