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Me fail English? That's unpossible!

For the longest (read: 6 weeks) time, I never had anyone bring up my major. No consultees were doing the "oh, so you're an English major" thing.

Over the last week, that has changed. I don't think it's anything more than a regression to the mean (people had to bring it up eventually) and I think it was pretty flukey that it didn't come up beforehand.

But anyway, yes: over the past week or so, I've had a couple consultees do the "so I'm assuming you're an English major" conversation, which is something we talked about a little while ago re: Meher and people wondering why someone from Design would (god forbid) be working with writing. I'm starting to wonder if it's not so much a misconception about writing (as in "people in other disciplines don't know how to write") as much as it is a misconception about English ("English is where we teach people to write"). I'm not sure how subtle of a distinction that is, but I think it's an important one. People assume that the English dept. is where the U trains its writers, so then it would make sense to have consultants coming from that discipline.

This obviously is not true. English does not teach writing. But I understand why people think that; it's what I thought when I declared English in the first place. I know now how stupid of an assumption that was (looking back, I should have been in Philosophy), but I just figured that "I want to write, so I'm headed to the English dept." (At least, once I ran screaming out of the PoliSci dept.)

English is basically Literature, with a dash of theory every now and again. But people don't know that to a large extent. I'm not saying that this is necessarily an either-or situation; people can also be morons and assume that Art students can't write. But: just as important is that basic English misconception. What we do about that, I know not. . .

Comments

I think this assumption that English is where you learn about writing comes in part from secondary education, where "writing across the curriculum" (or, as they call it "writing in the content areas") has perhaps less purchase than it does in the university. But, I think that narrow view of writing is also reinforced by teachers in all fields who just don't want to deal with writing-- little less talk about it or teach it; isn't it easier to say, go to English (or take FYW or go to the C4W) and then come see me later when you can write? (as if writing is something we master!)

can anyone who's spent more time in English classrooms than i have confirm my suspicion that it´s kind of a rough time to be an English department?

I mean, if they're trying to avoid being thought of as the learning-to-write place, and meanwhile CSCL is stealing all their cool-kid Theory cachet,what's left?

literature?

c'mon, literature?

(sorry english department, i do love you. if i'm being insensitive it's only because i spent the whole day reading about Iron Age Gauls. who DEFINITELY didn't give a damn about any sissy Roman alphabet business. just the wine, please.)

I think that's absolutely true. The non-literature chunks are getting slim, and as you say I think the rise of other disciplines that are more focused has an effect. (Division of labor, baby! Marx was right after all. . .)