I'm an English major.
It is part personal choice, part lifestyle and part destiny. Since as long as I can remember, I have eaten, breathed and pooped books. If it were possible to have literature pumped into my veins, I would be first in line to do it.
Since I arrived at UB in the fall of 2007, there was never any question of what my major would be. My working relationship with the English Department and its staff at the University at Buffalo has been second to none. I believe from the bottom of my soul that UB has one of the most distinguished and brilliant English staffs, which has inspired and showed me how to become the teacher and writer I want to be.
That being said, here are a few constructive ideas and suggestions for the UB English department, for both the course selection and the major requirement itself.
Number one: Make more English courses, especially prerequisites, exclusive to English majors. Right now, there is only one course that is solely available to those registered for the major: ENG 301, Criticism.
The wide availability for any student, ranging in majors from communication to mechanical engineering, to register in upper-level English classes is silly. These classes are usually very small and required by English majors for graduation, and unnecessary lack of seat availability causes a lot of drama and panic every semester for those who want to graduate on time.
Number two: Expand the infamous Earlier Literature and Author courses into two course sequences. At the moment, the only course offering a two-part sequence is Shakespeare, taught by the incomparable Barbara Bono. Many students cringe at the thought of having to take other literature courses before 1830 on authors such as Chaucer or Milton, due to the excessive amount of reading, which leaves people more resentful than appreciative of the material.
Personally, I loved my Milton course with Professor Hammill, but would have appreciated the content a lot more if we had had more time to discuss the author's work over another semester.
This same suggestion goes for author courses on such literary leviathans as James Joyce. A semester of Joyce's earlier work, followed by another semester focusing on solely Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, would be divine.
Number three: Diversify the course offerings and the curriculum. Milton, Shakespeare, and the Bible are great, but what about the international lovelies and giants of literature? Where is The Tale of Genji, a Japanese work thought to be the world's first novel, in UB's whole English catalog? Where is a course on the fabulous Russian writers, with an author's course on Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy? What about the delightful Thousand and One Arabian Nights? the fairy tales of Hans Christan Andersen? the fables of Aesop?
Number four: Please offer more creative writing classes. The creative writing workshops currently offered by UB, usually taught by husband-wife team Professors Milletti and Anastasopoulos, are fabulous, but they are offered once a week and usually in the evening. I took courses with them both and had a great time, but would have loved it if more writing courses were offered at different times and different days of the week.
With that in mind, I'm ready to take the next step in both my personal and academic life. The last thing I hoped to do when I wrote this column was discourage anyone from pursuing an English degree; I'm simply offering my hopes to the department for future generations.
Appealing to the English gods above
I'm an English major.