Do you really need an English degree to be proficient in Literature?Reading is one my favorite pastimes. I read just about everyday for hours at a time sometimes. I just would like to know if it's...

Do you really need an English degree to be proficient in Literature?

Reading is one my favorite pastimes. I read just about everyday for hours at a time sometimes. I just would like to know if it's absolutely necessary to pursue a college degree to be intellectually stimulating.

Asked on by sagelion

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

A degree is merely a milestone on the road to learning.  Often the side paths can be much more interesting.  Being on a college or university campus where others are pursuing their own interests tends to induce the desire to be more masterful within one's own.  A degree is not a prerequisite to be proficient.

 

 

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The short answer to your question is "no."  However, you DO have to be a reader of the classics from many countries and many time periods and you DO have to have read many different critical analyses of those works to consider yourself knowledgeable.  That being said, you can also get a college degree without knowing nearly enough.  My biggest mistake as a college student was avoiding all the literature classes that I didn't like (the modern ones).  The result is that I don't know nearly enough about modern literature as I should.  In the context of a liberal arts education, that hurt me.  It has taken me years to catch up.

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sharrons | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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No.  I have a degree English, and I don't neccessarily think that you have to have a degree to be "proficient" in a subject. Proficient is also a subjective term.  Who are you trying to be "proficient" for?  Even if you had only read FIVE books, and you declared yourself proficient on your own terms, wouldn't you then be proficient?

With that said, I do think that it helps to discuss literature with others who have studied it longer than you have.

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jessecreations | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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This is a topic of a little joke between my husband and I.  We both have degrees in English, but we joke amongst ourselves about which one of us is more proficient in literature.  (It's me.)

If you truly love something, you don't have to pursue it formally in order to be good at it.  Did Beethoven have a degree in music?  Did Shakespeare have a degree in Literature?  No.  Yet I think we can all agree on their proficiency. 

My literature degree exposed me to works of literature I might not have known about otherwise.  It showed me ways to read that I might not have come to on my own, and opened up ideas and discussions that I never would have had without it.  But my love of literature didn't come from my degree; I came by that on my own.

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dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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Any person who reads alot literature overtime will become proficient in literature regardless of a degree. However, I do believe that formal instruction is important to explain the 'mechanics' of literature even to an avid reader. A college degree in any field of study is affirmation to the society that the individual has mastered the material. For example, if an individual possesses a vast knowledge of literature without holding a college degree they will be unable pursue a career in an academic field using their proficiency in literature.

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tink17 | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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Do you really need an English degree to be proficient in Literature?

Reading is one my favorite pastimes. I read just about everyday for hours at a time sometimes. I just would like to know if it's absolutely necessary to pursue a college degree to be intellectually stimulating.

No, however it does help.  It is not the degree that is important to me, it is the education and mental stimulation you gain while pursuing the degree. If you are not planning on attending college, yet you are passionate about literature, you are really missing out.  Reading is a wonderful hobbie, you have to decide how far you want to take it.  I wanted to learn more, become exposed to more, discover other peoples insights about the literature that I love, so I chose to go to college.  

Through college classes and study I not only learned about how others interpreted text, I learned how to expand on my own ideas about texts.  I discovered how to identify and elaborate on my own ideas through writing in a manner that I was not able to before hand. 

If you are in college now, but studying something else, thats fine, just take a few lit classes that sound interesting.  I recommend meeting with the head on the English department at the college you are attending, plan to attend, or one in your area and asking some questions.  If you are really serious about literature I would also try exploring any theatre department you have access to. After all, theatre is simply literature brought to life by the imagination on those who read it. 

 

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lda1019 | Middle School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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Having a degree in something does not make you and expert in something.  People obtain degrees for many reasons and it is not always for the knowledge.  I am a English teacher and I do not have a degree in literature and am not any less proficient than someone who has a degree in literature.  I gain my knowledge and understanding by read all types of genres, studying the devices the writers use, and attending workshops. 

Now a degree in literature is a great thing depending on what you want to do.  In order to be a English teacher I do not feel it makes any more proficient than the next.  When you truly love something it stimulates you and you want more of it.  Take Bill Gates for example.......He does not have a degree is he any less proficient than some one who has a degree.

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jsnmha | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

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getting a degree doesn’t give you better options as far as jobs in the world today it’s all based on experience you can go to school for 4 to 8 years getting your degree but mean while I sitting somewhere dong the job you are going to school for and I will be proficient simply I haven’t been learning about it I have been doing it. I have seen it happen many times some college kid tries to get a job but someone with 10 years experience will get it before they do

 

 

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riveav | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Honors

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Being proficient in literature mean reading...book stores, librarys, or school will do it...mmm.  It all depends on what you want to do with the literature.  People who major in English, major for various reasons. 

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riveav | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Honors

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Do you really need an English degree to be proficient in Literature?

Reading is one my favorite pastimes. I read just about everyday for hours at a time sometimes. I just would like to know if it's absolutely necessary to pursue a college degree to be intellectually stimulating.

Well you can be intellectually stimulated in almost any thing.  I think, the mere fact that people go to school is to obtain a degree to advance themselves, earn a high salary, or become competative.  And to be persisely right, going to school can be intellectually stimulating within itself.

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sagelion | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Thank you kindly for your advice. I will take it into consideration. I also believe that you don't necessarily need to have a college education just to be proficient in any given topic. I think that if you read a lot and visit the library on a regular basis, you can acquire the best education at your fingertips and free of charge which is a big bonus.

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kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Proficiency in any field/subject requires sustained good labour, may be within the frame of some university programme or outside such academic compulsion, through honest individual initiative. Since literature is basically a creative use of language, proficiency in literature requires interest and expertise in language. Added to that, one must have a sense of the literary as well as a substantial exposure to works of literature. A university degree may help you in a limited way, but to consider that a degree would be a warranty for such proficiency does not hold good. Your regular habit of reading literature shall hopefully stand you in good stead. You can go for some degree, if you like, but no formal degree is sacrosanct.

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jillyfish | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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All lit degree graduates can disect a book; categorise it; place it in its historical context; spot all the techniques; literary references; styles; devices, etc  and write/talk about it 'til the cows come home.

But that doesn't mean they understood it emotionally, that they felt any passion for the book. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't. Knowing all the rules of literature doesn't make you more receptive to it. I often see/hear people who 'know' completely what a book is all about but fail to 'feel' anything for it at all.

A degree in Lit is a wonderful thing for a sensitive person to study, but not all lit students are sensitive.

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