Why do US college hesitate to study literature?Why do US colleges hesitate to study literature?

6 Answers | Add Yours

ms-charleston-yawp's profile pic

Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

When I first read your topic, I was stumped.  I agree with most everyone above.  Lots of us were English majors with huge numbers of classes about literature under out belts, so our response was a loud, "Whaaaa?!?"  Literature is generally considered a must for a good, liberal arts education in the United States.  Period.

However, I'll never forget the seminar on graduate school that I went to during my senior year at Furman University.  While there, I was told that any student with a major in the humanities, and especially literature, could just forget getting any money for graduate school.

Sciences?  FULL RIDE.

If (and yes that's a BIG if) I had been told that during my freshman year, perhaps I would have "hesitated" to study literature, as you say.  Perhaps, ... but I doubt it.  Never give up your one true love for money.  At that time, you could happily become a high school English teacher with only a bachelor degree.  (No more.)

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The main reason colleges hesitate to study literature is that there is a great push for useful education now.  The trade schools like the school of business, education, engineering, law and so on are more practical.  Schools want students to come, and students are no longer as interested in a liberal arts education.  This is why many majors do not contain literature classes.  Instead, if you go to school to study business you may instead take a technical writing class.

linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Do they? That's something new to me. As the preceding post states, students who major in English certainly have no problem finding literature courses to take. Could it be that students who major in other fields are reluctant to take literature courses?

kapokkid's profile pic

kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

It is difficult for me to know too much about why they hesitate to teach it since I was an English Lit major and they appeared more than willing to teach it to me.

But there is certainly a trend towards adjunct faculty teaching those courses and trying to invest more in the areas considered "practical" particularly because they can bring in research dollars and prestige to a university in ways that English never really has or will.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I don't think US colleges do hestitate to study literature.  Mine certainly didn't though I will admit that that was in a different era than today.

If American colleges do hesitate to teach literature, I would say it is because our colleges are becoming more and more preoccupied with teaching things that can help people make money.  Because college costs so much (both to the students and to the government) and because people are worried about competition for jobs from other countries, there is a lot of pressure on colleges to teach things that will help people get good-paying jobs.  Legislatures don't want to pay for classes on Russian literature (and parents don't clamor for those classes).  They want classes in Engineering and such -- things that can actually help people make money later in life.

So the ideal of a liberal education is going away to some extent in favor of a focus on more technical and practical education.

newguy91's profile pic

newguy91 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I got the same question in my literature class and I don't have the required book yet. I'm stuck on this question

We’ve answered 318,989 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question