Literature and writing are my passions—that’s why I chose to major in English. When it was time to take required basics or choose electives in the College of Arts and Sciences, I was at a little bit of a loss. I just wanted to TAKE ALL THE ENGLISH! I was happy to find that many subjects intersect with my major, and some classes were more helpful than others. This is my last semester at UP, so I’ll share what I learned from taking non-English classes.
As a student in CAS, you already have to take three theology classes. I found these so helpful that I actually took an extra THE class as one of my upper level non-English requirements. These classes will help you tremendously in your major, especially if you didn’t come from a religious background. How else will you know how to tell if someone in a book is a Christ figure or intelligently talk about religious symbolism and themes? When you take American Literature Beginnings with Dr. Orr, or Intro to Literary Studies with Professor McDonald, you’ll be blessing your THE 205 class. For upper-division theology, I recommend Dr. Dempsey’s classes for a fresh and feminist lens on biblical stories.
My French classes with Madame Booth were immensely helpful in European Literature in Translation with Dr. Brassard. “But the literature is translated! It even says so in the title!” you might say. Why, yes, but although Madame Bovary is translated, French exclamations and epithets are left in for flavor. When these were translated in a footnote, I found that the saying wasn’t quite as flavorful as when I read it in French. The language of love will also help you deal with Villette’s Monsieur Paul (for Studies in Women Writers), who is prone to rants in French, and figure out The Canterbury Tales’ Middle English in Dr. Hersh’s Chaucer class (hint: “verray” doesn’t mean “very;” it comes from the French vrai meaning “true.”). D’accord?
This is a total no-brainer. All the literature you examine will take into account what was going on politically and culturally at that time—both when the book was written and when it is set. How can you get the most out of Dr. Hiro’s African-American Literature without understanding the history of slavery? How much fun will Brassard’s Modern British Literature class be if you don’t understand the British role in WWI and WWII? The same goes for Dr. Larson’s American Literature class. For upper-division history with a feminist lens, I recommend Dr. Hancock’s Modern American Women’s History. It will intersect with any literature class that involves women—so all of them! Plus, we are reading Kate Chopin and Audre Lorde so you won’t have literature withdrawals.
There’s so much more: Philosophy classes (Ethics and Metaphysics, hello? Mad helpful!) and Psychology classes (Freud, Jung, and Lacan—reference them in your research papers!). There’s Environmental Science (Environmental Ethics and Policy pairs well with Dr. Weiger’s Environmental Literature), and even Math (logic played a key role in Dr. Hersh and Dr. Salomone’s Reckoning Words, Reckoning Numbers class). But you get the idea.
Most of these pesky non-English classes actually weave together into a beautiful tapestry of humanities that help you with your English major—something to remember as you begin course registration for the Spring semester.
What non-major classes have you taken that have helped with your English major?
Share in the comments below!