So what is it all about?
The English studies coursework is centered on literature, but it is not all about the literature. In other words, the literature is the means by which we are taught, but it is not necessarily the end. The literature leads us into another realm, the thinking realm, so to speak. One question I used to ask was, why do people study fiction stories, which are created, rather than non-fiction, which are true? Over time, I began to learn that fiction, oftentimes, holds more truth than non-fiction.
Despite what some may think, English studies is not simply about memorizing poetry, studying literature’s giants, and writing papers, nor is it about reading. It’s about thinking and learning.
It’s about developing the mind; critical thinking, writing, and communications skills. (These skills are extremely marketable. After all, the end goal is to become employed, right?).
It stresses meaning. Higher meaning. And thus, it shapes and develops worldview. In this regard, it is very much like philosophical and theological disciplines because it deals with ultimate realities. It asks the hard questions, and it has the ability to solidify certain aspects of the way one views the world, though it also has the ability to diminish old suppositions that don’t seem to hold true anymore. And so the time spent on reading, studying, and writing has no value at all if it doesn’t affect the way you view the world.
It’s about the language. Language communicates meaning, and meaning is what we all seek. Without language, we would not have the stories and books upon which our lives are based. Without language, we would not have communion with our fellow human beings, nor would we have communion with God.
Because literature is the focus of English, I’ll end with this: “Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” – C.S. Lewis