When I opted for the course that I always wanted to pursue: a major in Literature or English Honours, I merely thought of it as Shakespeare, novels, and poetry. Everything in this sphere enticed me, but little did I know that my perception and understanding of the subject was not only stereotypical, but also just a very small spectrum of the versatility of the subject.
Literature works like Mr. Feeny (yes, a Boy Meets World reference), you would not even realize and evolve as a person in three years.
Though viewed as a backup option, here is how English Honours changes your life without you knowing it:
- You gain a broader vision and a widened perspective
A few months into college, you start looking at everything from a different perspective, and a much broader one. The things that did not affect you in the past start affecting you now. The growth from being a self-absorbed narcissist to somebody who understands the matters of the world, from being sympathetic to being empathetic is tremendous.
Literature makes you see the plight of the oppressed, and why the inherent racism and misogyny in every human should be done away with.
- You learn to analyse critically
A wide array of human emotions has to be analysed in order to understand the complexities of Iago’s mind, and all literary characters (especially Shakespeare’s); and this makes you rise above the petty cringe-worthy things in life.
Not only books, but critically analysing every aspect of life becomes a routine. Hating a movie you loved as a kid because you never realised it has such strong tones of sexism becomes as common as the rising sun.
- Literature provides you with indomitable courage
You will realise that the strength that is needed to be a Jane Eyre, and the courage that Elizabeth Bennet exhibited in rejecting rich men’s proposals, even though her mother’s sole aim was to get her daughters married, is not easy to garner.
Everything around you is a patriarchal construct and there is a lot to be done to break away from it, would serve as a haunting nightmare.
But, literature will give you examples and fortitude to fight against all odds.
- You get a better understanding of how the world functions
Savitri’s dysfunctional family starts making sense, and Aadhe Adhoore becomes the state of life. Literature provides students with an air of supremacy because of their new found sensitivity about the world.
A certain sense of belongingness in the earlier perplexing world precedes over, and it becomes fathomable how after years of the oppression of minorities, the reservation system is important for their upliftment, or how there are more than just two genders, or that there is not always a happy ending.
- Literature liberates and empowers you
Jane Austen’s portrayal of self-sufficient women in 19th century liberates the reader and provides an insight into becoming a strong, independent woman, undeterred by the society and its prescribed norms for females.
It gives a firm grip to reality that is needed to be held on to, as it is a long way to go for us as a society.
- You start making sophisticated literary puns
(Okay, maybe not sophisticated, but you think them to be.)
People in your college group become one or the other characters from the book. “Hey, what do you want to have for lunch?” would be responded with a “As you like it, bro” for at least one semester (or more, if you are me).
Insults like “black ram” inspired by Shakespeare become an inseparable part of your life.
- Literature helps you shed your inhibitions
You stop caring about that aunty in the metro who eyes you from top to bottom, and gives that “unapproved” look.
There will be a sexual innuendo in everything you say, and talking about sex in public would not make you think twice, because that’s what you read ALL. THE. TIME.
Most of all, it teaches you to be YOU.
Basically, literature is a way of life. It is as realistic as irrational Bollywood love stories are. It is an amalgamation of philosophy, politics, behavioural analysis, as well as history. It helps in an all round development of the mind, and maybe that is the reason that the aspirants of this course are constantly on the rise.
If you are planning to take up English Honours, I cross my heart and say that it would not disappoint you. Also, John Donne is waiting for you with his beautiful poetry (WARNING: do not batter his heart).
And those who are pursuing it, well, doesn’t it feel amazing?
If this interested you, try reading: Five Latin American Writers That One Should Not Miss