English Literature is one of the most popular majors in colleges and universities in the US, with a huge number of students enrolling every year due to its diverse nature and numerous graduate opportunities. But with such a broad area of study, prospective students are often confused about what a degree in English Literature actually provides. This article explains what an English Literature degree looks like, and what doors it can open for graduates.
Common uses of an English Literature degree include becoming a writer, researcher, or teacher. However, there are many other ways to utilize an English Literature degree. Some students use it as a stepping stone to a degree in Law, or in this day and age, some will use it to begin a path in the digital marketing world. Whichever route you end up on, this degree can open doors to many fulfilling career options.
What is English Literature at its Very Core?
English Literature refers to the study of texts from around the world, written in the English language. By studying a degree in English Literature, you will learn how to analyze a multitude of texts and write clearly using several different styles. Generally, literature refers to different types of text including novels, non-fiction, poetry, and plays, among other forms. However, literature is a contested term, as new mediums for communication provide different types of contemporary literature.
Literature is generally defined as writing with artistic merit. However, other types of text such as screenplays, nonfiction, song lyrics, and online communication through blogs and other means, could now be considered literature under the contemporary understanding of the term. The English Literature programs in most major US institutions will largely study the traditional literary texts. An English Literature major will likely examine texts including poetry, drama, and prose fiction, perhaps briefly covering more contested forms of literature in their chosen path.
Studying Literature Versus Reading for Pleasure
If you choose to study Literature in the US, you will learn how to read different texts and analyze the style, use of different types of language, and meaning, in depth. You will also learn how to write clearly, concisely and analytically in stylistically different forms. Generally, Literature courses are divided into different focuses: British Literature, American Literature, World Literature, and periods (pre-1800 and post-2000). You will have core courses in several of these topics and will also be expected to choose a focus of your own interest, such as creative writing or drama. You will ultimately gain a much more in-depth understanding of the texts you cover than is possible from solo-reading, and learn how to express your knowledge through written analysis and presentation or class discussion.
Why Study English Literature?
Studying English Literature in the USA will give you a better understanding of the world around you. A Literature degree provides transferable skills that teach you to deconstruct and analyze in order to provide a critical viewpoint in all areas. As an international student, studying English Literature demonstrates to an employer that you have a strong grasp of the English language and are proficient in professional English.
There are several different paths for careers in literature as a graduate. You can also take graduate courses and become a teacher, lecturer, or journalist, with common crossovers for graduating English students including business, law, and education. Or you can use your analytical skills to move into unexpected careers such as marketing, advertising, or pretty much anything you are willing you adapt to. There are also obvious positions available in the publishing industry, from editor, to proofreader, to literary agent. Many creative writers, including novelists, poets, and screenwriters, among others, start their careers by gaining an in-depth understanding of written English before developing their individual abilities for expression through writing.
If you want to gain a strong-hold on the English language, develop your critical analysis of the world around you, and study in a degree that will provide you with numerous different career opportunities, English Literature could be the right pursuit for you.
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