English class deserves more respect

How humanities faculties can broaden the student experience

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 Despite the criticism it receives, English Literature is an important area of study. 
 
While many faculties are exclusive to one concentrated field, English serves as an umbrella for several different topics within the humanities. 
 
When compared to other fields of study that have more practical purposes, it becomes devalued. However, literature is unique because it uses narratives and character development to explore subjects like history, philosophy, and politics. 
 
These narratives are ways to establish an opinion and convey a world view.  Whether  portrayed by characters or the rhythm of a poetic verse, English emplores a deeper meaning behind words. 
 
In English 422, Shakespeare and Community, we covered texts such as Merchant of Venice and Henry IV. In these plays, there are political hierarchies, tension between class structures, and questions concerning gender and sexuality. 
 
Although studies concerning these topics are covered by other liberal arts faculties—politics, sociology, gender studies—English separates itself because it extends beyond its subject matter. Literature isn’t only about plot development and character behaviour. It covers subjects like history and politics, that can highlightpersistent challenges to the human condition. 
 
However, the modern emphasis on digital and practical learning has created a distaste for literary modes of study, devaluating them.
 
Without the patience to study English, not only will literature shift away from classic-forms learning like difficult novels, but the field of study itself will be extinct in university classrooms. 
 
Literary works are meant to be challenging. When an English student works through the complexity of older language and elevated themes, the uncovered messages become more meaningful than a lesson simply found in a textbook. 
 
The subject matter may not speak as loud as a dramatic performance at the Isabel, but that’s the beauty of it—a less glamorous process than drama or music leaves room for creativity and human understanding.  
 
Offering an insightful exploration of consciousness and experience, English is a field of study that promotes self-reflection and empathy in an academic setting.
 
Humanities at Queen’s, in particular literature, warrants respect. They’re a positive influence, and teach students to both analyze the written word and 
human experience. 
 
The love of language and literature is championed on campus through Dean Student Councils in English, History, and Philosophy faculties. These councils hold events where texts and subject matter are used for constructive discussion and to inspire change in society.  Attending a council—or even enrolling in an English course as an elective—can broaden the scope of any student’s learning. 
 
This isn’t to blame other faculties, or blame students who study in different fields. But literary classics deserve more respect from our peers because they add insight and perspective into the world we live in today. 
 
Alexandra Mantella is a fourth-year English major. 

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